Deus otiosus

In theology, a deus otiosus or "idle god" is a creator god who largely retires from the world and is no longer involved in its daily operation, a central tenet of Deism. A similar concept is that of the deus absconditus or "hidden god" of Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)[1] and Nicolaus Cusanus.[2][3] Although Aquinas was a Catholic and not a deist, the concept of the "idle god" refer to a deity whose existence is not readily knowable by humans solely through contemplation or through the examination of divine actions. The concept of deus otiosus often suggests a god who has grown weary from involvement in this world and who has been replaced by younger, more active gods, whereas deus absconditus suggests a god who has consciously left this world to hide elsewhere.


In Sumer, the younger gods Enlil and Enki replace the deus otiosus Anu (Eliade: 57). In Greek mythology, the older gods like Uranus and Gaia make way for Cronos and Rhea who in turn are succeeded by the Olympians Zeus and Hera and company.

In Vaiśeṣika school of Hinduism, early theories were atheistic/non-theistic, with universe explained as composed of eternal paramanu (atoms) of substances whose combinations and interactions explained the nature of universe.[4][5] In 1st millennium AD, the school introduced the concept of Ishvara to its atomistic naturalism philosophy.[4][6] These later-age ancient Vaiśeṣika scholars retained their belief that substances are eternal, added Ishvara as another eternal who is also omniscient and omnipresent. Ishvara (or Deva) did not create the world, according to this school of Hindu scholars, but He only created invisible laws that operate the world and then He becomes passive and lets those hidden universal laws do its thing.[4] Thus, Vaisheshika's Ishvara mirrors Deus otiosus, as a God who retires after he has created the invisible laws of nature that affect it. Vaisheshika school's Ishvara, states Klaus Klostermaier, can be understood as an eternal God who co-exists in the universe with eternal substances and atoms, but He "winds up the clock, and lets it run its course".[4]

Elsewhere in Hinduism, in some medieval puranas, Adi Shakti appears as a deus otiosus. In Baltic mythology Deivas most probably was a deus otiosus.[7] In Christianity, Martin Luther used the notion of deus absconditus to explain the mystery and remoteness of God.[8]

See also


  1. Weber: 220
  2. Cusanus, Nicolaus. Nicolai de Cusa Opera Omnia. Vol. IV: Opuscula I [De Deo abscondito, De quaerendo Deum, De filiatione Dei, De dato Patris luminum, Coniectura de ultimis diebus, De genesi], ed.: P. Wilpert, Hamburgi, 1959
  3. Nikoletseas, Michael M. (2014). Deus Absconditus - The Hidden God. ISBN 978-1495336225.
  4. 1 2 3 4 Klaus Klostermaier (2007), A Survey of Hinduism, Third Edition, State University of New York, ISBN 978-0791470824, page 337
  5. R Collins (2000), The sociology of philosophies, Harvard University Press, ISBN 978-0674001879, page 836
  6. A Goel (1984), Indian philosophy: Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika and modern science, Sterling, ISBN 978-0865902787, pages 149-151
  7. "". External link in |title= (help)
  8. "Luther, Martin | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy".

Further reading

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