Deus otiosus

In the history of religion and philosophy, deus otiosus (Latin: "inactive god") is a term which refers to the belief in a creator God who has largely or entirely withdrawn from the government of the universe after creating it and is no longer involved in its daily operation, a central tenet of Deism.[1]

Examples in the history of religionEdit

Ishvara in Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika HinduismEdit

In the Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika school of Hinduism as well as in the other ancient Indian schools of philosophy, early philosophical and cosmological theories were predominantly atheistic or non-theistic, which postulated that all objects in the physical universe are reducible to paramāṇu (atoms) of substances whose aggregations, combinations, and interactions explained the nature of the universe.[6][7][8] In the 1st millennium CE, the Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika school added the concept of Ishvara to its atomistic naturalism.[6][9] These later Nyāya and Vaiśeṣika atomists retained their belief that substances are eternal, but included the belief in the existence of an Ishvara, which is regarded as the eternal Supreme Being who is also omniscient and omnipresent.[7]

Nyāya and Vaiśeṣika atomists held that the world was created when order was imposed on pre-existing matter: the motion of atoms was ascribed to the agency of a Supreme Being, which did not create the universe out of nothing according to the Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika school.[6] In the 11th century CE, the organization of atoms was cited as a proof for the existence of God by some Nyāya and Vaiśeṣika atomists.[6] According to Klaus Klostermaier, the Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika belief in the existence of an Ishvara mirrors the Western belief in deus otiosus, since both are conceived as a creator God who retires from the universe after having created the laws that govern nature.[7] Klostermaier further states that Ishvara can be understood as an eternal God who co-exists in the universe with eternal substances and atoms, describing it as a divine watchmaker who "winds up the clock, and lets it run its course".[7]: 337 

Similarity to Deus absconditusEdit

A similar concept to the one of deus otiosus is that of Deus absconditus (Latin: "hidden God") formulated by two prominent Scholastic and Roman Catholic theologians that lived during the Late Middle Ages: Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)[10] and Nicholas of Cusa (1401–1464).[11]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Doniger, Wendy; Eliade, Mircea, eds. (1999). "DEUS OTIOSUS". Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of World Religions. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster. p. 288. ISBN 9780877790440. OCLC 1150050382. DEUS OTIOSUS (Latin: "inactive god") in the history of religions and philosophy, a High God who has withdrawn from the immediate details of the government of the world. [...] In Western philosophy, the deus otiosus concept has been attributed to Deism, a 17th–18th century Western rationalistic religio-philosophical movement, in its view of a non-intervening creator of the universe. Although this stark interpretation was accepted by very few Deists, many of their antagonists attempted to force them into the position of stating that after the original act of creation God virtually withdrew and refrained from interfering in the processes of nature and human affairs.
  2. ^ Eliade, Mircea (1978). A History of Religious Ideas: From the Stone Age to the Eleusinian Mysteries. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 57.
  3. ^ Werblowsky, R. J. Zwi. "polytheism". Retrieved 10 March 2022.
  4. ^ "Chapter IV". Series 04 IVA-17. Archived from the original on 2 September 2012. Retrieved 4 January 2008.
  5. ^ "Luther, Martin". Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  6. ^ a b c d Berryman, Sylvia (Winter 2022). "Ancient Atomism – Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika atomism". In Zalta, Edward N. (ed.). Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. The Metaphysics Research Lab, Center for the Study of Language and Information, Stanford University. ISSN 1095-5054. OCLC 643092515. Archived from the original on 6 March 2023. Retrieved 15 March 2023.
  7. ^ a b c d Klostermaier, Klaus (2007). A Survey of Hinduism (3rd ed.). State University of New York. ISBN 978-0791470824.
  8. ^ Collins, R. (2000). The Sociology of Philosophies. Harvard University Press. p. 836. ISBN 978-0674001879.
  9. ^ Goel, A. (1984). Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika and modern science. Indian philosophy. Sterling. pp. 149–151. ISBN 978-0865902787.
  10. ^ Weber, Max (1978). Runciman, Walter Garrison (ed.). Max Weber: Selections in Translation. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. p. 220. ISBN 0-521-29268-9.
  11. ^ Cusanus, Nicolaus (1959). Wilpert, P. (ed.). Opuscula I [De Deo abscondito, De quaerendo Deum, De filiatione Dei, De dato Patris luminum, Coniectura de ultimis diebus, De genesi]. Nicolai de Cusa Opera Omnia. Vol. IV. Hamburgi, DE.