The mathematical zero and the philosophical notion of nothingness are related but are not the same. Nothingness plays a central role very early on in Indian thought (there called sunya), and we find speculation in virtually all cosmogonical myths about what must have preceded the world's creation. So in the Bible's book of Genesis (1:2): "And the earth was without form, and void." But our inability to conceive of such a void is well captured in the book of Job, who cannot reply when God asks him (Job 38:4): "Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare, if thou hast understanding." Our own era's physical theories about the big bang cannot quite reach back to an ultimate beginning from nothing--although in mathematics we can generate all numbers from the empty set. Nothingness as the state out of which alone we can freely make our own natures lies at the heart of existentialism, which flourished in the mid-20th century.