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Spinoza; a handbook to the Ethics online

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takes things as they are, and excludes alike a beginning
and an end ? Why may we not feel an emotional pro-
pension toward a faith that admits only one Being
manifested by infinite Attributes, such as are subject to
infinite modifications all keeping an eternal and un-
broken order ? Surely the vision of the Universe is not
less, but more impressive, not less but more divine, if
we regard it as in its totality immune from all processes
of manufacture or decay, as being in itself both substance
and life ; and as offering for study neither origins nor

Hodder and Stoughton, 1900) has given in Part vn., Chap, iii., a very
judicial statement of the position of this question. In his summing-
up he regards the eternity of the Universe as the conclusion more
acceptable 'to most people of scientific training.'


ends, but only the actual relations of its apparent
The real Indeed there is only one worthy reason to be given

motive of J J °

temporary for the favour at present accorded by men of intellect
to 'the will to believe' the old mythology, and this
reason is involved in the inveterate tradition that the
interests of morality and of the higher or spiritual life

Fear for are bound up with that belief. But to adhere to tradi-

the founda- .

tion of tion on such a subject, to the neglect or a human ex-

' perience which far outranges that tradition, is scarcely

reasonable. We must admit indeed that, by the very

nature of religious evolution out of Animism through

Polytheism and Henotheism to Monotheism with an out-

a fear not look toward Pantheism, it has been inevitable that the

anywide by greater number of lofty and saintly characters should

human ° f nave been found among those who have striven to

experience. ex p an( j an( j exalt and refine the idea of a personal God

and of His varied dealings with mankind. Inevitable,

I say, because that was precisely the stage of evolution

at which it became possible for the spiritual nature of

man to disengage itself, at least in part, from the coarse

influences of Animism and Fetishism. But on the other

hand, there are two noteworthy facts of world-wide

religious evolution which distinctly forbid any hasty

judgment in favour of the exclusive claims of the Judseo-

Christian tradition to the guardianship of morality. For,

first, this process of moral and spiritual refinement went

Pagan on ani ongst so-called ' Pagans ' such, for example, as

saints. ° .

Socrates, Plato, Seneca, Tacitus, Marcus Aurelius, and a
countless multitude of others forgotten or unforgotten.
And, secondly, one of the most remarkable and wide-


spread of all religious revivals, that of the Buddha,
without denying any theories of deity, simply ignored
them as entirely irrelevant to moral issues. But in
all these cases alike, high moral aspiration and 'the
enthusiasm of humanity' were found quite compatible
with entire ignorance of, or else complete indifference
to, the creeds of Moses and the Church.

As for the claims of Pantheism to be the ultimate
religion, those have been largely the subject of the
preceding Handbook, and cannot be repeated here. My
point now is simply that the acknowledgment of those
claims has been delayed, not so much by Eeason as by
the preoccupation of even the most thoughtful minds
with the essential necessity to morality of belief in
Creation, a personal God, and man's personal immor-
tality. Take away this supposed necessity, which the
widest survey of human experience contradicts, and the
inherent unworthiness, incongruity, and absurdity of the
theory of an ojrifex deus, making, minding, and mending
the world, becomes patent, glaring, and repulsive.

That there is at any rate a current of feeling and Signs of a


opinion tending toward a recognition of this incongruity repulsion to
is made probable and even apparent by the extremely miracle,
vague and indefinite form in which the doctrine of
Creation and a personal God is held, even under the
influence of ' the will to believe.' For it has little, if
anything at all, in common with the definite Chalda?o-
Hebrew cosmogony received of old and, until our own
early days, held by the Christian Church. And no
wonder ; because, to the compilers of the Bible cosmogony,
the Universe lay within so small a compass, as compared


with the outlook of modern knowledge, that the analogy
between a human builder of a palace or city and a
celestial builder of heaven and earth did not seem at
all impossible or even difficult of conception. Indeed
the analogy is carried so far that the celestial craftsman
is described as doing his work in successive stages, his
superior might being indicated by the swiftness with
which each stage is accomplished, as they occupy only
one day each. But the anthropomorphic analogy involved
in this progress by diurnal stages is too obvious for denial.
It is not characteristic of omniscience and omnipotence
which, presumably, could just as easily have made in
one moment heaven and earth and all that in them is.
But the reminiscence of the human workman was too
strong ; and therefore the work was done by stages. 1
Superiority True, this mythical story, which in its present form
Hebrew is certainly a late document, and adapted to a more
cultured age than that of the original Chaldee or
Sumerian myth, does not presume to ascribe to Jahweh
the use of tools or instruments, or even the application
of hands 2 to the work. With a sublimity generally and
deservedly recognised, the narrative makes the word of
God the sufficient means for separating the light from
the darkness, for dividing the ' firmament ' from the
ocean, for establishing the bounds of sea and land, as

1 Any attempt to see in the creation days a forecast of evolution is
surely a harsh and incongruous insult to the simplicity of the ancient

2 In other parts of the Old Testament, however— mostly in parts
older than the Priestly Code — creation is often spoken of as the work
of God's hands. See Isa. xlv. 12 ; Ps. viii. 6 ; xcv. 5 ; cv. 25 ; Job
x. 8, etc. etc.



well as for all the other processes that culminated in
the creation of man after God's own image. The whole
story regarded as a poetic myth has a grandeur which
gives it a high place in the literature of religion.

But when we contrast this tale from the childhood Feebleness
of the world with the vague, indefinite, and inarticulate attempts at

■n ,. j. -j.- u • • rationalism.

allusions to creation in recent writing on world-origins,
the change is like that from a child's fairy tale to a
preacher's feeble attempts to moralise it. There is no
real relation between the two things. The conception —
if such it can be called — which unreasoning tradition
would impose upon modern knowledge is wholly in-
congruous with the latter. For the stupendous and
infinitely varied Universe, to which no bounds have been
or can be set, is really incommensurable with the two-
or three-storied structure that constituted the Chaldseo-
Hebrew world. Let us for a moment imagine that our
knowledge of the material Universe had attained its
present extent before the Chaldseo-Hebrew tradition had %
been made known to Western races. Suppose that the
poem of creation had been recited for the first time by
Eastern missionaries to London, New York, Paris, and
Berlin audiences familiar with the nebular hypothesis
and with the theories of the Milky Way and with
ball led efforts to count the stars, and with probabilities
of innumerable repetitions of planetary systems like our
own. Can any one sincerely doubt for a moment how
such a message must have been received by even the
most devout and religious hearers ? No candid or
impressionable soul could have denied its charm, but
the notion of accepting it as, in any sense whatever, a


reasonable account of the actual origin of the world
would not even have occurred to the hearers. Of course
I may be told that, even though the story is with us
a venerable tradition, no intelligent believer thinks of
accepting it literally. Then why accept it at all ? Only
because it gives a religious sanction to the dogma of
creation in some sense, which dogma is supposed to be
essential to the most important articles of the creed —
a personal God, the Fall of Man, Incarnation, Atone-
ment, and human Immortality.
Hheori<Sn 0n tnis sub J ect many minds are in the same position
of species.' ag a i mos t all were in regard to the origin of species
before the epoch-making utterances of Darwin and
Wallace. For it was then thought essential to religion
to believe that each species was the product of a special
creative act. Yet such a faith was utterly vague, in-
articulate, and incapable of distinct presentment. For
any pious but candid man who tried to picture to
himself the objective actuality of such creation found
himself involved in absurdities. To maintain in general
terms that each species was the result of a creative act
seemed easy enough. But to picture to oneself either
the sudden starting into existence of a whale or an
elephant, or the building up of such huge bodies by a
divine worker out of surrounding materials, was an im-
possible effort. And perhaps one of the greatest spiritual
blessings conferred by Darwin's Origin of Species upon
mankind was its deliverance of us from the conventional
necessity of pretending to believe what, in the 'sub-
conscious ' region of the mind, was recognised as absurd.
Yet even greater will be the emancipation when man-


kind finally renounce the hopeless attempt to conceive Relief from

J r x the dogma

any act of creation at all, and acquiesce in the truth of creation,
preached by Heaven and Earth that, amid unceasing,
finite change, there is one infinite, changeless Universe,
without beginning and without end. In proportion as
this truth is recognised, the world will need Spinoza.

For in effect the surrender of the idea of creation means in.


that we take things as they are, and that we cease from things as

, . . -, ,. they are.

curious and vain inquiries into origins ana endings.
Now this is precisely what Spinoza teaches, though the
plainness of his doctrine is at first obscured to the
student by the profundity and subtlety of his analysis
of things as they are. Thus, when we are confronted
with ideas of eternal Substance and its Attributes and
their modifications, we are almost disposed to mistake all
this for a new theory of creation. But of course nothing
could be farther from the mind of the Master. For he is
only telling how, according to Spinoza's judgment, the
rational man should think of things as they are. There
has never been a birth of a Universe ; there is no
1 design ' ; there is no ' plan ' with a beginning and an
end. On the infinite scale — which means on the scale
of all that is — things are as they always have been and
always will be. For the finite changes that attract our
interest so much do not affect this eternal sameness any
more than a summer ripple affects ' the stillness of the
central sea.'

But it is precisely on our attitude toward these finite The practi-
changes, of which our own existence forms a part, that of the
Spinoza's teaching is at once most interesting and prac-
tical. For while not drawing upon our ' will to believe,'


he fixes our attention and excites our aspiration by dis-
playing the glory of our spontaneity as parts of the
universal divine life. He shows us that, by making our
finite life an effort for the preservation of our highest self
as a manifestation of God, and by defending this sacred
domain against the inroads of passion begotten by
inadequate ideas, we may attain a peace which the world
of greed and pleasure cannot give and cannot take

In other words, this contemplative knowledge of all
things as in God and of God gives the utter restfulness
of self-abnegation and of faith. But it is not a self-
abnegation without effort, and not a faith without self-
Conditions control. The heart aching under bereavement, the pure
peace. aspirant baffled by failure, the lover of man haunted by
the black terrors of human history — all at first seek
impossible restoration or unattainable compensation, or
logical explanations fitting in with imperfect knowledge.
And only when all such consolations fail, as fail they
must, save so far as they soothe us with opiates of deceit,
then perhaps recurs the harsh but healing question asked
of complaining sorrow long ago — ' Should it be according
to thy mind ? ' Was this unsearchable maze of infinite
movements co-ordinated and balanced to give you plea-
sure ? or is the glory of man its ultimate goal ? It has no
goal at all. Or if our human craving for purpose cannot
be restrained within its proper sphere, but insists on a
purpose for the Infinite as well as the finite, then we say
that the self-existence of the divine Universe is purpose
enough. On the infinite scale it is now, as it always was,
and always will be. It is only the finite modes of divine


Attributes that show apparent change, and in them are
comprehended all the phases of human experience.
Within those limits effort and hope and unselfish ambi-
tion have their scope, scintillating with finite manifesta-
tions of God. There always has been and there always
will be enough of joy in human experience to make life,
on the whole, a delight.

To embitter our souls about the darker phases of life Embitter-

. merit comes

concerning which, as Spinoza teaches, we have only of inade-
1 inadequate ideas/ is the reverse of self-abnegation and
the abandonment of self-control. It is therefore the
betrayal of faith. But it is the supreme virtue and
valour of the mind to see all things, whether to us
grievous or joyous, as necessary and inevitable phases of
one eternal Being. And though it may not be given to
all to attain this — at least not for many generations to
come — yet those who do attain it and realise their own
place in the divine Whole reach, as the Master says, the
highest perfection possible to human nature ; and therein
lies their heaven. I must iterate and reiterate that no
fatalism, still less any acquiescence in pessimism, is here No fatalism,
taught. Spontaneity, or Will, effort and struggle and
hope and fear are all incidental to human nature in this
as much as in any other system of ethics. But none of
these can break or derange the order of inevitable sequence
in finite existence. And when all is done that we can
do, when much is left that we cannot do, while we have
many things to enjoy and much to suffer, the conscious-
ness that we are parts of the Eternal Life and do nothing
in vain, does bring peace. Indeed, to this final rest in
things as they are on the infinite scale, many inspired


words of prophecy or poetry are more applicable than to
any trust in a supernatural Person who differs from our-
selves only in might and degree of quality rather than in
kind. The craving for a God who will do — in the future
if not now — just what we want to have done, has often
produced him, as it produced the golden calves. But
when produced he is so incongruous with the order
of Nature and the course of evolution or history, and
indeed with everything but just the private service we
want from him as men, or even as sectaries or patriots,
that faith in him always feels the gnawing of criticism
and doubt, rarely attains peace, and never eternal

1 There's a divinity that shapes our ends,
Kough-hew them how we will.'

The true This is surely more credible of a God who is all that

that shapes is, has been, or will be, than of a separate being who

our eu s. ^^ ma ^ es a wor i(j and then has to mind it and mend

it. And the true prophets, inspired of old by the

Eternal Life, often uttered words of which the full scope

needed the illumination of a larger creed than their

Noblest traditions allowed. ' The peace of God which passeth all

ofancien? 8 understanding' must certainly be transcendental, and

receive*? 7 cannot be a mere assurance of a reward after death.

pretationu 1 Surely the peace which comes of acquiescence in our own

place in the Eternal Life seems better to answer the

description. Or take the Hebrew prophet's words, ' Thou

wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on

thee, because he trusteth in thee.' However profoundly

and justly our sympathies may be touched by such an

approximation to ultimate religion, the conditions of


entire realisation were wanting in a monotheism which
worshipped only the greatest personal being among all
others. For that realisation requires not only an impreg-
nable, but a self-evident rest for faith; such a rest can
only be found by a merging of all things in a unity of
substance and energy ensuring perpetual order in finite
things, and perfection beyond all thought in the infinite

Now this is just what Spinoza teaches. For we already Conclusion

J r J of the whole

saw in our study of the First Part of the Ethics that the matter.
fact of our present existence necessarily involves eternal
being, in and by which we are what we are. The denial
of this is really unthinkable, and all apparent denials are
only dissents from this or that interpretation of the
impregnable fact. But if we have followed this Master
in his lessons on the blessedness of referring all things to
God and of finding in Him the infinite complement of
our fragmentary life, we may dare to claim for faith a
rest such as even Isaiah did not know. Nay, the con-
nection between the absolute trust and the ' perfect
peace ' has a rationality which it could not have in tradi-
tional religion. For between trust in dim, incongruous
visions of a transfigured tribal deity, and rest in the
substance of all that is, there is all the difference
separating even the noblest superstition from devout



Absolute and relative truth, 31.
Abstract — Spinoza's use of term, 30.
Accident, as 'Act of God,' 44.
Action, meaning of, 171.

contrary in same subject, 188.

good, dependent on Reason,


joy in, 106.

moral quality of, 164.

Actuality, Spencer's, 9.

Adam, Fall of, 167.

Adequate. See Cause, Idea.

Affability, 123, 177.

Affections — in Spinoza's sense, 54 n.,


all from three primaries, 98.

definitions of, 109-126.

limited by cause, 189.

Agnosticism, 188.

Agur rebukes Pessimists, 84.

Ambition, 123, 177.

Anger, 122.

Annihilation, contrary to Nature,

Anthropomorphism, 41, 131, 133.
Anthropopithecus, 20.
Appetite — a form of Desire, 97.
Arnold, M.,21.
Association, moral force of, 63, 99,

105, 201.
Assur, 94.
Astonishment, 112.
Atheism, impossible to Spinoza, 50.
Atoms, 65, 242.
Attributes, 8, 13.

innumerable, 17, 25.

not additions to Substance, 24,


Attributes. See also ' Pollock. '
Augury, origin of, 105.
Augustine, St., 131, 214.
Avarice, 124.
Aversion, 114.

Babe's progress, 55-6, 194.

Babism ~ 106, 145 n.

Baseness, 154.

Beauty, 47.

Benevolence, 122.

Bets on unknown certainties, 76.

Bickerton, Professor, 246 n.

Biology, 61.

Bitterness, 116.

Blessedness, 81, 235.

Bodily mobility and Mind, 61.

Body, human, 52.

as divine idea, 216.

object of Mind, 53-4.

servant of higher life, 226-7.

Boldness, 123.
Bondage, meaning of, 127-8.
Boscovich, 242.

Buddhist ritual, effect on Catholics,

Catholicity of Pantheism, 213-14,

Cause, adequate, 90.

as sum of conditions, 34.

inadequate, 90-1.

intermediate or secondary, 35 n.

no final, 130-1.

Spin* >z;i's idea of, obsolete, 35, 56.

< 'ell, living, 133.
Chance, 76, 85.

See Contingency.




Charles i., 103-4.
Cheerfulness, 158.
Chemical combination, 65.
Childhood, influence of its beliefs,

Clifford, Professor, 19, 20, 55, 58.
Cogitatio, meaning of, 17.

wider than consciousness, 18.

Coleridge, 20.

Ancient Mariner, 213.

Colour, 16.
Commiseration, 116.
Common notions, 63, 200-1.
Confidence, 115.
Consciousness, 18 et seq., 58.
Consternation, 123.
Contempt, 113.
Contingency, 67, 76, 138.
Contrat social, 155 to.
Cosmogony, Bible, 249-50.

cannot be rationalised, 251.

Courtesy, 123.
Cowardice, 123.
Creation, 50, 246, 249.
Crime, 156-7.
Cruelty, 122.

of Nature, alleged, 42, 84.

Crystal, 133.

Custom and morals, 118.

Cyclopsean masonry, 136.

Dalton, John, 242-3.

Darwin, Origin, etc., 252.

David's sin, 72.

Dead worlds, 246.

Death affects only finite relations,


not to be thought of, 167.

not feared by Reason, 225-8.

Depreciation, 117. See Self-.

Derision, 114.

Descartes, 17, 181 n.

Design in Nature, fallacy of, 41, 46,

Desire, 97, 110, 163, 171.
cause of anthropomorphism,

no test of truth, 205.

Desire, use of, 136.

when active, 171.

passive, 171.

Despair, 115.

Devotion, 114.

Dipsomaniac, the, 141.

Disease, 135.

Division, in what sense possible, 29.

of substance impossible, 29.

Dogberry, 194.

Drunkard, his delusion and salvation,

Drunkenness. See Inebriety.
Duncan, Professor R. K., 246 n.

Ecclesiastes quoted, 34.

Education, effects of, 118.

Effort, place of, 137-8, 141, 143.

Electricity, 244.

Elsmere, Robert, 188.

Emulation, 121.

Entities of fancy, 48.

Envy, 117.

Eoliths, 128.

Equanimity, 81.

Essence {essentia), 13, 14.

Eternal life, 59, 78, 79, 216, 218, 238.

morals, 156 n.

Eternity, 25, 78, 35, 216.
Ether, the, 244.

' Ethics ' — anachronism of form,

how far in essence permanent, 3.

how far original, 2.

meaning of, 4.

special difficulties of, 1-4.

written for after-time, 1.

Euclid and his critics, 11.

Evil, in what sense an illusion, 135.

knowledge of, 166-7.

See Good.

Evolution, 85.

unknown to Spinoza, 52.

Extension as Attribute, 14, 52-3.

Falsehood, 71.
Fatalism, 194, 255.
Favour, 116.



Fear, 100, 115, 188.
Ferocity, 122.
Fetishism, 106, 248.
Fiual causes. See Cause.
Finite existence, 32-4, 50, 57.

illusion inseparable from, 133.

neither independent nor eternal,

mode implies infinite Attribute,

movement and infinite rest, 34,

Flattery, 176.
Food, doctrine of, 178.
Form, 16.
Fortitude, 169.
Freedom, 37, 40, 89, 104, 138, 168,

169, 181 etseq.
and Peace, 239-40.

Gladness, 116.

Glorying, 120.

God, adequate knowledge of, 78.

all that is or can be, 25. —

as necessary Being, 17. —

as Substance, 8, 56.

hatred of, impossible, 210-11.

idea of, associated with every-
thing, 202, 207.

identified with Universe, 6.

in creature life, 183.

love of and to. See Love.

man not final cause of His

action, 41, 254.

not subject to desire, 43. ■

peace of, 219, 224, 254.

perfection of, 43.

Spinoza's proof of, paraphrased,

6 et seq.

reverence for, destroys hatred,


transcends consciousness, 18.

but not the Universe, 23.

God-consciousness, 188, 207, 228.

Golf-passion, 189-90.

Good and evil— relative, 40, 45, 46,
47, 88, 128, 135, 166, 172.

Good, meaning of, 135, 166.

Good, to be thought of more than

evil, 199.
Good-nature, 117.
Goodness is blessedness, 230, etc.
Gratitude, 122, 160.
Gravitation, 65.
Grief, 97, 111, 137, 157.

Harlotry, 176.

Hatred, 98, 114, 158.

Hauser, Kaspar, 61.

Heaven and Hell, 70, 182.

Henry vm., 150.

Hermits, error of, 174-5.

Home, power of its associations.

Honour, sense of, 154.
Hope, 100, 115, 158.
Humility, 118, 160-1.
Huxley, T. H., 187.

I am— as divine name, 130.
Idea, 54.

adequate, 66, 70.

clear, moral power of, 192,


distinct or confused, 200, 201.

inadequate, 66, 70, 71, 133.

Ideals, human, 129.
Idolatry, origin of, 78-9.

modern, 183 n.

persistence of, 79.

Ignorance, no foundation for faith,

42, 44.
difference of, from recognition of

Unknowable, 44 n.
Inclination, 114.
Indignation, 116, 160, 177.
Inebriety, 124.

Imagination depreciated, 229.
Immortality, 215.
Intuition, 63-4, 67-8.
in Weltanschauung, 218-19,

Intellect, 31, 229.

to rule the affections, 197.

its perfection, 172.

Intellectual love. See Love.



Jahweh, 130.

Jesus, teacher of goodness for its own

sake, 230.
Joy, 97, 111, 157.

power of, 143, 144-5, 179.

Judas Iscariot, 139.

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