NICOLAS BERDYAEV

THE MEANING OF THE CREATIVE ACT

Creativity & Redemption

Nikolai Alexandrovich Berdyaev was a Russian political and Christian religious philosopher who emphasized the existential spiritual significance of human freedom and creativity. Wikipedia

New Testament Christianity is a religion of redemption, the good news of salvation from sin, the revelation of the Son of God, the second hypostasis of the Holy Trinity in the aspect of God suffering for the sins of the world. This is one of the stages on the spiritual road.

 

But does the mystery of salvation take in the whole of life? Is life’s final purpose only salvation from sin? Redemption from sin, salvation from evil, are in themselves negative, and the final aims of Being lie far beyond, in a positive creative purpose.

 

The absolute Christian truth turns on the one hand towards redemption from sin and evil, and on the other towards the positive creative calling of Man: it reveals a Christology of Man.

Wassily Kandinsky

Composition IV

1911, Oil on canvas

62.8 × 98.6"

(159.5 × 250.5 cm)

Düsseldorf, Germany

Kunstsammlung

     Nordrhein-Westfalen

There is not one word in the Gospel about creativeness: by no amount of sophism can we derive from the Gospel creative challenges and imperatives. That the ways of creativeness are hidden in New Testament Christianity is providential. Man’s creative activity has no holy scriptures: its ways are not revealed to Man from above. In creativeness, Man is, as it were, left to himself, alone, and has no direct aid from on high. And in this fact the great wisdom of God is evident. We feel the holy authority of the Gospel's silence about creativeness. This absolute silence of Holy Scripture about Man’s creative activity is divinely wise. And to discern the all-wise meaning of this silence is to discern the mystery of Man; it is an act of Man’s highest self-consciousness.

 

If the ways of creativeness were indicated and justified in the Holy Scriptures, then creativeness would be obedience, which is to say that there would be no creativeness. The revelation of creativeness does not come from above, but rather from below—it is an anthropological, not a theological, revelation. God revealed His will to sinful Man in the Law and granted Man the grace of Redemption, sending into the world His only Son. And God awaits from Man an anthropological revelation of creativity; in the name of Man's God-like freedom, God has hidden from him the ways of creativeness and the justification of creativeness.

Creativeness is a work of Man’s God-like freedom, the revelation of the image of the Creator within him. Creativeness is not in the Father, neither is it in the Son, but in the Spirit. Hence it goes beyond the borders of the Old and New Testaments. Where the Spirit is, there is freedom, and there, too, is creativeness. 

 

Creativeness is not related to the priesthood and does not resemble it. Creativeness is in the spirit of prophecy. The Spirit cannot have its scriptures—it knows no directives: it is revealed in freedom. The Spirit breatheth where it will. Life in the Spirit is free and creative life. The anthropological revelation, which has its origin in Christ, is finally completed in the Spirit, in the free creative activity of Man living in the Spirit.

 

In creativeness, the divine in Man is revealed by Man’s own free initiative, revealed from below rather than from above. In creativeness Man himself reveals the image and likeness of God in him, manifests the divine power within him.

The breathing of the Spirit is not only divine, it is divine-human as well. The Church, too, is a divine-human organism. 

 

The mystery of the redemption was accomplished, and is eternally being accomplished, in the cosmos. After the redemption, a new creative Being appears in the world and Man is called to extraordinary activity, to creative upbuilding of profit for the Kingdom of God which is known as God-humanity. 

 

The Creator’s idea of Man is sublime and beautiful. So sublime and so beautiful is the divine idea of Man that creative freedom, the free power to reveal himself in creative action, is placed within Man as a seal and sign of his likeness to God, as a mark of the Creator’s image. 

 

The compulsory revelation of creativeness as a law, as an indication of the way to go, would contradict God's idea of Man, God's desire to see in Man the creator, reflecting His own divine nature. If there had been a revelation about creativeness from above, a revelation imprinted in the holy scriptures, then Man’s free creative deed would have been both unnecessary and impossible. There would have remained no room for an anthropological revelation. 

 

Such a passive concept of human nature makes Man a Being unworthy of the incarnation. Christ would not have been God-Man if human nature is merely passive, un-free, and reveals nothing from within itself. For truly the God-Man is a revelation not only of divine but of human greatness, and predicates faith not only in God, but in Man, as well. 

 

The redemption itself was an inner growth of Man. In the spirit of Man, all the mystical events of the life of Christ are accomplished. 

 

Man’s likeness to God in His only Son is already the everlasting basis for Man’s independent and free nature, capable of creative revelation. 

 

God did not reveal from above that He wills free courageous action in creativeness. If God had revealed and established this in Holy Scriptures, then free courageous action would be unnecessary and impossible. The truth about free daring in creativeness may be revealed by Man himself, alone, only in a free act of his own daring. Herein lies hidden the great mystery of Man. 

 

And there can be no divine revelation of this secret; it is inevitably hidden. The creative secret is both hidden from Man and revealed by Man. This is an esoteric mystery of divine revelation and of Holy Scripture. 

 

God the Creator, by an act of His almighty and omniscient will, created Man—His own image and likeness, a Being free and gifted with creative power, called to be lord of creation. 

 

This is an inner process in God. By an act of His almighty and omniscient power, the Creator willed to limit His own foresight of what the creative freedom of Man would reveal, since such foreknowledge would have done violence to and limited Man’s freedom in creation. 

 

The Creator does not wish to know what the anthropological revelation will be. Herein we see the great and sublime wisdom of God in the work of creation. God wisely concealed from Man His will that Man should be called to be a free and daring creator and concealed from Himself what Man would create in his free courageous action. 

 

By a free act of His absolute will, God the Creator excluded from His creating all violence and compulsion, having desired only the freedom and the courageous activity of His creature. God waits for Man’s answering love: He waits for a free response to His call.

 

Creativeness is not only the struggle with sin and evil—it wills another world, it continues the work of creation. The law begins the struggle against sin and evil; the redemption finishes that struggle; but Man is called to create a new and hitherto unknown world through free and daring creativeness, to continue God’s creation. 

 

The fundamental duality of Man’s nature, his belonging to two worlds, corresponds to the duality of redemption and creativeness. As a fallen Being, enslaved by the results of sin and caught by the force of necessity, Man must pass through the mystery of redemption, in it must restore his God-like nature, regain his lost freedom. The creative secret of Being is hidden by sin. Man’s creative powers are weakened by his fall. 

 

Through Christ, Man’s nature is redeemed and restored; he is saved from the curse of sin. The old Man is reborn into a new creature, the new Adam. But the mystery of redemption conceals the mystery of creativeness. As a God-like Being, belonging to the realm of freedom, Man is called to reveal his creative power. Here is the other side of Man’s dualistic nature, oriented towards creativeness instead of redemption. 

 

But true creativeness is possible only through redemption. Christ became immanent in human nature, and this makes Man a creator like the Creator God.

 

The world has not yet seen a religious epoch of creativeness. The world knows only the religious epochs of the Old Testament Law and New Testament Redemption. The world has lived in either religious obedience or sinful disobedience.

 

We are standing on the threshold of a world-Epoch of religious creativeness, on a cosmic divide. Up to now all the creativeness of “culture” has been only a preparatory hint, the sign of the real creativeness of another world. In the creativeness of “culture” there is expressed only the tragic dualism of human nature, struggling to escape from the fetters of necessity but not yet attaining another sphere of Being. Just as bloody pagan sacrifice was merely a foreshadowing of the world's true redemption through Christ's sacrifice on Golgotha, a foreshadowing which did not attain true redemption, so Man's creative efforts, which have brought into Being the values of culture, have been up to now only a foreshadowing of a true religious Epoch of creativeness which will realize another sphere of Being. 

 

The religious Epoch of creativeness will be a transition into another sphere of Being, not merely to another “culture” or to another sphere of “science and art.” The religious Epoch of creativeness is a Third Revelation, an anthropological revelation following those of the Old and New Testaments. 

 

The ancient world moved towards redemption before the appearance of Christ. So the new world moves towards creativeness, but it has not yet known, nor could it know, creativeness until there is a cosmic anthropological turning-point, until there is a great religious revolution in human self-consciousness. Then it will be seen that the creativeness of “culture” was a poor substitute for the creativeness of “Being” in the Epoch of the Law and the Redemption, when Man’s creative powers were still suppressed.

 

From this tragic problem of Christianity there can be only one way out: the religious acceptance of the truth that the religious meaning of life and Being is not wholly a matter of redemption from sin, that life and Being have positive, creative purposes.

 

That higher creative, positive Being, though unattainable at the time when redemption was begun, when God was still transcendent to Man, is attainable in another period of religious life, after the redemption, when God in Man is immanent. 

 

Salvation from sin, from perdition, is not the final purpose of religious life: salvation is always from something and life should be for something. Many things unnecessary for salvation are needed for the very purpose for which salvation is necessary—for the creative upsurge of Being. Man’s chief end is not to be saved, but to mount up creatively.

 

The third creative revelation in the Spirit will have no holy scripture; it will be no voice from on high; it will be accomplished in Man and in humanity—it is an anthropological revelation, an unveiling of the Christology of Man. 

 

God awaits the anthropological revelation from Man, and Man cannot expect to have it from God. 

 

And one cannot merely wait for the Third Revelation; Man must accomplish it himself, living in the Spirit; accomplish it by a free, creative act. In this act everything transcendent will become immanent. 

 

Man is quite free in the revelation of his creativeness. In this fearful freedom lies all the God-like dignity of Man, and his dread responsibility. The virtue of accepting a dangerous position, the virtue of daring to do, is the basic virtue of the creative Epoch. 

 

Only he who possesses these virtues will vision the Coming Christ: only to him will the mighty and glorified Christ come. He who coward-like refuses the terrible burden of the final freedom cannot be oriented towards the Coming Christ—that Man is not making ready Christ’s second coming. 

 

Only a sacrificial resolve to take a risky and dangerous place, to sail away from safe shores towards an unknown and yet undiscovered continent from which no helping hands reach out—only this terrible liberty makes Man worthy to see the Absolute Man, in whom is finally revealed the creative secret of Man. 

 

The Coming Christ will reveal His creative mystery to him who himself does daring deeds of creativeness, who is preparing a new heaven and a new earth. 

 

Man’s creativeness in the Spirit, in the higher spiritual life, is preparing for the second coming of Christ. The way to the second coming requires active courage.... Man is called not merely to wait and have a presentiment, but to act and to create. Man must move out of a religious-passive and receptive condition into one of religious activity and creativeness.

 

God gave Man the gracious aid of Christ’s redemption which restored Man’s fallen nature. Through the redemption, Man’s creative freedom is restored to him. And the time must come in the world for this creative freedom to be active. Man must create that for which he was redeemed, for which he was created. 

 

Christianity makes God immanent in human nature and hence cannot admit a completely transcendent separation between this world and the next. 

 

The question of the religious meaning of creativeness has never before been put—such a question has never arisen in consciousness. This is the question of our time, one question, the final question to which the crisis of all culture leads us. 

 

The religious problem of creativeness is a problem of the ways of another kind of religious experience, of building up another kind of Being. 

 

Creativeness is neither permitted nor justified by religion—creativeness is itself religion. 

 

Creative experience is a special kind of experience and a special kind of way: the creative ecstasy shatters the whole of Man’s Being—it is an out-breaking into another world. 

 

At its best, Christianity justified creativeness, but it never rose to the consciousness that what matters is not to justify creativeness but by creativeness to justify life. 

 

Creativeness is the final revelation of the Holy Trinity—its anthropological revelation. 

 

In the mystery of redemption the Creator’s boundless love towards Man and His boundless grace were poured out. In the mystery of creativeness Man’s boundless nature is revealed and his highest calling is realized. 

 

Love is not only grace, but the activity of Man, himself, as well. God, himself, who gave His only Son to be broken on the tree, atones for the sin of Man, and he expects that Man, having partaken of the mystery of the redemption, will accomplish the great deed of creativeness, will realize his positive destiny.

 

Human nature is creative because it is the image and likeness of God the Creator. That the image and likeness of the Creator cannot fail to be himself a creator is an anthropological truth which was not recognized with sufficient intensity and fullness by former religious epochs. 

 

Religious consciousness was full of the mystery of redemption of human nature, but the mystery of this to-be-redeemed human nature, itself, was unknown. What is the predestination of this redeemed human nature? Within the limits of the religion of redemption, there is no answer to this question. 

 

It is as though the Man who is redeemed from his sins desired that his human nature should cease to exist—that only the divine nature alone should exist. But Christ is God-Man. He redeems and restores human nature to its likeness unto God. 

 

Human nature which knows itself, knows its independent and free Being, must exist eternally only as a creative and creating nature. Human nature finally justifies itself before the Creator not by extinguishing itself but by its own creative expression. Man must absolutely be.

 

Human nature, redeemed and saved from evil, has a positive human content and a positive human purpose. This content and purpose is creativeness. 

 

Man’s creativeness is connected with the ecstatic element in him. This element exists in a fallen and sinful state. It is cleansed and enlightened by redemption, not quenched or destroyed. The cleansed and illuminated creative ecstasy realizes Man’s calling. 

 

Repentance or purification is only one of the moments of religious experience, one of the acts of the mystery of Christ. We must not stop at this moment: we must go on to positive spiritual living. 

 

God’s will must be fulfilled to the uttermost; here there can be no difference of opinion among Christians. But we have to know what the will of God is. We dare not understand it in a purely formal way. And is not the fulfillment of the secret will of God man’s free creativity?