Creation Beyond Creativity

For the past two millennia, debates around creation and creativity have turned around the question of whether it is possible to create something from nothing, or whether creativity necessarily involves the recombination of elements already to hand. These debates divided theologians and philosophers from classical through medieval times. Following the Renaissance, however, and in the subsequent rise of modern science, creation came to be strongly associated with the recombinant power of intelligent design. This lecture charts how, from the mid-twentieth century, this association went on to underpin the burgeoning field of creativity research in psychology, leading to an exclusive focus on the novelty of ideas and products that left no room for the creativeness of life itself, in its intrinsic potential for renewal. Drawing on the thinking of John Dewey, Henri Bergson and Alfred North Whitehead, on questions of philosophy, religion and art, the lecture elaborates on the distinction between novelty and newness, and makes a plea for the restoration of the idea of creation not as the proliferation of ends but as the promise of perpetual beginning.