Genesis in Motion


Paul Klee, “Tree Nursery”

According to the Book of Genesis (New American Standard Bible), “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.” All other translations known to me prefer the word “hovering” instead of “moving.” I like the boldness and dynamism of this particular translation because it conceives of the act of creation as a clash of opposing forces; an expression of the energetic, potent and fructifying spirit acting upon the inert, receptive earth and waters. I thought about this while visiting an exhibition at Zentrum Paul Klee in Bern, Switzerland dedicated to the artist’s fascination and attempts at depicting movement in his paintings. The section of the exhibition entitled “Centrifugal forces of nature” has this as its motto:

“I place myself at a remote, originary place of creation, where I assume formulas for men, animals, plants, earth, fire, water, air and, at the same time, all the circling forces.”

Paul Klee, Diary IV


Paul Klee, “Landscape in the Beginning”



Paul Klee, “Rose Wind”

Klee believed the motion to be at the root of all growth. He described his works as Genesis. He was particularly fascinated by gravity and all kids of movements working to defy its inexorable force, namely the free centrifugal forces directed dynamically away from the centre (hence the frequent use of arrows and rolling wheels in his paintings); walking, jumping, running and dancing as other ways of overcoming gravity; finally, he juxtaposed the free movement of the spirit (mental motion) with the bodily movements hindered and limited by gravity. He called water an “in-between realm,” where “gravity, defined by the attraction of the earth, acts in the opposite direction, namely upwards.”


Paul Klee, “Eros”

Perhaps the word “hovering” used in all major Bible translations can be defended if we thought of it as implying “balancing movement.” Klee’s work was very much concerned with balance found through motion. He was interested in an equilibrium of colour, line and form as an expression of a spiritual balance of being. He saw the inner paradoxical nature of balance as a simultaneous action and (static) condition. If all of nature is a precarious interplay between the static and the dynamic forces, then a balance is a temporary, fragile and rare moment, as beautifully shown here by artists from Cirque Rigolo:


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9 Responses to Genesis in Motion

  1. lampmagician says:

    Reblogged this on lampmagician and commented:
    “I place myself at a remote, originary place of creation, where I assume formulas for men, animals, plants, earth, fire, water, air and, at the same time, all the circling forces.” ❤❤

    Paul Klee, Diary IV


  2. Jeff Japp says:

    Problem with the bible, it was symbolism used to describe something that cannot be described with words, and then is translated from the original language. And then crazies claim it’s the word of God and must be followed to the letter. Unfortunately, that mentality leads to atrocities like what happened in Florida recently. We live in strange times.


    • I think words carry symbolic value as well. I love to ponder on their deeper layers. No idea which translation would be “correct”; what is more, I don’t really care.

      I get your point, though, Jeff, and thank you for your comment.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jeff Japp says:

        Hey Monika. Yeah, I agree that each translation brings its own beauty to the text. My issue is that there is a very scary rise in fundamentalism here in this country, and these fundamentalists are using quotes to justify their hatred. You would not believe some of the things people are saying in this country right now. It’s frightening.

        Anyway, I hope you have a wonderful weekend!!!


        Liked by 1 person

  3. Nataraj Express says:

    Static and motion… Shiva Shakti! Love all your posts, thanks for sharing! 🙏💜✨

    Liked by 1 person

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