N. A. BERDYAEV (BERDIAEV)
Being and Creativity
The Mystery of Newness
I. Being is distorted and compressed by evil The inconsistency of monism and
of the philosophy of all-in-one. 2. Weakness of rational explanations of the origin
of evil. Criticism of the traditional doctrines of the Providence of God in the
world. Personality and world harmony. 3. There is no objective world as one whole.
The mysterious nature of freedom.
S Frank who professed the philosophy of the all-in-one was constrained to
say that the fact of the existence of evil is a scandal in that philosophy.11
should say that the problem of evil is a scandal to all monistic philosophy and
so it is also to the traditional doctrine of Divine Providence. The world 'lieth
in evil', in the life of the world evil predominates over good. But the origin
of evil remains a most mysterious and inexplicable thing. Being is twisted out
of shape by evil. How can an optimistic monist ontology be maintained in face
of the immensity of this distortion?
Ontological philosophy regards being as the highest value and good, it accepts
it as truth, goodness and beauty. Ontology says its yes to being and to non-being
its no. The element of appraisal enters into the very formation of the concept
of being. Plato affirmed the supremacy of the good over being. But those who recognized
the supremacy of being, have by that very fact acknowledged being as good, as
both the source and the criterion of the good. An appraising moral element cannot
be dissociated even from purely ontological philosophy. Being is regarded as the
highest idea, the supreme idea, and the existence of evil being 1 Sec his The
is denied. The antithesis of the supreme good of being is not a different
being, but non-being, nothingness, the absence of good, a deficiency.
Some of the doctors of the Church, St. Gregory of Nyssa, for instance, and
St Augustine, have been of the opinion that evil is non-being. The philosophy
of life replaces being by life, and sees the highest good in life, in life at
its maximum, and the diminution of life and the absence of it, is what it sees
as evil. But alike for ontological philosophy and for the philosophy of life the
existence of evil in the world, the immense scale of it and its triumph remain
a scandal. Why have this beneficent being and this beneficent life been disfigured
by evil? From whence has evil made its appearance—from being itself or from life
itself, or does it come from some other source? Why do not the goodness of being
and the goodness of life rule decisively in the world, why is the intrusion of
non-being and death possible, where does the power of nothingness come from?
In order to save the philosophy of the all-in-one and uphold the world harmony,
a theory has been concocted according to which evil exists only in the parts,
and is disconcerting only to such people as devote their attention to the parts.
But so far as the whole is concerned evil does not exist; for those who contemplate
the whole, it disappears. Evil is only the shadow which belongs of necessity to
the light. Even such people as St Augustine have held to this anti-Christian and
unethical view. The theodicy of Leibniz is permeated with it.
But such a denial of the existence of evil in the world is a mockery of the
measureless suffering of man and of all created things. All those who uphold the
traditional doctrine of Providence are obliged to maintain an attitude of unconcern
in the face of the injustice and wrong of the world, and they have contrived to
turn even hell into a good. It is essential not only to the recognition and explanation
of the fact that evil exists, but for the very existence of man and the world
as a possibility at all, that
a dualistic movement should be taken for granted. But this dualistic movement
must be thought of dialectically. It must not be converted into a dualistic ontology,
which is just as much a mistake as a monistic ontology. Hum n thought has an unconquerable
tendency to turn either towards monism (pantheism) or towards dualism. It tends
to turn the dialectical movements of thought into a static ontology. But both
the one theory and the other are nothing but a limited form of rationalism which
is liable to be superseded.
Every system of identity inclines to the denial of evil and of freedom, or
else it is obliged to betray itself, as was the case with Schelling. It is an
interesting fact that both the actively negative and the actively positive attitude
to the world may alike be associated with a strong ethical sense. Ethics, which
are especially sensitive to evil and suffering do not deny the world in general,
but they deny this world, they repudiate this present stateof theworld.
Everything insists upon our admitting the existence not only of being, but
also of non-being, of the dark abyss which precedes the very identification of
being and the very distinction between good and evil. This non-being is both lower
than being and higher than being. Or rather, it would be more exact to say that
non-being does not exist, but that it has an existential significance. Dualism,
polarity, the conflict between opposed principles is an existential fact. It is
not the case that we are obliged to say that evil is non-being, but that the emergence
of evil presupposes the existence of non-being and that it is inexplicable on
the assumption that being is a system which is locked up in itself.
I have already said that all attempts at a rational explanation of evil are
frustrated by inconsistency. An ontology of evil is impossible and it is a very
good thing that it is impossible, for it would be a justification of evil. It
was an ontology of evil that gave rise to an ontology of hell, and that was represented
triumph of good. But evil and hell may be regarded as merely human experience
as it moves on its way, and they may be described in terms of spiritual experience.
Here we meet with a paradoxical corollary. Out of a false ontological monism
arose a false ontological and eschatological dualism—heaven which is the Kingdom
of God, and hell, the kingdom of the devil. Admittedly, the acceptance of the
principle of dualism in relation to the world is primarily ethical and may lead
to eschatological monism, to the transformation of ah1 things and to salvation.
This world 'lieth in evil", but it can be overcome, the evil of it can be
conquered, victory over it can be achieved beyond its own confines. 'I have overcome
the world.' Further, the victory over evil and over evil men is not punishment,
it is not the casting of them into the eternal flames of hell. It is transformation
and enlightenment, the dispersal of the phantom world of evil as a dreadful nightmare.
Perhaps the most profound of all thought on this subject was that of Jacob
Boehme when he said that the Fall arose from evil imagination. It may be that
a deepening of Boehme's thought is the one and only path to a solution of the
problem of evil. It was a very difficult matter for Plato and also for Plotinus,
in view of their intellectualism, to explain whence evil arose. Greek metaphysics
saw the source of evil in matter. But this was merely an indication of the limitations
of Greek thought. Socrates regarded ignorance as the source of evil. Knowledge
disperses it. Man is by nature disposed towards the good. There is no choice by
the will. The Greeks did not understand metaphysical freedom. The Socratic solution
remains classical for all forms of intellectualism. It is to be found in Leo Tolstoy.
It is enough to be conscious of what the good is, for the evil to disappear. Boehme's
voluntarism is the antithesis of this. A dark will exists at the basis of world
life and victory over it cannot be attained by intellectual means, by the power
of the mind alone.
St Augustine was one of the first to part company with Greek
intellectualism in the interpretation of evil and freedom. But he turned right
in the opposite direction. In his view there is freedom to act in the direction
of evil, but not in the direction of good. Evil is to be conquered only by grace.
But the reprobate, according to him, serve the order of this world. From St Augustine
a dialectic of freedom and grace has derived which has completely occupied all
Christian thought in the West, both Catholic and Protestant. In Boehme, however,
something new is opened up both in relation to the thought of the ancient world
and in relation to St Augustine.
A great step forward was taken by German idealism at the beginning of the
nineteenth century. It disclosed a dialectic which not only belonged to the sphere
of logic, but was also an ontic dialectic. Spirit does not act without antithesis
and without a limit. 'No' belongs to the ego. The negative is a moment of the
positive. Absolute spirit makes an antithesis for itself, evil is the surmounted
moment of its own self. This has not proved a solution of the problem of evil
owing to the monism of that philosophy. But the possibility was revealed of a
dialectical instead of a static interpretation of evil, of evil in process. Relativism
was a danger which lay in wait for Hegel, but he understood the dynamic of spiritual
and historical life better than other philosophers.
Hegel's philosophy is not a static philosophy of unity, it is a dynamic philosophy.
He does not disclose evil from the point of view of world order and harmony, he
sees in it the impelling forces of world history, envisaging everywhere a dialectical
conflict of opposites. But this is not a conflict which is waged by human beings,
nor a struggle of freedom with necessity. It is a conflict in which human beings
are moved by universal forces, by the universal Spirit, and freedom is the child
of necessity. The question of evil is put in other terms by petsonalist philosophy
and its solution sought in a different way. The subject is developed through a
dualistic movement of spiritual conflict, of freedom
striving with necessity, the personal with the common, the subjective with
The problem of evil exposes the fundamental mistake of the evolutionary monistic
interpretation of the world process (such an interpretation may be spiritual just
as it may be naturalistic). It takes the erroneous view that there is in the world
as a whole, in its historical process a progressive 'furbishing', which is the
direct expression of spirit or the direct operation of God. This is a mistaken
interpretation of objectification as a disclosure of noumena in phenomena, as
a realization of spirit in history. Subjective spirit becomes objective spirit
and behind it absolute spirit stands and acts.
Such is the optimistic monism of Hegel. In the same way he mistakenly sees
in the world process a continuous teleological process. This idea of teleology,
whether immanent in the world or transcending it, has been put to very bad use,
and by means of it many things have been justified which ought not to have received
justification. The ancient Greeks had more right on their side in thinking that
Moira reigns over world life. But that is the realm of fatalism, not of teleology.
An enormous part is played in the world not only by inevitable necessity but also
by unforeseeable and inexplicable chance. Chance will be recognized more and more
by science, which is freeing itself from the idea of hyposta-tized regularity,
which is due to a false outlook upon the world.1
There was no chance to primitive minds, but neither was there to the enlightened
people of the nineteenth century in the pride of their scientific outlook. They
have, however, to move on to a still higher degree of enlightenment. Darwinism
was still under the control of optimistic teleology. Those adaptations survive
most which are also the best. But the real fact is that in this world the worst
are the most adaptable. They possess the greatest aptitude to survive and triumph,
whereas the best are exposed to persecution, and perish. There is in the world
a partial teleology,
1 See Borel: Le Hasard, and M. Bole: Les certitudes du hasard.
that is to say in regard to the separate parts of the world, to separate groups,
but there is no teleology as a universal principle. The idea of teleology was
due to a mistaken confusion of the ethical with the ontological, of obligation
In Fichte's view an absolutely good world was the only possible world, because
he regarded an absolutely good world as a matter of obligation. Fichte taught
that man ought to free himself from fear in the face of necessity, which was created
by himself. But this is evidence of a conflict of the spirit. This world inspires
fear in the face of necessity, and at the same time an attitude of sub-missiveness
towards it. There is in it no immanent progressive revelation of spirit; no regular
development which must lead on to the highest goal. Hopes of that kind cannot
be made to rest upon processes of objectification, upon the ejection of man into
the objective world.
In actual fact a conflict goes on between spirit and natural necessity, a
striving of personality with the objective world, a conflict which God in man
wages with the 'world', which in its fallen state has lost its freedom. Real development
and progress in the world are the result not of a regularly-working and necessary
process, but of creative acts, of the invasion of the realm of necessity by the
realm of freedom. There is nothing more untrue and enslaving than to invest with
a sacrosanct character all those concrete forms which have found embodiment in
history, those solid bodies of history, in which men are wont to see either the
direct action of the Divine Spirit or a manifestation of objective spirit.
The truth is that all these ' sacred ' historical embodiments have been relative
forms of objectification, an adjustment of the spirit to the weighty burden of
the world in its disintegrated and at the same time shackled condition.
The theme of a tragic conflict between personality and 'world harmony', between
personality and the world process remains the fundamental theme. It is the theme
of Ivan Karamazov. To Dostoyevsky this was a matter of his own experience, it
a violent shock in which something was revealed. The theme is very Russian,
and it enters to a small extent into the highly socialized thought of the West.
It is par excellence a theme of existential philosophy, for no solution of it
is to be found within the bounds of history and it requires an end to history.
History ought to come to a conclusion, because it turns human personality into
a means to an end, because in it every living generation merely manures the soil
for the benefit of the generation which follows, and for which the same fate awaits.
History must have an end also because it is based upon a terrible breach between
ends and means.
The end of history is not only a truth of religious revelation but also a
moral postulate of existential philosophy. That is why it is so important to grasp
the fact that the objective world does not exist as a whole, as a cosmos; it is
partial. The cosmos is a regulative idea. The cosmos is still to be created, and
it must be created; it will make its appearance as a result of the transformation
of the world. The phrase 'world harmony' is quite certainly not applicable to
this world; it is a false idea which acts as a palliative to evil and is at variance
with truth and right.
This world is tortured by rancorous hatred and cruel animosity. Human history
presents a hideous spectacle of pitiless wars among people, nations and classes.
A state of peace among men exists for a mere brief moment, as a breathing space,
even the pax Romano did not last long. The vision of world harmony is the image
of a world which can be grasped by the mind, and which anticipates the transformation
of the world. The beauty of this world, the beauty of man, of nature and of works
of art, all this is a mark of the partial transformation of the world; it is a
creative breakthrough towards the other world.
The only possible way of thinking about a world harmony and a world order
is by making it part of eschatology, by regarding it as the coming of the Kingdom
of God, which is not a 'world', not an objective order. Monism and the philosophy
of the all-in-one are possibilities only as an end of this world, as an end of
fication. For this world, on the other hand, dualism remains in power. The
idea of 'being' has been a compromise between two worlds and has hidden the eschatological
mystery from view. But dualism indicates not a transcendent breach between two
worlds; it points to a conflict and it is a summons to creative action.
The motive which led to investing kingship and other historical institutions
with a sacred character is plainly sociological. In order to force the masses
of mankind into submission, discipline and order, it was necessary to inspire
them with a belief in the sanctity of authority, of the State, of the nation,
of war, to make them believe that the subordination of the individual to the common,
of the person to the race, was sacrosanct. A fiction and a lie were required for
the government of men and peoples. And fear lest this lie should be exposed has
risen to an insane degree, men were in dread lest the disclosure of the truth
should lead to the collapse of society. How great a value the Roman Catholic Church
has set upon such a he, as, for instance, the Donation of Constantine and the
False Decretals, already exposed as it was!
Nations cannot exist without myths nor can even the power to govern human
societies exist without them. Myths unite, reduce to submission, and inspire.
Society is protected by them, and by means of them revolutions are brought about.
Such myths are those of the sacrosanct character of kingly power and of papal
authority, or of the sanctity of the volonte generak, of popular sovereignty in
a democracy, of the sacrosanct character of a chosen class or a chosen race, of
the sanctity of the Leader, and all the rest. All these are fictions which are
built up in the collective social process. They are of enormous strength even
in the life of the Churches and tradition is to some extent filled with them.
This investing with a sacrosanct character is a social act on the part of
the collective and is brought about in the name of the collective. Could societies
and peoples exist "by pure truth, without an alloy of falsehood, without
fictions which are practically useful in social life, without the sanctions, the
inspiration and the
safeguards which the myths supply? Theologians recognize the existence of
economy in the life of the Church. This category of economy has been extended
even to the relation of the Holy Trinity to the world. In economy relativity reigns,
and compromise with the state of the world. In every system of teaching there
is this element of relativity.
I may be told that I am denying the right of the relative, which answers to
the condition of the world of men, and that I am demanding the absolute. But this
is not the case. It is precisely the giving of a sacred character to the relative
which is a process of making it absolute. It is suggesting to people that phenomena
which are entirely relative and acts which are far from sacred, are endowed with
a sacred authority and spring from a sacred source. But people and nations ought
to have been re-educated into recognizing the significance of the relative, as
relative, without any enslaving sacred sanctions. Authority, any form of authority,
is in essence a relative thing, it is not sacred, there is nothing noumenal in
it, it has merely a transitional and functional importance in the life of society.
There is nothing that is sacred in politics, and much that is criminal. To deprive
them of their supposed sacred character is the real process of setting man free.
Political revolutions do not as a rule accomplish this, they create their own
process of sanctifying the relative. The proclamation of pure truth, the overthrow
of the conventional social lie does not mean a denial of what is relative, but
to remove from it its halo of sanctity, that is to say, it means putting a stop
to the process of making the relative absolute. A noumenal significance ought
not to be ascribed to that which is entirely phenomenal in character.
The most essential thing is to get free from enslaving socio-morphism in the
knowledge of God. And, having arrived at monotheism people have continued to live
not by the reality of God, but by a sociomorphic myth about God, which was necessary
for the consolidation of power in this world. There exists a socially useful lie
about God and the only thing that can
withstand it is a purified spiritual religion. It is only the crowning revelation
of the Holy Spirit and the era of the Paraclete that will lead to this. At a certain
stage of development this ascription of a sacrosanct character to institutions
was a matter of necessity.
When faced by the importance and the disquieting nature of the problem of
evil, the inconsistency of all the traditional theological and metaphysical doctrines
about the Providence of God in the world is exposed. It is even the case that
these doctrines constitute the chief hindrance to belief in God. The feebleness
of, for in-instance, Malebranche's or Leibniz's teaching about divine Providence
is astonishing and what is so striking about the official theological doctrine
on this matter is its naive rationalism, the pitiable arguments it adduces, its
insensitiveness to mystery and its involuntary immorality.
God does not act everywhere in this objectified world. He was not the Creator
of this fallen world. He does not act and he is not present in plague and cholera,
in the hatred which torments the world, or in murder, war and violence, in the
trampling down of freedom or in the darkness of the ignorant boor. Doctrines of
that sort have even led men to atheism. The more sensitive kind of conscience
has found itself unable to accept him. This type of doctrine of the divine Providence
either denies evil altogether or is constrained to throw the responsibility for
it upon God. The projection of theological doctrines of this sort upon eternal
life leads to an apology for Hell, on the ground that it represents the triumph
of justice and is thus a good thing. In the writings of St Gregory the Great and
St Thomas Aquinas, the just rejoice in the eternal pains of sinners in Hell as
in a triumphant vindication of God's truth and right.1 In the earthly sphere in
like manner, executions, tortures and penal servitude have provided grounds for
All this simply testifies to the truth of the enormous importance of this
problem of evil and suffering in the sphere of the know-1 See Addison: La vie
aprh la mart dans les croyances de I'humanite.
ledge of God. It draws attention to the distortions which exist in the human
mind in regard to this subject and which have taken shape as a result of social
servitude. To bring belief in God within the bounds of possibility and to make
it morally possible to accept him, can only be done by recognizing the truth that
God reveals himself in this world. He reveals himself in the prophets, in his
Son, in the breath of the Spirit and in the uplifting spiritual aspirations of
men. But God does not govern this world, the world of objectivity which is under
the power of its own Prince—the 'Prince of this world'. God is not 'the world',
and the revelation of God in the world is an eschatological revelation. God is
not in the world, that is, not in its given factuality and its necessity, but
in its setting of a task and in its freedom.
God is present and God acts only in freedom. He is not present nor does he
act in necessity. God is to be found in Truth, in Goodness, Beauty and Love, but
not in the world order. God shows himself in the world in truth and right, but
he does not dominate over it in virtue of his power. God is Spirit and he can
operate only in Spirit and through Spirit. Our ideas about power, about authority
and causality are entirely inapplicable to God. The mystery of God's operation
in the world and in man usually finds expression in the doctrine of grace, and
grace bears no resemblance to what we understand by necessity, power, authority
and causality; our conception of these is derived from the world. For this reason
alone grace cannot be set in antithesis to freedom—it is combined with freedom.
But the doctrines of theology have rationalized grace and have imparted a sociomorphic
character even to it.
Thus it is that atheism, in its higher, not in its base form, may be a dialectical
cleansing of the human idea of God. When men have risen in revolt against God
on the ground of the evil and wrong of the world, they have, by the very fact
of so doing, presupposed the existence of a higher truth, that is to say in the
last resort, of God. They rebel against God in the name of God; for the
sake of purging men's understanding of God they revolt against a conception
of him which has been besmirched by the mire of this world. But as he treads this
path of conflict and anguish man may pass through an experience which brings him
moments not only of absolute Godforsakenness but even of the death of God. ('They
have killed God'—said Nietzsche.)
The dreadfully strained and artificial explanations in the Doctrine of Providence,
and the application to the noumenal of that which refers only to the phenomenal
lead to rebellion. Belief in God is lost, because evil is triumphant, the immeasurable
extent of suffering among created things cannot be reconciled with what people
have been taught about the presence and activity of God in the world. A loftier
sort of belief in God may come about as it becomes more spiritual and frees itself
from the false cosmo-morphic and sociomorphic myths about God with which the traditional
doctrine of Providence is permeated,
The biblical doctrine of God is still more steeped in sociomorphic mythological
elements and an idolatrous attitude to power. Yahwe was a tribal God and a God
of war. It is of interest to note that Yahwe had no authority over sheol. In the
prophets the knowledge of God is made spiritual and universal, but not finally
and decisively so. It is only in the Son of God that he is revealed as love. Yet
historical Christianity has not yet entirely freed itself from sociomorphism arising
out of the conception of God as power, from myth and from idolatry. We believe
that the last word belongs to God but this we can conceive only in terms of eschatology.
It can be brought home to us only by the final and definitive revelation of the
Spirit. Then everything will appear in a new guise.
'•. It is eschatology, based upon existential experience, which
must be adopted in opposition to monistic ontology. Freedom must be opposed
to being, and creativity to the objective order.
There is in this world no objective order of which there could be, in the
commonly accepted phraseology, ontological, metaphysical and noumenal knowledge.
There is no eternal and unchangeable 'natural' order side by side with which the
theologians recognize a 'supernatural' order as a supplement to the 'natural'.
The 'natural' order to which only a relative and temporary stability belongs is
simply a concatenation of phenomena which are open to scientific explanation.
It is always an empirical, not a metaphysical order. Spirit can upset and change
the 'natural' order.
In phenomena of the 'natural' order it is possible to find signs and symbols
of what is being achieved in the spiritual world. But this is in principle a different
attitude towards the 'natural' order from that which invests it with a metaphysical
character. There is no harmonious whole in this object world of phenomena, there
is no 'world harmony'. 'World harmony' does not reign in this world nor settle
an eternal order in it. But it is being sought, to achieve it is a creative task,
and its coming means the end of ob-jectification and the transformation of the
fallen world. No sort of eternal, objective, or 'natural' principles exist in
nature and society. To suppose that they do is an illusion of the mind which arises
from objectification and social adjustment. The very laws of nature are not eternal,
they merely correspond to a certain condition of the natural world, and given
a different state of the world, would be superseded.
Only the eternal spiritual principles of life exist—freedom, love, creativeness,
the value of personality. The eternal image of personality exists, whereas everything
generic is transient. And all that is transient is but a symbol. This does not
mean that the transient and the relative are devoid of all reality, but their
reality is secondary, not primary. Spirit is not an epiphenomenon of the material
world, the material world is an epiphenomenon of spirit. Moreover, the primary
reality of spirit is different from all realities of the objectified world. What
Heidegger calls in-der-Welt-sein, is the rule of the humdrum and commonplace,
Man. So is everything that has become objectified. The power of the objective
is indeed the power of the commonplace, it is the law of the realm of dull and
When the tormenting problem of evil is seen in another light, it ceases to
be an argument against the existence of God. This world into which we are thrown
is not God's world and in it the divine order and divine harmony cannot hold sway.
God's world only breaks through into this world, the light of it shines through
only in that which really exists, in living beings and in their existence. But
it does not shape an order and a harmony of the whole; such order and harmony
can only be thought of eschato-logically. What is of God in life is revealed in
creative acts, in the creative life of the spirit, which penetrates even the life
The most important task which the mind has to face is that of ceasing to objectify
God, to give up thinking of him in naturalistic terms after the analogy of the
things of this world and their relation with one another. God is a mystery but
he is a mystery with which it is possible to enter into communion. There is nothing
of God in the dull and prosaic normality of the objective world order. It is only
in a disruptive act which breaks through that commonplace normality that he is
to be found.
A supremacy over being belongs to freedom: and to spirit there belongs a supremacy
over the whole of congealed nature. But freedom too is a mystery, it is not open
to rationalization. The mysterious nature of freedom is expressed in the fact
that while it creates a new and better life, it gives rise at the same time to
evil, in other words, it possesses a capacity for self-destruction. Freedom desires
unending 'freedom, it seeks the creative flight into infinity. Yet, on the other
hand, it may display a desire even for slavery, and this one sees in the history
of human societies.
There would be no freedom if appearances were the very things-in-themselves,
if the noumenal exhausted itself in the phenomena. Nor would there be any freedom
if there were absolutely no activity of the noumenal in phenomena. But man is
not a two-
dimensional being, there is depth in him, and this depth goes deeper than
three dimensions, it issues in ever new dimensions. Kant taught a doctrine of
causality through freedom. But he left unexplained in what manner the intelligible
cause, that is to say noumenal freedom, is able to break in upon the causal sequence
of appearances. His conception was of two worlds which are, so to speak, entirely
sundered from one another, and each shut up in itself.
But the one world can invade the other and act creatively within it. Man,
as a creatively active and free being, as a spiritual being, is not merely a phenomenon.
That is the main question. At the risk of repetition it must again be said that
the philosophy of freedom is not a ideological philosophy. Subordination to an
end, for the sake of which man is compelled to come to terms with the most unfitting
and improper means, is opposed to the freedom of man. What is important is not
the aim, but the creative energy, the nobility of human beings who are creating
life. And again what is important is radiation out of the depth, which illumines
the life of men.
I. The emergence of newness within being. Newness and time.
Newness and evolution. Progress. 2. Newness and history.
Necessity, fate and freedom. 3. Newness and the causal link.
Creative newness overthrows objective being.
It is not only the feet of evil having made its appearance which presents
a difficudy for monistic ontology. It also has to meet the difficulty to which
the appearance of what is new gives rise. How does non-being enter into being
and become diat which happens? Hellenic philosophy was ontological par excellence,
and the difficulty it found in the idea of movement is well-known, it was indeed
forced to deny it. Hence Zeno's paradox about Achilles and the tortoise. Neither
did Plato find the problem an easy one. Aristotle tried to find a way out of the
difficulty by the theory of potency and act, a theory which for a long while remained
classical. But there is a deep-rooted obscurity in it. What is the source of movement
and of change? Is it potency or act? Pure act is unmoved and unchanged, for it
is a completed condition, whereas movement and change indicate incompleteness.
Garrigou-Lagrange, who is a Thomist, lays particular stress upon the idea that
there is something more in immovability than there is in motion, for there is
in immovability that which in movement only becomes.1 This too is a philosophy
which maintains the supremacy of being over freedom; according to it freedom is
incompleteness, and creative movement is incompleteness.
But it is possible to adopt a point of view which differs in
1 Sec his Le sens commun.
principle from the Aristotelian and scholastic position. It is possible to
take the view that there is more in potency than in act, more in movement than
in immovability and that there are greater riches in freedom than in being. The
noumenal spiritual world discloses itself in creativeness, in movement, in freedom,
not in congealed, self-enlocked, motionless being. To Greek idealism the multiple
world of the senses was all in movement, it was a world of genesis and becoming,
a world in which things happen. It was in this that its incompleteness lay, and
for this reason it could not be regarded as being. The world of ideas, the noumenal
world, knows nothing of growth, change and move ment.
Greek ontologism had a stifling influence upon Christian theology. It was
a victory of the spatial interpretation of the world. Order exists in space, movement
and creativity exist in time. The interpretation of the phenomenal world in terms
of causality, which is a condition of getting to know it, does not in fact allow
of the emergence of what is new, of what has not been before, of what is not derived
from that which has already been. Creative newness is causeless.
When you describe the cause of a thing, you embark upon a series which is
infinite, and you never reach the primordial creative act in which a new thing
in being was for the first time disclosed. It is true that causality has two sides
to it, it is also causative in consequence of a force to which attempts have from
time to time been made to reduce freedom.1 But it is better to think of freedom
as outside the causal sequence, and as belonging to another order. If we make
use of the Aristotelian phraseology, we may put it that our world is full of potencies,
possibilities and energies, but the sources of these potencies reach back into
the noumenal world to which our causal relations are not applicable. And the question
of the relation of the creative act in which a new
1L. Lopatin developed a doctrine of freedom on these grounds. See his The
Positive Tasks ofPhilosophy. Vol. 2.
thing emerges, to reality remains highly complex. If being, shut in on itself
and finished off, being in which no movement or change of any kind is possible
be regarded as reality, then the possibility of creative action must inevitably
be denied. There is no creative act whatever except the one by which God made
The official theology which regards itself as orthodox denies that man is
a being with a capacity to create. Capacity for creation belongs to the Creator
alone who is pure act, and the creature is incapable of it. But if the existence
of potency, and that means of all movement, in God, the Creator, is denied, we
are obliged to deny to God the possibility of creativeness, for the creation of
what is new is due to potency. But man, on the contrary, creature as he is, is
capable of creation, since there is potency in him, he is not actualized to the
point of losing the possibility of movement and change. The possibility of accomplishing
a creative act, of disclosing change and newness, is due to imperfection. Thus
we reach a paradox.
That which reveals the image and likeness of the Creator in man, and is the
most perfect thing in him, is, it would appear, the outcome of imperfection, of
incompleteness, of potentiality, of the presence of non-being within him. A doctrine
of God as pure act in which there is no potency, in actual fact makes the idea
of the creation of the world meaningless and absurd. The creation of the world
and of man becomes a matter of chance, and serves no necessary purpose at all
to God. And the creature as a mere fortuitous happening has no vocation to the
inner life of the 1 )ivine, he is summoned merely to blind submission. He is asked
for no creative response to the call of God. The emergence of the created world
was not a new thing in the inner life of the Deity, and in the creation of the
world itself no sort of newness can make its appearance. Consistent and thorough-going
ontologism is obliged to deny the possibility of newness, creativity and freedom,
for these are things which denote a break through in the
closed system of being. To avoid misunderstanding it must be said that if
the possibility of creativity and, therefore, of movement, in God is conceded,
it must be recognized that such creativeness and movement do not take place in
time in our sense of the word.
In the nineteenth century theories of evolution were a safeguard to the possibility
of newness. They allowed change in the world, the appearance of what had not been;
they envisaged development, as movement which promises amelioration and a process
of reaching perfection. But it is a great misunderstanding to see in the theory
of evolution a defence of creativeness. Bergson's phrase 'creative evolution'
must be regarded as open to misunderstanding. The doctrine of evolution is entirely
under the control of determinism and causal relations. In evolution, as the naturalistic
theory of evolution understands it, newness cannot make its appearance in any
real sense, for there is no creative act, which always ascends towards freedom,
and breaks the causal link. It is only the consequences of creative acts which
are accessible to the theory of evolution, it seeks no knowledge of the active
subject in development.
Evolution is objectification. What takes place in it is the shifting and redistribution
of the parts of the world, of the matter of the world, which fashion new forms
out of the old material. But evolution is essentially conservative on principle
and takes no cognizance of what is in actual fact new, that is, of the creative.
What is true in the theory is its recognition of the fact that there is evolution
in the world, but the evolutionary theory is under the ascendancy of a limited
naturalism. Evolution tells merely of that which passes through a new experience.
In the case of every experience which is passed through, whether in thinking
or in living, and after it has been surmounted, there is something positive that
remains from it. In this lies the meaning of Hegel's Aufhebung. There is newness
in every strong gripping experience, and this experience lived through is in-
delible. 'Souffrir passe, avoir souffertne passe jamais', said Le"on
Bloy. Out of suffering which is passed through as a deeply felt experience, something
new emerges. But this means that there was a creative impulse in the experience,
there was a creative attitude towards the suffering. And this cannot be explained
by an objective series of causal relations. If in the course of evolution somediing
new makes its appearance, this means that everything was not determined, everything
was not fixed and settled by the preceding series. In creative newness there is
always an element of the miraculous. The causal explanation of newness in the
world speaks always of that which is secondary, not of what is primary, it deals
with what surrounds the core, not with the core itself. The causal determinist
explanation is conspicuously worthless as an elucidation of the emergence of creative
Boehme would seem to be the first to make use of the word Auswicklung to express
the development, and emergence into view of that which reveals itself anew. The
evolutionary thought of German metaphysics goes back to him. From him is derived
the metaphysical evolutionism of Hegel, who was the first to interpret the world
process as dynamic, as development and not as a static system. Hegel's evolutionary
thought goes much deeper than the naturalistic evolutionism of the second half
of the nineteenth century. The process of becoming, and the dialectic of world
development are possibilities only because non-being exists. If we concede being
only, there will be no becoming or development of any sort. Newness in the process
of becoming emerges from the heart of non-being.
But does a heart of non-being exist? This is a different interpretation of
potency from the way in which Aristotle understood it. In the heart of potency,
which is not being, and which we are constrained apophatically to call non-being,
is lodged that primordial freedom which precedes being1; and without which there
can be no creation of what is new, of what has not been before. Hegel turned becoming
and dialectical development into a
necessary logical process, and in so doing was false to the idea of freedom
as the source of creative newness. But Hegel's discovery remains true, that becoming,
development, the appearance of what is new, are impossible and inexplicable if
we remain within the confines of being and fail to introduce non-being into our
Hegel was under the sway not of determinism only but also of teleology. The
ideological outlook upon the world is, however, inimical to the emergence of what
is new. There is a determining power in it, which works from the opposite end,
that is from the final goal. In the last resort freedom in Hegel's view is born
of necessity. The creative act which issues from freedom stands opposed to this.
It is by this act that movement is decreed, the movement which is in origin outside
objectified being and is merely projected in it. Apophatically speaking, it may
be said that the noumenon is non-being, because the noumenon is freedom. Whereas
being is determination; being is not freedom.
Newness presupposes time; it makes its appearance in time. Without time there
is no change. But time is not a form into which the world process is packed and
which communicates movements to the world. Time exists because movement and newness
exist. A motionless and unchanging world would have no knowledge of time. The
creation of what is new presupposes that that which is created was not before,
it had not been within time, and it discloses itself within time. And this means
that creativeness presupposes non-being, something other than being. But time
which brings new life with it has also a death-dealing pity, it mercilessly crowds
out what was, it bestows at one and the same time the presentiment of life and
of death. Youth and old age are alike brought about by time. It gives rise alike
to change, which is good, and to betrayal, which is evil. I shall say more later
about its various meanings.
The fact that the world exists in time and not only in space
means that the world is not completed, that its creation has not yet reached
its crowning consummation, that it continues to be created. If the creation of
the world were closed, newness would not be possible. Finished and closed reality
does not exist. The empirical world as one whole thing does not exist. Reality
may expand or contract for us. The recognition of the subjectivity of time by
no means leads to a static understanding of reality as conditioned by time. On
the contrary, it means that time depends upon existential experience and that
there is a time which depends upon objectification, which occurs in the"
events of existence itself. To the subject, as he who exists, time is of different
sorts, and is decided by the state he is in and the direction he is taking. Our
existence is steeped not only in reality which has realized itself in the forms
of the object world, but also in reality which is potential and which is deeper
and wider. It is for that reason alone that change, creativeness and newness are
possible. But potentiality itself is steeped in freedom and for that reason can
be distinguished from being.
It is not only the present which is reality, but also the past and the future,
but this reality is disrupted and shattered into pieces by fallen time. It is
in fallen time that the life of nature and historical life flow on. But everything
that happens in time which has broken up into past, present and future, that is
to say in time which is sick, is but a projection on to the external of what is
being accomplished in depth. True creative newness is achieved in existential
time, time which is not objectified, that is to say it happens in the vertical
and not in the horizontal. But creative acts which are accomplished in the vertical
are projected upon a plane and are accepted as accomplished in historical time.
Thus it is that meta-history enters into history.
But the same thing already happens in the life of nature. Creative acts in
depth which bring newness with them, when projected upon a plane as a rearrangement
of points which indicate those creative acts, are taken as determined evolution,
as an objective
natural process. But, as I have already said, evolution is not the source
of newness but an effect which follows from it. Evolution belongs to the system
of objectification. In relation to the future no task can be placed before evolution.
It is possible to set a task for creativeness only. Bergson set thing and action
in antithesis and he recognizes the creation of what is new. But he understands
creativeness in too naturalistic a way. He brings it too much into the biological
Further, it is necessary to draw a distinction between evolution and progress.
Evolution is a naturalistic term, whereas progress belongs to the spiritual category.
It is axiological; it presupposes appraisal from the point of view of a principle
which ranks higher than the natural process of change. The idea of progress is
of Christian origin and was born in the Christian messianic hope, in the expectation
of the Kingdom of God as the consummation of history and there is an eschatological
impulse in it. But in the mind of the nineteenth century the idea of progress
was secularized and naturalized. It was brought into subjection to the power of
disrupted time. In the world of objectification progress treats the present as
a means to serve die interests of the future. One generation is a means which
serves the interests of the next, progress carries widi it not only life but death
also. In the natural and historical world birth is pregnant with death.
The eschatological conception of the resurrection of the dead, of the restoration
and transfiguration of the whole world and of man is entirely alien to progress,
which is subordinated to a determined objective world. It has for this reason
been regarded as possible to speak of the law of progress, of the necessity of
progress. In actual fact no such law exists. Progress presupposes creative freedom.
There is no progress in a direct line upwards in the world. There is progress
only in relation to the parts and to groups of phenomena, not in relation to the
whole. Progress in one respect may be accompanied by regress in another. There
may be intellectual progress and moral regress, technical progress and
regress in general culture; there may be progress in culture and social regress,
and so fordi. Progress is a task, not a law, and the idea of progress inevitably
finds its support in a messianic and eschatological expectation, but it is an
expectation which requires the creative activity of man. Fate operates in history,
but so does human freedom also.1
In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the ideas of development and progress
were distorted. There is development in the world but necessary development does
not unfailingly mean amelioration and enrichment, nor raising the intensity of
life to a higher level. The freshness of creative youth, the initial force of
self-giving in expression may be lost in development. In the course of what is
called development a process of cooling, ageing, may enter upon the scene and
it may bring with it the disappearance of genuine wholehearted faith, intuition
and enthusiasm. Love grows cold, faith grows cold, creative enthusiasm grows cold,
and maturity and old age set in. The exalting impulse of life has been left behind.
Such is fallen time. But in the triumph over objectified time, the past and future
are united. Creative power fixes its gaze upon eternity, upon that which lies
outside time. Within time, however, it is objectified.
Newness does appear in historical time. The singleness and unrepeatability
of historical events have been pointed out many times and this has been seen as
the quality which distinguishes them from the phenomena of nature in which repeatability
occurs. This difference is a relative one because the phenomena of the physical
world are also single, even in spite of the fact that they can be produced by
means of experiment, and, on the other hand, historical events show traits of
family likeness, for example,
1 In his curious book: Histoire philosophise du genre humain ou I'Homme, Fabre
d'Olivet says that three principles operate in history—Providence, fate and the
freedom of man. The book exhibits the usual defects of occult literature.
revolutions, wars, the foundation of powerful States and their dissolution,
the clashes between social classes and so on. There is even a painful tedium about
the well-known course of revolution and reaction. There is a poignant sense of
comedy about world history as a whole. As I see it the main distinction is this,
that the events of history take place in another sort of time from that in which
the events of nature occur. They happen in historical time, whereas the events
of nature occur in cosmic time.
Cosmic time is cyclic. Historical time is a line stretching out forwards.
Once more Spring and Autumn come; the trees are covered with leaves again, and
again the leaves fall. But a given historical epoch, such as, for instance, that
of early Christianity or the Renaissance, the Reformation, the French Revolution,
or the industrial development of the nineteenth century, is never in its concrete
expression repeated, although some features of likeness to it may occur in a new
epoch. History issues out of the cosmic cycle and stretches out towards what is
coming. There is a crushing necessity in history and the power of grandiose solidity.
There is suppression of what is individual by the generic. Yet all the same history
is pregnant with newness which enters into the eschatology of history and is an
influence which exerts a pull towards an end by which everything is resolved.
It is for this reason alone that history is not in the final count just a repellent
and meaningless comedy.
It is not only that the events of historical time invade the cycle of events
belonging to cosmic time and point to a way out from the cycle, but the events
which take place in existential time and which are not susceptible of mathematical
calculation also intrude upon the events of historical time, and interrupting
the determined series of historical events, impart to them a higher meaning and
throw light upon the destiny of man. To this process we may give the name meta-historical
and it comes to pass out of the existential depth. The meta-historical breaks
up not only the cosmic cycle but also the determinism of the historical process,
breaks up objectification. Thus the appearance of Jesus Christ is the meta-historical
event par excellence. It took place in existential time, but it broke through
into the historical, and here it is received with all the limitations which history
imposes, those which belong to particular periods of history and those which are
due to the limitations of human nature. But meta-history is always there as the
background behind history, and the existential design throws light upon the objectified
The creative acts of man in which new life springs up and which ought to lead
on to the end by which all is resolved, proceed from that design. In the plane
of objectification real creative-ness and real newness are impossible. What is
possible is merely a redistribution of the material of the past. No sort of creative
newness can emanate from 'being'. It can take its rise from 'freedom' only. The
soil of history is volcanic, and it is possible that volcanic eruptions may break
out in it. It is only the topmost layer of history which belongs to a stabilized
order and puts a brake on movements towards the end.
The world is not only the cosmic cycle which the Greeks and the people of
the Middle Ages after them were inclined to accept as a cosmic harmony. The world
is also history with its catastrophes and its liability to interruption. History
is a combination of traditions; it is the preservation of continuity together
with the incidence of catastrophe and discontinuity, history is both conservative
and revolutionary. New aeons are a possibility in the life of the world. We do
not live in an aeon which is absolutely shut in on itself. It is possible for
the world to enter into an eschato-logical era, into the times of the Paraclete,
and then the face of the world and the character of history will be essentially
Real newness which is not merely a, redistribution of parts always arrives,
as it were, from another world, from another 1 There are some remarkable thoughts
on this subject in Notre Phe by Cieszkovsky, the philosopher of Polish messianism.
scheme of things. It issues from freedom, from what we think of as 'non-being'
in comparison with the 'being' of this world era, and so we say that the mystery
of newness is not a mystery of being, it is a mystery of freedom which cannot
be derived from being. To monistic philosophy creative newness is unthinkable.
James was right in associating newness with pluralism. But a more important matter
in principle is that creative newness presupposes dualism, a break through in
this objective world, and not the evolution of this objective world. Newness cannot
be explained with the object as the point of departure. It is only when we start
from the subject that it becomes explicable.
Determinist science explains all newness in the world causally. It finds the
explanation in the past and it malces it a point of honour to demonstrate that
newness is a result of necessity and that in newness there is nothing new in principle.
In this manner science discovers many things. It throws light upon the processes
which take place in the world. It investigates the environment in which creative
acts are achieved and the way prepared for the appearance of what is new. But
the primary thing, the most important thing of all escapes it. Determinism and
the naturalistic theory of evolution, in investigating the world setting and historical
environment in which the creative act breaks through and enters, imagine that
they are explaining the creative act itself.
It is not to be disputed that the very greatest of creative minds are dependent
upon the world environment, upon the period of history in which they live and
upon the historical forces which are at work in it. But the main problem arises
from the fact that they introduced something new in principle, something which
had not been in the life of the world and history hitherto. The important thing
is not that they receive but that they bring, that something comes from them not
that something enters into them.
It is impossible to explain the appearance of Jesus Christ in the world, and
the light which He brought into it, by processes which had their origin in Judaism
and Hellenism, but one can so explain
the reception given to Christianity by its human environment Thorough-going
determinism, as it enters upon the vicious infinity of the causal series, is obliged
to accept it as the fact tha" in man and in every act of his, everything
is received from without, that there is nothing within him, no kernel, which is
not capable of derivation from outside him. And more than that, it must believe
that there is nothing in the world in general which possesses an inner core, or
interior power; everything is capable of explanation in terms of the action of
outside forces, and these outside forces are themselves to be explained in like
manner by the operation offerees which are external to them.
All this means that there is no such thing as freedom. In the last resort
objective being is turned into non-being. But this non-being is not freedom. It
is nothing but the limit of movement into the external. To such a degree is the
dialectic of being and non-being tangled and complicated.
The fundamental error is the explanation of creative newness in terms of the
past, in spite of the fact that it is capable of explanation only from the standpoint
of the future. In this lies the mystery of crcativeness and the emergence of what
is new. In this lies the mystery of freedom. It is the paradox of time. The original
firstborn creative act certainly does not issue from the past. It is not accomplished
within cosmic and historical time; it is achieved in existential time which knows
no system of causal links.
But in historical time the creative act has the paradoxical appearance of
coming from the future. In this sense it can be i ailed prophetic. The very distinction
between past and future exists only for the time of the objectified world. People
of conservative minds accuse the creative act which raises up something new, of
being unfaithful to the past. But it does have faith in the future. It is not
only the past which is associated with faith, the future is linked with it too.
And the past can be false to eternity, ) ust as the future can be true to it.
But neither should the future be idolized as divine, any more than the past should
be. It is only
eternity which is good and to be loved. 'Denn ich liebe dich in Ewigkeit'
says Zarathustra in Nietzsche. But we cannot think of eternity itself as a final
completeness and consummation in the meaning we ascribe to the words here and
now. Eternity is eternal newness, eternal creative ecstasy, the dissolving of
being, in divine freedom.
I have already said that the creative imagination which demands what is new,
issues from existential eternity, to which our categories of thought are not applicable.
To enter into union with the mystery is not only the frontier of knowledge. It
is knowledge, a different sort of knowledge. History is hpavily encumbered not
only with natural necessity, but also with fate, which is a more mysterious thing
than necessity. But behind this intolerable burden, the conflict which freedom
wages with fate is concealed. In history, therefore, in which determinism, that
is, the series of causal links, is in power, another scheme of things opens out
and lets its light shine through. At a deeper level creative subjects are in action
and freedom breaks through.
But the acts of the creative subject meet with the opposition of the objective
world, and the strength of freedom measures itself against the power of this resistance.
Freedom in this world is conflict, not a thing to be enjoyed. According to Fichte,
the T postulates the 'not I', and this is the opposition which has to be overcome.
But this is not the final truth. The final truth is that the 'not I', the
crushing burden of the objective world, is the child of ob-jectification, of a
fall which hides other egos, other existential subjects from view. In Fichte there
is no understanding of this fall.
The drama of the world lies in the fact that creative newness is subjected
to the laws of this objectified world. Thus a vicious infinity is disclosed in
history. The creative act of man lives through its tragic destiny in history.
And this makes it possible to affirm perpetual determinism, and to deny the very
possibility of creativeness on the part of man. We meet with this denial both
in the doctrines of theology, and in positive science.
I. Being and continued creation of the world. Imagination, inspiration,
ecstasy. Depression and exultation. The victory over congealed being. 2. Ascent
and descent in creativeness. The creative act and the product of creation. Objectification
and embodiment. 3. Subjective and objective creativity. The 'classical' and the
'romantic in creativity.
To be aware of the fact that man does not exist within a finished and stabilized
system of being is fundamental to the philosophy of creativeness, and it is only
on that understanding that the creative act of man is possible and intelligible.
Another fundamental position consists in the realization that the creative act
of man is not simply a regrouping and redistribution of the matter of the world.
Nor is it merely an emanation, an outflowing of the primary matter of the world.
Nor again is it just a shaping of the material in the sense of imposing ideal
forms upon it. In the creative act of man, a new clement is introduced, something
which was not there before, which is not contained in the given world, and is
not part of its make-up, but which breaks through from another scheme of the world,
not out of the eternally given ideal forms, but out of freedom; and not out of
a dark freedom, but out of an illuminated freedom.
The fact that creativity is possible in the world testifies to the inadequacy
of this world, to a continual overcoming of it and to the existence of a power
to achieve that p'urpose which issues from another world, or from a deeper level
than this flat world. At the same time the creativeness of man is evidence of
the fact that he
belongs to two worlds and that he is called to assume a ruling position in
the world. Pascal made the very profound observation that man's awareness of his
insignificance is a sign of his greatness.
I have already said that the appearance of men of great creative power is
not to be attributed to their environment nor to be explained by causal relations.
The environment of the times in which he lived was incapable of giving birth to
Pushkin; from that point of view his appearance must be regarded as a miracle.
And this is true of every act of creativeness that is conceived, in it the old
world always comes to an end.
Nor is it only that which the ego creates, but the very existence of the ego
itself is a creative effort, a synthetizing creative act. Hundolph says with truth
that creative power is an expression of the whole life of a man. Man creates his
personality and in the act of doing so expresses his personality. In the self-creation
of the ego, of the personality, the human spirit accomplishes a creative act of
synthesis. A creative effort is needed in order to avoid any disintegration of
the ego, any division of the personality, to prevent its breaking up into parts.
Man is not only called to creative-ness, as an activity which operates in the
world and is exerted upon the world, but he is himself creative power and without
that creative power his human countenance is lacking.
Man is a microcosmos and a microtheos. And it is only when he refuses to acquiesce
in being part of anything whatever or in being himself made up of parts, that
he is a person. The true image and form of man is a creative unity. It is difficult
to understand Gilson's assertion, in terms of traditional Thomism, that it is
impossible to imagine creative activity in man.1 To my mind that amounts to the
same thing as saying that it is impossible to imagine man. Man is a being who
masters and surmounts himself and overcomes the world; it is in that that "his
value and dignity consist. But this securing of the mastery is creative power.
The mystery of creativeness is the mystery of achieving the mastery 1 See E. Gilson:
L'Esprit de la philosophic medievale.
over given reality, over the determinism of the world, over the locking of
its closed circle. In this sense creative activity is an act of transcending;
in a deeper sense it is the victory over non-being.
The philosophy of creativeness is not a philosophy of finitism, which, as
Bergson justly observes, is based upon the assumption that everything is included
in the datum. In regard to creativeness what needs to be established is a doctrine
analogous to the teaching of Kant and Fichte, that is to say we must assert the
creative activity of the subject, a creative activity which is not deducible Irom
objective being. Fichte calls contemplation the productive power of imagination.
But this is to recognize the character of intuition as creative and not passive.
It is commonly said of art that it is concrete creative power as compared with
the abstract nature of philosophy. But this may give rise to misunderstanding
and requires elucidation.
Creativeness in art, like every other form of creative activity, t (insists
in triumph over given, determined, concrete life, it is a victory over the world.
Objectification knows a humdrum day-«D-day concreteness of its own, but creative
power finds its way i nit from this imposed concreteness, into concreteness of
ariother V ind. Creative activity does not consist merely in the bestowal of .
more perfect form upon this world; it is also liberation from the luirdcn and
bondage of this world. Creativeness cannot be merely 11 cation out of nothing,
it presupposes the material which the vorld supplies. But the element of 'out
of nothing' does enter into creative activity. For it is creativeness out of the
freedom of ilir other world. This means that what is most important, most mysterious
and most creatively new, comes not from 'the world' lull from spirit.
There is something miraculous about the transformation of nutter which takes
place in art. This miraculous element exists iUo in images of beauty in nature,
that nature in which the forces of enmity, ruin and chaos are at work. From a
shapeless none or lump of clay the beautiful form of a statue is given to us;
out of a chaos of sounds we have one of Beethoven's symphonies; out of a chaos
of words, the verses of Pushkin with all their power to charm. From sensations
and impressions all unaware of meaning, knowledge is derived, from elemental subconscious
instincts and attractions the beauty of moral form takes shape, out of an ugly
world beauty is captured. In all this there is something miraculous from the point
of view of the world, this given empirical world. Creative power anticipates the
transfiguration of the world. This is the meaning of art, of art of any kind.
And creative power has an eschatological element in it. It is an end of this world
and a beginning of the new world. The world is created not by God only, but also
by man. Creation is a divine-human work. And the crowning point of world creation
is the end of this world. The world must be turned into an image of beauty, it
must be dissolved in creative ecstasy.
The creative act is by its very nature ecstatic; it involves movement out
beyond the boundaries; there is an act of transcendence in it. Creativeness is
not an immanent process, nor susceptible of explanation in terms of immanence.
There is always more in it than in any of the clauses by which it is sought to
explain creative power; that is to say, the forcing of a way through within the
realm of fettering determinism. Creative activity will not come to terms with
the given state of the world, it desires another. The creative act always calls
up the image of something different; it imagines something higher, better and
more beautiful than this —than the 'given'. This evoking of the image of something
different, something better and more beautiful, is a mysterious power in man and
it cannot be explained by the action of the world environment. The world environment
is full of the results of creative power in the past, which have grown cold and
rigid. How is the rekindling of a new creative fire out of them to be explained?
Creative fancy and the rise of images of something better are of fundamental
significance in human life. The relation between the
real and what can be imagined is more complex than is commonly thought. That
which appears to be a solid reality in the realm of things might be the stabilized,
lignified, petrified, ossified result of very ancient imagination. I have alrer
iy pointed out that Jacob Boehme regarded evil as a result oi vicious imagination.
A bright serene imagination, directed towards divine beauty can create a bright
serene world. It is interesting to note that positivists, agnostics, materialists
and sceptics ascribe extraordinary power to human imagination and thereby deny
the primary-ibundation of their own Weltanschauung. Man, a pitiful product of
his natural environment, and wholly determined from without, has, it would appear,
discovered within himself the power to invent a spiritual world, God, and eternity!
There is something wildly improbable about this.
Productive imagination is a metaphysical force which wages war against the
objective and determinate world, against the realm of the commonplace and dull.
The creative imagination builds up realities. The forms which are constructed
by the creators of works of art lead a real existence and they are active in the
world. Imagination is a way out from an unendurable reality. Hut a lying imagination,
and it is not rare for it to be lying, precipitates a man into a reality which
is a nightmare. It is always to be remembered that the imagination can be creative
of falsehood, it can cast man into a world which, for all that it is a world of
things, is fictitious. Present day psychopathology reveals much trutli in this
connection. Books on the spiritual life had formerly « great deal to say on this
same subject. The creative imagination nuy construct a true idealization and a
false; it can be an act of real love or an act which is unreal and brings terrible
disillusionment with it. This is a source of the deep sense of tragedy in human
It is possible for man to become the victim of his own imagina-imii, despite
the fact that the imagination is capable of being a w .iy out towards a higher
world. The antithesis between image
and thing is fundamental. The primary reality is not the thing, it belongs
to the image. Man finds it intolerable to live in the midst of things which have
no image or which have lost it. Imagination brings feeling and thought to bear
upon the complete image. The concrete reality which has an image is apprehended
through the imagination, not through sensation. The imagination has played an
enormous part in the very creation of objects which appear to be stable realities
and exert their force from without. But the image is an act not a thing.1
The theme of creative power leads to a question which is fundamental in metaphysics:
what is the primary reality, the thing, the object, including even spirit if it
be understood in that way, or the act, the subject, the creative life? If the
former is the case, the world cannot be changed and the situation of man in the
world is hopeless. If the latter is the truth, then the world can be changed and
man can find a way out from the realm of necessity into the realm of freedom.
It is, therefore, necessary to draw a distinction between rational metaphysics
and the metaphysics of images. The philosophy of the Spirit is the metaphysics
of images. Ribot, who has a positivist frame of mind, says that the creative imagination
corresponds to the will, that it moves from the internal to the external and that
images are the material of creative imagination.2 In Ribot's view creative activity
depends upon the power of the images to incite and prompt. The myth-creating process
which belongs to the fountain head of human nature and from which human nature
has not emancipated itself even today, is a product of imagination and personification.
And there has been a greater element of truth in mythology than in the undivided
power of concept and thing. Beauty is connected with the image, not with concepts.
Kant says that if objects are regarded through concepts, every presentment of
1 See Sarte: L'imagination, Husserl's influence is to be seen in the fact
that the image is regarded as the recognition of whatever it may be.
2 See Ribot: Essaisur I'imagination crtatrice.
3 See Kritik der Urteilskraft.
The image of something different, something better, the image of beauty is
brought into being out of the mysterious depth, out ol freedom, not out of necessity,
it arises from the noumenon, not from the phenomenon. And the creative act is,
as it were, a link between the noumenal and phenomenal worlds, a way out beyond
the confines of the phenomenal world, it is ecstasy, an experience of transcendence.
The choice between\the two orienta-iions of metaphysics depends upon the line
of direction which the spirit takes. The recognition of things and objects as
the primary i rjlity, has a very great deal behind it in which it can find a basis,
.mil the metaphysics which correspond to this is movement in the line of least
On the other hand, to regard the act, the subject, and spirit as the primary
reality requires an effort of spirit and the exercise of luiili, it means a fight
against the power of necessity. What is in <|iiestion is not merely two ways
of cognition, but also two ways OF existence. It would be absurd to say—is there
any meaning in nuking an effort of the spirit, if there is even a possibility
that "pint, as a reality, does not exist? If I am able to make an effort
of spirit, then spirit does exist. It is in this that the particular reality of
i lie spirit lies, and it is not the same sort of reality as that of the world
To picture oneself as a free spirit in a consistent and thoroughgoing manner,
and to act as a free spirit, means to be a free spirit. < i r.itivc fancy is
capable of producing real and vital consequences. ' i cativc ecstasy is a way
out from the time of this world, historical i inic and cosmic time, it takes place
in existential time. Those who luvc experienced creative ecstasy are well aware
that in it man is, '•« it were, in the grip of a higher power. It is possession
by a god, hy a daemon (in the Greek sense of the word). In Plato's Phaedrus ilierc
is an amazing story about the growth of wings on a man. I istasy is akin to delirium.
Genius is a'daemon which has taken np its abode in a man and assumed control of
him. Creative power
1 See my Spirit and Reality.
is always of an individually personal character, but the man is not alone
in it. Human creative power is not human only, it is divine-human. The mystery
of creative power lies in that fact. An act of transcending takes place in it,
in it the closed circle of human existence is broken open. The creative act is
an act which is achieved by man, and in achieving it man has a feeling within
that he is going beyond his strength. The genius of Pushkin has put this into
words. There is a kinship between the poet and the prophet.
There is an element of gracious beneficence in creative activity. It is bound
up with the nature of all gifts which are freely bestowed—gratia gratis data.
The creative act is gracious and beneficent, creative freedom is clarified and
serene. This does not hinder the fact that man can put his gift to evil use. The
contradictory and paradoxical aspect of the creative condition consists in this
that man at the moment of creative impulse feels himself, as it were, possessed
by a higher power, by a daemon, and yet at the same time has a sense of extraordinary
freedom, of scope for the expression of his own will. In creative activity, and
especially in art and poetry, there is a suggestion of the remembrance of a lost
Paradise. The poetry of Pushkin in particular calls up such memories. But the
memory of a lost Paradise, a memory which never abandons man, and to which the
most gracious moments of creative power draw his attention, is no mere turning
to the past, which has withdrawn beyond the boundaries of this empirical world.
Such reminiscences of a lost Paradise are also a turning to the future which likewise
lies beyond the bounds of this empirical world. The creative act cannot but turn
to face the future. But beyond the confines of the objectified time of our world,
the distinction and the opposition we make between past and future are taken away.
It is a distinction which holds good only for the intervening state, not for the
boundaries, or to put it more exactly, not for what lies beyond the confines of
Messianic thought was characteristic of the ancient Hebrews,
and it faced towards the future. The ancient Greeks also faced their Golden
Age, but in their case it meant looking to the past. Still, there is a sphere
in which the messianic kingdom of the future and the Golden Age of the past draw
together and are compressed into a single hope. Thus if one looks more deeply
into creative activity we can say that there is a prophetic element in it. It
speaks prophetically of a different world, of another, a transformed state of
the world. But that means that the creative act is eschatological. In it the impossibility
of resting content with this given world is proclaimed, in it this world comes
to an end, and another world begins.
This is true in every case of the creative condition in man, even though no
creative product should result from it. The significance of the creative state
for the inner life of man lies in this, that it shows he is overcoming the state
of subjection and humiliation which is imposed by the burden of this world; it
shows he has attained the experience of an exalting impulse. Creative power, therefore,
proclaims that this world is superable, that congealed being can be overcome.
It tells of the possibility of setting it free from its chains, it speaks of liberation
The romantics have been fond of connecting the creative artistic process with
the fruitful imagination experienced in dreams.1 This cannot be accepted in the
form in which the romantics assert it, but it does contain a certain amount of
truth. The images which arise in dreams are not called up by impressions received
from the external empirical world immediately, but are due to those that have
been preserved in the depth of the subconscious.2 The state of dreaming is not
dependent upon the perception of images of the world of sense at the given moment,
it is a passive condition, not active. Consciousness is suppressed and almost
paralyzed. When a man is dreaming he may be absolutely overwhelmed by the past.
In creative activity, on the other hand,
1 See A. Beguin: L'Ame rotnantique et le reve.
2 See Lafargue: Le Rive et la psychanalyse.
images arise which are not determined by the empirical world, or if they are
determined by it, it is through the medium of creative transformation. And they
bring with them liberation from subjection to the past, from impressions and injuries
which have accumulated in the subconscious, and from the wounds which the past
has inflicted. There occur, it is true, radiant, luminous visions, and there are
dreams which are prophetic, (though such conditions are comparatively rare), and
in them the creative exalting impulse has a place. It is not only the subconscious
which is operating in creative activity but the supra-conscious also; there is
a movement upwards.
There are two sides and two meanings to the creative impulse. There is an
inward creative act, and there is the created product, the outward disclosure
of the creative act. I have written a great deal on this subject.1 Here I shall
say what is necessary on a new aspect of the matter. It is most important to elucidate
the question whether the created embodiment is an objectification or whether we
ought to distinguish between embodiment and objectification. It is necessary also
to draw a distinction between embodiment and materialization, for bodily form
and materiality are not one and the same: the bodily form may be illuminated,
whereas the material thing is to be overcome. The creative impulse is realized
along a line which ascends, and along a line which descends. The primary creative
act is a flight upwards, towards another world. But within the matter of this
world it meets with difficulty and opposition, from its formlessness, its solidity
and its weight, from its evil infinitude which surrounds the creator on all sides.
Man is a demiurge, he creates, working upon the matter of this world, shaping
it and illuminating it. There is in the creative state much that is easy, wings
grow ready for the flight, but there is much difficulty also, much suffering,
and much that hinders and hampers 1 See as especially important my The Meaning
of the Creative Att.
the flight. The creative subject stands face to face with a world of objectification,
and the results of the creative act have to enter into that world of objectification.
It is in this that the tragedy of creative activity consists.
The primary creative impulse takes place outside the objectified world, outside
the time of this world; it happens in existential time, in a flash of the present;
it knows neither past nor future. A creative act is a noumenal act, but the product
which is created by it belongs to the phenomenal world. Beethoven makes a symphony
and thereupon in this creation of his people discover 'objective' regulating principles.
But the creative activity of Beethoven ought to have led to the whole world's
breaking into sound like a symphony. And in the same way the creative power of
a genuine philosopher should have led to the changing of the world and not merely
to the enrichment of it by new and expensive books.
The Greeks already drew a distinction between acting (irpagts), the aim of
which is the activity of the acting subject itself, and making (noi^ais) the aim
of which is in the object which has been made and possesses being.1 The creating
mind which is in a state of creative upward flight is in actual fact not bent
upon the realization of an end, but of expressing the condition it is in. Benedetto
Croce is to a notable degree right when he sees the essence of art in self-expression.2
But in any case the creating mind cannot remain within itself, it must issue out
of itself. This going out from the self is usually called embodiment and a character
in the highest degree objective is ascribed to it. It is precisely in such embodiment
that the creating mind strives after perfection of form. In crcativeness there
is no matter and no content without form. The creative act is bent upon the infinite,
whereas the form of the created product is always finite. And the whole matter
in question is this: does the infinite shine through in the finite image?
1 See Jacques Maritain: L'art et la xholastique.
1 See Benedetto Croce: Esthe'tique comme science de fexpression et linguittique
The whole creative process takes place between the infinite and the finite,
between the flight and the image which enters into this objectified world. The
initial creative act along an ascending line is creative ecstasy, an upward flight,
primary intuition, discovery. It is a marvellous evocation of images, a great
project, a great love; it is an attraction which draws upward to the heights,
an ascent into the mount, creative fire. At such a time the creating mind stands
before God, face to face with Mystery, before the primordial source of all life.
Knowledge, for example, is not a written book, not a system, nor a body of
proof, nor the objectification into the external world of what has been discovered.
It is the dawn of inward light, entry into communion, an experience of transcending.
One must speak in exactly the same way about a projected purpose in the sphere
of art or about a design for a new social order; and, in absolutely the same way
again, about the love which has taken fire and constitutes the creative condition
of a man.
But creative activity is not only all this, it is also a turning towards men
and women, towards society, towards this world, it is the attraction of the creative
act downwards. And here a man must display dexterity, he must be a master of artistry
in every respect, not merely in 'art' in the strict sense of, the word, but in
science as well, and in creativeness in the social and moral spheres, and again
in the technical side of life. Art strives after perfection, but it is a movement
which goes downwards, not in an ascending line. The art of a man comes to light
as a result of the resistance which the creative act meets with in the world,
in the matter of the world. It is the duty of art to convert this force which
resists man into an instrument for the use of the creative power which produces
results. There is a paradox in this, and it consists in the fact that creative
power and art (not merely that of the painter) are inseparably linked with each
other, and at the same time find themselves, so to speak, in conflict and not
rarely hostile to one another. In methodically elaborated scientific knowledge
intuition may vanish, in the finished classical form of works of art the creative
fire of the artist may have cooled down, in elaborated social forms of human community
the initial thirst for righteousness and the brotherhood of men may disappear.
There are forms of family life which have become cold and rigid and from which
the flame of love may have vanished away. Faith and the prophetic spirit may become
weak and disappear in traditional ecclesiastical institutions. The embodiment
of spirit may be an objectification of spirit and in that case it is impossible
to recognize the spirit in its embodiments. Objective spirit is a contradktio
in adjecto, it is the exhaustion of spirit, spirit which is drained of its life.1
And this holds good for the organizations of human society and civilization. And
every time that the will to power lays its grip upon a man in this world he enters
upon the path which means that spirit is chilled and drained of life, upon the
way of servitude to this world. It is essential to underline the truth that the
bestowal of form, with which all creative power is connected, is an absolutely
different thing from objectification, that is to say, it quite certainly does
not denote alienation from the core of existence, a process of cooling, or subjugation
to the power of determinism.
Creative impulse is at its first beginning connected with dissatisfaction
with this world. It is an end of this world and in its original outburst, it desires
the end of this world, it is the beginning of a different world. Creative activity
is, therefore, eschato-logical. It is a matter for surprise that no attention
has been given to the eschatological side of creative activity. The explanation
of this may be in the fact that there are two views which open out before the
creative act. The first is the end of this world and the beginning of a new; and
the second is the process of strengthening and perfecting this world. They are
respectively the outlook of revolutionary eschatology and that of evolutionary
construction. The creative act, both initially and finally, is eschatological,
it is an upward flight towards a different world. But in its medial 1 See N. Hartmann:
Das Problem des geistigen Seins.
aspect it produces works which count upon a long continued existence in this
The embodiment achieved by creative power is not the same thing as objectification,
but the results of creative power may equally well be objectified, just as the
whole of human existence may be in this world of objects. The very possibility
of creation presupposes an infusion of the Spirit into man, and that we call inspiration.
And this raises the action of creative power above the world. But the world demands
that the creating mind should conform to it, the world seeks to make its own use
of creative acts which count upon the end of this world.
Great creators produce great works. And this success is at the same time a
failure of creative power. What does the world do with what is made in the world,
what happens to all the creative acts which are for ever flaming up from their
source? The creative fire cools down, and the load of the world bears heavily
upon it. A new life does not advance to meet us. The transformation of the world
does not take place, nor a new heaven and a new earth appear. Every act of love,
of eros-love and of the love which is compassion is a creative act. In it something
which is new arrives in the world, that which had not been comes to light, and
in it there is hope of the transformation of the world. A genuine act of love
is eschatological, it marks an end of this world, this world of hatred and enmity,
and the beginning of a new world. But within its existence in the world love grows
cold, it becomes objectified and it is robbed of its eschatological character.
And so it is with everything.
The creative act of knowing has an eschatological character; it points to
the coming of an end, the end of this world of darkness and the rise of the world
of light. But knowledge also in its existence in this world cools down and is
objectified in just the same way. Every creative moral act, which always presupposes
its own mental images, is an end of this world (which is founded upon the abuse
of the good and the persecution of good men)
and the beginning of a world of true godlike humanity. But moral acts, in
their existence in the world are objectified and turned into an oppressive realm
of legalism and an inhuman systematization of virtue.1
Every creative act, whether moral or social, whether in the sphere of art
or in the realm of knowledge, is an act which has its share in the coming of the
end of the world, it is a flight upwards towards a different world, it makes a
new plan for existence. But for the sake of the world and in the interests of
other men the creating mind must give bodily form to its images of the other world,
to its ecstasy, its fire, its transcending experience, its communion with another
life; and it is obliged to do this in accordance with the laws of this world.
The creative freedom of man is strengthened and tempered by the resistance of
this world and by the weight of it. Man is sometimes a victor and at times he
suffers defeat. Freedom which is too easily won has a demoralizing effect. Creative
power is noumenal in its origin but it is in the phenomenal world that it reveals
itself. The product of creative power belongs to phenomena, but the noumenal also
shines through in those phenomena, the eternal also is in them.
The embodiment has a noumenal significance, it reveals the ideal image, it
is disclosed in an experience shared with others, with other subjects, that is
to say, but it is distorted by objectification in which the initial fire of its
life is spent. This world does not come to an end. It is held back from doing
so. But it ought to come to an end. The creative act of man is an answer to the
call of God, it ought to prepare the way for the end of this world and the beginning
of another. It is very important to establish the truth that there is an antithesis
between teleology and eschatology, as there is between teleology and creativeness.
A consistent teleo-logical view of the world recognizes a definite aim to which
everything is subordinated, but it excludes an end, it makes an
1 See my Slavery and Freedom, and The Destiny of Man, An Essay in Paradoxical
end unnecessary. The world ought to come to an end precisely because there
is in the world no perfect conformity of purpose, in other words there is no complete
conformity with the Kingdom of God.
Creative genius is rarely content with its own creations. Eternal discontent
of spirit is indeed one of the marks of genius. The inward fire of natural genius
is not completely transferred to the work it produces. The perfection of created
work is something different from creative fire. The fate of a genius is tragic.
He is frequently not recognized in his lifetime, he is dissatisfied with himself
and he is misrepresented after his death, the productions of his genius are utilized
for purposes which are alien to him.
There is something prophetic in creative power, in the genius which creates.
But there is nothing more painful and tragic than the fate of prophets. The voice
of God which is heard through them arouses the hatred which is felt for an inconvenient
and unwelcome reminder. The prophets are stoned to death. It has been said of
the genius, that he focuses within him the spirit of his time and expresses it.
This is a most inaccurate saying and one which distorts the truth. The genius
is a man who does not belong to his own day, he is one who is not adjusted to
his own time and throws out a challenge to it.
But the genius is a vehicle of the Spirit which moves within him. He looks
forward into ages that are coming in the future. He plucks off the mask from the
falsehood of his own day. In this respect the spirit of genius comes close to
the spirit of prophecy. For the rest there are several types of genius. A creative
man who has produced a most perfect work is called a genius. But even the most
perfect production does not reach the same high level as the creative genius himself.
It must emphatically be recognized that failure is the fate that awaits all
embodiments of the creative fire, in consequence of the fact that it is in the
objective world that it is given effective realization. Which stands at the higher
level, St Francis of Assisi
himself, the actual appearance of his religious genius which is unique in
the history of Christianity, or the Franciscan Order which he founded and in which
his spirit has been extinguished and the dull commonplace routine has triumphed?
Which reaches the higher level, Luther and the darning religious drama which was
his experience, or the Lutheran Church which he founded, with its pastors and
theologians of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries among whom rationalism
and moralism flourished victoriously? Which is the higher, the new emotional experience
revealed in J. J. Rousseau, or the doings ofhis followers, the Jacobins? Once
again, which is the higher, Nietzsche himself with that human tragedy experienced
by his burning genius, or the men and the movements which so shamefully exploit
him? The answers are all too clear.
But the history of the world knows of one most terrible creative failure,
the failure of Christianity, of the work of Christ in the world. All too often
the history of Christianity has amounted to a crucifixion of Christ. There is
nothing more horrifying and more gloomy than the objectification in history of
that fire which Christ brought down from heaven. Supreme failure has defeated
all the great constructive efforts of history, and ah1 designs which planned the
social ordering of men. Athenian democracy did not succeed, nor did the world-wide
empire of Alexander the Great. The Roman Empire did not achieve success, and the
same is true of the Christian theocracies. The Reformation, the French Revolution,
Communism, all alike met with failure.
This is not to say that it was all without meaning and pure loss. But it does
mean that the result of every flaming creative effort and every creative design
makes itself known as a true image not within this phenomenal world of objects,
but in a different world, in another order of existence. Creative failure in this
world is a sad and tragic thing. But there is success on the grand scale in the
fact that the results of every true creative act of man enter into the Kingdom
This then is the eschatology of creative energy. The failure of the creative
act consists in this, that it does not achieve its purpose of bringing this world
to an end, of overcoming its objectivity. Its success, on the other hand, lies
in the preparation it makes for the transformation of the world, for the Kingdom
of God. Sin is burnt up in the creative fire. All the great creative works of
man enter into the Kingdom of God. It follows, therefore, that the creative embodiments
which man produces are twofold in their nature, the conflict between two worlds
is, so to speak, reflected in them. But for all that, there is nothing more terrible,
more hopeless, nothing more tragic than every act of realization.
The theme of creative activity and its embodiments has its connections with
the long-standing controversy between the classical and the romantic. Here the
point at issue is not one which concerns different tendencies in art. It is a
matter rather of various ways of perceiving the world, of differing types of Weltanschauung,
and of different attitudes which are adopted to creative power in every field.
The distinction between the classicists and the romantics and the contrast
between them are to a large extent relative and are often exaggerated. Of the
greatest creative minds, for example, of Shakespeare and Goethe or of Dostoyevsky
and Tolstoy, it is certainly impossible to enquire whether they were classical
or romantic. Creative geniuses have always stood outside the quarrelling schools,
and above them, although the disputing tendencies dragged them into their controversies.
The Bible, for instance, which contains writing of most moving artistic power,
stands entirely apart from any question of classical or romantic.
Second class works of art are sometimes called 'romantic' in the narrower
sense of the word, such, for instance, as the productions of many German romantics.
Other works which reach a greater degree of perfection and are completely successful,
"classical". But none the less, the distinction itself and the antithesis
do raise a serious problem in connection with creative u tivity.
In the first place, in what relation does creative power stand to the 'subjective',
and the 'objective', what is its bearing upon the Iniitc and the infinite, and
what does the perfection of a created product mean? Creative power is in its essential
nature subjective, i lie creating mind is a subject and it is in the subjective
sphere that 11 ic creative process takes place. To speak o f'objective' creativeness
is inaccurate and refers merely to the course taken by the < i eating subject.
But the results of the creating act, its embodiments, fall under 11 ic sway
of the world's laws of objectification. Three principles may be said to operate
in creative activity, and the three principles nc those of freedom, grace and
law. And it may be that there are various degrees in the predominance of one or
another of the piiiiciples. 'Classicism' in creative action has its truth and
it has id falsehood, and so also has 'romanticism'.
The truth of classicism lies in its striving after perfection and lunnony,
in its effort to control matter by form. But what is (iilsc in classicism is precisely
due to that. For perfection of form, and harmony, are attained within the finite.
Infinity in the objective world, the world of phenomena, is formlessness, an evil
infinity, and therefore the effort to reach perfection in the product of creative
activity falls into the power of the finite. The subjective it aiming at a transition
into the objective.
Classicism falls a prey to the illusion that perfection can be •(tamed in
the finite, in the object. Having created beauty, classicism would leave us in
this world for ever. On this basis great things may be achieved, they were to
be seen in the culture of Greece. Greece had its romanticism as well, of course,
But classical creative activity displays a ready liability to lose the freshness
of its life and to become withered and numbed. This •gain is the process of objectification
which moves further and
further away from the springs of life. And then the creative reaction of romanticism
Romanticism aims at expressing the life of the creator in what he creates.
The truth of romanticism lies in its striving towards the infinite, in its dissatisfaction
with all that is finite. In romanticism the truth of the 'subjective' is opposed
to the falsity of the 'objective'. Romanticism does not believe that perfection
is attainable in this world of objects. In this world there can only be signs,
symbols of the perfection of the other world. This holds good alike in knowledge
and in art.1
Pure classicism seeks no knowledge of the transcendent. A yearning after the
transcendent is, however, in the highest degree a property of romanticism, although
it is usually accompanied by a sense of impossibility of attaining it. To romanticism,
creative activity is before all else the way of life of the subject himself, it
is his experience of uplifting impulse and ecstasy, of an interior act of transcendence,
and it may lead him out beyond the limits of romanticism.
To classicism, on the other hand, everything is concentrated upon perfection
of form in the created product, upon the object. But romanticism also gives rise
to illusions though they are of a different kind from the classical. There has
been not a little falsity, uncleanness, and stirring up of mud in the creative
work of the romantics. There is a formoffalsityinromanticsubjectivity; it is revealed
in the inadequacy of the outlet it provides for escape from the closed circle
of the self and from submersion in self. There is also a lack of capacity for
real acts of transcendence. The ego has been split into two by the romantics and
their expression of personality is weak. Pretentiousness and a sense of failure
1 The French ,who are hostile to romanticism, are inclined to reduce it to
what E. Seilliere, the author of numerous books on romanticism and imperialism,
calls 'mystical naturalism'. See his Le mal romantique, an essay on 'irrational
imperialism'. It all goes back to Rousseau and the recognition of the goodness
of human nature. See also P. Lasserra: Le romantisme Jranfais. All this has little
application to German romanticism and in general is not true.
readily assumed the form of romanticism and have sought in this way to justify
The sense of value is not merely a psychological experience of the subject,
there is also a value in the reality upon which the lubjcct is engaged. Romanticism
may indicate a loss of the sense of reality, while classicism, on the other hand,
is inclined to Interpret reality exclusively in terms of objects. In point of
fact both classical and romantic elements are brought concretely together in creative
action. Classical and romantic tendencies are already revealed in the world of
objectification. But it is in a diliercnt world that the whole truth lies.
There were some remarkable and far-reaching ideas about lirauty and art in
Kant's Critique of Judgment. That is beautiful which, without a concept, pleases
allgemein. Beauty is adaptability ID an end without bringing the end into notice.
The beautiful pleases, without serving any interest. The beautiful pleases, not
in ii H reception by the senses, not in a concept, but in an act of pulgincnt,
in appraisal. The beauty of nature is a beautiful thing. I hr beauty of art is
a beautiful representation of a thing.
Tliis stresses the significance of the creative subject. A judgment
I taste does not depend upon reality in the sphere of things. Art, r. indeed
all creative expression, rises above the commonplace, ilut is to say above the
reality which belongs to the objective world, the world of things. It is usual
to say that art depicts only what is essential, significant and intense, that
it is not an imitation or a reflection of nature considered as an assembly of
objects. But that is to say that the creative act breaks through to a deeper reality
to the noumenal which lies behind the phenomenal.
The problem of creative power raises the question of true and l,iUe realism.
The romantics from Rousseau onwards have defended the truth and Tightness of 'nature'
against rationalizion and mechanization, which follow in the train of civilization.
I here was some truth in their position, but the actual concept nl 'nature' was
left ambiguous. Confusion arose between the
objectified nature of this phenomenal world, the nature of the mechanical
way of looking at things, nature in Darwin's sense, on the one hand, and the nature
of the noumenal, ideal cosmos, on the other.
Beyond the dispute between the classical and the romantic (in which there
is a great deal which is a matter of convention) stands genuine realism or realistic
symbolism, and that is what actually characterizes the greatest creative minds.
Human creative power is realist to the extent that it is theurgic, that is to
say, in proportion as it is directed towards the transformation of the world,
towards a new heaven and a new earth. Truly creative realism is eschatological
realism. It takes the line not of reflecting the natural world and not of adjustment
to it, but of changing and transforming the world.
Creative knowledge, creative art, in the same way are not a reflection and
expression of the eternal world of ideas (in the Platonic sense) in this world
of the senses. They are the activity of free spirit which continues to carry on
the creation of the world, and prepares for its transformation. The limits of
human creative activity, of human art, are imposed by this objective world. They
make it symbolical, although this symbolism is realist, not idealist. But the
final transformation of the world will be the passing of the symbols into reality.
Human creative power will create life itself, another world, and not things, in
which the breach between subject and object always remains. Then no sacrifice
will be offered by life and love for the sake of creative power, such as for instance
those of Goethe, Ibsen and others, but creative power and life will be made one
and the same.
Creative power will then be neither classical nor romantic Then thought, perfected
after its own kind, whether in Greece or in China, will not be characterized as
classical and rationalist. At that time it will not be enough to combine (as it
was said that Hegel did) the values of protestant theology and those of classical
antiquity. At that time there will be a unity of nature and freedom,
the thing that is true and good will be the thing that is beautiful.1 Creative
power must be theurgic, the cooperation of God and man; it must be divine-human.
It is the answer of man to the call ofGod.
The religious difficulty of this problem lies in the fact that the will of
God concerning the creative vocation of man, the need of (Jod for the creative
activity of man, could not be revealed to nun by God, it had to be brought to
light by the daring of man luinsclf. Otherwise there would be no freedom of creative
power, there would be no answer made by man.2 Redemption comes I mm God, from
the fact of the Crucified and Sacrificed God, whereas creative activity derives
from man. To oppose creativity und redemption, however, is to succumb to the rules
of objectified rfiid fallen consciousness.
Man finds an outlet from the closed circle of subjectivity in the < irutive
act of spirit by two routes, that is, by the way of objecti-IK ation and by the
way of transcendence. By the way of objectifi-i jiion the creative act is adjusted
to the circumstances of this world it nd does not reach its final state, it is
cut off short. By the way of ii4»scendence the creative act breaks through to
noumenal reality and sets its bearing upon the final transformation of the world.
In reality what actually happens is that both ways are combined in human creative
activity with some preponderance of one or the oilier. It would be a mistake to
conclude that objectified creative power is devoid of importance and meaning.
Without it man would be unable to endure the conditions of his existence in this
world, or to improve those conditions. Man is called upon to expand his labour
upon the material of this world and to subjugate n to spirit. But the limits of
this way of objectification must be understood, and so must the danger of its
exclusive use, for it «linches and strengthens the wrong state of the world. This
1 Holdwin asserts this as akeady attained. See his Theorie gtnetique de la
2 Sec The Meaning of the Creative Act.
matter of the correlation of law with freedom and grace.1 There will come
a time, a new historical aeon, when the eschatological meaning of creative power
will finally and definitely be made clear. The problem of creativeness leads on
to the problem of the meaning of history.
1 See The Destiny of Man.
The Problem of History and Eschatology