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Spinoza; a handbook to the Ethics online

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to the light from a glow-worm. For it is not their character -


exceptional brilliancy or strength which illustrates the
teaching of the Master, but just their clear and distinct
consciousness of active faculty and the place it gives
them in the divine Whole. But precisely such clear
and distinct consciousness may be eujoyed by the work-
ing engineer whose hand on the valve wields the weight
and speed of a rushing train, or by a letter-carrier who
helps the intercourse of mankind, or a newspaper reporter
who makes a meeting in an obscure, smoke-grimed town
visible and audible to the whole civilised world. How-
ever humble we may be, we have some active powers

1 In Spinoza'fl sense of the words Milton vr&8 a man of action even
in his retirement and blindness.


whose exercise may be for the good of all around us.
And if, in faithful discharge of such a trust, we clearly
and distinctly realise ourselves and our modest activities
as of God and in God, our lives may be a continual
hymn of praise, not indeed in the childish sense of
obsequious homage, but in the sense of uttering forth
that intellectual love which rejoices in the perfection of
the Whole.
The intel- This love toward God, says the Master, ought wholly
of God to possess the mind. 1 For when once we realise that we

should have n ., . c n i , r ,1

supreme are finite expressions of God, every movement ot the
to55nd.° f bodv > in healthful activity, in honest industry, and in
Prop. xvi. legitimate pleasure, is in the mind associated with the
recognition of God as the Whole, of which our joyful
activity is part. And if it be suggested that this is a
mere theoretic love which never had and never can have
any practical power, the example of the Master himself
is a sufficient answer. For if he was, as Novalis said, a
' God-intoxicated man,' it was not in the sense of any
fanatic zeal. The victims of ancient or modern super-
stition have shrieked and torn themselves, or chanted
pious blasphemies when their god has entered into them
through mephytic vapours of a cave or through the
nervous excitement of a stifled crowd in a chapel; but
this, man was possessed of God as are the starry heavens
or the calm, deep sea, or the snowy heights in Coleridge's
The doc- vision of Mont Blanc. His life was brief and, at some
by the life, crises, troubled and sorrowful. Cast out of the synagogue
and cursed with a frightful curse that made him even to
his own kin an object of horror, he yet retained the

1 Maxime occupare.


complete self-control to which vindictive thoughts are
impossible. His life was so short that his doctrine of
God and Man must have been practically completed
within his own thoughts at the period when he might
truly be described as 'destitute, afflicted, tormented.'
Yet this ' intellectual love of God ' not only sustained his ' By their

• fruits ye

courage, but conquered irritability of temperament and shall know
gave a sweetness of tone to his soul which made him
beloved by the humble folk and children among whom
he made his home. Nor was it any mere self-abnegation
that kept him pure. For where right was concerned he
could assert himself in the law-courts, and then instantly
surrender almost all that justice awarded to his righteous
claim. And though brought up in circumstances of con-
siderable comfort, he could for the sake of independence
content himself with the wage of a lens-grinder, and
refused a proposed legacy to which he thought others had
more claim. Enough : if there is any truth in the saying
1 By their fruits ye shall know them,' the ' intellectual
love of God ' was to this Master a veritable inspiration.

The utterances of saintly devotion and aspiration are
often tuned in the key of human passion, and the rela-
tions of the soul and its Saviour are sung in words taken
from the vocabulary of earthly lovers. But Spinoza,
whose love to God endured the tests we have described,
will not permit such profanation. For no sooner has he
claimed for love to God the sole dominion of the mind
than he hastens to teach us that God is untouched by God uu-

i i no i i r /-i • p -i touched by

passion, and cannot be affected by Joy or Grief. And passion,
there is added a corollary that, strictly speaking, God Prop-
neither loves nor hates any one.





The intellectual love of God, at least in its highest
form, has assuredly not been always possible to men.
But even when they could not love as they ought, Spinoza

No one maintains that no one could ever hate God. He did not

God! iate know that about the very time when he wrote these
words, a poet, of whom perhaps he had scarcely heard,

Pf°P- was conceiving an Epic, of which the whole plot should
turn on precisely such hatred burning in an archangel's
soul. It must be conceded, however, that even to
Milton's imagination such a conception would have been
impossible had not his theology reduced the idea of the
Eternal to that of a stupendous personality, greater indeed
than all other personalities, yet still not so incommen-

A concep- surable with them but that jealousies and mutual friction

tion impos- ... _ Tr . . „

sibieto should be possible. Whereas if the great poet could
have so far transcended his reputed 'Arianism' as to
realise that ultimate Being must needs include all being,
he would scarcely have ventured on so hazardous a plot.
Unless indeed his intention had been to show that the
myths of the Hebrews were woven out of human warp
and woof, precisely like those of the Greeks, and were
therefore fit material for similar poetic broidery.

as ex- But now let us note how Spinoza sustains his confident

pounded by t x

Spinoza, denial that any one could ever hate God. His proof is
indeed fine spun and technical, but as usual has common-
p sense at the back of it. ' The idea of God which is in us '

xviii - is adequate and perfect. 1 Therefore, so far as we con-

template God, we are active, not passive. 2 Consequently

1 Prop, xlvii., Pt. II.

2 'The mind's actions {i.e. spontaneous activities) spring only from
adequate ideas; but passions {i.e. passivity to undue external
influence) depend entirely on inadequate ideas.' (Prop, iii., Pt. in.)


there can be no feeling of grief having the idea of

God as its correlate. (Literally, with the concomitant

idea of God.) That is, no one can hold God in


The practical bearing of this technical and abstract Expiana-

... tion.
argument is surely not far to seek. For it is impossible

for any one to hate the whole Universe. If a pessimist The Uni -

■* t x verse ade-

thinks he does, it is because he is fixing his mind on a quateiy

• p conceived

part only — as, for example, on the incidence of death and cannot be
suffering and unequal fortune. That is, in the Master's
way of putting it, the pessimist suffers under inadequate,
confused ideas — certainly f God is not in all his thoughts '
— and therefore he is passive to undue influence from
without. But if such a man could enlarge his thought
so as to get a more adequate idea of that perfect Whole
in which the subjects of his confused thought are neces-
sary incidents, his feeling would be changed. Nay,
supposing him to see things as they are eternally, his
inadequate ideas would be transfigured into intellectual
love. Or if it be said that a Universe which involves in
its necessary sequences much mental and physical suffer-
ing must be bad, or at best imperfect, the answer is that
such an argument assumes man to be the final cause of a
Universe which has no final cause at all. And such an
assumption is surely not one of reason but of passion.
Whereas, if we would only follow out, as far as faculty
allows us, the maze of sequences by which the things of
which we complain do as a matter of fact — without being
designed or intended for it — maintain natural order and,
if we may so speak, keep the Universe together as an
eternal Whole, we should to some extent understand the


causes of sin and sorrow; and Reason would take the
place of Passion.
A hard it seems, however, a hard saying that he who loves God


Prop. xix. cannot strive to have God's love to him in return. But
according to the Master such an endeavour would be
contrary to the preceding proposition that God cannot be
touched by passion, and therefore cannot love or hate.
Many Churches have indeed authoritatively pronounced
that God is ' without body, parts, or passions.' But they
have not dared to be consistent in the application of their
creed. Spinoza therefore makes no innovation in doctrine
on this point. His only distinction is that he consist-
ently adheres to what he says. For he maintains that
for a man to desire that God should personally love him
is only a proof that the man does not love God ; because
it is a wish that the Eternal should cease to be God.

Practical Let us try to put the truth more plainly, if with less


severe accuracy than the Master. When a man desires
that God should love him, he thinks of God as outside of
him, a separate personality whose favour he would win.
But such a thought is utterly and fundamentally opposed
to Spinoza's central doctrine that God is not some one
separate from us, but our essence and completion. As
'parts and proportions' we may very well love and
worship the ' wondrous Whole ' ; for to our finite Mode of
existence the joy we have in the Universe is accom-
panied by the idea of an external cause, the majesty of
heaven and earth. But the idea of the Whole severally
considering and loving the 'parts and proportions' is
much too anthropomorphic ; for it suggests a conscious-
ness located in a brain and contemplating its body, a


conception absolutely inconsistent with Spinoza's doctrine
of God.

And yet though this particular suggestion must be In wnat

J . . sense we

condemned as misleading, there is surely a sense in which may still

• -n it t • • think of an

we may triumph in an Eternal Love toward us. This is eternal love
indicated in a brief passage toward the end of the book
(Prop, xxxvi., Coroll.) : { God, inasmuch as He loves Him-
self, loves men ' ; because men are parts and proportions
of God ; ' and consequently the Love of God toward men,
and the intellectual Love of the Mind toward God, are
one and the same.' For the Infinite, at least to our com-
prehension, is compact of innumerable parts which all
draw toward each other. Gravitation, cohesion, chemical
affinity in the physical world ; sympathy, brotherhood,
the enthusiasm of Humanity in the spiritual world, are
symbolic of forces beyond our imagination which keep all
things eternally One. And by their means we sometimes
attain heights of contemplation from which the inspira-
tion of Love that saved Coleridge's Ancient Mariner
represents a grander mood than mere love of bird or beast
or man. It is a sense of all things working together in
a perfection beyond our thoughts. And of the blessed
influences here implied we are as much the objects as
star or flower, landscape beauty or human genius. The
complacency of the Universe in its self-awareness, the
love of God toward Himself, as Spinoza has it, includes
us in its embrace, and that is enough.

These lessons on the soul's supreme good are concluded
by a declaration of the spotless purity and broad human
sympathies that always attend it. For ' this love toward The true
God cannot be soiled by any passion of envy or jealousy ;


Prop. xx. "but the more men we conceive to be united to God by
the same bond, the more is this love strengthened.'
1 Lord, are there few that be saved ? ' asked one of the
followers of Jesus, a question suggestive of a desire to
magnify the preciousness of salvation by the extent of its
contrasted denial to the many. Such was not the spirit of Jesus,
spirit of though it is said that He made the question a text for an

Tertullian. ° x

exhortation to each man to make his calling and election
sure. But Tertullian represented in himself too truly
the tendency of the Church when he described the spec-
tacle of Hell as heightening the ecstasies of Heaven.
The better We must not, however, forget or minimise the generous

spirit ot a °

our own sympathies of later churchmen, especially in our own
day, who have striven to interpret the opinions of aliens
and heretics as being fundamentally identical with the
orthodox faith. But assuming the creeds to be true, and
the Bible to be or contain 'God's Word written,' such
efforts, generous though they may be, are a severe strain
on veracity and common- sense. For the emphasis laid
by the creeds on a right belief, an emphasis often taking
an imprecatory form, makes the appreciation of any good-
ness apart from right belief consciously inconsistent and
halting. It is only Spinoza's ' intellectual love of God,'
which, like a clear sunny sky, can receive and transform
and adorn the clouds of sacred myth and even the smoke
of superstition, so that we may come to love them as
they are transfigured there. The laboured faith of Augus-
tine, the bright common-sense and kindly feeling of
Chrysostom, Wesley's zeal for the salvation of souls, are,
no less than the altruism of Agnostics and the increasing
mysticism of Science, germs of a higher religion which


only find their final fruition in the intellectual love of
God as All in All.

In the Scholium following the above proposition, but
which for our purpose it is not necessary to quote here,
the Master tells us that he has now completed his
doctrine of salvation from the Passions, and that he will
proceed to treat of the immortality of the soul. This is Concerning

r J lmmortal-

not indeed his phrase ; for the thesis, as announced by ity.
himself, is this : that the human mind cannot be utterly Prop.


destroyed with the body, but something of it remains
which is eternal. Yet after all, the subject which he
does discuss is that commonly described as the immortal-
ity of the soul.

Here occur three propositions dealing with that per- R f e ^ ons
plexing antithesis between man as mortal 1 and man and soul.
under the aspect of eternity, which has puzzled the most
sympathetic students of the Master. I will first quote
the propositions and then give my own view of the

1 Prop. XXI. The mind cannot imagine anything nor can it
remember past events except while the Body continues to

Now the whole spirit and purpose of Spinoza's teaching Notmateri-


forbids us to tolerate for a moment anything like a
' materialistic ' interpretation of these words. For as the
* demonstration ' shows, the proposition depends on the
theory that the mind and the body are each respectively
correlated finite modes of two Attributes — Thought and
Extension — each of which expresses the same divine

More properly — man as a finite group of apparent successions.


Substance. They are therefore the same thing under
different aspects.

The Body « p r0 p # XXII. Nevertheless there is necessarily given in

as a divine . * °

idea. God an idea which expresses the essential being of this and

*v the other 1 human Body under the aspect of eternity.'

For ' God is not only the cause of the existence of this
and the other body ' — i.e. an appearance in temporal suc-
cession — ' but also of its essential being, which must, of
course, be conceived through God's own essential being,'
and that because it is involved therein by a kind of
eternal necessity. 2 But this proposition will be better
discussed in connection with the following.

'Prop. XXIII. The human Mind cannot be entirely
V/ destroyed with the Body, but of it something remains which
is eternal.'

To get at the common-sense underlying these transcen-
dental utterances we must recall the Master's doctrine
The truth that between Eternity and Time there exists no relation
Eternity, at all. They are absolutely incommensurable. Eternity
is not ' everlasting duration/ nor is Time a fragment of
Eternity. As to duration, it is impossible to explain it
except by the illusions 3 necessarily involved in finite con-
sciousness. 3 But all philosophers and even contemplative

1 I.e. as I understand it, each several human body has its own
several divine idea — or rather is that idea.

2 The latter words are a paraphrase, and not a rendering of idque
cetema quadam necessitate. But I think I give the meaning. For
we are referred to Prop. xvi. , Pt. I. , which teaches that by necessity of
the divine nature an infinite number of things in infinite variety — that
is, all things within the scope of infinite thought — must arise.

3 It is a very hasty and utterly baseless criticism on such a view of
finite consciousness, to say that it 'makes all life a lie.' Illusions may
be relatively true. Thus a ' straight staff bent in a pool ' is really bent


poets have generally agreed that to the thought-attribute
— or self-awareness — of God there can be no temporal
succession. To say that Infinite Being lives in an 'eternal Fallacy of

an 'eternal

.Now may be equally futile. For the notion is generated now.'
by our experience of a constant transition from past to
future, and proverbially represents nonentity. For
' Now ' perishes when we think of it. Nevertheless,
though Eternity may be to us only a dim but great sur-
mise of truth, necessities of thought compel us to believe
that in the self-awareness of the Eternal all things that
we call past and present exist at once. And therefore all
Bodies and all Minds of endless generations are unbe-
gotten and imperishable ideas in Infinite Thought. Now
this consentaneous being of all ideas at once is real, while Yetetemity
the succession of generations is an illusion of finite con-
sciousness. And it is this reality, unattainable to mortal wnile time

is made up

thought except in some momentary ecstatic glimpse, of illusions,
which the Master has in view when he speaks of Body
and Mind c in the aspect of eternity.' It is likely enough
that this may bring small comfort to those who insist that
the everlasting duration of a finite ' self ' is an essential
condition of bliss. But for many, and for a rapidly in-
creasing number, it will be sufficient to know that while
their illusive duration is as the twinkling of an eye, they
are eternal in the thought of God.

so far as sight is concerned, and the artist so renders it. Only when
the apparently bent staff has to be seized or handled below the water
must a correction bo made. But the relative truth of the illusions of
finite consciousness has an indefinitely wider range, and their relative
truth can, within that range, always he verified. It is only when
dealing with matters transcending sensuous experience, but not wholly
beyond the interests of Reason, that the fact of those illusions be-
comes clear.



F. D.

on eternal

1 Flower
in the

Prop. xxv.
Pt. L, Cor.

The doctrine of the late F. D. Maurice and of other
more or less orthodox Christians on the subject of eternal
life is clearly allied to, if not influenced by, this teaching
of Spinoza. For it insists on an incommensurable differ-
ence between eternity and time. Not only so ; but devout
holders of this doctrine have been entirely indifferent to
the attractions of a narrower heaven. For the supreme
blessedness according to them is to 'lay hold on eternal
life/ and to live it now. The duration of the limited self
is then a matter of quite secondary import. 1

To this view of eternal life everything is a mani-
festation of God, and therefore ' the more we understand
individual objects the more do we understand God.'
(Prop, xxiii.) This follows from the truth enunciated
in Part I., that ' individual things are nothing but affec-
tions or Modes of the divine Attributes, by which God's
Attributes are expressed in a particular and limited
manner.' And Tennyson might have had the above pro-
position in mind when he wrote his often-quoted lines to
the flower in the crannied wall :

1 But if I could understand
What you are, root and all, and all in all,
I should know what God and man is ! '

Yet how many have quoted with delight this mystical

and musical lyric without ever suspecting its essential

Pantheism !

The fane- But in order that this religious contemplation of indi-

tionof & r

intuition in vidual objects may attain the vision of God, it is neces-

our Weltan-
scliauuny ,

1 To labour this point further here would be out of place ; but I

maybe permitted to refer to The Religion of the Universe, Macmillan

and Co., 1004.


sary that we should grasp things by the third kind of
knowledge, that is, by intuition. c The highest attainment Prop. xxv.
of the mind and its supreme virtue is to understand
things by the third kind of knowledge.' Now, of course,
it would be absurd to attribute to a man of such scienti-
fic attainments as made him the valued correspondent of
the foremost scientists of his time the crude notion that
intuition can dispense with the labour of research. Jiut \s
what he meant was that the recognition of ourselves and
all things as 'parts and proportions of one wondrous
Whole ' i s moE £~akin to the insight by which we grasp a (
universal truth than to the logical process of -induction. )
For, he adds, ' the apter the mind is to understand things hop. xxvi.
by this third kind of knowledge the more does it desire J
to understand ' them so. That is, it is a habit of mind /
which consistently sees things in their divine relations.
And then he tells us that ' from this thirdJdnd_of_know- Perfect

■ peace.

ledge springs supreme contentment of the mind.' The Prop,
religious faith here involved may be better discussed
farther on under the final propositions of the book.
Meantime, whether the 'demonstration' satisfies us or
not, it is well to take note of it.

' The supreme virtue of the Mind is to know God or to
understand things by the third kind of knowledge (intuition).
And this virtue is all the greater in proportion as the Mind
has a fuller knowledge of things by this kind of knowledge.
Therefore he who knows things by this kind of knowledge
passes into the highest perfection of man. Consequently (by
the previous definition of joy) he is affected by supreme Joy
which is accompanied by the idea of himself and his own
virtue. Accordingly from this kind of knowledge springs
the most perfect peace that can be given.'


Points to Here note that the knowledge of God is treated as

be noted °

in the simply another phrase for the intuition of things as they

above. ,

are — in eternity, of course, and not m time. Note again
that ' the idea of himself and his own virtue ' is not to be
taken as suggestive of vanity or self-complacency. For
throughout the Ethics man is treated as having no real
self but God — i.e. as a finite modification of divine
Attributes expressing the divine substance. The ' idea
of himself and his own virtue' is therefore equivalent
to the realisation of his place in the divine nature.
Again, the word 'virtue' is not to be confined to its
English connotations ; for it includes fulness of spiritual
life, and moral force. These observations may help us
when we consider the practical application of the truth.

The next four propositions (xxviii.-xxxi.) may, for our

purpose, be passed over with a mere mention of their

general bearing. For while necessary in the Master's

view to the Euclidean process of his argument, they do

not obviously help the religious application we have in

The tem- view. They turn upon the doctrine that all things may

eteraai be regarded either under a temporal aspect, which has

things. ° only relative truth, or under the aspect of eternity, that

is, their unity in God. We then come to Proposition

xxxii. : —

' We delight in whatever we understand by the third kind
of knowledge (intuition), and our delight is accompanied with
the idea of God as its cause.'

No one can deny that there is force in the brief
'demonstration.' From this kind of knowledge arises
the highest possible contentment, that is (by a previous


definition), Joy, and this, moreover, accompanied by the j^$?J n of

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Online LibraryJ. Allanson (James Allanson) PictonSpinoza; a handbook to the Ethics → online text (page 17 of 21)