Creation out of nothing

From AnthroWiki
(Redirected from Creatio ex nihilo)
The Creation of Light by Gustave Doré

Creation out of nothing (Latincreatio ex nihilo) is the basic activity of the spirit through which it realises itself in continuous acts of unconditional coming into being. The spirit lives in constant creating and creating itself out of itself, and this self is in a higher sense nothing, i.e. no thing, for it is in no way graspable as a definable, i.e. delimitable being. Here there is no great and small, thick and thin, above and below, no color, no sound, no taste etc., but the spirit, in its ceaseless becoming, which, however, appears outwardly as absolute rest, transcends all being that has become, which itself is only a cast-off product of the spirit's activity, manifesting itself as a delimitable outer creation.

The Nothing

„The Oriental felt, but not because he speculated in any way, but because his contemplation compelled him to feel thus, he felt: On the one hand I experience space and time, and on the other hand I experience that which cannot be observed in space and time, which is nothingness for space and time things and for space and time events, but is a reality, just another reality. Only through a misunderstanding did that come into being to which the occidental civilisation gave itself under Rome's leadership: the creation of the world out of nothing, whereby only zero was thought of as nothing. In the Orient, where these things were originally conceived, the world does not arise out of nothing, but out of that real to which I have just referred you.“ (Lit.:GA 200, p. 16f)

In Buddhism, the concept of emptiness (shunyata) refers to this essential nature of the spirit, through which the bonds of conditional arising, i.e. karma, are finally cast off. Creation out of nothing springs from Nirvana (Sanskritn., निर्वाण "extinction" or literally "blowing away", from nis, nir "out of" and "blowing"), comparable to the Ain Soph (Hebrewאין סוף "not finite") of the Jewish Kabbalah. Here is the source from which everything arises, and here is at the same time the sink into which all being dissolves again.

According to Augustine of Hippo (354 – 430 AD), creation can only have taken place ex nihilo, out of nothing, if it is to be real creation and not mere transformation. Tertullian (c. 155 – c. 220 AD) went even further in this respect and said that creation actually arose a nihilo, 'from nothing', because if it had arisen ex nihilo, nothingness would already be understood as substance.

Augustine also coined the concept of creatio continua, according to which creation is an ongoing, unfinished process. Isaac Newton was also of this opinion. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz took the opposite view and coined the famous parable of the "divine watchmaker", according to which the world functioned automatically like a perfect clockwork created by God, and countered Newton by saying that he would have to consider God a bad watchmaker if the world were in need of his constant intervention in order to function. In the Christian churches, both views are roughly equally held.

Creating out of circumstances

In this context, Rudolf Steiner also speaks of creation out of circumstances, which are not derived from the past, but from the way in which the human being freely faces the facts of his environment.

„Thus we see how, as it were, as the final conclusion of what has been impressed on man by Saturn, the Sun and the Moon, the Christ-event has come on Earth, which has given man the highest thing, which makes him able to live into the perspective of the future and to create more and more out of circumstances, out of what is not here and not there, but depends on how man places himself in relation to the facts of his environment, which in the most comprehensive sense is the Holy Spirit. This is again such an aspect of Christian esotericism. Christian esotericism is connected with the deepest thought we can have of all development, with the thought of creation out of nothing.

Therefore, any true theory of evolution will never be able to drop the idea of creation out of nothing. If we assume that there is only evolution and involution, then there would be an eternal repetition, as there is with the plant, so on the volcano there would only be that which had its beginning on Saturn. But in this way creation out of nothing is added to evolution and involution and enters into the middle of our development. After Saturn, the Sun and the Moon have passed away, the Christ enters upon the earth as the great element of enrichment which causes something quite new to exist on the Vulcan, something which was not yet there on Saturn. He who speaks only of evolution and involution will speak of development as if everything were only repeating itself like a cycle. But such cycles can never really explain the evolution of the world. Only if we add to evolution and involution this creation out of nothing, which adds something new to the conditions that exist, will we arrive at a real understanding of the world.“ (Lit.:GA 107, p. 313f)

Previously Rudolf Steiner had already explained this by means of examples that make it clear that the moonlike karma of the past does not play a role in this, but rather the joy that arises as something entirely new from the present sight of the conditions that one has freely confronted.

„Suppose you had before you a human being facing two others. Let us take together all that belongs to development. Let us take the one human being who is looking at the two others before us and say: he has passed through previous incarnations, he has developed out what previous incarnations have put into him. This is also the case with the other two people standing before him. But let us now suppose that this person now says to himself the following: The one person next to the other looks very beautiful here. - He likes the fact that these two people are standing next to each other. Another person would not need to be so pleased. The pleasure that one person takes in standing together has nothing at all to do with the developmental possibilities of the other two, for they have not acquired the ability to please the third person by standing side by side. That is something quite different; it depends solely on the fact that he is standing opposite the two people. So you see, the human being forms within himself the feeling of joy over the two standing together before him. This feeling is not conditioned by anything connected with development. There are such things in the world which arise only through the facts being brought together. It is not a question of the two people being connected by their karma. Let us take into consideration the pleasure he derives from the fact that the two people standing side by side are pleasing to him.

Let us take another case. Let us assume that a man is standing here at a certain point on the Earth and is looking up into the sky. There he sees a certain constellation of stars. If he were to stand five steps further, he would see something else. This gazing evokes in him the feeling of joy, which is something quite new. Thus man undergoes a sum of facts which are entirely new, which are not at all conditioned by his earlier development. Everything that the lily of the valley brings is conditioned by the earlier development. But this is not the case with what affects the human soul from its surroundings. Man has a whole multitude of matters which have nothing to do with an earlier development, but which are there because man comes into contact with the outer world through certain circumstances. But through the fact that man has this joy, it has become something in him, it has become an experience for him. Something has arisen in the human soul which is not determined by anything earlier, which has arisen out of nothing. Such creations out of nothing arise continually in the human soul. They are the experiences of the soul, which are not experienced through facts, but through relations, through relationships between the facts, which one forms oneself. I would ask you to distinguish between experiences that one has from the facts and those that one has from the relations between the facts.

Life really breaks down into two parts which run into each other without boundary: into such experiences as are strictly conditioned by previous causes, by karma, and into such as are not conditioned by karma, but enter our circle of vision anew.“ (Lit.:GA 107, p. 303f)

In Christian esotericism, creating out of circumstances is also called creating in the spirit.

„In Christian esotericism, creating out of circumstances is called creating in the spirit. And creating out of right, beautiful and virtuous circumstances is called the Holy Spirit in Christian esotericism. The Holy Spirit makes man happy when he is able to create out of nothing what is right or true, beautiful and good. But in order for man to be able to create in the sense of this Holy Spirit, he first had to be given the basis for all creation out of nothing. This foundation was given to him through the entry of the Christ into our evolution. By experiencing the Christ event on Earth, man became capable of ascending to creation in the Holy Spirit. Thus it is Christ Himself who creates the most eminent, deepest foundation. If man becomes so that he stands firm on the ground of the Christ-experience, that the Christ-experience is the chariot into which he enters in order to develop himself further, then the Christ sends him the Holy Spirit, and man becomes capable of creating what is right, beautiful and good in the sense of further development.“ (Lit.:GA 107, p. 312f)

Creation out of Nothing and the Three Logoi

„Let us place ourselves at the very beginning of such a planetary evolution, at the very beginning of the evolution of Saturn. What do we have to observe there? There was not yet a physical planet, not even in the finest arupa form was a planet present, but we are still there before the moment when Saturn is there in its first beginning. Nothing of our planetary chain is there yet; but the whole fruit of the preceding planetary chain is there, just as when we wake up in the morning we have not yet done anything and only the memory of what we did the day before is contained in our spirit. Thus, if we place ourselves at the very beginning of Saturn's evolution, we have in the manifesting spirits the memory of a previous planetary chain, of what has gone before. Now we move to the end of the planetary chain, to the time when the volcanic stage comes to an end. During the planetary chain, what was present at the beginning gradually emerged as creation. So we first have an outflow of consciousness; out of the content of the earlier, out of memory, consciousness creates the new. In the end, therefore, something is there that was not there at the beginning: namely, all experience. What was there at the beginning has flowed out into nothing but things and entities. A new consciousness has arisen at the end with a new content, a new content of consciousness. It is something that has emerged from nothing, from experience. When we look at renewal in life, we have to say to ourselves that there must be a seed that makes this possible. But the new content of consciousness at the end of a planetary evolution has actually come out of nothing, out of experiences; you don't need foundations for that, it creates something that comes out of nothing. One cannot say, when one personality looks at another, that it has taken something from the other, if it subsequently carries within itself the memory of the other personality. This memory has emerged out of nothingness. That is a third kind of creation: out of nothing. So the three kinds of creating are as follows:

Combining the existing parts (form)
Making new entities with a new purpose in life emerge from existing foundations (life)
Creating out of nothing (consciousness).

These are three definitions of beings that bring forth a planetary chain, that underlie a planetary chain. They are called the three logoi. The third Logos brings forth from the combination. If from one substance something else comes forth with new life, that is the second Logos that brings forth. But wherever we have a coming forth from nothing, we have the first Logos. Hence the first Logos is often called that which is hidden in things themselves, the second Logos the substance which rests in things and creates living things out of living things, the third Logos that which combines all that exists, composes the world out of things.“ (Lit.:p. 260f.pdf GA 89, p. 260f)


References to the work of Rudolf Steiner follow Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works (CW or GA), Rudolf Steiner Verlag, Dornach/Switzerland, unless otherwise stated.
Email: URL:
Index to the Complete Works of Rudolf Steiner - Aelzina Books
A complete list by Volume Number and a full list of known English translations you may also find at Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works
Rudolf Steiner Archive - The largest online collection of Rudolf Steiner's books, lectures and articles in English.
Rudolf Steiner Audio - Recorded and Read by Dale Brunsvold - Anthroposophic Press Inc. (USA)
Rudolf Steiner Handbook - Christian Karl's proven standard work for orientation in Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works for free download as PDF.