J. Allanson (James Allanson) Picton.

Spinoza; a handbook to the Ethics online

. (page 18 of 21)
Online LibraryJ. Allanson (James Allanson) PictonSpinoza; a handbook to the Ethics → online text (page 18 of 21)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

idea of one's self, and consequently accompanied by ' the alld its


idea of God as its cause.' That is, every one who sees toward

. eternity

clearly a universal truth, even if it be only mathematical, and God.
but much more if it be moral, finds a keen intellectual
pleasure in it. This pleasure is inevitably accompanied
by joy in the consciousness of possessing such a power,
and the mind accustomed to see all things under the
aspect of eternity necessarily refers both power and joy
to its true self in God. The corollary here also has an
obvious bearing on religion.

1 From the third kind of knowledge necessarily springs the
intellectual love of God. For from this kind of knowledge
springs Joy accompanied by the idea of God as its cause,
that is to say, the love of God, not as though we regarded
Him as present, but in so far as we realise His eternity ; and
this is why I call the love of God "intellectual." '

We are then told that ' this intellectual love of God is
eternal ' (Proposition xxxiii.) — that is, unrelated to time
or succession. Then the Master seems to bethink him
that this ' intellectual love ' might to some appear incon-
sistent with his definition of Love as ' Joy accompanied ^mtions

by the idea of external cause.' For God is not ' an fckras.

• vi -
external cause,' nor has He 'presence' such as a finite

external cause can have. True, the epithet ' intellectual '
should guard against any confusion with temporal passion.
But then how can an eternal love, having neither begin-
ning nor end, be called by the same name as a passion
that seizes us like a magic spell and to which the sweet
uncertainties of hope and fear seem essential ? For
answer a Scholium is added : —


'Although this Love toward God has had no beginning,
yet it possesses all the perfections (charms) 1 of Love just as
though it had an origin, as we supposed just now. 2 Nor is
there any difference except that the Mind has possessed as
eternal those perfections which we have supposed to accrue
to it, and has possessed them with the accompanying idea of
God as the eternal cause. Now if Joy consists in the passage
to a greater perfection, surely Blessedness must consist in
this, that the Mind is endowed with perfection itself.'

Hoping that the difficulties of this utterance may be
at any rate alleviated by concluding remarks to follow,
I pass on. Anxious to keep his doctrine of eternal life
apart from the carnal notion of immortality, the Master,
in another proposition (xxxiv.), shows that only in con-
nection with the body in its temporal aspect (durante)
can the Mind be subject to passions; and he adds a
Scholium : —

4 If we regard the ordinary opinion of men we shall see
that they are conscious of the eternity of their Mind, but
that they confuse this with duration and identify it with the
imagination or memory supposed to remain after death.'

Our Love Let us take together the two following propositions

His i°ov e S to (xxxv. and xxxvi.), for the latter is the complement of the

Himself. f ormerj an( j united they throw perhaps as much light as

^ our half-opened spiritual eyes can receive on eternal life

and eternal love.

1 God loves Himself with an infinite intellectual love.'

1 The intellectual love of the Mind toward God is the very

1 Perfecliones ; but what arc the perfections of Love unless its
charms which bind us in delight ?

2 In the corollary quoted above.


love with which God loves Himself, not in so far as He is
infinite, but in so far as He can be manifested through the
essential being of the human mind viewed under the aspect
of eternity. 1 That is to say, the intellectual love of the
Mind toward God is part of the infinite love with which God
loves Himself.'

Perhaps the best way of dealing with these grand but
difficult utterances will be to offer a paraphrase which a para-
must go for what it is worth, though I think it presents offered.
in contemporary forms of thought the real meaning of
the Master. At the very beginning of this work we
remarked that our difficulty in understanding Spinoza
often arises from an erroneous assumption that be is
using language familiar to theologians in approximately
their sense of the terms. And this is the case here ; for Earthly


divine love — whether of man to God or God to man — lin^erm^
is — with reverence be it spoken — commonly supposed JJJvinc
to have something in it akin to earthly passion. To love '
what an extent this was carried even among the most
spiritual of the Hebrews is well known to students of the
Prophets. And though Christianity exercised a highly
refining influence, yet something of the old earthly asso-
ciations remained. For St. Paul was not averse to pic-
turing the union of the saints and their Saviour as a
betrothal. And in Revelation the marriage supper of the
Lamb is thought a fitting emblem of the blessed consum-
mation of Christ's work.

But against any such misinterpretation Spinoza guards Excluded
by the saving epithet 'intellectual,' which is applied first pi^ he e t c in .
to man's love toward God, and by implication to the love tellectua1 -'

1 Be it remembered that this essential behiL' is in God.


of God for Himself, including man. 1 If it be asked how
can Love be intellectual ? the reply is that the phrase is
an adaptation of language to a transcendental idea, or let
us say a modus loquendi. For the word Love, with its
associations of admiration and satisfaction, and warmth of
sentiment and self-devotion, comes nearest to what Spinoza
wants to express. But its other connotations of passion
— in the sense of passivity — and exclusive or peculiar
possession of the beloved object, and longing for reci-
procal exclusive love, must be shut out. Therefore it is
that he uses the epithet ' intellectual.'
Blessedness The idea thus becomes that of a joyful and even

of peace . . . .

with the triumphant contemplation of the Universe as a living
Whole, one, undivided, indivisible and eternal; perfect
as a Whole, and therefore perfect in every part. It is
even perfect in ourselves, if we could see things aright.
Because though it has not its being for us, that is, to
gratify our whims, or even to fulfil our inadequate ideals,
yet one way or another, even in our faults and pains, we
do our infinitesimal part toward making the infinite Per-
fection what it is. But the advantage of the free man
over the unfree, or slaves of passion, is that he does this
willingly, as an ' adequate cause,' not trespassing beyond
the divine thought of himself into the divine thought
of other things which are incomplete except upon an
infinite survey.

This Love ' There is nothing given (existent) in Nature that is
SeT contrary to this intellectual Love or which could cancel

1 ' Hence it follows that God in so far as He loves Himself loves
men, and consequently that the Love of God toward men and the
intellectual love of the Mind toward God is one and the same thing.'
(Prop, xxxvi., Coroll.)




it.' (Prop, xxxvii.) For proof the Master is content
to say that ' this intellectual Love follows inevitably
from the nature of the Mind in so far as that nature is
considered as eternal truth in and through the nature of
God.' If, therefore, anything were conceivably able to
cancel it, the result would be to make that false which,
by hypothesis, is eternally true. Which is absurd. If
we are unaffected, as probably we are, by such a ' proof,'
may it not be because we are even yet insufficiently
possessed of the Master's Gospel that we are one with
God ? With a curious sensitiveness to any apparent
break in the long chain of his argument, Spinoza here
recalls the axiom in Part iv., which assumes that ' there
is no individual thing in Nature which is not surpassed
in potency by some other individual thing' capable of
destroying it. But that axiom he now tells us does not
affect the impregnable persistence of the intellectual
Love of God ; for this is neither individual nor temporal,
and that axiom obviously referred to individual things in
their relation to time and place.

The Master now recalls his promise, given in Part IV.,
Prop, xxxix., Schol., to say more on the problem of Problem of
death. Those who insist on personal immortality accom-
panied by a persistent sense of identity cannot derive
from his words any support for their hope. ' In propor-
tion as the Mind understands a greater number of things
by the second and third kind of knowledge ' (viz. reasoned
experience, i.e. induction, and intuition), 'in that propor-
tion does it suffer less from the passions, which are evil,
and the less does it fear death.'

I shall try to paraphrase the proof and a following



Scholium. The second and third kinds of knowledge,

especially the third, or intuition, confront us with eternity

as incommensurable with time. But the more we realise

the eternal life of the Universe or God, a life in which

we share, the more constant is our better nature against

Death the assaults of passion. Not only so, but the more we

only our realise God's eternal life the less important do our inci-

to the dental and temporal interests in the world of succession

succession, appear to be. Or, in other words, what remains of us is

of far more import than what seems to perish in death.

Therefore it is well to cultivate those kinds of knowledge

which confront us with eternity. On this we can only

say, ' he that is able to receive it, let him receive it.' The

same thing has had to be said of other gospels in times

long past. But this involved no admission either of their

falsehood or of their inadequacy to the needs of a more

fully evolved mankind.

Again, taking up the apparently dropped threads of
Religious earlier argument, the Master now shows that a variously

value of a . - . -

mobile and mobile and adaptable body is not only useful to temporal

adaptable ' — - "Z '. ._ ... 1 "

body. needs, as shown in Part iv., rrop. xxxvm., but that it
makes for a better appreciation of eternal life and leaves
less to perish at death. The argument is that to which
we are now so much accustomed. As said before, we
are not to leave out of account the nervous system and
brain when interpreting the meaning of a variously
mobile and adaptable body. Eemembering this, we may
well agree that such a body, to which on Spinoza's theory
the Mind corresponds, 1 will be a good instrument for the

1 That is, as a correlated finite Mode of another divine Attribute,
that of Thought.


work of the Mind in controlling evil passions according
to the rule of the intellect, and of referring all bodily
affections to the idea of God. Thus the love of God
takes possession of the Mind, and whatever that Love
possesses belongs to eternity.

In asking whether any, and if so what amount of,
comrnon-sense is at the root of such speculations, wejiad
better not givejtoo rigid anjLntopjetatifln to the Master's V
doctrine of the higher mind and its outlook on eternity.
For thousands have preferred noble aims to mean ones How far
and a larger spiritual to a lesser and lower good, who actual life,
would have been shocked had they been suspected of
sharing Spinoza's views of religion. And it will be
found that among such men a considerable majority
possessed a physical constitution of great mobility and
adaptability. The statesman whose disappearance in the
last year of the last century left a blank not yet filled,
was admired by professional judges of the human frame
even more for his physical than for his mental gifts. 1
This is not the place to pursue such a question ; I only
suggest that there is more in the Master's theorem than
airy speculation. The following Scholium may help to
confirm the suggestion ; and the idea of education with
which it concludes is well worth attention in these times.

' Since human Bodies are susceptible of very many adap-
tations, wc cannot doubt the possibilit} T of their being

1 Apparent exceptions arc not always really such. There i
pathos in the recollection that ]5enediet <lc Spinoza himself suffered
as an invalid during a considerable part of his short life and died
prematurely of consumption. But his perfect mastery <>f a delicate
handicraft showed that, notwithstanding disease, he possessed a
variously mobile and adaptable body.


Body and correlated with Minds which have a large knowledge of
ftafree themselves and of God, and whose greatest or characteristic l
man. part is eternal, so that they scarcely fear death at all . But

to make this plainer, be it here noted that we live in a
course of incessant change, and according as we are changed
for the better or the worse we are said to be happy or
unhappy. For he who from an infant or a boy is changed
into a corpse is called unhappy. On the contrary, if we are
enabled to live through the whole period of life with a sound
Mind in a sound Body, that is counted as happiness. And
truly he who like an infant or a child has a Body adapted to
very few uses and mainly dependent on external causes, has
a Mind which, considered in itself alone, 2 has scarcely any
consciousness of itself or of God or of surrounding things.
On the other hand, he who possesses a Body adapted to very
many (actions) has (also) a Mind which, considered in itself
alone 2 has a large consciousness of itself and God and of
surrounding things. In this life, therefore, we endeavour as
soon as possible that the Body of infancy, so far as its nature
permits, and so far as is consistent with health (ei conducit),
shall be changed into another Body such as may be adapted
to many uses, and may be correlated to a Mind as fully
conscious as possible of itself and of God and of surrounding
things; the ultimate aim being that everything concerned
(merely) with its memory of self or fancy shall in comparison
with its intellect be of little consideration.'

1 Proicipua ; but the notion is not so much what is obviously chief
or conspicuous as what makes the contemplative mind that which it
is. Skilful movements, strenuous action, successes in management
are temporal — of the season, the hour, or the moment. But that
which is characteristic of the great mind is the outlook beyond narrow
surroundings, or, as Spinoza says, on eternity. As to their attitude
toward death, the reference is not to any lingering dread of ' the
King of Terrors,' but rather to the apprehension of annihilation. It
is this that almost vanishes when they realise how much of them is
eternal as being one with God.

2 That is, apart from the impact of external impulse, or slavery to
habit and routine.


In interpreting these last words it must be remembered
that for Spinoza 'intellect' was not a mental logic-
chopping machine, but the higher nature which sees
things as they are. Imaginatio, which I have here
rendered ' fancy/ was to him a process of fictitious
image-making, a travesty of things as they are. And
the memory of which he speaks as nothing worth is self-
centred always, hovering about one's own achievements
and feelings. If this be borne in mind we shall be no
longer shocked by his exaltation of that ' intellect ' in
which the love of God is enshrined.

Still dwelling upon the Mind's eternity apart from
personal immortality, the Master supports his idea with
the following proposition (xl.).

1 In proportion as each thing has more of perfection, in Perfection
that proportion it is the more active and the less passive ; activity,
and contrariwise, the more it is active the more perfect it is.'

We have learned as early as the beginning of Part II. Perfection

• • n. depends on

that perfection means reality, that is, identity with God, reality.
not necessarily as infinite but as forming by a modifica-
tion of some Attribute the essence of the 'creature.'
Again, activity does not mean fussiness or even busy-ness,
but spontaneity free of external compulsion. Suffering,
too, may be more than passive. The martyrs were never
more truly active in Spinoza's sense than when giving
their lives for the faith. What the above proposition
means, therefore, is that the more the Mind realises its
place in Clod, the less is it passive to external influences
and the more spontaneous are its functions. And
contrariwise, the more spontaneous its functions are, the
more does it realise its place in God.


Case of For illustration let us a<?ain have recourse to Socrates,

Socrates. °

though many Christian worthies would serve our purpose,
did not their use endanger misunderstanding. Socrates
was not a Pantheist, and yet his spontaneity and his
sense of divine inspiration or suggestion throw light on
the Master's words here. He fulfilled the above idea
of activity as contrasted with passivity, because his
spontaneity, or, if we prefer the word, his originality, was
unenslaved by any external influence. He was and
would be himself ; and this in virtue of the divinity he
believed to speak to his soul. That is to say, his activity
involved reality, and this Spinoza identifies with per-

Farther, in a corollary we are told that the perfect, or
real or eternal, part of the soul is the intellect, by which
alone we act spontaneously. But the part that perishes
must be the fancy, the weaver of fictions through which
alone we are said to be passive. Whatever there is of
intellect, it has more perfection (or reality) than the
The The consummation of the Master's moral teaching is

supreme . . . .

ideal reached in two final propositions concerning the measure-

less worth of goodness in itself altogether apart from
arbitrarily attached rewards or punishments either in
this temporal life or in any other supposed to succeed it.

not first The doctrine declared is, of course, not original, nor in
pounded any way specially characteristic of Spinoza. For it is to

' be found here and there throughout the Bible and most

notably in the words of Jesus. Thus the hardest duty

imposed by him on his followers, 'Love your enemies,

bless them that curse you,' is enforced only by the purely


ideal motive, l that ye may be the children of your The words
Father who is in heaven ' : which reminds us of Spinoza's compared,
teaching about the inherent blessedness of the eternal
life lived here and now. Again, when the sublime exhor-
tation is added, 'Be ye therefore perfect even as your
Father in heaven is perfect/ there is no suggestion of any
reward save the glory of realisation. It is true indeed
that Jesus, speaking not like the seventeenth-century Jew
to the elect and cultured few, but to the suffering and
ignorant many, often made use of the traditional hopes
and fears into which he was born, and which certainly
had their place among his sincere beliefs. But it is
abundantly clear that to himself goodness was heaven
and vice was hell here and now. The same lofty ideal
glimmers here and there in later parts of the New
Testament, especially in the writings attributed to St.
Peter and St. John. 1 It is impossible perhaps to suppress
a regret that the active and successful apostle, of whom The con-
we know the most, failed sometimes to imitate the stVaui.
spiritual elevation of his Master in this respect, and
even suffered himself, in a moment of argumentative
heat, to suggest that if there were no personal resurrection
the old despairing cry would be right which said, ' Let us
eat and drink, for to-morrow we die.' 2

Yet though there is nothing in the slightest degree The value

<~i • > .of goodness

novel or peculiar to himself m spinozas final assertion for its own
of the measureless worth of goodness apart from reward tudly in- "
for its achievement, or punishment for its neglect, yet spinoza's
it is of great interest to see how appropriate the doctrine Et 1CS '

1 Of. 1 Pet. i. 15, 22, 23; ii. 15-20; iii. 17; 2 Pet. i. 5-9;
John xvii. 3, 22, 23; etc. etc. - Isaiah xxii. 13, etc.


is as the topstone of his laboriously constructed temple
of Ethics.

1 Even if we did not know that our Mind is eternal, yet
we should regard as of supreme importance Piety and Re-
ligion, and everything whatever which in the Fourth Part
we showed to be correlated with strength of Mind and

implied in The proof consists simply in recalling the high inter-
trine of pretation put in the earlier Parts on self-preservation.
vation, eSer It is the higher self, as recognised by Reason, that is
to be preserved, not the lower self swayed by passion.
And the claims of Generosity and strength of Mind as
factors in the higher self were maintained altogether
apart from questions of time or immortality. They
therefore remain independent of either.

The Scholium appended to the above is not very
attractive, but it is of interest : —

' The ordinary creed of the multitude seems to be different.
For most people appear to believe that they are free only so
far as they are allowed to yield to lust, and that to whatever
extent they are bound to live by prescription of divine law
to this extent they give up their independence. 1 Piety,
therefore, and religion, and everything whatever correlated
with strength of Mind, they regard as burdens which they
hope to shake off at death and to receive the reward of their
slavery, that is, of their Piety and Religion. Nor is this
hope alone their inducement, but also, and more particularly,
in living so far as their frivolity and feebleness of mind
allows, according to the prescriptions of divine law, they are

1 De suo jure cedere — the phrase 'give up their rights' may be
more literal, but scarcely gives the spirit so well. Besides, to be 'sui
juris' is to be independent.


actuated by fear of being punished with dreadful torments
after death. And if men were not pervaded by this hope
and fear — if, on the contrary, they thought that Mind and
Body perished together — that there remained no longer
existence for wretches weary of the burden of Piety, they
would return to their natural bent, they would take lust as
the only guide, and would prefer the chances of fortune above
(their better) self. Now this seems to be not less absurd
than for a man, because good food will not preserve his body
for ever, to betake himself rather to poisons, and stuff himself
with deadly potions. Or it is as if, because a man finds the
Mind to be neither eternal nor immortal, he should therefore
prefer to be a fool and to live without Reason. But all this
is so absurd that it scarcely deserves consideration.'

The warmest admirers of this Master must wish that
he had not written the above Scholium. It is true he
does not, like St. Paul, appear to sanction the ignoble
maxim, ' Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die.' a caveat
But he attributes this meanness to the vast majority
of mankind. And one wonders how many he expected
to influence by his noble Ethics. Nay, we cannot believe
that the kindly, gentle soul who could descend from the
solitary chamber of his sublime musings and talk, at
the evening meal, with landlady and children about the
church service, and the sermon of the day, or even lesser
interests of their daily life, could regard as mercenaries
and cowards the good, humble people who loved him.
Such a thought could not have been true then, and it
is not true now. The fact is that Spinoza's valgus, Spinoza's
or multitude, think very little indeed either of death or frJakof
what comes after it. From the pulpit or religious tion a,gm
platform we may occasionally — though much more rarely
than of old — hear very emphatic or even lurid language


Average on such subjects. But it is only hysterically inclined

wholly in- hearers who are much disturbed by it. The vast
majority, perhaps ninety-five out of every hundred, go
home to their dinner or their supper and enjoy their
meal with as healthy an appetite as though they believed
neither in heaven nor hell.

Besides, medical men and other attendants on the
dying know that not two out of a hundred are ever
troubled by fears of a world to come. To what then is
the average good conduct and kindliness of the vast
majority of the multitude to be attributed ? It is un-
deniable that religious traditions have a certain influence.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 18 20 21

Online LibraryJ. Allanson (James Allanson) PictonSpinoza; a handbook to the Ethics → online text (page 18 of 21)