The Possibilities of Creativity: Nicholas Berdyaev and Robert Bly

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Editor: Scot Peacock
Date: 1997
Publisher: Gale
Document Type: Critical essay
Length: 3,612 words

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[In the following essay, Randolph examines the spiritual significance that Berdyaev attached to human creativity, using the work of American poet Robert Bly to exemplify Berdyaev's criteria for genuine creativity in works of art.]

In D. H. Lawrence: Novelist, F. R. Leavis writes of Lawrence:

It is plain from the letters and other sources that he went forward rapidly once he had started on an enterprise, writing long stretches in remarkably little time as the creative flow carried him on. The first draft written, he revised, not by correcting locally or re-working parts, but by re-writing the whole with the same kind of creative elan as had gone into the earlier version (and this he habitually did yet again).

In “Symbol and Reality in Nicolas Berdyaev,” Robert D. Knudsen writes of Berdyaev, “He says that he composed his writing quickly, even in a state of dizziness, not disturbing the cascade of his thought even by the consultation of books.” Berdyaev himself writes in his autobiography, Dream and Reality, “Only in the white heat of creative ecstasy, when none of the divisions into subject and object had yet arisen, did I experience moments of fulfillment and joy.”

Although integrity of structure is contained in unbroken impulse for both Lawrence and Berdyaev, Lawrence is working toward a form while Berdyaev is experiencing a state of being. It is the necessary casting of one's creativity into a form which Berdyaev terms as tragic, yet inherent, in our world. Form, Berdyaev says, was never a goal of his and was, in fact, the cause of agony and embarrassment:

An artist must needs be concerned with the adequacy and effectiveness of his finished work. For my part, I have, so far as I can remember, never been concerned with these things, and I have no claim whatsoever to artistic perfection in my writings.... When I see my work done within the objective world and standing over against me as a fixed and irrevocable object, I suffer agonies of discontent and embarrassment.... Creative works are within time, with its objectifications, discords and divisions, but the creative act is beyond time: it is wholly within, subjective, prior to all objectification.

In The Destiny of Man, as in many other places, Nicholas Berdyaev acknowledges his indebtedness to the thinking of Jakob Boehme. Berdyaev accepts Boehme's idea of the “Ungrund,” a primordial condition of non-being from which, Boehme and Berdyaev say, God came. Freedom is an inherent condition of the Ungrund, so that both God and freedom came from it. The creation of the world by God is, therefore, a secondary act, preceded by the coming forth of God:

Out of the Divine Nothing ... God the Creator is born.... From this point of view it may be said that freedom is not created by God: it is rooted in the Nothing, in the Ungrund from all eternity. Freedom is not determined by God; it is part of the nothing out of which God created the world.

God created...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|H1420011097