Nikolai Berdyaev
1874 - 1948

Philosophy ... is the creative perception by the spirit
of the meaning of human existence.
-- Solitude and Society



Biographical Note
    by E. L. Allen
Brief Biography
    by Nino Langiulli

Berdyaev's Philosophy

Berdyaev Quotes
8th Day of Creation

Articles & Essays


Discussion List




On Creativity

Creativity is the mystery of freedom. (MCA, 144)

Creativity is something which proceeds from within, out of immeasurable and inexplicable depths, not from without, not from the world's necessity. The very desire to make the creative act understandable, to find a basis for it, is failure to comprehend it. To comprehend the creative act means to recognize that it is inexplicable and without foundation. (MCA, 145)

Man's creative activity has no holy scriptures: its ways are not revealed to man from above. In the holy scriptures which reveal to man the will of God, man always finds absolute truth, but it is another kind of truth and about something other. 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. (MCA, 97)

Only the law and the redemption can be revealed from on high. Creativeness is something mysterious and hidden. 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 the 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. (MCA, 98)

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 free revelation.... Herein lies the great mystery of man. And there can be no divine revelation of this secret; it is inevitable hidden. The creative secret is both hidden from man and revealed by man. (MCA, 99)

Only he who is free, creates. (MCA, 144)

Creativity is the supreme mystery of life, the mystery of the appearance of something new, hitherto unknown, derived from nothing, proceeding from nothing, born of nothing other.... (DM, 135)

True life is creativity, not development: it is the freedom for creative acts, for creative fire, rather than necessity and the heaviness of congealing self-perfection. (DM, 140)

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. (MCA, 105)

There is a difference between the creative idea and the creative act on the one hand, and the product on the other. Creativity is fire; culture is the cooling of the flame. The creative act is upflight, victory over the heaviness of the objectivized world and over determinism, the product of creativity in culture is a dragging down, a process of settling. (SF, 106)

... man in his creativity has begun to yearn for the organic, for synthesis, for a religious centre, for mystery. (SCI, 5)

Creativeness is liberation from slavery. Man is free when he finds himself in a state of creative activity. Creativeness leads to ecstasy of the moment. The products of creativeness are within time, but the creative act itself lies outside time. (SF, 253)

Man is not a passive instrument of the world-process and of all the decomposition taking place in it: he is an active creator. The splitting apart of the cosmos will not destroy the personal spirit, will not extirpate man's ego, if the human spirit will make heroic efforts to stand firm and create in the new cosmic rhythm. The splitting of the cosmos can only forward the development and confirmation of the true nucleus of the ego. The human spirit is being liberated from the old power of organic material. As though with tongs, the machine is tearing spirit out of the power of material, is breaking the old splice between material and spirit. This is the metaphysical meaning of the appearance of the machine in our world. The futurists do not understand this. (SCI, 21)

There was a time when symbolism was the mode in art: that belongs to the past. But there is an eternal symbolism of art. It would be truly realistic, if human life - the life of the world could be transfigured by means of art. But in art we are given only signs which hint at a real transfiguration. The meaning of art is that it anticipates real transfiguration. Art is full of symbols of another world. Every attained beauty is an incipient transfiguration of the world. Within the limits of art this transfiguration is not yet achieved. But art may pass beyond the bounds set for it as a separate sphere of culture. (DH)(CE, 322)

The union of beauty with truth is the integral transfiguration, the illumination of life. (DH, 181)

Last revised: February 22, 2008