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ledge some obvious differences, and these are not in favour
of the more modern philosopher. For while Spencer
perpetually speaks of the ultimate Actuality as being
' behind ' the things we see and feel, Spinoza treats his
Substance as an infinite Whole, of which the seen and
felt Universe presents us with an infinite number of


finite aspects. Again, the special purpose of Spencer
to deal only with phenomenal evolution compelled him
to clear out of his course at the outset certain ultimate
questions with which he did not intend to concern him-
self, thus giving the unfortunate and unjust 1 impression Spencer

& ° . . misunder-

that for him the Unknowable was something outside stood.

the practical world and, in fact, negligible. For Spinoza,

on the contrary, Eternal Substance was the beginning, Spinoza the

plainer in

middle, and end of his whole religion and morality. It dealing
was never absent from his thoughts, contemplations, things.
aspirations, or moral struggles. It gave meaning, reality,
order, and peace to life. It could not, indeed, solve the
enigmas that have baffled saint and seer alike. But it
could impose upon him a humble sense of the 'inadequate
ideas ' which perplex any man who takes a part for the
whole, or judges a picture by some obscure spot in it on
which his inquisitive eyeglass is fixed.

We approach more popular notions of reality when we
turn to consider Spinoza's doctrine of Attributes, f For, Attributes
as we have seen, in Spinoza's view God is absolute Sub- stance,
stance, that is, Substance endowed with infinite Attributes
of which each one expresses eternal and infinite being
(essentiqm).} Now it is precisely here that both Spencer's
ultimate Actuality and Spinoza's Substance come within
our ken bv presenting phenomena. ' By an attribute,' in what

J r ° r J sense they

says the latter, c I understand that which the understand- express
ing perceives as constituting its essence ' (i.e. of substance).

1 Unjust to himself, because he thought nothing of the kind ; as is
abundantly shown in his chapter on ' Reconciliation,' and also in
every case where he has to deal with the notion that man can ever
dispense with religion, or that any object of religion can be substi-
tuted for that which is 'behind humanity and behind all other things.'



by exten-

ments of

There is a difficulty in these last words ; but I do not
think I can be far wrong in suggesting that what Spinoza
means by ■ constituting its essence ' or being, is practically
equivalent to constituting its reality as apprehended by
us. Now by ' reality ' is not meant here that beyond
which we cannot go in thought, but that which remains
through all phenomenal changes, and of which our care-
ful observations with their legitimate inferences are
always verifiable.

For instance, Spinoza regards extension as an attribute
of the divine Substance. 1 That is to say, it expresses or'
makes cognisable to us His eternal and infinite essence.
On this ground many have hastily accused Spinoza of
gross materialism. But, as Sir Frederick Pollock has
shown, his error, say rather his difference from the
inevitable tendency of opinion in later days, is of a very
different character, as we shall presently see. Meantime
let us only note that Extension expresses for us the
infinite essence or reality of God because it remains amid
all phenomenal changes ; and our careful observations of
it, whether to our experience subjective or objective,
together with our legitimate inferences from those careful
observations, are always verifiable. Thus the triangula-
tion of a country by an accurate surveyor can always be
verified again though the superficies (phenomena) of the
country may have greatly changed. Pi vers may have
altered their course, volcanoes may have subsided, and
lakes may have been dried up. But nevertheless a suffi-

1 A good deal of what immediately follows is an anticipation of
Book II., Of the Nature and Origin of Mind. But the transposition
seems needful for the purpose I have in view.


ciently skilled person will have little or no difficulty in
verifying the measurements and area found by the
previous accurate survey. For though modifications of
extension, such as heights and depths and shapes, may
have changed, the extension itself is still there — it is a
reality. Similarly of ideal space we may say that careful And the
mental observations and the legitimate inferences there- ideal space
from are always verifiable. The skilled surveyor's measure- beVerified!
ments by triangulation assume always that the three
angles of every triangle are equal to two right angles.
And any one who wants verification can have it, either
roughly and imperfectly by the use of instruments applied
to visible and tangible triangles, or purely and perfectly
by mathematical demonstration dealing with ideal space.

Such is the ' Extension ' which Spinoza treats as one of
the infinite attributes of God. But being infinite, it is
not measurable 1 in miles or feet or inches. And if it
occurs to the reader that we have just now been illustrat-
ing its reality by the possibility of verification through
measurement, the reply is that Spinoza regards the i n f m it y f
infinite attributes of God as subject to. an infinity of extenslon
finite modes or modifications. • It is only these finite
modifications that can be measured. But still the unfail-
ing possibility of verification proves reality. And if it
be asked, then why call extension infinite ? I might be
content with replying that I am but expounding Spinoza;
though not always as a ' Spiirozist.' Yet on this point it
may be urged that if once the idea of extension arises,
the non-existence of any possible limit follows as a
matter of course. Eor- -however a man may try to think

1 I.e. in itself. It is only its finite modes that are measurable.


of space as bounded, the question what is outside the
bound necessarily arises, and the inevitable answer is

subject to But it is only in its finite modes or modifications that

of modlfica. extension is an object of experience. And though this
fact does not in the least degree invalidate the connection
of the idea of extension with unlimited (or infinite) space,
it forms practically the whole content of our cognition of
God's attribute of extension. For everything that we see

form, or feel, whether on earth or in the heavens, is a finite

mode or modification of that divine attribute of extension.

motion, So likewise is motion, as it is a transference of something
through extension or space. It is only by this inclusion
of motion in the ' modes ' of extension that we can con-
ceive how Spinoza brought the whole so-called ' material'

colour, universe within the attribute of extension. For colour
and sound and scent and feeling are not obviously modes
of extension. But conceive them as modes of motion,
which is the general theory in our day, and their inclu-

weight. sion becomes simple. Nay, even weight, whether realised
as a pull or as a pressure, may be conceived as motion
striving to realise itself, and so falls under the same
attribute of extension. I am not urging the importance
of such subtleties, because it will be seen presently they
vanish in the more spiritual air of Spinoza's higher
philosophy. But there is some profit in trying to see the
' material ' world as he saw it. 1 ^For to his contemplative

1 Tennyson, in his Higher Pantheism, has to a certain extent set
forth this vision for us, as only a poet can. But Spinoza did not
insist upon illusion as Tennyson, in this poem, does. The former
thought that he saw the world as it is, and not as ' a straight staff
bent in a pool.'


spirit everything in what we call the external world,
including our own bodies, was a mode of God's attribute Spinoza's

a i i • m ode of

oi extension, bun, moon and stars, mountain and plain, conceiving

river and ocean, forest and flower, bird and beast, storm and tang-

and thunder, as well as rainbow, all were modes of the 1 ewor

one aspect or attribute of eternal God. They were always

changing because finite modes are necessarily variable

at least to finite apprehension. But however they might

be transformed and interchanged, they remained for ever

in all their apparently successive forms, the finite modes

of one eternal attribute of God.

According to our teacher, this infinite attribute of The Attri-
butes in-
extension is only one out of innumerable Attributes, all numerable, %/

of them expressing some aspect of God's eternal and two cognis-
infinite essence, or reality. ( But of these Attributes, a
only two are cognisable by the human intellect. With
one of these we have already dealt, that of Extension, and
the one remaining to be considered is that of Thought
(cogitatio).) It is clear that by this he cannot mean The second
discursive thought. For one of the fundamental elements
of his system is the superiority of God to time or dura-
tion, and consequently to succession in thought. He
seems to have used the word in Descartes' sense of
what we may call ' awareness.' Of everything that passes
within our conscious selves we have a perception. But
whether the object of the perception be a sense-impres- its signifi-
sion, a train of reasoning, an imagination, or a passion,
it is included by Descartes under cogitatio, or thought;
and Spinoza followed him.

Perhaps it might occur to beginners in Spinoza-study more than
that ' consciousness ' would be a better word. But, to ness.'


say nothing of the difficulty of finding in Latin an exact
equivalent for what Spinoza meant, or what we now
mean by consciousness, such a word is too finite in its
connotation to have served the purpose. For undoubtedly
consciousness means the feeling by which a creature,
aware of itself, recognises a practical (or phenomenal)
difference between itself and its sustaining medium, as
even an oyster in some sort must, when it opens its
shell for the inflow of nutriment and closes it against
attack. But such consciousness as this cannot thinkably
because be an attribute of God, because, according to Pantheism,
that He there can be nothing outside Himself, and we cannot
therefore legitimately conceive Him as distinguishing
Himself from other being. The same objection is not
applicable to the word ' thought ' {cogitatio) in the sense
given it by Descartes. For all that it necessarily
signifies is that, just as the infinite Substance, God, has
an infinite Attribute of Extension, so He has an infinite
Attribute or aspect of Thought, which we may venture
to describe as self-awareness. And of course this self-
awareness includes in an infinite unity everything in
existence, from the Milky Way to man, beast, plant and
Thought as ; This attribute of Thought equally with Extension ex-
the divine presses the eternal and infinite essence (or reality) of
1 J y ' God. And, as in the case of the other Attribute, the
essence or reality it expresses means to us the possibility
of verifying the results of careful observation. This is
not Spinoza's teaching. Fur to him direct intuition of
eternal truth is the only verification worth having.
But different generations have 'their different forms of


thought. And though I am a devout believer in the
Master's doctrine of intuition, yet, as he allows other
methods of approaching reality, 1 it helps and does not
hinder our understanding of him if we take a test of
reality applicable to all modes of knowledge. For the
intuition taught by him need not form any exception ; Verifiable
because it is its own verification. In the case of Thought, tion?
then, as in that of Extension, the reality it expresses
can always be verified. As to the finite mode of infinite
Thought constituting our own mind, indeed, intuition is
the only possible verification ; but it is manifestly suf-
ficient. Cogito, ergo sum. It is the prime fact of experi-
ence, and, whenever we choose to reflect, it is always there.
But it may well be said that only the fact of finite
thought is verified thus, and not that of infinite Thought. Not neces-
Yet this is not conclusive. For according to a line of confined
argument adopted in recent times by an increasing thought,
number of high authorities, and likely to be permanent,
*the intuition of finite Thought necessarily involves in-
finite and eternal Thought. Thus, by no effort of any
'faculty we possess, nor by any method, whether of
* victorious analysis,' induction or deduction, can we;
make thinkable the existence of finite Thought except
as a 'mode' of Eternal Thought. It was this im-J
possibility which forced the brilliant and candid Pro-
fessor Clifford to suggest that every ultimate 'atom' of Professor

. Clifford on

matter was endowed with elementary consciousness or 'mind-
'mind-stuff.' 2 For he frankly recognised that if such

1 Ethices, Pars, ii., Prop, xl., Schol. 2.

2 I do not mean that Clifford made the same application of his



The finite
mode in-
volves the

Not that
the human
ness in-
volves the
being of an
human con-

an attribute, as distinct from what we call 'physical'
qualities, were not inherent in 'matter,' no conceivable
combination, arrangement, or interplay of 'molecular
vibrations' could ever have evolved consciousness. Ex-
cluding then the hypothesis of creation out of nothing,
the unthinkableness of which is here assumed through-
out, surely this inference of universal c mind-stuff' from
the present existence of consciousness endorses what has
been said above, that the intuition of finite thought
necessarily involves infinite and eternal Thought. But)
if the two ideas are inseparable, the verification of the?
one carries with it the verification of the other. And;
thus every time that we assure ourselves of our own
conscious existence, we assure ourselves also of an in|
finite Thought, of which we are ' modes,' or as Coleridgi
had it, ' parts and proportions.'

It ought not to be necessary to guard against mis-
understanding here. For, of course, I do not mean that
the consciousness of manhood involves an infinite man-
hood. For the whole development of manhood in its
conventional divisions into ' body ' and ' soul ' can now
be traced with a fair approximation to completeness.
And we know that mankind have been evolved out of
some sort of anthropoid ape through stages suggested
by the imperfect skeleton of the ' anthropopithecus ' of
Java. But that there ever was a time when there was
no c mind-stuff is not only unproved, but, as Professor
Clifford saw, unthinkable. While, therefore, I am far
from reckoning that distinguished man as a ' Spinozist/
I do maintain that he confirmed Spinoza's view of
Thought as an attribute of the Universe. Of course the


word used is imperfect, an expression, as Matthew
Arnold used to say, ' thrown out ' at an idea too vast
for expression. But at least we may say this much :
Clifford's 'mind-stuff' was diffused and omnipresent But the
throughout a universe to which, so far as I know, he ence of
assigned no bounds. Summing up, then, that omni- stuff' '
present and infinite ' mind-stuff,' we have practically aft the
Spinoza's infinite eternal Thought as an attribute of the is aware*
divine Substance or God. In other words, the Universe of ltself '
must be somehow aware of itself..

Another prevalent conviction of modern thinkers may Modem


be adduced as giving some confirmation to the foregoing, that there

can be no

For the notion that there can be anywhere an object object
without a subject to be aware of it is, so far as my subject.
reading goes, entirely repudiated by all thinkers outside
the rapidly diminishing school of molecular mechanists.
By which latter description I mean those who still
cling to the theory that the whole Universe, with its
life and feeling, can be explained by a chance-begotten
arrangement of dead atoms. Outside this ancient and
dying sect, there is a general recognition that when
we look at anything such as sun or moon or tree or
flower, we — or the God in us — in some measure make
what we see. And what would be left of the object,
if we could deduct what we do not make, no one has
yet been wise enough to tell us.

Common-sense, in its rough way, endorses the maxim
that ' we see in things what we bring to them.' But Seeing in

° ° things what

to what extent this is true neither common-sense nor we bring

to them.

philosophy has been able to decide. That to a man
colour-blind, to a short-sighted man, and to a man of


normal vision, a tree must needs be a very different object,
every one owns. But how much its greenery, its grace,
the interest of its tracery, and the music of its murmur
owe to the subjectivity, or — sacrificing accuracy to plain-
ness, let us say — to the mental constitution of the
normal man, we really do not know. But this at least
is certain, that his view of the tree includes a good
deal that is not in the tree but in himself, as for
instance, colour, grace, and interest. Doubtless there
must be something which stimulates such perceptions
in the observer, but that this something is anything
like what he perceives is not only improbable but
impossible. I must not be misunderstood as insinuat-
ing that the observer is the subject of illusion. Not at
all. He is the subject of reality and sees reality. But
then the reality is not something outside and separate
from him; it is the relation between the mode of
divine Thought constituting his mind and the mode
of divine Extension constituting the tree. Take away
the mode of thought, and the mode of extension would
be — we know not what, but certainly not a tree as we
conceive it.

But modern metaphysicians go farther than this, and

with much reason. They are not content with divesting

still further the thing seen of all that we manifestly bring to it. They

without say that the residual object is still a thing thought of,

sui!ject. g and except as a thing thought of can have no existence.

This of course does not mean that the object has no

existence except as we think of it. But it does mean

that a thing which is an object of no thought at all, has

no existence. And whether we agree with them or not,


it is surely very difficult to draw the line between those
qualities which, as common-sense allows, are brought to
an observed object by thought, and those which may be
supposed to have an independent existence. For, put it
how we may, the residual, uncoloured, unscented, un-
sentimental thing is still realised only in thought. Take
thought away altogether, and is there anything left ? A
permanent possibility of stimulating thought perhaps?
But is not that something thought of! And what
becomes of it if not thought of at all by any thinking
being ?

I need not labour the point farther. Its only bearing
on my purpose is the illustration it affords of a certain Sole impor-
tendency among thinking people to recur to Spinoza's as an iiius-
philosophy, not indeed in the letter but in the spirit, recurrence
From the letter, as we shall presently see, we are com- ° pm0
pelled to diverge widely. But in the recognition that
there can be no object without subject, or, in other words,
that the existence of finite thought implies infinite
thought as an eternal attribute to the Universe or God,
there is a very marked recurrence to the spirit of the
' Ethics.' This does not mean that the finite thought is
the object of the Infinite thought, but that the finite
thought is a mode of Infinite Thought.

But against one error in interpretation we must very No idea
carefully guard if we would understand Spinoza. i We Icemience '
are not to suppose that God has any other Self than the 111 pmoza *
Universe ; for that would be to imagine Him as having a
self other than Himself?) I am well aware that many
who are partly attracted by Spinoza desire to reconcile
his teaching with theological tradition by insisting on a


transcendence as well as an immanence of God. This is
not the place to argue the question; all I say here is
that, if we are to understand the Master at all, we must
not carry that notion with us into the study of his
The attri- xhe infinite attribute of Thought then, or self-awareness,

bute of .

Thought equally with the attribute of Extension, expresses the


with that of eternal and infinite being (essentia) or reality of God.


and infinite And here again we must be on our guard against the


insidious intrusion of notions about phenomena dis-
tinguishable from ' things in themselves,' notions against
which Herbert Spencer — though I cannot believe he
held them himself — did not sufficiently guard his readers.
But none Spinoza cherished no such superstition. fThe ' Attributes,'

are to be ,. , . , , V

separated according to .kini, are not to be regarded as distinct frojn_

from the "f! . , J , . ,

divine the substance any more than the various aspects of a
' flashing diamond can be separated from the diamond
itself*) They are the diamond and express its reality,
though doubtless there are other aspects of crystallised
carbon incognisable to our senses, yet equally expressing
its reality, j Just so in the view of Spinoza Extension
is one aspect of the divine Substance, and Thought is
another. But they are not qualities or powers added on
to its essence. They are its essence as seen by con-.,
templation in one or the other aspect. And as they are
not qualities added on to the divine Substance, so neither

nor from are they to be regarded as independent of each other, or
as distinct entities or as entities at all. f They are in-
separable as they are infinite. For wherever tliere is
Extension there is divine Thought, and wherever there
is divine Thought there is Extension.^ Thus if the

each other.


Universe, in one aspect of it, is a measureless network of
flaming orbs and planets, it is so because God so thinks
it. And if the thought of the glorious vision implies
illimitable space, it is so because Extension is an
inseparable concomitant of the divine Thought.

Further, Spinoza teaches that besides these Attributes

there are innumerable others, each of them infinite, each Imramer-

• a1:)le otner

subject to innumerable modes, and each expressing the attributes

infinite reality of God. But they express that reality abieto

for God Himself, or for creatures other than ourselves,

because they are incognisable to us. What then is their

place in a rational system ? Confining ourselves to

Spinoza, there can be no difficulty in answering this

question. For the assumption is necessary to a very Need for

important article in his creed, and that is the funxla- Spinoza's

~ system.

mental, incommensurable difference between eternity

and time. For him eternity is not infinite duration, and

in fact has nothing whatever to do with duration.

Eternity is, if we may so speak, an infinite moment, the j

lifetime of infinite Thought, without past or future.

And if in our view the manifestations of the Eternal

' change from glory to glory,' that is because of our

finiteness which cannot at one glance comprehend Him

as He is. But in His essence He is now all that can bei God is now

There can be no addition and no diminution. Now ifWn be.

that is so, it is obvious that the essence of the Eternal

must be expressible in an infinite variety of ways) Thus,

for Spinoza it was impossible to suppose the Attributes

. . ~ This neces-

expressive or the reality or the divine Substance to be sitatea the
confined to two. On the contrary, those Attributes must ofumumer-
be innumerable, that is, if the expression be allowed, bute*.





infinite in number. Further, every one of such in cog-
nisable attributes must be, like Extension and Thought,
not something separable in any sense from the divine
Substance, but, to adopt Sir Frederick Pollock's word, an
aspect of it. And like Extension and Thought they
must be all so correlated that, if it were possible to
bring within our cognisance fifty or a hundred or a

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Online LibraryJ. Allanson (James Allanson) PictonSpinoza; a handbook to the Ethics → online text (page 2 of 21)