Deus otiosus or "idle god" is a theological concept used to describe 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).
Although Aquinas was a Catholic and not a deist, both his concept of the "hidden god" and 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 The concept of deus otiosus often suggests a god who has grown weary from involvement in this world and who has been replaced by younger, more active gods, whereas deus absconditus suggests a god who has consciously left this world to hide elsewhere.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 An (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 Hinduism, in many medieval puranas, Adi Shakti appears as a deus otiosus, whereas Shiva and Vishnu are the younger, more active gods who are both more readily knowable and approachable. In Baltic mythology Deivas most probably was a deus otiosus. In Christianity, Martin Luther used the notion of deus absconditus to explain the mystery and remoteness of God.
- Weber: 220
- http://www.crvp.org/book/Series04/IVA-17/chapter_iv.htm Chapter Iv]
- Eliade, Mircea. (1978). A History of Religious Ideas: From the Stone Age to the Eleusinian Mysteries, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
- Weber, Max. (1978). Max Weber: Selections in Translation, edited by Walter Garrison Runciman. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-29268-9