Infomotions, Inc.Spinoza and religion; a study of Spinoza's metaphysics and of his particular utterances in regard to religion, with a view to determining the significance of his thought for religion and incidentally his personal attitude toward it. / Powell, Elmer E. (Elmer Ellsworth), 1861-

Author: Powell, Elmer E. (Elmer Ellsworth), 1861-
Title: Spinoza and religion; a study of Spinoza's metaphysics and of his particular utterances in regard to religion, with a view to determining the significance of his thought for religion and incidentally his personal attitude toward it.
Publisher: Chicago The Open court publishing company 1906
Tag(s): philosophy and religion; spinoza, benedictus de, 1632-1677; spinoza; intellectus infinitus; substance; religion; paul carus; natura naturata; religious; spi noza; absoluta cogitatio; god; korte verhandeling
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Spinoza and Religion 

A study of Spinoza s metaphysics and of 
his particular utterances in regard to 
religion, with a view to determining the 
significance of his thought for religion and 
incidentally his personal attitude toward it. 


Elmer Ellsworth Powell, A. M., Ph.D. 

Professor of Philosophy in Miami University 

The Open Court Publishing Company 


Kegan Paul, Trench, Triibner & Co., Ltd. 


. B7 





A German translator and expounder of Spinoza s 
works declares that in the whole history of human 
thought there is not to be found a system more dif 
ficult to understand and to explain. After studying 
the system in its details, I am disposed to accept this 
assertion as probably true. I have blinked no dif 
ficulties, however; but have felt it my duty to study 
each one until I have succeeded either in harmoniz 
ing it with the system as a whole, or in clearly 
showing it to be a logical inconsistency. Spinoza s 
logical inconsistencies are of two kinds: (1) fallacies 
of reasoning, and (2) the acceptance of contradictory 
propositions which are correctly deduced, although 
from different and incompatible presuppositions. 

My excuse for adding another book to the already 
formidable pile of literature on Spinoza is the fact 
that his relation to religion has not yet been made 
the subject of specific, comprehensive, and candid 
treatment; and that consequently there prevail not 
only among intelligent people in general, but even 
among students of philosophy, the vaguest possible 
notions in regard to this matter. Anyone who may 
feel disposed to think that I am performing a work 
of supererogation, is asked to suspend his judgment 
until he has read Chapter II. of my " Introduction. " 

In order to go to the bottom of the question and 
attempt to settle it, it has been necessary to pass be 
yond Spinoza s specific utterances in regard to re- 



ligion, and to subject his metaphysics to careful 
analysis. Those who are not used to abstract think 
ing (if any such should do me the honor of reading 
my book), will doubtless find my exposition of 
Spinoza s metaphysics in some parts difficult, per 
haps dull; although I have spared myself no pains, 
in order to attain the utmost clearness. 

In conducting my investigations and in presenting 
the results, I have endeavored to maintain a strictly 
impersonal attitude, aiming solely to determine (1) 
what Spinoza taught and (2) how his doctrine is 
related to the religious consciousness. Accordingly, 
I must disappoint those who seek in the present 
work either a polemic against Spinoza or an apology 
for him. I will not deny, however, that my book 
is after all a polemic, a polemic against a mistaken 
interpretation of Spinoza s philosophy and person 

While, as the basis of my judgments, I have 
taken, of course, Spinoza s own writings (in the 
original Latin where extant, and in the Dutch trans 
lation where the Latin is lost), I have derived valu 
able hints from several of his expounders. My 
obligations are acknowledged in the foot-notes to 
the text. The " Biographical Sketch" is the part 
for which I claim the least merit; for, considering 
it as of minor importance for the question at issue, 
I have been willing to accept, in regard to the orig 
inal sources, the critical labor of others, save when 
facts significant for our estimate of Spinoza s per 
sonality were involved. In this part I am most in 
debted to Dr. Freudenthal of Breslau, who has done 
so much in recent years to enrich our scanty knowl 
edge of Spinoza s life; although I have sometimes 


been led to express quite other judgments on the 
facts. In a general way, I owe most to my former 
instructor in philosophy, Professor Benno Erdmann , 
although he should not be held responsible for the 
point of view here represented. 

Spinoza s works I have cited according to Van 
Vloten and Land s edition: "Benedict! de Spinoza 
Opera," The Hague, 1895. 


March, 1906. 




Chapter I. Biographical Sketch 1 

1. Historical Antecedents 1 

2. Environment in which Spinoza s Lot was 

Cast 3 

3. Spinoza s Early Years 6 

4. Rupture with the Synagogue 12 

5. Sojourn in Rijnsburg 23 

6. Sojourn at Voorburg 26 

7. At The Hague 33 

8. His Personality 42 

Chapter II. Diversity of Opinion in Regard to 

Spinoza s Relation to Religion 45 

1. Various Expressions on the Subject 45 

2. Causes and Significance of the Diversity of 

Opinion 51 

Chapter III. Spinoza s Doctrine of Knowledge 66 

1. Certain Peculiarities of Spinoza s Psychol 

ogy 66 

2. The Imagination 75 

3. The Reason 80 

4. Logical Presuppositions 86 


Chapter I. His Definition of Substance (God) 

and His Problem . , 97 



Chapter II. The Formal Attributes of Substance 101 

1. Self-Existence and Eternity of Substance. . 102 

2. Infinitude of Substance 103 

3. Solitariness of Substance 107 

4. Immutability of Substance 107 

5. Perfection of Substance 109 

6. Substance as Cause 110 

Chapter III. Spinoza s Doctrine of Real Attri 
butes 112 

1. Relation of Attributes to Substance 112 

2. Significance of the Infinite Number of Un 

known Attributes 125 

Chapter IV. Substance and Modes: God and 

the World 130 

Chapter V. Content of the Attribute of Exten 
sion 161 

Chapter VI. Content of the Attribute of 

Thought 163 

1. Intellectus Inflnitus 163 

2. Idea Dei 182 

3. Absoluta Cogitatio 190 

Chapter VII. How Spinoza s Conception of the 
Absolute is Related to the Religious 
Consciousness 221 

1. Analysis of the Religious Consciousness. . . 221 

2. The Religious Consciousness and Spinoza s 

Conception of God 239 





Chapter I. The Intellectual Love of God . . 249 



Chapter II. Immortality 266 

Chapter III. Church and State 281 

Chapter IV. His Treatment of Individual Re 
ligious Conceptions 289 

1. Miracles 289 

2. Revelation 289 

3. Jesus Christ 308 

4. Sin 316 

5. Repentance 319 

6. Salvation 320 

7. Providence . 321 

8. Prayer 322 

Chapter V. Supposed Professions of Religious 

Interest 326 

Conclusion . 339 




1. Historical Antecedents. 

Baruch (Latin, Benedictus) Spinoza was born of 
Jewish parents at Amsterdam on the 24th of No 
vember, 1632. His father at least was directly from 
Portugal, perhaps originally from Spain. During 
the generations immediately preceding Baruch s 
time, his race and family passed through experiences 
which were not without significance for his own 
life and which therefore deserve brief mention. 

In the fifteenth century the "Holy Office" (the 
Inquisition), which had been established in Arragon 
by Gregory IX. as early as 1232 with a view to ex 
tirpating the Albigensian heresy, had fallen almost 
into disuse. In Castile, Leon, and Portugal it had, 
in fact, never taken permanent root; but with the 
union of Castile with Arragon toward the end of 

1 The principal sources of our knowledge of Spinoza s 
life are given in Freudenthal s "Die Lebensgeschichte 
Spinoza s" (1899), which contains the early biogra 
phies by Colerus (Kohler), Lucas, etc., together with 
many important documents not published before. The 
most recent and complete biography is the first volume 
of Freudenthal s "Spinoza: sein Leben und seine Lehre" 
(1904). With this compare, "Spinoza en zijn Kring," 
by the Dutch author, K. O. Meinsma (1896). Those to 
whom these are not accessible will find a somewhat com- 
pleter biography than is here given in Martineau s "Study 
of Spinoza" (3d ed. 1895), and in Pollock s, "Spinoza: 
His Life and Philosophy" (2d ed. 1899). Martineau s in 
particular would now require to be altered in some 


that century by the marriage of Ferdinand and 
Isabella, there opened a new era for the Inquisition 
in the whole of the Peninsula. Its chief object now 
was to punish baptized Jews who secretly relapsed to 
their old religion. The Catholic zeal of the other 
wise gentle Queen and the financial distress of the 
King, whose treasury would be filled from the 
confiscated goods of wealthy Jews, disposed the 
sovereigns to hear with favor the Dominican advo 
cates of a more reckless and cruel type of persecu 
tion than had hitherto prevailed. Early in 1481, 
therefore, a reorganized form of the Inquisition 
began its work, and before the end of that year, 
according to Mariana, a Jesuit historian, more than 
two thousand perished by the flames in the arch 
bishopric of Seville and the bishopric of Cadiz alone. 
In 1492 the movement took on a new phase. The 
Jews of all Spain were notified by royal decree that 
those still loyal to their faith would after a short 
term be required to leave the Kingdom. They 
were to be allowed to take with them most of their 
goods, except gold and silver. "When the days of 
grace expired and they were called upon to choose 
between baptism and banishment, they set out in 
swarms toward those lands that seemed the least 
inhospitable. It is estimated that 90,000 passed from 
Castile alone into Portugal, the King of this 
country having promised them temporary protec 
tion for a money consideration. But here also they 
were soon confronted with the old alternative, con 
version or exile. 

Many of the Spanish Jews possessed less heroism 
or less depth of religious conviction than did these 
emigrants, and consented to Christian baptism and 


to the practice of what they considered idolatry, as 
the price of remaining in Spain. But their apostasy 
purchased them little peace; for their conversion 
was regarded as a mere outward pretense, and 
they were shadowed by informants, on whose 
testimony many were from time to time condemned 
to the flames. In both Kingdoms, however, not a 
few families succeeded in living the double life for 
several generations. 

To these so-called "New Christians" in their dis 
tressful condition came the report, about a century 
after the exodus from Spain above-mentioned, that 
the northern provinces of Holland had decided every 
citizen "should remain free in his religion." Con 
sequently in 1593 a small group of Portuguese (or 
Portuguese and Spanish) Jews shook the dust off 
their feet and embarked at Oporto for Holland. It 
has been conjectured that Spinoza s father was one 
of this company. We know now that he was not, 
but that he came with a subsequent company of 
the same kind. His home had been at Figueira near 
Coimbra, Portugal; but we have reason to believe 
that the family came originally from Spain. This 
supposition is not inconsistent with the assumption 
that for an indefinite time preceding their emigra 
tion to Holland their home had been in Portugal. 
Indeed this seems to be the only theory that har 
monizes all the facts. 

2. The Environment in which Spinoza s lot was cast. 

In the seventeenth century Holland, where Spin 
oza was born and passed the whole of his life, was 
in many respects the most favored country in 
Europe. Not least among the facts that justify this 


assertion is the well-known one that it was more 
completely than any other country the home of re 
ligious toleration. The long but victorious struggle 
with intolerant Spain, the acquisition of colonies 
beyond the seas, extensive commercial relations 
with different countries, and the presence of people 
of various religious tenets, had led to the recogni 
tion of the rights of the individual conscience. Its 
rulers clearly saw the justice and wisdom of grant 
ing complete religious liberty; and, left to them 
selves, they probably would not have been guilty of 
acts of persecution. As a matter of fact, however, 
the influential clergy of the Reformed Church, sup 
ported by ignorance and bigotry among the people, 
sometimes forced the hand of the government to 
acts of intolerance. But at no time and in no in 
stance did persecution take the form of active in 
quisition into private opinions. Everyone was per 
mitted to think what he pleased, provided he did not 
aggressively and contumaciously seek to propagate 
offensive views. For actively disseminating what 
seemed to be harmful heresies or atheism, imprison 
ment and banishment were in a few cases the pen 
alties inflicted. In so far as the spasmodic intoler 
ance expressed itself in civil proceedings, it gener 
ally took the form (1) of restricting to members of 
the Reformed Church the right of regular public 
worship, others being permitted to meet only in 
private houses; (2) of depriving sectarians of the 
right to hold civil offices; (3) of prohibiting, confis 
cating, and burning heretical writings. But in spite 
of these limitations on liberty of thought and speech, 
dissenters and free-thinkers found themselves com 
paratively secure in Holland. All could publish 


books and pamphlets with the strong probability 
that these would not be suppressed. By re-printing 
condemned books in a new place and under a new 
name, even radical free-thinkers succeeded in keep 
ing their ideas before the public. 

Another advantage enjoyed by Holland in the 
seventeenth century was the great wealth gained 
through its colonies and commerce. At the same 
time, perhaps in part as a consequence of material 
prosperity, it became the home of literature and 
art, and disputed with France the leadership of 
Europe in these matters. It was the age of Grotius 
in general learning, of Huygens in natural science, 
of Rembrandt in art. How important for Spinoza s 
development all this must have been, need not be 

In regard to the Jewish colony in Amsterdam, it 
ought to be noted that in Spinoza s time it no longer 
had an exclusively Spanish-Portuguese character, 
since it had received accessions from time to time 
from every part of Europe, and had thus become 
quite heterogeneous. Even the Spanish-Portuguese 
element must have embraced very different types of 
character. Among its members were families which 
had refused in 1492 to accept Christianity and had 
consequently left Spain for Portugal. These no 
doubt represented the sturdier moral fibre of the 
colony; but even these, though braving no incon 
siderable hardships for conscience sake, had ulti 
mately come short of the spirit of martyrdom; for, 
discouraged by their disappointing reception in 
Portugal, they had finally accepted there the bap 
tism they had refused in Spain. In short, they had 
long been accustomed to live a double life. As com- 


pared with these, those families that came directly 
from Spain to Amsterdam, and probably most of the 
Portuguese Jews also, must have possessed either less 
depth of conviction or less moral stamina ; for, when 
threatened, they had immediately submitted to bap 
tism. A preponderance of practical interests had 
always, it seems, determined them, whenever a pro 
fession of their faith would cause them serious loss, 
to accommodate themselves to their surroundings by 
a life of prudent hypocrisy. While we have not the 
heart to blame them, we can but recognize that they 
were far from being thorough-going idealists whose 
subjective interest in moral consistency would cause 
them to break their heads against the solid walls 
of external fact. 

In its religious aspects the influence of this en 
vironment on Spinoza seems to have been rather to 
excite antipathies than to induce conformation, and 
may be recognized to some extent no doubt in his 
subsequent radical repudiation of ceremonialism and 
his contempt for religious fanaticism. But he was 
not entirely immune from unwholesome effects of 
other features of his environment. The community 
and the home in which he grew up received by tra 
dition the habits of thought and feeling acquired 
by the fathers under the shivering dread of persecu 
tion. This circumstance both explains and palliates 
Spinoza s excessive timidity and his over-valuation 
of prudence. 

3. Spinoza s Early Years. 

Michael de Spinoza (or d Espinoza), the father 
of our philosopher, was a respectable and intelligent 
tradesman. The local records show that not less 


than four times he held the chief office either in one 
of the three congregations existing before 1639 or 
in the united congregation after that date, and that 
he was once administrator of the loan-agency con 
nected with the Synagogue. Of Hannah Deborah, 
Benedict s mother, whose family name has not been 
discovered, we know only that she was Michael s 
second wife and that she died before her son had 
completed his sixth year. During these early years, 
Benedict s chief companions were probably his half- 
sister Kebecca and his own sister Miriam, both 
several years his senior. In his ninth year he was 
presented with a stepmother, of whose character we 
are ignorant. 

With the school which Spinoza attended we are 
better acquainted than with the conditions of his 
home life. Extant documents recently published tell 
us the names of his probable instructors, the subjects 
they taught, and even the salaries they received. 
The school had seven grades. In the first, the pupils 
learned the Hebrew alphabet, spelling, and the 
reading signs; in the second, they practiced the 
sections of the Pentateuch appointed for the Sabbath 
service, giving special attention to the conventional 
pauses, rhythm, and intonation; in the third, they 
translated portions of the Pentateuch into Spanish; 
in the fourth, passages from the Prophets; in the 
fifth, they studied the commentaries of the great 
Talmudist Raschi ; in the sixth and seventh, the Tal 
mud itself. 1 

Among the teachers under whose formative in 
fluence Spinoza began his mental development, we 
should mention Menasseh ben Isreal and Saul Levi 

1 Freudenthal s "Lebensgeschichte Spinoza s," p. 113. 


Morteira. It was Menasseh ben Isreal (1604-1657) 
who must have introduced him to the study of the 
Talmud. This amiable personality was a scholar 
he is credited among other things with a knowledge 
of ten languages but not a thinker. He clung 
firmly not only to the traditional Judaism as rep 
resented by the Rabbinical system, but also to the 
Cabala; and, like his less educated colleagues, re 
garded every word in the Talmud and the Zohar as 
divinely inspired. 1 

Saul Levi Morteira, Spinoza s chief instructor in 
the Talmud, was a man of somewhat different type. 
He was born at Venice in 1596, and studied with an 
eminent physician of the place, who later became 
private physician to Maria dei Medici in France. 
Morteira, who accompanied his master, was thus 
given a taste of court life. When he came to Am 
sterdam at the age of twenty, it was probably his 
prestige, his knowledge of the world and his courtly 
manners, that secured him the invitation to remain 
there and to undertake the Synagogue service. His 
selection as chief instructor in the Talmud when the 
Synagogue school was organized in 1639, indicates 
that during the twenty-three years subsequent to 
his arrival he had known how to retain the first-won 
respect of the community, and to gain a reputation 
for Rabbinical learning in addition. But he seems 
to have enjoyed no fame for erudition outside of 
Amsterdam. His sermons, the only printed produc- 

1 "Cabala" is the name of the system of theosophy 
which is alleged to have been transmitted by the mouths 
of the Patriarchs and Prophets from the time of the 
first man. "Zohar" is the name of the compilation of 
these traditions alleged to have been made by Simon 
ben Yochi (70-110 A. D.), but assigned by disinterested 
scholars to the thirteenth century. 


tions of his literary activity, are said to have a 
philosophical complexion, but no depth of thought. 

A glance at the course of instruction given in the 
school suffices to discover that the Talmud was the 
only subject that was calculated in any degree to 
interest and stimulate a young mind of logical bent. 
In order to estimate the influence of this study, it 
is necessary to recall its exact character. The Tal 
mud comprises two parts : the Mishnah, the body of 
oral, i. e., post-Mosaic legal (in great part ceremo 
nial) traditions; and the Gemarah, learned commen 
taries on the Mishnah. It exists in two recensions, 
the Jerusalem Talmud and the Babylonian Talmud, 
both completed before the end of the fifth century 
A. D. Of these a competent authority observes : The 
doctors of both recensions, although they primarily 
discuss the correctness of the text and the meaning 
of the Mishnah and what should be the right legal 
decision, do not confine themselves to this. They 
introduce, as occasion serves, not merely the whole 
of the oral tradition handed down to their time, and 
the necessary interpretations of the various laws 
to be found in the Pentateuch and other sacred 
writings, but exhibit also, though only in a frag 
mentary manner, an almost complete cycle of the 
profane sciences as current orally and known to 
them by books composed by Jews and Gentiles." 1 
It is well to note that the Talmud contained not only 
religious matter, but also obsolete ideas in every 
field of knowledge. 

The method of imparting instruction in the Tal 
mud is said to have been an alternation of questions 
and answers, of difficulties and solutions. This 

1 Solomon M. Schiller Szinessy, Encyc. Brit. 


single redeeming feature of the School was well 
calculated to develop logical acuteness. Spinoza s 
interest in these exercises is attested by the tradi 
tion that at the age of fifteen he was much praised 
by Morteira for his uncommon penetration. 

It has been supposed with some plausibility that 
after finishing the School he decided, for the sake 
of gratifying his taste for learning, to become a 
Rabbi. If this be true, he must have spent the next 
few years chiefly in more thorough study of the 
Bible and Talmud, and also in diligently reading the 
great Jewish writers on the philosophy of religion, 
especially Maimonides and Ibn ben Ezra, of whom 
his writings betray a considerable knowledge. 

Outside the School and his theological environ 
ment, there were other intellectual influences to 
which he was more or less responsive, especially 
from his fifteenth year on. By this time, as we have 
already remarked, the Jewish colony had grown to 
considerable dimensions, and had acquired a cosmo 
politan character. The security and freedom en 
joyed at Amsterdam had attracted Jews from dif 
ferent parts, especially from Catholic Christendom 
and from the German states, which were at that 
time devastated by the Thirty Years War. One 
consequence of this circumstance was that the col 
ony became a polyglot community. Owing to com 
mercial pursuits and to the migratory habits occa 
sioned by varying persecutions, the Jews in general 
were the best linguists of the time. Those dwelling 
at Amsterdam had peculiar opportunities and in 
centives for acquiring languages. It has been noted 
that Manasseh ben Isreal was acquainted with ten. 
Most of his colleagues doubtless knew something 


of five or six. All educated persons were supposed 
to have learned several. Of the dead languages, 
Latin was especially cultivated. It was very natural 
therefore that Spinoza, a capable and aspiring 
youth, should devote some attention to several lan 
guages and should undertake a thorough mastery of 
Latin. In Greek he never became proficient. His 
studies in Latin were begun under a German 
teacher, whose name has not come down to us, and 
were continued and completed under a certain Fran 
cis van den Ende, a physician and scholar, who was 
interested in the natural sciences and had a reputa 
tion both for skill as a teacher and for free-thinking. 
In how far the report that he was a free-thinker was 
justified, we are unable to determine. That he was 
an efficient teacher, we may infer from the fact that 
under him Spinoza soon learned to write a Latin 
style which, though not faultless, was concise and 
clear, quite adequate to the expression of his 
thought. It was the language in which he afterward 
did all his thinking and composed all his works. 

There exists a story that, while Spinoza was re 
ceiving instruction from Van den Ende, he fell in 
love with his master s daughter Clara Maria, and 
that in his wooing he was defeated by a rival who 
won the girl s affection with the potent charms of a 
pearl necklace. Data are now at hand which show 
that Clara was then a child of only eleven or twelve 
years. If Spinoza ever wooed her, it must have been 
later; but of this there is also no tangible evidence. 
The whole story has the appearance of one of those 
old wives fables which the historian may ignore. 1 

1 But compare Freudenthal I, pp. 41-42; Meinsma, p. 
141; Martineau, p. 25; Pollock, p. 13. 


With the acquisition of Latin, at this time the 
universal language of scholars, a new world was 
opened to Spinoza; and he must have entered it 
without delay. His studies in mathematics, physics, 
mechanics, astronomy, chemistry, and medicine, 
probably date from this period. In philosophy he 
must now have become acquainted with Aristotle, 
the Stoics, the Neo-Platonists of the Renaissance, 
Francis Bacon, Hobbes, and Descartes, with all of 
whom his writings show more or less familiarity. 
To Descartes in particular, who ultimately had more 
influence upon his thinking than did all others, he 
certainly devoted at this time very careful study. 

This is all we know of Spinoza up to his twenty- 
fourth year. It should be noted that, so far as is 
known, he had not yet manifested any special re 
ligious interest. Morteira is said to have praised 
him for his mental acuteness, but no one is known 
to have remarked upon his piety. The assumption 
that, in his youth, he was of a religious disposition 
seems to rest on nothing better than the two senti 
mental grounds: (1) that he, like religious re 
formers, was persecuted, and (2) that he was a Jew, 
the Jews being supposed by some to be endowed by 
nature with an inalienable "religiousness." 

4. Rupture icitli the Synagogue. 

In the meantime young Spinoza had begun to 
excite the suspicion of the Elders of the Synagogue. 
It is said he expressed too freely opinions of his 
own, and was not sufficiently strict in his observance 
of all the ceremonies. It began to look as though he 


would get into trouble, unless he were more guarded 
in his conversation and conduct ; for we have now to 
note with disappointment that the hunted victims 
of religious intolerance had not themselves learned 
toleration. Spinoza s position seemed all the more 
precarious, as the Jewish church had severely dealt 
with one heretic already. Uriel da Costa, for this 
was his name, was born of "New Christian" parents, 
and had been brought up as a Catholic in Spain. 
Breaking away from Christianity, he had fled from 
Oporto to Amsterdam, where he had joined the 
Jewish congregation. But he soon came into con 
flict with his new environment also, maintaining 
that the Pentateuch was of human origin, rejecting 
the doctrine of immortality and the validity of the 
ceremonial law, and advocating natural religion as 
a substitute for Judaism. On account of these 
views, he was promptly excommunicated by the 
Synagogue. He remained under the ban for fifteen 
years, when, remarking that "among monkeys he 
would be a monkey too," he renounced his heresies 
and was reconciled to the religious organization. 
But he soon relapsed ; and seven years later, in order 
to be re-admitted to the fellowship of his brethren, 
submitted to thirty-nine stripes, and, prostrating 
himself on the threshold of the Synagogue, suffered 
the congregation to pass over his body. Not long 
afterwards, he put an end to his unhappy life by 
suicide. He was no doubt a sort of freak, unbal 
anced in mind, and unstable in character; but the 
humiliations to which he was subjected showed 
Spinoza, who could remember his fate, that no 
heretic could expect any consideration at the hands 
of the Elders. 


While trouble between him and the religious au 
thorities was brewing, Spinoza had occasion, pos 
sibly on account of unkind treatment, to leave his 
now almost empty home, and to take up his abode 
for a time with a friend, possibly Van den Ende, 
whom he would have been able to assist in his 
school. As he now claimed his share of the inher 
itance, his half-sister and the widower of his de 
ceased sister Miriam conspired to deprive him of his 
rights. After he had compelled them through the 
courts to give him his due, he voluntarily relin 
quished his claim to everything except a "very 
good" bed. What motives prompted him to this 
act, we are unable to determine. A desire to help 
his hard-hearted and undeserving half-sister, would 
not have been consistent with his subsequent habit 
of spending all his income, avowedly in order to 
prevent his kindred from inheriting anything. It 
may be that at this time there was nothing else left 
to which he attached any particular value ; espec 
ially as he was already more interested in knowl 
edge than in possessions. 

Of the events that led to the actual rupture with 
the Synagogue in Spinoza s twenty-fourth year, we 
have no reliable account. There exists a story that 
when the Elders discovered Spinoza s state of mind, 
they promised him an annuity of one thousand 
florins, provided he would continue to conform to 
Judaism and would hold his tongue. This improb 
able story seems to be based on an on-dit reported 
by Bayle, and the testimony (recorded by the un 
critical Colerus) of the artist Van der Spy ck, one of 
Spinoza s subsequent hosts, whose creative imagin 
ation was not always confined to producing pic- 


tures. 1 If Spinoza was destined for the rabbinical 
office, as some suppose, we can understand how the 
sacrifice of future salary involved in his apostasy 
may have given rise to the story. It is related like 
wise that about this time religious fanaticism in 
the person of an unknown enemy attempted to 
plunge a dagger into Spinoza s heart one evening 
as he left the synagogue, or, according to one ver 
sion, the theatre. But this story has a mythical 
complexion also. 2 

In dealing with Spinoza, the Elders probably ad 
monished him first, and then visited him with the 
lower degree of excommunication, which excluded 
him from the Society for thirty days. When this 
proved fruitless, the final sentence of the Synagogue 
was pronounced against him on the 27th of July, 
1656. It was expressed in the Portuguese language, 
and has been translated as follows : 3 

"The chiefs of the council do you to wit, that having 
long known the evil opinions and works of Baruch de 
Espinoza, they have endeavored by divers ways and 
promises to withdraw him from his evil ways, and they 
are unable to find a remedy, but on the contrary have 
had every day more knowledge of the abominable here 
sies practised and taught by him, and of other enor 
mities committed by him, and have of this many trust 
worthy witnesses who have deposed and borne witness 
in the presence of the said Espinoza, and by whom he 
stood convicted; all which having been examined in 

1 For some of the mistakes of Colerus, based on the 
testimony of Van der Spyck, see Freudenthal s "Spinoza, 
etc.," Vol. I, p. 320. This particular incident Freuden- 
thal is willing to regard as historical. Vide op. cit. I, 
p. 68. 

2 Cf. Freudenthal, I, p. 69. 
3 Pollock s "Spinoza," p. 17. 


the presence of the elders, it has been determined 
with their assent that the said Espinoza should be ex 
communicated and cut off from the nation of Israel; 
and now he is hereby excommunicated with the following 

"With the judgment of the angels and of the saints we 
excommunicate, cut off, curse, and anathematize Baruch 
de Espinoza, with the consent of the elders and of all 
this holy congregation, in the presence of the holy books: 
by the 613 precepts which are written therein, with the 
anathema wherewith Joshua cursed Jericho, with the 
curse which Elisha laid upon the children, and with all 
the curses which are written in the law. Cursed be he 
by day and cursed be he by night. Cursed be he in 
sleeping and cursed be he in waking, cursed in going 
out and cursed in coming in. The Lord shall not pardon 
him, the wrath and fury of the Lord shall henceforth be 
kindled against this man, and shall lay upon him all the 
curses which are written in the book of the law. The 
Lord shall destroy his name under the sun, and cut him 
off for his undoing from all the tribes of Israel, with 
all the curses of the firmament which are written in the 
book of the law. But ye that cleave unto the Lord your 
God, live all of you this day. 

"And we warn you, that none may speak with him by 
word of mouth nor by writing, nor show any favor to 
him, nor be under one roof with him, nor come within 
four cubits of him, nor read any paper composed or 
written by him." 

This is certainly a terrible curse. It should be 
observed, however, that it was not one specially 
invented for Spinoza. It was a general formula 
which the Synagogue only applied to the particular 
case before them. 

It would be easy to misapprehend the nature and 
significance of Spinoza s excommunication. We 
should not forget that the Jewish congregation was 
a voluntary association, and, like all such, it had a 


perfect right to define for itself the conditions of 
admission and dismission. Under the circumstances, 
the mere expulsion of Spinoza can hardly be called 
persecution; but to let loose such an avalanche of 
curses upon his head was to go beyond mere ex 
pulsion, and must be characterized as, at best, ex 
treme religious fanaticism. 

The effects of this anathema have often been ex 
aggerated. It has generally been assumed that it 
entailed practical consequences of a very serious 
nature. But many things tend to show that in fact 
it did him little harm. It cannot be regarded as a 
hardship to forego the society of those with whom 
one no longer possesses anything in common. In 
deed Spinoza had already decided to sever his con 
nection with the Synagogue, when the excommuni 
cation saved him the trouble of taking the initiative. 
Moreover, to be cast out by the despised Jews, on 
account of dissent from their views, could at first 
only commend him to the favor of the rest of the 
community. Even the rending of family ties could 
not have been a matter of serious importance. His 
father, his own mother, his stepmother, and his sister 
Miriam were already dead. Only one member of 
the family remained, his half-sister Rebecca; and 
her attempt to rob him of his share in the father s 
estate, would indicate that he had nothing to lose 
in her. Besides, he had already formed new asso 
ciations that were much more congenial than the 
old. But after all qualifications have been made, it 
must still be recognized that the experience through 
which he passed at this time could not have been 
a pleasant one, especially for a person of Spinoza s 


To the act of excommunication Spinoza felt called 
upon to publish a reply, which is no longer extant. 

Lucas, an early but more or less untrustworthy 
biographer, relates that the chiefs of the Synagogue 
finally induced the Reformed clergy to unite with 
them in demanding Spinoza s banishment, and that 
the civil authorities, yielding to the pressure, 
actually expelled him from the city. The story 
lacks confirmation, and, in view of all the circum 
stances, seems to us very improbable. 1 

Of Spinoza s movements and whereabouts during 
the next few years, we have no certain knowledge; 
but it seems probable that he remained in and about 
Amsterdam. To the number of friends and ac 
quaintances he had already acquired here, were now 
added others, especially from among the Collegiants 
and Mennonites. 

The Collegiants, or Rijnsburgers, are generally 
believed to have been a branch of the "Remon 
strants," a name applied originally to those Dutch 

1 Pollock (p. 19) is disposed to regard the incident 
as historical. Freudenthal likewise (I, p. 81). Mar- 
tineau (p. 38) states the opposite view as follows: "This 
story, unsupported by personal or documentary evidence, 
has every internal mark of fiction. The Amsterdam 
magistrates were eminent for their firm guardianship of 
every citizen s rights. No law can be cited under which 
the alleged charge could be brought. If it existed, it 
would give the clergy no voice in the case, but must be 
executed by the civil power. The alleged offence included 
no overt act of public speech or writing, and was evi 
denced only by the hearsay of private conversation. 
And the sentence is said to have been passed by a 
tribunal conscious of its injustice." To these consider 
ations should be added (what Martineau did not know) 
that Casearius, Spinoza s private pupil of some years later, 
was a theological student of the Reformed Church. This 
fact would indicate that Spinoza was not even then gen 
erally suspected of having cast off religion as such, and 
was not yet seriously distrusted by the Christian clergy. 


Protestants who, after the death of Arminius, con 
tinued to maintain the views associated with his 
name, and in 1610 presented to the states of Hol 
land and Friesland a remonstrance" formulating 
the points in which they departed from the stricter 
Calvinism. The strife that followed issued in the 
complete victory of the stricter view at the Synod 
of Dort, which placed the " Remonstrants " under 
the ban. Deprived of their pastors, they conceived 
the possibility of getting on without a regular 
ministry. Accordingly they instituted meetings that 
ignored all ecclesiastical forms and distinctions. 
They were bound by no definite creed, although they 
generally assumed that belief in the authority of the 
Scriptures and in Christ as, in some sense, the Re 
deemer, was essential to religion. They welcomed, 
it is said, even Roman Catholics on the one hand and 
Socinians (Unitarians) on the other. Instead of 
ceremonies, ecclesiastical relations, and metaphysi 
cal doctrines, they emphasized right living as the 
only important element in religion. In many re 
spects thety- resembled the Mennonites, an older 
sect, and were finally absorbed by them. These like 
wise dispensed with a regular ministry, held simple 
beliefs, and laid the chief stress upon a right spirit 
and right conduct. But the bonds of sympathy be 
tween the members were not exclusively religious; 
they were in great part political. And it is im 
portant to note that among both sects were found 
liberal-minded men; that in fact many secularists 
and radical free-thinkers who had no religious in 
terest were included under those names. 

Of Spinoza s friends at this time the most im 
portant were the Mennonites: Peter Balling, Jarig 


Jelles, Simon de Vries, and Jan Rieuwertsz ; and the 
physicians: Lodewijk Meyer and Dirck Kerckring. 
They all possessed considerable interest in knowl 
edge, while Balling, Jelles, Meyer, and Kerckring be 
came writers of note, though of no originality. 

Spinoza s association with persons belonging to 
these sects has been interpreted as an evidence of 
strong religious interest. "The more devoutly he 
had been attached to the religious ideas of his own 
people," says his latest biographer, "the more 
painful must have been the void he felt, as they 
gradually paled before his eyes and finally appeared 
as mere illusions. For everything his faith had 
lost [in Judaism] he looked for a compensation in 
Christianity. n And Spinoza s association with Men- 
nonites and Collegiants was prompted, he thinks, 
by a religious desire to obtain from pious-minded 
men a more intimate knowledge of Christianity. 
Of course this is only a conjecture. We have no 
knowledge of Spinoza s spiritual experience at this 
time or earlier. We cannot say even that he had 
ever been "devoutly" attached to the religious 
ideas of his own people, if by this we mean that 
those ideas satisfied deeply-felt religious needs. 
That he was drawn into relations with sectarians 
by a religious interest in Christianity, is an un 
warrantable assumption. It is certain, on the con 
trary, that if at this time his fundamental views, 
as seems extremely probable, resembled those ex 
pounded in the earliest records of his thought, his 
rupture with Judaism resulted from a repudiation 
of the primary religious postulates which Judaism 
and Christianity have in common; and hence that 

1 Freudenthal, I, p. 64. 


when he abandoned the one he could not have hoped 
to find satisfaction in the other. Spinoza was not 
seeking another " faith;" he had already passed 
beyond faith. What attracted him was not any 
supposed light they could give him on religious 
problems; but rather "their fraternal union, their 
tolerance amid intolerance, and not least the politi 
cal fidelity they had shown to the wise and heroic 
upholders of the Republic." 1 In short, the bonds 
of sympathy between Spinoza and the sectaries 
in question were, so far as we can judge, in no wise 
religious, but ethical and above all political. The 
sects constituted political forces which could be 
relied upon to support the government against in 
tolerant demands of the Reformed clergy ; and hence 
stood for liberty of conscience, a cause in which 
Spinoza had the greatest interest, both theoretical 
and practical. Accordingly Spinoza turned to the 
Collegiants and Mennonites as his natural allies and 
protectors. As regards religion, he agreed with 
them only in their negations; in their rejection of 
ceremonialism and ecclesiasticism, in their opposi 
tion to intolerance, and in their distrust of the Re 
formed clergy. 

In the meantime, in order to be able to maintain 
himself, Spinoza had learned the art of polishing 
lenses. This occupation he seems to have chosen 
before others because of its relation to the science 
of optics, and because of Descartes example. He 
soon became skilled in his art, and easily sold 
through his friends a sufficient number to enable 
him to defray the expenses of his frugal life. 

1 Martineau, p. 19. 


While in and about Amsterdam, he doubtless 
spent most of his time in reading and thinking, 
and in conferences with his young friends. It 
seems probable that before leaving this place he 
composed his first work, the "Short Treatise on 
God and Man and his Well-being," 1 and that he 
either left it in the hands of his friends on his de 
parture or sent it back to them soon afterward. 
It was not intended for publication, but for circu 
lation among his friends in manuscript. Both in 
form and substance it contains many crudities which 
stamp it as his earliest composition. It is character 
ized by a profusion of religious expressions for con 
ceptions that he emptied of all religious meaning; 
a circumstance which is no doubt to be explained 
by the fact that his friends and others into whose 
hands the manuscript might fall, although open- 
minded, must have been still more or less bound 
to the religious ideas in which they had been nur 
tured. In doctrine it reveals the same general point 
of view as we find in his later works, although very 
important differences in the details of his system. 
Originally composed in Latin, it was soon trans 
lated into Dutch by one of his friends, and after 
wards lost to view entirely. Its existence was not 
suspected by scholars until 1852, when Edward 
Bohmer of Halle found an abstract appended to a 
copy of Kohler s "Biography of Spinoza." This 
soon led to the discovery of Dutch translations, but 
no copy of the original has yet come to light. 

1 Preudenthal thinks this work was composed chiefly, 
if not wholly, after leaving Amsterdam. Op. cit., p. 105. 


5. Sojourn in Rijnsburg. 

From Amsterdam Spinoza moved to Rijnsburg, 
a village near Leiden, probably in the year 1660. 
He is said to have accompanied thither a Collegiant 
friend with whom he had lived some time in Ouwer- 
kerk near Amsterdam. Rijnsburg was an important 
centre for Collegiants, so important in fact that 
they ,werq commonly called Rijnsburgers. Here 
Spinoza spent two or three of the most important 
years of his life. 

From a letter written to Oldenburg toward the 
end of 1661, l we learn that he had already been 
occupied for an indefinite time with a work, "de 
intellectus emendatione," which can have been 
nothing else of course than the unfinished treatise 
that has come down to us with this title. His re 
flections and investigations had evidently caused 
him to feel the need of working out more definitely 
his theory of knowledge and of clarifying his ideas 
in regard to logical method. The work represents 
his studies in these subjects. As we have it, the 
fragment occupies but thirty-seven printed pages. 
From the preface to his "Posthumous Works," writ 
ten by Lodewijk Meyer, who probably knew whereof 
he spoke, we learn that the difficulties encountered 
retarded the progress of the work, and even pre 
vented its completion. Apparently influenced by 
Descartes "Discours de la Methode," he introduces 
his subject in the form of a narration of personal 
experience in search of the summum lonum. His 
language in this part has often been regarded as 
that of a profoundly religious nature. In another 

Ep. 6, p. 217. 


connection we shall have occasion to quote and ex 
amine the most significant passages. 

In the meantime Spinoza had begun to give 
private instruction in Descartes philosophy to a 
young theological student called Johannes Casear- 
ius, who temporarily took lodgings in the same 
house. This name was formerly thought to be 
a pseudonym for Albert Burgh, 1 a subsequent con 
vert to Eoman Catholicism of whom we shall have 
a word to say later. The fact that a student of the 
ology belonging to the Reformed Church chose 
Spinoza as instructor in philosophy is significant 
as showing that Spinoza was not yet regarded with 
much, if any, suspicion outside of the Jewish com 
munity. The theological prepossessions of his 
pupil Spinoza found a source of irritation and dis 
trust, and he did not feel free to disclose his real 
opinions. He therefore confined himself to a pretty 
faithful reproduction of the doctrines of Descartes; 
in a few cases even supporting with arguments of 
his own the views he himself did not accept. In 
metaphysics he followed the more recent scholastics 
rather than Descartes, but frequently treated scho 
lastic doctrines in a way to expose their invalidity 
without expressly rejecting them. It was evidently 
his desire cautiously to plant in his pupil s mind the 
seeds of conversion to his own views. It is worth 
noting that Johannes Casearius became in later 
years an efficient minister of the Reformed Church 
and also a botanist of recognized merit. 

When Spinoza s friends at Amsterdam learned 
that he had written an outline of the second part 

1 Meinsma has set the matter right. Vide op. cit., pp. 


of Descartes "Principia" with, added " Metaphysical 
Thoughts," they urged him to make a similar ab 
stract of the first part, and to publish the whole. 
This he consented to do, on condition that some one 
would improve the style and write a preface ex 
plaining that in many particulars the " Metaphysi 
cal Thoughts" did not represent his real opinions. 
The work appeared in 1663 under the title "Renati 
des Cartes principiorum philosophiae Pars I et II, 
More Geometrico demonstratae per Benedictum de 
Spinoza Amstelodamensem. Accesserunt Ejusdem 
Cogitata metaphysica. " The author himself proba 
bly regarded it as of little importance, and in this 
estimate we must concur; but the contemporaneous 
public in Holland and Germany received it with 
great favor. He had unexpectedly made for him 
self a name. 

In the meantime he had also begun his greatest 
work, the "Ethics." Early in the year 1663, as we 
learn from a letter by Simon de Vries, 1 a portion, 
if not all, of the "First Part" was in the hands of 
his friends in Amsterdam. The work so early begun 
remained on his table many years, and was not com 
pleted until 1675. In form it is modeled after 
works on geometry. Starting from a body of 
axioms and definitions assumed to be self-evident, 
it proceeds by propositions, demonstrations, and 
corollaries from one point to another until the pre 
conceived goal has been reached. The form in which 
his argumentation is cast gives it the appearance 
of correctness; and, as the difficulty of following 
the tangled threads of his abstract reasoning has 
generally discouraged serious study of the work, 

Epis. 8 (olim 26). 


it has enjoyed the quite unwarranted reputation of 
being a master-piece of iron logic. 

Spinoza s friends in Amsterdam had already or 
ganized themselves into a kind of club for the study 
of his philosophy. It was their custom to read and 
discuss together parts of his writings, and then 
by letter ask Spinoza himself for further light on 
whatever remained unclear. Spinoza s replies con 
stitute an important source of our knowledge of his 

It was during his sojourn in Rijnsburg that he 
was visited by Henry Oldenburg, secretary of the 
recently founded Royal Society of London. On a 
journey through Holland and Germany in 1661, the 
Secretary heard of the promising young philosopher, 
and sought him out in his retreat at Rijnsburg. 
Judging from the letter written soon afterward, 
which opened a long and fruitful correspondence, 
Oldenburg must have been charmed not only with 
Spinoza s evident gifts of intellect, but with his 
personality also. 

6. Sojourn at Voorburg. 

In the spring of 1663 Spinoza moved from Rijns 
burg to Voorburg, a suburb of The Hague. His 
motive in this may have been the desire not only 
to avoid the many interruptions to which he was 
subjected by visitors, but also to draw nearer to 
influential acquaintances connected with the Gov 
ernment. For he had already attracted the atten 
tion and won the good-will of some of the great 
political leaders of the time, among others, the 
Grand Pensionary Jan de Witt. 


Here his time was spent in conferences and cor 
respondence with eminent men, in scientific and 
philosophical studies, and in grinding lenses. Two 
works in particular now claimed his attention, the 
" Ethics" and the "Theologico-Political Treatise." 
The first part of the " Ethics," as we have seen, was 
virtually completed before he left Rijnsburg. The 
work was continued at Voorburg, and we have good 
reasons to suppose was nearing completion in the 
year 1665, when he suddenly laid it aside not to 
take it up again for nearly ten years. He had de 
cided to devote himself for the time to the prepara 
tion of a book on the relation of Church and State, 
entitled "A Theologico-Political Treatise." 

To this step he was moved, it seems, both by the 
trend of public events and by certain personal con 
siderations. A conflict between Church and State 
was raging, in which the Reformed clergy made 
the most of public calamities (a plague and mili 
tary reverses), in order to overthrow De Witt. 
At the same time they redoubled their efforts to 
secure legal restraints on freedom of thought; and 
had already gained important successes. In 1662 
the states of Friesland had banished on pain of 
penal servitude those "servants of the Devil" 
known as Quakers, Mennonites, and Socinians; and 
in 1664 the magistrates of Amsterdam forbade the 
Mennonitefe to preach doctrines that "smack of 
Socinian heresies." In the midst of this revival of 
clericalism Spinoza became alarmed and annoyed 
by indications that he himself was now generally 
suspected of atheism. In the year 1665 the com 
munity in which he lived had occasion to elect a 
new pastor of the Reformed Church, and there de- 


veloped a strife between the liberals and the ortho 
dox. Spinoza s host, as leader of the liberals, had 
petitioned the competent authority in favor of a 
certain candidate known to be a liberal. The or 
thodox were scandalized of course, and in the heat 
of controversy called the petition "the work of a 
certain Spinoza, a Jew by birth, who is an atheist, 
a scoffer, and a bad subject in this Republic, as 
many learned men and ministers can testify." It 
was in these circumstances that Spinoza conceived 
the purpose of writing his " Theologico-Political 

According to the author, the specific aim of the 
work was: (1) To expose the prejudices of theo 
logians which hinder men from applying themselves 
to philosophy, and even to remove these prejudices 
from the minds of the more reasonable among them ; 
(2) As far as possible, to convince the people that 
he was no atheist, as they seemed to suppose; (3) 
To demonstrate the right to think what one 
pleases, and to say what one thinks. 1 By the preju 
dices of theologians he meant their belief in the 
Bible as an authoritative revelation of metaphysical 
truth ; and their consequent opposition to all thought 
calculated to invalidate biblical doctrines. It was 
his intention to show that the only important and 
valid element in biblical teaching is the ethical one, 
namely its inculcation of "justice and charity" 
in our relation to our fellow men. If by subjecting 
the Bible to thorough criticism he could make this 
appear, theologians would no longer be able to 
justify their distrust of the freest philosophical and 

1 Epis. 30. 


scientific inquiries, since these have to do not with 
moral practices, but with theoretical opinions. 

It will be observed that one of the declared ob 
jects of the work was to win to his view not only 
the public in general, but even the more reasonable 
among the theologians themselves. Another object 
was to show the people that he was not irreligious. 
The author s consciousness of these two incidental 
aims resulted in his producing one of the most 
puzzling books ever written. When thinking of 
open-minded theologians, he endeavors to present 
his novel ideas in a way least calculated to shock 
them, often making large concessions to their point 
of view; and when in addition he remembers his 
obligation to refute the charge of atheism, he goes 
still further and almost hides himself in religious 
phraseology. These aims were in fact incompatible 
with his theoretical point of view, and in so far 
his book failed to fulfil its mission; for it neither 
made converts of theologians nor removed the 
popular suspicion of atheism. But in spite of its 
peculiarities, the thoroughness, learning, and spirit 
of Spinoza s "Theologico-Political Treatise" re 
quire us to rank it with the ablest works in biblical 
criticism and with the noblest apologies of free 
speech. We shall have occasion to quote it at 

While at Voorburg Spinoza s income was in 
creased by a life-annuity fixed upon him by Simon 
de Vries. This enthusiastic admirer and devoted 
friend had at one time desired to present him with 
2,000 gulden, but the offer was refused on the 
ground that it was not needed. Later he proposed 
to pass over his own brother and to make Spinoza 


heir to all his property ; but this Spinoza considered 
unjust. In the end De Vries left his estate to his 
brother, with the proviso that he pay Spinoza an 
annuity of 500 gulden. Of this Spinoza consented 
to accept only 300 gulden ; a sum which he probably 
regarded as sufficient, though barely sufficient, to 
meet the demands of his simple life. At an un 
known date De Witt also assigned him a pension 
of 200 gulden, which was continued after the bene 
factor s death. The two sources of income com 
bined must have rendered him well-nigh independent 
of his handicraft. 

In the meantime the number of Spinoza s friends 
and acquaintances had considerably increased. 
Among those of political influence we have already 
mentioned the Grand Pensionary Jan de Witt, who 
befriended him until his violent death in 1672. 
Another of this class was the Burgomaster Johan 
Hudde of Amsterdam. One of the scholars with 
whom he had come into close relations was a dis 
tinguished scientist of the time, Christiaan Huygens, 
who lived at The Hague from 1664 to 1666. He was 
especially interested in Spinoza s skill in grinding 
lenses. Through Oldenburg, secretary of The 
Royal Society, Spinoza had also come into remote 
relations with Robert Boyle and others in Eng 
land. An acquaintance of quite a different type 
was a certain Willem van Blyenbergh, a grain- 
broker of Dort, who devoted his leisure to studies 
in theology and philosophy. His interest in knowl 
edge hardly measured up to what philosophers de 
mand of a thinker, inasmuch as he permitted 
"revelation" to set bounds to his inquiries. For 


this reason writers on Spinoza have treated Blyen- 
bergh with even more contempt than he deserves. 
Spinoza s exposition of Descartes "Principia" had 
fallen into his hands, and he had read it repeatedly, 
each time with increased pleasure, but still found 
certain parts unintelligible. He therefore took the 
liberty of writing to the author himself for explan 
ations, at the same time professing supreme devotion 
to the cause of "pure and sincere truth." Spinoza 
naturally supposed he had found a man after his 
own heart, and wrote him a frank and friendly 
reply. But Blyenbergh was more puzzled than 
ever; Spinoza s reasoning seemed to contradict the 
primary postulates of theology. At the very be 
ginning of his next letter, therefore, the amateur 
philosopher declared that "the revealed word of 
God" constituted for him one criterion of truth. 
Alas ! the new-found truth-seeker was after all only 
a theologian! Spinoza saw his mistake; but his 
natural complaisance constrained him to continue 
the correspondence. Several letters were exchanged, 
and even a personal conference held; but all this 
served only to bring out more clearly the irreconcil 
able difference between the two points of view. 
Finally Spinoza s patience gave way, and he term 
inated their relation by frankly writing the impor 
tunate friend that further correspondence would 
be unprofitable. A few years later, Blyenbergh 
published an alleged refutation of "the blasphemous 
book entitled A Theologico-political Treatise; 
and after Spinoza s death he again appeared in 
print, this time as an unsympathetic, and also in 
competent, critic of the "Ethics." 


As Spinoza s sojourn at Voorburg was nearing 
its end, the unhappy fate of a friend 1 of his must 
have caused him no little disquietude. Two 
brothers, John and Adrian Koerbagh, the former 
a student of theology, the latter of medicine and 
jurisprudence, had expressed themselves disparag 
ingly of the Bible, the Catechism, the doctrine of 
the Trinity, and other matters; and in 1666 were 
summoned before the Church authorities. On the 
evidence heard, John was debarred from the minis 
try; but, as he promptly recanted, he was restored 
to his previous standing. A year later he was be 
fore the Church again, and in 1668 was thrown into 
prison, from which he was released, after ten weeks, 
on promising good behavior for the future. But 
as he was not yet cured of his heresies, as in fact 
he proved to be incurable, he was finally declared 
unworthy to fill the pastoral office. His brother 
Adrian seems to have been a man of more conse 
quence. His offense consisted in having written two 
books entitled, "A Flower-Garden" and " Light in 
Dark Places," in which he had attacked the prin 
cipal dogmas of the Church. His case was preju 
diced not only by his wantonly offensive manner, 
but also by immoral teachings and practices. In 
the course of the trial Spinoza s name was men 
tioned, but Koerbagh asserted that Spinoza was in 
no way responsible for his teachings. In the face 
of imminent punishment his courage failed, as had 
that of his brother, and he professed to repent of 
his errors. It is indicative of how fiercely the spirit 

1 Cf. Freudenthal s Spinoza," Vol. I, p. 140, and 
Meinsma, op. cit., p. 272. 


of the Middle Ages still burned in the hearts of some, 
or at least of how it still lingered in the forms of law, 
that an officer of the court at first moved to send 
the culprit to prison for thirty years, to cut off his 
right thumb, and to bore his tongue through with 
a hot iron. The punishment to which he was 
actually condemned (July, 1668) was ten years 
of imprisonment at hard labor, ten years banish 
ment, and a fine of 6,000 gulden. After a little 
more than one year of imprisonment, he was lib 
erated by a welcome death. 

In judging those who pronounced this sentence, 
we need to remember that the culprit was con 
demned not merely for teaching novel religious 
doctrines, but also for sowing the seeds of immor 
ality; and that the free-thinking Burgomaster 
Johan Hudde approved the sentence. Indeed, it has 
been argued that even Spinoza could not have con 
sidered it unjust. 1 

7. At The Hague. 

In the year 1670 Spinoza transferred his residence 
from Voorburg, a suburb of The Hague, to the city 
itself. In the Veerkade, a quiet street, he engaged 
one room of the widow Van Velen, who was to 
provide him with his meals also; but, as living- 
expenses in the Capital were much greater than in 
Voorburg, he soon found his slender means insuf 
ficient for so much comfort. In May 1671, there 
fore, he moved into new quarters on the near-by 
Paviljoensgracht, in the house of the painter Van 
der Spyck. The apartment consisted of two rooms 

1 Freudenthal, "Spinoza," I, p. 145; cf. note p. 333 
and p. 179. 


on the second floor, and cost him eighty gulden a 
year. In order to live within his means, and perhaps 
also to give his impaired health the benefit of the 
greatest liberty in the choice of diet, he now pre 
pared his own meals. From Van der Spyck the 
early biographers of Spinoza obtained, years after 
ward, many facts, and, it seems, some fictions also, 
in regard to the life of the philosopher. 

The " Theologico-Political Treatise," as we have 
seen, was already finished. In accordance with his 
principles and habits, he now proceeded with the 
utmost caution to arrange for its publication. His 
customary prudence had not been diminished by 
the recent fate of his friend Adrian Koerbagh; 
although the punishment of this restless agitator 
hardly indicated that Spinoza s life or liberty was 
in danger. The two cases were quite different. 
Koerbagh was an immoral teacher of immorality; 
Spinoza a blameless teacher of virtue. Koerbagh 
wrote in the vernacular, and propagated his views 
orally among the common people; Spinoza wrote 
in Latin for the learned and spared the feelings 
of pious illiteracy. Koerbagh wantonly employed 
shocking and provoking language ; Spinoza gen 
erally sought to express his views in the least of 
fensive form possible. But whether for sufficient 
reason or not, Spinoza took every precaution against 
evil consequences by omitting his own name and 
that of the publisher, and by substituting Henricus 
Kiinrath in Hamburg instead of Christoffel Koen- 
rads in Amsterdam, the real name and place of the 
printer. The work appeared in the first part of 
the year 1670 (possibly before he actually settled 
in The Hague), and was soon attributed to the right 


author. Cries of execration greeted it on every 
side. As early as July of the same year voices were 
heard even from Germany denouncing the "bale 
ful" and "godless" book. A number of refuta 
tions appeared, the ablest of which was perhaps 
that written in 1671 by Lambert van Velthuysens, 
the scholar, jurist, and statesman. His imputation 
of atheism alarmed and deeply stung Spinoza; for 
had not one express aim of the "Treatise" been 
to purge the author s name of that taint? Spinoza s 
reply to the charge consisted in an appeal to his 
manner of life: Atheists chase after honors and 
excessive riches, which he had always despised,. 
His words will claim our attention in another place. 
In the meantime the ministers of the Reformed 
Church had bestirred themselves to prevent both 
the further circulation of this book and the publi 
cation of others by the same author. Synods and 
church councils vied with one another in denounc 
ing it as blasphemous and dangerous, and in de 
manding its suppression by the civil authorities; 
but as long as Jan de Witt directed the affairs of 
state they failed to obtain their desire. Under 
William III. of the House of Orange, however, who 
found it expedient to ally himself with the clergy, 
the States-General of Holland issued an edict (July. 
1674) forbidding the sale of the " Theologico-Po- 
litical Treatise" along with certain other heretical 
books. Alarmed by the hostility provoked, Spinoza 
himself had already interfered (1671) to prevent 
a Dutch translation, which would have made the 
contents of the book accessible to the general 
public. 1 For all this hostility he must have been 
J Bpis. 44 (olim 47). 


compensated in a measure by the noise his work 
had made in the world and by its rapid sale. In 
a few years not less than five reprints of the first 
edition appeared, some of them, to be sure, under 
false titles, as "The Surgical Works of Dr. Fran- 
ziskus Henriquez de Villacorta," "Collection of the 
Historical Writings of Daniel Heinsius," etc 

While the storm was raging in the world around 
him, Spinoza sat in his study revising and com 
pleting his "Ethics," which had been discontinued 
years before in order to write the "Theologico- 
Political Treatise." The circumstance that the last 
part of the "Ethics" was composed under these 
conditions may not be overlooked, if one will 
rightly estimate its significance. He had freely 
employed religious language in an accommodated 
sense in the "Theologico-Political Treatise," hoping 
thereby to prevent the impression that he was hostile 
to religion; but he had failed of his purpose. In 
the last part of the "Ethics," composed when his 
ears were ringing with the charges of atheism, he 
carries further than ever his policy of clothing non- 
religious conceptions in the phraseology of religion. 

In July, 1675, just one year after the "Theologico- 
Political Treatise" had been proscribed, Spinoza 
betook himself to Amsterdam with the finished 
manuscript of his new work for the purpose of ar 
ranging for its publication; but he found to his 
dismay that a rumor of the projected publication 
had already gone abroad, and that certain theolo 
gians were ready to make complaint against him to 
the Prince of Orange and the Government. More 
over, the Cartesians, jealous of their hard-won and 
precarious exemption from persecution, were seek- 


ing to maintain their respectability and security 
by loudly repudiating Spinoza s doctrines and by 
joining in active opposition to them. In the cir 
cumstances he decided to defer indefinitely the pub 
lication of the work; and in consequence it was 
not given to the press until after his death. 
Whether in this matter he was governed by exces^ 
sive timidity or only by justifiable prudence, is a 
question about which there will be differences of 
opinion. It is to be noted, in any case, that all the 
opposition he had thus far encountered was di 
rected against his writings, and not against himself. 
No resolutions of church councils and no measures 
taken by the civil authorities contemplated violence 
to his person. Whether he possessed grounds un 
known to us for fearing real persecution can not be 

In the midst of hostile demonstrations from his 
immediate environment, he received (1673), a 
notable testimony to his reputation and a gratify 
ing expression of confidence through a call to a 
chair of philosophy in the University of Heidelberg 
by the Elector Palatine Karl Ludwig. This en 
lightened Prince proposed to allow him full liberty 
of teaching, with one fatal reservation: he should 
not assail the dogmas of the established church. 
In this restriction Spinoza saw the possibility of in 
finite trouble. After brief deliberation, therefore, 
he respectfully declined the offer. This act has been 
represented as an evidence of his divine indifference 
to honors, position, and riches. We pay more 
respect to his sanity when we attribute his refusal 
simply to the plain dictates of common sense. The 
chances were a hundred to one that the position 


would at once cost him his independence and his 
peace of mind, and ultimately cause him to be sacri 
ficed to offended bigotry. He understood this very 
well, and hence wisely declined the appointment. 

In the meantime Spinoza s great patron, Jan de 
Witt, had met with a tragic fate. An unexpected 
invasion of Holland by a French army in 1672 had 
found the Republic s military organization quite 
unprepared to make effectual resistance. The in 
dignant citizens naturally cast all the blame on 
the strong man who had, perhaps in too arbitrary a 
spirit, assumed supreme control of the government. 
His downfall promptly followed. On the 27th of 
August, when visiting his imprisoned brother Cor 
nelius, an infuriated mob broke into the prison, 
dragged forth the unhappy pair and beat them to 
death in the streets. When Spinoza learned what 
had happened, he lost his wonted composure, and 
(according to Lucas) burst into tears of indignation 
and grief. Spinoza afterwards told Leibnitz (so the 
latter recounts) that in the night following the 
murder he wished to post in the streets a placard 
bearing the words "Ultimi barbaroruml", but was 
prevented by Van der Spyck, who locked the doors 
of the house. 

The invading French army was commanded by 
Prince Conde. While occupying the city of Utrecht, 
this Maecenas was reminded by Jean Baptiste 
Stouppe, a Swiss officer under him, that Spinoza 
dwelt not far away. Curious to see the famous 
author of the " Theologico-Political Treatise," he 
commissioned Stouppe to write Spinoza in his name 
inviting him to Utrecht. After some hesitation 
Spinoza decided to go. His reasons for doing so 


are not known, but it has been suggested that, after 
consultation with men of the Government, he ac 
cepted the invitation in hope of rendering some 
service to Holland. On his arrival, Conde being 
absent from the city, he was received with every 
attention by Stouppe and the Duke of Luxemburg, 
and was induced to remain several weeks awaiting 
the return of the Prince. When word came that the 
latter could not come again to Utrecht, Spinoza de 
parted at once for The Hague. Colerus, who ob 
tained his information later from Spinoza s not very 
reliable host, relates that on his return Spinoza was 
in danger of being maltreated by the populace, 
which suspected him of treasonable relations with 
the enemies of his country; and that his host was 
afraid the house would be taken by storm. Nothing 
is known of an actually assembled mob, and we are 
unable to say whether there was any real danger 
or not. 

In his modest apartment at The Hague Spinoza 
had the privilege of receiving many distinguished 
visitors, the most noteworthy of whom were the 
Swedish Chancellor Greiffencranz, the jurist Pufen- 
dorf, and the philosopher Leibnitz. Leibnitz s re 
peated visits possess particular interest, inasmuch as 
he was the only philosopher of equal rank with 
whom Spinoza came into personal relations. Cour 
tier and politician as well as philosopher, Leibnitz 
never succeeded in winning Spinoza s confidence; 
although he became a careful and, at one time, it 
seems, a sympathetic student of Spinoza s philos 
ophy. Later he was willing to minimize his connec 
tions with the "atheist" and to ignore his indebted 
ness to him. 


To the already numerous company of friends and 
disciples Spinoza had now added several new names. 
Among those who have not hitherto been mentioned 
were the son and namesake of his publisher, Jan 
Rieuwertsz, the physician Jean Maximilien Lucas, 
who afterward wrote a biography of the philos 
opher, and the three correspondents: Hugo Boxel, 
Herman Schuller, and Walter von Tschirnhaus. 
Tschirnhaus was the most important. Though 
not an original thinker, he was a sharp critic, and in 
his letters made some unanswerable objections, as 
we shall see, to certain points in Spinoza s philos 

It was during this period that Spinoza received 
an astonishing letter from a former pupil, Albert 
Burgh by name, who was then travelling in Italy. 
It conveyed the news that his pupil had become a 
communicant of the Roman Catholic Church, and it 
undertook to convert Spinoza to the same faith. 
"Do not refuse [to be converted]," it concluded, 
"for if you do not now heed the calls of God, his 
wrath will be kindled against you, and there is 
danger of your being abandoned by his infinite 
mercy and of your becoming a miserable victim of 
the all-consuming divine justice." The youth s well- 
meant arguments and ardent exhortations which 
bear the marks if his father confessor provoked a 
sharp and indignant reply, which is of interest 
chiefly as evidencing the depth of Spinoza s philo 
sophical convictions. "You ask me," he says, "how 
I know that my philosophy is the best of all those 
that have been taught in the world, are now taught, 
or ever will be taught ; which question I have a much 
better right to ask you. For I do not assume to have 


found the best philosophy, but I know I comprehend 
the true philosophy." 

Spinoza lived at The Hague seven years. In this 
period his literary productiveness was not commen 
surate with that of the preceding years. The fact 
was perhaps due to failing health. The Theologico- 
Political Treatise" had been completed and the 
"Ethics" brought well nigh to a conclusion before 
he left Voorburg. Nothing written at The Hague is 
comparable with either. As the literary fruit of 
this considerable period we have only the notes to 
the "Theologico-Political Treatise," a short essay 
on the rainbow, a fragment of a "Compendium of 
a Grammar of the Hebrew Language," and an un 
finished work entitled "A Political Treatise." 

He had now reached the forty-fourth year of his 
age. Though still a comparatively young man, his 
physical constitution was broken. With the seeds 
of consumption in his body, he had applied himself 
too unremittingly to study, and had allowed him 
self too little fresh air and recreation. Doubtless 
the inhalation of fine glass-dust incident to his hand 
icraft also affected his health unfavorably. About 
four o clock on Saturday, February 20, 1677, he came 
down stairs, smoked a pipe of tobacco, and con 
versed with Van der Spyck on various subjects, 
including the sermon preached that afternoon by 
the Lutheran pastor. He then retired to his rooms 
and went early to bed. Sunday morning before 
church time he came down again, and conversed 
with his hosts. Meanwhile the physician whom he 
had called (either Lodewijk Meyer or Schuller 1 ) 

1 Until recently the common assumption has been that 
the physician in question was Meyer; but Preudenthal, 


arrived, and ordered for him a bowl of chicken 
broth. Of this Spinoza partook with relish at 
noon. In the afternoon Van der Spyck and his wife 
again went to church, leaving Spinoza at home with 
his physician. Upon their return, they were sur 
prised to learn that Spinoza had passed away. His 
funeral, which took place four days later, was at 
tended, we are told, by many eminent persons who 
wished to show their respect and affection for the 
departed lover of truth. He who had never accepted 
Christianity, or, as we shall see, even recognized 
the validity of any religion, was buried, as it hap 
pened, in a Christian church in the new church 
on the Spuy. The earthly possessions he left be 
hind were little more than sufficient to pay his 
trifling debts and to defray the expenses of the 
modest funeral. 

In November of the same year, his friends pub 
lished the "Opera Posthuma," consisting of the 
"Ethica" and the three fragments: "De Intellectus 
Emendatione," "Compendium Grammatices Lin 
guae Hebraeae," and "Tractatus Politicus," to 
gether with selected letters. 

8. His Personality. 

During the last years of his life and for a long 
time after his death, Spinoza was frequently re 
ferred to as an atheist, and occasionally by hostile 
religionists as possessing what was popularly sup 
posed to go with atheism, a diabolical spirit. But 
even his antagonists did not charge him with any 

following the Dutch writer, W. Meijer, concludes on 
various grounds that he was Schuller. Op. cit., p. 303; 
cf. note. 


specific lapses from moral rectitude or with any 
specific flaws of character. Nevertheless the dero 
gation of the man (as distinguished from the dis 
paragement of his views), little and obscure as it 
has been, has provoked in reply a glorification 
amounting sometimes almost to apotheosis. In order 
to vindicate his moral character against the insinu 
ations supposed to be implied in the charge of 
atheism, his admirers have emphasized his virtues, 
even the most common virtues, so strongly as to 
create the impression on the uninformed that he was 
not only a saint, .but a sort of religious genius. 
Characteristic utterances of this kind we shall 
shortly have occasion to quote. 

At the risk of appearing ungenerous, we will at 
tempt to portray in a few words the real Spinoza; 
and, for the sake of precision, we shall do so both 
in negative and positive terms. What we are about 
to say will appear fully justified only after studying 
his writings. In characterizing him negatively, we 
must say that he was no saint. (Not all abused 
heretics are saints). We may not say even that he 
was in any sense religious. (Not all Jews are re 
ligious). He frequently went to church; he some 
times even praised the preaching to which he 
listened ; he used to tell his hostess her religion was 
good enough, and exhorted her to give ear to the 
instructions of her pastor; but all this, as we shall 
see, was only the consistent observance of a funda 
mental prudential maxim of his, enforced perhaps 
by a natural considerateness for the feelings of 
others. Himself and all emancipated minds he re 
garded as above religion. Describing him in posi 
tive terms, we must say that he was a sincere, harm- 


less, amiable man; but these qualities do not place 
him upon a pinnacle of unique moral excellence ; for 
as much may be said of too many others. It is 
certain that his most serious defect of character 
was lack of moral courage. But this, as we have 
already observed, is explained and extenuated by 
the fact that he was nurtured in a community which 
was compelled to practice discretion rather than 
valor. If he had no personal interest in religion, 
he had a supreme, one might say, exclusive interest 
in knowledge. The pursuit of knowledge was a 
passion with him, and it was the only passion that 
possessed him. Probably there is not another ex 
ample in history of a man whose thinking was so 
little influenced by emotional and volitional ele 
ments. To a unique extent he was disposed to look 
at all things in the dry light of reason. It is this 
that makes him so fascinating to men whose domin 
ant interests are scientific and philosophical. And 
it was because of his exclusive interest in knowledge, 
not because of any * other-worldliness, " that he at 
tached no value to money. His wants were few, 
and beyond the satisfaction of these, money could 
not procure him anything he prized. 



1. Various Expressions on the Subject. 

From Spinoza s own time, but especially since the 
latter part of the Eighteenth Century, there has pre 
vailed the most extraordinary diversity of opinion 
in regard to the significance of Spinoza and his 
philosophy for religion. 

Pierre Bayle, one of the first to give a biographical 
notice of Spinoza, says, in his famous "Dictionnaire 
Historique et Critique," that he was "an atheist 
of an entirely new method," 1 and elsewhere that he 
was "the greatest atheist that ever lived." Leib 
nitz claimed that Spinoza denies intelligence to God 
and puts a blind necessity in his place. 2 Jakobi, an 
appreciative student of the system, to whom was 
due especially the renewal of interest in Spinoza in 
the Eighteenth Century, regarded the system as 
atheistic, 3 although he expressed admiration for the 
man. Kant confessed that he had not carefully 
studied Spinoza s philosophy, but he did not hesitate 
to relegate it to the class of fatalistic systems which 

1 Article on Spinoza: "II a e"t6 un athee de systSme et 
d une mSthode toute nouvelle." Cf. Pens6es diverses sur 
les Cometes. Both are found in Freudenthal s "Lebens- 
geschichte Spinoza s." 

Works, by Gerhardt, I, 149: "Dicit Deum proprie non 
intelligere ne velle." Theodic6e, Sec. 173: "II parait 
avoir enseigne express6ment une necessity aveugle." 

3 Ueber die Lehre des Spinoza. Breslau, 1785. 


deprive the World-ground of all understanding. 
Fichte characterized Spinoza s "God" as one that 
never becomes self-conscious, and Schelling calls 
the principle of Spinoza s pantheism "blind" sub 
stance. Hegel, as is quite intelligible, places a very 
high estimate on the system as such, regarding it 
in fact as the very type of speculative thinking, and 
would call it "Acosmism" rather than "Atheism; * 
yet he finds that it lacks the principle of person 
ality; for Spinoza s Absolute is only "rigid sub 
stance, not yet Spirit." 1 In his famous "Addresses 
on Religion," Schleiermacher has referred to 
Spinoza in language which implies that his philos 
ophy is in the highest degree religious and that 
Spinoza himself was a sort of Christian saint. 
"Reverently offer with me," he exclaims, "a lock 
to the shades of the holy cast-out Spinoza ! The ex 
alted World-spirit penetrated him; the Infinite was 
his beginning and end, the Universe his only and 
eternal love! In holy innocence and deep humility 
he gazed into the eternal world and saw how He was 
its most lovable mirror. Full of religion was he, 
and full of the Holy Spirit!" 2 Of the post- 

1 Vorlesungen iiber die Geschichte der Philosophie, III, 
373-7: "Wenn man anfangt zu philosophieren, so muss 
man zuerst Spinozist sein." "Der Spinozismus 1st also 

2 Reden iiber die Religion. Piinjer s edition, p. 52: 
"Opfert mit mir ehrerbietig eine Locke den Manen des 
heiligen verstossenen Spinoza! Ihm durchdrang der 
hohe Weltgeist, das Unendliche war sein Anfang und 
Ende, das Universum seine einzige und ewige Liebe, in 
heiliger Unschuld und tiefer Demut spiegelte er sich in 
der ewigen Welt, und sah zu wie Er ihr liebenswiirdig- 
ster Spiegel war; voller Religion war er und voll heiligen 
Geistes; und darum steht er auch da, allein und uner- 
reicht, Meister in seiner Kunst, aber erhaben iiber die 
profane Zunft, ohne Jiinger und ohne Biirgerrecht." 


Hegelian philosophers in Germany, S. G. W. Sig- 
wart,* A. Trendelenburgh, 1 and J. H. Loewe 2 have 
attempted to show that Spinoza s God must be re 
garded as self-conscious. Schopenhauer, who was a 
careful and appreciative student of Spinoza, observes 
that he deprived the Absolute of personality, and 
that "God" is only the euphumistic name which he 
gave to matter in order to make it respectable. Johann 
Ed. Erdmann 3 concedes a peculiar kind of self-con 
sciousness to Spinoza s Absolute, and Christoph Sig- 
wart 4 also seems to think that the "Ethics" at least 
contains sufficient grounds for this assumption. On 
the other hand, Kuno Fischer, 5 Th. Camerer, 6 and 
James Martineau 7 take the opposite view; although 
Kuno Fischer misleadingly asserts also that Spinoza 
was in agreement with essential Christianity. 8 
Frederick Pollock, in his recent work, affirms that 
in Spinoza s system "God" is impersonal, but not 
unconscious ; 9 and, assuming an attitude character 
istic of many other writers, adds: "We decline to 
enter on the question on which chapters if not vol 
umes might be spent, whether Spinoza s way of 

* Der Spinozismus historisch und philosophisch erlau- 
tert. Tubingen, 1839. 

1 Historische Beitrage zur Philosophie, p. 55. 

2 Die Philosophie Fichtes. Mit einem Anhange. Ueber 
den Gottesbegriff Spinoza s und dessen Schicksale. Stutt 
gart, 1862. 

"Grundriss d. Geschichte d. Philosophie, Sec. 272, 7. 
4 Spinoza s neuentdeckter Traktat, pp. 94-95. 
8 Geschichte der neueren Philosophie, Fourth ed., p. 

Die Lehre Spinoza s, p. 1. 

T Study of Spinoza, Third ed., pp. 330-350. 
Descartes u. seine Schule, II, p. 152. 
Spinoza: His Life and Philos., p. 328. 


looking at the world and man is to be called a reli 
gion or not."* Pfleiderer fails to determine with 
sufficient precision Spinoza s conception of "God," 
but assumes that it is a religious conception, and 
that Spinoza was a man of strong religious interest. 
"With all his daring in the fight against traditional 
opinions," he says, "Spinoza is as far from being 
an enemy of true religious faith as was Luther in 
his bold attacks on Romish dogmas." 1 But Van 
Vloten, the enthusiastic Dutch student of Spinoza, 
who has given us the latest and best edition of his 
works, expresses himself as follows: "By retaining 
the name of God, while he did away with his person 
and character, he has done himself a great in 
justice It is in his having done away 

with final causes, and with God along with them, 
that Spinoza s true merit consists." 2 While Freud- 
enthal, speaking in a vein typical of many, says: 
"The heart of his teaching is pious self-surrender to 
an infinite Divine Being. There is no justification, 
therefore, for his having been long calumniated as 
an impious corrupter of morals and as an atheist. 
He who seeks his happiness and freedom in the love 
of God cannot be called irreligious. He who regards 
virtue as its own reward cannot be a corrupter of 
morals. And no atheist is he who, like Spinoza, 
finds in the idea of God the foundation and com 
pletion of all knowledge." 3 

* Ibid., p. 333. 

1 Geschichte d. Religionsphilosophie, 45. 

2 Quoted by Matthew Arnold in his essay, "Spinoza and 
the Bible," from Van Vloten s "Supplementum." 

8 Spinoza. Sein Leben und seine Lehre. Stuttgart, 
19041, 310. 


Many who have not been critical students of 
philosophy have not hesitated to express quite posi 
tive judgments in regard to Spinoza s relation to 
religion. Most of these have assumed as a matter 
of course not only that Spinoza himself was a man 
of the strongest religious interest, but that his Ab 
solute is an omnipotent, omnipresent conscious 
ness, the God of religion par excellence. Herder, 
for example, one of the earliest admirers of Spinoza 
in Germany, seemed to see in his infinite substance 
the fullness of all spiritual perfections ; and ranked 
Spinoza himself with the Apostles, saying: "The 
flame of all thought and of all feeling is love. It is 
the highest reason as well as the purest divine ex 
ercise of the will. If we will not believe this on the 
authority of Saint John, we may do so on that of 
the doubtless still more divine Spinoza!" 1 In the 
same vein writes Von Dalberg in a letter to 
Herder: "Spinoza and Christ, in these two alone 
is found pure knowledge of God ; in Christ the secret, 
higher way to divinity ; in Spinoza the highest peak 
that reasoning can reach." 2 Friedrich von Harden- 
berg (Novalis), in his emphatic ascription of a re 
ligious character to Spinoza, called him the "God- 
intoxicated philosopher" a phrase that has since 
become famous. Hegel s characterization of the 
system as acosmism, though understood by students 
of philosophy, has often been mistaken by others for 
an authoritative expression of the view that for Spi- 

1 Gott. Einige Gesprache von J. G. Herder, p. 41. 

8 In Herder s Reise nach Italien, p. xxx. Quoted in 
Van der Linde s "Spinoza: seine Lehre und deren erste 
Nachwirkungen in Holland." 


noza the world was nothing and God was every 
thing, God, that is, in the religious, not the merely 
metaphysical sense of the term. Alfred Tennyson 
once remarked that Spinoza, though often misunder 
stood, was in fact "so full of God that he sees Him 
everywhere, so much so that he leaves no room for 
man;" 1 and applied to him the oft-quoted phrase 
gottbctrunkcii 1 ( God-intoxicated. 2 Ernest Renan. 
in his commemorative oration, exclaims: "Listen, 
listen, Gentlemen, to the recipe of the * prince of 
atheists for finding happiness. It is the love of 
God. To love God is to live in God. Life in God is 
the best, the most perfect; for it is the most reason 
able, the happiest, the fullest." 3 Coleridge, who was 
anxious to vindicate Spinoza from the charge of 
atheism, seems in one passage to admit that he 
denies all intelligence to the Absolute. 4 Referring 
to the view of Van Vloten cited above, Matthew 
Arnold asserts that "compared with the soldier of 
irreligion M. Van Vloten would have him to be, 
Spinoza is religious;" 5 and he quotes at face value 

1 Alfred Lord Tennyson: A Memoir by his Son, Vol. 
II, 424. 

3 Daniel G. Brinton, in his recent "Religions of Primi 
tive Peoples," incidentally confesses to the same view 
of Spinoza: "It makes no difference whether we analyze 
the superstitions of the rudest savages, or the lofty 
utterances of John the Evangelist, or of Spinoza the 
God-intoxicated philosopher; we shall find one and the 
same postulate to the faith of all." p. 47. 

3 Spinoza. Discours prononce a la Have le 21 fevrier 
1877, a 1 occasion du 200e anniversaire de sa mort, p. 
20. La Haye, Martinus Nijhoff. 1877. 

4 Compare citations given by Martineau ("Study of 
Spinoza," pp. 329 and 333) from marginal notes by 
Coleridge in a copy of Paulus Spinoza now in the 
Library of Manchester New College, London. 

5 Essays in Criticism, p. 252. 


Spinoza s own language, The love of God is man s 
highest happiness and blessedness." 1 The German 
poet Heinrich Heine has expressed himself in re 
gard to Spinoza s life in language which can mean 
only that personally Spinoza was an intensely re 
ligious character, and by implication that Spinoza s 
system is a religious conception of the world. 
"His life," says he, "was a copy of the life of his 
divine kinsman, Jesus Christ." Goethe, in a letter 
to Jakobi, once said of Spinoza: "He does not prove 
the existence of God; for him existence is God. 
And if on this account others abusively call him an 
atheist, I want to call him, to his praise, superla 
tively theistic, superlatively Christian." 2 

2. Causes and Significance of the Diversity 
of Opinion. 

The foregoing quotations present a formidable ar 
ray of doctors who disagree, and are calculated at 
first to create the presumption that the point in ques 
tion is hopelessly obscure. It will be observed, how 
ever, that not all of them are entitled to serious con 
sideration. They may be divided into three classes: 
(1) rhetorical expressions, (2) opinions of those 
who are not competent to form an intelligent judg 
ment in the matter, and (3) the judgments of philo 
sophical critics. In regard to the first class, it must 
be said that, in highly wrought language that has 
a rhetorical motive behind it, we should not look 

1 Ibid., p. 249. 

2 Griinwald, "Spinoza in Deutschland," p. 119: "Er 
beweist nicht das Daseyn Gottes, das Daseyn ist Gott. 
Und wenn ihn andere deshalb Atheum schelten, so mochte 
ich ihn Theissimum und Christianissimum nennen und 


for accurate statements of truth, but for the strik 
ing expression of half-truths or of plausible un 
truths. Such language has but little logical value 
even in the mouth of a philosopher; and we should 
attach no importance to it in the present contro 
versy. For this reason we may not take very seri 
ously the glowing words of Schleiermacher. Although 
recognizing that, on account of the peculiarities of 
his own thinking, Schleiermacher must naturally 
have been attracted by Spinoza s doctrine of an 
infinite immanent cause, and must also have acknowl 
edged, in common with all unprejudiced persons, 
the blamelessness of Spinoza s life, we are com 
pelled nevertheless to make considerable allowance 
for rhetoric. That sort of reference to Spinoza at 
the time when the educated public was doing tardy 
justice to his philosophy and personality, was well 
calculated to win from that class a hearing for the 
claims of religion, and this was the aim of Schleier 
macher s "Addresses." 

The opinions of the second class, of those, 
namely, who are not competent judges in the mat 
ter do not deserve of course serious consideration; 
although they are the most confidently asserted and 
the most frequently met. As a matter of fact, 
there are very few who have a right to express any 
views on the subject. No value may be attached to 
the opinions of any one who is not a student of 
philosophy in general and has not given long and 
patient thought to Spinoza in particular. The ut 
terances, therefore, of such men as Herder, Tenny 
son, Heine, and even Goethe have no importance. 
In general they are only impressions gained from an 
uncritical or partial reading of Spinoza s writings. 


Some of them have no better foundation than mere 

As to the philosophical critics, whose opinions 
require respectful consideration, it will be recog 
nized that they have not always clearly distin 
guished between three different questions; namely, 
(1) What was Spinoza s personal character? (2) Is 
Spinoza s God to be regarded as intelligent or not? 
and (3) Does his system furnish an adequate theo 
retical basis for religion? Each of these questions 
should be answered by itself, even the third; for, 
notwithstanding that it would really be answered 
in answering the second, the identity of the two is 
not always clearly recognized. Indeed, a cross- 
examination of witnesses would certainly bring out 
the fact that many expressions which imply opposite 
views of Spinoza s attitude toward religion repre 
sent at bottom different opinions, not in regard to 
Spinoza s teaching, but in regard to what constitutes 
religion on the one hand and atheism on the other. 
For this reason the same author will often seem to 
imply different views of Spinoza in different pas 
sages. Freudenthal, for example, whom we have 
quoted above, is able to deny that Spinoza is an 
atheist, and at the same time to say: "To pray to 
the Deity, to whom he attributes neither understand 
ing nor will, appears to him to betray a mental 
weakness, at which he smiles." 1 

The failure to make the distinction referred to 
has not in every case been an unwilling one. On 
this question, in fact, as on every other that relates 
in any way to religion, there has been a regrettable 
want of frankness. Those who have regarded Spi- 

1 "Spinoza: Sein Leben u. seine Lehre." I, p. 197. 


noza s philosophy as irreligious, or anti-religious, 
have often seemed to shrink from saying as much 
in unequivocal language. Apparently there has pre 
vailed a fear that such an expression might be in 
terpreted as a detraction 1 of Spinoza s character; 
or that it might precipitate upon the head of the 
critic the reproach of being in secret sympathy 
with hostile theologians; or, in case appreciation 
of Spinoza were sufficiently warm to disarm this 
suspicion, that it might expose the critic to the 
charge of being at heart an atheist himself. Accord 
ingly we find that most of those who have unam 
biguously expressed the opinion that Spinoza s 
system is irreligious and that Spinoza himself pos 
sessed no religious interest are clear-headed theo 
logians on the one hand and avowed atheists, such 
as Schopenhauer and Van Vloten, on the other, 
a very significant agreement. 

Another circumstance that sometimes makes it 
difficult to determine precisely the thought of those 
who have expressed, or implied, judgments in re 
gard to the point in question, is the indefinite mean 
ing of the terms employed. In philosophical dis 
cussion, even the word "God" is employed in two 
senses, namely; either for the Absolute in the meta 
physical sense which may not possess a single 
character in common with the God of religion, save 
absoluteness or for the theistic, i. e. religious, con- 

1 This apprehension has not been groundless. Matthew 
Arnold, for example, (Essays in Criticism) characterizes 
Pierre Bayle s language in regard to Spinoza as a "de 
traction," although Bayle says merely that Spinoza s 
system is atheistic. Matthew Arnold thus does what he 
can to perpetuate the now obsolescent habit of making 
mere theoretical opinions grounds for imputations 
against a man s character. 


ception of the Absolute only. When, therefore, 
someone insists that Spinoza believed in "God," 
we are no wiser than before, until we know which 
God is meant. And as for "atheism," it is a word 
that has acquired from its associations such an of 
fensive odor and such vagueness of meaning that, as 
a recent writer has remarked, "polite and intelligent 
persons" have lately shrunk from using it. When 
it is employed without definition, we do not know 
whether to take it as an abusive epithet or simply 
as the name for an anti-religious but not neces 
sarily immoral world-view. If some one, therefore, 
resents the suggestion that Spinoza was an atheist, 
we cannot be sure this means more than that Spi 
noza, in his opinion, was a harmless man. It would 
conduce to greater clearness of thought in the field 
of religious-philosophical discussion, if we agreed to 
retain the word in its etymological signification as 
designating simply an anti-religious conception of the 
Absolute, without implying any reflection on the 
character of the person who holds it. The spirit 
of charity and tolerance is now so far advanced 
that it is generally recognized that all varieties of 
purely theoretical views are compatible with eleva 
tion of character ; and it ought to be possible at last 
to call systems of philosophy by unambiguous names. 
In so far as there has been any real difference of 
opinion among students of philosophy in regard to 
Spinoza s attitude to religion, it has been due to 
varying estimates of the value of his religious termi 
nology. Those who have either left the question 
undecided or taken Spinoza s philosophy for a re 
ligious system, seem to assume that the expression? 
he borrows from religious language retam more or 


less of their original meaning. Beginning with the 
prejudice that Deus must mean "God," they meet 
this and kindred expressions so constantly in read 
ing Spinoza that they never quite succeed in getting 
rid of the prejudice, in spite of the fact that Spinoza 
gives his own definitions of nearly all the terms he 
employs. The ideas commonly expressed by a word 
become so inseparably linked with it through asso 
ciation that a constant effort is required to think 
it in a new or modified sense ; and it is not surpris 
ing that we find the subtle influence of Spinoza s 
terminology manifest in the judgments of other 
wise clear thinkers. If no other change were made 
in his system than the substitution throughout of 
the word " nature" for "God" a substitution 
which he himself expressly permits it is probable 
that no religious character would ever have been 
ascribed to his philosophy, and it is certain that the 
title "God-intoxicated philosopher" would never 
have occurred to anyone. 

In view of the state of philosophical nomen 
clature in his time, it ought to be recognized that, 
even if he had desired to employ unambiguous 
terms, he would have found them with difficulty. 
It is not quite obvious, in fact, with what word he 
could have replaced Dens. "Nature" has been 
proposed, but this word suggests the changing world 
of immediate sense-perception rather than a change 
less ultimate condition, or cause, of the sense- 
world, the object which Spinoza defines as Deus. 
We have, however, good grounds for supposing that 
he did not always intend to employ unequivocal 
language. We know it was his conviction that a 
high degree of accommodation, both in language 


and in practice, to unemancipated minds could help 
on the cause of science and philosophy. The first 
among his regulae vivendi for the devotees of 
knowledge runs as follows: "To accommodate our 
speech to the mind of the multitude and to practice 
all those things [in vogue] which do not hinder us 
from attaining our end. For we are able to obtain 
no little advantage from the multitude, provided we 
accommodate ourselves as far as possible to the 
mind of the same. Moreover, as a result of this 
policy, they will lend friendly ears to the truth." 1 
He seems, therefore, to have thought it the part of 
wisdom and of zeal for the progress of sound knowl 
edge, to render the bitter pills of new truth more 
palatable by sugar-coating them with traditional 
phraseology, and, as far as possible, to conform in 
conduct to current conventionalities. 

Not only did he define this attitude as sound in 
theory, but there exists the best of evidence that he 
reduced theory to practice. As this fact is persist 
ently ignored by influential writers, and as a recog 
nition of it is a necessary condition of understanding 
Spinoza s doctrine of religion, we are compelled to 
emphasize it to a degree that might otherwise seem 

1 De Intellectus Emendatione, p. 6. The text reads as 
follows: "Ad captum vulgi loqui, et ilia omnia operari, 
quae nihil impedimenti adferunt, quo minus nostrum 
scopum attingamus. Nam non parum emolument! ab 
eo possumus acquirere, modo ipsius captui, quantum fieri 
potest, concedamus; adde, quod tali modo arnicas prae- 
bebunt aures ad veritatem audiendam." Some one will 
no doubt try to understand ad captum vulgi loqui as mean 
ing, "to accommodate our language to the capacity of 
the multitude," in the sense of avoiding learned and 
technical language, but this would not be consistent with 
the fact that Spinoza always wrote in Latin, nor in 
harmony with the context. 


Of his outward conformity to popular customs 
with which he could have had no inward sym 
pathy, we have an example in his frequent attend 
ance on public worship, where he reverently en 
dured tedious expositions of orthodox theology. 
That he sometimes employed accommodation in 
language, and even in ideas, he expressly declares. 
After he had dictated to a pupil a course of lectures 
in Descartes philosophy, which he had supple 
mented with a discussion of his own in regard to 
certain points in metaphysics, he printed his notes 
for the benefit of intimate friends. The resultant 
work he refers to in a letter to Oldenburg 
as a treatise " which I had dictated to a 
certain youth to whom I was unwilling to 
teach my opinions openly; n and adds that the 
appended "Metaphysical Thoughts," purporting to 
contain his own views, were so far from doing so 
that on certain points they expressed "precisely 
the opposite." Before printing the manuscript, he 
had in fact required a preface to be written warn 
ing readers that not all the views expressed in the 
work were his own. Hence it cannot, of course, be 
charged that in this case the accommodation was 
to the mind of the public ; but the fact remains 
that on his own testimony he had accommodated 
his instruction to the views of his pupil. His friend 
Lodewijk Meyer, who wrote the preface, specifies, 
among the things which Spinoza did not accept, 
the doctrine of free will, and adds: "It must also 
not be overlooked here, that into the same category, 
i. e. of things to be affirmed only from the standpoint 
of Descartes, must be put the expression found in 

1 Epis. 13 (olim 9). 


many passages, namely, this or that is beyond the 
reach of the human mind; for this is not to be ac 
cepted as if our author, in saying such things, spoke 
according to his own way of thinking." What 
Meyer says about this expression ought to be care 
fully noted, for it occurs in other of Spinoza s 
works. In regard to its use here, we may properly 
remark only that as the doctrine of the will is re 
ferred to by Meyer as but one case ex multis of 
anti-Spinozism contained in the work, we may as 
sume that Spinoza had not discussed frankly with 
his pupil any subject in regard to which he dissented 
from traditional theology. 

That the preface must have been submitted to 
Spinoza and have received his express approval, 
appears from his letter to Oldenburg, where he says 
the only condition on which he had permitted the 
work to be printed was that, me praesente, some one 
should revise the style and write a preface. It is 
quite certain therefore that, in matters touching 
religion, Spinoza was disposed indirectly to intro 
duce his own ideas into the mind of his pupil while 
formally teaching opposite views. In the preface, 
Lodewijk Meyer says indeed that Spinoza thought 
himself bound in conscience to give his pupil nothing 
which would contradict Descartes, since he had 
promised to instruct him in Descartes philosophy. 
But this is not what Spinoza himself writes to 
Oldenburg. Without considering himself obliged 
to justify what he has done by asserting the claims 
of duty, Spinoza frankly declares that he was 
simply "unwilling" to teach the youth his real 
opinions "openly." His unwillingness to do so 
"openly" implies his willingness to do so indirectly. 


His disappointment in his pupil is no doubt to be 
explained in part by the latter s inaptitude to in 
doctrination of this kind. 

The warning to his confidants at Amsterdam by 
no means to reveal his real opinions to the young 
man, 1 shows that his caution in this case was due 
chiefly to motives of personal prudence. The fear of 
disagreeable consequences is, in fact, something 
which was much of the time present to Spinoza s 
consciousness when writing. This too constant 
state of mind formulated itself in the general maxim 
which, in one form or another, the reader of his 
works often meets, that "it is a common vice of men 
to confide their counsels to others." 1 It is a signifi 
cant fact, well illustrating how great a role prudence 
played in his life, that even his seal-ring bore the 
inscription, Cautious ! 3 

This excessive prudence caused him to defer 
from time to time the publication of differ 
ent works, and even to hesitate about publishing 
at all. "I shall rather be silent," he writes to 
Oldenburg, who constantly and earnestly urges him 
to publish his thoughts, "I shall rather be silent 
than obtrude my opinions upon men against the 
will of my country, and thus render them hostile 
to me." 4 That words like these should ever have 
been represented as only expressions of a noble 

1 Epis. 9 (olim 27). Cf. Martineau, p. 43, note. 
2 Tractatus Theol.-Polit, (V. VI. & L.) I, p. 603. 
Quoted by Martineau. 

3 Freudenthal, "Spinoza," vol. I, p. 177. A cut of the 
seal is given on the title page of V. VI. & L. s edition of 
his works. 

4 Epis. 13 (olim 9) p. 235. Silebo potius, quam meas 
opiniones hominibus invita patria obtrudam, eosque mihi 
infensos reddam." 


self-effacement, shows how little candor and impar 
tiality admirers of Spinoza have sometimes ex 
hibited. His habitual attitude of timid caution ap 
pears also in his counsel to the friends to whom he 
entrusted the manuscript of his "Short Treatise." 
"Since the character of the time in which we live," 
says he, " is not unknown to you, I will earnestly 
entreat you to take great care in regard to the 
making known of these things to others." 1 

When, after the publication of his exposition of 
Descartes philosophy, he became involved in cor 
respondence with Blyenbergh, whom he had too 
hastily judged to be in sympathy with thorough 
going speculation, he told his unprofitable corres 
pondent plainly that he regretted having revealed 
to him his whole mind. "But I see," says he, "that 
I should have done much better to answer you in 
my first letter with the words of Descartes;" and 
explains that he had not done so, because "I 
thought, if I did not reply to you in harmony with 
my real opinions, I should be sinning against the 
obligations of the friendship which I so heartily 
offered you." 2 

It is certain therefore that Spinoza s timidity, or, 
if you will, his peaceable disposition, as well as his 
theoretical maxims, determined him, when dealing 
privately with individuals of religious interest, 
sometimes to conceal and sometimes to veil his real 
opinions, and occasionally even to express views 
diametrically opposed to his own. To question or 
ignore this patent fact would be as foolish as it 
would be disingenuous. 

1 Korte Verhandeling, II, Cap. XXVI, Opera III, p. 97. 
2 Epis. 21 (olim 34) p. 278. 


But more important than an acquaintance with 
his practice in private relations, would be a knowl 
edge of how far his caution and his belief in the 
expediency of accommodation affected his modes 
of expression in the writings composed for the 
public. That those factors should have more or less 
influence was natural and inevitable. And in fact, 
although Spinoza s thinking was to a unique degree 
independent both of external influences and of sub 
jective interests, his modes of expression were in 
fluenced in the highest degree by deference to his 
environment and by considerations of persona] 
prudence. This was the natural consequence of the 
union in one person of an unparalleled cognitive 
interest and excessive timidity. The general result 
of the above-named influences upon the writings 
intended for publication may be stated as follows: 
(1) The retention throughout of religious terms for 
ideas which Spinoza had consciously emptied of all 
religious content; (2) The elaborate and artificial 
deduction of more or less irrelevant conceptions 
bearing a formal resemblance to religious notions; 
and (3) In matters of little importance to his system 
as such, but of religious significance, his expressly 
saying, in a few instances, what he did not mean in 
any sense. Proofs of these assertions will be pointed 
out from time to time in the course of the following 

By adopting this policy, Spinoza hoped not only 
to disseminate his doctrines more widely, but es 
pecially to possess great advantage when called 
upon, as he certainly would be, to defend himself 
against the assaults of religionists. If they said 
he was an atheist, he could point to the fact that 


"God" was the Alpha and Omega of his system. 
If they said his doctrines were incompatible with 
practical religion, he could reply that the charge 
was so far from being true that he had in fact 
elaborately proved the "love of God" to be the 
summum bonum. And in reality this is just the 
defense he always made. How well his purpose was 
served is shown by the whole subsequent history 
of Spinozism, but more especially by its history 
since the last quarter of the Eighteenth Century. 
For the question whether Spinoza and his system 
are in conflict with religion has been met by most 
interpreters in the same way in which Spinoza met 
it, generally by quoting his own words. In their 
intemperate zeal to vindicate an abused member of 
the philosophical guild, they have thus used Ian- , 
guage which has practically served the cause of 
untruth. Instead of frankly meeting the issue and 
saying he was or was not a religionist, they have 
indulged in irrelevant declamation to the effect that 
Spinoza was no glutton, no drunkard, no libertine, 
no reckless assailant of the foundations of society, 
but a man of serious purpose and of good morals; 
and have cited his words in favor, not only of 
brotherly love, " but of " the service of God. The 
result is that there still prevail not only among lay 
men, but among students of philosophy, the vaguest 
possible notions in regard to Spinoza s relation to 

While aiming in the way described to temper the 
opposition of some and to parry the blows of others, 
Spinoza trusted that philosophical minds would look 
beneath mere words, and discern his real meaning. 
He never suspected, I imagine, that he would be 


misunderstood by any whose judgment he valued; 
but alas! he went so far that, in regard to his reli 
gious views, he has sometimes deceived, it seems, 
the very elect. 1 

From Spinoza s point of view his accommodation 
does not appear wholly unjustifiable. He honestly 
believed that the vast majority of men are incurably 
blind and ignorant, and that they will remain so 
to the end of time. The modern idea of a gradual 
development of society by which all classes of men 
are eventually to be redeemed, in some measure at 
least, from ignorance and folly, was foreign to his 
thought, and in general to the thought of his times. 
It must be remembered also that the rights of free 
speech were not yet established. In Holland, where 
Spinoza wrote, there was to be sure a partial ex 
ception, but only a partial exception, to the general 
prevalence of intolerance. The question for Spi 
noza, therefore, was not how to make the masses 
intelligent, but how the elect sons of reason were 
to adjust themselves to the masses as hopelessly 
irrational and dangerous. And among the masses 
(vulgus) he probably classed, not merely the un 
educated these were unable to read his writings, 
as they were composed in Latin but all theologians 
who took their theology in earnest, and other 
learned men whose views were determined more 
by authority, or by considerations of practical 
utility, than by rational insight. From his stand 
point he could consistently seek nothing more than 
a modus rivendi with these classes. 

1 This remark applies more especially to some who 
seem to have read the "Tractatus Theologico-Politicus" 
without having studied carefully the "Ethics" and the 
"Short Treatise." 


The extent of Spinoza s accommodation was not, 
of course, a constant quantity; it must have varied 
with his consciousness of hostile surroundings and 
with his moods. In writings whose preparation ex 
tended over years we are not surprised therefore 
to find many verbal contradictions in regard to mat 
ters of religious significance. 

In view of the circumstances, the interpretation 
of Spinoza should evidently proceed according to 
the following principle: Whenever two passages con 
tradict each other, one of them expressed in religious 
terminology and the other not, we are bound to regard 
the latter as conveying Spinoza s real meaning; 
and, in general, whenever religious phraseology implies 
views clearly in contradiction with the first 
principles of his philosophy, ice must accept as his real 
opinions, not those implied in the religious phraseology, 
hut those in harmony with the first principles of his 
philosophy. It will hardly be questioned that, in 
the present case, this procedure is in accord with the 
axiomatic principles of sane criticism. 


1. Certain Peculiarities of Spinoza s Psychology. 

In the unity of the one substance (God, Nature) 
co-exist, according to Spinoza, an infinite number of 
incommensurable and mutually independent attri 
butes, with only two of which, extension and 
thought, we are acquainted. All objects of our 
knowledge are modifications, or modes, of one of 
these two attributes. The relation between them is 
such that for every mode of one attribute there ex- 
; ists an exactly corresponding mode of the other. 
Accordingly everything in the Universe is composed 
of a mode of extension and a mode of thought. All 
things, therefore, have souls "omnia, quamvis di- 
versis gradibus, animata." 1 There exists, however, 
no causal relation between the modes of one attri 
bute and those of another, between body and spirit. 
No event in one produces any effect whatever in the 
other. 2 The correspondence is simply that of par 
allels. Now it is in harmony with this general 
doctrine, that the human mind, or soul, is defined as 
the idea whose object (corresponding mode of 
extension) is the human body. What is meant 
by this expression, will be more exactly understood 
after a brief exposition of Spinoza s somewhat ob 
scure doctrine of bodies. 

1 Eth. II, 13, scholium. 
2 Eth. Ill, 2. 


The most simple bodies (atoms?), the elements 
out of which all other bodies are built up, differ 
from one another only by reason of the fact that 
some are in motion and others are at rest, or that 
some are in more rapid motion than others. In ap 
parent contradiction with this statement, however, it 
is affirmed that when one simple body 1 produces 
an effect on another, this is the resultant of the 
"natures" of both, as though after all a simple body 
may have some peculiar character other than that 
given by its rate of motion. Wherein this qualita 
tive difference consists is not explained; but, as 
bodies are not distinguished ratione substantial, 2 
we may suppose it to be only a peculiarity in kind 
of motion. 

When a number of elementary bodies come into 
very close relation to one another, they form a com 
posite body, or individuum of the first order. Bodies 
constituted by other composite ones of different 
natures are individua of the second order, and those 
which in turn are constituted by several bodies of 
the second order are individua of the third order, 
etc. 3 As elementary bodies differ in that some move 
and others are at rest, or in that some move more 
rapidly than others, composite bodies differ by 
reason of the peculiar "ratio" of rest and motion 
which each contains. The more complex the body, 
the greater is the power of knowing possessed by 
the mind associated with it. 4 Now, as the human 
body is composed of many individua of different 

1 Eth. II, axioms 1 and 2. 
3 Eth. II, Lemma 1, dem. 
3 Eth. II, Lemma 7, scholium. 
*Eth. II, prop. 13, sch. 


natures, which are themselves in a high degree com 
posite, 1 and is therefore capable of being affected 
in a great variety of ways by other bodies, the 
human mind has uncommon capacity for knowledge. 

We may now inquire, just what does Spinoza 
mean when he says that the human mind is the 
"idea" of the body? What are we to understand 
by idea? Unfortunately Spinoza himself does not 
seem to have clearly understood what he meant by 
the word, and hence has employed it in quite differ 
ent senses. 

In the first place idea" denotes what we now 
call a presentation in an individual mind, such as 
a perception, a memory, or a thought image con 
structed by the imagination. The use of the word 
in another sense is occasioned by the circumstance 
that every mental experience, no matter of what 
kind, has its physiological correlate. This, Spinoza 
calls an "object." The ideas of things outside of 
us, therefore, must have two objects, the event in 
our body on the one hand, and the thing on the other. 
The one is unknown, the other known. Nowadays 
we know that even in sense-perception we do not 
perceive what takes place in our ears, for example, 
when we hear a strain of music, nor what takes 
place in our eyes when we view a landscape. This 
is always something quite different from the music 
and the landscape, which are the only objects of con 
scious thought. And indeed Spinoza did not sup 
pose the affections of the body in perception to be 
literal images of the things perceived. He expressly 
warns us that we must not take his use of traditional 
terminology to imply this view; for the so-called 

Eth. II, Postulate 1, p. 87. 


"images" do not in fact convey "figures" (pictures) 
of the objects. 1 When, therefore, he calls a given 
sense-perception the "idea" of a corresponding 
event in the body, it is not clear, even in this case, 
that he means a presentation which has for its con 
tent that physiological fact, although his phrase 
ology always implies as much. But whatever his 
thought in the case of sense-perception, it becomes 
certain, when we take account of his "clear" ideas, 
that he did not regard all mental experiences as 
literal transcripts of their physical correlates. 
Clear ideas can contain nothing else than what we 
see in them. Now among them are the conceptions 
of substance, of modes, of love, of hate, etc. In 
deed, according to Spinoza, there is no human pas 
sion of which we cannot form some clear concep 
tion. 2 But, as none of these clear ideas are defined 
in terms of physical elements and motion, we may 
not suppose that Spinoza means that they are lit 
erally ideas of bodily affections. For, to hold that 
they are really cognitions of the contemporaneous 
physiological events, would be tantamount to saying 
that when we conceive any one of them we have 
before our minds a number of physical elements in 
motion. This view certainly no one will ascribe to 

In the two senses above-mentioned an "idea" is 
assumed to be an event in consciousness. But by 
Spinoza s postulate that everything without ex- 

1 Eth. II, 17, schol. Porro, ut verba usitata retinea- 
raus, corporis human! affectiones .... rerum imagines 
vocabimus, tametsi rerum figuras non referunt. 

2 V, 4, cor. Hinc sequitur, nullum esse affectum, cujus 
non possumus aliquem clarum et distinctum formare con- 


ception on the side of extension is accompanied by 
its double on the side of thought, the word seems 
at times to denote an unconscious entity. The 
"idea" which in this sense belongs to a tree, is not 
the idea that Peter has when he perceives the tree, 
nor the one that Paul or James has ; it is something 
independent of human consciousness. But is it it 
self an individual consciousness? Spinoza does not 
directly answer the question. We have no reason 
to suppose, however, that he regarded the spiritual 
counterpart of every object (of a stone, a clod, or 
a pool of water, for example) as endowed with 
consciousness. If he had been asked to explain this 
matter more fully, he must have said substantially : In 
the case of the higher organisms (the more complex 
individua), the corresponding ideae are conscious; in 
the case of the lower organisms, they are only the 
undeveloped rudiments of consciousness; and in inor 
ganic objects, they are of a still lower order, inert 
souls as it were. 

This view would be quite in harmony with his 
way of thinking; for, as we have seen, he expressly 
declares that in proportion to their complexity 
bodies are "diversis gradibus animata." In read 
ing Spinoza, therefore, we have to reckon with a 
possible extension of the meaning of "idea" (and 
also of "cognitio," as we shall find) to unconscious 
spirit. These are unsuitable terms, to be sure; but, 
on account of the poverty of language, they perhaps 
serve as well for the expression of his peculiar 
thought as any he could find. His preference for 
them was due, as we shall see later, to his intellec- 
tualistic psychology. 


In these three senses, then, Spinoza employs the 
term "idea." This circumstance increases the dif 
ficulty of understanding his doctrine of knowledge 
all the more, as the common name "idea" often 
conceals from his mind the differences of meaning, 
and leads him into logical fallacies. In particular, 
it is to be noted that, as his psychological intellec- 
tualism inclines him always to see in an "idea" 
knowledge of some kind, this sense is often tacitly 
assumed where, if taken literally, it would be quite 

"We will now recur to Spinoza s conception of the 
essential nature of the human mind. The first 
utterance on this point we find in the "Ethics," 
Part II, prop. 11: "The first thing that constitutes 
the actual being (actuate esse) of the human mind 
is nothing else than the idea of some particular 
thing actually existing." The expression "first 
thing" implies, as appears from the demonstration 
following the proposition, that the human mind in 
its fundamental nature is a presentation and not 
a feeling nor a volition; and that these latter are 
only derivative and secondary phenomena. In 
other words, it announces his psychological intel- 
lectualism, of which we spoke. The rest of the 
proposition signifies merely that the object of this 
presentation belongs to the class of "particular 
things," by which term he designates all objects of 
the temporal, changing, perishable world. Propo- < 
sition 13 of the same Part declares further that this 
particular thing "is the body." Now, as a presen 
tation of the body, the human mind may be re 
garded in two different aspects: first, as a "com 
plete" or "adequate" idea exactly representing the 


body in all its relations, immediate and remote, to 
the rest of the material universe ; and secondly, as 
an "incomplete" or "inadequate" idea, i. e., as an 
idea that embraces the complete idea only so far as 
the individual consciousness extends. Now when 
we take into account Spinoza s doctrine of bodies, 
the idea which constitutes the conscious mind be 
comes the "incomplete" idea of a certain pro 
portion of rest and motion. But idea in what sense ? 
Clearly it is at least the spiritual counterpart- 
From the explanation above it follows also that it 
is rather of the nature of a presentation than of a 
volition or of a feeling. But may we go a step 
further and say that of the proportion of rest and 
motion which constitutes the essence of the body 
the mind is a presentation in the sense that it is a 
perception (or conception) which has this for its 
content? The above-mentioned ambiguity of the 
term "object" vitiates his thinking at this point, 
and leads him to obscure and confused statements. 
As we proceed, however, we hope to make clear that 
he does not consciously and explicitly teach this 
absurdity, although, when the exigencies of his ar 
gumentation require it, he often tacitly assumes it. 
The question now arises, what is this idea so far 
as it extends beyond human consciousness? As 
we shall see when we come to consider Spinoza s 
doctrine of clear ideas and of causality, it ought to 
be the rest of the body s spiritual double, i. e., that 
on the side of spirit which, when added to the human 
consciousness, completely represents the body in 
clusive of all its causal relations to the rest of the 
material universe. But is it of the nature of con 
scious thought? In other words, does the body s 


idea, so far as it is not contained in the human 
consciousness, fall in a universal consciousness ? We 
shall find grounds for concluding that it does not. 
Spinoza conceives the spiritual as, in its deepest 
nature hypostatized logic, and as such it is always 
at least the content of possible thinking, when not 
conscious thought; and, if in speaking of such an 
idea as we have described he ever employs the lan 
guage of consciousness, calling it "clear," " ade 
quate/ etc., it is because he applies the same term 
inology to the thinkable as to actual thought. 

The further question naturally presents itself: 
How are the manifold elements of consciousness re 
lated to the fundamental idea which constitutes the 
primum of the mind? This point Spinoza has left 
in obscurity. He affirms, indeed, that the idea is 
"not simple, but composite," 1 and thus accounts for 
the multiplicity exhibited in consciousness ; but he 
does not explain how the unity of the same is to be 
conceived. However, if the basal fact of the mind 
is the spiritual double, in some sense, of the formula 
that expresses in general terms that proportion of 
rest and motion which characterizes the human body 
as such, particular mental states may be conceived, 
in accordance with Spinoza s doctrine of composite 
bodies, as doubles of those particular variations of 
the general formula which may take place without 
altering its total value. As a matter of fact Spinoza 
sometimes treats the mind as an aggregate of ideas 
that have no organic connection, and at other times 
as a very real unity, conceiving the different ideas 
as activities and states of a psychical entity, or, as 
we should say, of a substantial soul. The latter way 

l Eth. II, 15. 


of treating it is seen in Eth. V, 31 : "The third kind 
of knowledge depends on the mind as a real cause, 
in so far as the mind itself is eternal. n 

The mystery of self-consciousness is explained as 
follows: The idea of the body, the mind, is no less 
a piece of reality than is the body. Viewed in this 
aspect, it is an object and must itself have a cor 
responding idea. For the same reason, to be sure, 
the idea of an idea must in turn have its idea, and 
so on ad infinitum; and Spinoza, in fact, admits 
this consequence and cites to confirm his theory the 
empirical fact that whoever knows anything knows 
in that very fact (eo ipso) that he knows it, and at 
the same time knows that he knows that he knows 
it, etc., etc. 2 In this way he seems to wish to ex 
plain (1) the self -consciousness of the mind in every 
act of knowledge, and (2) the continuity of self- 
consciousness. The difficulties involved in his 
thought we may at present ignore. He adds that 
the idea of the mind (i. e. idea ideae) is in fact noth 
ing else than the forma (distinctive quality) of the 
idea so far as this is considered as a mode of 
thought apart from its relation to an object. This 
would seem to imply that self-consciousness is the 
inherent character of mind, and to contradict the 
above-noticed apparent assumption on his part that 
an idea is not always fully developed self-conscious 
ness. Accordingly his language here has been in 
terpreted as having far-reaching significance and as 

1 Cf, Korte Verh. I, Cap. 2, Zamenspreeking, p. 18, 
where, in an illustration, both points of view appear con 
fusedly together. 

2 Eth. II, 21, dem. and schol. 


necessarily implying self-consciousness in the Ab 
solute. 1 

Its bearing upon his conception of God will be 
more accurately estimated after we have penetrated 
further into the details of his system. 

2. The Imagination, "Imaginatio." 

By this word Spinoza means in the first place 
what we call sense-perception. It must always be 
borne in mind, however, that, according to Spinoza, 
our ideas of sense objects are not caused by these 
objects. Events in the spiritual world are entirely 
independent of events in the spatial world, although 
the two series correspond. It is only through the 
principle of parallelism that sense-perception takes 
place. The physiological and psychological pro 
cesses involved, he describes as follows: When the 
body (a sense organ) is affected by an external body, 
the character of the physical affection is determined 
not only by the nature of the human body, but also 
by the nature of the external body; and, as every 
effect involves its cause, this affection "involves" 
the nature of the external body, and contains, as 
it were, its image. Now by virtue of the principle 
of parallelism the human mind "contemplates" this 
affection, i. e. has an idea that involves the nature 
of the external body and that affirms (ponit) its 
actual existence; 2 and so the mind "contemplates" 
the external body as present, or as actually exist 
ing." It would seem therefore that the form which 
the "idea" of a bodily affection takes is the percep- 

1 Recently by Joachim, "A Study of the Ethics of Spi 
noza," p. 72. 

2 Eth. II, 17, dem. Cf. Eth. II, 26, Cor., dem. 


tion of the external body. But, if we are to take 
in earnest Spinoza s declaration that the images in 
our bodies (sense organs) are after all not pictures 
or copies, but only the effects, of the external body 
so far as these indicate its nature, the process be 
comes less simple. The idea of the bodily affection 
is then only the ground for the construction of the 
mental image of the thing and for objectifying the 
same. Between the "contemplation" of the bodily 
affection therefore and the "contemplation" of the 
external body, we should have to supply in the 
process a link that would be of the nature of an 
immediate (and unconscious) inference. 1 But, as 
Spinoza has not expressly so explained the matter, 
we cannot be sure that this was clearly his thought. 
As the problems of a later time in regard to subject 
and object did not exist for him, it is not improb 
able that the hiatus in the process described by him 
escaped his notice; and that, for his thinking, "to 
have an idea which involves the nature of the ex 
ternal body" sufficiently explained "our contem 
plating it as actually existing." 

The value of the knowledge obtained through 
sense-perception Spinoza estimates very low. It 
lias several defects. In the first place, as the char 
acter of every affection of the body is determined 
by the nature of the human body as well as by that 
of the external body, and, as what is contributed 
by the one is inseparable from what is contributed 
by the other; the corresponding idea is so mixed 

1 The idea of the bodily affection is indefinitely con 
ceived as the means through which the external body is 
perceived. Eth. II, 26, cor., dem. Cum mens humana 
per ideas affectionum sui corporis corpora externa con- 
templatur, etc. 


that what refers to the external body is not clearly 
distinguishable from the rest.* Every perception 
therefore, conveys only a confused and unclear 
knowledge. In the second place, as an external 
body affects the human body only through a part 
of its characters, it leaves there incomplete traces 
of its nature. Consequently, that complete idea of 
a perceived body which, according to the principle 
of parallelism, must exist somewhere, lies partly 
within and partly without the human mind. For 
the human mind, therefore, the idea is incomplete, 
mutilated (mutilata). 1 

The term imagination, as employed by Spinoza, 
includes also the memory. According to his defini 
tion, this consists only in an association of sense- 
perceptions in that accidental (non-logical) order 
in which they occur in experience. 2 It has to do, 
therefore, with unclear and mutilated ideas alone. 
From a passage in The Improvement of the Under 
standing," 3 it appears that one motive for relega 
ting the memory to the domain of the imagination 
was the effort to vindicate to all those ideas which 
belong to the rest of the mind a non-temporal char 
acter. Another, no doubt, was the fact that the 
memory is a source of error. But how he accounts 
for the remembrance of other than sense objects,. 

* Eth. II, 16, et cor. 2. 

Eth. II, 25; II, 40, sch. 2; II, 49, sch.; De Intellectus 
Emendatione p. 23. 

a Eth. II, 18, sch. But compare De Int. Em. pp. 25-26. 
Sterns German translation of "corruptionem" in this 
passage by "Falschung" is a mistake. Cf. Eth. II, 31, 
cor., where "corruptibilis" in a similar connection must 
mean "perishable." 

8 De Intel. Emend., p. 26. 


or whether this problem distinctly presented itself 
to his mind at all, cannot be determined. 1 

Without attempting any further analysis of the 
imagination, it will suffice to know that Spinoza 
himself never sought to determine its limits through 
adequate psychological investigations, but accepted 
the traditional Aristotelian distinction between the 
passive and the active parts of the mind, and identi 
fied the "imagination" with the passive. "For my 
part," he says, "you may understand by imagination 
what you please, provided only it be something else 
than the intellect and be that on account of which 
the mind possesses a relation of passivity." 2 The 
proper criterion, however, by which a given idea 
is known to belong to the imagination is not any 
demonstrable connection of the idea with a passive 
psychological process, but its peculiar character, 
i. e. its unclearness, vagueness, inadequateness, etc. 
"For it is a matter of indifference what you under 
stand [by the imagination] after we know that it 
is something vague." 3 "In so far as the mind has 
inadequate ideas it is necessarily passive." 4 If we 
can discern the inadequate ideas, therefore, 
we need no psychological observation in order to 
define the realm of the imagination; it is exactly 
conterminate with the sum of inadequate ideas. 

1 It is perfectly clear, however, that memory "quid 
diversum esse ab intellectu, et circa intellectum in se 
spectum nullam dari memoriam, neque oblivionem." 
De Intell. Em. 26. "Nam a solis corporibus afficitur 
imaginatio." Ibid. 

2 De Int. Emend, p. 26. "Unde anima habeat rationem 

3 De Int. Emend. 26-27. 
4 Eth. Ill, 1, III, 3, dem. 


What then is that peculiarity which constitutes 
for our minds the distinguishing mark of these ideas ? 
They are variously described as incomplete, unclear, 
(non clarae), vague (vagae), mutilated (mutilatae), 
truncated (truncatae), confused (confusae), and in 
distinct (non distinctae). Any of these char 
acteristics ought to be sufficient to enable us to 
recognize them, but unclearness and indistinctness 
seem to be looked upon as most properly the dis 
tinguishing characteristics. As according to Spi 
noza clear knowledge of objects includes a knowl 
edge of their causes, inadequate ideas are some 
times regarded as of the nature of consequential 
absque prcemissis. 1 

We must now note just how the imagination is 
related to error. All ideas, to employ Spinoza s 
own phraseology, are true "in so far as they are 
related to God;" for all ideas, when considered as 
belonging to God (total reality) correspond per 
fectly with their objects (ideata). 2 Error, then, 
consists in nothing positive, 3 but is due to the par 
tial character of the knowledge contained in the 
inadequate ideas, which exist in individual finite 
minds only. 4 How this assertion is to be under 
stood, appears from the declaration that sense-per 
ceptions, ideas constructed by the imagination 
properly so-called, and the associations of ideas in 
the memory, do not, in themselves considered, con 
tain error; for the mind does not err because it 
possesses such ideas, but only because sometimes it 

l Eth. II, 28, dem. 

Eth. II, 32. 

Eth. II, 33. 

Eth. II, 36, dem. Cf. II, 35. 


has no occasion to doubt their reliableness and there 
fore allows them to pass for more than mere ideas 
of the imagination (imaginationes) . Accordingly 
the deficiency involved in inadequate ideas becomes 
the cause of error only in the absence of a true idea 
through which their real character is manifest. 1 It 
is this deficiency that must account also for errors 
of judgment and of inference. In the case of a false 
judgment, the error consists in our affirming of a 
thing something that is not contained in its concept 
or definition. 2 Here we have, either of the subject 
or of the predicate, an inadequate knowledge which 
the mind does not recognize as such. 

But the nature of error will become clearer after 
an explanation of Spinoza s doctrine of the reason. 

3. TJie Reason, "ratio." 

Reason is the antithesis of the imagination, con 
stituting the "active" part of the mind. Its es 
sential characteristic is expressed in the fact that 
through it alone all adequate ideas have their 
origin. The term is sometimes employed by Spi 
noza in a more extended sense than at others. In 
the more restricted sense it designates the mental 
activity (or faculty) by virtue of which we acquire 
the so-called notiones communes and deduce from 
these other adequate ideas. 3 It is in this sense that 
we will consider it first. 

In discussing the inadequate ideas, he showed that 
we cannot gain an adequate knowledge of any indi 
vidual thing in the actual world, and apparently 

T Eth. II, 17, sch.; 35, sch.; 49, sch., p. 113. 

3 De Int. Emend, p. 22. 

Eth. II, 40, schol. 1 and 2. Cf. II, 29, schol. 


excluded the possibility of adequate knowledge 
altogether. We are now reminded, however, that 
there are other objects of knowledge, namely, the 
properties of things, and, in particular, those 
properties which are common to all bodies and are 
the same in every part as in the whole, 1 but do not 
constitute the " essence" of any particular thing. 2 
Extension is an example. Of such objects we can 
evidently acquire adequate ideas, despite the con 
ditions which were found to render impossible an 
adequate knowledge of individual bodies: for that 
which is common to all bodies must leave in an af 
fection of the human body not partial, but complete, 
traces of its nature. The idea of any external body, 
therefore, though not conveying an adequate knowl 
edge of that body as such, contains all the data for 
an adequate idea of the common qualities of all 
bodies. For the same reason we can, of course, have 
adequate ideas also of all those properties which the 
human body has in common with only a few other 
bodies. 3 It is to be observed, however, that the 
mind never gains adequate ideas immediately 
through sense-perception (the abstract ideas that 
originate in this way are in the highest degree con 
fused), 4 but only through a sort of comparison, in 
that the mind is inwardly determined to "contem- 

Eth. II, 37. 

2 Eth. II, def. 2. 

3 Eth. II, 39. The question arises, What sort of 
knowledge should that be which is gained when one part 
of our body affects another, through the sense of touch, 
for example? It ought to follow that we get in this way 
an adequate knowledge of that which is the same in each 
part as in the whole, i. e., of that general proportion of 
rest and motion which constitutes the essence of the body. 

* Eth. II, 40, schol. 1. "summo gradu confusas." 


plate several things at the same time and to take 
cognizance of their agreements, differences, and in 
compatibilities." 1 This account of the matter was 
necessary in order consistently to exclude all pas 
sivity from the reason. 

In the mind s relation to the body, therefore, all 
rational activity, as being self-determined mind, 
must correspond only with physiological changes 
that have their source not from without, but from 
within the body itself, that originate in its inde 
pendent nature. But as we proceed, it will appear 
that neither the independence of the one order of 
change nor of the other can be maintained without 
contradicting fundamental assumptions of Spinoza s 
system, and that the possibility of adequate ideas 
is, after all, only apparent. 

The above-mentioned notiones communes are the 
most general of the adequate ideas, and constitute 
the "foundations" of reason, i. e. the points of de 
parture for deductive procedure. Spinoza has no 
where enumerated them. It has been supposed, 
however, that by inference they can be shown to 
be the following: (1) conception of substance; 
(2) conception of attribute; (3) conception of mode; 
(4) thought; (5) extension; (6) idea; (7) motion 
and rest. 2 As Spinoza has given no list, and as 
there is no evidence that he himself had determined 
their exact number, we can not be sure that this 
table is either exhaustive or correct. It may be 
doubted whether Spinoza thought of the conceptions 

1 Eth. II, 29, schol. 

2 Of the univcrsalia realia, which we regard as but 
another name for the notiones communes, Leibnitz made a 
list that differs somewhat from this. See M. Pouscher 
de Careil, "Leibnitz, Descartes, et Spinoza," pp. 122-7. 


of substance, attribute, and mode as falling in this 
category. As defined by him they must, of course, 
be regarded as adequate ideas; but as when speak 
ing of notiones communes he seems to have in mind 
only such ideas as have for their content "proper 
ties" of "real" things, it would appear that only the 
last four may be confidently classified as notiones com 
munes. 1 It is possible, however, that Spinoza re 
garded the others also as involved in our perception 
of real things, and therefore as in a certain sense 

^ In its more extended sense the term ratio includes 
the so-called scientia intuitiva, or "third kind" of 
cognition. The specific difference which distin 
guishes this from reason in general, is that it pro 
ceeds from the adequate ideas of certain attributes 
of God (Nature) immediately to the adequate 
knowledge of the essences of things. 2 Although the 
relation of intuition to reason in general is not in 
all respects clear, it seems certain, (1) that it at 
tains its results in a peculiar way, i. e. not through 
syllogistic processes, but through immediate in 
sight; and (2) that it has a peculiar function, 
namely, that of discovering the "essences" of par 
ticular things. We may suppose therefore, what 
seems to be everywhere assumed, that ordinary ; 
reason is not equal to this task. It is to be observed, > 
however, that the results of the different kinds of 
rational activity, so far as they extend, are of equal 
validity. 3 

x Eth. II, 38, cor.; De Intel. Emend, p. 30. 
3 Eth. II, 40, schol. 2. Cf. Eth. V, 36, schol. 
3 Eth. II, 41 and 42. 


To rational knowledge in general belong certain 
peculiar characteristics: (1) It is not of the nature 
of reason to view things as contingent, but as nec 
essary." 1 (2) "It is of the nature of reason to per 
ceive things under a certain aspect of eternity," 2 
i. e. in purely logical relations, and so "in no tem 
poral relation." 3 (3) "All adequate ideas," the 
products of reason, "are clear, and distinct, and 
true." "Adequate" and true" are in fact used 
interchangeably by Spinoza. "Adequate" has ref 
erence to the completeness of the idea considered 
in itself; "true" takes account of the relation of 
the idea to its object, signifying its agreement with 
the same. 4 

The question now arises, what is for Spinoza 
the ultimate criterion of truth? His answer to this 
question is explicit and repeated. It consists in a 
peculiar character that belongs to the ideas as such : 
"It is certain that true thinking is distinguished 
from false, not only by what is extrinsic (the object), 
but especially by what is intrinsic ; " " that there 
is in the ideas some real quality by which the true 
are distinguished from the false." 5 Now this cre 
dential badge of all true ideas is, of course, nothing 
else than that characteristic which we have already 
had repeated occasion to mention, namely, "clear 
ness and distinctness." "All ideas that are clear 

1 Eth. II, 44. 

2 Eth. II, 44, cor. 2. 

3 Eth. II, 44, cor. 2, dem. "absque ulla temporis rela- 

4 Epis. 60, p. 386 (olim 64). Cf. Eth. II, def. 4. 

5 De Intel. Emend, p. 21. Cf. ibid. p. 22. Forma verae 
cogitationis in eadem ipsa cogitatione sine relatione ad 
alias debet esse sita. And Eth. II, def. 4. 


and distinct can never be false." 1 Of these terms 
Spinoza has given us no formal definitions. We 
may safely assume, however, that for him they mean 
nothing else than they meant for Descartes, from 
whom he seems to have taken them. Descartes 
gives the following definitions, which do not estab 
lish a very definite distinction between the two 
terms: "I call clear that [idea] which to the at 
tentive mind is present and open: but distinct that 
[idea] which, when it becomes clear, is so severed 
from all others and so precise that it plainly con 
tains nothing else than what is clear." 2 

Clearness and distinctness must always and in 
evitably produce certainty in the knowing subject. 
"Whoever truly knows a thing must at the same 
time be certain." 3 "He who has a true idea, knows 
at the same time that he has a true idea, nor can 
he doubt the truth of the thing. 4 It is a matter of 
indifference, therefore, whether we regard clearness 
and distinctness of the ideas, or certainty on the 
part of the subject, as really the ultimate criterion 
of truth. It should be carefully noted, however, 
that for Spinoza certainty is more than the mere 
absence of doubt, it is something positive, 5 i. e., I 
suppose, a degree of conviction that arises only after 
attentive and critical examination of an idea. Ac 
cordingly it is possible to have no doubt as to the 
validity of a false idea, and thus to fall into error; 
but it is never possible to be certain of that valid- 

Ibid. p. 21. Cf. Descartes, Principia, I, 43. 
Prin. P. I, 45. 
Eth. II, 43, dem. 
Eth. II, 43. 

Eth. II, 49, schol. nam per certitudinem quid positi- 
vum intelligimus, non vero dubitationis privationem. 


ity. One can err only by allowing the absence of 
doubt to pass for positive certainty. 

4. Logical Presuppositions. 

"Adequate ideas," as we saw, are reached, when 
the mind "is determined from within, by its contem 
plation of several things at once, to understand their 
agreements, differences, and contrasts." 1 This 
language, which seems to have particular reference 
to the formation of adequate ideas of the common 
properties of sense-objects, is supplemented by a 
remark of more general application: "as often as 
in this way or in any oilier way [the human mind] 
is disposed (disponitur) from within, it views 
things clearly and distinctly." 2 In order to dis 
cover truth, therefore, the mind noods only to act 
on its own motion, undisturbed by inroads of the 
emotions and of the senses. Spinoza assumes, in 
fact, that human reason is able, by its independent 
activity, apart from the data of experience, to frame 
clear conceptions, which necessarily have corres 
ponding objects in the world of reality. His onto- 
logical proofs of the existence of the Absolute, for 
example, which we shall soon have occasion to con 
sider, presuppose this assumption. In respect of 
his general philosophical standpoint, therefore, he 
is to be characterized as a thorough rationalist. 

In this position he was confirmed by the un 
critical assumption, common to the leading thinkers 
of his time, that mathematics is the pattern of all 
science. The unerring validity of mathematics in 
its own province of numerical and spatial relations, 

1 Eth. II, prop. 29, schol. 
2 Ibid. The italics are ours. 


caused them to suppose that the same methods of 
reasoning applied to other sciences would yield 
equally infallible results. But they overlooked the 
essential difference between mathematics and all 
other sciences. In geometry, for example, which 
Spinoza took for his special model, we possess in 
the data of a given problem and in the nature of the 
space idea common to all minds, everything im 
plicitly that becomes explicit in the result. In no 
other sciences have we anything of the kind. Any 
conceptions from which we may choose to proceed 
by deduction can embody only certain properties 
with which we have become acquainted by ex 
perience, and the mind has no a priori principles, 
like those involved in the space idea, that enable 
us to go beyond the given properties to other new 
ones. But if in common with the thinkers of his 
time Spinoza overlooked this circumstance, it is one 
of his merits that, by his thorough-going application 
of the geometrical method to philosophy, he made 
manifest its inadequacy in this field. He does not 
shrink from entitling his chief work, "Ethica ordine 
geometrico demonstrata," and from announcing 
further that it is his intention to treat "God," 
"mind," and "human actions" "ac si qucestio de 
lineis, planis, aut de corporibus esset." 

In accordance with his predilection for the 
methods of mathematics, he takes as his starting 
point axioms and definitions. His assumption of 
axioms is in harmony with his methodological pre 
supposition that in dealing with quite simple ideas 

Eth. Ill, end of the introductory paragraph. Cf. 
Eth. I, Appendix p. 68. "Nisi mathesis . . ;? . aliam veri- 
tatis normam hominibus ostendisset, etc." 


error is impossible.* Definitions must express, if 
perfect, the innermost nature of the objects denned, 
so that out of the definitions will logically follow 
all the more particular properties of the objects. 
It is in assumed harmony with this proposition that 
he requires the definition of a finite thing to include 
its proximate cause. A circle, therefore, must be 
defined as follows: "It is a figure that is described 
by any line, one end of which is fixed, the other 
movable." This definition obviously includes the 
proximate producing cause, if it does not, as Spi 
noza mistakingly supposed, permit all properties of 
the circle to be deduced from it. 1 When it is not a 
question of a geometrical figure, but of a real 
thing, the proximate cause would often be only that 
which is represented by a more general term. 2 For 
in this connection it is to be carefully noted that 
by the word "res" Spinoza designates not merely 
things in the ordinary sense of the term, but also 
the properties of things, especially their common 
properties. These he characterizes as "eternal," 
since they are, so to speak, "omnipresent" and 
therefore in his view independent of the existence 
of the particular individuals presented by the world 
of change. They are individual things (singularia), 
to be sure, but they are universal individuals (uni- 

* De Int. Emend, pp. 19-20. "inde sequitur primo, 
quod si idea alicujus rei simplicissimae, ea non nisi clara 
et distincta poterit esse." 

1 In geometry we discover the properties of the circle 
by studying the figure, and not by analysis of the defini 

2 De Int. Emend, p. 31. Unde haec fixa et aeternae . . . 
erunt nobis tanquam universalia, sive genera defmiti- 
onum rerum singularium mutabilium, et causae proxi- 
mae omnium rerum. 


versaMa). Examples are presumably (he himself 
has given none) extension, motion, etc. They cor 
respond, therefore, to the notiones communes already 
mentioned. 1 Of this kind of "things" it is not 
difficult, as we saw, to obtain clear and distinct 
ideas ; and they are to be employed as general terms, 
or (according to his way of thinking) as "proximate 
causes," in framing definitions of particular things 
properly so-called. 2 

From this starting-point of self-evident truths 
expressed in axiomatic propositions and in defini 
tions, Spinoza proposed to advance by deduction to 
other important truths and finally even to an ade 
quate knowledge of individual things. 3 These were 
to be deduced, let it be observed, from those "uni- 
versals" and never constructed from the manifold 
data given in the sense-perception of any particular 
object. Spinoza hoped to get behind the data of 
the senses. His method assumes that every idea is 
of such a nature that from it logical consequences 
may be drawn and that every thing (even every 
eternal thing, despite its peculiar character) must 
produce effects. 4 True conceptions of the individual 
things of the sense world would be inferences from 
the "universals," and the individual things them- 

1 Page 80. See Eth. II, 40, schol. 1 and 2. Cf. Eth. II, 
29, scholium. 

8 It would be erroneous, however, to suppose that Spi 
noza ever pretended to have arrived at an adequate 
knowledge of any particular thing in the outer world. 
He has nowhere attempted to define one. 

3 That is, to a knowledge of their nature but not to a 
knowledge of the conditions which determine their time, 
place and number. 

4 Eth. I, 36. Nihil existit, ex cujus natura aliquis 
effectus non sequitur. Cf. Eth. I, 16, dem. 


selves (i. e. their objective essences) are products 
of the hypostatized universal^. 1 

To deduce the "essences" of particular things 
from universals, or "eternal things" is the peculiar 
function of the scientia intuitiva or "third order" 
of cognition. Spinoza first hypostatized the general 
properties of the material world and then regarded 
them as both the logical ground and the real cause 
of the special qualities of individual things, attribut 
ing to the human mind the power of intuitively 
discerning this relationship. 

From what has been said it appears that Spinoza 
conceived of causal connection as a logical connec 
tion of an analytical kind. This fundamental pre 
supposition is expressed in one of his first and most 
frequently repeated axioms: "The knowledge of 
an effect depends on a knowledge of the cause, and 
involves the same." 2 He assumes, therefore, what 

1 De Int. Emend., p. 31. Haec [intima essentia rerum] 
vero tantum est petenda a fixis atque aeternis rebus, et 
simul a legibus in iis rebus, tanquam in suis veris co- 
dicibus inscriptis, secundum quas omnia singularia et 
flunt et ordinantur; imo haec mutabilia singularia adeo 
intime atque essentialiter (ut sic dicam) ab iis fixis 
pendent, ut sine iis nee esse nee concipi possint. 

It is commonly assumed that Spinoza is a thorough 
going nominalist. This view of him has become tradi 
tional, and is accepted without examination even by 
careful writers. Sir Frederick Pollock, for example, in 
his interesting and widely-read book on Spinoza has been 
quite misled, it seems to me, by the tradition. He says 
(p. 142): "Spinoza s nominalism which we have always 
to bear in mind, is a sufficient warning against assuming 
that the eternal things have anything to do with kinds, 
qualities, or classification." As a matter of fact, Spinoza 
is as thorough a realist in Ms own way as was Plato. Cf. 
Martineau s "Study of Spinoza," pp. Ill and 150, note, 
and Fullerton s "The Philosophy of Spinoza," passim. 

2 Eth. I, Ax. 4 Effectus cognitio a cognitione causae 
dependet, et eandem involvit. 


the subsequent development of philosophy has 
shown to be erroneous, that it is possible so fully 
to grasp the nature of things that by an analysis 
of our conceptions of them, we can discover what 
their effects must be. 1 It is a consequence of his 
axiom that we may not assume any causal relation, 
to exist between objects the conceptions of which 
contain nothing in common. Hence extension and 
thought, body and soul, can produce no effect on 
each other. The same presupposition, which resulted 
in an inconsequence in Desoartes philosophy, gave 
rise to Occasionalism in the minds of Geulincx 
and Malebranche, and led in the case of Spinoza 
to the doctrine of Parallelism. 

In accordance with these methodological presup 
positions, Spinoza was convinced : 

1. That it is possible to apprehend and to define 
the Being " which is the cause of all things;" 

2. That from this Being the "essences" of all 
things in nature are to be deduced; 

3. That the intelligible arrangement of concep 
tions would correspond to objective nature; that ac 
cordingly the mind would become a mirror of 
nature, for it would "have subjectively the essence, 
arrangement, and connection of the same." 1 But 
it is to be observed that when Spinoza speaks here of 
an "intelligible arrangement" of things, he has in 
mind only that of the "eternal" things, i. e. a sort 

1 It would be a mistake, however, to suppose that he 
assumed an adequate knowledge of any individual things 
given in the external world, though he hoped to know 
these adequately sometime by means of intuition. 

2 De Int. Emend, p. 30. nam et ipsius essentiam, et 
ordinem et unionem habebit objective. "Objective" must 
be translated nowadays by "subjectively" or "ideally." 


of classification of general conceptions.* From the 
beginning Spinoza renounced all hope of being able 
to make intelligible the temporal succession of 
perishable things. 1 

We have described the salient features of Spi 
noza s logical theory. It was for him only an ideal, 
which hovered before his mind and constantly in 
fluenced his thinking, but never reached full reali 
zation and application. In regard to the "third 
order of cognition," which plays so important a 
role in his theory, he confesses in "The Improve 
ment of the Understanding" that those things which 
he had been able up to that time to learn by means 
of it were "very few. " : If he had been asked 
for a concrete example, the very few things would 
certainly have turned out to be none. At no later 
time could he have given a more satisfactory answer ; 
for he was counting on a power of the mind that 
does not exist. 

That characteristic of Spinoza s method which 
is of the most practical importance is his identifi 
cation of real (ontological) cause with logical 
ground or logical presupposition of any kind, es 
pecially a more general conception. In the world 
of change "cause" may mean for him either onto 
logical cause or logical presupposition ; in the world 

* De Int. Emend, p. 30. Sed notandum, me hie per 
seriem causarum, et realium entium, non intelligere seri- 
em rerum singularium mutabilium; sed tantummodo 
seriem rerum fixarum aeternarumque. 

1 De Int. Emend, p. 30. Seriem enim rerum singu 
larium mutabilium impossible foret humanae imbecilli- 
tati assequi .... 

2 Ibid. 8. Ea tamen, quae hucusque tali cognitione 
potui intelligere, perpauca fuerunt. 


of changeless realities, " cause" means only logical 
presupposition. 1 

1 This will appear in a subsequent chapter on "Sub 
stance and Modes." 





The objects of our knowledge we spontaneously 
analyze into the properties of things^and the things 
themselves which possess the properties. We as 
sume that behind the various sense-properties of 
an object there exists a real, substantial unity in 
which these inhere. This we call substance. The 
question whether this spontaneous assumption is 
rationally justified and how, after a critical exam 
ination of our knowledge, we are to conceive of 
things, has always constituted the chief problem 
of metaphysics. 

Aristotle s conception of substance was domin 
ant with all leading thinkers until a considerable 
time after the opening of the modern period of 
philosophy. According to the best known of his 
definitions, it is that which "is neither predicated 
of any subject nor is in any subject ; as, for example, 
a certain man or a certain horse." 1 Ignoring the 
confusion of ontological with logical subject which 
appears in Aristotle s language, we may paraphrase 
his definition in harmony with his general doctrine 
as follows : Substance is always the particular thing 
(in distinction from the universal), and indeed the 
particular thing -in-it self , so to speak, the possessor 

^ATHFOPIAI, 5. ovffLa 84 4<rriv 17 Kvpidrard re ical irp^rus KO.\ 
ftd\ia-Ta \eyo/j.^VTj, t) HJTC Kad" viroKetptvov rivbs X^yerat /Aijr Iv 
rivl fonv, olov 6 rls AvBpwirot, f) 6 rls 


of properties, which is itself no property of any 
thing else. 

Under the influence of the Aristotelian tradition, 
Thomas Aquinas defines substance as " being sub 
sisting per se;"* which is explained by the further 
statement: "for we say that those things subsist 
which do not exist in others, but in themselves." 1 
Accordingly substance is that which exists not only 
in itself, but through itself. John of Damascus gives 
a similar definition: "Substance is a self-existent 
thing that does not need anything else as a sup 
port." 1 J. Martini expresses himself in almost 
identical language. 3 Suarez says that "substance 
stands under the accidents in such a way that it 
itself does not require a similar support." 4 With 
Descartes we find two definitions, one of which runs 
as follows: "Everything in which inheres immedi 
ately anything which we perceive, i. e. any property, 
or quality, or attribute, the real idea of which is in 
us, is called substance." 5 The other resembles in 
expression that just quoted from John of Damascus : 
"By substance we can understand nothing else than 
a thing that so exists that it needs no other thing 
in order to exist." 6 Let it be observed that ac- 

* Sum. Th. I, qu. 3, art. 5 "ens per se subsistens." 

1 Sum. Th. I, qu. 29, art. 2. 

8 " ff ov<rla fori TTpSiyfjia avdtiirapKTOv }J.T) 8e6fj.vov ertpov irpbs fftiffra- 


3 Metaphys. p. 487. "rem per se subsistentem nee 
indigentem alterius ope ut sit." 

*Disp. XXX, p. 299. Substantia ita substat acciden- 
tibus ut non idigeat ipsa simili sustentaculo. 

5 Def. 5. Rationes more geometrico dispositae. 

B Prin. I, 51. Per substantiam nihil aliud intelligere 
possumus quam rem quae ita existit, ut nulla alia re 
indigeat ad existendum. 


cording to this definition, strictly construed, sub 
stance is no longer merely that which does not need, 
like qualities, to be regarded as inhering in a sub 
ject (this was Aristotle s idea) ; but it is that which 
is absolutely independent and unconditioned. The 
obvious consequences of this thought seem not en 
tirely to have escaped Descartes, for he concedes 
that God alone can be substance in the most proper 
sense of the term. 1 

We come finally to Spinoza s definition: "By 
substance I understand that which is in itself and 
is conceived through itself; i. e. that whose concep 
tion does not need the conception of any other 
thing by the aid of which it must be formed." 2 
Spinoza regards substance, therefore, as the inde 
pendently existent, and this not merely in the sense 
of not inhering in a subject, i. e. of not being a 
property of something, but in the sense of the ab 
solutely independent, the unconditioned. 

Down to the time of Spinoza it was customary 
to assume along with the infinite substance, or God, 
a multitude of finite substances. But as the finite 
substances depended in some way on God, their 
proper substance character could not, according to 
the definition of substance as the independently 
existent (if taken literally), be consistently main 
tained. Before Spinoza, no one had definitely and 
decisively drawn this obvious conclusion, although 
Descartes had reduced the multitude of substances 
to two (or to two kinds), and had logically done 
these away by admitting that the only substance 

1 Ibid. 

2 Eth. I, def. 3. Per substantiam intelligo id, quod 
in se est et per se concipitur; hoc est id, cujus conceptus 
non indiget conceptu alterius rei a quo formari debeat. 


which clearly needs no other thing is God. 1 Granted 
that particular things after all are not substances, 
the thought lay very near that they must then be 
accidents, " " affections, " " modes, " " modifica 
tions," of the one substance, the Absolute; for, ac 
cording to tradition, all reality was divided into 
substances and accidents or modes. Whatever was 
not a substance, therefore, was necessarily a mode. 
It was in this way that for Spinoza the problem 
arose: How to comprehend all things as in their 
real nature only particularizations, so to speak, of 
the Absolute. Owing to his predilection for the 
method of mathematics, his solution of the problem 
was cast in the form of a deduction of the particu 
lar from the general ; although like all philosophers 
who have followed the deductive method, he was 
compelled first to determine the nature of the gen 
eral from the particular, in order then apparently 
to deduce the particular. His real aim was only to 
make intelligible in some way the self-sufficiency, 
or self-existence, and the unity, organic and sub 
stantive, of the world. 

1 Prin. Phil. I, 51. "Substantia quae nulla plane re 
indigeat, unica tantum potest intelligi, nempe Deus." 


The argumentations about to be examined are a 
stumbling-block to the modern reader and would 
severely tax our respect for this truly great thinker, 
if we did not take account of Spinoza s place in 
history. They represent scholastic elements that 
have gone over into his philosophy, and show to 
what a degree the most independent thinkers of the 
first period of modern philosophy remained under 
the influence of Scholasticism, even when they de 
veloped their own thoughts in conscious antithesis 

It would be a mistake, however, to assume as a 
matter of course that the ontological demonstrations 
which we are about to cite had the same motive as 
those of traditional Christian theology. The onto 
logical reasoning of theology aimed to establish 
the existence of a transcendental God. But for Spi 
noza, who identifies God, Substance, and Nature, 1 
the existence of "God" must be just as certain as 
that of the world, and requires no demonstration. 
All knowledge, according to Spinoza, involves the 
knowledge of God. Accordingly his ontological 
arguments were not really intended to make sure 
the existence of "God," but to establish the self- 
existence and therewith the eternity, the infinity, 
etc., of Nature. 

1 Eth. IV, Praefatio, p. 180. "Deus seu Natura." 


1. The Self -Existence and Eternity of Substance. 

The self-existence of substance is proved in the 
following manner: According to definition, sub 
stance is "that whose conception needs the con 
ception of no other thing. " But that whose 
conception needs the conception of no other 
thing can not have any cause outside of itself, for 
the cause would in this case necessarily be included 
in the conception, since "the knowledge of an effect 
depends on a knowledge of the cause and includes 
the same." Now as substance can have no outer 
cause, it must be "causa sui," self-existent. There 
fore existence pertains to the nature of substance. 1 
This demonstration is, of course, a petitio principii-, 
since, in order to be cogent, it must assume just that 
existence of substance which is to be proved. For 
if something has no outer cause, it follows that it 
has an inner one only after we have assumed that 
it already exists and needs a cause of this existence. 
Yet Spinoza is quite in earnest and supposes he has 
demonstrated both the existence and the self-ex 
istence of substance, though of course his interest 
is really in the proof for the self-existence. He 
tacitly admits, however, that the result of his dem 
onstration does not after all go beyond what is im 
mediately contained in the definition, and hence in 
a note he founds the self-existence of substance upon 
the naked definition: The idea of existence belongs 
to the clear and distinct conception of substance 
(id, quod in se est), consequently substance exists in 
objective reality ; the thought that substance does not 
exist would be a contradiction. Or, to vary the 

1 Eth. I, prop. 7. "Ad naturam substantiae pertinet 


phraseology, we can conceive the essential nature 
of anything except substance without thinking the 
existence of the same ; existence, therefore, is not an 
element of its content; but substance, according 
to the definition, we cannot conceive without think 
ing existence as belonging to it. In harmony with 
his doctrine of clear and distinct ideas, then, the 
existence of substance is not only in the idea of 
substance, but in substance itself, "extra intellec- 
tum." 1 

From the attribute of self-existence is derived 
that of eternity. Since the conception of "causa 
sui" includes no ground or cause for passing away, 
but unqualifiedly posits existence, the attribute of 
eternity is for Spinoza s way of thinking so obvious 
a consequence, that he says he understands by 
eternity nothing else than just this self -existence. 2 

2. The Infinitude of Substance. 

From the self-existence of substance follows for 
Spinoza also its infinity. As the definition of sub 
stance represents an unqualified affirmation of ex 
istence, and includes no negation or limitation, sub 
stance must necessarily be infinite. Because the 

1 Eth. I, prop. 8, schol. 2. Si autem homines ad na- 
turam substantiae attenderent, minime de veritate 7. 
prop, dubitarent; imo haec prop, omnibus axioma esset, 
et inter notiones communes numeraretur. Nam per sub- 
stantiam intelligerent id, quod in se est et per se con- 
cipitur. ... Si quis ergo diceret, se claram et distinc- 
tam, hoc est veram ideam substantiae habere et nihilo 
minus dubitare, num talis substantia existat, idem hercle 
esset, ac si diceret, se veram habere ideam, et nihilomi- 
nus dubitare num falsa sit. 

2 Eth. I, def. 8 (Cf. Cogitata Metaphysica, I, cap. 4; 
Epis. 12; Eth. I, 19, dem.) Per aeternitatem intelligo 
ipsam existentiam, quatenus ex sola rei aeternae definiti- 
one necessario sequi concipitur. 


word existence means existence and in no way 
non-existence, the existent (substance) is affirmed 
to be absolutely unlimited. 

But this demonstration is too simple to satisfy 
Spinoza, and it is followed by a more complicated 
one. He tacitly makes the erroneous assumption 
that the same content cannot belong to a plurality 
of objects, and then draws the consequence that 
there cannot be a plurality of substances of the same 
nature. 1 From this it follows that substance is not 
finite; for, if it were, it would have to be limited 
by another substance of the same nature, since by 
"finite" 2 we mean nothing else than "limited by 
a similar." But, as there are not two substances 
of the same nature, substance cannot be finite. 

The basis of this argument, namely, that only one 
substance of the same nature can exist, Spinoza 
thought he could prove directly from the idea of 
substance, as follows : A cause is required not only 
for the nature of a thing, but also for its existence, 
i. e. for the existence of the particular number of 
individuals possessing that nature. This cause 
(ground) is included either in the definition of the 
thing or is outside of it. In the case of most things, 

1 Eth. I, 5, dem. Si darentur plures distinctae, deber- 
ent inter se distingui vel ex diversitate attributorum, vel 
ex diversitate affectionum. Si tantum ex diversitate at- 
trioutorum, concedetur ergo, non dari nisi unam ejusdem 
attributi. At si ex diversitate affectionum, cum substan- 
tia sit prior natura suis affectionibus, depositis ergo 
affectionibus, et in se considerata, hoc est vere consid- 
erata, non poterit concipi ab ilia distingui, hoc est, non 
poterunt dari plures, sed tantum una. It will be ob 
served that the fallacy consists in using "distinctae" in 
the two senses of qualitatively distinct and numerically 

Eth. I, def. 2. 


it is outside. The idea of man, for example, does 
not imply the existence of man or of any men. But 
in substance we have a thing the idea of which im 
plies necessarily existence. The " cause " of its ex 
istence (i. e. the ground for affirming its existence) 
is included in its definition. l But from its definition 
cannot follow the existence of several substances." 
Therefore only one substance of the same nature 

Now the infinitude of substance, which is thus 
established, is not merely the infinitude which we 
may ascribe to a particular qualitative content (as, 
for example, to extension, which permits us to think 
other co-existent infinitudes of a different kind), 
but an absolute infinitude that embraces all possible 
qualitative infinitudes. Substance is infinite ex 
istence," and as such embraces not only all known 
kinds of relative infinitudes, but also an infinite 
number of unknown kinds. It consists of an infinite 
number of "attributes," each of which is infinite 
in its kind constituting a particular qualitative con 
tent. 1 

This result is reached by Spinoza by virtue of the 
assumption that "the more reality or being each 
thing has, the more attributes it has." 2 This propo 
sition, which he adopted from tradition, contains 
the same play on words that we noticed above, where 
Spinoza inferred the self-existence of substance from 
the affirmative character of the conception of "ex 
istence." Only it is here the other sense of the 
ambiguous expression "non-negatived existence" 

* Eth. I, 8, schol. 2. 

1 Eth. I, 10, schol. 

2 Eth. I, 9. 


that is employed. The unconditionally affirmative 
" existence" there meant the exclusion of all tem 
poral limitations, i. e. "eternity;" here it is thought 
according to logical extension, and means that an 
infinite number of positive qualitative attributes 
must be ascribed to substance.* 

It is not necessary to consider in further detail 
Spinoza s ontological arguments for the infinitude 
of substance. Our purpose is only to determine in 
essential particulars his conception of the Absolute, 
and to define its relation to the religious conscious 
ness. We may add only that he supposed he could 
have dispensed with the demonstrations cited above 
and have proved the absolute infinitude of substance 
immediately from the idea of an absolutely infinite 
and perfect being, since non-existence implies a 
limitation and an imperfection. 1 He offers also an 
a posteriori demonstration for the existence of an 
infinite substance: We know a posteriori that 
finite things exist; and, if these things which we 
know, had the power to exist and the infinite did not 
have it, the finite would be mightier than the in 
finite; which is absurd. 2 

* "ad ejus essentiam pertinet, quicquid essentiam ex- 
primit et negationem nullam involvit." 

1 Eth. I, prop. 11, dem. 2 and 3. This demonstration 
also, like so many others employed to establish the meta 
physical attributes of substance, consists in a play on 
words. It is affirmed that "posse non existere impotentia 
est, et contra posse existere potentia est." The proof 
of this self-evident" proposition (it is "per se notum") 
is apparently only the etymological kinship of "posse" 
and "potentia." But "posse" is used in the problematical 
sense and "potentia" in the sense of "power," and not 
in the sense of "possibilitas," which is the substantive 
correlative of "posse" as here used. 

2 Eth. I, prop. 11, schol. 


3. The Solitariness of Substance. 

That there can not be several substances of the 
same attribute, we have already seen ; that there can 
be no plurality at all of substances, has not yet been 
expressly affirmed and proved. This follows, how 
ever, from what is assumed to be already established. 
If substance is absolutely infinite and every attribute 
must be ascribed to it, a hypothetical second sub 
stance could have no attributes which did not 
already belong to the infinite substance. But in 
that case there would be two substances having a 
common attribute; which we have found to be im 
possible. There is therefore only one substance. 1 

The unity (solitariness) of substance, Spinoza 
thinks, must be regarded as unique. Strictly speak 
ing, it is not correct to characterize it numerically. 
We conceive things numerically only after we have 
brought them into a common class. But substance 
cannot be so treated. Unity (unitas) is only a 
mode of thinking whereby we distinguish one thing 
from others which agree with it in some way. The 
terms "one" (unum) and "single" (unicum), 
therefore, can only very improperly be applied, to 
substance. 2 

4. The Immutability of Substance. 

It is entirely in accord with the peculiarities of 
Spinoza s thinking that he regards substance as 

1 Eth. I, 14. This demonstration, it will be noticed, 
is based on the ambiguity contained in prop. 5, namely, 
that of the word distinctae, which means either "qualita 
tively distinct," or "numerically separate." 

2 Epis. 50; Cog. Met. I, Cap. 6. Cf. the doctrines of 


unchangeable. The fact that he strives to reduce all 
reality to a transcript of logical conceptions and 
relations renders change something for which he 
can consistently find no place in his thought. 
Logic knows nothing of change and nothing of time. 
All true ideas are immutable, but all true ideas, ac 
cording to Spinoza, have their exact counterparts 
in the realm of objective reality. Consistently, 
therefore, Spinoza should regard all reality as 
changeless. Hence it is only what we should expect 
when substance, the fundamental reality, whose 
definition moreover expresses a mere fixed relation 
(in se esse), is pronounced to be immutable, to 
gether with all its attributes.* The language em 
ployed in this connection is especially instructive. 
Because the definition of substance expresses noth 
ing but "existence," its "existence" is identified 
with its "essence." 1 Both the "existence" and the 
"essence" of substance are "eternal truths." Now 
if there occurred any change in substance, it would 
have to be either in its "existence" or in its "es 
sence," but both are "eternal truths" and any 
change would involve their becoming "false;" 
which is absurd. 2 

It would be a mistake, as we shall soon learn, 
to apply this immutability to moral attributes, as 
has always been the custom in Christian Theology; 
for according to Spinoza we may not ascribe any 
moral attributes to the Absolute. 

* Eth. I, 20, cor. 2. Deum, sive omnia Dei attributa 
esse immutabilia. 

1 Eth. I, 20. Dei existentia ejusque essentia unum et 
idem sunt. 

2 Ibid. cor. 2. 


5. The Perfection of Substance. 

Another character of substance is perfection. 
This familiar term means for Spinoza nothing else 
than reality. 1 Ens absolute perfectum, therefore 
becomes identical for him with ens realissimum. 
But this traditional conception of Scholasticism ac 
quires in the language of Spinoza a special meaning, 
inasmuch as he understands by it a being with an 
infinite number of infinite "real" 2 attributes. "If 
a being is infinite, its attributes must also be in 
finite (i. e. infinite in number and in extent) ; and 
just this is what we call a perfect being." 3 But 
since, according to Spinoza, the reality of an object 
increases in proportion to its logical extension, and 
since every determination of content occasions a 
restriction of extension (omnis determinatio est 
ncgatio), it must follow that ens absolute perfectum 
and ens realissimum are each identical with ens 
absolute indeterminatum. How he combines the 
two conceptions ens realissimum and ens absolute 
indeterminatum will appear further on. Here it is 
sufficient carefully to note that perfection as a char 
acter of substance is in no respect to be distinguished 
from the infinitude explained above. 

1 Eth. II, def. 6. Per realitatem et perfectionem idem 

2 That is, as we shall see, representing some qualita 
tive content of actual or possible perception. 

8 Korte Verhandeling, Deel I, Cap. II, pp. 11 and 12.- 
" . . . . Zo het wezen oneyndelijk is, zo moeten ook zijne 
eigenschappen oneyndelijk zijn, en even dit is het dat 
wy een volmaakt wezen noemen." I translate "oneyn 
delijk" by "infinite in number and extent," because it 
would be easy to show that this must be his meaning. 
His use of the word in either sense and in both at the 
same time often accounts for a lack of precision in 


6. Substance as Cause. 

Finally, substance is the only cause of all that 
exists. Accordingly it is called the "absolutely first 
cause" 1 of all other things, and also the "cause of 
itself." It is therefore a "free" cause, in the sense 
that it can undergo no compulsion from without, 
and indeed the only free cause. 2 It is likewise an 
"efficient" cause. 3 But in all these aspects it is an 
"imminent" cause. 4 

In carrying out these assumptions in regard to the 
causal relations of substance without surrendering 
any of the characters hitherto attributed to it and 
without violating certain presuppositions as to the 
nature of causality, Spinoza encounters, as we shall 
soon have occasion to point out, his greatest dif 

By reviewing the formal characters of substance 
which we have just considered, it will be seen that 
they correspond to the "metaphysical" attributes 
of the traditional conception of God. In so far, 
therefore, Spinoza is justified in calling his sub 
stance "God," and in saying: "By God I under 
stand the absolutely infinite being, i. e. a substance 
consisting of an infinite number of attributes, each 
of which expresses an infinite essence (qualitative 
content)." 5 But to read into Spinoza s concep- 

1 Eth. I, 16, cor. 3. Deum esse causam absolute pri- 

2 Eth. I, 17, cor. 2. Solum Deum esse causam liberam. 

3 Eth. I, 16, cor. 1. 

4 Eth. I, 18. 

B Eth. I, def. 6. Per Deum intelligo ens absolute 
infinitum, hoc est, substantiam constantem infinitis at- 
tributis, quorum unumquodque aeternam et infinitam 
essentiam exprimit. 


tion of God the content of the Christian concep 
tion, would certainly be a great mistake. It is to 
be carefully noted and constantly borne in mind 
that the characters we have thus far enumerated 
are merely formal and therefore shed no light on 
the real (qualitative) nature of the Absolute. They, 
considered alone, have so little significance for the 
religious consciousness that the most anti-religious 
thinkers may accept them. It is from the qualita 
tive predicates of Spinoza s substance that its re 
ligious value is to be determined. But these are 
expressed in the infinite "real" attributes, among 
which are "extension" and "thought." We turn 
next, therefore, to the consideration of his doctrine 
of real attributes. 


1. Relation of Attributes to Substance. 

"By attribute," he says, "I understand that which 
intellect perceives concerning substance as consti 
tuting its essence."* The meaning of this sentence 
becomes plain when we recall the teachings of 
Descartes from whom Spinoza borrowed his doctrine 
of attributes. 

Descartes divides the qualities of things into at 
tributes and modes, an attribute being a primary 
quality, one that presupposes no other. This is as 
sumed to represent or to "express" the nature of 
a given thing: "There is one special property of 
each substance that constitutes its nature and es 
sence." 1 The only known attributes of finite sub 
stances are extension and thought, the first express 
ing the nature or "essence" of material substance, 2 
the second that of thought substance. An attribute, 
therefore, comprehends the entire essence of the 
substance to which it belongs, so that there can be 
but one attribute for each substance. Spinoza agrees 
with Descartes, as far as his own problem will per 
mit, and accordingly by "essentia" as applied to 
substance he means the nature of substance that is 

* Eth. I, def. 4. 

1 Prin. Phil. I, 53. 

2 Prin. Phil. I, 53. "quod corpori tribui potest, ex- 
tensionem praesupponit, estque tantum modus quidam 
rei extensae." 


faithfully expressed in a primary quality, or, what 
amounts to the same thing, the primary quality 

The expression, "what intellect perceives con 
cerning substance (quod intellectua de substantia 
percipit)" also becomes intelligible from the tra 
ditional doctrine of substance and attribute. From 
time immemorial substance had been regarded as 
an independent something behind the properties 
of a thing whose essential nature is truthfully re 
vealed in them. Descartes gives expression 
to this thought in one of the definitions 
quoted above. That the perceived properties 
(especially the "attributes") truthfully represent 
the nature of the substance itself, was accepted by 
him as a matter of course; "for it is evident to 
reason that an attribute must be the attribute of 
something real." 1 The expression "quod intellectus 
de substantia percipit" is for Spinoza only another 
form of expression for the same way of thinking, 
and means nothing else than, "what we in cognition 
refer to an underlying substance that is otherwise 
concealed from us." Only for Spinoza, in harmony 
with his general doctrine of knowledge, it is "w- 
tellectus," in express distinction from sense-per 
ception, that is named as the faculty whose function 
it is to determine which of the properties are to be 
considered as attributes. The definition, therefore, 
may be paraphrased as follows: By attribute I 
understand a primary property, which, in conse 
quence of the agreement of our ideas with reality, 

1 Respons. more geom. dispositae. Def. 5. quia na- 
turali lumine notum est nullum esse posse nihili reale 


reveals to us the qualitative nature 1 of an other 
wise hidden substance to which we refer it. 

It is apparently with a view to establishing the 
rational necessity of the irreducible, presupposition- 
less character of an attribute, and also to identify 
ing attribute and substance, that he lays down the 
proposition: " Every attribute of substance must 
be conceived through itself." 2 This language, it 
will be observed, is the same as that employed in the 
definition of substance. If we take it to mean that 
attributes are in respect of qualitative content ab 
solutely heterogeneous, it is intelligible. But if we 
are to understand that they are absolutely presup- 
positionless in the sense that the same language is 
employed in the definition of substance, it is unin 
telligible; for the very idea of attribute, as Spinoza 
himself generally assumes, presupposes a correlative 
(a substance) to which it is attributed. Moreover, 
as in this case all distinction between attribute and 
substance would be removed, it would be tanta 
mount to expressly positing as many separate sub 
stances as there are attributes. Nevertheless, it is 
certainly his intention by this proposition to iden 
tify attribute with substance not only in qualitative 
but in formal nature also. Attribute must be, like 
substance, underived, self-contained, independently 
existent ; for according to definition it expresses the 
nature (essentia) of substance. 3 The circumstance 

1 Cf. Epis. 9, where attribute is explained as certa talis 
natura attributed to substance. 

2 Eth. I, prop. 10. 

8 Eth. I, prop. 10, dem. Attributum enim est id, quod 
intellectus de substantia percipit tanquam ejus essentiam 
constituens; adeoque (per def. 3 [i. e., per def. substan- 
tiae] ) per se concipi debet." Another proof of the prop 
osition lies in the fact that all attributes of substance are 


that one attribute (extensio) has nothing in com 
mon with another attribute (cogitatio) and may 
therefore be said to be conceived through itself as 
regards qualitative nature, is taken to mean that 
it is conceived through itself absolutely. Intelligible 
motives for thus identifying attribute and substance, 
in spite of the contradiction involved, will appear 
as we proceed. 

It seems therefore that the word "essentia" in 
the definition of attribute may, after all, mean more 
than we have expressed above in our paraphrase 
by "qualitative nature;" it may mean "qualitative 
nature and self-existence." But whether we think 
the more limited or the more extended meaning, it 
is impossible to save the unity of substance ; for, 
in any case, we have incommensurable attributes, 
each of which expresses truthfully the ultimate 
nature of substance. The one substance posited 
above on other grounds now resolves itself inevi 
tably into an aggregate of substances. Though Spi 
noza does not see the contradiction involved in his 
representations, he feels it as a difficulty, and seeks 
to defend his thought at length against possible ob 
jections. But his defense consists only of unclear 
explanations, which, in the light of the later philo 
sophical development, are seen to be vacillations 
between the realistic and phenomenalistic stand 
points. Extension and thought are different "ex- 

co-eternal and none of them therefore are produced by 
others; but if one involved the idea of another, they 
would be related to one another as cause and effect 
(Pars I, Ax. 4). It will be observed that the dem. as 
sumes that two things of related nature necessarily stand 
in relation of cause and effect, which does not follow 
from "the knowledge of an effect involves a knowledge 
of cause." 


pressions" of the same substance: "thinking sub 
stance and extended substance are one and the 
same substance, which is comprehended (compre- 
henditur) now under one attribute and now under 
the other. So also a mode of extension and the idea 
of that mode are one and the same thing, but ex 
pressed in two ways." 1 This language was occa 
sioned apparently by the circumstance that the con 
tent of an idea corresponds with its object, or, to 
speak in the terminology of the time, that an idea 
contains objective what exists formaliter in the 
thing. According to this way of thinking, substance 
ought to be the common content of extension and 
of its idea, which content exists, however, neither 
after the manner of extension nor after the manner 
of idea, but after the manner of substance. Yet 
how the common content of extension and of its 
idea existing after the manner of substance can be 
anything else than just extended substance, is in 
conceivable; for that common content is simply 
extension. From the standpoint of realism, there 
fore, the phrase "expressed in two ways" turns 
out to be incomprehensible. In fact it is intelligible 
only from the standpoint of phenomenalism. For 
the agreement of an idea with its object can not be 
a ground for the assumption that they literally con 
stitute the same substance ; it would indicate at most 
that they have a common source, of whose nature 
we can say nothing more than that it is so consti 
tuted that it can produce both thought and 
extension. And Spinoza often seems vaguely to 
conceive of substance thus as the unknown unit that 
is to be postulated as the condition of the two 
1 Eth. II, 7, schol. 


heterogeneous attributes. But when so thought, it 
.is neither extended nor thinking; neither attribute 
represents its real nature, for if one does, the other 
cannot, since they have nothing in common. This 
way of thinking, therefore, though it is scarcely 
more than an implicit tendency with Spinoza, con 
tradicts the realistic sense of his doctrine of attri 
butes, according to which an attribute constitutes 
the very essence of substance. Moreover, all these 
explanations presuppose, what contradicts his 
general teaching, that an idea can represent nothing 
but the extended; for every idea must agree with 
an extended object as its ideatum, else the assumed 
common content vanishes. Further, they ignore 
altogether the infinite number of other attributes. 
As soon as we take these into account, a more 
serious difficulty arises; for every attribute must 
agree with all the rest in the same way that thought 
agrees with extension, because they all are only 
different "expressions" of the common substance; 
the idea, for example, of an other attribute than 
extension would have the same content as the idea 
of extension. Consequently all attributes, except 
the attribute of thought, would have to be conceived 
as extension. This is not the only connection in 
Spinoza s thinking, as we shall see, where the infinite 
ly numerous unknown attributes threaten to be 
swallowed up in extension. 

Some of the expounders of Spinoza have under 
taken to show that his doctrine of attributes is con 
sistent with the unity of substance. To discuss in 
detail the different attempts would be too tedious. 
That of Johann Ed. Erdmann is the most worthy 
of consideration, inasmuch as he renounces from the 


beginning all hope of being able to think the incon 
ceivable. The expression quod intellectus de sub- 
stantia percipit contained in the definition of 
attribute, he interprets as meaning that attributes 
are only subjective modes of thought, the mind s 
way of looking at the one identical substance. 
They are not to be regarded as objectively real 
constituents of substance; they are only so many, 
appearances. This view he finds supported in par 
ticular by Epistle 9, where Spinoza explains that 
by attribute he means the same as by substance, 
except that it is called attribute in respect of the 
mind which ascribes a certain nature to substance." 1 
Spinoza goes on to illustrate his meaning by two 
examples showing how the same thing may properly 
be called by two names: (1) By "Israel," is to be 
understood the third patriarch, and by "Jacob," 
the same person, but with reference to the fact that 
at birth he had hold of his brother s heel. (2) By 
a "plane" he understands that which reflects all 
rays of light without mutation ; the same thing is 
meant by "white," except that it is called "white" 
with reference to the man who looks at the plane. 
This sounds at first reading very much like the 
language of phenomenalism. But it is certain that 
Spinoza never aims to be a phenomenalist ; 2 he is 
always in intention a thorough-going realist. Knowl 
edge for him is knowledge of reality in the most 
literal sense of the term ; although he has not always 
been able to adhere to his standpoint with entire 

1 .... nisi quod attributum dicatur respectu intellec-, 
tus, substantiae certain naturam tribuentis. 

2 Herbert Spencer, however, has classified him as such. 
Cf. First Principles. 


consistency. This fact in itself, that an interpreta 
tion of the passage in the sense of conscious and 
express phenomenalism, would place it in sharp 
contradiction with the tenor and complexion of his 
whole system, has generally been considered a suf 
ficient objection to Erdmann s view. But Spinoza s 
language, read in the light of his manner of think 
ing, will be seen to be consistent with his realism. 
When he says that attribute and substance are but 
different names for the same thing (and this is 
really what he says), he does not mean that attri 
bute is less objectively real than substance, but that 
the distinction between the two is only a logical 
one, a distinctio rationis. 1 Attribute and substance 
cannot be separated, though they may be dis 
tinguished in thought, attribute applying to sub 
stance in its qualitative aspect. In objective reality 
there are no attributes existing apart from substance. 
Neither does he mean that the distinction between 
one attribute and another attribute is a mental 
fiction (what Erdmann s interpretation would as 
sume) ; for he is not speaking of the relation of 
attributes to one another, but of attributes to sub 
stance. These cannot be separated any more than 
Israel and Jacob, or than the whiteness of the plane 
and the plane itself. But they may be distinguished 
in thought, attribute referring to substance in its 
qualitative aspect, just as " Jacob" applies to 
Israel, though referring especially to the patriarch s 
posture at birth. This would be quite in harmony 
with Spinoza s realism and particularly with his 

1 Cf. Cog. Met. Cap. V, Notice, however, that what 
he says here about distinctions between different attri 
butes applies only to the so-called moral and metaphysical 
attributes discussed by theologians. 


complete identification of attribute and substance 
noticed above. The example of the plane, it should 
be observed, is also to be thoroughly divested 
of the phenomenalistic associations of a later time, 
and be regarded as illustrating precisely the same 
point as the example of Israel and Jacob, namely, 
the unreality of the distinction between " plane * 
(as defined by Spinoza) and white," but not the 
unreality of " white." 

Kuno Fischer, in an earlier edition of his well- 
known "Geschichte der neuern Philosophic" at 
tempted to illustrate by an example the possibility 
of thinking the heterogeneous attributes as consti 
tuting one substance. In his illustration empty 
space plays the part of substance, and a series of 
mutually exclusive geometrical figures that of the 
attributes. On account of the criticism of Camerer 1 
he has omitted the illustration from the later editions 
of his work. It applies obviously only to the relation 
between attributes and modes, and not to that be 
tween substance and attributes. Nevertheless he 
still holds that Spinoza s thought is consistent. 2 
But even if we admit with him that substance is to 
be conceived only as efficient cause and the attributes 
accordingly as underived, ultimate "forces," it still 
remains impossible to save the unity of substance. 
Efficient cause means force ; first efficient cause 
means the ultimate force. If now the ultimate force 
(substance) be thought as a universal, the particular 
ultimate forces (attributes) become mere modes; 
for they have something in common with one 
another and are no longer conceived each through 

1 Die Lehre Spinozas p. 6. 

2 Vol. I, Part 2, p. 366. 


itself alone. But if, on the other hand, substance 
(the ultimate force) is not thought in a more general 
sense than the attributes, the one ultimate force 
resolves itself inevitably into a plurality of inde 
pendent ultimate forces. 

It is worth while to point out the motives in Spi 
noza s presuppositions and in his self-imposed 
problem which occasioned the unclear conception 
of the relation between substance and attributes. 
It will then appear that he could not do otherwise 
than conceive it contradictorily, and that accord 
ingly all attempts to make him consistent at this 
point must be fruitless, so long as we do not ascribe 
to him thoughts that are not his. 

One occasion of his way of thinking lay, as men 
tioned above, in the Cartesian doctrine of attributes 
which he uncritically accepted in the main. By 
Descartes the presuppositionless properties of things 
(extensio and cogitatio) were distinguished by the 
name " attributes" from the other properties, which 
were called accidents" or "modes." An attribute 
represented the ultimate nature, essentia, of the 
corresponding substance; extensio that of material 
substance ; cogitatio that of thought-substance. 
For him, therefore, "substance" and "essence," 
or "substance" and "attribute," could be synony 
mous terms without giving rise to any contradiction, 
because to each of the two substances belonged only 
one attribute (essence) ; but in the case of Spinoza, 
who had to do with several attributes belonging to 
one substance, the unquestioned Cartesian tradition 
could not but lead to the positing of a plurality of 
absolutely heterogeneous "essences," or ultimate 
natures, in a unity, i. e. to a contradiction. 


If, further, we take account of Spinoza s self-im 
posed problem, it will be seen that he could not have 
given up the Cartesian view of attributes, even if 
he had wished to do so. For he aims to establish 
the existence of an ultimate reality of which all 
things are only modifications, i. e. to find an idea 
from which the ideas of all other things are de- 
ducible through logical determination; and he 
recognized (what some philosophers have not) 
that from the absolutely indeterminate 1 absolutely 
nothing can be derived. As he could not determine 
the nature of this ultimate reality a priori, he was 
content to start with the things known to our im 
mediate experience and work backward by general 
ization. Accordingly the most general qualitative 
characters of Nature (extensio and cogitatio) he re 
garded as that which constitutes the nature of the 
Absolute. Otherwise it would have been impossible 
for him to derive therefrom the actual world of 
matter and mind. His ultimate being could not be 
other than a "real" one, i.e. one which, as to its 
qualitative nature, would admit of predicates be 
longing to the things of the actual world. 2 Spinoza 

1 See p. 128, where the sense of Spinoza s expres 
sion ens absolute indeterminatum is explained. 

2 De Intell. Emend, p. 30. "Unde possumus videre 
apprime nobis esse necessarium, ut semper a rebus pky- 
sicis, sive ab entibus realibus, omnes nostras ideas deduca- 
mus, progrediendo, quoad ejus fieri potest, secundum 
seriem causarum ab uno ente reali ad aliud ens reale, 
et ita quidem ut ad abstracta et universalia non transea- 
mus, sive ut ab iis aliquid reale non concludamus, sive 
ut ea aliquo reali non concludantur: Utrumque enim 
verum progressum inteUectus interrumpit." By "seriem cau 
sarum" as he explained, he means the "series of the fixed 
and eternal things," i. e., the series of common properties 
of things, arranged according to their relative universal 
ity. By "entia realia" he means the same. By "abstracta 


was compelled, therefore, by the implicit aim of all 
his thinking so to conceive of the fundamental unit 
as to make it share in thought and extension. Each 
of these attributes, let it be observed, had not merely 
to pertain to the Absolute in some loose way, but to 
constitute its nature, its essence," to be identical 
with it, whether this identity were capable of being 
clearly conceived or not. His earnest realism re 
quired nothing less. Spinoza could not posit a more 
ultimate reality than thought or a more ultimate 
reality than extension; for such a one would have 
been qualitatively undefmable, and thus have occa 
sioned an impassable gulf for our cognition between 
the actual world and the absolute. And just because 
the unity of substance can not be thought without 
positing something above the attributes to mediate 
between them, Spinoza s representation of the rela 
tion between substance and attribute had to be con 
tradictory. As often as the thought of that unity 
was really complete in his mind, he himself could 
not avoid thinking that more general something; 
though the true character of his mental operation 
was in great measure concealed from him by the 
circumstance that the definition of substance ex 
presses a mere empty relation, 1 while mind and 
matter belong to the category of things. For as 
often as substance is conceived as a mere relation, 
in which matter and thought may both stand, one 
has at least a counterfeit of union, and of a union 

et universalia" he means here those general terms that 
originate in the "imagination." For explanation of why 
he applies the word causa to the entia realia see p. 89. 

1 So also the designation of substance as "ens" (Cog. 
Met. I, Cap. 3) and as "absolute existence" (cf. p. 105). 


too which does not presuppose anything "real" be 
yond those attributes. 

The result of our examination of Spinoza s ac 
count of the relation between attribute and sub 
stance may be summarized as follows : The task that 
Spinoza set himself was to deduce the world from a 
single knowable reality , the accomplishment of the 
task, however, was rendered impossible by certain 
presuppositions. Hence the actual outcome was 
something else. If we accept the logical result of 
what he says in regard to attribute and substance, 
then he has traced all things back to a plurality of 
knowable realities. But if we do not press his fate 
ful doctrine of attributes to its logical conclusion, 
and accept the asserted oneness of substance, this 
unit becomes unknowable, since it must lie beyond 
thought and extension. In this case the outcome is 
the tracing back of all things to two underived 
knowable phenomena of one ulterior, unknowable 
reality. "Phenomena" we say, and not "modes"; 
for different modes of the same thing must have 
something in common. It is possible that Spinoza 
would have expressly accepted this latter position, 
if his earnest realism had not stood in his way. In 
fact, the effort to combine a plurality of hetero- 
genous attributes in a unity occasions a constant 
tendency toward phenomenalistic ways of thinking, 
and not infrequently his language threatens, in spite 
of himself, to express this point of view. Ens, qua- 
tenus ens est, per se solum, ut substantia, nos non 
afficit. 1 It is a condition of rightly understanding 
much of Spinoza s thought that we clearly recog- 

1 Cog. Met. Pars I, Cap. III. Cf. Eth. II, 7, schol.; 
Epis. 64 and 66. 


nize his constant vacillation between realism and 
phenomenalism, neither of which he can consist 
ently accept, although in intention he is unquestion 
ably a realist. To assume that he is consistent will 
lead to serious misinterpretations. 

For our particular task it is most important to 
have established that, for Spinoza, substance and its 
attributes are indistinguishable as regards their 
nature, and hence that the entire content of sub 
stance is contained in the sum of the attributes. 

2. The Significance of the Infinite Number of 
Unknown Attributes. 

For the sake of simplicity we have thus far taken 
little account of the infinite number of unknown 
attributes. Their relation to substance is of cotirse ; 
the same as that of extension and thought; and the 
unclearness of this relation became, in the case of 
the unknown attributes, of the greatest significance 
for the shaping of the entire system. His starting 
from two irreconcilable assumptions, the oneness of 
substance and the absolute incommensurability of 
its attributes, has for a consequence difficulties and 
contradictions in the details of his system, which 
must have led to its reconstruction, if he had been 
able to doubt his first assumptions. From the one 
side he is compelled to maintain the absolute mutual 
exclusiveness of the modifications of different attri 
butes; and from the other side he must secure the 
participation of each modification in the nature of 
substance, i. e., in the sum of all the attributes that 
constitute the essence of the one substance. Ac 
cordingly, since "thought substance and extended 
substance are one and the same substance," body and 


soul as modifications of the one substance are one 
and the same thing, only expressed in two different 
ways." 1 In reality, therefore, they are one and the 
same modification; but this modification, and every 
other one, "as it is in itself," 2 must, as part of the 
substance consisting of an infinite number of attri 
butes, be expressed not merely in two ways, but in 
an infinite number of ways. 3 Consequently every 
thing possesses at bottom not only the properties 
that can be referred to matter and mind, but along 
with them an infinite number of other unknowable 
properties derived from the rest of the attributes. 
(Hence every thing is also expressed in an infinite 
number of ways in the "Intellectus Infinitus," 4 
which will claim our attention further on.) The 
question naturally arises: Why then can the human 
mind not discover the other attributes? 5 Man s 
ultimate nature must, according to this way of 
thinking, participate in all the qualitative determin 
ations of the infinite substance; and, if the mind is 
only the nature of man expressed under the attri 
bute of thought, why can it find in itself only ideas 
of the* properties expressed in two attributes? To 
this question Spinoza can of course give no satisfac 
tory answer. 

The relation of these other attributes to "intel 
lect" deserves to be noticed. They are defined to be 

1 Eth. II, 7, schol. 

2 Ibid. Quare rerum, ut in se sunt, Deus revera est 
causa, quatenus infinitis constat attributis. Cf. Eth. I, 
prop. 16. 

3 Cf. Eth. I, prop. 16: Ex necessitate divinae naturae 
infinita infinitis modis (hoc est omnia, quae sub intel- 
lectum infinitum cadere possunt) sequi debent. 

4 Epis. 66. 

5 Cf. Tschirnhausen s letter; Epis. 65. 


" whatever is able to be perceived by an infinite 
intellect as constituting the essence of substance." 1 
Without giving a full account of the expression, 
" infinite intellect," which we have reserved for an 
other place, it will suffice here to point out that they 
must sustain essentially the same relation to intel 
lect as do extension and thought. They are such, 
therefore, as the human mind, if its vision were 
unbounded, would discover by following the same 
process as it has followed in the case of the two 
known attributes ; i. e., they are all the positive, 
"real," suo genere infinite predicates that the mind 
would then be able to derive from the immediate 
objects of knowledge. It cannot be too much em 
phasized that when Spinoza speaks of ascribing all 
possible attributes to substance, he has no thought 
of fictitious creations of the imagination, or of ab 
stractions, or of moral qualities, etc.; but only of 
properties which are the objects of possible per 
ception. Every attribute is concrete, "real," i. e., 
derivable from hard and fast reality. None can be 
deduced a priori either from the conception of sub 
stance or from any other ground. 

Before dismissing the subject of the attributes we 
would distinctly point out the great significance of 
Spinoza s conception of attribute for his idea of 
God. It is in fact indispensable, and in this circum 
stance lies another motive for his holding it fast, 
in spite of the difficulties in which it involves him. 
It enables him to give a definite nature to the Abso 
lute without impairing its infinity. Omnis determin- 

1 Eth. II, 7, schol. quidquid ab infinite intellectu per- 
cipi potest tanquam substantiae essentiam constituens. 


atio est negatio 1 is a proposition of logic to which 
Spinoza attached great importance. It means that 
the more definite the meaning of a term, the less the 
number of objects to which it will apply; or, in the 
language of logic, increasing the intension" dimin 
ishes the "extension" of terms. But if this is true, 
how can we speak at all of attributes (qualitative 
determinations) of the infinite, the all-inclusive? 
Of Spinoza s infinite (provided we admit with him 
its unity) we may very consistently do so. The 
character of each attribute is such that it has nothing 
in common with any other. On this account they 
cannot limit one another; for a limitation can occur 
only through a similar. 2 Each one, therefore, is in 
finite in its kind, and yet by its qualitative determin 
ation does not negative anything else. A plurality 
of infinites is possible only when they are absolutely 
heterogeneous. But out of such Spinoza has consti 
tuted an Absolute of infinite qualitative content, 
without violating the principle, Determinatio est 
negatio. But thereby, we repeat once more, he has 
logically though not consciously, destroyed the unity 
of the Absolute. It becomes only an aggregate of 
independent realities, each of which is infinite in 
its kind. 

When Spinoza defines God to be the ens absolute 
indetcrminatum^ he can consistently mean nothing 
else than what we have just described, a being that 
possesses all kinds of qualitative contents, each of 
which is unlimited in its kind, and in so far also inde 

1 Epis 50. 

2 Eth. I, dcf. 2. 

3 Epis. 50. 


Some might be tempted perhaps to find a place 
among the infinite attributes other than extensio 
and cogitatio for all those which Christian theology 
ascribes to the Absolute. After what has been said, 
however, it will be seen that such an inclination 
would be misleading. If self-consciousness, knowl 
edge, purposeful activity, moral qualities, etc., are 
to be claimed for the Absolute, they must be derived 
from the attribute of thought, which alone exhausts 
all the spiritual content of Substance. In how far 
this attribute fulfills the demands of the religious 
consciousness, will appear as we proceed. 

But before we undertake to determine more closely 
the meaning of cogitatio and extensio, it is well to 
give an account of the relation that exists between 
substance (or attributes, if you will) and modes. 



Spinoza s aim, as determined in a previous chapter, 
is really double: (1) to comprehend all reality as 
qualitatively determinate pieces, so to speak, of the 
Absolute; and (2) to comprehend all reality causally 
as necessary effect of the Absolute. The two prob 
lems were never clearly distinguished in his think 
ing, a circumstance that greatly increases the diffi 
culty of understanding him. The second one 
naturally occasioned him the most trouble. 

He was compelled by his hypostatization of 
thought relations to regard the Absolute not only 
as eternal but as unchangeable. Any solution of his 
causation problem, therefore, was rendered impos 
sible in advance by the character of the actual 
world. For the changeable and the transient can 
not be understood as logical consequences of the 
eternal and unchangeable. Further, by his assump 
tion that only infinites can result from infinites, 1 
variety and multiplicity are also excluded. To be 
consistent, Spinoza should, like Parmenides, have re 
garded the changing and the manifold as illusion. 
His attempt to bridge over the chasm between the 
two antitheses could not but plunge him into obscuri 
ties and contradictions. Without following here his 
demonstrations in all their deviations, it will suffice 

1 Eth. I, 21. 


to explain merely the character of the connection 
established between the infinite and the finite. 

Spinoza s assumptions in regard to the nature of 
causality in general should not be forgotten. We 
saw that he presupposes that the same relation ob 
tains between cause and effect as between premise 
and conclusion. The idea of the cause involves the 
idea of the effect and conversely the idea of the 
effect involves that of the cause. Through an illicit 
extension of this proposition he regards also, as often 
as it serves his purpose, anything as cause which 
happens to be presupposed by the idea of a given 
thing. Accordingly any condition is sometimes 
treated as cause. Extension, for example, being the 
only ultimate property of material substance, is that 
from which motion is assumed to result. It is space, 
the condition of motion, that is regarded as its 
cause. The general also is often treated as the cause 
of the particular, because the definition of the par 
ticular contains the idea of the general. No clear 
distinction is made between a changeless condition 
and a dynamic cause. 

The most important declaration in regard to sub 
stance as cause is contained in the proposition, 
"God is the immanent, but not the transient, cause 
of all things." 1 This view was of course unavoid 
able, as it expresses the assumed unity (in some 
sense) of the Absolute and the world. In fact the 
immanence of the ultimate cause seems to have been 
simply postulated at first as a consequence of the 
already established unity of reality, and was only 
negatively defined as a "non-transient * relation. In 
the "Short Treatise," in a part where his thoughts 

1 Eth. I, 18. 


are cast in the form of a dialogue between Love, 
Intellect, Reason, and Desire, Reason says to Desire : 
"You say then that the cause, in so far as it is the 
originator of the effects on this account must be 
outside of them, and this you say because you know 
of the transient cause only, and not of the immanent 
cause, which latter brings forth nothing at all out 
side of itself, as the mind, for example, which is the 
cause of its ideas. And therefore the mind is called 
by me a cause (in so far as, or seeing that its ideas 
depend on it) ; and again a whole, seeing that it con 
sists of its ideas. So God also is for his effects or 
creatures no other than an immanent cause, and also 
a whole, in view of the second remark/ 1 From 
this, taken literally, it would appear that the im 
manent "God" is nothing else than the sum of all 
things, but nevertheless the cause of all things. 
It is not improbable that this dialogue is 
one of the earliest of Spinoza s compositions. The 
language quoted, in so far as it can be construed, 
would almost warrant the assumption that according 
to Spinoza s original way of thinking, unmodified 
substance is only an abstraction, and that substance 
actually exists only as modifications, which taken 
together embrace the whole of reality. Another 
part of the "Short Treatise" (no doubt a later one), 
though repeating that God produces nothing outside 
of himself, clearly conceives of him in his causal 
relation as distinct from the sum of things, saying: 
"God is the proximate cause of the things that are 
infinite and immutable, of which we say that they 

1 Korte Verb. I, Cap 2, Zamenspreeking, p. 18. Cf. 
I, Cap 3. 


are immediately created by him; but he is the last 
cause in a certain sense of all particular things." 1 

The proposition from the Ethics affirming that 
"God is the immanent cause of all things, but not 
a transient cause/ 2 is proved in two ways; first by 
showing that all things are "in God" in the sense 
that they involve the conception of God (substance), 
and secondly by showing that there is no substance 
outside of God, from which a cause from outside 
could arise. Here the immanent cause is identified 
with its effects, or modes, only in an accommodated 
sense, in the sense that from its nature the effects 
can be logically deduced. From Eth. I, 28, scholium 
it appears quite clearly that no closer kind of unity 
than this is implied by Spinoza s causa immanens: 
God can not properly be said to be the remote cause 
of particular things, unless perhaps for this reason 
that we may distinguish these from those things 
which he has produced immediately, or rather which 
result from his absolute nature. For by remote cause 
we understand such a one as is in no way connected 
(conjuncta) with the effect." We may infer, there 
fore, that the meaning of "immanent cause" (non- 
remote cause), in certain relations, is filled out by 
one that is in any way connected with the effect. 

For Spinoza s mature thought l God the Absolute 
is an immanent cause only in the sense that he is 
in the world and does not transcend it, in the sense 
that there are no miraculous incursions, creative or 
otherwise, from without the self-sufficient system 
of nature. That "(rod" is the immanent cause of 
everything in the sense of being the immediate 
cause, is not his doctrine. In his system, as truly as 

1 Korte Verb. I, Cap. 3. 2 Eth. I, 18. 


in any other, there exist two distinct spheres; that 
of the conditioned, and that of the unconditioned; 
and they are connected only by a series of links 
in a chain. His thoughts concerning "God" as im 
manent cause may be expressed, in so far as they are 
definite, in three propositions: (1) The conditioned 
presupposes the unconditioned, upon which it de 
pends; (2) The unconditioned and this is the im 
portant matter will bear the same predicates (ex 
tension and thought) that apply to the conditioned. 
(This is all that can be consistently made of Spi 
noza s saying that "God" produces nothing outside 
of himself) ; (3) The conditioned world can accord 
ingly be deduced from the unconditioned. In 
harmony with this loose conception of immanence, 
the expression "in God" when employed by Spi 
noza does not generally mean "in the Absolute," 
as the uncritical reader would suppose, but only 
"somewhere in the system of nature." 

Turning our attention now specifically to the way 
in which the chasm between the infinite and the 
finite is actually bridged over, we find that Spinoza, 
like the Neo-Platonists (in spite of the fact that his 
world-view is in many respects the antithesis of 
Neo-Platonism), posits a series of intermediate 
realities, but with no better result. Spinoza s inter 
mediate realities are the so-called "infinite modes." 
Since every idea, as we saw, contains consequences, 
and since the "order and connection of causes is 
the same as the order of ideas," everything pro 
duces results, results moreover that are proportion 
ate to itself. Accordingly that which is infinite pro 
duces infinite effects. Substance, therefore, must 
produce under each attribute an infinite creation, 


an infinite "mode." From extension follows im 
mediately "motion and rest." Since every im 
mediate mode must be just as infinite as the attribute 
itself, there can be only one such mode for each at 
tribute. 1 Consequently it must "express" the cor 
responding attribute in a particular way, and never 
theless be like the attribute, infinite. 

The second step from substance toward the actual 
world is represented by the modes that result in 
turn from those of the first order. These modes 
(or "things") must, according to the assumption 
above-mentioned, also be infinite. 2 Apparently we 
are to understand that from these last flow still 
other infinite modes. 3 There are, as we said, only 
one mode of the first order for every attribute: the 
consequences of these immediate modes on the con 
trary resolve themselves each into a multiplicity. 
But a plurality (except of attributes) is not com 
patible with the infinity of the individual units, 
and, in order to overcome this difficulty he betrays 
here the tendency to take "infinite" in the sense 
of "eternal." What these last modes, "eternal 
things, are, is not clearly explained. We may safely 
assume, however, that all eternal things that are 
subordinate to the immediate infinite modes belong 
in this series. If we take account of the peculiarities 
of Spinoza s thinking, we may regard them as all 
the links in a system of relatively universal proper 
ties of empirical nature, a system in which these 
properties would appear as successively resulting 
determinations of the immediate modes, and ulteri- 

1 Eth. I, 21; Cf. Korte Verhand. I, Cap. 9. 
8 Eth. I, 22. 
Eth. I, 23. 


orily of the attributes. Concrete examples are not 
given. Such a classification, projected but not yet 
worked out, is presumably what hovered before his 
mind when he spoke of an "intelligible arrange 
ment" of things and of a series rerum [causarum] 
fixarum aeternarumque.* 

The ultimate class of "eternal things" is constitut 
ed by the "eternal essences" of the individual things 
of the empirical world. In treating these, Spinoza 
either takes account of the infinite number of attri 
butes, and then a thing is a determination of the 
many-sided substance, i. e., the sum of an infinite 
number of qualities; or he ignores all attributes ex 
cept extension and thought, in which case a thing is 
conceived as a specific modification of extension, "o&- 
jective" reflected to be sure, in a corresponding mode 
of thought. After what has been said above, we may 
for the sake of simplicity take no account here of 
the infinite number of attributes. 

It ought to be noted that the word "essence" with 
Spinoza does not always represent the same thing. 
Apparently it is sometimes thought as synonymous 
with quality, as when extension is treated as one of 
the essences of substance 1 ; at other times it signifies 
what he has expressed in his definition : "I say that 
to the essence of any thing belongs that which when 
granted posits the thing, and when canceled cancels 
the thing. The examples given under the definition 
are taken from geometry, the essence of a triangle 
being the affirmation or idea that the sum of its three 
angles are equal to two right angles 2 . According to 

* De Int. Emend, pp. 30-31. Cf. Eth. II, 18, schol. 
l Eth. II, pr. 45, 46, 47, with demonstrations. 
8 Eth. II, prop. 49, dem. 


this definition, extension cannot be called " essence" 
of substance,* for it can be conceived without posit 
ing the infinite substance at all, and be cancelled 
without making it impossible to conceive substance, 
thought substance being just as thinkable without 
extended substance as with it. Nor is extension the 
essence, in the sense defined, of particular kinds of 
bodies; for, although the abolition of extension 
would involve the abolition of bodies, the positing of 
extension would not posit the particular kind of 
bodies. But the essence would be that particularized 
extension that is peculiar to the kind of bodies in 
question, distinguishing them from all other objects. 
In short, essence corresponds to the content of a cor 
rect definition, 1 the generic characters being involv 
ed, but the distinctive characters being the ones that 
are emphasized. 

As an essence is that which is expressed in the 
definition, and as this is an adequate idea, an 
"eternal truth," the essence also is sometimes called 
an eternal truth, 2 and is always in harmony with the 
principle of parallelism, regarded as eternal at least. 
Accordingly the essences of things have an existence 

* It is possible that Spinoza s treatment of the incom 
mensurable character of the attributes (see p. 114) was 
determined in part at least by the desire to approximate 
his use of the word essence in the definition of substance 
to his use of it as applied to the "essence" of things. 

1 Epis. 9 p. 223 ... definitio . . . tatum circa rerum, 
rerumve affectionum essentias versatur. Cf. Thomas 
Aquinas, Sum. Theol. I, 29, Art. 3: Essentia proprie 
est id, quod signiflcatur per definitionem. 

* Epis. 10 Quod porro petis, anne res etiam, rerum 

affectiones, sint aeternae veritates? Dico, omnino. Cf. 
Heerebord, Meletemata, 307, I, where "aeternae veri 
tates" means, aliquid reale extra intellectum. 


of their own, eternal and independent of temporal 
existence. 1 

This is the way Spinoza conceives " essence" in 
that connection of his thought with which we have 
to do at present ; but it would be a mistake to suppose 
that he is consistent in his use of the word. 

We saw that true ideas, or definitions, of particular 
things are never immediately derived from the data 
of experience, but only deductively from the uni 
versal things" (i. e., the common properties of 
things) ; that consequently these definitions presup 
pose an adequate knowledge of those properties ; 
and that the faculty by which the particular things 
are to be derived is intuition. But it is difficult to 
see why ordinary reason is not regarded as capable of 
attaining this knowledge; especially as it possesses 
the power of determining the universals, " and of 
deducing from them clear and distinct ideas ; and as 
the "essences" are only final links in the chain of 
"eternal things" of which the "universals" are the 
first. Possibly it was only after an unsuccessful 
attempt to reach them in this way, that Spinoza 
had recourse to intuition. 

Although the "eternal essences" are certainly 
links in the chain of successive determinations of the 
attributes (or of substance), they are sometimes dis 
tinguished from the rest of the "eternal things;" 2 
but as they are immediately related to temporal ex 
istences, this is not unnatural. 

Whether the intermediate links between the at- 

1 Eth. II, 8, Cor., schol. 

2 This is the case in De Int. Emend, pp. 30-31. In 
order to obtain a correct notion of Spinoza s doctrine of 
essences, a careful study of this passage is indispensable, 


tributes and the essences of particular things are 
numerous or not, cannot be clearly determined. 
We can with certainty say nothing more than that 
they constitute a series." 1 

In the mediation between the infinite and the finite 
we have arrived as far as to the eternal essences of 
particular things; but we have not yet reached the 
changing and perishable world of sense. This last 
step in the process, constituted Spinoza s chief dif 
ficulty. In order to explain the temporal "exist 
ence" (the temporal origination and limited dura 
tion) of real things, he distinguished between the 
"absolute nature" of God (or of any attribute) 
and "God so far as he is modified by a modification, 
which is finite and has a limited existence." From 
the absolute nature of God, the eternal modes, in 
cluding the eternal essences of particular things, 
necessarily result, and the eternal modes alone. 
But from God so far as he is modified by a modifi 
cation that is finite and that has a determinate ex 
istence, results the temporal "existence" of things. 
On the one hand, we have the declaration that "all 
things which result from the absolute nature of any 
attribute of God must exist always and infinitely, 
or are through that attribute eternal and infinite ; 2 
and that "what is finite and has a determinate ex 
istence can not be produced by the absolute nature 

1 In the Korte VerTiandeling, Preface to Part II, note 
7, he says that "each and every particular thing [body] 
which attains to actual existence, does so through motion 
and rest." This statement seems to ignore the existence 
of any other eternal modes than motion and rest. It 
must be regarded as an abbreviated expression, or we 
must assume that after writing the Korte Verhandeling 
he increased the number of eternal modes. 

z Eth. I, 21. 


of any attribute of God." 1 On the other hand, it 
is asserted that "each single thing, i. e., each thing 
that is finite and has a determinate existence, is not 
able to exist, or to be caused to act, except it be 
caused to exist and to act by another cause which 
also is finite and has a determinate existence; and 
this cause in turn is not able to exist or to be caused 
to act, except it be caused to exist and to act by 
another which is also finite and has a determinate 
existence; and so on in infinitum." 2 

Thus, to account for the changing and transient 
things of the sense world, Spinoza has recourse to 
a twofold causality, a direct and an indirect. The 
direct is the source of the existence as such, the being 
of things, connecting them intimately with substance, 
the "absolute existence," by means of the "eternal 
essences" and other infinite modes, and is called the 
"power by which every thing perseveres in exist 
ing;" the indirect is the cause only of the temporal 
and ontological limitations of things. Both causalities 
are, in the last analysis, God " ; for the finite cause 
that determines a particular thing to exist and to act 
is "God, so far as he is modified, etc." In so far as 
he produces things through the direct causality, he 
is their proximate cause; in so far as he produces 
them through the indirect causality, he is their 
mediate or ultimate, "last," 3 cause. Yet it would 
not be correct to call him the remote cause ; for by a 

l Eth. I, 28, dem. 

2 Eth. I, 28. 

According to Korte Verhandeling, Deel I, Cap. Ill, 
"God" is in one relation the proximate cause, in the 
other the last cause: "God is de naaste oorzaak van 
die dingen, die oneyndelijk zijn, en onveranderlijk . . . 
dog de laatste oorzaak is hy en eenig zins van alle de 
bezondere dingen." 


"remote cause" Spinoza understands a cause that is 
"in no way connected with the effect." 1 But the 
arbitrary assumption of a double causality did not of 
course solve the difficulty. The possibility of the 
limited existence of things remains unproved; for, 
in order to explain it, Spinoza simply presupposes 
it. All that he says about the causal relation of the 
Absolute to the changing and transient reduces itself 
logically to this: The infinite substance can only 
produce what is eternal; but it has nevertheless pro 
duced also the transient. Spinoza could not avoid 
this contradiction, without abandoning fundamental 
assumptions which he regarded as indisputable. 

Besides a limitation as regards duration, finite 
things suffer, as already hinted, an ontological limi 
tation also. The essences of things do not, in fact, 
come to full realization in temporal existence, and 
this for the reason that through their interaction 
they are partially repressed, or enter a state of 

We may here show how the peculiar existence 
attaching to the "eternal" essences independently 
of the temporal existence of things is to be conceived, 
and how these essences are related to the changing 
things of the sense world. Owing to the fact that 
the essences stand in relation both to the changeless 
eternal and to the changing temporal world, they are 
capable of two different states, so to speak. Before 
the origination of a thing as a part of the empirical 
world, its essence exists in one way; and after that 
origination, in another. These two states he could 

1 Eth. I, prop. 28, schol. Nam per causam remotam 
talem intelligimus, quae cum effectu nullo modo con- 
juncta est. 


not allow, to be sure, without contradicting his fun 
damental assumption that everything results with 
mathematical necessity from the changeless nature of 
the Absolute ; for such a necessity makes all change, 
and hence all origination and passing away incom 
prehensible. All that is must always have been. 
The difference between the two states consists in 
the circumstance that the essence of a thing when it 
becomes a member of the empirical world " involves 
existence." It is really the idea of the thing, of 
course, that involves the idea of existence, i. e., I 
suppose, the idea of the thing possesses after the 
origination of the thing, characters like those which 
compel us to regard a perception not merely as a 
subjective thought, but as a part of the objective 
world. But although it is properly the idea that in 
volves existence, two different states of the real es 
sences must be assumed also; for every event and 
fact in the realm of thought has a counterpart in 
the realm of extension. With its entrance into tem 
poral existence, therefore, every essence takes on a 
special form. To the element already given through 
the direct causality comes a new one through the 

In order to prove the correctness of this inter 
pretation and to illustrate other details of Spinoza s 
thought in this connection, it will be necessary to 
cite at length two important passages, one from the 
early Short Treatise" and the other from the 
mature "Ethics." His specific aim in these passages 
is to elucidate the relation obtaining between the 
material essences and the thought essences at the 
moment when things emerge into temporal existence. 
"Yet it must be remarked," he says in the "Short 


Treatise," "that these modifications [the material 
eternal essences], in view of the fact that no one of 
them is [yet] actual, are nevertheless continuously 1 
contained in their respective attributes ; and, as there 
are no inequalities (discreteness) in the attributes 
or in the essences of things, there can be no particu 
larity in the Idea [Dei], 2 since there are none in 
Nature. When, however, some of these modifica 
tions put on their particular being and are thereby 
separated in a certain way from their attributes. . . . 

then there appear particularities in the 

essences of the modifications, and consequently in 
the thought essences which are necessarily contain 
ed in the Idea Dei." 3 

The other passage is "Ethics" II, 8: "The idea of 
those particular things or modes which do not exist 
must be comprehended in the infinite idea of God, 
as the essences of the particular things or modes are 
contained in the attributes of God." This proposi 
tion is established by a reference to the familiar 
principle that "the order and connection of ideas is 
the same as the order and connection of things," 
and is followed by the corollary : Hence it follows, 
that, as long as the particular things do not exist 
except so far as they are comprehended in the at 
tributes of God, their thought being, or ideas, do 4 
not exist except so far as the infinite idea of God 
exists; and when the particular things are said to 

1 Dutch, "gelijkmatig." 

2 The Idea Dei, as we shall see, is the sum total of 
thought essences; i. e., the Intellectus Infinitus. 

* Korte Verhandeling, Aanhangsel, p. 102. 

4 1 translate the Latin plural verb by the English 
plural so as to transfer the thought exactly as it lay 
in his own mind. 


exist, not only so far as they are comprehended in 
the attributes of God, but so far also as they are said 
to have duration, 1 their ideas also involve the ex 
istence by which they are said to have duration." 
The thought is further elucidated by a scholium: "If 
any one should desire an illustration for the further 
explanation of this matter, I should not be able in 
deed to give any that would adequately explain the 
thing of which I speak, inasmuch as it is unique ; nev 
ertheless, I shall endeavor to illustrate it as far as 
possible. A circle is of such a nature that the rectan 
gles constructed 2 from the segments of all straight 
lines which intersect each other within it are equal 
to one another ; wherefore in a circle an infinite num 
ber of equal rectangles are contained ; and yet no one 
of them may be said to exist, except in so far as the 
circle exists; nor may the idea of any one of these 
rectangles be said to exist, except in so far as it is 
contained in the idea of the circle. Now let two only 
of that infinite number, E 
and D, be conceived to exist. 
Their ideas also exist now, 
not only so far merely as 
they are contained in the 
idea of the circle, but also so 
far as they involve the exist 
ence of those rectangles; by 
which it happens that they 
are distinguished from the ideas of the rest of the 
rectangles. 3 

1 Durare, the word employed to denote temporal exist 

2 The Latin expression is sub segmentis. 

3 The obscurity of this passage has occasioned frequent 
misinterpretations. Sterne (Reclam Library) translates 


From all this it appears: (1) That the material 
essence as well as the thought essence of a particular 
thing possesses an eternal existence which is inde 
pendent of its origination in time; (2) That in 
this pre-actual state the two are related to each other 
according to the principle of parallelism, which is not 
violated by the temporal origination of the thing, a 
change occurring in the thought attribute that corre 
sponds exactly to the change in the attribute of 
extension; (3) That each exists as a consequence 
(or product) of the attribute to which it belongs; 
and (4) That in their pre-actual state, they are not 
to be conceived as distinguishable individuals. 

How the last two assumptions are more precisely to 
be understood is, at first reading, by no means clear. 
It is said that the eternal essences are " continu 
ously, " or * uniformly, contained in the attributes ; 
that there are no "inequalities" in the attributes or 
in the essences ; that, when any particular thing comes 
into actual existence, it is thereby distinguished, or 
separated, in some way from its attribute, and that 
"a particularity" at the same time appears in the 
essence. The geometrical figure serves to show 
further that, in the pre-actual state, the essences are 
related to their "attributes" after the manner of 
logical implications. From these expressions, one 

rectangula by Rechtecke (rectangles) in the first half of 
the scholium and by Dreiecke (triangles!) in the 
second half. The English translation of Johann Ed. 
Erdmann s "History of Philosophy" misrepresents the 
German text by employing the word "rightangle" instead 
of "rectangle" (272,4). This would leave out of 
account altogether the nature of the circle, which is 
essential to the illustration. The rectangula referred 
to can only mean the rectangles constructed from the 
segments a b and b c on the one hand and from d b and 
b e on the other. 


would be inclined at first to infer that the eternal 
essences are after all nothing but the uniform sub 
stance which has not yet resolved itself into multi 
plicity, that they are contained in substance only in 
the sense in which all effects are contained in their 
causes, i. e., potentially. For it would seem that the 
essences are distinguished neither from one an 
other, nor from the higher modes, nor from the at 

But this interpretation would certainly be mis 
taken. It would contradict Spinoza s assumption 
that the system of eternal modes mediates between 
substance and particular things ; for the essences of 
things and the other eternal modes would stand in 
precisely the same relation to substance. It would 
in fact cancel the eternal modes altogether; for, as 
all differences between them and the attributes 
would be effaced, the expression "eternal modes" 
would no longer have any meaning. They would 
not be real consequences of the nature of the Ab 
solute, but merely consequences that are not yet in 
any degree effectuated. One might perhaps call 
them "potential" modes, but yet only in the sense 
in which we may speak of unmodified substance as 
potential modes. The view would contradict also 
Spinoza s general assumption that all that is in 
substance as causal Nature must necessarily exist 
also as effectuated Nature, and would consequently 
remove every ground for his sharp distinction be 
tween Natura Naturans (substance) and Natura 
Naturata (totality of modes). 

On the part of the Neo-Platonists, when seeking to 
portray the transition of the one World-ground into 
the multiplicity of the actual world, we find similar 


modes of expression. Similar, I say, not identical; 
since the peculiarities of Spinoza s system, necessi 
tated certain differences. Plotinus , for example, 
who conceived the i/ovs as at once "Thought" 
and "Being" shows many significant points of re 
semblance. "Inasmuch as the vov? is the highest 
Being, the five categories of the intelligible belong 

to it -. being, motion, permanence (orao-is), 

identity, and difference The common 

reality which is more closely determined by the 
categories Plotinus calls the unlimited or intelligible 
matter. In it lies the ground for the multiplicity 
which the vov? has in itself in distinction from .... 

the Indeterminate that stands above Thought 

and Being, and by virtue of which [ multiplicity] 
it resolves itself into the supersensible numbers, the 
Ideas, one of which must correspond not only to 
every species but to every individual, as the 
original image of its peculiarity . . . and since they 
are not separate from one another, but are in one 
another, yet without mixing, they unite also again 
into the unity of the intelligible world." 1 Some 
thing similar to Spinoza s expressions, but essenti 
ally different in meaning, may be found also in the 
scholastic disquisitions on the relation of God to the 
world. 2 If the passage cited from the "Ethics" 

1 Zeller, Grundriss d. Geschichte d. griech. Phil. pp. 
288-9. Cf. Plotinus, Enneades I, VIII, 2 [6 i/ous] e X ei 
trdvra. Kal <rrl irdvTa Kal <rtiv<mv tttfrcfj <rvv&v Kal % irdv T a otf/c f X. <i>v - 
6v yap a\\a, 6 d &\\of ovdt xwpls ZKCUTTOV r&v tv duT<J3 - 6\ov re ydp 
tffTiv f-Kaffrov Kal iravraxv irav Kal ov ffvyKfyvrai, d\\a a5 xwp/s. 

2 The passages cited from Spinoza might be understood 
as an attempt to adapt the following thoughts of Heere- 
boord s to his own system: In intellectu divino rerum 
essentiae fuerunt per ideas ab aeterno, antequam mun- 
dum creaverit . . .: in suis causis res dicuntur esse, 


did not harmonize so well with, the one from the 
"Short Treatise," which was composed several years 
earlier, one would be tempted to assume that here 
we have a borrowed way of thinking, or rather mode 
of expression, which he never entirely assimilated to 
his own thought. If he was not influenced from 
these sources, the similarities of expression are to 
be explained by the common difficulties of mediating 
between two antithetical worlds. But Spinoza had 
the peculiar difficulty also of guarding his causa 
immanens. This fact made it easier for him no doubt 
to employ in this connection language which veiled 
the differences between the Absolute and the im 
mediately conditioned, i. e., between substance and 
the system of eternal modes. 

But his thought is not unintelligible. It must 
not be overlooked that the illustration of the geo 
metrical figure is not to be taken too precisely. He 
is trying to describe two different ways of existing 
and there is but one known to our experience, the 
only describable reality being an object of possible 
perception. 1 No illustration, therefore, could really 
illustrate ; and he himself recognizes this fact, saying 
that as the matter is unique he can not adequate 
ly" illustrate it. We must assume, therefore, that 
lie does not intend here expressly to contradict what 

ctuatenus sunt in illarum potentia activa . . .; sic rerum 
essentiae, antequam fuerunt in tempore creatae, fuerimt 
in potentia activa Dei ab aeterno; in seipsis extra causas 
suas dicuntur essentiae rerum esse, quando jam actu 
productae a Deo, aut potius, quando sunt productae: 
sic nullae essentiae ullarum rerum sunt aeternae. 
Heereboord, Meletemata, 307-8 ,,De essentiis rerum 
aeternis." That Spinoza had read Heereboord appears 
from Cog. Met. Pars II, Cap XII. 

1 1 use the word perception here in a broad sense as 
including self-consciousness as well as sense-perception. 


he has so plainly said elsewhere, and that he means 
to allow some kind of distinction between the 
essences and the higher modes, between these and 
the attributes, and between one essence and another, 
although not a distinction of the same kind and de 
gree as between the actual world and the non-actual 
world. The eternal modes, as direct results of the 
absolute nature of "God," may be regarded as con 
stituting a whole, a unit, when contrasted with the 
system of transient things that result from the in 
direct causality. It is not without propriety, then, 
that he speaks of a separation or distinction which 
takes place at the moment when a particular thing 
becomes a member of the actual world. The ex 
pression, "so far as they are contained in the at 
tributes of God," cannot mean, so far as they are 
contained in the absolute nature of God, but so far 
as through the direct causality they are members of 
the system of changeless and eternal consequences of 
the absolute nature of God. In fact, the expres 
sions "in God," "in an attribute of God," etc., are 
constantly employed by Spinoza to signify nothing 
more than conceived through the idea of God or of 
an attribute. 1 In this sense, a body is in God, or 
in an attribute of God, in so far as it involves the 

attribute of extension The separation of 

a modification from its attribute must mean separa 
tion from the totality constituted by the attribute 
and the system of changeless consequences flowing 
from it. The description of the essences in their 
pre-actual state as showing no "particularity" 2 

1 Eth. I, 15, dem. I, 28, schol.; and frequently. 

2 This can mean nothing else than "discrete individ 


is in harmony with the character of essences as the 
contents of true definitions ; for a definition expresses 
the nature of a thing in sufficiently general terms 
to apply to all the individuals of a class that exist 
at different points of time and space, i. e., it takes no 
account of particular times and places which consti 
tute the only necessary differences between individ 
uals. In short, a definition expresses only the 
characters of the species, and does not logically im 
ply plurality. Now since the essences are the last 
links in the chain of direct consequences of the at 
tributes, we may express Spinoza s meaning more 
precisely as follows: Particular things of a given 
kind become actual when the uniform essence, which 
constitutes the content of the idea of the species, 1 is 
so affected by the indirect causality acting as causa 
individuationis that it exhibits a multiplicity of rel 
atively discrete individuals. Accordingly the " dis 
tinction from the attributes" is, after all, only a dis- 

1 Eth. I, 17, schol. p. 53 Si unius [hominis] existen- 
tia pereat, non ideo alterius perebit; sed si unius es- 
sentia destrui posset, . . . destrueretur etiam alterius 
essentia. Cf. Eth. I, 8, cor. 2, where the essence is made 
synonymous with the definita natura of a thing, and is 
put in antithesis to individuals. 

Since writing the text above, I have been gratified 
to find my account of Spinoza s oft-misunderstood 
doctrine of essences confirmed by so careful a scholar 
and clear a thinker as Prof. Fullerton. See his "Phil 
osophy of Spinoza" (Modern Philosophers Series), p. 252, 
where he says: "Although, as we have seen, he uses the 
words essence and nature inconsistently, his fundamental 
thought, and one essential to his philosophical system, 
is that essences are not the result of an abstraction from 
the differences of individuals, but entities of a different 
class, eternal, unchangeable, independent of individuals; 
not mere abstractions, but real causes; in other words 
they are Platonized abstractions." It is to be hoped 
that the traditional habit of referring to Spinoza as a 
consistent Nominalist will soon be corrected. 


tinction from the last direct consequences of the at 
tributes, i. e., from the uniform eternal essences. He 
is seeking here to define the relation of the essences 
not to the absolute substance, but to the individual 
things of the actual world, and to describe the 
essences as they eternally exist in the Natura 
Naturata. That he is thinking about the Natura 
Naturata and not about the absolute nature of 
* God, appears also from the circumstance that Idea 
in the first citation and Dei infinita idea in the second 
can not be the absoluta cogitatio, but only the lutel- 
lectus Infinitus, 1 i. e., the sum of the ideas of all 
things and hence the thought side of the Natura 
Naturata. 2 

This account of the matter leaves a place for that 
which Spinoza has expressly and repeatedly declared, 
namely, that the eternal modes, just because they 
are modes and are conceived through something 
else, are different from the absolute nature of "God," 
indeed are to a certain degree antithetical to it, 
that they stand at unequal removes from it, 3 
and that the essences of particular things are 

1 See below under "Idea Dei," p. 186. 

2 That the eternal essences are something more general 
than particular things, appears also from the distinction 
which the Korte Verhandeling makes between the 
Natura Naturata Generalis and the Natura Naturata 
Particulars. VI, Cap 8. It appears likewise from the 
fact that individual things are called particular in 
distinction from the essences. 

3 Eth. I, Appendix, p. 68 Nam, ut ex propositionibus, 
21, 22, et 23, constat, ille effectus perfectissimus 
est, quia Deo immediate producitur, et quo aliquid 
pluribus causis intermediis indiget; ut producatur, eo 
imperfectius est. In the cited propositions 21, 22, and 
23 not the indirect but the direct causality is under 
consideration; for the question is of distinctions among 
the eternal modes. 


mediated by the other eternal modes. To allow 
this definite distinction between the eternal modes, 
and to separate in a certain way substance from 
its products, is not forbidden, as might be suspected, 
by his doctrine of immanent cause ; for his imma 
nent cause when strained becomes, as we have seen, 
only a cause that is in some way connected with the 
effect. 1 And it should be observed that the eternal 
modes constitute a connected system, and, although 
distinct, they must not be conceived as spatially re 
mote from one another. In interpreting Spinoza we 
may not take account of any world beyond the im 
mediate one, and hence we are bound, I suppose, to 
conceive these modes as in a state of mixture, so to 
speak, though not in a state of solution. 

He sometimes uses the word essentia in the sense 
of a qualitative content, and, owing to the neces 
sity of recognizing the existence of transient indi 
viduals, he is constrained to apply it also to the 
nature of any individual thing actually existing, 2 
an essence then involving the actuality and indi 
viduality of the thing. Consistently these essences 
cannot, as material existences, be eternal, but must 
pass away with the things themselves whose natures 
they constitute. As logical conceptions, though 
essences, they might be regarded as sharing the time 
less character of all logical relations, and, therefore, 
as eternal. 3 When employing the word "essences" 

1 Eth. I, 28, schol. 

Eth. Ill, 57. 

8 But in so regarding them, one ignores, of course, the 
change which, in harmony with the principle of parallel 
ism, must take place in the thought attribute, and which 
Spinoza has been at such pains to explain in the passages 
just discussed. He confounds habitually idea as logical 
content and idea as psychical fact. 


as applying to the natures of individuals actually ex 
isting, he is logically compelled to regard the in 
adequate ideas along with the adequate as belonging 
to the essence of the human mind. But this also in 
volves an inconsistency; for the inadequate ideas, 
as we saw, belong to the mind only in so far as it is 
in a passive relation i. e., only in so far as its proper 
nature (essence) is suppressed by the interference 
of other finite existences. These inconsistencies 
in Spinoza s account of essences are quite intel 
ligible, however, forming as they do, only a part of 
the mass of contradictions occasioned by the im 
possibility of uniting in his system the eternal and 
the temporal, the changeless and the changing. It 
ought to be observed also that the shifting meaning 
of the word frequently conceals from the uncritical 
reader and from Spinoza himself fallacies of far- 
reaching consequences. 

Our discussion of his doctrine of causality would 
be incomplete for our purpose, if we did not add 
something more definite in regard to necessity. 
According to Spinoza all being and all happening re 
sult with mathematical necessity from the nature of 
substance. "In the nature of things there is nothing 
contingent, but all things are determined by the 
necessity of the divine nature to a certain mode of 
existing and of acting." 1 Anything is said to be 
contingent for no other reason than that we do not 
know its cause. 2 Accordingly the freedom of the 
will, in the sense of indeterminism, is an illu- 

Eth. I, 29. 

a Eth. I, 33, sch. 1. 


sion. 1 "Men think they are free" because they are 
conscious of their actions and are ignorant of the 
causes by which they are determined." 2 The only 
freedom that exists is a kind of necessity; for "that 
thing may be called free which exists by the necessity 
alone of its nature, and by itself alone is deter 
mined to action; but necessary, or rather compelled, 
that which is determined by another thing to exist 
and to act in a definite way." 3 "God" is in this 
sense a free cause, but in this sense only. Any other 
being cannot, strictly speaking, be free even in this 
sense. 4 Nevertheless a freedom similar to that of 
the Absolute is inconsistently attributed to man in 
so far as he is determined by his own nature alone, 
and not by outward causes. 

The free activity of "God," however, we should 
erroneously conceive if we thought of it as in any 
way conditioned by thinking. The principle of par 
allelism excludes such a view: for the attribute of 
thought cannot contain anything ideally ( objec- 

1 Saisset s assumption (Oeuvres de Spinoza, Introduc 
tion) that Spinoza in the 43rd letter, where he seeks to 
vindicate himself from the charge of godlessness, (insin 
cerely) repudiates the doctrine of determinism, which 
he contends for everywhere else, is based upon a mis 
understanding. The passage runs as follows: Quare 
ad ejus conclusionem transeo; ubi ait, mihi nullum 
superesse argumentum quo probem, Mahumetum non 
fuisse Prophetam verum. Quod quidem ipse ex meis 
sententiis conatur ostendere; cum tamen ex iisdem clare 
sequatur, eundem impostorem fuisse: quandoquidem 
libertatem illam, quam Religio Catholica, lumine natural! 
et Prophetico revelata, concedit, quamque omnino concedi 
debere ostendi, ipse prorsus adimit. "Libertatem" here 
refers to freedom of thought, not to the doctrine of 
free will. 

2 Eth. II, 35, schol. 

8 Eth. I, Def. 7. 

* Eth. I, 17, Cor. 2. solum Deum esse causam liberam. 


tive ) before that thing exists formaliter (as objec 
tive reality). "Hence it follows that the real being 
(esse formale) of things which are not modes of 
thought does not result from the divine nature be 
cause he previously knew it. * Accordingly God s 
thinking has so little to do with his creative activity 
that material things have a certain primacy. Indeed 
we may here remark, what has generally been over 
looked in studies of Spinoza, that in his system, 
matter always takes logical precedence to thought 
wherever ontological and cosmological questions 
come into the foreground. An illustration of this fact 
we have just seen in the way in which the relation 
between thought essences and the real essences is 
described. For purpose in the activity of the Ab 
solute there can of course be no place. "Mathe 
matics, which has nothing to do with ends, but only 
with the essences and properties of figures, has shown 
men another norm of truth." 1 It would not be a 
difficult task to show "that Nature has no pre 
determined end, and that all final causes are only 
human figments." 2 

After the foregoing examination of the relation 
between the infinite and the finite in Spinoza s 
system, we are in a position to consider the dis 
tinction already referred to between Natura 
Naturans and Natura Naturata. In this we have 
another case of the accommodation of familiar tra 
ditional conceptions to his own system. Of both he 
gives the following explanation: "By Natura Na 
turans, is to be understood by us that which is in it- 

* Eth. II, 6, Cor. Cf. Eth. I, 32, Cor. 2. 

1 Eth. I, Appendix, p. 68. 

2 Pbid. 


self and is conceived through itself, or such at 
tributes of substance as express an eternal and in 
finite essence, that is God so far as he is considered 
as a free cause. But by Natura Naturata I under 
stand all that which results from the necessity of 
the divine nature, or of any one of the attributes of 
God, that is all modes of the attributes of God so 
far as they are considered as things which are in God 
and can neither be nor be conceived without 
God. n Natura Naturans, it is clear, is the name ap 
plied to substance, or, in other words, to the sum of 
the attributes. The meaning of Natura Naturata 
is not so clear. In the "Short Treatise" he had sub 
divided it into Natura Naturata Generalis and Na 
tura Naturata Particularis, the former being the sys 
tem of eternal modes resulting from the absolute 
nature of "God," and the latter the system of par 
ticular actual things. The logical grounds for the 
distinction still exist in the "Ethics," though the 
distinction is not expressed. It has been assumed 2 
that the definition above quoted identifies the Natura 
Naturata with Natura Naturata Generalis of the 
earlier work, to the exclusion of the Natura Naturata 
Particularis. If he described it as comprehending 
only the modes which result "immediately" 3 from 
the divine nature or result from the "absolute" 4 
nature of God, there could be no doubt as to 
the correctness of this assumption; for this is 
the language employed exclusively to distinguish 
the system of modes produced by the direct 

x Eth. I, 29, sch. 

2 Johann E. Erdmann in his History of Philosophy." 

s Eth. I, 28, schol. 

4 Eth. I, 21-28. 


causality from that produced by the indirect. 
But it will be observed that Spinoza says nothing 
of the kind. What he says is that Natura Natu- 
rata embraces "all that results from the neces 
sity of the divine nature, " i.e., "All modes of 
the attributes of God so far as they are considered 
as things which are in God and can neither be nor 
be conceived without God." But this is language 
which Spinoza constantly employs in regard to all 
modes without distinction, whether eternal or tran 
sient. "All things are determined by the neces 
sity of the divine nature to exist and to act in a cer 
tain way." 1 In Eth. I 28, scholium, where he is 
speaking in particular of the relation of both eternal 
and temporal modes to the Absolute, he expressly 
says in reference to "particular things:" "But all 
things that are, are in God, and so depend on God, 
that without him they can neither be nor be con 
ceived. >2 From others the eternal modes differ only 
in that they are "immediately" produced by God, 
i. e., result necessarily from his "absolute" nature. 
Moreover, it would be difficult to discover any oc 
casion for excluding the system of particular things 
from Natura Naturata. It must be a part of nature ; 

x Eth. I, 29. 

2 If it be objected, therefore, that quatenus ("so far 
as") in Eth. I, 29, schol. quoted above, implies a dis 
tinction between the modes here mentioned and other 
modes which are considered as things which are not in 
God and can be conceived without God, it may be replied 
that no such modes exist for Spinoza. In this passage 
he is making a distinction between causal nature, the 
unconditioned, and caused nature, the conditioned, and 
is not concerned in anyway with a distinction between 
one part or aspect of the conditioned and another part 
or aspect of the same. Quatenus could in fact be as well 
translated by "inasmuch as" as by "so far as." 


and, if it does not belong to Natura Naturata, where 
does it belong? Certainly not to Natura Naturans. 
To ignore it entirely, would have been to fall into 
an "Acosmism" which no one will seriously attri 
bute to him. The circumstance that the connection 
between the eternals and the temporals is not logic 
ally established, does not deter him from asserting 
the connection all the same. In fact, the defective 
logical connection between the two systems was prob 
ably the reason for obliterating a distinction that 
only made the chasm more noticeable and obtrusive. 
We should naturally suppose, in the absence of con 
clusive evidence to the contrary, that, when in the 
"Ethics" he omits the adjectives generalis and par- 
ticularis, the logical extension of the noun Natura 
Naturata remains unchanged, covering what before 
were two subdivisions. 

It deserves to be plainly pointed out that, owing to 
the distinction between the absolute nature of God 
and the rest of reality, which is "in God," Spinoza 
is led to apply the word "God" to two different 
objects. Sometimes "God" means total reality 1 
substance with its modes, especially with modes in 
so far as they result from the direct causality. The 
ens absolute infinitum, when thought according 
to logical extension and taken strictly, could not 
but embrace everything that exists. Viewed in one 
way, modes (the conditioned) are the antitheses of 
substance (the unconditioned) ; viewed in another 
way, however, the antithesis disappears, for they 
are after all only modified substance. At will, there- 

1 Eth. I, 28 . . . Deo, vel aliquo ejus attribute sequi, 
quatenus eft ectum est modificatione, etc. Eth. II, 7, 
Cor. sequitur in Deo, etc. 


fore, he can regard everything as a part of "God." 
This becomes all the more easy, as the expressions, 
"conceived through the idea of God" and "in God" 
are treated as synonymous. But at other times, 
"God" means only unmodified substance, the un 
conditioned, the Absolute, that which is conceived 
through itself alone. 1 This is the meaning that has 
been embodied in his definition of God, and is the 
one which corresponds to the designation causa 
prima. Since the Absolute only can be regarded as 
God in the proper sense of the term, it is with Spi 
noza s view of the Absolute that we have to do, 
when endeavoring to determine the religious sig 
nificance of his system. His application of the term 
"God" to two quite different objects has led to 
serious misinterpretations. 

From the preceding exposition of the relation of 
cause and effect in Spinoza s cosmology, it has ap 
peared that, in his attempt to deduce the finite and 
transient from the infinite and eternal, the assumed 
causa immanens becomes in fact a sort of causa 
transiens; for the Absolute produces that which is 
essentially different from itself. Natura Naturans 
and Natura Naturata are assumed of course, as the 
common word of the two expressions implies, to be 
the same thing in two different aspects. They are 
nevertheless to a certain extent antitheses. Spino 
za s pantheism does not go so far as to deny the 
existence of the finite and temporal, although this 
would be, as we saw, the logical consequence of 
certain presuppositions. Time is related to the im 
agination, to be sure, and the transient is only in- 

1 Eth. I, definition 6; Epis. 2; Epis. 4; Epis. 50; Eth. 
I, 17, schol. 


adequately known; but change is nevertheless real. 
The connection between the finite and the infinite 
is a loose one, and, for Spinoza, must remain a loose 
one so long as they possess opposite characters. 
All reality can of course be classified as substance 
and modes of substance; but the modes are so far 
removed from original substance that they possess 
scarcely anything in common with it. The assump 
tion that "the thing caused differs from its cause 
precisely in that which it has from the cause," and 
consequently that "a thing which causes both the 
essence and the existence of another thing, differs 
from this both in respect of essence and in respect 
of existence," 1 is of no less significance for Spinoza s 
world-view than is the other oft-quoted and appar 
ently irreconcilable proposition that "things which 
have nothing in common cannot be the cause one 
of another." 2 

It will next be our task to examine more closely 
the two known attributes and to determine, if pos 
sible, the exact meaning of the familiar terms " ex 
tension ?> and "thought," when they are applied 
to the Absolute. 

Eth. I, 17, schol. 

2 Eth. I, 3. The two expressions are reconciled be 
low. See page 214. 



When the conception of attribute was under con 
sideration, it appeared that to every attribute of 
substance must belong the formal character of in 
finity, i. e. it must be infinite in its kind, and hence 
indeterminate, uniform, simple, etc. The common 
space idea indisputably possessed these characters, 
with the exception of simplicity. If a spatial 
quality was to be attributed to the attribute, there 
fore, it was necessary to repudiate the traditional 
doctrine of the divisibility of space, and to establish 
its simplicity. Hence his statement that "exten 
sion is an attribute of God, or God is an extended 
thing "* is coupled with arguments calculated to 
show that, although bodies are divisible, extended 
substance is not. 2 If it could be divided, it would 
not be infinite ; since from the division several finite 
substances would result. In his "Metaphysical 
Thoughts " he had admitted, to be sure, that extension 
can be divided ; 3 but in this work, as is well known, 
he did not frankly express all his own convictions. 
Elsewhere extension is always unequivocally rep 
resented as in its ultimate nature indivisible. Only 
as it exists in the imagination can it be otherwise 
regarded. When we consider it as it is in intel- 

1 Eth. II, 2. 

"Eth. I, 13, schol.; I, 15, schol. 

8 Cor. Met. I, Cap II. 


lectu, quod difficillime fit, we are able to reach 
the insight that It is simple. His ground for the 
indivisibility of extension seems to be the circum 
stance that space, as we have it in our thought, is 
a continuum, and cannot be so divided into parts 
that there will be no space intervening between the 
parts. 1 Space which is in this sense indivisible rep 
resents the character of extension as an attribute of 
substance. Extended substance, then, must so exist 
that no empty space is possible. 2 

In its qualitative character the attribute of ex 
tension, or extended substance, is not to be thought 
of as like any of the various things perceived by the 
senses. It is only an inference from the modes of 
extension, which are alone objects of immediate 
knowledge. But in spite of the fact that it is de 
clared to differ from particular bodies in being in 
divisible, it is spoken of as substantia corporea^ and 
as "stuff." 4 It is therefore to be conceived as in 
determinate matter posited as the original material, 
pre-condition and cause of particular bodies. Bodies 
themselves are not substance, but "express" the 
nature of substance "in a certain and determinate 
way. 5 The most that can be said about its qualita 
tive character is that it is so constituted as to be 
the ground and cause of the material universe. As 
it is "infinite" it is, for Spinoza, also "perfect." 

1 Eth. I, 15, schol. 

2 Cf. Cog. Met. II, Cap X, p. 223. 

3 Eth. I, 15, schol. 

4 Korte Verhandeling, 1, 9. Dutch, "Stoffe." 

6 Eth. II, Def. I. 



The often misunderstood, but after all by no 
means uncertain, conception of absoluta, cogitatio, 
we will do well to approach by considering in ad 
vance two things that are liable to be confounded 
with it. The first is the 

1. Intellectus Infinitus. 

This was a traditional conception which had origin 
ated in the speculations of Plato and Aristotle. It 
had played an important role in both Jewish and 
Christian thinking through the middle ages down to 
the beginning of the modern period. Spinoza simply 
adapted it to his own system. 

Occasionally, by a sort of accommodation to tra 
ditional terminology, the expressions Intellectus 
Dei and the like are employed by him to designate 
absolute thought. This is the case in Eth. I. 15, 
schol., for example, which we shall have occasion 
to explain in another connection. It appears indis 
putably clear, however, from a number of passages, 
that Intellectus Infinitus properly denotes not ab 
solute thought, but a certain definite mode of 
thought. "By intellect we do not mean absolute 
thought, but only a certain mode of thought," 1 he 

x Eth. I, 31, dem. 


says in the " Ethics. " A letter to Simon De Vries de 
clares still more emphatically, if possible, the same 
thing: "I think I have demonstrated clearly 
enough, that intellect, although infinite, belongs to 
Natura Naturata, not properly to Natura Naturans, 
that is, according to Spinoza s distinction 1 between 
Natura Naturata and Natura Naturans, not to the 

When we seek to determine how this mode is more 
precisely to be conceived, we find that it is in 
volved not only in the inconsistencies resulting from 
Spinoza s unclear use of "idea," but also in those 
which characterize his reconciliation of the infinite 
and the finite. Moreover, we here move on the outer 
limits, so to speak, of his sphere of thought, where 
details have to be deduced from scattered and frag 
mentary expositions. We may conveniently begin 
with Eth. II. 11 : 

" Prop. The first thing that constitutes the actual 
being (essc) of the human mind is nothing else than 
the idea of some particular thing actually existing 
[existing in time]. 2 

"Dem. The essence of man is constituted of cer 
tain modes of attributes of God; namely [among 
others] of modes of thinking, of all which idea is by 
nature the most primary [prior] ; and, when this is 
given, the other modes (namely, those to which 
"idea" is prior by nature) must be in the same indi 
vidual. And so an idea is the first [most fundamen 
tal] thing constituting the human mind. But not an 
idea of a thing non-existent [in time]. For in that 
case (by cor. prop. 8) the idea itself could not be 

See p. 156. 

a Of. Korte Verhand., Anhang. 


said to exist; therefore it will be an idea of a thing 
actually existing. But not of an infinite thing; for 
an infinite thing must necessarily always exist; but 
this is absurd. Therefore the first thing that con 
stitutes the actual being of the human mind, is an 
idea of a particular thing actually existing. 

"Cor. Hence it follows that the human mind is a 
part of the infinite intellect of God; 1 and accordingly 
when we say the human mind perceives this or that, 
we say nothing else than that God, 2 not so far as 
he is infinite, but so far as he is expressed by the 
nature of the human mind, or so far as he constitutes 
the essence of the human mind, has this or that 
idea. And when we say God has this or that idea 
not merely in so far as he constitutes the nature of 
the human mind, but in so far as at the same time 
with the human mind he has also the idea of another 
thing, then we say the human mind perceives a 
thing ex parte, or inadequately. * 

The expression "essence of the human mind* is 
equivalent, of course, to "nature of the human 
mind," and means the qualitative content of the 
mind as a part of reality. As he is here thinking of 
individual minds as ideas of particular actual bod 
ies, the "essence" becomes in fact the nature of the 

1 The Italics are ours. 

2 Here we have a good example of the accommodated 
use of the word "God" to which we have referred (p. 158). 
It is employed in the sense of the sum of all modes. 
"God, not so far as he is infinite, but, etc.," means a 
single mode. The qualitative uniformity of reality makes 
it possible for Spinoza at one time to conceive of an 
"absolute" extension and thought, calling it "God," and 
at another time to speak of the sum of the modes, or of 
any one mode, as "God," inasmuch as every mode is, 
so to speak, a piece, though a modified piece, of the same 


actual mind as including both adequate and inade 
quate ideas. The meaning of the rest of the corollary 
is at first not quite obvious. Strictly speaking, 
"God" cannot be taken to mean either the Absolute 
or total reality; for, in either sense, the expression 
"in so far as at the same time with the human mind 
he has also the idea of another thing," would have 
no meaning, since "God" in either sense, if he had 
any ideas at all, would always have ideas of other 
things at the same time that he would have that 
constituting the human mind. But the language 
could be made intelligible, if we should qualify 
"God" by "within the limits of the human mind," 
thus bringing the expression into harmony with his 
frequent use of "God" for any part of reality; and 
if we should then recall Spinoza s doctrine of inade 
quate ideas. These, as we saw, are, from one stand 
point, to be regarded as "confused;" they report 
something of the nature of the human body and also 
something of the nature of the bodies by which the 
human body is affected, but the two elements are an 
indistinguishable mixture. The expression "God 
has the idea of something else at the same time that 
he has that constituting the human mind" would 
accordingly mean, "reality within the limits of the 
human mind" (i. e., simply the human mind) has 
the idea of something else at the same time that it 
has the idea of its own body; or, in other words, 
it has an inadequate idea. This explanation would 
be in complete accord wth Spinoza s account of 
sense perception. 

The fatal objection to it is, that it views the in 
adequate ideas from an altogether different stand 
point from that from which Spinoza is here regard- 


ing them. The last clause of the corollary shows 
that he is thinking of them, not as confused, but as 
incomplete, mutilated, as ex parte knowledge. We 
should seek to interpret the passage in harmony 
with this fact. This becomes possible by paraphras 
ing it as follows: When we say that the human 
mind apprehends this or that, we say nothing else 
than that God, not so far as he is infinite, but so far 
as he (reality) is included within the limits of that 
mode called the human mind, has this or that idea. 
And this we may say, whether the idea in question 
is adequate or inadequate; for, if the idea is in 
adequate (incomplete) as it appears in the human 
mind, it is complete when referred to God (totality). 
The fragment lying within the circumference of the 
human mind belongs to him, as well as does its com 
plement which lies beyond that circumference. In 
such a case, therefore, it may be said that God 
possesses the idea, not merely in so far as he con 
stitutes the human mind (has the idea of the human 
body), but in so far as he constitutes some other 
mind (has the idea of something else) within the 
area of which falls the complementary part of the 
inadequate idea. With reference to the human 
mind, the idea may appropriately be called ex parte 

That which particularly concerns us at present 
is the circumstance that the inadequate ideas are 
here attributed to God in such a way as to indicate 
that the human mind in its whole circumference 
is a part of the Intellectus Infinitus. Quite in 
harmony with this fact, the Intellectus Infinitus is 
evidently conceived as the sum of individual minds 
regarded as the ideas of changing, perishable ob- 


jects. The " hence " which connects the corollary 
with the preceding demonstration excludes the 
possibility of any other interpretation. 

In Ethics V. prop. 40, scholium, we have the 
Intellectus Infinitus referred to again: "Our mind, 
in so far as it understands (intelligit), is an eternal 
mode of thinking, which is determined by another 
eternal mode of thinking, and this again by another, 
and so on in infinitum, so that all together constitute 
the eternal and infinite intellect of God." The 
expression "our mind in so far as it understands," 
means the mind in so far as it is intellect in dis 
tinction from imagination and feeling; in so far, 
therefore, as it is an aggregate, or a system, of 
adequate ideas only. "Determined" cannot mean 
anything else than conditioned or limited, for in 
the case of "eternal" modes there can be no question 
of producing in temporal succession. Accordingly 
the Intellectus Infinitus would be the sum of all 
adequate ideas in the entire realm of reality in so 
far as these are eternal, i. e., changeless thought 
counterparts to eternal and changeless "real" 

"We seem thus to come upon an account of the 
Intellectus Infinitus that is inconsistent with what 
we have just learned from Eth. II. 11. There it 
was conceived as composed of individual minds 
taken in their whole circumference; here it seems 
to embrace human minds only in so far as they are 
"intellect." There a constituent mind was the 
idea of a body "actually [temporally] existing," 
and not of anything that "must necessarily always 
exist," as this would be "absurd;" here each con 
stituent mind is an "eternal" mode. The two ac- 


counts cannot be wholly reconciled; but, in so far 
as the difference is real, it can be explained as a 
natural consequence of the indeterminate meaning 
for Spinoza of the word "idea. " 

In the first place, Spinoza does not always dis 
tinguish between ideas as they exist for logic (ideas 
as content, meaning) and ideas as they exist for 
psychology (ideas as events). Because from the 
standpoint of logic they are relatively fixed, he 
regards them, as often as he has occasion to do so, 
as permanent possessions of the mind. In reality, 
of course, no idea exists for any mind except while 
it is being thought. No mind contains ideas as a 
permanent possession in any other sense than that 
it can re-think, re-create, them, or, to speak more 
exactly, think new ideas with the same logical con 
tent as that of ideas previously thought. Spinoza 
does not clearly see this, and hence, as often as it 
serves his purpose, regards logical conceptions as 
permanent facts. Especially if they are true, is this 
the case; for, on account of the circumstance that 
they cannot then be altered by subsequent correc 
tion, and can never become invalid, they are con 
sidered as even "eternal." Again, as a result of 
his assumption that all things are animata, the 
"idea" of a given body may mean either its soul or 
the idea of that body formed by any knowing 
subject. Spinoza, as we have seen, habitually con 
founds the two. 

With these peculiarities of Spinoza s thinking in 
mind, it is possible to understand the differences 
between the two passages cited above. We have 
seen that the eternal "essence" of the human mind 
(which must be distinguished from its actual being. 


esse actuate referred to in Eth. II, II) 1 is something 
more general than particular individuals, that it ia 
common to them all, that it is derived by the direct 
causality from the attributes, and constitutes the 
immediate background on which individuals, 
created by the indirect causality, appear as transient 
particularizations at different points of time and 
space. It is described as existing only so far as it 
is "comprehended in the infinite idea of God," 2 
i. e., only so far as it is qualitatively derivable from 
cogitatio, and partakes of existence in general, 3 but 
not cum relatione ad tempus et locum-* and is said 
further to be contained uniformly or evenly 
(gelijkmatig) in the whole, 5 individuals in their pre- 
actual state not being a reliquis distinctae. Q 

Now if we will conceive this essence of human 
minds as not merely a concrete entity, but, in 
harmony with Spinoza s psychological intellectual- 
ism, as also "clear thought," "truth," "intellect," 
rationality; the individual minds, in so far as they 
are constituted of adequate ideas, are in content 
co-incident with the common essence of all minds, 
which is, as we have seen, an eternal mode; and we 
can understand how Spinoza, mistaking this coinci- 

1 But what is called esse actuale in Eth. II, 11 is also 
called essentia in Eth. Ill, 3 and 9. The esse actuale 
is not the eternal essence, but the temporal essence. 
Cf. Eth. II, 8. 

2 Eth. II, 8, Cor. 

8 Eth. V, 30, dem. Res igitur sub specie aeternitatis 
concipere, est res concipere, quatenus per Dei essentiam 
involvunt existentiam. "Ut entia realia" means in so far 
as things have a qualitative content. On the meaning 
of existentia here, see Eth. II, 45, scholium. 

4 Eth. V, 29, Scholium. 

6 Korte Verhandeling, Opera III, 102. 

6 Eth. II, 8 and 9. 


dence for identity, would regard the adequate ideas 
possessed by a particular mind, though transient, 
as a part of the eternal Intellectus Infinitus. But 
in this view what becomes of the inadequate ideas, 
which were treated in Eth. II. 11 as also parts, 
though mutilated parts, of the Intellectus Infinitus? 
As we shall see further on, they are frequently said 
to perish with the body. But this may be so under 
stood as to appear compatible for Spinoza both 
with the assertion that only adequate ideas are parts 
of the Intellectus Infinitus and with the assumption 
that inadequate ideas are also parts, fragmentary 
parts, of the same ; for he could say that these muti 
lated ideas which result from individualization, 
perish only in the sense that when the individual 
perishes the mutilation vanishes, this having existed 
in fact for the individual only. Viewed in connec 
tion with the totality of thought, mutilated ideas are 
whole, adequate, true, eternal. We shall therefore 
always regard the Intellectus Infinitus as the system 
of adequate and eternal ideas. 

As the human mind is the idea of a highly com 
posite object, its eternal essence would consistently 
be a complex idea, 1 i. e., a system of ideas, each 
of which has for its object one of the constituents 
of the human body. 2 As all human bodies are com 
posed of essentially the same constituents, all human 

1 Eth. II, 15. Idea, quae esse formale humanae mentis 
constituit, non est simplex, sed ex plurimis ideis com- 

2 As the essence of any body is a certain ratio of motion 
and rest, the essence of the composite human body ought 
to be represented by a very complex formula, the vari 
ous elements of which represent its constituent parts. 
In the "Short Treatise" (Deel II, Voorreeden, notes 
12-14) where he suggests that the nature of the human 


minds would, in their fundamental and eternal 
nature, be composed of the same ideas, namely the 
adequate ideas 1 of these constituents. 2 Upon the 
dissolution of an individual body, the associated 
mind would also lose its individuality, the single 
constituent ideas persisting in connection with the 
different substances that had composed the body. 
The mosaic of adequate ideas (if we may resort to 
spatial imagery) would remain intact; the frag 
ments which had appeared in the vanished individual 
mind as inadequate ideas, would be completed by 
their complementary parts, while the adequate ideas 
of the same would remain unchanged (in content). 
No change has taken place except the discontin 
uance of the ex parte appearance in the particular 
mind. But the same ideas re-appear, some ade 
quately and some inadequately, in new individuals, 

body might be expressed by the formula 1:3, either he 
did not think of the matter very precisely, or else he 
meant this for a general formula which in detail could 
be resolved into more complex relations. 

1 But they are not necessarily ideas of the objects in 
the sense that they have those objects for their content. 
Spinoza s unclear use of the word "idea" must be borne 
in mind, on account of which they are, or are not, ideas 
in this sense, according to the connection in which they 
are thought. 

2 Spinoza seems to conceive the contents of conscious 
ness sometimes as "ideas" of physiological changes and 
sometimes as "ideas" of the components of the body. 
When their psychological character is prominent to his 
mind, they tend to become "ideas" of physiological 
changes; when their logical character is thought of, they 
tend to become "ideas" of the physical constituents. 
Eth. II, props, 11-17. In the "Short Treatise" (Deel II, 
Voorreeden, note 13) the physiological change appears in 
consciousness as "feeling." Analogous to this is his 
application of Eth. II, prop. 7, "Ordo et connexio idearum 
idem est, ac ordo et connexio rerum," both in the tem 
poral and in the logical sense. 


which in turn are replaced by others, and so on in 
aeternum. The only things that are alike at all times 
and in all minds are the ideas in so far as they 
adequately present themselves. As ex parte ap 
pearances, they will exhibit a great variety of 

The question now arises whether Spinoza con 
ceives the ideas constituting a human mind as self- 
conscious after the dissolution of the body. The 
word "idea" performs so peculiar a function in 
Spinoza s thinking that it does not necessarily im 
ply consciousness. When we reckon with his appli 
cation of the word to the souls of all bodies, whether 
organic or inorganic, we are not warranted in 
supposing that it necessarily means more than a 
"real" object s psychical counterpart, which is not 
of the nature of a volition or of a feeling, but of 
a presentation, i. e., an exact reflection in some sense 
of the object. But as the ideas (souls) of inorganic 
bodies have their place in the thought system, we 
must conceive them also as in their eternal relation 
components of the Intellectus Infinitus. This view 
might seem to be excluded by the fact that in Eth. 
V. 40 Spinoza makes only the rational part of the 
human mind an element of the Intellectus Infinitus, 
and apparently assumes that sub-human minds do 
not partake of rationality. But if we remember 
that these minds also have their "eternal essences," 
which are necessarily "adequate ideas" in one sense 
at least, i. e., are exact counterparts of the bodily 
essences, the difficulty disappears. Now what 
grounds have we for assuming that these ideas, 
which are presumably unconscious in their temporal 
relation, are conscious in their timeless relation? 


Spinoza uses no language that requires us to con 
ceive of them in this way. The application of the 
word "idea" to the surviving elements of the mind 
after the dissolution of the body, therefore, would 
not be a conclusive reason for supposing them to 
be conscious. The view which presents the least 
difficulties seems to be this: After the dissolution 
of the individual body, the adequate ideas which 
composed its associated mind will survive as 
elements of consciousness only in the sense that 
their content will be repeated in successive indi 
viduals. 1 Of this, we shall have to speak more at 
length in another connection. 2 

In a previous chapter 3 we found that there exists 
a series of eternal modes. The question arises, 
therefore, where in this series does the Intellectus 
Infinitus belong? The question is answered in a 
letter to C. H. Schuller. The young friend had 
asked for examples of modes immediately produced 
by God and of modes produced mediately through 
these. 4 Spinoza replied: "Examples ... of the first 
kind are in Thought Intellectus absolute Infinitus; 
in Extension, Motus et Quies; but of the second 

1 The Intellectus Infinitus must therefore be considered 
as conscious in so far as it is coincident with actually 
existing minds, but this does not imply unity of conscious 
ness. Whether it is conscious also in so far as it tran 
scends the sum of individuals, or whether it does tran 
scend the sum of individuals, is a question to be an 
swered, if at all, by inference. 

The Intellectus Infinitus may be represented to the 
imagination as analogous to a sea with a many-colored 
surface when the wind (indirect causality) strikes it 
into a multitude of choppy waves. The waves represent 
the individuals, in which some colors appear entire (ade 
quately) and some in part (inadequately). 

2 See the chap, on Immortality. 

3 See p. 139. 
4 Epist. 63 (olim 65), 


kind, Facies Totius Universi, which, although it 
varies in infinite ways, remains always the same ; 
concerning which see schol. 7 of the lemma before 
proposition 14, Part 2." 1 The Intellectus Infinitus 
is then an infinite mode of the first order. The same 
thing is affirmed also, by the "Short Treatise." As 
to Intellectus in the thinking being, it is .... also 
a Son, a Creature, or immediate product of God." 2 
To find the essence of the human mind and other 
ultimate eternal modes related without intermediate 
modes directly to the Intellectus Infinitus, an eternal 
and infinite mode of the first order, is not what we 
should expect. This apparent inconsistency has its 
analogue in another of which we must now speak. 
The letter just cited names only one mode of the 
second order, Facies Totius Universi. It has been 
inferred that this is a modification, not of extension 
alone, but of nature as a unit, a modification there 
fore which partakes of the qualities of both (or of 
all) attributes. But that this is not the case, is 
clear from Eth. II. lem. 7, schol., to which Spinoza 
refers his pupil for further light. 3 The expression 
tota natura found there is evidently synonymous 
with fades totius naturae occurring in the same 
connection, and relates only to extension. It requires 
therefore a counterpart on the side of thought, which 
is not given either here or elsewhere. 4 It would 
seem that, in regard to the eternal modes in general, 

1 Epist. 64 (olim 66). 

2 Korte Verhandeling, Cap. 9, Deel I. 

8 Et si sic porro in infinitum pergamus, facile con- 
cipimus, totam Naturam unum esse Individuum, cujus 
partes, hoc est omnia corpora, infinitis modis variant, 
absque ulla totius Individui mutatione. 

* Kuno Fischer s Diagram (Geschichte d. neueren Phil 
osophic, II, 414, fourth edition) is therefore mistaken. 


Spinoza never worked out the details of his thought 
into -consistency. From the point of view of 
parallelism it would have been consistent for Spi 
noza to posit a special Intellectus Infinitus (an 
intellect relatively infinite) comprehending all 
particular minds actually existing and all particular 
ideas as psychological events. It would have had 
its counterpart in the fades totius universi of the 
"Ethics," which "varies in infinite ways" without 
altering its total value, and in the Natura Naturata 
Particularis (Extensa) of the "Short Treatise;" 
while the Intellectus Infinitus in another sense, em 
bracing all eternal modes of thought, would have 
reflected the Natura Naturata Generalis. That he 
mentions no such special Intellectus Infinitus is 
probably due to the same motive that caused him to 
suppress the original distinction between Natura 
Naturata Generalis and Natura Naturata Particu 
laris, it would have emphasized the chasm (already 
too obtrusive) between the system of eternal modes 
and the system of particular things, a chasm that was 
especially inconvenient in the thought-realm, inas 
much as Spinoza was interested in putting actual 
human minds in close relation with the realm of 
eternal and changeless realities. His failure to dis 
tinguish clearly between ideas as logical content 
and ideas as psychological facts served him well at 
this point, permitting him conveniently to do, in 
the thought-realm, what he could not easily do in 
the extension-realm, namely, to unite the changing 
and the changeless worlds. By treating the ideas of 
actually existing minds as logical content only, he 
was enabled to obliterate the distinction between the 



The relation of the Intellectus Infinitus, so far as 
we have now determined it, may be represented by 
the following simple diagram. 



Intellectus Infinitus 

Motus et Quies 


Facies Totius Universi 

Slngulae Ideae (Mentes) Singula Corpora 

For the sake of simplicity we have thus far ignored 
the infinite number of unknown attributes. When 
we take these into account, we must make important 
changes in our diagram. We must then regard the 
counterpart of the Intellectus Infinitus as " ex 
pressed" not only under the attribute of extension, 
but under an infinite number of other attributes. 
Accordingly its relation to remaining reality may 
be provisionally represented as follows: 
Substantia: Infinita Attributa 


Intellectus Absolute Infi 

Singulae Ideae (Mentes) 
corresponding to modifi 
cations of all kinds. 

Extensio and numberlegs 
unknown attributes. 


Motus et Quies; and num 
berless other analogous 
modifications under the 
unknown Attributes. 


Facies Totius Universi 
(extensi); and number 
less analogous modifica 
tions under the unknown 


Singula Corpora; and 
numberless analogous 
modifications under the 
unknown attributes. 


It will be seen not only that the asserted equilib 
rium between extension and thought is destroyed, 
in that thought acquires an infinite preponderance, 
but also that consistently the human mind ought to 
be acquainted with the unknown attributes. For 
the mind is the expression of substance under the at 
tribute of thought, and the modifications of all 
other attributes, not merely those of extension, are 
analogous " expressions" of the same substance. 
This obvious inconsistency was pointed out to 
Spinoza himself by his young correspondent Tschirn- 

"Whence it is seen to follow," he writes, "that that 
modification which constitutes my body, although one and 
the same modification, is expressed in infinite ways; in 
one way through thought, in another through extension, 
in a third way through an attribute of God unknown to 
me, and so on to infinity; because there exists an infinite 
number of attributes of God, and the order and connec 
tion of modifications seems to be the same in all. Hence 
the question now arises, why the mind, which represents 
a certain modification and which same modification is ex 
pressed not only in extension, but in an infinite number of 
other ways; why, I say, it perceives only that modifica 
tion which is expressed through extension, that is, the hu 
man body, and no other expression through the other 
attributes." 1 

The difficult position in which Spinoza found him 
self before this question was one more consequence 
of the unclearness, lying on the threshold of his sys 
tem, in regard to the relation that obtains between 
the attributes and substance. Tschirnhaus s objec 
tion was valid ; but, on account of the actual lim- 

1 Epis. 65 (olim 67). 


itations of our knowledge, Spinoza was bound at any 
cost to hold fast his conception of the mind as 
idea corporis. Accordingly in his reply, he simply 
ignores the consequences which his friend draws 
from the unity of substance, and defends himself by 
reminding him of the heterogeneity of the attributes: 

"But in reply to your objection, I say that, although 
each thing is expressed in an infinite number of ways 
in the infinite intellect of God, yet those infinitely num 
erous ideas with which it is expressed are unable to con 
stitute one and the same mind (mens) of a particular 
thing, but an infinite number; although each of these 
infinitely numerous ideas have no connexion with one 
another." 1 

The statement that the ideas which represent 
things as they are "expressed" in the unknown at 
tributes constitute countless minds of particular 
things, admits of but one explanation. If we con 
ceive " thing" as a modification of the one substance, 
in the way Spinoza does here, we must attribute to 
every individual thing an infinite number of separate 
minds which reflect the countless coordinate " ex 
pressions" of the infinitely numerous heterogeneous 
attributes. Everything has therefore, not simply the 
one mind described as idea corporis, but an infinite 
number of others. On account of the novelty of 
the thought, one may perhaps be inclined to seek 
some other interpretation; but no other is possible. 
If we limit the word mens to idea corporis, and at 
tempt to distribute the countless ideas of a given 
thing among different minds of this sort, we contra 
dict Spinoza s fundamental assumption that idea 

1 Epis. 66 (olim 68). 


corporis can only know extension and thought. 
Moreover, this letter, written two years before his 
death, harmonizes completely with the differently 
expressed representations of the " Short Treatise" 
composed in his youth, where he speaks of the nature 
of souls: "I say [the idea] of an object actually 
existing, etc., without further qualification, in order 
to include thereunder not only the modifications 
of extension, but also the modifications of all the in 
finite attributes, which just as well as those of ex 
tension have [each] asoul. " x 

As the ideas of the modifications of the different 
attributes have no relation (nullam connexionem) 
to one another, there exists corresponding to each 
attribute a separate Intellectus Infinitus. We must 
assume, therefore, an infinite number of relatively 
infinite intellects, which, taken together, constitute 
the Intellectus Absolute Infinitus. This suggests 
Spinoza s definition of God; and in fact it corre 
sponds in a way to that "ens absolute infinitum 
hoc est, substantiam constantem infinitis attributis." 
But it would be a mistake to suppose that it is the 
thought counterpart of the unmodified attributes. It 
represents only modifications of the attributes, and 
belongs to Natura Naturata. Its place in the system 
of reality is shown in the following diagram : 

J Korte Verhandeling, pp. 101-2. Ik zeg van een voor- 
werp dat dadelijk wesentlijk is, enz. zonder meer be- 
zonderheid, om dan hieronder te begrijpen niet alleen 
de wijzingen van de uytgebreidheid, maar ook de wijzin- 
gen van alle de oneyndige eygenschappen, de welke mede, 
zo wel als de uytgebreidheid, een ziele hebben. All this 
Is a further confirmation of the assumption that souls 
and not literal ideas are the constituents of the Intellectus 



Substantia: Infinita Attributa 


Intellectus Absolute Infi- 
nitus; i. e., aggregate of 
countless separate, rela 
tively infinite intellects. 

Individual groups of souls 
(ideae, mentes), i. e., 
ideae corporum, and ideae 
of the countless analogues 
under the unknown attri 

Extensio, etc., etc., ad in- 

Motus et Quies; and 
countless analogues under 
the unknown attributes. 


Facies Totius Universi ; 
and countless analogues 
under the unknown attri 

Individual things 
(bodies); and countless 
analogues under the un 
known attributes. 

The kind of unity possessed by this mode is espe 
cially to be remarked. As Intellectus Absolute In- 
finitus it falls, as we have seen, into an infinite num 
ber of absolutely separate Intellecti Infiniti, of 
which it is expressly said that they have no connec- 
ion with one another. Still they are regarded as 
constituting one mode. The unity can be only that 
which may be predicated of an aggregate of units 
having a common root. The infinite parts are all 
derived from absoluta cogitatio, to be sure, but they 
have no direct relation to one another. But what 
unity may be ascribed to the separate Intellecti In 
finiti ? It ought to be that which obtains among the 
modes of any one attribute, and would be analog 
ous therefore to that existing among different bodies. 
Here again the unity is only a community of origin. 
There is this difference, however, that in the case of 
the separate Intellecti Infiniti there exists a special 
homogeneity of qualitative content which he sup- 


posed could not obtain between the thought modes 
corresponding to several heterogeneous attributes. 
The attribute of thought, which constitutes the ul 
timate ground of all thought-modes, is the unity to 
which they may be traced back. This, in which all 
single ideas, or mentes, mediately or immediately 
are rooted, establishes a union among them; some 
what as the trunk of a tree, if we may express our 
selves in physical imagery, constitutes a union 
among the several leaves. This assumption is 
the only one, as we shall see, that can be harmonized 
with what Spinoza has to say about cogitatio ab- 

We must next determine what he means by the ex 
pression Idea Dei. 

2. Idea Dei. 

In order to explain the relation of the eternal es 
sences of things to the Absolute, we have already 
had occasion to take some notice of this conception. 
There it appeared that Spinoza s account of it was 
probably influenced not only by Neo-Platonic ideas, 
but also by scholastic speculations. 

From this, however, it ought not to be hastily in 
ferred that scholastic expressions employed by 
Spinoza retain their scholastic meaning. The 
scholastic discussions about the idea Dei, idea in Deo, 
etc., are to be understood in the light of the Aris 
totelian doctrine of form and stuff (or matter). Ac 
cording to this the form (eT8o, idea) of a thing is 
at the same time its pattern and the goal of its de 
velopment, and therefore also the measure of its 
reality. Stuff (vXiy), on the other hand, is con 
ceived as potentiality (8wa/u, potentia). When 


now the scholastics applied these conceptions to 
God, they had to say that in God, the absolutely 
perfect being, there is no potentiality, but only com 
plete realization of form (idea}. He is actus purus; 
in him potentiality is swallowed up in reality. 
Hence the scholastic proposition: Idea in Deo est 

ejus essentia, "form" in God is his essence. The 

question suggested by this proposition, whether we 
may then consistently assume a plurality of ideas in 
God, is answered by Thomas Aquinas by distin 
guishing the two senses in which the word idea is 
employed. If it is taken in the Aristotelian sense 
of form, idea must be regarded as only one in God; 
if it is taken to mean a presentation, then we must 
assert that the divine intellect contains as many 
ideas as there are different things. Thomas says, 
therefore : necesse est ponere plures ideas [in 
Deo], 1 it is necessary to assume a plurality of ideas 
in God. Spinoza, in his "Metaphysical Thoughts," 
also takes notice of this scholastic question, answering 
it according to the requirements of his own system; 

1 Freudenthal, in his original and excellent essay on 
Spinoza and Scholasticism published in "Philosophische 
Aufsatze, Ed. Zeller gewidmet," 135, seems to assume 
that not only the scholastic phraseology, but also the 
scholastic conceptions have here passed over into Spi 
noza s philosophy. A proof of this he finds in Eth. II, 
4, and refers to Thomas, "who, reasons like Spinoza (S. 
t,h. I, qu. 15, art. 2) : Videtur quod non sint plures ideae 
[in Deo]. Idea enim in Deo est ejus essentia. Sed es 
sentia Dei est una tantum. Ergo idea est una." In 
fact these expressions do not represent Thomas own 
thoughts, but are only a fallacious argumentation which 
Thomas gives in order to refute it. He himself expresses 
the opposite opinion immediately afterward: "Respon- 
deo dicendum, quod necesse est ponere plures ideae [in 


and, although his answer, like that just quoted, 1 is 
not determined by the Aristotelian doctrine of form, 
it is quite the opposite of that given by Thomas. 
Spinoza says there is but one idea in God. Hence 
Spinoza s language has quite a different meaning 
from what it would have if used by Thomas. In the 
mouth of Thomas it would mean, in God there is 
but one "form" of himself and that "form" is him 
self; while in this passage from Spinoza it means, in 
God there is but one idea, namely the idea of His 
unmodified essence, idea in a sense, however, which, 
in view of Spinoza s peculiar uses of the term, re 
quires to be more closely determined. 2 

It has generally been assumed that the expression 
idea Dei is a proper name applied by Spinoza to a 
single object. But upon careful scrutiny this as 
sumption is found to be mistaken. In fact the ex 
pression is employed in several senses, as we shall 

We consider first some passages from the "Short 
Treatise." At the time when this work was com 
posed, Spinoza held to a division of Natura Naturata 

1 Of course the Aristotelian doctrine is involved in all 
these scholastic discussions, more or less. God s ideas 
of things are conceived at the same time as being in a 
way the "forms" of the things. In relation to the crea 
tion and primarily, they are ideas; in relation to the 
created things, they are "forms." 

2 Cog. Met. II, Cap. VII, p. 218. "Ad hanc [quaestio- 
nem] respondeo, quod idea Dei, per quam omniscius 
vocatur, unica et simplicissima est. Nam revera Deus 
nulla alia ratione vocatur omniscius, nisi quia habet 
ideam sui ipsius; quae idea sive cognitio simul semper 
cum Deo exstitit nihil enim est praeter ejus essentiam." 
In a letter to a friend Spinoza declares that in this work 
he has veiled his real convictions. We can see, however, 
from the words "simplicissima" and "ejus essentiam" 
that he is here describing alsoluta cogltatio. 


into two parts, the Natura Naturata Generalis and 
the Natura Naturata Particularis. "The General 
consists of all those modes which depend immediate 
ly on God . . . ; the Particular consists of all the 
particular things which are produced by the general 
modes." 1 Now it appears that a certain "Idea" 
mentioned in this work is the thought-counterpart of 
the Natura Naturata Generalis, and therefore corre 
sponds to the Intellectus Infinitus. It is described 
as an "Idea" that mirrors the whole of nature as 
a sum of essences, but without "knowing" the 
particular things that come and go in time. 2 In the 
Appendix this "Idea" is described more fully: 
"In the ninth chapter of Part I, I have called this 
Idea a creature immediately produced by God, since 
without increasing or decreasing it contains in 
thought form the real essences of all things. In the 
same connection he says that "in the Idea there is 
no particularity," i. e., there are no individual 
things such as occur at dfferent points of time and 

1 Korte Verhandeling I, Cap. 8. Incidentally, it should 
be remarked that this nomenclature confirms the view 
we have taken of the eternal "essences." As belonging 
to the products of the direct causality, they would be 
members of the Natura Naturata Generalia, and there 
fore something more general than particular things, 
something like the hypostatized species. And it is to be 
noted that, although nothing is said in the Ethics about 
a Natura Naturata Particularis, there still exists the 
same distinction between general modes and particular 
things that appears in the Korte Verhandeling. 

2 Korte Verhandeling, Deel II, Preface, note 5 "Wy 
zeggen wezentlijk zijnde, omdat wy hier niet spreeken 
van een kennisse, Idea, etc., die geheel de natuur van alle 
wezen geschakeld in haar wezen kend, zonder haar be- 
zondere wezentlijkheid, maar alleen van de kennisse, 
Idea, etc., van de bezondere dingen, die telkens komen te 


space. 1 Now in the chapter to which Spinoza here 
refers the word employed is Verstaan, or, if we re 
place the Dutch word with the Latin one that doubt 
less stood in the original text, Intellectus; which is 
called an eternal and immediate creature of God. 
It is clear, therefore, that we have here to do with the 
Intellectus Infinitus, and that Idea in the above ci 
tation is but another name for it. 

In the "Ethics" the expression Idea Dei is general 
ly, but not always, used as a name for the Intellectus 
Infinitus. In the demonstration to proposition 21, 
Part I, for example, where he seeks to prove that all 
the consequences (products) of the absolute nature 
of God are infinite and eternal by reducing the con 
trary assumption to an absurdity, he takes the Idea 
Dei as an example of an eternal mode of the first 
order: "Conceive, if you can . . . , in some attri 
bute of God something to result from his absolute 
nature, that is finite and has a determinate exist 
ence or duration, e. g., Idea Dei in the realm of 
thought." Idea Dei, therefore, designates here as 
in the "Short Treatise" an infinite mode of the first 
order, and so answers to the description of the In 
tellectus Infinitus. In discussing proposition 8, 
Part II, in another connection, we observed that 
Dei infinita idea can there also be nothing else than 
the Intellectus Infinitus. 2 

In other passages of the "Ethics" where the ex 
pression Idea Dei occurs, it certainly designates 
absoluta cogitatio. For example, in the corollary 
to the ever recurring proposition, "The order and 
connection of ideas is the same as the order and 

1 Korte Verhandeling, Aanhangsel, p. 102. 

2 See p. 151. 


connection of things," idea Dei and natura Dei 
are put on the same plane : "God s power of thinking 
[of producing thought-modes] is equal to his real 
power of acting [of producing real things]. That is, 
whatever objective reality results from the infinite 
nature of God, results ex Dei idea in the same order 
and connection in God (in the totality) after the 
manner of thought." 1 It is sufficiently evident 
without comment, that idea Dei here represents 
primary, underived thought, the absoluta cogitatio. 
To regard it as a mode is out of the question. 

We shall now be able to understand propositions 
3 and 4, Part II., which have so often been either ig 
nored or misunderstood. 

"Prop. 3. In God there is necessarily an idea as well 
of his essence as of all things that necessarily result 
from his essence. 

"Dem. For God is able to think (cogitare) infinite 
things in infinite modes, or to form the idea of his essence 
and of all things which necessarily result from it. But 
all that which lies in God s power is necessarily existent; 
therefore there necessarily exists such an idea, and (by 
prop. 15, Part I) nowhere else than in God." 

One might be inclined to suppose that here we 
have a description of a single idea which has as its 
comprehensive object God s essence and everything 
that results therefrom. 

The use of the singular of idea, especially in the 
demonstration, seems at first to confirm this inter 
pretation. If so understood, it could be taken as 
the Intellectus Infinitus again, though not without 
some violence. 1 But when we recognize the parallel 

1 Eth. II, 7, Cor. 

2 The idea of God s essence would then be an idea in 
some finite mind, as the Intellectus Infinitus is, as we 
have seen, but the sum of thought-modes. But in this 
case there would be involved the inconsistency of sup- 


between this proposition and proposition 16, Part I. 
("From the necessity of the divine nature infinite 
things in infinite modes must result"), and when we 
note the form of expression employed at the begin 
ning of the demonstration cited above ("God is able 
to think infinite things in infinite modes") ; we see 
that Spinoza is speaking not of a single idea, but of 
an infinite number of ideas. The expression "in 
God" means here, as in many other passages, nothing 
more than "logically implying the Absolute," and 
may therefore be paraphrased as "somewhere in 
total reality;" for proposition 15, Part I., cited in 
proof of the existence of the ideas in God, says 
there is nothing that is not in God: Quidquid est 
in Deo est. The sense of the proposition in question, 
therefore, may be more fully expressed as follows; 
In the infinite universe there exists an idea (thought- 
counterpart) of the unmodified "real" essence of God 
and also an infinite number of thought-modes corre 
sponding to as many modifications of his real es 
sence. 1 (Cogitare is here used as we shall soon find, 
simply as a convenient term for psychic causation.) 

Proposition 4, Part II. confirms the interpretation 
given to proposition 3, and furnishes another case 
of Spinoza s use of Idea Dei in the sense of absoluta 
cogitatio: "Idea Dei from which result infinite 
[thought] things in infinite modes, can be but one." 
He thus expresses only a consequence of the single 
ness of substance. In formulating this and the pre 
ceding proposition, Spinoza had in mind the scholas- 

posing this element of the Intellectus Infinitus to be sub 
jective instead of objective. 

1 That this is the correct interpretation of the propo 
sition is shown also by the way the proposition is cited 
in dem. to cor. Prop. IX, Part II. 


tic discussions above mentioned concerning plurality 
of ideas in God, and accommodates their language 
to the requirements of his own system in such a way 
that he is able to say, as Thomas did; in one sense, 
there is but a single idea in Deo, 1 and in another 
sense there are an infinite number. Probably he 
never uses the word idea for absoluta cogitatio, ex 
cept for the purpose of assimilating his terminology 
to that of the scholastics, and of thus presenting his 
thoughts in the least offensive form. 2 

1 It would be a mistake to assume that the word "idea" 
In this expression is to be understood as an idea in the 
ordinary sense of the term. In a letter written when a 
part of the Ethics was already in the hands of his friends, 
he contends that God may not be conceived sub idea. 
Ep. 9 (olim 27) p. 224. 

2 Viewed from the standpoint of mistaken assumptions, 
the demonstration to proposition 4, Part II, has been 
found unintelligible: "Intellectus inflnitus nihil praeter 
Dei attributa et ejusque affectiones comprehendit. Atqui 
Deus est unicus. Ergo idea Dei, ex qua infinita infinitis 
modis sequentur, unica tantum esse potest." The sig 
nificance of the expression "intellectus infinitus" here will 
be understood, if we turn again to proposition 16, Part 
I: "Ex necessitate divinae naturae infinita infinitis modis 
(hoc est omnia, quae sub intellectum infinitum cadere 
possunt) sequi debent." The words in parentheses (all 
things that would come within the range of an infinite in 
tellect) are but Spinoza s expression for "all possible 
reality." In the demonstration to proposition 4, Part II, 
he uses "intellectus infinitus" in precisely the same way 
as here and evidently with reference to his use of it here. 
The demonstration may therefore be paraphrased as 
follows: There is no reality beyond God s attributes and 
modes. But there is but one God. Hence all real things 
have a single common origin, i. e., the real essence of God 
(Dei essentia formalis). Now all thought-things, being 
parallel to the real things, must also go back to a single 
common origin, namely to absoluta cogitatio, the thought 
part of God s absolute essence, that may be called idea 
Dei, from which infinite thought-things in infinite modes 
result. This proposition must not be taken as teaching 
anything new. It simply says, what was already evident, 
that absoluta cogitatio is one and not many. The lan 
guage employed must be regarded as an attempt to ex 
press his thought in terms of scholasticism. 


We have now made clear that Spinoza borrowed 
the expression Idea Dei from the scholastics, and ac 
commodated it to his system; that in the "Short 
Treatise he uses it only as a name for the Intellectus 
Infinitus ; and that in the Ethics he employs it in two 
senses, first, for Intellectus Infinitus, and secondly, 
for absoluta cogitatio. The Intellectus Infinitus we 
have already explained. We come finally, therefore, 
to the absoluta cogitatio. From our study of this 
conception must issue the definitive answer to the 
question, whether Spinoza s system has a place for 
an all-embracing consciousness. The answer can be 
affirmative only in case the absoluta cogitatio can 
be conceived in one of two ways. It must be a kind 
of thought that either embraces all objects by con 
sciously making the Intellectus Infinitus its own, i. e., 
by consciously thinking the single ideas of the In 
tellectus Infinitus ; or attains in some other way, en 
tirely independent of this, to an all-embracing knowl 
edge. The latter alternative, however, may be ig 
nored, as it is too fanciful to have been suggested 
by anyone. For the Intellectus Infinitus is the im 
mediate product of absolute thought, and, if absolute 
thought thinks in the real sense of the term, it 
must have the Intellectus Infinitus as the content of 

3. Absoluta Cogitatio. 

It has been assumed that with Spinoza, as with 
Descartes, consciousness belongs to the very essence 
of cogitatio. But as Spinoza has not defined 1 cog- 

1 Spinoza has not denned coyitatio for the reason that 
from his point of view definition was impossible. The 
most that he could say of absolute thought is that it is 
that which is presupposed by the finite modes of thought 
known to us in experience. 


itatio and has characterized it only negatively, we 
are not warranted in making such an assumption 
in advance of careful investigation. We have noted 
a use of this and of kindred words such as idea, cog- 
nitio, etc., that would naturally lead to an extension 
of the meaning of the term. The doctrine that all 
bodies, inorganic as well as organic, are "in different 
degrees" endowed with souls, would consistently 
have this consequence. So would also the tendency, 
growing out of his psychological intellectualism, to 
conceive these thought-counterparts as only the hy- 
postatized intelligibility of the objects. But it would 
be perilous to argue from any single element of 
Spinoza s system to its ultimate consequences, and to 
say that these consequences were therefore held by 
Spinoza. This method of procedure is chiefly re 
sponsible for the prevalence of so many inaccurate, 
and even erroneous, statements of his doctrines. 
In order to prove that Spinoza intended to teach any 
particular view, it is not enough to point out assump 
tions of his from which the view could be deduced, 
but it is necessary to show in addition that the 
logical consequences of these assumptions have not 
been inhibited by the consequences of other assump 
tions which were for him more fundamental and im 
portant, and to cite language from him in which the 
given view is expressly accepted. Spinoza s system, 
as we have remarked in another place, is so far from 
being the chain of iron logic for which it often passes, 
that it is in fact a tangle of conflicting tendencies, 
many of which could not be granted full development 
and final recognition. If we should skillfully se 
lect our premises, though we stated them in 
Spinoza s own language, we could, by ignoring the 


rest of his utterances, conclude to opposite doctrines 
in different cases. In seeking to determine the 
meaning of absoluta cogitatio, for example, we could 
select Spinoza s conception of idea ideae, 1 by which 
he explains human self-consciousness, and could say 
that just as the human mind, idea cor ports, must be 
reflected in another idea, thus giving rise to idea 
ideae, or self-consciousness, in the same manner not 
only every thought-mode but even the thought 
attribute must be reflected in its corresponding idea 
and give rise to self-consciousness; and, as the at 
tribute of thought contains in the form of logical 
implications all its consequences, a clear and ade 
quate idea ideae in the Absolute would obviously 
be an omniscient self-consciousness. Thus, in the 
simplest manner possible, we could prove that 
Spinoza ascribes to the Absolute an all-embracing 
consciousness, provided that, after arbitrarily 
choosing our starting point, we closed our eyes to 
everything else. The hypothesis seems to need no 
elaborate defense; the mere statement of it consti 
tutes its proof. On the other hand, if we start 
from another and more fundamental assumption of 
Spinoza s, omnis determinate est negatio, we can with 
equal or greater facility arrive at the opposite con 
clusion. We can say, in Spinoza s own language, that, 
as a consequence of this principle, God must be ens 
absolute indeterminatum, 2 on the thought side abso 
lutely indeterminate thought. But in absolutely 
indeterminate thought there can be no determinate, 

1 See page 74. 

- Epis. 36, (olim 41). Deus est ens, quod non certo 
duntaxat respectu, sed absolute in essentia indetermina- 
tum et omnipotens (infinite) est. 


definite thoughts, no knowledge of anything in 
particular, hence no knowledge at all. 1 We can say. 
moreover, that this conclusion is in harmony with 
Spinoza s assumptions in regard to causation. We 
saw that in the attempt to discover the first cause of 
the immediate material world on the one hand, and 
of the immediate psychical world on the other, he 
constantly pre-supposes that the cause of a thing 
is that without which the thing cannot be thought. 
It is in accordance with this that in his cosmology 
the general is conceived as the cause of the particu 
lar. The absolutely first cause, therefore, he was 
compelled to find in the "ens absolute indetermina- 
toi;" on the side of extension, in something more 
general and indeterminate than any material stuff of 
the sense-world, in an absolutely indeterminate stuff ; 
on the side of thought, in something more general 
and indeterminate than any known kind of psychi 
cal reality, in something more indeterminate there 
fore than even the psychical doubles of the simplest 
bodies, for these along with all other thought-modes 
"must be conceived through absolute thought." 
For mind (mens), therefore, for intellect (intel- 
lectus), for will (voluntas), and for real thoughts 
(ideae) in the Absolute, there can consistently be 
no place. All these terms must apply only to the 
thought-counterparts of particular bodies. Accord 
ingly, mind properly so-called and absoluta cogitatio 
must represent opposite poles of psychical being. 

1 Kuno Fischer, accepting this conclusion, states it as 
follows: "Daher muss der Gott Spinoza s, wenn er als 
ein vollkommen unendliches und unbestimmtes Wesen 
gefasst ist, notwendig auch als ein selbstloses und darum 
unpersonliches Wesen begriffen werden" (Geschichte 
d. neuern Phil., Bd. I, 2ter Theil, S. 343). 


And it is to be observed that, after all, this view 
may, in a way, be harmonized with Spinoza s 
doctrine of idea ideae, for, if it be inherent in 
the nature of an idea that it reflect itself in 
another idea, the reflection must be only in that 
degree of definiteness that characterizes the original 
idea. It is quite consistent, therefore, to declare 
that the idea which corresponds to the most com 
plex and definitely individualized object, the 
human body, becomes in its self-reflection distinct 
self-consciousness; and, at the same time, to assume 
that less definite ideas, or " minds," are less dis 
tinctly self-conscious, that, in fact, minds of the 
lowest order are not self-conscious at all. The same 
would be true of an ens indeterminatum (the Ab 
solute) ; self-consciousness would vanish in its own 
indefiniteness. It is to be remarked further that 
Spinoza is here occupied only with the human mind 
and its peculiarities, and does not consider the re 
moter consequences of his statements for his system 
as a whole. So true is this that he overlooks entirely 
the circumstance that his "idea ideae," if followed 
out, quite destroys the assumed parallelism between 
thought and extension, giving an infinite pre 
ponderance to the thought series. 

The second view is, therefore, decidedly the better 
founded ; but, stated thus as a mere inference without 
the support of citations from Spinoza expressly ac 
cepting it, it would not pass unchallenged. The 
question is not to be settled by inference and specu 
lation, but by exegesis. We shall therefore under 
take to show not what he might have taught, but 
what he actually did teach, and this by citing his own 
language and, where its meaning is not self-evident, 


by explaining it in the light of Spinoza s own usage. 
It will be found that he has expressly affirmed, in 
language that can not be mistaken, what the more 
fundamental assumptions of the system would lead us 
to expect, namely that conscious knowledge may not 
be predicated of the Absolute. In fact, nothing but 
the association of usual meanings with terms em 
ployed by Spinoza in a sense of his own, has ever 
given an air of plausibility, on exegetical grounds, to 
any other view. 

It is worthy of remark that no systematic investi 
gation of the specific question whether Spinoza s 
Absolute is to be regarded as intelligent or not, has 
appeared since the two important essays on the sub 
ject published in Germany half a century ago, 
which took no account of the * Short Treatise, one 
by J. H. Loewe 1 and the other by Trendelenburg. 2 
Both undertook to establish the view that Spinoza 
conceives his Absolute on the thought side as an all- 
embracing intelligence ; and they founded a tradition. 
Their conclusions are still accepted as plausible, and 
even as satisfactory, 3 and we must examine the 
principal grounds upon which they are based. 

1 Die Philosophic Fichtes. Mit einem Anhange: Ueber 
den Gottesbegriff Spinozas und dessen Schicksale. Stutt 
gart 1862. 

2 Historische Beitrage zur Philosophic, 1846-67. 

3 Recently by Joachim in "A Study of the Ethics of 
Spinoza," p. 72. "God, in His being as a res cogitans 
is thus aware of Himself and all that follows from Him 
self; and since all consciousness involves self-conscious 
ness, since in thinking or knowing we necessarily know 
that we know, God is aware of His own thinking." As 
he here cites Loewe in a foot-note, we may suppose that 
he has followed him without a careful independent in 
vestigation of this point. 


Loewe s presentation of the case is the most ample, 
and, though more definite in its description of the 
absolute thinking, agrees essentially with all others 
and is based on similar grounds. It may therefore be 
taken as representative. He assumes a three-fold 
thinking in the Absolute: "(1) The Intellectus In- 
finitus in so far as it is God s absolute consciousness 
of himself as absolute, i. e., his absolute self-knowl 
edge as God; (2) The Intellectus Infinitus as that 
absolute divine thinking by means of which he com 
prehends the infinite totality of all finite things and 
their relations: (3) The intellectus infinitus, the 
single finite modifications of the divine thought- 
nature, the finite mind and its thought-activities." 1 
These now are supposed to be so related to one an 
other that all different thoughts are consciously re 
ferred to a single subject, the Absolute mind. Ac 
cordingly, he further explains: "Every idea is not 
merely a real product, but, as the mode of an infinite 
real activity, namely of the thought attribute, it is 
also a real agent, although finite; consequently not 
simply something thought, but also something think 
ing, a finite mind. When therefore God as in 
finite thought modifies himself to the determination 
A, and thereby the thought-thing A constitutes 
the finite mind, then we have to recognize in A some 
thing which God thinks and which it (the finite 
mind) at the same time is, in that God thinks it." 2 

It will be observed that this statement, by apply 
ing the word "intellect" to the absolute thought, 
entirely ignores Spinoza s warning, clearly expressed 
and frequently repeated even in the "Ethics," that 

1 Die Philosophic Fichte s, Anhang, S. 299. 
3 Die Philosophie Fichte s Anhang, S. 294. 


"intellect" is a mode and cannot be predicated of the 
Absolute. These passages and the attempts to ex 
plain them away will be more conveniently con 
sidered in another place. 1 Spinoza might, no doubt, 
have constructed a system in which the relation of 
the Absolute to finite thoughts had been something 
like that described by Loewe; but that he did not, 
we hope to make quite clear, even if the "Ethics" 
alone be consulted. 

His view was founded, as all similar ones have 
been, chiefly upon peculiar phraseology of which 
Eth. II. 3 may be taken as representative. Here it 
is said : 

"In God there is necessarily an idea both of His es 
sence and of all things that necessarily result from His 

Dem. For God (by prop. 1 of this part) is able to 
think infinite things 2 in infinite modes, or (what is the 
same, by prop. 16, Part I) to form the idea of His es 
sence and of all things which necessarily follow from it. 
But all that is in God s power necessarily exists (by prop. 
35, Part I); therefore, there -is necessarily such an idea, 
and (by prop. 15, Part I) nowhere except in God. Q. 
E. D. 

1 See page 207. 

2 The Latin word which we have translated by "in 
finite things" is inftnita. It does not here mean ma 
terial things, of course, but psychical doubles of these. 
The sense of inftnita is generally not precisely determined 
with Spinoza. It may mean infinitely numerous things, 
or things that are severally infinite in their kind. Some 
times one meaning is intended, sometimes the other; and 
not infrequently the word is used indeterminately. Here 
the sense is, "to think an infinite number of qualitatively 
different attributes each in an infinite number of different 
modes;" but, as the attributes are each infinite in its kind, 
it may be that Spinoza here uses the word inftnita in the 
indeterminate way to designate them not only as infinite 
in number, but also as severally infinite in kind. 


Scholium The multitude understands by the power of 
God, God s free will and His authority over all things 
that exist, which are therefore regarded as contingent. 
For they say that God has power to destroy all things 
and to reduce them to nothing. Moreover, they very 
often compare God s power with the power of kings. 
But this we have refuted in Cors. 1 and 2 of prop. 32, 
Part I, and have shown in prop. 16, Part I, that God acts 
by the same necessity by which He thinks (inteUigit) 
Himself; i. e., just as from the necessity of the divine 
nature follows (as all agree) that God thinks Himself, 
by the same necessity follows that God produces (or 
does, agit) infinite things in infinite modes. Then we 
have shown in prop. 34, Part I, that God s power is 
nothing but God s dynamic (active) essence [actuosa 
essential ; and so it is as impossible to conceive of God s 
not acting as of God s not existing. Moreover, if it were 
permitted to pursue these matters further, I could here 
show also that that power which the multitude attributes 
to God is not only human (which shows that God is con 
ceived by the multitude as a man, or as similar to a man), 
but even involves impotence. But I am unwilling to 
discourse of the same thing so often. Only I ask the 
reader again and again to ponder repeatedly what has 
been said concerning this matter from prop. 16 to the 
end [of Part I]. 1 For no one will be able rightly to 
grasp what I mean, unless he takes care not to confound 
the power of God with the power and authority of kings." 

We have already had occasion to show 2 that in this 
proposition we have to do not with one all-embracing 
idea, but with the idea" of God s simple essence, 
along with an infinite number of other ideas which 
are its products (or consequences), that "idea of 
God s essence, " being the original, underived 
psychical, must be the attribute of thought, absoluta 

1 In the Part referred to, he expounds and defends his 
doctrine of necessity. 
* See above, p. 187. 


cogitatio, and hence that the word " idea " is thus used 
as an accommodation to scholastic language. We 
have now only to inquire whether the words cogi- 
tare, intelligere, etc., were rightly taken by Loewe 
and others as proof of divine omniscience. So long 
as one remains under the influence of the letter, 
certain individual phrases in this passage seem to 
support Loewe s hypothesis. As a matter of fact, 
however, cogitare and intelligere in Spinoza s vocab 
ulary do not always mean "to think." On account of 
the parallelism of his system, these words are often 
conveniently employed to describe psychical causa 
tion as distinguished from material causation, which 
is designated by agere; and they do not necessarily 
imply that psychical causation is conscious thinking. 
Here the causal process on the side of cogitatio is 
represented as an analogue of the causal process on 
the side of extension and both processes are, as we 
have seen, a conditioning or a producing in which, 
by a law of necessity, modes result successively one 
from another in a series ending in the most highly 
determinate. The Absolute, therefore, can "cogitare 
infinita infinitis modis" in the sense that from sub- 
stantia cogitans result psychical modes infinite in 
number and kind, one corresponding to every mode 
produced by substantia extensa, and to every mode 
produced by each of the unknown attributes; but 
that the Absolute thinks in any other sense does not 
appear. Nor does it appear when we consult Eth. 
II. 1, to which reference is made in the demonstra 

Prop. 1. Thought (cogitatio) is an attribute of God, 
or God is a thinking being (res cogitans). 


Dem. Particular thoughts, or this and that thought, 
are modes which express God s nature in a certain and 
determinate way. Therefore to God belongs an attri 
bute the conception of which all particular thoughts in 
volve, and through which they are conceived. 

According to this language, God would be the 
cause of particular thoughts, not in the sense that he 
literally thinks them, but only in the sense that inde 
terminate thought is the presupposition of deter 
minate thoughts, or, in other words of Spinoza s, 
that individual psychical entities and phenomena 
"express in a particular, determinate way" the gen 
eral, indeterminate nature of God. 

To understand cogitare here in the literal sense 
of conscious thinking is forbidden by the fact that 
such interpretation would, as we shall see, make this 
passage contradict what Spinoza has expressly af 
firmed in other passages of the "Ethics" which 
Loewe has tried in vain to explain away. 

In regard to the expression "God thinks himself" 
(seipsum intelligit), it is to be observed that, if 
taken literally, it stands in express and glaring con 
tradiction to the numerous unequivocal assertions, 
soon to be examined, that intellect us does not belong 
to God; for intettigere and intellectus are cognate 
words, and if God the Absolute literally intelligit 
he must also possess the literal intellectus. But in 
fact we have here no logical contradiction ; it is only 
one of those verbal ones into which Spinoza has been 
betrayed by too frequently putting the new wine of 
his thought into the old bottles of traditional phrase 
ology. The apparent contradiction disappears the 
moment we recognize in what sense the word "God" 
is employed. "In God" in the proposition quoted 


does not mean in the Absolute, but somewhere in 
total reality. Proposition 15, Part L, cited in the 
demonstration to prove that God has an idea of 
everything, says simply, Quidquid est, in Deo est, 
whatever is, is in God. The expression, therefore, 
means no more than that the ideas in question are 
somewhere. Deus seipsum intelligit is a scholastic 
sentence, which Spinoza fits into his own system by 
taking God in the sense of the universe. God the 
Absolute has no intellect, and does not think ; but God 
the sum of reality possesses intellect, and does think, 
because the individual modes think. Or we can ex 
press it differently, and say that, in a certain sense, 
even the Absolute thinks. As substance is the 
ultimate cause, even though it is not the immediate 
cause, of everything that happens, it may be said to 
do everything that is done, and in this sense to think ; 
but by this it is not meant after all that intellect and 
thinking pertain to anything but the consequences of 

Occasionally accommodation of language is car 
ried so far that intelligere is applied to the Absolute 
properly so-called, but never without accompanying 
explanations that make clear in what sense the word 
is to be understood. The following citation from the 
"Theologico-Political Treatise," where he uses Dei 
intellectus for absoluta cogitatio as he sometimes does 
also in the "Ethics," for the reason that the Scho 
lastics used the expression for the divine mind, will 
serve as an example: 

"The will and intellect of God are in fact one and the 
same, nor can they be distinguished except in respect to 
our thoughts which we form concerning God s intellect. 
For example, when we direct our attention only to this 


fact that the nature of a triangle is contained in tlie di 
vine nature as an eternal verity from everlasting to ever 
lasting, then we say God has the idea of a triangle or 
that he understands the nature of a triangle." 1 

From this we see quite clearly that, if Spinoza 
speaks of the Absolute s having an idea, or of the Ab 
solute s understanding anything, he means only that 
of all psychical phenomena as well as of all material 
things substance is the ultimate ground, from which 
they may be logically deduced. 

The other grounds upon which Loewe s view was 
based will be noticed incidentally as we proceed ; 
and it will .be seen that they were much less sure than 
those we have just noticed. 

A passage of the "Short Treatise" which settles 
the question for the point of time when this work was 
composed is found in the seventh chapter of the First 
Part, where he discusses "the attributes that do not 
belong to God. He says : 

"We shall not take much notice of the ideas which 
men commonly have of God, but we shall briefly examine 
what philosophers have to say to us about Him. These 
have described God to be a self-existent being, cause of 
all things, omniscient, omnipotent, eternal, simple, infi 
nite, the highest good, infinitely merciful, etc." 

After mentioning some general assumptions of 
these philosophers which are tantamount to a con 
fession of ignorance of God, and pointing out that 
the "attributes" named rather describe properties 
which in their view belong to God than tell "what 
He is," he continues: 

"It is now time that we consider the things which they 
ascribe to God, but which do not belong to Him, as that 

1 Tract. Theol.-Polit. Cap. IV, Opera II, p. 5. The italics 
are ours 


He is omniscient, merciful, wise, etc.; 1 which things, 
because they are certain modes of the thought reality 
and in no way can exist or be conceived without the sub 
stances of which they are modes, cannot be attributed 
to that which is a self-existent being." 2 

Here we find that Spinoza declares in the clearest 
possible language that to the Absolute omniscience 
and wisdom may not be ascribed. How could he 
have said more plainly that the Absolute is not in 
telligent ? If we were disposed to cavil, we could say 
perhaps that the word wise implies the adaptation 
of means to ends, and that when Spinoza objects to 
our applying it to the Absolute, he only repudiates 
an anthropomorphic conception of divine activity, 
without wishing to deny divine intelligence as such. 
But how shall we contrive to explain away the word 
* omniscient ? We cannot suppose that he meant 
to say that God knows some things, but does not 
know all things, for he is not speaking of the extent, 
but of modes of the divine activity and existence. 
He is employing the category of quality and not of 
quantity. If he had meant simply to limit the ex 
tent of divine knowledge, which he had no occasion 
to do, he would certainly have said so, not only 
here, but in other places. The fact is, we find be 
fore us a plain declaration that the world-ground is 

1 Cf. Trac. Theologico-Polit. (Opera II, 8). "And with 
out doubt it is on account of human weakness that he 
[Paul] attributes to God, mercy, grace, wrath, etc., ac 
commodating his words to the mind of the people, or, as 
he himself says (I Cor. Ill, 1, 2) to the mind of carnal 

2 In the light of this language, I am at a loss to under 
stand Mr. Pollock s assertion (Spinoza; His Life and 
Philos.) that Spinoza has nowhere denied that God is 
conscious. Does he mean that to Spinoza s mind there 
remained a divine consciousness after the divine omnis 
cience was gone? Or has he overlooked this passage? 


not a knowing subject. And it is clearly the duty of 
sane interpretatation to explain any uncertain ex 
pressions in harmony with this unequivocal one. 

The same thought is repeated in different language 
in Chapter 24, Part II. of the same work: "But we 
have already said that no ways of thinking can be 
attributed to God except those which are in the 
creatures; therefore it cannot be said that God 
loves men, much less that he should love them be 
cause they love him, or hate [them] because they hate 
him." That is to say, if we name the totality God, 
God may be said to think, love, etc., inasmuch as 
individual creatures think, love, etc. ; but of God the 
Absolute these things can not be predicated. Com 
menting on this passage Christoph Sigwart, one of 
the first to study carefully the newly discovered 
work, admits that it "speaks decisively for pure 
pantheistic consistency," but adds, "only so much 
may be definitely asserted: If Spinoza has gone be 
yond naturalistic pantheism in the Ethics, and has 
taught that God as infinite is self-conscious, this 
was not founded in his original way of thinking." 1 

The question arises therefore, Did Spinoza, after 
writing the "Short Treatise," change his mind in re 
gard to this matter? We should naturally expect 
that his thoughts, in this particular as in others, 
would develop in the direction of further consist 
ency; and, if the logic of pantheism had already in 
the "Short Treatise" eliminated a self-conscious God 
from his system, nothing but the clearest proof of 
a subsequent change of view would warrant us in 
supposing that it occurred. A careful examination 
of the passages of the "Ethics" which treat of 

1 Spinoza s Neuentdeckter Traktat, p. 94. 


"God" will show that every character denied the 
Absolute in the earlier work is also denied him in 
the later one. 

In the first place the Absolute, according to the 
"Ethics," has no will. God is, to be sure, a "free 
cause," indeed the only free cause ;* but this does not 
mean that he is free in the sense of indeterminism, 
or even in the sense that his activity is conditioned 
by intelligence, but only that he is not subject to 
any external compulsion. All His effects result with 
absolute necessity from his nature, in the same way 
as from the nature of the triangle results eternally 
that its three angles are equal to two right angles. n 
All material things result with necessity from the at 
tribute of extension, and all psychical reality with 
equal necessity from the attribute of thought; and 
the two categories of being remain causally inde 
pendent of each other. Any purposeful activity is 
therefore inconceivable. God can not help doing 
everything that lies in his power. 2 "Nature has 
no predetermined end, and all final causes are 
nothing but human fictions." 3 From this it is 
clear at least that to attribute to Spinoza a theistic 
conception of the world, as has sometimes been 
done, 4 is absurd. The thought attribute is no more 
than the passive spectator of all that exists and hap- 

* Eth. I, 17, Cor. 2. Sequitur II, solum Deum esse 
causam liberam. 

x Eth. I, 17, schol., p. 52. 

8 Ibid. 

3 Eth. I, Appendix, p. 68. Ut jam autem ostendam, 
Naturam finem nullum sibi praefixum habere, et omnes 
causas finales nihil nisi humana esse figmenta, non opus 
est multis. 

*Voigtlander in "Theologische Studien und Kritiken" 
(1814). Heft 3. 


pens outside itself; and in no way affects the rest 
of reality or is affected by it. 

Other expressions of the "Ethics show that the 
attribute of thought can not even be called a spec 
tator, except in a figurative sense ; as it is devoid of 
conscious knowledge. This is the real purport of 
Eth. II. prop 9, Cor: 

"Cor. Whatever happens in the object of each idea, of 
this there is knowledge in God so far only as He has the 
idea of that object. 

Dem. Whatever happens in the object of each idea, of 
this there is an idea in God (by prop. 3 of this Part) not 
in so far as He is infinite, but in so far as He is considered 
as affected by another idea of a particular thing (by the 
preceding prop.); but (by prop. 7 of this Part) the order 
and connection of ideas is the same as the order and con 
nection of things; therefore of that which happens in 
any individual object there will be knowledge in God in 
so far only as He has the idea of that object. Q. E. D." 1 

This formidable language is found, when under 
stood, to mean only that in my mind there is an idea 
corresponding to every event in my body, and that 
this idea belongs to me and not to the Absolute. 
Proposition 3, referred to in the demonstration, says 
there is in God an idea of his own essence as well as 
of everything that results from his essence. "In 
God" in this connection means, as it did in a passage 
noticed above, only logically implying the Absolute/ 
or a part of total reality. The phrase "God, not 
so far as he is infinite, but so far as he is consid 
ered as affected by a particular thing," is a fre 
quently recurring expression of Spinoza s, by which 
he designates perishable modes, or individual things. 
(It will be recalled that every particular thing is 
caused by another particular thing, and so on ad 

1 The italics are ours. 


infinitum). Spinoza s thought then is this: As 
there must be an idea (or soul) paired with every 
thing that exists, there must be in God (total reality) 
an idea (or soul) of every particular corporeal 
thing (for whatever is, is "in God" in this sense) ; 
and in every such soul there is a knowledge (or cor 
responding psychical event) of everything that hap 
pens in the body associated with it. God in the 
sense of the infinite and absolute (quatenus infinitus 
est) has no such knowledge ; it is only the particular 
piece of total reality known as the idea (or soul) 
of a particular body that has knowledge of what 
occurs in that body. 1 This passage from the "Eth 
ics" turns out to be exactly equivalent to "Short 
Treatise" II, 24, above cited, which asserts that no 
ways of thinking can be attributed to God except 
those in the creatures, and which was admitted by 
Sigwart to be alone sufficient to decide for that point 
of time the question whether self-consciousness may 
be predicated of Spinoza s Absolute. The citation 
from the "Ethics" ought, therefore, to be decisive 
for its time. 

In entire harmony with this a number of pas 
sages, both in the Ethics and in Spinoza s corre 
spondence, declare without qualification that "in 
tellect" does not pertain to God. We cite first one 
from the "Ethics." 

"Prop. 31 Real intellect,* whether it be finite or in 
finite, as also will, desire, love, etc., must be referred to 
Natura Naturata, but not to Natura Naturans. 

1 Cf. Martineau, Study of Spinoza, pp. 216-17. 

2 Intellectus actu. Stern has not inappropriately 
translated the two words into German as follows: Der 
wirkliche Verstand (die wirkliche Erkenntnis). Rek- 
lam s Bibliothek. 


Dem. For by intellect we do not of course under 
stand absoluta cogitatio, but only a certain mode of think 
ing, which mode differs from others such as desire, love, 
etc., and so (by definition 5) must be conceived through 
absoluta cogitatio , that is to say, (by prop. 15 and defi 
nition 6) through some attribute of God, which expresses 
the eternal and infinite essence of thought, it must be so 
conceived that without the same it can neither be nor 
be conceived; and on this account (by schol. prop. 29) 
it must be referred to Natura Naturata, but not to Natura 
Naturans, as also the other modes of thought. Q. B. D." 1 

The same language is reiterated in Epistle 9: "I 
think I have demonstrated clearly enough, that in 
tellect, even though infinite, belongs to Natura Na 
turata and not to Natura Naturans." Natura Na 
turans, it will be remembered, is but another name 
for the Absolute. These expressions, therefore, 
plainly declare that no intellect can be predicated of 
God. It is only a variation of the same thought 
when he says in Cor. 2 of prop. 32: "It follows in 
the second place that will and intellect are related to 
the nature of God just as motion and rest, and ab 
solutely as all natural things that must be deter 
mined by God to exist and act in a certain way." 

Attempts have been made so to explain the word 
"intellect" as employed here that the Absolute 
would not be robbed of intelligence and omnis 
cience after all. But as the same word occurs in 
similar expressions in the "Short Treatise," 2 and 
as these expressions there were but one way of say 
ing, that * * omniscience cannot be attributed to God, 
it ought to be sufficiently clear, in the absence of any 
express qualification of the sense in the "Ethics/ 

1 Eth. I, prop. 31. 

2 Korte Verhand. Deel I, Cap. 9, 


that the meaning in the " Short Treatise" was the 
permanent one for Spinoza s thought. Those, of 
course, who have overlooked this fact and have not 
distinctly recognized the extent to which Spinoza in 
the affirmative expression of his thought has em 
ployed traditional language in an accommodated 
sense, have frequently assumed that these negative 
expressions which seem to contradict the others, 
are not to be understood in their prima facie mean 
ing. They have suggested that Spinoza intended not 
to deprive the Absolute of understanding, but to 
assert only that the divine intelligence is not to be 
conceived " after the manner of the investigating 
deliberating human understanding, which does not 
impart reality to its conceptions, but only takes up 
into itself that which is already given. n But let it 
be observed that against this anthropomorphic way 
of thinking Spinoza had no occasion to assume a 
polemical attitude. Christian theology had always 
expressly repudiated it, making between the divine 
and human thinking just the distinction which 
Loewe would attribute to Spinoza. The distinction 
is an obvious implication of the doctrine of an om 
niscient first cause. If Spinoza had desired to deny 
to the Absolute nothing else than an " investigating, 
deliberating human understanding," he would have 
been repeating commonplaces. He would have had 
before him no opponents, and his lively conscious 
ness of being engaged in a fight against current 
modes of thought would be quite unintelligible. 
According to Trendelenburg, 2 Spinoza must have in 
tended to reject only the scholastic representations 

1 J. H. Loewe, op. cit, p. 301. 

2 Historische Beitrage zur Philos., p. 55. 


which make the divine thinking a factor in free 
creature activity. But if this was the extent of 
Spinoza s purpose, the rejection of "intellect" in 
God was quite gratuitous, for he had already done 
away with the scholastic doctrine of creation when 
he denied the existence of divine will. 1 

In proof of his assumption, Loewe cites Eth. I, 17, 
schol., the meaning of which he has mistaken, as is 
quite obvious when the whole passage is considered. 
The proposition, which affirms that God s activity is 
determined solely by the laws of his own nature, is 
followed by the corollaries. The first asserts that 
there is no cause which, extrinsically or intrinsically, 
moves God to act, except the "perfection" (com 
pleteness) of his own nature; the second, that God 
is the only free cause, since God alone exists solely 
by the necessity of his own nature and acts solely by 
the necessity of his own nature. Then, in order to 
demolish the whole edifice of traditional creationism 
by destroying its foundations, he subjoins a lengthy 
scholium, most of which is devoted to showing * * with 
out the help of the foregoing proposition that neither 
intellect nor will belongs to the nature of God." 
This part reads as follows: 

"Further, to say something here also concerning in 
tellect and will, which we commonly attribute to God; if 
intellect and will belong to the eternal essence of God, 
something else certainly is to be understood by each of 
these attributes than what men usually understand there 
by. For the intellect and will that would constitute the 

1 When it is said without further specification, that by 
the language in question Spinoza was combating anthro 
pomorphism, we are no wiser than before. That he was 
doing this, no one will dispute. The only question is as 
to the extent of his repudiation of anthropomorphism, 
whether he rejected it in part or in its entirety. If in 


essence of God would have to differ from our intellect 
and will by as much as one pole of heaven is distant 
from the other, and could agree in nothing but in name; 
i. e., not otherwise than do the Dog-star in the sky and 
the barking animal. This I will prove as follows. If 
intellect (knowledge) belongs to the divine nature, it 
cannot be by nature after the things thought (as ours is 
generally held to be), 1 nor simultaneous with them, since 
God is causally prior to all things (by cor. 1, prop. 16); 
but on the contrary the truth and real essence of things 
is what it is because it so exists as thought in the intel 
lect of God. Wherefore the intellect of God, so far as 
it is conceived as constituting the essence of God, is in 
deed the cause of things, both of their essence and of 
their existence; which seems to have been perceived by 
those who have asserted that the intellect, will, and power 
of God are one and the same thing. Since therefore the 
intellect of God is the sole cause of things, and evidently 
(as we have shown) both of their essence and of their 
existence, it itself must necessarily differ from the same 

its entirety, then he repudiated intelligence as an attri 
bute of the Absolute; for an intelligent being is in that 
far an anthropomorphic being. To this assertion the re 
ligionist who understands himself will object just as little 
as will the anti-religionist. What we undertake to show 
is, that Spinoza rejected anthropomorphism in its en 

1 "Si intellectus ad divinam naturam pertinet, non 
poterit, uti noster intellectus, posterior (ut plerisque pla 
cet), vel simul natura esse cum rebus intellectus." Among 
other mistakes, Loewe seems to have taken the phrase "ut 
plerisque placet" in a wrong relation and to have under 
stood this language as meaning: "If intellect belongs to 
the divine nature, it cannot be by nature after (as it is 
generally held to be) the things thought, etc." The mere 
order of the words would not positively exclude this 
meaning, but its own absurdity would. Such a concep 
tion of divine cognition was so far from being generally 
held that it was not held at all. Some theologians who 
have been unable to reconcile creature free will with the 
divine foreknowledge have allowed, to be sure, that in 
the case of free acts God s knowledge is after the event, 
but even they have had no objection to the doctrine of 
divine foreknowledge in general. 


both in essence and in existence. For that which is 
caused differs from its cause precisely in that which it 
has from its cause. For example, a man is the cause of 
the existence, but not of the essence of another man; for 
the latter is an eternal truth; and so they may be ab 
solutely the same in essence, but must differ in existence; 
and accordingly, if the existence of one perish, that of the 
other will not on that account perish; but if the essence 
of one could be destroyed and become false, the essence 
of the other would be destroyed also. Consequently the 
thing which is the cause of the essence and of the exist 
ence of some effect, must differ from such effect both in 
essence and in existence. But the intellect of God is 
the cause both of the essence and of the existence of our 
intellect; therefore the intellect of God so far as it is con 
ceived as constituting the DIVINE ESSENCE, differs from 
our intellect both as regards essence and as regards ex 
istence, nor can be like it in anything except in name." 1 

Reading this passage attentively from the begin 
ning, it is at once evident that Spinoza is basing his 
argument in part upon the premises of his oppo 
nents what is not an uncommon thing. For the 
sake of the argument, he employs the word "intel 
lect" for absolute, cogitatio, and grants even (what of 
course he himself did not hold, for in his system the 
thought attribute is not the cause of anything but 
thought-modes) that the divine intellect in this sense 
is "the sole cause of things." And from this he 
argues that the absolute thought, which is (in his 
view also) the ultimate cause of our intellect, can 
only improperly be called intellect, it being in fact 
nothing of the kind. Loewe makes the strange mis 
take of understanding the theistic expressions here 
found as indicating Spinoza s own views. 

1 We have italicized the expressions to which special 
attention is invited. 


That by this language Spinoza desired to exclude 
from the Absolute not the cognitive consciousness as 
such, but only an intelligence conceived "after the 
manner of the investigating, deliberating human un 
derstanding" that does not create its own objects 
but simply recognizes those that are given, is seen 
to be even absurd, when we note that Spinoza starts 
from this assumption as one of his premises. If 
intellect belongs to the divine nature," says he, "it 
(its knowledge) can not be by nature after the things 
thought (as our own is generally held to be), or 
simultaneous with them, since God is causally prior 
to all things, (pro Cor. 1, prop. 16 )." 1 In laying this 
premise Spinoza expresses a view that no one dis 
puted, and the reference to a preceding corollary is 
only to show its relation to his own thought also. 
Now it would be strange indeed if the conclusion 
he draws did not go beyond the explicit declaration 
of one of his premises ! 2 

The second premise in Spinoza s argument, namely, 
"The thing caused differs from its cause pre 
cisely in that which it receives from its cause," and 
therefore that * a thing which is the cause both of the 
essence and of the existence of any effect, must differ 
from such effect both as regards essence and as re 
gards existence/ we have briefly noticed in another 
connection. It ought now to be more fully explained, 
in order to make clear its significance for the 

1 An incidental, but convincing, proof that intellectus 
must be taken in its prima facie meaning as cognitive con 
sciousness, lies in the circumstance that here we have to 
translate the word by knowledge, in order to make sense. 

s Loewe s treatment of this scholium can be accounted 
for only by his mistaking the meaning of ut plerisque 
placet, to which we have referred in a previous note. 


specific question under consideration. The asser 
tion looks like an express contradiction of Spinoza s 
fundamental and constant assumption that that 
which has nothing in common with another thing 
cannot be the cause of its existence;" 1 that "those 
things which have nothing in common can not be the 
cause one of another;" 2 that "of things which have 
nothing in common, one can not be the cause of the 
other." 3 It has therefore been regarded as quite 
unintelligible, an enigma. Hence expounders of 
Spinoza have generally ignored it altogether, and 
have proceeded to interpret his system as if this pas 
sage had never been written. But it can not be ig 
nored with impunity. For it is not a mere acci 
dental remark, nor a disingenuous assumption made 
only for a moment, in order to confound an oppo 
nent ; it constitutes a constant factor in his thinking, 
and is carefully re-affirmed in another place. 4 It is 
so far from being unimportant that, so long as it re 
mains unintelligible, one is liable to misunderstand 
Spinoza s conception of absoluta coyitatio. 

In order to get at the meaning of this language, 
we must recur to Spinoza s definition of essence. 
He defines it as "that without which the thing can 
neither be nor be conceived, and vice versa that 
which without the thing can neither be nor be con 
ceived ; 5 i. e., as consisting of the peculiarities which 

1 Korte Verhand, Aanhangsel, ax. 5. 

Eth. I, prop. 3. 

"Epist 4, p. 202. 

Epis. 64 (olim 66). 

5 Eth. II, Def. 2. Ad essentiam alicujus rei id perti- 
nere dico, quo dato res necessario ponitur, et quo sub- 
lato res necessario tollitur; vel id, sine quo res et vice 
versa quod sine re, nee esse nee concipi potest. 


constitute the thing s separate being. For example: 
extensio is the cause of particular bodies, but, ac 
cording to the definition of essence, it constitutes the 
essence of none. If the essence of a body were ex 
tensio, essence would have to be defined merely as 
that without which a thing cannot be conceived, and 
not also as that which cannot be conceived without 
the thing; for, as a matter of fact, extensio can be 
conceived without positing this or that body. The 
essence of a given body then consists, as we saw, in 
that peculiar modification of extensio which con 
stitutes it as a distinct thing. It is conceived as the 
thing s modality, as it were, which would be ex 
pressed in an ideal definition. We can understand, 
accordingly, Spinoza s assertion that a thing (the 
essential thing) must differ from its cause precisely 
in that which it receives from the cause, i. e., in its 
peculiar nature. The expression differs in exist 
ence means, of course, has a separate existence. 
He is able, therefore, to declare that what is the 
cause both of the essence and of the existence of a 
thing differs from it in both respects, and at the same 
time allow some community between cause and effect, 
though this, in the case of substance and ultimate 
modes, is so attenuated that it is described as only a 
community of name. In addition to its essence 
(which is conceived so as hardly to be distinguish 
able from what in logic we call the specific differ 
ence) and existence, a generic quality representing 
the cause belongs to each thing. Intellect and ab- 
soluta cogitatio, therefore, though different in es 
sence and separate in existence, have something, a 
certain qualitative character, in common; they both 
fall in the same general category of cogitatio. They 


are opposite poles of the psychical; just as animal 
bodies and absolute extension are opposite poles 
under the attribute of extension. Conscious think 
ing is at the extreme of determinateness, absoluta 
cogitatio is at the extreme of indeterminateness 
the ens absolute indeterminatum. And so, in spite 
of their common substance, it is scarcely an hyper 
bole to say that they are as unlike as the Dog- 
star in the sky and the barking animal, which re 
semble each other only in name. The principle, 
Causatum differt a sua causa practise in eo, quod a 
causa liabet, is quite in harmony with the general 
method of Spinoza s system, and only verbally con 
flicts with the more frequently repeated maxim that 
cause and effect must have something in common. 

If anyone still doubts that by excluding intellect* 
from the Absolute, Spinoza meant to exclude con 
scious intelligence, let him consider just what intel- 
lectus means in Spinoza s vocabulary. It is the term 
employed to denote not merely the ordinary mental 
processes, but particularly true knowledge as distin 
guished from the unreliable and the untrue, the 
knowledge that is often conceived as out of time re 
lations. It is the word applied to the scientia intui- 
tiva, the knowledge that is above process. Even this 
kind of knowledge, or rather this kind of knowledge 
especially, is by Spinoza s language excluded from 
the Absolute. If he had wished to ascribe to the Ab 
solute conscious knowledge of any kind, he could not 
have found in his vocabulary a more suitable word 
than intellectus, intellectus in the sense of pure intui 
tion that contemplates the divine essence and all the 
divine activities and products in the eternal, change 
less light of truth. But this conception was expressly 


rejected by Spinoza as often as he said, Intellect 
does not belong to God." And in order not to be 
misunderstood, he circumstantially explains in one 
passage that it is the cognitive consciousness as such 
that has no place in the Absolute: "But because I 
desire to avoid all confusion, I will speak only of the 
thing that is perceived by us in the clearest manner, 
i. e., of cognition (intellectio), than which nothing 
is more clearly perceived by us. For we can 
cognize (intelligere) nothing which does not lead 
to a more perfect knowledge of cognition." 1 That 
the term intellectio is here correctly translated into 
English by cognition, will not, I think, be ques 
tioned. That it stands for the cognitive conscious 
ness as such, appears from Spinoza s description of 
it as that which is present in every act of knowledge ; 
and further from the obvious fact that it is in reality 
the only element that is present in every act of 
knowledge. A consciousness of process does not 
accompany all cognitive states least of all for 
Spinoza. He can refer, therefore, only to the cog 
nitive consciousness as such. 

The weakness of the position (even before the dis 
covery of the "Short Treatise," containing varia 
tions of language which more clearly explain expres 
sions in the "Ethics"), that by excluding "intellect" 
from "God" Spinoza meant to exclude only the an 
thropomorphic conception quoted above, will appear 
still more plainly, if we will ask ourselves: What 
language could Spinoza have employed, in order to 
express himself clearly, granting that he had desired 
to affirm a psychical principle as an attribute of the 
Absolute, and at the same time to negative conscious 

l Eth. I, 31, schol. 


intelligence ? He could not have negatived cogitatio, 
for in that case he would have had no word left 
with which to affirm the original psychical principle. 
The word cognitio would have served him no better 
than intellectio; for anyone who were disposed to 
limit cognitio so as to make it apply to the human 
processes of knowledge only, could do so just as 
plausibly as one has limited the meaning of intel 
lectio and of iniellectus. We should still have been 
told that Spinoza intended to repudiate as an attri 
bute of the Absolute only a crude anthropomorphic 
conception of cognition and not cognition as such. 
"What language, then, could he have employed? It 
must be recognized that, in fact, he could have found 
in his whole vocabulary no more appropriate words 
with which to exclude conscious intelligence from the 
Absolute, than Ad Dei naturam neque intellectum 
neque voluntatem pertinere. When he expressed 
himself affirmatively, he was constrained, partly by 
the limitations of language and partly by the desire 
to give his system some flavor of piety, to use tra 
ditional terms such as cogitare, intelligere, etc. ; and 
this circumstance explains why his meaning has been 
so persistently misunderstood, notwithstanding that 
both the language in which he negatively defines his 
thought, and the conceptions in connection with 
which such terms are used, warn us that we may not 
take them in their traditional sense. 

The same meaning that is contained in the words, 
"Intellect does not belong to God," is expressed in 
another form, when Spinoza says that God does not 
have ideas, or that he is not to be conceived sub 
ideis. In a letter to Spinoza written when the Eth 
ics" was well under way, Simon de Vries refers 


to an oral explanation previously given by Spinoza 
of the distinction between thought considered as 
constans ideis and as sub cogitatione, and says that 
the matter still remains unclear to his mind. 1 He 
does not see that, if ideas were removed from 
thought, there would be anything left. If ideas van 
ish, all cogitatio must vanish with them. Spinoza 
replies that his pupil has identified cogitatio as such 
with ideas because he has had in his eye only his 
own human cogitatio. Human consciousness, being a 
mode, of course consists of ideas, and so when he had 
abstracted from all ideas in his own thought, he 
naturally found nothing left of that particular cogi 
tatio which he had in mind. With this explanation 
and a reference to the already demonstrated propo 
sition that in any case intellectus belongs to Natura 
Naturata, he treats the difficulty as solved. 2 His 
thought, which he found difficult to express, seems 
to have been this: Absoluta cogitatio is not to be 
conceived after the manner of anything immediately 
known to us in consciousness, but is something more 
fundamental to which we may conclude from the 
contents of consciousness ; it is a psychical something 
which must be postulated as the back-ground and 
ultimate cause of everything psychical, but cannot 
be more closely determined. In any case, it is suf- 

Epis. 8, (olim 26), p. 221. 

2 Epis. 9, (olim 27), p. 224. Quod autem dicitis, vos 
non concipere cogitationem nisi sub ideis, quia remotis 
ideis cogitationem destruitis, credo id vobis contingere 
propterea, quod dum vos, res scilicet cogitantes, id 
facitis, omnes vestras cogitationes et conceptus seponitis. 
Quare non mirum est, quod, ubi omnes vestras cogita 
tiones seposuistis, nihil postea vobis cogitandum maneat. 
Quod autem ad rem attinet, puto me satis clare et evi- 
denter demonstrasse, intellectum, quamvis infinitum, ad 
Naturam Naturatam, non vere ad naturantem pertinere. 


ficiently clear that, according to Spinoza, ideas may 
not be predicated of the Absolute. This is equiva 
lent on the one hand to the assertion that intellect 
can not be predicated of God, and on the other to 
Spinoza s definition of God as ens absolute indetermi- 
idtum. In indeterminate thought there can be no 
definite, specific thoughts, and therefore no * ideas, 
iio knowledge. 1 

1 After this somewhat protracted discussion of absoluta 
cogitatio and related conceptions, it is scarcely necessary 
to add anything here concerning the conception idea 
idcae to what we have remarked elsewhere (pp. 192-4). 
We saw how Spinoza uses this conception to explain self- 
consciousness in man, and that it seemed to imply that 
consciousness is a necessary character of "idea." Those 
who, on account of Spinoza s doctrine of human self- 
consciousness, have scrupled to ascribe no conscious in 
telligence to his Absolute, have hestitated only because: 
(1) they have mistaken the meaning of passages in 
which God is used not in the sense of the Absolute, 
but in the sense of total reality; and because (2) they 
have not taken into account the multiple application of 
the word idea, which would forbid our basing any con 
clusions on the fact that the word is sometimes applied 
to God unless the meaning in these cases were clearly 
determined by the context; and because (3) they have 
entirely overlooked Spinoza s assertion that God may not 
be conceived sub ideis. Granting even, what can not be 
made out, that Spinoza conceived of thought as neces 
sarily self-conscious, we should still be as far as ever from 
a self-conscious Absolute; for the absolutely indetermi 
nate thought that would characterize the ens absolute in- 
determinatum could be nothing but the limit of con 
sciousness. Real consciousness would vanish in its in- 



1. Analysis of the Religious Consciousness. 

Whether or not religion has any rational grounds, 
and whether or not there are, in any case, other 
forms of human life which may well be substituted for 
it, are questions that do not concern us here. Our 
purpose is simply to show what we conceive religion 
to be, and then to determine whether it is compat 
ible with Spinoza s conception of "God." We mean, 
of course, religion regarded as an experience of the 
individual, and, in this aspect, not as it appears 
within the limits of Christianity merely, but as a 
universal phenomenon. 

On account of the variety of religious phenomena 
brought to our knowledge by the investigations of 
recent years, and on account of the apparent con 
fusion of tongues in this field of discussion, some seem 
to question the propriety of attempting as yet a uni 
versally valid definition. It is thought that the only 
thing practicable is for each individual to define 
what he himself means by the term, without presum 
ing to ask universal assent to his particular concep 
tion. 2 This we will not admit. The universal char- 

1 A part of this chapter appeared as an article in "The 
Reformed Church Review," Jan., 1904. 

2 William James, "The Varieties of Religious Ex 
perience," pp. 26-31. 


acters of religion are as definite as those of most 
other objects of knowledge, and can be specifically 
enumerated and described. A definition of religion, 
therefore, presents no peculiar difficulties. If what 
we seek is a formula that will express the deepest 
mysteries both of human nature and of the Godhead, 
what seems to be demanded and attempted by 
some writers then, of course, definition is not only 
difficult, but impossible. Or, if we require that a 
definition shall accurately express the significance of 
the religious interest for man s normal life, we shall 
not find it an easy task to formulate one that will 
escape plausible criticism. Ours is a less ambitious 
aim. It is simply to slate those general characters 
of religion which distinguish it from other phe 
nomena. Nothing more can reasonably be required. 
A definition as such must be regarded as adequate 
when it serves the practical purpose of separating 
for our thought the object defined from all other 
objects. When we say religion has as definite char 
acters as most objects of our knowledge, we mean 
religion as the term is employed by intelligent, but 
unsophisticated, persons when they aim to speak 
with logical accuracy. In discussion no one has the 
right to use the term in any other sense. Loose 
usage for rhetorical purposes, as frequently illus 
trated in practical life and in literature, is to be en 
tirely ignored. Moreover, the current meaning, 
when defined, is not to be expressed, or rather com 
pressed, in the terms of some particular system of 
philosophy, but to be stated in language of universal 

If writers on religion do not entirely agree in re 
gard to the meaning of the term ; this fact is due, not 


so much to the difficulty of the conception, as to dif 
ferent philosophical presuppositions ; to the weakness 
of some writers for high-sounding, but vague, termi 
nology; and to the attempts of others to pass some 
thing else than religion under the name of religion. 

What men have always and everywhere concurred 
in calling religion has three aspects, answering to the 
threefold life of man: (1) a doctrinal aspect, in 
which it appears as a body of beliefs, and is related 
to man s intellectual life; (2) an emotional aspect, 
in which it may be described in terms of feeling ; and 
(3) a practical aspect, in which it presents itself as 
an expression of man s volitional life. An adequate 
definition must take into account all three of these 
aspects. The diversity among traditional and cur 
rent definitions is in great part due to the fact that 
most of them seize some one aspect of religion, while 
few recognize all three aspects at once. For some 
writers religion is a "belief," a belief in God, in 
gods, in spirits, or in something else ; for others it is 
a "sentiment," variously described as " veneration, " 
a "feeling of dependence," etc.; for still others it is 
"practices" of some kind, such as rites and cere 
monies, morality, or something else that implies a 
relation to man s active powers only. Defining it 
in its completeness, we would say: Religion is the 
emotions and activities determined by belief in a 
higher personal power, or in higher personal powers, 
with whom man is assumed to sustain relations. In 
this statement all three of the elements of religion 
are given due recognition. Moreover, it will be 
found sufficiently comprehensive to include fetichism 
and Christianity, demonolatry and the worship of 
the Heavenly Father, polytheism and monotheism; 


and at the same time sufficiently limited by the words 
" higher" and "personal" to exclude merely human 
relationships on the one hand and atheistic phenom 
ena on the other. 

In the concrete religious phenomena of the world 
the three elements are of course variously empha 
sized. Even in the same cult the peculiar constitu 
tion of different individuals will occasion that in some 
cases the doctrinal element appear the most promi 
nent, in other cases the emotional element, and in 
others the volitional element ; but in no case will any 
one element exist entirely alone. Religious beliefs 
wholly apart from religious emotions and activities, 
religious emotions wholly apart from religious beliefs 
and activities, and religious activities wholly apart 
from religious emotions and beliefs, are mere abstrac 
tions that have no existence in the concrete world 
of fact. Religious emotions in particular are fre 
quently spoken of as though they could exist out 
of all relation to beliefs. As a matter of fact, how 
ever, religious emotions are only ordinary emotions 
(love, joy, fear, admiration, etc.) as conditioned by 
a religious object. Hence religious emotions without 
religious beliefs, or assumptions, cannot exist. Of 
religious practices the same is true. Practices of 
any sort which have no ground in beliefs or assump 
tions are insane. The only question that can arise 3 
therefore, is as to what beliefs are essential to reli 
gion, i. e., what beliefs are the necessary condition of 
religious emotions and practices; and it is to this 
question in particular that we must invite attention. 

In the definition proposed we have assumed that 
the beliefs which condition religious emotions and 
practices must include a belief in a higher personal 


power, or in higher personal powers, assumed to sus 
tain relations with men. The word "personal" is 
important, and expresses the truth which we desire 
especially to emphasize. It is a point which, in phil 
osophical discussions of religion, is often either left 
in vague uncertainty, or at most only implied. But 
as "personal," when applied to the ultimate reality, 
is a word which some profess not to understand, we 
will explain, without attempting here an accurate 
definition of a term so often employed in a vague 
sense, that by personality we do not mean, of course, 
spatial form and "local habitation," but only the 
sum of those qualities which constitute a free intelli 
gence, or, to describe it in the lowest possible terms, 
the cognitive and volitional consciousness. The word 
" self -consciousness, " as ordinarily used, expresses 
our meaning with sufficient precision. This much at 
least, we contend, is required of its object by reli 
gion. The typical religious consciousness requires 
much more, such as various interests, sensibilities, 
moral qualities, etc. If it be said that this is gross 
anthropomorphism, that the "higher power" of re 
ligion is according to us only a human being with 
some of his limitations removed, we can only reply 
that, whether anthropomorphism or not, it is what 
has always and everywhere been essential to religion. 
It is not necessary, of course, that the object wor 
shiped be expressly defined as "personal," or that 
any personal attributes be expressly mentioned ; it is 
not necessary even that the name "God" appear, for 
the thing may be present in the absence of the name. 
It is quite sufficient that such attributes be assumed, 
and the evidence that they are assumed may con 
ceivably be only the behavior of the votaries. But 


no forms of human experience can with propriety be 
called religion, unless they ascribe, explicitly or im 
plicitly, personal qualities to a higher power or to 
higher powers. 

The fact that the recognition of personality is 
sometimes only implicit, has occasioned some very 
extraordinary and contradictory assertions concern 
ing both particular religions and religion in general. 
A typical example of these occurs in Daniel G. Brin- 
ton s " Religions of Primitive Peoples." In one 
place he affirms that " There is no one belief or set 
of beliefs which constitutes religion. We are apt to 
suppose that every creed must teach a belief in a 
God or gods, in an immortal soul, and in a divine 
government of the world. The Parliament of Re 
ligions, which lately met at Chicago, announced, in 
its preliminary call, these elements as essential to 
the idea of religion. No mistake could be greater." 1 
From this it would seem that there can be religion 
without a God, or gods, or anything of the kind. But 
elsewhere in the same volume it is said, quite incon 
sistently with this, that "It makes no difference 
whether we analyze the superstitions of the rudest 
savages, or the lofty utterances of John the Evan 
gelist, or of Spinoza the god-intoxicated philoso 
pher we shall find one and the same postulate to 
the faith of all." 2 "This universal postulate, the 
psychic origin of all religious thought, is the recogni 
tion, or, if you please, the assumption, that conscious 
volition is the ultimate source of all Force. It is the 

1 Religions of Primitive Peoples (American Lectures on 
the History of Religions) p. 28. 

3 How erroneous is the assumption that Spinoza re 
gards "conscious volition" as me ultimate source of all 
force, the reader of the foresoiiig pages need not be told. 


belief that behind the sensuous, phenomenal world, 
distinct from it, giving it form, existence, and activ 
ity, lies the ultimate, invisible, immeasurable power 
of Mind, of conscious Will, or Intelligence, analogous 
in some way to our own ; and mark this essential 
corollary that man is in communication tcith it." 
With the exception of the reference to Spinoza, we 
would not dissent from this statement; but we are 
unable to reconcile it with the one first quoted. For 
the assumption of " conscious volition," of "mind," 
of "intelligence," as "the ultimate source of all 
force" is only another way of saying "a belief in God 
or gods and " in a divine government of the world. 
Buddhism is often referred to as an "atheistic" 
religion; but, if we are consistent, we must regard 
the expression as a contradicton in terms. By such 
language we confound things that are not only es 
sentially different, but quite opposite in character. 
As a matter of fact, wherever we find temples, cere 
monies, prayers, or worship of any kind, we have the 
implicit assumption of a higher power or of higher 
powers to which personal attributes are ascribed. 
Purely ethical, humanitarian, or political societies 
may take on some of the aspects of religious or 
ganizations, but if they involve the recognition of 
no higher personal power, they cannot properly be 
called religious. To class them as such is to put to 
gether things that are essentially different, and to 
use misleading language. If any organization of 
this kind is commonly known as "religious," it is 
because it is commonly supposed to imply in its forms 
and activities a reference to some higher power or 
powers with personal attributes. It may even occur 
that an ethico-philosophical system which is atheistic 


at the beginning develops later into a religion; or 
that the same system is atheism for the philosophic 
ally initiated and is theism or polytheism for the mul 
titude. In Buddhism we seem to have an illustration 
of both of these cases. The circumstance that the 
Buddhism of the people is religion, despite the fact 
that the Buddhism of Gautama and of philosophers 
now in different varieties of the cult is said to 
be atheism, accounts for the frequent paradoxical 
reference to the system as an atheistic religion.* 
Such language is sometimes convenient for purposes 
of characterization, and possesses a certain rhetorical 
value, but should never be taken for exact scientific 
statement. The fact is that Buddhism is an anomaly, 
the name covering two things that logically exclude 
each other atheism and religion; and, if we are to 
use exact language, we ought to separate it into 
these two elements and call each by its right name, 
For convenience we may, if we choose, loosely call 
the aggregate of phenomena known as Buddhism 
either atheism or religion, or even "atheistic reli 
gion"; but in this case we should distinctly recognize 
that we are not speaking with logical precision. The 
anomalous and inconsistent character of Buddhism 
does not warrant us in extending the term religion 
so as to obliterate the distinction between religion 
and atheism. 

What has been said may seem to class among 
those who are in no sense religious the pious agnos 
tics of our day, i. e., those who have no definite con 
ceptions in regard to the supersensible world, and 
yet, by conforming to the requirements of religious 
organizations and even by relishing some kinds of 
religious exercises, appear to possess a genuine re- 


ligious interest. In such persons we have, in fact, 
something like a case of double personality ; and they 
are to be classed as religious and non-religious by 
turns. When they put on the scientific frame of 
mind and distinctly recognize the invalidity (for 
them) of all theological and mythological forms of 
thought, they are non-religious (atheists, if you 
will) ; but when they surrender themselves to a sys 
tem of religious conceptions as if these were true, 
and are emotionally and volitionally affected there 
by, they are religious. Few men, perhaps none, are 
absolutely consistent in any respect, and it should 
not seem strange if many are inconsistent in the 
matter of religion. It is even possible for a con 
stantly and devoutly religious man to hold a theo 
retical system of implicit atheism (implicit, I say, 
but not explicit) ; and indeed the history of thought 
exhibits not a few such cases. In fact, systems of 
Christian theology have sometimes contained ele 
ments of undeveloped atheism. But on this account 
to identify religion and atheism would be absurd. 
In the world of fact there is no broad line of sepa 
ration between religious experiences and non-reli 
gious experiences, or between religious systems and 
non-religious systems; religion shades off by imper 
ceptible degrees into non-religion. On this account a 
given system, because of either its indefinite or its 
mixed character, may be difficult to classify. The 
same is true of some objects in every department of 
knowledge. In the world of natural things, classes 
shade off gradually into one another, and many in 
dividuals do not possess very definite marks of any 
class; and many others possess some marks of two 
classes. Naturalists meet some specimens of life in re- 


gard to which it is difficult to say whether they are 
plants or animals; and others clearly belonging to 
the animal kingdom in regard to which it can hardly 
be said that they are vertebrates, or that they are 
non- vertebrates. Nevertheless "animal life," "plant 
life, "vertebrate," etc., are very definite con 
ceptions; and the difficulty of classifying some 
concrete phenomena does not render them either 
less definite or less valid. Neither does the 
difficulty of classifying some human experiences and 
systems with reference to religion affect in any way 
the definte logical content of the concept "religion." 
Nor does it prevent us from easily classifying almost 
all experiences and systems. 

The distinctive character of religion appears more 
clearly when we observe wherein it differs from mo 
rality on the one hand and from metaphysics on the 
other. Morality is simply conformity to the recog 
nized standards of conduct, and does not necessa 
rily imply a reference to anything beoynd the indi 
vidual s immediate relations. It is not necessarily re 
ligious. In fact many moral men are irreligious and 
some systems of morality are atheistic. In Christian 
ity we have a religion that includes an ideal morality, 
but the purely ethical content even of Christianity, 
if taken alone, does not constitute religion. Moral 
ity becomes religion only when norms of life are 
recognized not merely as human ideals, but as ex 
pressions of a divine will. Accordingly Kant has 
defined religion, i. e., rational religion, as "the recog 
nition of all our duties as divine commands. n This 

1 "Die Religion innerhalt d. Grenzen d. blossen Ver- 
nunft," Viertes Stuck, Erster Theil: "Religion ist (sub- 
jectiv betrachtet) das Erkenntniss aller unserer Pflichten 
als gottlicher Gebote." 


would no doubt be accepted by many as a sufficiently 
accurate definition of essential Christianity. The 
important truth expressed is that duties alone are 
not sufficient to constitute religion. In order to 
become religion, duties must be regarded as sanc 
tioned by a divine person. 

The circumstance that monotheistic religion (on 
its intellectual side) and metaphysics have to do with 
the same object, namely the ultimate reality, often 
occasions an oversight of the specific difference be 
tween religion and metaphysics. Every kind of 
monism assumes a unitary world-ground, and often 
calls the ultimate reality "God"; but every kind of 
monism is not therefore monotheism, or in some sense 
a religious conception of the world. Whether it is 
or not, depends on the attributes with which the 
world-ground is clothed. If monism ascribes per 
sonal qualities of any sort to its absolute, it becomes 
monotheism, a religion; otherwise not. It may de 
scribe the ultimate reality as "infinite," "absolute," 
"immutable," "eternal," etc.; but none of these 
predicates constitutes the ultimate reality a reli 
gious object. "Infinite" mechanism, for example, 
would not be able to excite "reverence," "venera 
tion," "respect," "love," or any other emotions 
characteristically religious. Certainly nothing bet 
ter could be said of "immutable" coexistence and 
sequence, or of "eternal" dirt. At most such things 
could excite mere wonder. Some elements of ideal 
ity, at least, must be present in an object that condi 
tions "reverence," "love," and similar emotions; 
and ideality implies in that far personality. Modern 
Transcendental Idealism, as represented by Emerson, 
may be regarded, therefore, as still within, though 


barely within, the pale of religion; for, although its 
God tends theoretically to evaporate" into an ab 
straction, practically the evaporation never becomes 
quite complete. In different degrees the Emerson- 
ians personify the world. As to the "feeling of de 
pendence," which has sometimes been regarded as 
the very soul of religion, let it be observed that not 
every feeling of dependence is meant, but the feeling 
of dependence on the "Infinite," and, by tacit as 
sumption, on the "Infinite" conceived as clothed in 
personal attributes. Dependence on infinite force, 
on infinite gravitation for example, is not what is 
meant, and would still not be, if in addition to "in 
finite" we bestowed other imposing titles such as 
"absolute," "immutable," and "eternal." Neither 
have distinctively religious practices ever been de 
termined by metaphysical attributes alone. Men 
have never been quite stupid enough to perform re 
ligious rites before impersonal mechanism, even if 
conceived as immeasurably big, or to offer sacrifices 
and prayers to a system of mathematical relations, 
though regarded as "eternal." Such acts, when 
closely examined, are found to be always attended 
by a recognition of the personality of the religious 
object. Toward objects like those just mentioned 
men have never even assumed the corresponding 
mental attitudes which, in the more refined religious 
exercises, sometimes take the place of outward acts 
of worship. Mere infinity, mere eternity, mere ab 
soluteness, and mere causality, have no value what 
ever for the religious consciousness. Professor 
James is entirely right when, of a God constituted of 
metaphysical attributes alone, he says: "From the 
point of view of practical religion, the metaphysical 


monster which they offer to our worship is an 
absolutely worthless invention of the scholarly 
mind." 1 

Mere ontology is not theology, and the adjust 
ment of oneself to an assumed ultimate reality is not 
necessarily religion. Whether it is or not, depends 
on the kind of ultimate reality assumed. The funda 
mental weakness in Edward Caird s treatment of 
religion, as of most writers whose conception of re 
ligion is intellectualistic, consists in his tendency to 
confound religion and metaphysics. He says, for 
example, "The religious like the scientific conscious 
ness seeks to find the reason or principle of the 
particular in the universal; and it differs from sci 
ence mainly in this, that it cannot rest except in the 
infinite unity which underlies all the differences of 
the finite." 2 This recognizes both a certain agree 
ment and a certain difference between the religious 
interest and the scientific. The difference noticed is 
in fact that which obtains not between the scientific 
and religious interests, but between the scientific 
interest (as manifested in the particular sciences) and 
the philosophic (metaphysical) interest, which can 
not rest except in a unitary conception of the world ; 
and the difference is only one of degree, the scien 
tific interest culminating in the philosophical. It is 
therefore only the scientific interest in its highest 
development that Caird here calls the religious con- 

1 "The Varieties of Religious Experience," p. 447. Cf. 
H. Sidgwick. "Philosophy: Its Scope and Relations," 
p. 39; also Peuerbach s quite true assertion; "Dieses 
[metaphysische] Wesen hat fur die Religion nicht mehr 
Bedeutung, als fur eine besondere Wissenschaft ein 
allgemeiner Grundsatz von welchem sie anhebt." 

8 "Evolution of Religion," Vol. I, p. 112. 


sciousness. The truth is that religion seeks primar 
ily not "reason and principle," "unity," "the uni 
versal," etc. as such, but help, protection, security, 
peace, fellowship, and other practical goods. "Infi 
nite unity" as such is of absolutely no significance 
for the distinctively religious consciousness. It is 
not surprising that elsewhere the same author, 
though taking some account of the practical aspect 
of religion, defines it in a way to remove all grounds 
for the distinction between irreligion and religion. 
"A man s religion," he says, "is the expression of 
his ultimate attitude to the Universe, the summed-up 
meaning and purport of his whole consciousness of 
things." 1 If, as this language implies, any kind of 
ultimate attitude is religion, then irreligion and ag 
gressive atheism are particular varieties of religion. 
The point of view is intelligible, of course; but it 
is evident that, if we adopted Caird s conception, we 
should be compelled to invent a new term with which 
to distinguish religion from irreligion. The confu 
sion results from the failure to attribute to religion 
a peculiar object, an object that differs from a 
merely metaphysical one in that it possesses personal 

Even some thinkers of strong religious interest, 
it must be admitted, have hesitated, on account of 
particular philosophical presuppositions, to accept 
theoretically the personality of the absolute; but 
they have in that far been inconsistent. Schleier- 
macher, for example, who in his earlier works hardly 
employs the word "God," using instead impersonal 

"Evolution of Religion," Vol. I., p. 30. It is only fair 
to say that this is not meant to be his final statement of 
the matter. It is sufficient, however, to characterize his 


expressions such as "the infinite," "the universe," 
"the whole," etc., is constrained later not only to 
adopt fully the word "God," and to make a distinc 
tion between God and the universe, but to clothe 
"the infinite," for practical religion, in the attri 
butes of the definite personal God of traditional 
theology. 1 It could not be otherwise. It was im 
possible for him, as it has been for all other thinkers, 
to constitute actual, concrete religion without a God 
of personal attributes. 

It is to be regretted that Prof. James, in his recent 
work on "The Varieties of Religious Experience," 
fails to recognize explicitly the truth that religion 
requires a personal object. As a consequence of this 
failure, he seems to have fallen into certain incon 
sistencies. He defines religion, considered subjec 
tively, as "the feelings, acts, and experiences of in 
dividual men in their solitude, so far as they appre 
hend themselves to stand in relation to whatever 
they may consider divine." 2 But in his remarks on 
what is to be understood by * * divine, he says there 
are religions which do not positively assume a God, 
and cites Buddhism as an example. He seems to 
think that the divineness of the universe for the 
religious consciousness may conceivably be "a mere 
quality like the eye s brilliancy or the skin s soft 
ness" and not "a self-conscious life." 3 That such 
a view is based on an imperfect analysis of the re 
ligious consciousness, we have tried to show above. 
We would here point out only that, in other parts of 

1 Compare the "Reden tiber die Religion" and "Der 
christliche Glaube." 
P. 31. 
8 P. 33. 


his work, Professor James employs expressions which 
can not be reconciled with the breadth of his defini 
tion. Toward the end of his volume he says, for 
example, " Prayer in this wide sense," "as meaning 
every kind of inward communion or conversation 
with the power recognized as divine," "is the very 
soul and essence of religion." 1 By prayer, as he 
further explains, he understands "no vain exercise 
of words, no mere repetition of certain sacred form 
ulae, but the very movement itself of the soul, put 
ting itself in a personal relation of contact with the 
mysterious power of which it feels the presence." 
Concerning this language it is to be observed that 
when the expressions "communion," "conversa 
tion," "personal relation," etc., are employed, the 
personality of the religious object is tacitly as 
sumed. Now if prayer requires a personal object, 
and if prayer "is the very soul and essence of re 
ligion," we ought to conclude that religion requires 
a personal object. In fact, the word "power," as 
employed here, has quite a different value from the 
unequivocally impersonal "force," and seems to 
imply intelligence and will. 

The foregoing discussion is calculated perhaps to 
create the impression that there prevails great di 
versity of opinion as to the nature of religion. A 
survey of the definitions of other philosophers and 
scholars than those cited would at first deepen this 
impression. A careful analysis, however, would 
show that opinions, though by no means exhibiting 
unanimity, are not so various as the language em 
ployed in different definitions seems to indicate. 
Many of the so-called definitions were never intended 

1 P. 464. 


to be scientific statements. Such, for example, is 
Matthew Arnold s characterization of religion as 
"morality touched with emotion." Others state 
merely what a writer accepts in place of religion, 
and are not seriously meant to describe " religion " 
at all; as Kenan s profession of faith: "My religion 
is now as ever the progress of reason, in other words 
the progress of science." Still others are attempts 
to define religion, or some aspect of it, in terms of 
a particular system of philosophy, and do not nec 
essarily imply a repudiation of all other formulated 
statements. In this sense we are to take Hegel s 
language, when he says that religion is "The knowl 
edge possessed by the finite mind of its nature as 
absolute mind." It would evidently be a mistake 
to suppose that every variation in the phraseology 
employed when speaking of religion represents a 
fundamental difference of conception. 

Since historical, comparative, and psychological 
studies in religion were begun in a scientific spirit, 
there has been in fact very notable progress toward 
substantial agreement as to what it is that we are 
to call religion. In his book on "The Study of Re 
ligion," Professor Jastrow has taken pains to trace 
carefully the historical development of thought on 
this subject, and finds that, while there is no una 
nimity as to the origin of religion, there is now gen 
eral agreement on the following points: (1) There is 
a connection of some kind between religion and life ; 
(2) One element of religion is the feeling of de 
pendence upon a Power or Powers beyond man s 
control; (3) The votaries of religion attempt to 
establish proper relations between themselves and 
the higher Power or Powers; and (4) Religion mani- 


fests a tendency toward organization. It will be 
observed that the word " Powers " is here employed, 
and that, as we remarked above, it ought to imply 
personal qualities. If " Powers, " when used in con 
nection with this subject, does not mean personal 
Powers, it does not mean anything. 

Kant s words are as true now as they were when 
first written: "The conception God is generally 
understood to mean, not merely a blindly-operating 
eternal nature, as the root of things, but a supreme 
being that is regarded as the originator of things 
by virtue of intelligence and freedom; and more- 
over this conception is the only one that can interest 
us n No one will suspect the late Mr. Sidgwick 
of viewing this matter from any other than a purely 
rational standpoint. We may be permitted to quote 
his well chosen words: "God as the object of re 
ligious thought and worship," he is evidently 
thinking of highly developed monotheistic religions, 
and of Christianity in particular as the final 
products of the religious consciousness, is thought 
of as having a Righteous will, the content of which, 
so far as it relates to man, is partially apprehended 
by man under the form of rules of duty; He is 
thought of as standing to human beings in a relation 
fitly symbolized by the relation of a father to his 
children; He is thought of as source of aid and 
strength in the never-ending struggle with sin, which 

1 Kritik d. r. V., Elementarlehre, 7, Abschnitt. "Da 
man unter dem Begriffe von Gott nicht etwa bloss eine 
blindwirkende ewige Natur, als die Wurzel der Dinge, 
sondern ein hochstes Wesen, das durch Verstand und 
Freiheit der Urheber der Dinge sein soil, zu verstehen 
gewohnt ist, und auch dieser Begrifl allein uns interessirt, 
so konnte man, nach der Strenge, dem Deisten alien Glau- 
ben an Gott absprechen ..." 


forms an essential element of the higher moral life; 
finally He is thought of as centre and sovereign of 
a spiritual kingdom of which human beings are or 
may be members." 1 Indeed it must be admitted, 
whether we accept his general philosophical stand 
point or not, that Romanes expresses no more than 
the truth, when he says: "To speak of the Religion 
of the Unknowable, the Religion of Cosmism, the Re 
ligion of Humanity, and so forth, where the per 
sonality of the First Cause is not recognized, is as 
unmeaning as it would be to speak of the love of a 
triangle, or the rationality of the equator." 2 

2. The Religious Consciousness and Spinoza s 
Conception of God. 

If religion necessarily postulates (explicitly or 
implicitly) a personal object, Spinoza s system is not 
difficult to classify. Our investigations have shown 
that his "God" is in no sense a personal being. The 
metaphysical attributes of his absolute are the 
same, to be sure, as those ascribed by traditional 
theology to the God of religion. It is self-existent, 
eternal, infinite, unchangeable, the first cause. But 
these characters can be predicated with perfect pro 
priety of the ultimate reality as conceived in avow 
edly anti-religious systems, even of the "matter" 
of old-time materialism. In addition to the attri 
butes just named, Spinoza mentions, it is true, one 
other, which sounds quite religious; he says his sub 
stance possesses "perfection." But by this term, 
as we have found, he means only infinitude. These 
purely metaphysical attributes, singly or collectively, 

1 "Philosophy: Its Scope and Relations," p. 39. 
3 Thoughts on Religion, p. 41. 


have in themselves no significance whatever for the 
religious consciousness. In order to constitute a re 
ligious object, they would have to be associated 
with personal qualities. But all such Spinoza ex 
pressly repudiates when he deprives the Absolute 
of purpose, volition, and knowledge. There is no 
escape from calling his system atheism. The name 
will be thought a compliment by some, a reproach by 
others. We employ the term with no desire to imply 
either praise or blame, but only for the sake of clear 
ness. Whether Spinoza s atheism is practically 
inferior or superior to religion, and whether it is 
theoretically less true or more true, are questions 
which we are not called upon to decide; but that it 
is not religion, is sufficiently clear. So far from 
being the religious philosopher par excellence, which 
he is often supposed to be, he represents the dia 
metrically opposite spirit and world-view. 

It should not be overlooked that his conception 
of the world is not even compatible with that 
modern pseudo-religion called "the worship of Na 
ture. 7 The doctrine of evolution, so dominant in 
the thought of the present generation, which views 
the world in all its aspects as in process of develop 
ment toward higher forms and better conditions, 
contains two elements that are agreeable to the 
healthy religious consciousness. One element is its 
teleology and the other its optimism, both implying 
a certain kind and degree of personification. Evo 
lutionism, when looked at in this way, is well calcu 
lated to kindle in some minds a devotion to nature 
which becomes a sort of substitute for religion. But 
Spinoza s system contains neither teleology nor opti 
mism. The universe is not regarded as moving to- 


ward any goal, much less toward a higher and 
better one. For him it is simply actual. Not only 
are the predicates "high" and "low," "good" and 
"bad," inapplicable to his cosmos, but the idea of 
development is foreign to his thought. He is not an 
evolutionist ; he is not an optimist ; he is not a pes 
simist ; he is an actualist. It is proper to observe at 
this place that, although frequently charged with 
being an atheist, Spinoza never really denied the 
charge. He was embarrassed, provoked, and 
alarmed by it, to be sure ; for, be it said to the re 
proach of the age in which he lived, he was fully 
aware of the trouble which a reputation for athe 
ism would bring upon him. Accordingly, he earnestly 
protested against the name; but, as his language 
clearly indicates, it was to the opprobrious impli 
cations of the word as then used, to its Beigeschmack, 
that he objected, and not to its real meaning. When 
Velthuysen examined the " Theologico-Political 
Treatise," and pronounced its author an atheist, 
Spinoza answered the critic in a letter to Oosten 
by saying: "Atheists are accustomed excessively 
to seek honors and riches, which I have always 
despised, as all who are acquainted with me know." 1 

It is clear that he here refutes not the charge of 
atheism, but the charge of sordid ambition and ava 
rice. His critic had said that "in order to shun the 
fault of superstition, he seems to me to have cast off 
all religion." Replying to this, Spinoza says: "What 
he means by religion and by superstition, I know not. 
But I ask, Does that one cast off all religion who 
maintains that God is to be recognized as the highest 
good, and as such is to be loved with a free mind? 

Epis. 43, (olim 49), p. 347. 


And that in this alone consists our supreme happiness 
and freedom ? And further that the reward of virtue 
is virtue itself, but the punishment of folly and 
weakness is folly itself? And then that everyone 
should love his neighbor and obey the commands of 
the constituted authorities?" 1 With the exception of 
the words with which he refers to "God," these in 
dignant questions are irrelevant; for it was not as 
serted that he taught immorality, but that he was 
an atheist. 2 And even the language with which he 
refers to "God" is relevant only in so far as the 
word is understood in its theistic sense, and is 
not thought with the content put into it by Spinoza. 
In calling him an atheist, if he used the term in its 
real sense as implying simply an anti-religious theory 
of the world, with no reflections on personal 
character, Velthuysen gave Spinoza a title to 
which, in a less intolerant age, he himself would not 
have objected. Of the title "God-intoxicated phi 
losopher," he would certainly have been ashamed. 

To those who have never had occasion to study 
Spinoza at first hand, and are accustomed to hear 
him referred to as a religious mystic, the result 
which we have reached will seem strange indeed. 
The mistaken conception of the man and of his phil- 

1 Epis. 43, Opera II, 348. 

2 One of Velthuysen s sentences does seem to insinuate 
that the author (whom apparently he does not know) of 
the Theologico-Political Treatise is probably immoral: 
"Cujus gentis ille sit, aut quod vitae institutum sequatur, 
me fugit, etiam nihil interest id scire." (Epis. 42). 
This, with the prevalent assumption that atheistic doctrine 
is necessarily immoral, justifies, of course, Spinoza s 
reference to his own life and his vindication of the moral 
character of his teaching; but this vindication of the 
practical soundness of his views does not constitute a 
repudiation of theoretical atheism. 


osophy, which is as common as it is remarkable, is 
due not simply to his misleading use of language, 
but to several other circumstances, one of which is 
the patent fact that formally his system has much in 
common with the most intensely religious concep 
tions of the world. According to him the ulitmate 
reality is an immanent cause, 1 in a certain sense 
therefore, omnipresent. It needed only to be mis 
taken for a living self-consciousness, in order to be 
come a religious object of the most perfect kind. 
It is quite intelligible, therefore, that in the Eight 
eenth Century, when Deism had effected an artificial 
separation between God and the world, and had 
created a shallow religious consciousness, Spinoza s 
philosophy seemed to some essentially religious. 
The reaction against the irreligious world-view of 
Deism prepared an enthusiastic reception for the 
newly-discovered antithetical one presented by Spi 
noza, although in its real meaning this was irreligious 
also. I say newly-discovered, for Spinoza s phil 
osophy, which on account of its atheism had been 
neglected for a hundred years and, if read at all, 
had been read in the closet and had never been men 
tioned except sotto voce, burst on the intellect of the 
waning Eighteenth Century like a new revelation. 
By interpreting it in the sense of their own needs, 
men like Herder, who were dominated by religious 
and aesthetic interests, found in it everything which 
they missed in the current philosophy. In Spinoza s 
doctrine they thought they met again the God "in 
whom we live and move and have our being. Even 
Jakobi, who was clear-headed enough to recognize 

1 Although his doctrine of immanence is not entirely 
consistent, as we have seen. 


unqualifiedly Spinoza s atheism, once permitted 
himself to say, notwithstanding his strong religious 
bias, that it would be stupidity to prefer certain 
"theistic" systems to the infinitely more religious 
atheism of a Spinoza." 1 

Another circumstance that prevented the system 
from being universally recognized in its true char 
acter as atheism in an age when atheist was an 
abusive epithet implying moral turpitude, is the 
philosopher s freedom from sordid passions, and the 
coincidence of many of his practical doctrines with 
those of Christianity. He inculcates the love of 
men (in his own sense), and censures ambition, in 
temperance, love of money, etc., as earnestly as do 
the Christian Scriptures. But his teaching has quite 
other grounds. For him the vices named are follies 
and vanities, partly because they are clearly seen 
to be the cause of more injury than advantage to 
the individual, and partly because they do not appeal 
to one whose only interest is knowledge, for the 
pursuit of knowledge is for him the highest activity 
of man. In Spinoza s view, therefore, these things 
are follies and vanities only; for religion (Chris 
tianity) they are not only follies and vanities, but 
sins; they contradict the will and character of a 
postulated divine person. 

While his practical maxims have thus their points 
of contact with religious ethics, they present also 
many points of contrast, a fact not generally recog 
nized outside of philosophical circles, and that be 
cause the only words of his commonly quoted are 
those which, in their prima facie value, seem to ex 
press Christian ideas. One fundamental and all- 

1 Wider Mendelssohns Beschuldigungen, pp. 86-87. 


pervading difference between Spinoza s ethics and 
religious ethics lies in the fact that in Spinoza s 
teaching emotional elements are quite supplanted 
by rational insight. For the question before us, 
it is a matter of little consequence that Spinoza s 
practical maxims are often identical with those of 
Christianity. All systems of morality substantially 
agree in regard to what we should do and leave 
undone in practical life ; they notably differ only in 
regard to the ultimate grounds which they offer for 
moral conduct. Schopenhauer has well said: "To 
preach morality is easy; to ground morality is dif 
ficult," and "In all times much and good morality 
has been preached; but its rational grounding has 
always been in a bad plight." For the sake of 
showing more clearly the relation of Spinoza s 
ethics to the ethics of religion, and for the sake of 
verifying the conclusion to which we have been 
compelled by a study of Spinoza s idea of "God," 
we now turn to a critical examination of those con 
ceptions which have often been mistaken for ex 
pressions of religious mysticism. 







The reader who has had the patience to follow us 
thus far will not be surprised to learn that Spinoza s 
doctrine of the intellectual love of God, like many 
other conceptions of his system, is involved in ob 
scurities and contradictions. To trace all these out 
in detail, would lead us into tedious digressions. 1 
For our purpose it will be sufficient to determine 
simply what Spinoza meant. The expression itself, 
as well as the language employed in deducing it, 
were evidently determined by the desire to commend 
to the favor of a prejudiced public a non-religious 
doctrine by clothing it in language redolent of re 
ligious associations. Spinoza s treatment of Amor 
Dei intellectualis and of the "eternity of the soul" 
presents, in fact, characteristic examples of his 
practical application of the maxim commended by 
him to all those who would propagate philosophical 
truth r Ad captum vulgi loqui, et ilia omnia operari, 
quae nihil impedimenti adferunt, quo minus nostrum 
scopum attingamus. Nam non parum emolumenti 
ab eo possumus acquirer e, modo ipsius captui } quan 
tum fieri potest, concedamus , adde, quod tali modo 
arnicas praebebunt aures ad veritatem audiendam. 2 

1 Anyone desiring to consult a brief account of how this 
doctrine is related to the rest of Spinoza s system is re 
ferred to a monograph by C. Liillman "Ueber den Begriff 
Amor Dei intellectualis bei Spinoza," Jena, 1884. On 
the whole this treatise is a sufficiently clear and accurate 
presentation of the subject. 

2 De Intellectus Emendatione, p. 6. 


This maxim, as was natural, controlled him at some 
times more than at others, according to his varying 
moods and the varying tone of his environment. 
That the Fifth Part of the Ethics," which treats 
chiefly of Amor Dei intellectualis, should exhibit a 
maximum amount of religious language employed 
in an accommodated sense, is perhaps due to the 
fact that this last Part was hastily written at the 
time when his " Theologico-Political Treatise" was 
being assailed most violently as the work of a 
dangerous atheist. 1 How distressing was the pros 
pect of strife may be inferred from the fact that, 
when he came to face the immediate venture, he 
changed his mind and deferred publication indefi 

His definition of Amor Dei intellectualis is given 
in Eth. V, 32, cor.: From the third kind of knowl 
edge arises necessarily the intellectual love of God. 
For from this kind of knowledge arises joy accom 
panied by the idea of God as cause, that is the love 
of God not as he is presented by the imagination, 
but as perceived by the intellect to be eternal; and 
this is what I call the intellectual love of God." 

The third kind of knowledge (scientia intuitiva), 
it will be remembered, is that which "proceeds from 
the adequate idea of the real essence of certain attri 
butes of God to the adequate knowledge of the es- 
sense of things. 2 It is assumed to be an immediate 
insight into the causal relation that obtains between 
a particular thing and its ultimate ground (the at 
tributes of substance), and hence to involve a knowl 
edge of the constitution of the thing. In other 

1 See above p. 36. 

2 Eth. II, 40, sch. 2. 


words, it is the vision of things in relation to their 
first cause. With this kind of knowing "the intel 
lectual love of God" is preeminently associated, 
though Spinoza does not here, or elsewhere, assert, 
what would be without logical justification, that 
intuition is the only kind of knowing which condi 
tions a "love of God." Indeed he generally assumes 
that all adequate knowledge should be accompanied 
by this result. 

If, in his exposition of the intellectual love of God, 
he did not quote 1 the above-given definition of in 
tuition, according to which it is limited to the discov 
ery of the nature (or essence) of particular things; 
and, if he did not in this connection emphasize this 
distinctive characteristic, 2 we should naturally sup 
pose that here he consciously uses the term in a 
wider sense as applying to the mere recognition of 
all existing objects as modes of the absolute attri 
butes. If we limited it to a knowledge of the essences 
of particular things, we should be logically com 
pelled to regard the intellectual love of God which 
accompanies intuition as a fiction, or, at most, as 
something conceived as merely possible. For he 
confesses elsewhere that the things he himself has 
learned by the third kind of cognition are "ex 
tremely few" (perpauca), and we know that there 
were none. But if he never gained any knowledge 
by intuition, he never experienced the particular 
kind or degree of intellectual love of God which he 

1 Eph. V, 25, dem. 

3 Eth. V, 36, schol. "Quod hie notare operae pretium 
duxi, ut hoc exemplo ostenderem, quam rerum singu- 
larium cognitio, quam intuitivam sive tertii generis ap- 
pellavi, polleat, potiorque sit cognitione universal!, quam 
secui)di generis esse dixi. 


associates with that kind of knowledge. It is evi 
dent, therefore, that, notwithstanding his references 
to the concise definition previously given of the third 
kind of knowing, his thought about it here is ex 
tremely vague. 

Recognizing that the scientia intuitiva is not the 
only condition of the intellectual love of God, but is 
(or might be) its most suitable condition, this "love" 
may be described as the joy experienced in an act of 
cognition, provided this joy is accompanied by the 
knowledge of "God" as its cause. The definition is 
justified by referring to Part III, definition 6, where 
love in general (amor) is defined as "joy accompa 
nied by the idea of an external cause." 1 It will be 
observed that amor, thus defined, does not answer 
to the specific meaning which usage has attached to 
the English word "love." This can appropriately 
be employed only with reference to a personal ob 
ject. But Spinoza s definition of amor does not in 
any way imply that it is an attitude toward persons, 
and hence he is entirely consistent in speaking of 
amor toward the impersonal aggregate of attributes 
which he has seen fit to call "God." It must be 
recognized, however, that with equal consistency, 
and indeed with eminent propriety, he could speak 
of the love of a triangle ; for, in solving a problem 
in geometry, it is quite possible to experience a 
mental joy accompanied by the idea of that figure 
as its cause. 

In order to appreciate fully the precise value of 
Spinoza s expression "idea of God as cause," it is 

1 The absence of the word "external" from the defini 
tion of the love of God, is not without logical signifi 
cance in his total account of the doctrine. 


necessary to recall just what he understands by a 
knowledge of God. He has already told us that 
The human mind has an adequate knowledge of 
the eternal and infinite essence of God," 1 
an assertion that is proved by referring to 
preceding propositions where it has been shown that 
"every idea of every body, or actually existing thing, 
necessarily involves the eternal and infinite essence 
of God ;" 2 inasmuch as every existing thing is a mode 
(a particular sample) of one or both of the universal 
properties extension and thought, which are attri 
butes of the absolute substance and hence by defi 
nition constitute "the essence of the same." 3 Or, 
to employ his own language, "Particular things can 
not be conceived without God ; but, because they have 
for their cause God in so far as he is considered 
under the attribute of which the things in question 
are modes, their ideas must necessarily involve the 
conception of the attribute of those things, i. e., the 
eternal and infinite essence of God." 4 It neces 
sarily follows, of course, that "the infinite essence of 
God and his eternity are known to all men," 5 and 
that this knowledge is as clear as that of a triangle. 6 
To have the idea of God as the cause of the joy ex 
perienced in a given act of knowledge, therefore, is 
simply to recognize the immediate object as de- 
ducible from the absolute reality, i. e., when ex 
pressed in ultimate terms, to recognize it as a mode 
of extension or of thought. 

Eth. II, 47. 

2 Eth. II, 45. 

3 Eth. I, def. 4. 

4 Eth. II, 45, dem. 

5 Eth. II, 47, schol. 

8 Epis. 56 (olim 60), p. 378. 


The "particular things" that involve the idea of 
God may, of course, be bodies, or thoughts, or af 
fects (affecti). In regard to the last it is said that 
"he who clearly and distinctly understands himself 
and his affects, loves God, and by so much the more 
as he more understands himself and his affects;" 1 
which is circumstantially demonstrated as follows: 
"There is no affection of the body, of which the 
mind may not form some clear and distinct concep 
tion (prop. 4, Part V.) ;" but, as "whatever is, is in 
God, and nothing can be or be conceived without 
God (prop. 15, Part I.)," it is evident that in form 
ing a clear and distinct conception of any affection, 
we may relate in fact, must relate that affection 
to "God," i. e., if conceived as a mere bodily affec 
tion, to the attribute of extension, or, if conceived 
as both physical and psychical, to the attributes 
of extension and thought together. But in clear and 
distinct knowledge the mind experiences an augmen 
tation of its power and perfection, and this is what 
has been defined as joy (prop. 9, schol. and prop. 53, 
Part III.). Finally the joy of clear and distinct 
knowledge of any affection, being necessarily ac 
companied by the idea of the attribute under which 
the affection is conceived and of which it is a con 
sequence, or, in other words, by the "idea of God," 
is referred ultimately to "God;" and, as joy accom 
panied by the idea of a cause is what we mean by 
love, this is the "love of God." 2 The circumstance 
that the affect may be an unworthy one and must 
nevertheless, according to the logic of Spinoza s rea- 

1 Eth. V, 15. 

2 We have supplied the contents of the references con 
tained in the demonstration. 


soning, be the proximate object of love, should not 
disconcert us ; for any affect considered as an object 
of knowledge, is a cause of joy and hence a proper 
object of "intellectual" love. Elsewhere he has con 
sistently observed that "the affects of hatred, anger, 
envy, etc., considered in themselves, result from the 
same necessity and efficacy of nature as do other 
particular things; and hence are due to certain 
causes through which they are understood, and pos 
sess certain properties no less worthy of our knowl 
edge than are the properties of any other thing, in 
the mere contemplation of which we take delight." 1 

The "intellectual love of God," therefore, when 
stripped of its religious associations and defined in 
terms of its equivalents as expressly given by Spi 
noza himself, turns out to be, not an affection felt for 
a self-conscious and responsive being, as has some 
times been naively assumed, but only the mental 
joy experienced in cognitive processes, together with 
such valuation of the object of knowledge condi 
tioning the joy as is appropriate to that experience ; 
in other words, it is nothing but delight in the in 
telligible as intelligible. For him "Truth is God, 
and God is truth," 2 in the sense that adequately 
known reality, whatever it may be, is the only God 
he recognizes. The matter of supreme value is not 
the object, but adequate knowledge of it. This is 
called "love" not because in his own experience, or 
in the possible experience of any human being who 
clearly accepts his metaphysical system, there is any- 

1 Eth. Ill, Introductory paragraph. Cf. Tractatus 
Politicus, p. 270. The italics are ours. 

3 Korte Verhandeling, II, Cap. 15. " . . . dat God de 
Waarheid, of dat de Waarheid God zelve is." Cf. II, 
Cap. 5. 


thing that really resembles love (which would be a 
psychological impossibility), but because the word, 
when conjoined with "God" brings his doctrine into 
verbal harmony with religion. That it is not the ob 
ject which is valued, but the experience of knowl 
edge, appears from the equivalents of the intellectual 
love of God; for it is in fact but one of several 
titles for the summum bonum. In the "Theologico- 
political Treatise," he says: "Since the better part 
of us is our intellect, it is certain, if we wish truly to 
seek our advantage, that we should endeavor above 
all to perfect it as much as possible ; for in its per 
fection must consist our summum bonum. Moreover, 
since all our knowledge and the certainty that re 
moves every doubt depend solely on the knowledge 
of God, in the first place, because without God [ab 
solute thought and extension] nothing can be or be 
conceived; in the second place, because we are able 
to doubt concerning all things so long as we have no 
clear and distinct idea of God [thought and exten 
sion as the ground from which all nature results by 
an invariable necessity], it follows that our sum- 
mum bonum and perfection depend solely on the 
knowledge of God." 1 Here it is the possession of 
knowledge that is called our summum bonum ; and 
God is to be known only because he is the key to all 
other knowledge. It is but a variation of the same 
thought when, in the paragraph from which we have 
quoted, he identifies the knowledge of God with the 
knowledge of "natural things," and adds: "And so 
all our knowledge, i. e., our summum bonum, not only 
depends on God, but consists altogether in the same." 
In other passages the highest good is said to consist 
Chap. IV, (Opera, II, p. 3). 


in the experience of cognition, "in sola speculatione 
et pura mente."* Sometimes, however, knowledge 
or "the knowledge of God" (of our environment), 
is regarded as a means to the ulterior end of a 
righteous (genuinely prudent and advantageous) 
life. As these inconsistencies are the result of view 
ing the same thing, knowledge, in different relations 
to our total experience, we need not take them very 
seriously. It is sufficiently clear that, according to 
Spinoza, man s supreme good is knowledge; which, 
because it must have nature in some aspect for its 
object, is brought into verbal harmony with re 
ligion by the title "intellectual love of God." 

We are now in a position to estimate that saying 
of Spinoza s which so deeply impressed Goethe: 1 
"He who loves God cannot presume that God love 
him in return." 2 The proof of this proposition con 
sists in the circumstance that God (as absolute) 
"loves no one," and that he who should wish to be 
loved by God would thereby wish that God were not 
God, which would be an inconsistency. That the 
saying should impress Goethe, or any uncritical 
reader, as an expression of sublimely unselfish re 
ligious devotion, is not surprising ; but when read in 
the light shed upon it by Spinoza s own lamp, it is 
found to be entirely devoid of religious significance. 
It may justly be taken, however, as an appropriate 
expression of Spinoza s passionate devotion to truth 
as truth; for the one who loves God, in his sense of 
the term, has no other interest than to know 
reality as it is, be it good or bad, beautiful or ugly. 

* Chap. IV, (Opera, II, p. 4). 

1 Aus Meinem Leben, 14 Buch, (Hendel s edition, p. 
2 Eth. V, 19 and dem. 


By way of qualification of what has been said 
above, it ought to be remarked that in the "Short 
Treatise" stress is laid upon the quality of the ob 
ject as conditioning love. "True love" says he in a 
characteristic passage, "always springs from the 
knowledge that the thing is glorious and good. 
What else then can follow but that it cannot become 
more ardent toward any one than toward the Lord 
our God? For he alone is glorious and the perfect 
good." 1 When he says here that love requires 
particular qualities in the object, he is quite correct ; 
but this is a way of speaking which he abandons in 
the "Ethics." In advance of careful study, this 
circumstance would naturally be explained by sup 
posing that, whatever may be thought of Spinoza s 
final attitude, the "Short Treatise" represents a 
time when he certainly possessed a genuine re 
ligious interest. If we cannot accept this explana 
tion, it is not because either a theist s antipathy or 
an atheist s admiration impels us arbitrarily to di 
vest Spinoza, even in his youth, of all appreciation 
for religion; but because neither in the extant bio 
graphical data, nor in the early work itself, can we 
find anything that justifies the hypothesis. It seems 
to us to owe its currency to nothing better than 
na ivete and prejudice in about equal parts. When 
we penetrate beneath the surface of his language to 
its real content, as defined by himself, we discover 
that the seeming religiousness is not meaning, but 
phraseology. We have seen that here more ex 
plicitly, if possible, than anywhere else he has de 
prived the Absolute of all personal qualities, exclud 
ing even the cognitive consciousness; for among the 

1 Korte Verhandeling, II, Cap. 5, ad. fin. 


attributes which "do not belong to God" 1 are "will," 
"intellect," omniscence. " In the "Short Treat 
ise," as in the "Ethics," the object of "love" pos 
sesses no properties which, psychologically speaking, 
can condition love; 2 and so we are compelled to re 
gard the religious phraseology of the early work as 
also due to a desire to commend to favor his pro 
posed substitute for religion by clothing it in the 
language of religious devotion. That, here more 
frequently than in the "Ethics," he employs ex 
pressions that are glaringly inconsistent with the 
defined character of the object, is to be explained 
by the circumstance that the "Short Treatise" ex 
hibits his first and more awkward attempts at de 
scribing a non-religious system in terms of religion. 
It would be possible to suppose that his language 
represents a genuine religious interest, and is seri 
ously intended to express such, only on the assump 
tion that his conception of the Absolute was at this 
time still so unclear to himself that he tacitly read 
into it the qualities of which he expressly deprived 
it; but this is an impossible assumption; for, how 
ever numerous the obscurities and inconsistencies of 
his system in its details, there is, even in this early 
work, no unclearness and uncertainty in his thought 
about the general character of fundamental reality. 
That while composing it he was under great con 
straint to clothe his novel ideas in religious phrase 
ology, we may infer from his apprehension that even 

1 Kort. Verhand. I, Cap. 7. 

2 The positive qualities of "God" which he specifies as 
constituting Him a proper object of "love" turn out to 
be only different aspects of the changeless necessity of 
nature, or of the absoluteness of nature. See Kort. Ver 
hand. II, Cap. 14 and I, Cap. 6. 


the young friends to whom he was confidentially to 
entrust the manuscript might be startled by his doc 
trine, and that the public would be provoked to dis 
agreeable, perhaps dangerous, opposition, if his work 
were freely circulated. In the closing paragraph he 
begs his friends not to be astonished at these 
novelties," reminding them that truth does not cease 
to be truth because it is accepted by few ; and adds : 
"And, on account of the character of the age in 
which we live, of which you are not ignorant, I will 
earnestly entreat you to exercise great care in com 
municating these things to others." 1 

We have called "the intellectual love of God" 
Spinoza s substitute for religion. From this char 
acterization, however, it must not be inferred 
that he believed it could ever become a general pos 
session. In any efficacious degree, it can be pos 
sessed only by the select few, the metaphysicians, 
who, being emancipated from the imagination and 
the emotions, view all things in the colorless light of 
reason. He did not share the hope occasionally ex 
pressed in recent times, that knowledge will some 
day become so widely diffused that men in general 
will rise above religion and then do from rational 
insight what they now do from faith. The ideas of 
development in general and of social progress in 
particular, which have so deeply taken hold of the 
modern mind, are foreign to Spinoza s thought. He 
had little faith in the "masses. 7 He assumes that 
they must always remain incapable of a genuine and 
efficacious intellectual love of God. His chief work 
concludes with the following significant words: "If 
now the way which I have shown to lead to these 

1 Opera, III, p. 97. 


things seems very difficult (perardua), it can never 
theless be discovered. And difficult indeed must 
that be which is so rarely found. For if salvation 
were ready at hand and could be found without 
much labor, how could it happen that it would be 
neglected by almost all men? But all excellent 
things are as difficult as they are rare. * In the un 
finished "Political Treatise," he expresses the same 
thought : We have seen that the way which reason 
teaches is very difficult; hence those who persuade 
themselves that the multitude, or men distracted by 
public business, can be induced to live solely ac 
cording to the dictates of reason, are dreaming of 
the poets golden age or of a fabulous tale." 1 For 
Spinoza also, many are called, but few are chosen! 

This subject ought not to be dismissed without a 
reference to the interesting ways in which he uses the 
Amor Dei intellectualis, in order to deduce from it 
verbal imitations of still other religious conceptions. 
He affirms that "God loves himself with an infinite 
intellectual love," 2 and that the mind s intellectual 
love to God is the very love of God, with which God 
loves himself, not in so far as he is infinite, but in so 
far as he is able to be expressed by the essence of 
the human mind, considered under the form of 
eternity, i. e., the mind s intellectual love to God is 
a part of the infinite love with which God loves him 
self." 3 From this it follows as a corollary that 
"God, in so far as he loves himself, loves men, and 
consequently that God s love to men and the mind s 

* Eth. V, 42, schol. 

1 Tractatus-Politicus, Cap. I, (Opera, I, p. 271). 

a Eth. V, 35. 

8 Eth. V, 36. 


intellectual love to God, are one and the same 

After having just been told, consistently with 
what we have found to be Spinoza s conception of 
the Absolute, that "God properly speaking loves no 
one," 2 the reader naturally finds this language per 
plexing. But when it is remembered that Spinoza 
employs the word "God" in two distinct senses, 
now for the Absolute (Natura Naturans) and now 
for total reality including all modes (Natura Natu 
rans and Natura Naturata possibly sometimes also 
for Natura Naturata alone), the contradiction is 
seen to be only a verbal one. "God loves himself 
with an infinite love," because (says the demonstra 
tion) he is by definition absolutely infinite, and 
hence, as reality and perfection mean the same 
thing, his "nature" enjoys infinite perfection, and 
that accompanied by the idea of himself; for, ac 
cording to the principle of parallelism, there is in 
God an idea of his essence and an idea of every 
thing that results from his essence; that is to say, 
God s enjoyment of infinite perfection is accom 
panied by the idea of himself as cause (for he is 
causa sui) and this is what is called intellectual 
love. 3 This language means no more than that all 
modes, which together constitute the Natura Natu 
rata, have "minds," 4 and the sum of these consti 
tute the Intellectus Infinitus, the sum of the in 
tellectual love of separate minds being the infinite 

l Eth. V, 36, Cor. 

Eth. V, 17, Cor. 

8 1 have paraphrased the demonstration, completing it 
by writing in the content of the references contained in 

* See page 66. 


intellectual love with which God (as Natura Natu- 
rata) loves himself (as Natura Naturata and Natura 
Naturans). This interpretation does not, of course, 
set the proposition and demonstration free from all 
difficulties and bring them into harmony with 
everything else in his system, and no interpretation 
can do so j 1 for his ideas here are involved in the un- 
clearness of his thought concerning the Intellectus 
Infinitus and other conceptions ; but that this is what 
he means is placed beyond doubt by his oft-repeated 
declaration that God (the Absolute) cannot love and 
has no intellect, and by the close connection of this 
proposition with the two following. 

The meaning of the second proposition, namely, 
that "the mind s intellectual love to God is the very 
love of God, with which God loves himself, not in so 
far as he is infinite, but in so far as he is able to be 
expressed by the essence of the human mind, con< 
sidered under the form of eternity, etc.," is already 
sufficiently evident. The expression "under the 
form of eternity" simply limits the subject of in 
tellectual love to the rational part of the mind as 
distinguished from the imagination ; and so we have 
the very obvious statement that man as a part of 
God (Natura Naturata) loves God (Natura Naturata, 
Natura Naturans, or both), i. e., that God loves 

1 The verbal consistency of the demonstration is due to 
his use of the same expressions in different senses. 
After God is proved to be "absolutely infinite" by a ref 
erence to the definition of God in which the word is taken 
in the sense of the Absolute only, the word is then em 
ployed in the sense of God as including Natura Naturata 
and therewith the human mind. It is not God as causa 
sui that has the idea of God as causa sui , this idea is 
possessed by God in so far as He is not causa sui, i. e., 
in so far as the name may by accommodation be applied 
to a definite mode, the human mind. 


God. But Spinoza s demonstration is quite circum 
stantial. Instead of saying, as he might have done, 
that in rationally cognizing objects in general the 
mind experiences joy accompanied by the idea of 
God as cause, and that this "intellectual love of 
God" possessed by man as a part of God (Natura 
Naturata) is a part of the infinite intellectual love 
with which God loves himself, he selects for the pur 
poses of the demonstration that particular intellect 
ual love which arises from the mind s contemplation 
of itself. The mind s love, he says, must be referred 
to the active functions of the mind as distinguished 
from the passive, because it is an experience of joy, 
the sign of proper activity, 1 and because it is ade 
quate knowledge, which is also a sign of activity. 2 
It is therefore the activity with which the mind 
contemplates himself accompanied by the idea of 
the contemplation of any other object under the 
form of eternity, involves the idea of God (sub 
stance) as the necessary ground of its existence. 3 
Now, as particular things to which class of things 
the human mind belongs are only modes of the 
attributes of God, and as when we say "that the 
human mind perceives this or that we say nothing 
else than that God, not as infinite, 4 but in so far as he 
is expressed by the nature of the human mind, has 
this or that idea;" 5 it follows that the mind s con 
templation of itself is the activity with which God, 
in so far as he can be expressed by the human mind, 

l Eth. V, 32, Cor. 2 Eth. Ill, 3. 

* Eth. V, 32, dem. and cor. Cf. prop. 30, dem. 

* Notice that "infinite" is here used to contrast God as 
absolute with "God" as natura naturata, while in V, 35, 
dem. the predicate is applied to "God" as including na 
tura naturata. 

Eth. II, 11, Cor. 


contemplates himself accompanied by the idea of 
himself; and so this love of the mind s is a part of 
the infinite love with which God loves himself. 1 

It will be observed that, although the subject of 
the intellectual love is clearly the human mind (God 
in so far, etc.), the object of it is supposed to be God 
the Absolute. The double sense of the word, how 
ever, enables Spinoza to assume for the purposes of 
the corollary which follows, that the object also is 
only the human mind. 2 The corollary states "that 
God, in so far as he loves himself, loves men, and 
consequently that God s love to men and the mind s 
intellectual love to God are one and the same thing." 
This is unintelligible unless (1) we take the object 
of love to be not God the Absolute, but "God in 
so far," etc., i.e., the human mind; and unless 
(2) we identify "men" and "the mind," thus 
taking mind in the generic sense as embracing 
only what is common to all minds. On this condi 
tion, we are able to write the following equation: 
the mind s love of itself = men s love to men = God s 
love to men = God s love to himself. When God 
and man are identified, the corollary becomes simply 
a tautology ; and there is no reason for doubting that 
this is what it was meant to be. 

1 It is not easy to see why Spinoza chose so complicated 
a demonstration involving irrelevancies, for a proposition 
which needs only to be explained in order to be self- 
evident. His selection of the mind as the cognized object 
with which to operate may be due to a desire to bring his 
exposition into the greatest formal resemblance to re 
ligious mysticism. 

2 This circumstance causes Martineau to interpret 
(mistakenly, I think) the proposition also as wishing to 
say no more than that man loves man: "Objectively, the 
self which God loves is the human, considered as also 
divine." Study of Spinoza, p. 273. 


While the doctrine of immortality is an essential 
part of Christianity and is agreeable to the religious 
consciousness in general, there is nothing in the na 
ture of the case that renders it indispensable to re 
ligion as such. There is no conclusive evidence, it 
seems, that even the early Hebrews believed in a 
future life. On the other hand, the doctrine is not 
incompatible with atheism. Whether it is a religious 
doctrine or not, depends on whether it is such as to 
imply personal relations with a God. It is these re 
lations that constitute religion; and a doctrine of 
immortality that does not imply them is not reli 
gious doctrine. The question, therefore, whether or 
not Spinoza taught the immortality of the soul, is 
not, strictly speaking, pertinent to our inquiry. For 
considering his conception of God, it is obvious that, 
if he did teach immortality, his doctrine was not a 
religious one. It is well worth while, however, for 
the sake of further light on his modes of thought 
and expression, to examine what he has to say on the 

His account of the matter underwent considerable 
changes during the period between his first and last 
works. In the "Metaphysical Thoughts," where he 
considers the question for the first time, the im 
mortality of the soul is unequivocally affirmed, as 
necessarily following from the nature of the soul as 
substance (created substance) : "But since from 


them [the laws of nature] it clearly follows that a 
substance can be destroyed neither by itself nor by 
another created substance, as, if I mistake not, we 
have already abundantly demonstrated, we are com 
pelled to conclude from the laws of nature that the 
mind is immortal." 1 But as he has warned 2 us that 
this work contains much that he himself did not be 
lieve, we are at a loss to tell in how far his disquisi 
tion on immortality was a mere statement of the cur 
rent theological argument which he did not consider 
valid, and in how far it was an expression of his own 

In the "Short Treatise" the immortality of the 
soul is affirmed again, but on entirely different 
grounds, namely, as resulting from the knowledge 
and love of God, and from a consequent union with 
him. It is therefore no longer natural, but condi 
tional. Doubts as to Spinoza s real interest in the 
matter are suggested not only by the general char 
acter of this work, seeking everywhere, as it does, 
to substitute by an accommodated use of religious 
language non-religious for religious conceptions, 3 
but also by the worthlessness of his reasoning, when 
regarded as an argument for individual immortality. 
He argues as follows : The soul is naturally the idea 
of the body, and is therefore united with the body 

Cog. Met. Cap. XII, p. 229. 

2 See page 58. 

3 In order to estimate at its true value the "religious 
mysticism" of the "Short Treatise," it must be borne in 
mind that "God," as absolute thought and extension, is 
already without understanding, that Providence is identi 
fied with the striving after self-preservation, that the 
efficacy of prayer is rejected, that sin is non-existent, 
that "regeneration" becomes simply the awakening of 
the philosophical interest, etc., etc. 


in such a way as to depend on it for existence. Hence 
when the body changes, the soul changes; when the 
body perishes, the soul perishes. This relation be 
tween the two is called indifferently the soul s union 
with the body and the soul s love of the body. But 
both soul and body depend on the Absolute in such a 
way that they can neither be nor be conceived with 
out him (or it). Now the mind that intuitively 
recognizes this relation, the mind that cannot rest 
in the conditioned, but by intuition traces everything 
back to its ultimate ground, enters into a knowledge 
and love of the Absolute which is analogous to the 
ordinary union with the body. And as this object 
is changeless and eternal, the soul that is "united" 
with it is also eternal, and will survive the dissolu 
tion of the physical organism. 1 

This argument consists in the two extraordinary 
assumptions, (1) that the connection between the 
unconditioned and the conditioned is less real for be 
ing unknown, and (2) that the eternity of an ob 
ject of knowledge is a proof of the eternity of the 
knowing subject. 2 The only kind of immortality for 
which such reasoning has the semblance of validity, 
would be one in which the individual mind, after the 
dissolution of the body into the more general modes 
of matter, is itself dissolved into the general mind; 
for mind which, by virtue of "union with God," sur 
vives would be mind as the "idea" of the general 
constituents and laws of the universe, as distin 
guished from mind as the "idea" of a particular 

1 Korte Verhand, II, cap. 23. 

8 But similar reasoning appears in Neo-Platonism. 


Whether, in the "Short Treatise," he seriously 
meant to advocate individual immortality or not, it 
is impossible to determine with certainty. 1 We may 
affirm only that, if he did, it was conditional and 
partial immortality an immortality for philosophers 
exclusively. His own language reads as follows: 

"If we will consider carefully what the soul is, and 
from what its change and duration result, we shall easily 
see, whether it is mortal or immortal. We have said 
that the soul is an idea originating in the res cogitam 
from the existence of a thing that is present in nature. 
Hence it follows, that according to the duration and 
change of the thing, must be the duration and change of 
the soul. At the same time, we observed that the soul 
may be united either with the body, of which it is the 
idea, or with God, without whom it can neither exist nor 
be conceived. Wherefore it is easy to see: (1) that, if 
united with the body alone, and the body perishes, it must 
also perish; for, being deprived of the body, which is the 
foundation of its love, it must come to naught therewith; 
but (2) that, if it is united with another thing which re 
mains immutable, then it will on the contrary have to 
remain immutable also." 2 

In the last chapter of this work appears a different 
argument. There it is claimed that "true under 
standing" can never perish, for the reason that it 
is a consequence of the Absolute, and, as the Abso 
lute is changeless and eternal, its consequence must 
be eternal also. 3 Of this reasoning the same may be 
said as of that quoted above, it is valid for "true 
understanding" (adequate ideas) conceived either 
as general mind-stuff or as logical content (or con- 

1 Sigwart thinks it doubtful whether Spinoza had any 
real interest in the subject. Janet concludes that Spi 
noza intended to teach personal immortality. 

2 Korte Verhand. II, Cap. 23. 

"Korte Verhand. II, Cap. 26, p. 95. 


fusedly as both at once) ; but is not valid for true 
ideas psychologically considered, i. e., as events in 
consciousness. Whether by this language Spinoza 
meant to assert anything more than the eternity of 
truth, is uncertain. 

In the Ethics" his account of immortality under 
goes another modification. It is still the result of a 
knowledge of "God," and especially, though not ex 
clusively, of an intuitive knowledge. But his ex 
press and consistent admission in this work that all 
men in some degree have an adequate knowledge 
of God (inasmuch as they have an immediate knowl 
edge of extension and thought), 1 requires that im 
mortality be no longer limited to the philosophers, 
but extended to all men, though in varying degrees, 
according to the proportion of adequate knowledge. 
All souls, in so far as they are imagination, perish; 
in so far as they are intellect, survive. In the 
"Ethics," immortality is partial in the sense that 
it applies only to a part of each mind ; in the * Short 
Treatise," it is partial in the further sense that it 
falls to the lot of but few individuals. A significant 
difference in terminology also appears ; in the Short 
Treatise" the soul is "immortal," in the "Ethics" 
it is never anything else than "eternal." 

The passages which present the doctrine in its final 
form may be considered to advantage in the order of 
Spinoza s own exposition : 

"Prop. 21. The mind can neither imagine anything 
nor remember things past, except while the body lasts." 3 

1 Eth. II, prop. 47. "Mens humana adsequatam habet 
cognitionem aeternae et infinitae essentiae Dei." 

2 Eth. V, prop. 22 and dem. 


As Spinoza employs "imagination" as a generic 
term that covers sense-perception, emotions, and all 
non-logical mental operations, it follows as indis 
putably certain (1) that according to Spinoza the 
mind can acquire no new facts after the dissolution 
of the body; (2) that it is no longer the seat of 
emotions, and is therefore in a state that lacks the in 
terest and value which these impart to life; and (3) 
that, as memory vanishes with the body, personal 
identity is lost. The mind that survives does not 
know that it is the mind that was. Indeed, with 
memory gone, it has no means of knowing that it is 
itself. We may safely credit Spinoza with sufficient 
insight into psychological truths to have been fully 
aware of these obvious consequences of the proposi 
tion. The immortality promised by him, therefore, 
is already seen to be devoid of all religious signifi 
cance and of all interest for us. After recognizing 
the extent of his negations, no positive determina 
tions of the doctrine can be of any importance. 
Whatever it may turn out to be, it can not answer to 
the meaning of the word * immortality, and to call 
it by this name is misleading. Moreover, it is to em 
ploy a word which he himself, in his later writings, 
studiously avoids. His term is eternity. 

What this eternity of the intellect is, we must learn 
from the propositions immediately following: 

"Prop. 22. Yet in God [somewhere] there Is neces 
sarily an idea which expresses the essence of this and that 
human body under the form of eternity. 

"Dem. God is the cause not only of the existence, but 
also of the essence of this and that human body; which 
essence must therefore necessarily be conceived through 
the very essence of God, and that by a certain eternal 


necessity; but this conception must necessarily be in God 
(since whatever is, is in God)." 1 

The language here employed means only that the 
human body, like every other particular thing, has 
two aspects. In one aspect it is changing, temporal, 
transient; in the other, in its essence or definable 
nature, it is eternal. This or that body, as a phenom 
enal existence at a particular time and place, dis 
appears; but as an eternal essence, i. e., as consti 
tuted of certain elements and laws that have their 
ground in the eternal nature of matter, or, if you 
will, as participating in those general and perma 
nent conditions which form the immediate back 
ground of particular existences, it is eternal. In like 
manner, "the idea of this or that body," i. e., this 
or that mind, has two aspects, one phenomenal, and 
the other eternal. In so far as it corresponds to 
the essence of its body conceived sub specie aeter- 
nitatis (in so far as it corresponds to the body as an 
eternal essence) it is also eternal, being as perma 
nent and general in its character as is that material 
essence. 2 It follows, therefore, that 

"The human mind cannot be absolutely destroyed with 
the body, but something of it remains which is eternal. 

"Dem. There is in God [there exists] necessarily a 
conception or idea which expresses the essence of the 
human body, and is therefore necessarily something that 
belongs to the essence of the human mind. But to the 

1 Eth. V, prop. 22 and dem. 

2 We have demonstrated that the eternal essences of 
particular things are universals. If the essence of "this 
and that" body is taken to be individual in character, we 
make Spinoza flatly contradict what he has plainly taught 
elsewhere. Cf. Eth. I, 17: "Si unius [hominis] exis- 
tentia pereat, non ideo alterius peribit; sed si unius 
essentia destrui posset, et fieri falsa, destrueretur etiam 
alterius essentia." See also the way in which "definita 


human mind we ascribe no duration definable in time, ex 
cept in so far as it expresses the body s actual existence 
that is explicable by duration and is definable in time; 
that is, we do not ascribe duration to the same except 
while the body lasts. But since nevertheless there is 
something which by a certain eternal necessity is con 
ceived through the very essence of God, this something 
which belongs to the essence of the mind will necessarily 
be eternal. 

"Schol. This idea which expresses the essence of the 
body sw& specie aeternitatis, is, as we have said, a cer 
tain mode of thinking which belongs to the essence of 
the mind, and is necessarily eternal. Yet it is not pos 
sible to remember that we have had existence before the 
body, since there are no vestiges of it in the body, and 
eternity cannot be defined in terms of time, and has no 
relation to time. But nevertheless we apprehend (or 
feel) 1 and experience that we are eternal. For the mind 
apprehends (sentit) no less those things which it conceives 
with the understanding than those which it remembers. 
For the demonstrations themselves are for the mind eyes 
with which it sees and observes things. Although there 
fore we do not remember to have existed before the 
body, we apprehend (sentimus) nevertheless that our 
mind, in so far as it involves the essence of the body 
sub specie aeternitatis, is eternal, and that this existence 
is not definable in terms of time or explicable by dura 
tion. Our mind therefore may be said to endure, and its 
existence to be defined by a certain time, only in so far 
as it involves the actual existence of the body; and in so 
far only has it the power of determining the existence of 
things in time, and of conceiving them under the cate 
gory of duration." 2 

natura" (essentia) is placed in antithesis to individuals 
in Eth. I, 8, schol. 2. It is not necessary to find in Eth. 
V, 22 a contradiction to his general doctrine of eternal 
essences; and if one chooses to do so, he will only multi 
ply difficulties, without being able after all to make Spi 
noza teach a genuine immortality. 

1 "Sentimus." 

2 Eth. V, prop. 23 with dem. and schol. 


The eternity which Spinoza thus sets in sharp con 
trast with " duration" and "time," must be under 
stood as synonymous with timelessness. The ground 
for assuming such a state of being seems to be the 
perceived necessity and immutability of logical re 
lations.* If his thought was clear, he meant by 
the term nothing else than changeless existence. 

It might seem that he is describing a mere qual 
ity of being, implying no continuance; but I 
think we must allow that he means to claim a sur 
vival in some sense for a part of the human mind, 
what would seem to be already sufficiently clear from 
the wording of the proposition. 

The scholium implies, quite consistently, that the 
eternal part of the mind existed before the origina 
tion of the body in the same way as it continues to 
exist after the destruction of the same. 1 But in 
what way this is, does not at first appear quite ob 
vious. In this connection there comes into play Spi 
noza s peculiar use of idea, concipere, etc. Primarily 
the eternal part of the mind is simply the psychical 
double of the eternal essence of the body, and is not 
a presentation which has this essence for its content ; 
but secondarily, on account of Spinoza s intellectual- 
istic psychology, it approximates in his thought the 
nature of a (complex) presentation 2 in so far that 
it becomes a system of truth. The eternity of the 
mind which we are said to experience, must not be 

* Cf. Eth. V, prop. 29, schol. 

Cf. Eth. V, prop. 31, schol. 

2 Note how "concepit" is used in V, prop. 29. "Cor- 
poris praesentem actualem existentiam concipit" means 
only "possess an idea which is the psychical attendant of 
a temporal state of the body." The idea has for its con 
tent, not the body, but anything whatever. 


mistaken for the vague sentiment of the poet or re 
ligionist : for Spinoza it is something involved in the 
cognitive consciousness. It is, in fact, the percep 
tion of the eternity of the content of adequate ideas ; 
and this circumstance can be a ground for the sur 
vival of the mind only in so far as the mind is identi 
fied with adequate ideas, or rather with their logical 
content, with truth; which consciously survives only 
in the sense that it is re-thought by successive indi 
viduals. 1 So from one point of view the Intellectus 
Infinitus of which the human intellect is a part, is 
immutable ; but from another point of view, by rea 
son of the coming and going of individual minds, it 
is continually changing. In the latter aspect, as we 
had occasion to remark in another connection, 2 it sug 
gests a correspondence with that mode of extension 
which he designates as fades totius universi. 

This view of Spinoza s doctrine of the "eternity" 
of the soul fulfils the legitimate requirements of his 
language, and is the only one, it seems, that makes 
the doctrine tolerably consistent with the funda 
mental postulates of his system. It is confirmed by 
other expressions that speak more explicitly than 
those considered above. The intellectual love of 
God, which is the peculiar possession of the eternal 
part of the soul, is, he says, "the most constant of 
all affections, and, in so far as it is related to the 
body is not able to be destroyed, except with the 
body itself. 3 So it would seem that this love, which 
is no less eternal 4 than the intellect, is in some sense 

1 Cf. above p. 174. 
3 Cf. above p. 176. 
3 Eth. V, prop. 20, schol. 

* Eth. V, prop. 34, cor. Hinc sequitur, nullum amorem 
praeter amorem intellectualem esse aeternum. 


perishable. In what sense? "In so far as it is re 
lated to the body." But what can this mean? 
Nothing more nor less than, in so far as it is peculiar 
to mind as associated with a particular self-identical 
body, i. e., in so far as it is the possession of one and 
the same individual mind. 

Moreover, he expressly warns us that his doctrine 
of the mind s eternity, which has no more applica 
tion to personal post-existence than to personal pre- 
existence, must not be confounded with any form 
of the popular doctrine of "immortality": "If we 
consider the common opinion of men, we shall see 
that they are indeed conscious of the eternity of 
their mind, but confound it with duration, and 
ascribe it to imagination or memory, which they be 
lieve remains after death."* 

But in furnishing his system with a substitute for 
the Christian doctrine of immortality, and in cloth 
ing his substitute with rival glories, Spinoza has used 
language which uncritical readers have sometimes 
mistaken for a description of something far more 
significant than it is. And of the competent critics 
who have tried to determine his precise thought on 
this point, some have argued that he teaches individ 
ual self-conscious survival, not of the mind in its en 
tirety indeed, but of the intellect at least. This fol 
lows necessarily, it is claimed, 1 from Spinoza s doc 
trine of idea ideal or idea mentis, 2 which makes self- 
consciousness inherent in the nature of idea. For 
according to this, every idea as an ontological entity 
is an object which must be reflected in another idea. 

* Eth. V, prop. 34, schol. 

1 See Camerer, "Die Lehre Spinoza s." 

3 See page 74. 


So long as an idea exists, therefore, it must be self- 
conscious; and, if it is eternal, it must be eternally 
self-conscious. The force of this reasoning depends 
entirely on the mistaken assumption that the (com 
plex) "idea" which survives as the eternal essence 
of the mind, is individual, and that the persistence 
of the eternal essence is the persistence of the indi 
vidual mind. We have already discovered, however, 
that the eternal essences of things are not individual, 
but general. 1 The essence of the human mind, 
which is to be conceived both as relatively determi 
nate mind-stuff and as a system of adequate ideas, is 
in one view as universal as the race, and in another 
as universal as truth. The eternal essence even of 
"this mind" and of "that mind" is a common es 
sence, in which, to be sure, they as temporal phenom 
ena may participate in different degrees. It is only 
as regards "existence," with the imagination, mem 
ory, etc., involved therein, that minds are distinct 
and separate. Accordingly there is for Spinoza a 
way of regarding the adequate ideas, which consti 
tute the permanent part of the mind, as eternally 
conscious, without requiring the eternal continuity 
of any individual mind. By having regard only to 
the logical content, he may say that an adequate 
idea is universal, being the same for every mind 
possessing it ; and also, if he chooses, that it is eter 
nally conscious, for when it ceases to be an element 
in a particular consciousness it continues to be an 
element in some other consciousness. The same es 
sence repeats itself eternally in different existences. 

It is further argued that, since the human body is 
an individuum,, the eternal part of the mind as the 

1 See page 150. 


idea of the body sub specie aternitatis must also be 
an individuum, and that as idea idece it must have 
the same character. 1 This argument rests on the 
same mistaken assumption as does the foregoing one. 
namely, that the eternal essence, whether of the 
body or of the mind, is individual. 2 

The student of the history of philosophy will 
recognize in Spinoza s doctrine of the eternity of 
the mind striking points of resemblance with certain 
speculations of Aristotle, which, with varying for 
tunes, had been borne on the stream of tradition 
down to the time of our philosopher. Aristotle di 
vided the reason ( vovs ) into two parts, the passive 
and the active. To the latter he attributed the power 

1 Camerer, "Die Lehre Spinoza s," pp. 118-122. 

2 In regard to the subject here concluded I am grati 
fied to be able to agree substantially with so thorough 
and conscientious a student of Spinoza as James Mar- 
tineau. See his "Study of Spinoza," pp. 289-301. 

If any one should desire to pursue still further so 
barren a subject, he may compare Sir Fred. Pollock s 
"Spinoza: His Life and Philosophy;" Mr. A. E. Taylor 
in "Mind," April, 1896; .... 

Mr. Pollock says of Spinoza s eternity of the mind: 
"It has no relation to time, and therefore is not a future 
life [or continuance of personal consciousness in the 
ordinary sense]. At the same time it is in some sense 
individual" (p. 270); and "What Spinoza is really main 
taining in an artificial form is that the necessity and 
universal character of exact knowledge is not affected 
either by this and that particular act of knowledge being 
associated with a transitory condition of a bodily organ- 
Ism, or by tne act, as a particular human act, being sub 
ject to the conditions of our finite human consciousness" 
(p. 280). 

Mr. Taylor reduces the eternal part of the mind "to 
two elements only, one cognitive and one emotional, the 
cognitive element being concrete but impersonal scien 
tific truth, and the emotional the calm and acquiescence 
which such truth produces." "Mind" etc., p. 161. It 
has "continued existence after death," though "all that 
distinguishes one man from another has vanished" (p. 


of grasping in immediate knowledge what cannot be 
the object of mental processes (Spinoza s scientia 
intuitiva). It represents not what is individual, but 
what is common to men. It alone survives the body ; 
while the passive part of the reason, together with 
sense-perception, imagination, memory, reflection, 
emotions, desire, and will, perish with the body. 1 

But Aristotle s distinction between the passive 
and active parts of the mind, and the inconsisten 
cies of his account of the two, gave rise later to dis 
putes as to whether both, or only one, or neither of 
them were perishable. Averroes, a Spanish Aristot 
elian of the twelfth century, with whose thoughts 
Spinoza must have been acquainted, 2 became the 
recognized champion of the view that it is the gen 
eral human understanding which is eternal, the in 
dividual being its subject during life, and surviv 
ing death only in the sense that, when Socrates 
and Plato die, the speculative spirit remains, philos 
ophy being eternal. He contended that this doctrine 
is not dangerous to morality, but, on the contrary, 
is the best protection against that pseudo-virtue 
which has in view only rewards and punishments. 
The wise man acts without regard to such things, 
prompted by the love of virtue alone. 3 That Spinoza 

1 Cf. Zeller, "Die Philosophie der Griechen," 3te aufl., 
2ter Theil, 2te Abtheilung, ss. 563-607. 

8 If not directly, then certainly through Lev! ben Ger- 
son, whom he cites in "Trac. Theologico-Polit.," note 15, 
and through Maimonides, whose great work "Moreh 
Nebochim" (Doctor Perplexorum) was in Spinoza s li 
brary. See the list of books belonging to Spinoza s 
library in Freudenthal s "Die Lebensgeschichte Spino 
za s," p. 160. 

8 Cf. Johann Ed. Erdmann s "History of Philosophy,". 
187, 4-5. 


was considerably influenced by these ideas can 
hardly be doubted. 

It may here be remarked also that, in his estimate 
of religion in general, Spinoza quite agrees with 
Averroes: its postulates have no validity, but it is 
nevertheless of practical value for the weak and un- 
reflective. If, in regard to the truth of this asser 
tion, any doubts still linger in the reader s mind, 
they will be dispelled by an examination of what 
Spinoza has to say on the relation between Church 
and State. 


In a system that posits an impersonal and un 
ethical 1 Absolute, from which result by a blind neces 
sity all happenings throughout the entire realm of 
being, there is no place of course for divinely im 
posed obligations. Apart from the conventions of 
human society, right is synonymous with might. 
"The natural right of every individual extends 
as far as his power/ 2 Spinoza does not hesitate, 
therefore, to express himself as follows: "Since 
it is the highest law of nature that each thing en 
deavor with all its might to maintain itself as it is. 
without regard to anything but itself, it follows that 
every individual thing has this supreme right, that 
is (as I have said) to exist and to act as it is deter 
mined by its own nature. Nor do we recognize any 
difference in this respect between men and other in 
dividuals of nature ; nor again between men endowed 
with reason and those who are ignorant of true 
reason ; nor between fools, the insane, and the sound- 
minded. For whatever each thing does according 
to the laws of its own nature, it does by supreme 
right, and for the obvious reason that it is determined 
by nature, and cannot do otherwise. Wherefore 
among men, so long as they are considered as living 
under the dominion of nature alone, the one who is 

1 Eth. I, prop. 33, schol. 2, p. 65. C Kort. Verh., I, 
Cap. 7, p. 33. 

2 Trac. Polit., Cap. 4, 4. 


not yet acquainted with reason or has not yet ac 
quired the habit of virtue, exercises his supreme 
right when he lives according to his desires and im 
pulses alone, no less than does the rational man when 
he directs his life according to the principles of rea 
son. 5>1 "Hence whatever each one (regarded as 
under the dominion of nature alone) considers useful 
to himself, whether led by sound reason or impelled 
by his passions, he has a right, according to the su 
preme law of nature, to seek, and in any way, either 
by violence, or by craft, or by entreaties, or by any 
easier means, to obtain for himself." 2 To those who 
ask why God did not so create all men that they 
would conform to the dictates of reason, he consist 
ently replies that it is "because God did not lack 
material for creating all things from the lowest to 
the highest degree of perfection ; or, to speak more 
properly, because the laws of nature were so ample 
that they would suffice for producing all things con 
ceivable by a hypothetical infinite intellect." 3 

The difference between Spinoza and theistic writ 
ers who define rights from the standpoint of civil 
society, applying the term to what is promised or 
secured by government, is this: for Spinoza, who 
identifies "God" with nature, the individual is not 
responsible to a transcendent being; while for the 
theist, who posits a transcendent being to whom the 
individual is responsible, there must be, even in a 

1 Tractatus Theol.-Polit. Cap. 16, pp. 121-2. 

a lbid. p. 122. 

8 Eth. I, Appendix, p. 71. I have translated "aliquo 
infinite intellectu" by "hypothetical infinite intellect." 
The expression is evidence of what I have affirmed else 
where that Spinoza does not have a place for a real, in 
finite intellect in the sense of a unitary consciousness. 


state of nature (of anarchy), some limitations of 
natural might imposed by a divinely sanctioned 

Organized society exists, according to Spinoza, by 
virtue of the individual s surrender (either volun 
tary or compulsory) of his natural rights to a sov 
ereign power. The rights of the government thus 
constituted are co-extensive with its power. The 
possessors of sovereign authority are now the source 
of all rights and can do no wrong. They may fall 
short of what is wise, but never of what is right. 

When Spinoza says that all rights are dependent 
on the decree of the possessors of sovereign power, 
he expressly includes religious rights. 1 If it be 
asked: By what right, then, did the disciples of 
Christ preach a new religion? he answers that they 
did so by the power which they had received from 
Christ to perform miracles and to cast out unclean 
spirits ; and warns us not to follow their example, un 
less we have been accredited in the same way. 2 But 
as Spinoza does not believe in miracles, this means 
of course that no one can ever lay claim to the right 
of propagating a new religion; although wise rulers 
will, from motives of policy, allow the devotees of 
strange religions to practice the same in peace, and 
to build temples, provided these are small and are 
situated at some distance from one another. 3 But if 
the possessors of sovereign power are wicked, impious 
men, are they still to be the rightful interpreters of 
religion? This question is answered by another: 
What if ecclesiastics are wicked, or seditious ? If we 

1 Trac. Theol.-Polit., Cap. 19, p. 156. 

2 Trac. Theol.-Polit., Cap. 19, p. 16J.. 
8 Trac. Polit., Cap. 8, 46. 


are compelled to choose between the two, we may 
more safely commit the spiritual authority to tem 
poral rulers, whose private interests council modera 
tion and regard for the welfare of the state, than to 
the ministers of religion, who are too often inspired 
by a lust for power, and in any case recognize an 
authority above that of the state. 1 

This arrangement, Spinoza thinks, would be calcu 
lated to secure to citizens freedom of thought. For 
it is the ecclesiastics, controlling the civil authority, 
who have always been responsible for the persecution 
of scholars and thinkers. The civil authority as 
such, having no more interest in one metaphysical 
opinion than another, would have no occasion to in 
terfere with the freest scientific and philosophical 
investigations. Moreover, temporal rulers can more 
easily be convinced that it is extremely unwise to 
undertake to control the thinking of citizens, or to 
forbid the expression of opinion. 

Although the rights of rulers over religion are 
absolute, it is assumed that the actual control in a 
wise government will extend only so far as to secure 
the subjection of the ecclesiastical organization and 
to prevent factious controversies and religious per 
secutions. No temples, in a monarchy at least, are 
to be built from public funds, 2 and no laws are to be 
made in regard to religious opinions, however erratic 
and extravagant, unless they are seditious and tend 
to subvert the state. 3 But large religious assemblies 

1 Trac. Theol.-Polit., p. 163 et passim. 

2 Trac. Polit, Cap. 6, 40. 

3 This qualification would seem to open the door to 
religious persecutions again. 


should be prohibited as calculated to disturb the pub 
lic peace. 1 

In order to understand the earnestness with which 
Spinoza deals with the problem of church and state, 
we must remember that he lived at a time when 
European states were just emerging from the tyr 
anny of ecclesiastical usurpations, that the reformed 
churches often aspired to succeed in their respective 
countries to the authority of the Church of Rome, 
that they were engaged in intemperate controver 
sies, and that the Thirty Years War was fresh in his 
memory. In the United States of America the prob 
lem has been solved by a complete separation of 
church and state. But to Spinoza, a child of the 
Seventeenth Century, this solution did not occur as 
a possible one. 

His views on this subject concern us only in so 
far as they reveal his estimate of religion. Since 
religion, according to him, is to be subjected abso 
lutely to the government, and to be reduced to a 
mere instrument of civil society, 2 it possesses no ab 
solute worth. Morality, of course, is of supreme im 
portance to the state, but religion as such is a sort 
of necessary evil, to which government must adjust 
itself, necessary because most men are incurably 
ignorant and thoughtless, incapable of being guided 
by reason. One cult is as good as another, provided 
it teaches the masses respect for authority and other 
civil virtues. 

His view is further illustrated by his distinction 
between philosophy and theology. Between the two 

lf Trac. Polit, Cap. 8, 46. 

2 Trac. Theol.-Polit., Cap. XIX (Opera II, 159). 
Certum est, quod pietas erga Patriam summa sit, quam 
aliquis praestare potest. 


"there is no intercourse or affinity." 1 "The aim of 
philosophy is nothing except truth ; but that of faith 
is nothing except obedience [to the laws of society] 
and piety [social virtues]." 2 "Faith (theology, re 
ligion) does not require that dogmas be true, but 
that they be pious, i. e., such as move the soul to 
obedience, although among them there be very many 
which have not the shadow of truth." 3 

What the dogmas are which the average man 
needs to believe in order to be obedient, and which 
therefore are to be taught by the established religion, 
Spinoza has very clearly defined. They are none 
other than those about whose biblical authenticity 
and practical utility there is and can be no contro 
versy. As the aim of biblical writers is only to in 
culcate morality, we must rigidly exclude from the 
realm of dogma all statements "as to what God may 
be, whether fire or spirit, or light, or thought, etc." 4 
Such questions have no significance for practical 
life. To religion belong properly only those doc 
trines, "without a knowledge of which obedience 
[for the masses] is absolutely impossible." 5 They 
may be enumerated as follows: 

(1) "That God, i. e., a supreme being exists, in 
the highest degree just and merciful, the exemplar 
of the true life ; for whoever does not know or does 

ir Trac. Theolog.-Polit., Cap. XIV, p. 112. "inter 
Fidem sive Theologiam, et Philosophiam nullum esse 
commercium nullamve affinitatem." 

3 Ibid. Cf. Cap. XIX, . . . ."illos Dei verbi ministros 
esse, qui populum ex authoritate summarum potestatum 
piatatem decent, prout ipsa ex earum decreto publicae 
utilitati accommodata est." 

3 Op. cit. p. 109. 

4 Trac. Theol.-Polit., p. 111. 

5 Op. cit., p. 110. 


not believe that God exists is unable to obey Him, 
and cannot recognize Him as judge."* 

(2) "That he is one; for nobody can doubt that 
this also is absolutely required in order to produce 
supreme devotion, admiration, and love to God." 1 

(3) "That he is everywhere present, or that all 
things are open to his view. 2 

(4) "That he has supreme right and authority 
over all things, and does nothing under compulsion. " 
"For all are bound to obey him, but he is bound to 
obey no one." 3 

(5) "That the worship of God consists in justice 
and charity alone, or in love to one s neighbor." 4 

(6) "That all those, and those alone, who obey 
God by living this manner of life, are saved ; but the 
rest of mankind, who live under the dominion of 
their desires, are lost." 5 

(7) "Finally, that God forgives the sins of peni 
tents." 6 

That Spinoza here states a more wholesome and 
efficacious system of religious doctrine than is often 
promulgated under the seal of ecclesiastical au 
thority, will be claimed even by many religionists. 
That it is also sufficiently complete, containing all 
that is strictly essential to Christianity, if not more, 
would doubtless be maintained by not a few Chris 
tian writers of our day. But this circumstance 
should not cause us to mistake the position of Spi- 

* Trac. Theol.-Polit, p. 110. 

1 Ibid. 

2 Ibid. 

Op. cit., p. 111. 
4 Ibid. 
8 Ibid. 
8 Ibid. 


noza. The ideas formulated above represent, not 
Spinoza s own views, but what he finds to be the sub 
stance of biblical doctrine. He himself, as we have 
abundantly shown, rejects absolutely this entire 
point of view, and that not in form merely, but in 
substance. For him, of course, as well as for the 
theologian, the foregoing scheme consists of essential 
postulates of religion. The difference between the 
two is that the theologian regards them as truth, 
while Spinoza regards them as fiction, fiction that 
is salutary, of course, for those who do not know the 
truth, but fiction nevertheless. 

Nor should Spinoza s position be confounded with 
that of those religious teachers who claim for much 
Christian theology nothing more than approximate 
or symbolical truth. For these writers theology 
represents, in a certain, way and to a certain degree, 
objective reality, which eludes exact definition; for 
Spinoza, who thinks he has very definite knowledge 
of reality, theological conceptions are neither ap 
proximations to the truth nor symbols of it, but the 
utterly mistaken products of the "imagination." 

In connection with Spinoza s views of religion in 
its relation to the state, it is proper to notice what he 
has to say about oaths. In his opinion, men "will 
much more beware of committing prejury, if they 
are commanded to swear by the safety and liberty 
of the country, and by the supreme council, than if 
they are commanded to swear by God." 1 
Trac. Polit., Cap. 8, 48. 



1. Miracles. 

Spinoza s view of miracles may be inferred from 
the general characteristics of his philosophy, and, if 
it were not for certain enigmatical expressions yet 
to be noticed, it would scarcely be necessary to cite 
the language in which he specifically deals with the 
subject. "As nature preserves a fixed and immu 
table order," he says, "it most clearly follows that 
the word miracle is not intelligible except as rela 
tive to the opinions of men, and does not signify 
anything else than an operation, the natural cause of 
which we are not able to explain by the example 
of something else that is familiar." 1 "The masses 
call the unusual operations of nature miracles or 
works of God, and, partly from piety and partly 
from a desire to oppose the devotees of natural 
science, wish to know nothing of natural causes, and 
to hear only those things of which they are most 
ignorant and at which therefore they most wonder." 2 
"A miracle, whether understood as against nature or 
as above nature, is a mere absurdity." 3 

2. Revelation. 

The outline of Spinoza s views on this subject in 
cidentally given in the previous chapter requires to 

1 Trac. Theol.-Polit., Cap. VI (Opera II, p. 25). 

2 Opus cit., Cap. VI (Opera II, p. 23). 

3 Opus cit., Cap. VI (Opera II, p. 28). 


be filled out with further details. The chief source 
from which we must learn these is the "Theologico- 
Political Treatise." This work, as we have seen, 
possesses certain peculiarities which must be con 
stantly borne in mind. Its fundamental aim is to 
provide a modus vivendi for religion and philosophy ; 
and that chiefly by means of a critical examination 
of the Scriptures. On the whole, it is written in a 
conciliatory spirit, and, while thoroughly uncompro 
mising as regards essentials, shows a disposition to 
adopt, as often as possible, the Scripture or theolog 
ical point of view. In fact, he professes to draw his 
conclusions from biblical data alone. 1 But as this 
irksome and impractical limitation is as often trans 
gressed as it is observed, the work represents dif 
ferent standpoints by turns, often passing abruptly 
from one to the other, or even blending the two at 
once. When denned from his own point of view, a 
given conception will be treated as false ; when from 
that of the Scripture writers, as true. This circum 
stance, together with Spinoza s general propensity 
to accommodation, has occasioned the most extraordi 
nary misunderstanding of his fundamental attitude 
toward religion, especially on the part of those who, 
without mastering his philosophy, have been satis 
fied to base their judgments on isolated passages 
from the " Theologico-Political Treatise. " 

" Revelation or Prophecy he defines as "sure 
knowledge of anything revealed by God to man"; 
and a prophet as "one who interprets the revela 
tions of God to those who are unable to have a siire 
knowledge of the things revealed and therefore can 

Praefatio (Opera I, 353). 


only apprehend them by simple faith." 1 Revela 
tion then is made to the prophet, and he explains it 
to his less favored fellows, who receive it on his bare 
authority. The definition of revelation, taken in 
its broadest sense, would include, as Spinoza ob 
serves, all scientific truth, inasmuch as all knowl 
edge, like everything else, is from "God." Con 
sistently the definition of prophet also would in 
clude those learned persons who explain to the un 
learned the results of scientific studies, though 
Spinoza does not expressly draw this inference. 2 He 
is concerned, of course, with revelation and prophets 
in the theological sense only. The terms are applied 
to the writings and writers of both Testaments, al 
though his illustrations are generally taken from the 
Jewish Scriptures. 

The substance of his thoughts the prophet may 
acquire by reading the law of Moses or the 
utterances of other prophets, 3 and, it would 
seem, in any way whatever, except by exact thinking. 
Except by exact thinking, we say ; for, if the prophet 
attained his knowledge in this way, he would no 
longer be a prophet, but a philosopher. In the man 
ner of acquiring his knowledge, therefore, the pro 
phet does not enjoy any advantage over men in gen 
eral. He may be better and more intelligent than 
most of his fellows (in fact this much of preeminence 
we are compelled to ascribe to those prophets whose 
writings have been included in the canon) ; but he 
has no peculiar source or means of knowledge. 

1 Trac. Theol.-Polit., Cap. I (Opera I, p. 357). 
8 In a note he even rejects this inference. Cf. Op. cit., 
note 2. 

3 Opera cit. (Opera II, p. 373). 


Spinoza says, to be sure, that such scriptural lan 
guage as "the Spirit of the Lord was upon him" 
etc. means that the prophets " possessed a singular 
and extraordinary power (virtutem)," as well as 
piety; and "that they perceived the mind and 
thought of God." But it is to be observed that he 
is here interpreting Scripture by Scripture, and that 
what he gives is the assumption of Scripture and not 
his own opinion. Moreover, he is careful to explain 
in a note that, even according to Scripture, this ex 
traordinary power was not superhuman, i. e., not 
anything beyond man s ordinary faculties. His own 
view, here as generally, may be found by translating 
the language in which he states the assumption of 
Scripture into terms of his philosophy. It could 
then be expressed as follows: The piously disposed 
prophet, when his imagination becomes excited and 
he prophesies, will declare things in harmony with 
"justice and charity." And the doctrine of justice 
and charity, which is the only essential element of 
biblical theology, is also the teaching of reason. On 
account of its practical utility and its suitableness to 
the conditions of human life, i. e., on account of its 
correspondence with reality, it may be called, in an 
accommodated sense, the mind and thought of God, 
though properly speaking, God has no mind and no 
thoughts. 1 

The distinguishing characteristic of "revelation" 
as applied to biblical writers, we should not for 
get that all ideas, true and false, good and bad must 

1 Mr. Pollock ("Spinoza," 2d ed., p. 336) seems to 
think Spinoza possibly ascribes a peculiar "insight" to 
the Prophets. I can find no evidence that Spinoza has 
been guilty of the inconsistency of attributing any in 
sight to the "imagination." 


in one sense be " revelations," lies not in its sub 
stance, but in its form and in the peculiar kind of 
certainty with which it is accompanied. From the 
Scriptures it appears that a prophet s certainty was 
based on one or more of three things: (1) the vivid 
ness with which he conceived his thoughts; (2) the 
presence of a sign, i. e., sensuous manifestation of 
some kind, which, however, may be shown even from 
scripture data to have been in every case, except 
that of Moses, a subjective creation of the imagina 
tion, an hallucination;* and (3) the prophet s con 
sciousness of disinterested devotion to what is right 
and good. 1 Accordingly prophecy always bears the 
personal characteristics of the prophet. One en 
dowed with a cheerful disposition prophesied " vic 
tories, peace and events which make men glad;" if 
melancholy, "war, massacres and calamities"; if 
they were countrymen, they had visions of oxen, 
cows and the like; if soldiers, they saw generals 
and armies; if courtiers, a royal throne; if they be 
lieved that man acted from free choice, they repre 
sented God as ignorant of future human actions. 2 

Spinoza s recognition of "the human factor" in 
prophecy will not be mistaken, of course, for that 
which goes by this name in traditional theology. 
According to theology, there is, in addition to the hu 
man factor, a divine, supernatural factor; for Spi 
noza all is human. He admits nothing supernatural ; 
and his explanation of "revelation" must not be 
understood as inconsistent with his philosophy. A 
revelation consists simply of the prophet s own 

* Trac. Theol.-Polit., Cap. I (Opera I, 359). 
l Trac. Theol.-Polit., Cap. II (Opera I, p. 373). 
"Opera I, p. 373 and ft. 


thoughts, and is from ( i God only in the sense that 
the prophet himself is God, i. e., a part of nature. 1 
The only thing that distinguishes a so-called revela 
tion from any other undemonstrated opinion is the 
circumstance that the prophet, because of the vivid 
ness of his imagination, becomes subjectively sure 
of his. But subjective assurance is not objec 
tive certainty. In fact, to say that prophecy is a 
function of the "imagination" is, for Spinoza, the 
same as to say it is often positively erroneous. 2 We 
need not be surprised, therefore, to find that the 
revelation to Solomon concerning the temple con 
tained the mistaken assumption that the ratio be 
tween the circumference and the diameter of a circle 
is exactly as three to one. 3 Moreover, there are, as 
may be shown from scripture, false prophets as well 
as true prophets; both alike may be accredited 
with signs and miracles. 4 The messages even of the 
false prophet are in one sense "revelations" from 
"God"; for God sometimes deceives men with false 
revelations. 5 As prophecy lacks the validity that 
characterizes clear thinking, its value in any partic 
ular case must be measured by its agreement with 
rational knowledge (including sound moral prin 
ciples) and with facts. For two of the grounds of 
the prophet s own certainty constitute the grounds 
upon which other men are justified in accepting his 
"revelation," namely, (1) the presence of a sign. 

1 This is the only meaning, when stated in terms of 
his philosophy, of Spinoza s words, "Deum revelationes 
captui et opinionibus prophetarum accommodavisse." 
Opera I, 383. 

3 Opera I, 376. 

3 Trac. Theol.-Polit., Cap. II (Opera I, 377). 

4 Opus cit., Cap. II (Opera I, 373). 
Opus cit., Cap. II (Opera I, p. 372). 


and (2) the piety of the prophet, or rather, as he 
now puts it, the soundness of his doctrine. 1 But the 
sign in this case must be understood as a "true" 
sign, i. e., as the circumstance that the revelation 
turns out to be true. 2 Hence the "pious and elect" 
will never be misled, 3 at least as regards what is es 
sential (practical morality) ; for rightmindedness, 
we may suppose, will instinctively revolt against 
whatever is morally unsound. Prophecy never ren 
dered the prophets wiser, but left them in their 
previous opinions." 4 "They taught nothing special 
about the divine attributes, and held quite vulgar 
notions about God." 5 

On account of the conciliatory aim of the "Theo- 
logico-Political Treatise" and Spinoza s oft-ex 
pressed wish to interpret Scripture by Scripture, his 
use of language in an accommodated sense in this 
work is occasionally so extraordinary that he seems 
expressly to contradict the views we have just de 
fined. It is to be regretted that eminent writers on 
philosophy, sacrificing the scientific spirit to caste 
feeling, prejudice, mistaken "politeness," "good 
taste," or what not, have arbitrarily minimized or 
ignored Spinoza s accommodation, and have felt 
obliged to take these contradictions seriously. One 
of the passages which have been pronounced enig 
matical is the following: 

"If we go through the sacred books, we shall see that 
all things which God revealed to the prophets were re- 

1 Opus cit., Cap. XV (Opera II, p. 118). Signo et 

2 Opus cit., Cap. II (Opera I, p. 373). 
8 Opus cit., Cap. II (Opera I, p. 372). 
*Trac. Theol.-Polit., Cap. II (Opera I, p. 376). 
6 Ibid. 


vealed to them either by words, or by appearances 
(flguris), or by words and appearances together. But 
the words, and also the appearances, were either (1) 
true and outside the imagination of the prophet who 
heard or saw them, or (2) imaginary, because the imag 
ination of the prophet was so disposed by watching that 
he clearly seemed to hear words or to see something. 
With a real voice God revealed to Moses the laws which 
he wished to be prescribed for the Hebrews, as appears 
from Ex. XXV, 22, where God says, And there I will 
meet with thee, and I will speak with thee from that part 
of the mercy seat which is between the two cherubim. 
Which shows indeed that God employed some sort of 
real voice; for Moses found God ready to speak to him 
whenever he (Moses) desired." 1 

In close connection with this passage occurs an 
other of similar tenor: 

"In the opinion of some Jews the words of the Deca 
logue were not pronounced by God, but the Israelites 
heard only a noise, but no articulate words, and during 
its continuance apprehended the laws of the Decalogue 
with their minds only. And this I also once suspected; 
for I saw that the words of the Decalogue in Exodus 
vary from those in Deuteronomy; from which it seems 
to follow (since God spoke but once) that the Decalogue 
did not mean to teach the very words of God, but only 
his meaning. But unless we would do violence to 
Scripture, it must be granted without reservation that 
the Israelites heard a real voice; for Scripture (Deut. 
V, 4) says expressly, "God spake with you face to face, 
etc." 2 

In these passages, contrary to the whole tenor of 
his philosophy and to the emphatic repudiation 
of miracles, Spinoza seems to recognize the reality of 
miraculous revelations. But that the apparent con 
tradiction is to be explained by his accommodation to 

*Trac. Theol.-Polit., Cap. I (Opera I, p. 359). 
3 Ibid. (Opera p. 360.) 


a standpoint not his own is rendered unquestionable 
in this case by Spinoza s express warning in the chap 
ter on miracles: 

"Before finishing this chapter, I wish to give notice 
that in regard to miracles I have proceeded according 
to a different method from that employed in speaking 
of prophecy. Of prophecy I have affirmed nothing ex 
cept what I have been able to conclude from grounds 
revealed in the Holy Scriptures, but here I have deduced 
the chief points from the principles known only by the 
natural light of reason." 1 

This is tantamount to saying that, when treating of 
prophecy, he endeavored to ascertain what the Bible 
really teaches on this subject, and accommodated 
himself to the theological point of view; but, when 
treating of miracles, he spoke from the standpoint of 
reason (his own standpoint), and stated what he him 
self conceived to be the truth. 

With reference to the means (other than the nat 
ural light of reason) by which God reveals things to 
men, Spinoza says: " Whatever can be said concern 
ing these must be concluded from Scripture. For 
what can we say about things exceeding the limita 
tions of our mind, except that which is told to us by 
the mouths or pens of the prophets themselves ? And 
since today, so far as I know, we have no prophets, 
there remains for us no alternative but to examine 
the books left to us by the prophets of old. 2 What 

ir Trac. Theol.-Polit., Cap VI (Opera II, p. 35). In 
view of this explicit warning that Spinoza s language 
concerning prophecy does not always express his own 
views, I am unable to understand the detail and caution 
with which Mr. Pollock brings himself to concede that 
"It is extremely difficult to believe that this [the real 
voice] really commended itself to Spinoza." ("Spinoza," 
2d Ed., p. 335.) 

2 Trac. Theol.-Polit., Cap. I (Opera I, p. 358). 


he meant by this is not clear. Probably it was only 
his way of saying that, in order to determine what 
prophecy assumes to be, we have no other way at the 
present time than to study the Scriptures. But how 
ever difficult it may be to understand what he did 
mean, if anything, it is not difficult, in the light of 
his total thought, to understand what he did not 
mean. It is certain he did not mean to recognize a 
supernatural revelation. In this connection, it is 
well to remember the warning of Ludwig Meyer. 
Spinoza s confidant, in the preface of the Meta 
physical Thoughts," that when Spinoza says "This 
or that is beyond the reach of the human mind," 
he is not speaking "according to his own way of 
thinking." 1 

When Spinoza professes not to know by what 
particular "laws of nature" the prophets perceived 
through words and sensuous forms, "whether real 
or imaginary," "the revelations of God," 2 he prob 
ably means he will not undertake to determine what 
special conditions existed among the Hebrews that 
gave rise to the "prophetic" exercise of the imagina 
tion there, but not elsewhere; or possibly, that he 
will not undertake, by analysis of the imagination, 
to show how it happened, in the case of the prophets, 
generally to hit upon ethical truth. 

As Spinoza does not concede to revelation as such 
any certainty that may be depended on, it would seem 
hard for him to justify obedience to it. He deals 
with the difficulty in a passage that is worth quoting 
at length: 

1 Renati Des Cartes Prin. Phil., Praefatio. Opera III, 
p. 112. 

Trac. Theol.-Polit., Cap. I (Opera I, p. 369). 


"But since the fundamental assumption of theology, 
that men may be saved by obedience alone, cannot be 
demonstrated by reason, whether it be true or false, 
the objection may be raised, Why, then, do we believe 
it? If we accept it blindly without the warrant of reason, 
we act foolishly, senselessly. But if, on the other hand, 
we maintain that this basal assumption is demonstrable 
by reason, theology will become a part of philosophy, 
and will be inseparable therefrom. To this I reply that 
I maintain without qualification that this fundamental 
dogma of theology cannot be discovered by the natural 
light of reason, or at least that no one has ever succeeded 
in proving it, and therefore that revelation has been in 
the highest degree necessary; but nevertheless we may 
so use our judgment as to accept with moral certainty 
at least the revelation when once it has appeared (id 
jam revelatum). With moral certainty, I say; for we 
may not expect to be more certain in regard to it than 
were the prophets themselves to whom it was first re 
vealed, whose certainty was nothing more than moral, 
as we have shown. . . . 

For this reason alone we are bound to believe in the 
Scriptures, that is in the prophets themselves, namely, 
because their doctrine is sound and is confirmed by 
signs. For since we see that the prophets commend 
above all things justice and charity, and aim at nothing 
else, we conclude that they taught with no deceit, but 
with conviction, the doctrine that men may become blessed 
through obedience and faith; and since further they 
confirmed their teachings with signs, we are persuaded 
they did not speak at random and did not rave (delirare) 
when they prophesied. In this belief we are still further 
strengthened when we observe that they taught nothing 
in morals which does not fully agree with reason; for it 
is not by chance that the word of God in the Prophets 
harmonizes completely with the word of God that speaks 
within us. And these things, I say, we conclude from 
the Scriptures as certainly as did the Jews formerly from 
the living voice of the Prophets. For we have shown 
above that Scripture, as regards doctrine and the princi 
pal narratives, has come to our hands unfalsified. Where- 


fore the above-mentioned fundamental assumption of 
theology and Scripture, although it cannot be proved by 
a mathematical demonstration, may nevertheless be ac 
cepted with sound judgment. It would be folly to re 
fuse merely for this reason to accept what is confirmed 
by the testimony of so many Prophets, and brings great 
consolation to those who are not very strong in under 
standing, and is of much advantage to the state, and 
which may be believed with absolutely no risk or 
hurt. . . . 

Now before passing on to speak of other things I 
wish expressly to give notice (as indeed I have already 
done) that I hold the utility and necessity of the Holy 
Scriptures, or Revelation, to be very great. For since we 
are not able to perceive by the natural light of reason 
that simple obedience is a way of salvation, but are 
taught by Revelation alone that, by the singular grace 
of God, this happens; it follows that the Scriptures have 
brought very great consolation to mortals. Absolutely 
all men can obey, and there are only extremely few, 
compared with the whole human race, who acquire the 
habit of virtue by the guidance of reason: and so, if we 
did not have this testimony of the Scriptures, we should 
doubt of the salvation of nearly all men." 1 

This remarkable passage, apparently contradict 
ing not only what Spinoza has been at great pains to 
establish elsewhere in this same work, but also the 
whole trend and spirit of his philosophy, has 
been thought to present difficulties of sufficient 
magnitude to raise the question whether after all 
Spinoza did not accept, in some degree or in some 
sense, a supernatural revelation. It has been treated 
as representing "an unexplained gap between the 
rationalizing criticism of the Theologico-Political 
Treatise, which goes a long way, but refuses to go 
all lengths, and the thorough-going speculation of the 

l Trac. Theol.-Polit, Cap. XV (Opera II, pp. 117-120). 


1 Ethics. " At the same time it is admitted that " dif 
ference of dates will not account for it, since we know 
that Spinoza s philosophy was matured long before 
the Theologico-Political Treatise was published." 1 
And again it is said, "The words are express and 
even emphatic; and we have no right to sacrifice 
Spinoza s good faith to the dogma of his rigid consist 
ency, which has arisen from attaching exaggerated 
importance to the geometrical form used in the 
1 Ethics. " 2 

This position we can but regard as unscientific in 
spirit and mistaken in fact. It is unscientific in 
spirit, because the reference to Spinoza s good faith 
shows a disposition to determine the meaning and 
character of Spinoza s writings by applying as a test 
an arbitrary conception of Spinoza s personality, in 
stead of examining without prepossessions the writ 
ings themselves. Of Spinoza s personality we can, in 
fact, have very little certain knowledge before we 
have studied what and how he has written. 

We would not seem to admit, however, that to 
recognize Spinoza s frequent use of language in an 
accommodated sense is to impeach his "good faith." 
So seriously it need not be taken. Spinoza sincerely 
believed that all that is of any value in religion, its 
ethical content, could be established as necessary 
truth by an atheistic philosophy; or, what amounts 
to the same thing, that his atheistic philosophy 
could be stated in terms of religion with sufficient 
success to convince the philosophical mind that for 
practical life they have the same value. At the same 
time he hoped, by making this clear, to disarm belli- 

1 Sir F. Pollock, "Spinoza," etc., 2d Ed., p. 339. 

2 Sir F. Pollock, Opus cit., p. 338. 


cose theologians, or at least to put them at a serious 
disadvantage. In order effectually to attain this 
secondary end, he sometimes (perhaps influenced by 
the example of certain Jewish commentators) carried 
his accommodation to a length that renders his 
language difficult to translate completely into terms 
of his philosophy. In so far as this is true, it is im 
possible, of course, to acquit Spinoza of the charge of 
sometimes saying what he does not mean. 1 Every 
fair-minded student of his writings must frankly 
acknowledge as much. But a part of this extreme 
accommodation is doubtless to be understood as a 
sort of quiet irony, and the rest, in view of Spinoza s 
environment, would better not be called by so harsh 
a name as bad faith. It is rather excessive tact. 

As to the dogma of rigid consistency," we would 
observe that there are two senses in which consist 
ency as applied to Spinoza may be understood; in 
one sense it is true, and in another sense it is mis 
taken. If it means that his argumentation is excep 
tionally free from logical contradictions, it is a mere 
prejudice given currency by superficial students of 
his writings. Probably no other great philosopher 
has committed so many serious mistakes of logic, or 
has held so many conceptions that are mutually in 
compatible. There is one sense, however, in which 
Spinoza is an example of almost, perhaps quite, un 
precedented consistency: his thinking moves on a 
plane far above emotional interests, deference to 

1 In the light of Spinoza s doctrine of the "imagina 
tion," what else can be said of such language as this: 
"Since the Prophets perceived revelations by the aid of 
the imagination, they were doubtless able to perceive 
many things lying beyond the boundaries of reason." 
Trac. Theol.-Polit., Cap. I (Opera I, p. 370). 


authority, and all other extra-logical considerations, 
He is disposed to view all things in the dry light of 
reason, and hence to follow his premises directly to 
their ultimate consequences, however radical and 
ruthless these consequences may appear. He has no 
patience with half -measures. Now it is Spinoza s con 
sistency in this sense, his thoroughness, that is ques 
tioned in the case before us. 

And not only this. In view of the fact that the 
"Ethics" and the " Theologico-Political Treatise" 
are contemporaneous products of his mind, it is 
especially the consistency of his fundamental per 
sonal attitude that is questioned; for it is assumed 
that at the same stage in his development he was the 
uncompromising champion of Naturalism and the de 
fender of Supernaturalism, contending along with 
the theologians for the necessity of "revelation" and 
trying to prove its authority. Thus, to ignore 
Spinoza s accommodation and to take at face value 
his language in the passage quoted, would require 
us to suppose that he could assume two fundamental 
attitudes at the same time, that he could simultane 
ously face both east and west. As this is impossible, 
we are compelled to assume that one attitude was 
real and the other assumed. That his real one is 
represented by the "Ethics," we can not doubt. It 
is therefore the duty of interpretation to bring this 
passage, if possible, into harmony with Naturalism. 
The problem before us is simply that of translating 
his language into terms of his philosophy. 

We notice first some single expressions. When 
Spinoza mentions "signs" as one of the grounds 
upon which our acceptance of "revelation" is justi 
fied, he evidently means, not signs in general (for, 


as he observes in this connection, false prophets con 
firmed their messages with signs and wonders) 
but "true" signs, i. e., verifiable signs. And the 
only signs he mentions as not being the common pos 
session of both false and true prophets are true pre 
dictions. 1 For Spinoza, therefore, the only signs pos 
sessing any credential value are predictions of events 
that come to pass. But these predictions may not 
be regarded as based on either miraculous foresight 
or on such rational insight as carries with it abso 
lute certainty. Presumably they are based on a 
knowledge of life gained through practical experi 
ence, and hence, in so far as they turn out to be true, 
they are proof, though only "moral," probable 
proof, that the prophet is a trustworthy guide in 
matters of practical life. It is consistent with this 
that what the "signs" are said to prove is only that 
the prophets did not speak "at random" and did not 
"rave" when they prophesied. However liable the 
uncritical reader may be to find in Spinoza s "signs" 
a meaning harmonizing with traditional theology, 
the meaning for Spinoza turns out, when sifted, to 
be nothing more than what we have defined. The 
signum et doctrina, therefore, which he designates as 
the grounds upon which men of his generation may 
accept the authority of Scripture writers are only 
(1) evidence of practical wisdom, and (2) sound 
ness of moral teachings. 

The expression "word of God speaking in us," it 
is hardly necessary to observe, should not be mis 
taken for an innate moral or "spiritual" sense, nor 
for the "witness of the Spirit," nor for anything of 

1 Trac. Theol.-Polit., Cap. VI and XV (Opera, Vol. II, 
pp. 28 and 118). 


this kind. For Spinoza it means the human reason 
and the moral principles which reason can show to 
be necessary truths. 

Taking now the whole passage together, and trans 
lating it into terms of Spinoza s philosophy, his 
thought may be freely expressed as follows: That 
obedience" by faith to precepts promulgated on 
authority brings salvation (happiness and well- 
being), is the assumption of every prophet and of 
" revealed religion" as a whole. But this assump 
tion cannot be proved by reason, i.e., it is not neces 
sarily true ; for it cannot be admitted as universally 
valid. If followed unconditionally, it would bind us 
blindly to obey the first man claiming authority; 
and would therefore bring us to perdition, more 
frequently than to salvation. The only universally 
safe and valid principle is to commit ourselves to 
the guidance of reason, i. e., to adopt those maxims 
which are necessary truth. But when the assump 
tion that faith and obedience lead to happiness and 
well-being is made by the Scriptures, it is not as a 
universal, but as a particular, proposition. What is 
meant is obedience by faith to those particular 
scriptures which the moral consciousness of the race 
has selected from among others and has included 
in the canon. In this case the assumption is one 
which we may allow to pass, (1) because we see in 
the Scriptures evidence that the writers were men of 
practical wisdom, and (2) because their teaching, 
"justice and charity," is in harmony with that of 
reason. Although these arguments are not mathe 
matical demonstrations, they are quite sufficient 
(1) to justify in accepting and obeying the Scrip 
tures those who cannot see moral principles as neces- 


sary truths, and (2) to obligate philosophers to 
support religion for the benefit of such persons; 
especially as faith in the Bible affords great comfort 
to many, and as obedience to its general moral 
teaching does not involve risks and is even posi 
tively advantageous to the state. It would indeed be 
a great misfortune, if all men were required to dis 
cover moral truths each for himself ; for, as compara 
tively few possess the power of exact and independ 
ent thinking, the majority of men would go astray. 

This is the utmost that Spinoza s language could 
have meant for him. That for many readers it 
would probably mean more, he must have foreseen. 

We are now in a position to estimate correctly 
Spinoza s words in a letter to Blyenbergh, where he 
professes to believe "all things which God has re 
vealed to the Prophets," and that the Prophets were 
"intimate confidents and trusted ambassadors of 
God." 1 The thought in his own mind which he 
chose thus to clothe, (or to mask), in theological 
phraseology, was simply this: "I believe the prac 
tice of justice and charity to be of the highest ad 
vantage to men. 

Spinoza s "Theologico-Political Treatise," from 
which we have had occasion to quote so copiously in 
connection with this subject, contains many seed- 
thoughts which have borne fruit in the field of theol 
ogy. It is a remarkable case of an atheist s making 
valuable contributions to divinity. But here is not 
the place for a detailed account of his influence on 
theology. It is proper only to point out more ex- 
plicity how Spinoza s doctrine of "revelation" is re 
lated to any religious doctrine of the same. 

1 Epis. 21 (olim 34); Opera II, pp. 281-2. 


With the traditional theological conception of rev 
elation as a supernatural communication of truth 
otherwise inaccessible to human knowledge, Spino 
za s teaching has of course nothing at all in common. 
What he finds to be the essential part of "revela 
tion," its ethical content, is better discovered by 
reason, and was discovered by the sacred writers 
only by a sort of happy conjecture. 

Liberal religionists who do not recognize the 
special authority of any one religion sometimes per 
mit themselves to apply the term "revelation" to 
the system of "truth" which the general religious 
consciousness, through experience under the correct 
ive influence of rational criticism, has wrought out 
for itself in the course of human history. Such 
writers are in a measure consistent, inasmuch as 
the doctrines in question are assumed to have been 
learned under Divine Providence as the teacher of 
the race. But even this sort of revelation is sepa 
rated toto coelo from Spinoza s by its metaphysical 

It has both a different content and a different 
source. Spinoza s contains no metaphysical ele 
ments of recognized validity, its only valuable part 
consisting of practical moral precepts; according to 
liberal religionists the common metaphysical postu 
lates of religion embodied in that which they call 
revelation are valid. Spinoza traces his "revela 
tion" back through the fallible operations of the in 
ferior faculties of the human mind to a blind and in 
sensible necessity; liberal religionists conceive their 
revelation as the acquisition of the human soul 
through its worthiest organs under the guidance of 
a living, personal Spirit. 


In one important particular Spinoza s biblical 
criticism differs from all that of the present day, 
whether conservative or radical ; it takes no account 
of historical development in either religion or morals. 
Nowadays it has become the universal mental habit 
to view all particular facts as moments in a process 
of development. On this account even conservative 
biblical critics may unhesitatingly accept many of 
Spinoza s conclusions in regard to particular points, 
frankly recognizing the existence of biblical errors, 
and still contend that the Bible as a whole contains 
a bona fide divine revelation. For Spinoza who 
never thought of historical development, this would 
have been impossible, even if his metaphysics had 

3. Jesus Christ. 

The doctrines held by orthodox Christianity con 
cerning Jesus, Spinoza cannot of course accept. In 
one place, to be sure, he says he neither affirms nor 
denies them, since he is unable to understand them. 1 
But this statement, which occurs in the ( * Theologico- 
Political Treatise," means only that he did not wish 
in that place to express himself definitely on the 
subject. His mind is revealed more fully in a letter 
to Oldenburg, where he says the churches which 
teach that in Jesus "God assumed human nature" 
"seem to speak no less absurdly than he who should 
say that a circle may put on the nature of a 
square." 1 As might be anticipated, therefore, he 
regarded Jesus as a mere man. The supernatural 
factors in Christ s life as related in the New Testa- 

1 Trac. Theol.-Polit., Cap. I (Opera I, p. 363). 
s Epis. 73 (olim 21). 


ment are explained away or allegorized. What he 
says of the resurrection is of special interest on ac 
count of its substantial agreement with the explana 
tions of certain more modern critics. He expresses 
himself as follows: 

"My opinion on miracles I have sufficiently explained 
in the Theologico-Political Treatise. Here I add only 
this: if you note these circumstances, namely that Christ 
appeared neither to the Elders, nor to Pilate, nor to any 
of the unbelievers, but only to the saints; that God has 
neither right hand nor left hand and is not in any one 
place, but is in essence present everywhere, that matter 
is everywhere the same, that God does not manifest 
himself in a fancied space outside the world, and finally 
that the human frame is restrained within due bounds 
by the weight of the air alone, you will easily see that 
this appearance of Christ was not unlike that by which 
God appeared to Abraham when the latter saw men whom 
he invited to dine with him. But, you will say, all the 
Apostles surely believed that Christ rose from the dead 
and really ascended into heaven; which I do not deny. 
For Abraham also believed that God had dined with him, 
and all the Israelites believed that God, enveloped in 
fire, descended from heaven to Mount Sinai and directly 
spoke to them; whereas these apparitions or revelations, 
and many others like them, were accommodated to the 
understanding and opinions of those men to whom 
God willed to reveal thereby his mind. I conclude there 
fore that the resurrection of Christ from the dead was 
in fact spiritual, revealed to the faithful alone, and to 
them according to their understanding; amounting to 
this, that Christ was endowed with eternity and rose 
from the dead ( dead I use in the sense in which Christ 
used the word when he said, Let the dead bury their 
dead ), in that he gave in his life and death an exam 
ple of singular holiness; and he raises his disciples from 
the dead in so far as they follow the example of his life 
and death." 1 

Epis. 75 (olim 23). 


From this it is sufficiently clear that, in Spinoza s 
opinion, Christ s resurrection was an illusion, but 
that for the edification of believers it may with 
propriety be treated allegorically. Observe that, ac 
cording to Spinoza, Christ s real resurrection is 
nothing else than his " singular holiness." When 
encountering such language as "to whom God willed 
to reveal His mind," unsuspecting readers, they 
will pardon our frequent repetition of the warning 
should beware lest they understand more than 
Spinoza means. It is a case of accommodation to 
the theological point of view. It must not be forgot 
ten that for Spinoza himself there exists no divine 
"will" and no divine "mind," and hence no "God" 
either, the word signifying in his vocabulary nothing 
more than impersonal thought and extension. 

But if Spinoza could not accept any of the super- 
naturalism with which the Christian church has al 
ways colored its conception of Christ, he was able 
nevertheless to speak of Him in words of high ap 
preciation. Jesus was, in any view, so unique and 
commanding a personality that all respectable 
writers, of whatever school of thought, have unhesi 
tatingly accorded him sincere and profound respect. 
Spinoza was too sane and too fair-minded a man to 
be able to do less. In fact his interest in ethical truth, 
if nothing else, could not permit him to be indifferent 
to a teacher whose moral influence has been an im 
portant factor in human history. From the lan 
guage he employs in speaking of him, it is apparent 
that to Spinoza s own mind there was always present 
the distinction, so familiar nowadays, between the 
ecclesiastical and the historic Christ. Just where. 
in regard to Christ s moral eminence, he drew the 


line that separates fact from idealization, it is im 
possible to determine; for, in his references to him, 
there is always an uncertain amount of accommoda 
tion to Christian thought and feeling. As throw 
ing some light on this question, we quote from 
the "Theologico-Political Treatise" the following 
tangled paragraphs, which contain Spinoza s fullest 
account of Christ, italicizing the expressions that 
require special scrutiny: 

"In the Holy Scriptures I find no other means [than 
words and appearances] by which God has communicated 
with men; and hence, as we have shown above, no others 
are to be invented or admitted. And although we clearly 
understand that God can communicate with us immedi 
ately, for without any physical means he communicates 
his essence to our minds [i. e., reality s fundamental 
characters, thought and extension, are contained in our 
ordinary knowledge] ; yet that any man should simply 
by his mind perceive things not contained in the first 
principles of our knoicledge and not deducible therefrom, his 
mind would necessarily have to be superior, far sur 
passing human intelligence. Wherefore I do not believe 
that any one else has attained to such perfection above 
others except Christ, to whom God s ordinances which 
lead men to salvation were revealed, not by words and 
visions, but immediately: so that God manifested him 
self to the Apostles by the mind of Christ, as he did 
formerly to Moses by means of a voice in the air. So 
the voice of Christ, like that which Moses heard, may 
be called the voice of God. And in this sense we may 
also say that the wisdom of God, i. e., superhuman wisdom, 
assumed human nature in Christ; and that Christ was 

the way of salvation But here I must give warning 

that those things which certain churches assert concerning 
Christ I neither affirm nor deny; for I freely confess 
that I do not understand them. What I have just affirmed, I 
gather from the Scriptures themselves. For I do not read 
anywhere that God appeared to Christ or spoke to him, 


but that by Christ God was revealed to the Apostles, 
that Christ is the way of salvation, and finally that the 
old law was delivered through angels, and not immedi 
ately by God. Wherefore, if Moses spoke face to face 
with God, as a man to his fellow (that is, by means of 
two bodies), Christ communicated with God mind to 
mind." 1 

To this ought to be added a passage taken from 
another chapter of the same work: 

"Therefore he [Moses] perceived all these things, 
not as eternal truths, but, as precepts and ordinances, 
and prescribed them as laws of God; and hence it hap 
pened that he imagined God as a ruler, as a legislator, 
as a king, as merciful, as just, etc., notwithstanding that 
all these are only predicates of human nature, and are 
absolutely foreign to the divine nature. But this, I 
say, is to be affirmed only in regard to the Prophets, who 
laid down laws in the name of God, and not in regard 
to Christ; for in regard to Christ, although he too seems 
to have laid down laws in the name of God, it is to 
be supposed that he perceived tilings truly and adequately: 
for Christ was not so much a prophet as the very mouth 
of God; since, as we showed in chapter I., God revealed 
certain things to mankind through the mind of Christ, 
as he did previously through angels, i. e., through a 
created voice, visions, etc. Wherefore to hold that God 
accommodated his revelations to the opinions of Christ 
would be just as unreasonable as to say that formerly, 
in order to communicate to the Prophets the things to 
be revealed, God accommodated his revelations to the 
opinions of angels, i. e., of a created voice and of visions. 
It would be impossible to say anything more absurd than 
this; especially as Christ was sent to teach, not the Jews 
only, but the whole human race; and so it was not suf 
ficient that he should possess a mind accommodated to 
the opinions of the Jews only, but it was necessary that 
he should have one accommodated to the universal 
opinions and norms of mankind, i. e., to the notions 

*Trac. Theol.-Polit. Cap. I (Opera I, pp. 362-3). 


that are common to all and are true. 1 And indeed from 
the circumstance, that God revealed himself immediately 
to Christ, or to Christ s mind, and not, as he did to the 
Prophets, through words and appearances, we can infer 
nothing else than that Christ truly perceived or under 
stood the things revealed; for it is when a thing is per 
ceived by the mind alone, without outward words and 
images, that it is understood. Christ, then, perceived 
truly and adequately the matters revealed, and if he ever 
prescribed them as laws, he did so on account of the 
ignorance and pertinacity of the people. He thus acted the 
part of God, inasmuch as he accommodated himself to the 
understanding of the people, and hence, although speaking 
somewhat more clearly than the Prophets, he very often 
taught obscurely and in parables the matters revealed; 
especially when addressing those to whom it was not 
yet given to understand the Kingdom of Heaven. But 
to those to whom it was given to know the mysteries of 
heaven, he doubtless taught his doctrines as eternal 
truths, and did not prescribe them as laws." 2 

That both these passages contain a considerable 
element of accommodation is apparent at a glance, 
but that this element is so large as to render them of 
little value for determining Spinoza s real estimate 
of Christ, will perhaps not be recognized at once. 
In order to interpret them correctly it must be re 
membered that, although the second passage occurs 
in the chapter on miracles, in both passages the gen 
eral subject under consideration is revelation. But 
we have seen that Spinoza repeatedly warns us that, 
when treating this subject, he occupies the stand 
point of the Scripture writers themselves. If there 
were any doubt about his having followed the general 
rule in this particular case, it would be removed by 
his express avowal in the first paragraph quoted: 

1 "Notionibus communibus et veris." See page 80 seq. 
2 Trac. Theol.-Polit. Cap. 4 (Opera II, p. 7). 


"What I have just affirmed, I gather from the Scrip 
tures themselves" etc. When he speaks of a mind 
that can "perceive things not contained in the first 
principles of our knowledge, and not deducible there 
from," he supposes a case which does not exist for 
him, as anyone even superficially acquainted with 
Spinoza s philosophy must recognize. "God s ordi 
nances that lead men to salvation", which are said 
to be "immediately" apprehended by Christ, are 
for Spinoza nothing else than Christ s ethical doc 
trines (justice and charity) ; but these, according to 
Spinoza, can be deduced with mathematical certainty 
by ordinary human reason from "the first principles 
of our knowledge." It is clear therefore that he 
himself does not credit Christ with any supernatural 
wisdom. The extraordinary mind of Christ, it will 
be observed, stands 011 precisely the same footing 
with the "real voice" that spoke to Moses. For 
Spinoza both are fictions. Hence the remark that no 
one except Christ has attained to intelligence sur 
passing man s, is equivalent to : No one has been en 
dowed with the exceptional kind of cognition which 
the Scriptures attribute to Christ. 

What Spinoza really says is that the biblical writ 
ers attribute to Christ (1) a pre-eminence over the 
Prophets which could consistently be ascribed only 
to one who possesses "adequate knowledge," and 
(2) "superhuman" faculties as the organs of his 
knowledge. What Spinoza s own view is, he does 
not say. But, for the reasons already stated, we 
know, what would be sufficiently clear on other 
grounds that he himself did not suppose Christ to 
be endowed with "superhuman" faculties, or to 
know matters inaccessible to common human intelli- 


gence. As to "adequate" knowledge, it is impos 
sible to determine with certainty whether Spinoza 
supposed Christ to possess it, or not. But from his 
apparent readiness to assert (what no one else, I 
imagine, would concede) that Christ s accommoda 
tion to the "ignorance and pertinacity" of the peo 
ple is illustrated not only by his use of parables but 
by his adoption of a theistic frame-work for his doc 
trines, it seems probable that Spinoza did regard the 
historic Jesus as a man of adequate knowledge and 
of .speculative genius. But if he supposed that 
Christ, although perceiving moral principles as nec 
essary truths, was nevertheless a bona fide theist. 
Spinoza must have been unable to regard him as a 
fully emancipated mind. In that case Spinoza s hu 
man ideal would have forbidden his awarding to 
Christ the highest place among mortals. That place 
could belong only to those elect children of light who 
reject all purely religious conceptions as crude an 
thropomorphisms differing from one another only in 
degree of crudeness. 1 

Certain expressions in the passages quoted above 
might at first reading suggest that Spinoza credited 
Christ with that gift of insight, which he calls 
scientia intuitiva. But it will be observed that even 
what the Scriptures attribute to Christ is not what 
Spinoza can call intuition; for this he expressly 
describes as proceeding from "the first principles of 
our knowledge." And when Christ s knowledge 
is called "immediate," Spinoza means only that it 
was not mediated by signs and visions; he does not 
mean that it was knowledge above process. 

1 The men whom Spinoza admired were such as Epi 
curus, Democritus, etc. Vide Opera II, 378. 


The fact is, Spinoza has nowhere given a frank ac 
count of his opinion of Jesus. It may be that 
he chose not to reveal it. Possibly it was not very 
clearly defined in his own mind except as regards its 
negative determinations; that is to say, he was sure 
that Christ was nothing more than a man, and, while 
recognizing him as an eminent moral teacher, he 
may not have been interested to determine affirm 
atively just what type of mind he represented, 
perhaps considering the historical data insufficient 
for a satisfactory answer to this question. 

4. Sin. 

In its proper signification sin is a religious term 
and a religious term only. It means the transgres 
sion of the assumed will of a postulated divine 
person. As sometimes employed, however, it de 
notes any unrighteousness, without implying an im 
mediate reference to Deity. Spinoza uses the word 
in both ways. In the chapter on "Church and 
State" we had occasion to note that according to 
him no unrighteousness can exist outside of civil 
society, i. e., there can be no wrong conduct other 
than the transgression of the laws of society; al 
though of course there may be, outside of society. 
conduct that is unwise, for the agent and harmful to 
others. To what was said in that place we may here 
add his express assertion that "in a state of nature 
sin [unrighteousness in general] is inconceivable." 1 
But if unrighteousness in general has no meaning ex 
cept in relation to the laws of society, there can be 
no such thing as sin in the sense of a transgression of 

1 Eth. IV, 37, schol. 2. Atque adeo in statu natural! 
peccatum concipi nequit. 


divine will. And this is of course only the plain and 
inevitable consequence of Spinoza s philosophy. 
When man s being and activity are absolutely deter 
mined by the immutable laws of the divine nature, 
he possesses no ability to transgress; and when 
"God" is deprived of will and of all ethical qualities, 
there is moreover nothing to "sin" against. 

Already in the "Short Treatise" sin is regarded 
as only an ens rationis which corresponds to no 
reality, the conception arising from the comparison 
of a Peter or Paul with an abstract idea of man in 
general. In truth the individual is not obliged, 
since he is not able, to conform to anything but his 
own particular nature.* What he can be, he is ; and 
what he is not, he cannot be. This thought is re 
peated later in his correspondence with Blyenbergh : 
"For my part, I cannot concede that sins and evil 
are anything positive, much less that anything is 
or happens contrary to the will of God. On the con 
trary, I not only say that sins are nothing positive, 
but even assert that, except improperly and humanly, 
we cannot speak of sinning against God." 1 Ac 
cepting the obvious consequences of these premises, 
he adds : " It is indeed true that the wicked express 
in their own way the will of God." 2 When consid 
ered in themselves, i. e., rightly considered, they are 
also equally perfect with the good ; for each fills out 
his full measure of being. But if by perfection you 
mean well-being or "blessedness," they are of course 
incomparably less perfect than the good. 3 It is 

* Opera III, 31. "Wy besluyten dan te zezzen," etc. 

1 Epis. 19 (olim 32) Opera II, p. 253. 

3 Ibid., p. 255. 

3 Epis. 23 (olim 34) Opera II, p. 290. 


absurd however to ask whether good works are more 
acceptable to God than crime. Neither are * accept 
able to him, the word itself being inapplicable to 
God* (for the reason, no doubt, that it implies ethical 
distinctions and self -consciousness). 

The conception of sin as privation or negation he 
illustrates at length, and employs it to evade Blyen- 
bergh s objection that his doctrines make God the 
cause of sin. He asserts that sin is simply the name 
we give to the short-coming of an individual when 
compared with what we expect from abstract man ; 
and when we say some one sins, we assume that his 
nature possesses potentially the same content as our 
abstract idea and that we have a right to require him 
to act in harmony with that idea j 1 whereas he in fact 
possesses no attributes or powers beyond those inher 
ing in his individual nature at any given point of 
time. Sin therefore is not a real thing. Hence it 
requires no cause and in fact has none. It is ab 
surd then to speak of God as its cause. 2 Nero s 
matricide, for instance, was not sin in so far as it 
included anything positive, i. e., in so far as it con 
sisted of intention and act ; but only in so far as it 
exhibited ingratitude, mercilessness, and disobedi 
ence. But these words denote wickedness in Nero 
only because we judge him by a standard that lies 

* Ibid., p. 289. 

1 Nominalism of course constitutes the basis of Spino 
za s argument here. But that he is not, as is generally 
assumed, a consistent nominalist, we have pointed out in 
another place. See page 150. In other connections of his 
thought, as Martineau has observed, he "unconsciously 
retains the realism he professes to renounce." Cf. also 
Prof. Fullerton ("The Philos. of Spinoza") who rightly 
I think, makes "Spinoza s realism the key to his reason 
ings in the Ethics. 

2 Epis. 19 (oliin 32) and 21 (olim 34). 


outside his own nature and imagine he could have 
been something else than himself and have done 
otherwise than he did. The sin is simply our way of 
thinking, an ens rationis. Being nothing real, it did 
not have God or anything else for its cause. The 
real elements in the fact are the intention and the 
act, and of these God was indeed the cause. 1 

Blyenbergh had here, as in general, spoken from 
the standpoint of indeterminism and religion, and 
from that standpoint his objections were quite 
valid. Even his contention that Spinoza s doctrine 
makes men resemble stocks and stones is not, in the 
sense in which it is meant, absurd ; for Spinoza him 
self has compared man s activity to that of a moving 
stone. 2 While retaining a good deal of religious 
phraseology, Spinoza argues really from the stand 
point of atheism ; and it is not surprising that Blyen 
bergh, who had not seen the " Ethics, was some 
what puzzled. 

5. Repentance. 

Twinges of conscience (knaging), says he in the 
"Short Treatise," arise from our doing something 
about the Tightness of which we afterward fall into 
doubt ; and penitence results from having done some 
thing which we recognize to be wrong, that is, ac 
cording to Spinoza s thought, to be disadvantageous 
or injurious to us. Both are hurtful and bad, since 
they are kinds of pain, (droefheid), and all pain is a 
sign of diminishing power and well-being. Instead 
of penitence, therefore, he would substitute a pas 
sionless change of conduct determined by the 

1 Epis. 23 (olim 36), Opera IT, p. 288. 
3 Epis. 58 (olim 62), Opera II, p. 382. 


knowledge of our previous folly. 1 With this, what 
he has to say on the same subject in the "Ethics" 
does not disagree, although he there defines peni 
tence as "sadness attended by the idea of oneself as 
cause," 2 remarking incidentally, that both penitence 
and self-complacency are very vehement affects be 
cause men believe themselves to be free. 

Rational religion must agree with Spinoza in rec 
ognizing change of conduct as the only element of 
repentance that is of absolute importance; but it is 
to be noted that Spinoza s account of the matter in 
volves no reference to "God" in any sense. Hence, 
while it may properly be called an ethical doctrine, 
there is no justification for calling it a religious doc 

6. Salvation. 

It has already appeared with sufficient clearness 
that, from the standpoint of Spinoza s philosophy, 
salvation is "the intellectual love of God"; or, as an 
eminent writer 3 has paraphrased it, "acquiescence in 
the order of nature, with the delight in knowledge 
thereby engendered, and living a righteous life at 
the bidding of reason." This is the kind of salva 
tion to which, according to Spinoza, the consistent 
thinker, the philosopher, must necessarily attain. 
But when he says that through obedience salvation 
is possible also for unreflective people, it is evident 
that the term is not to be understood in quite the 
same sense as before. The cognitive factor must be 
eliminated. Neither the delight in knowledge nor 

1 Korte Verhandeling II, Cap. 10. 

2 Bth. Ill, 51, schol. Cf. III. 30, schol., where "causae 
externae" evidently should be "causae internae." 
3 Mr. Pollock Op. cit. 2nd ed., p. 344. 


the guidance of reason can be elements in the sal 
vation attainable by the unenlightened. Their 
peculiar salvation Spinoza has nowhere expressly de 
fined, but we may easily discern what it is. This 
too, is the love of God," although the phrase stands 
no longer for a mere cognitive interest in nature, 
but for obedience to the righteous personal ruler 
postulated by Christianity, who has made a "revela 
tion" consisting of the moral law. In other words, 
salvation for the masses consists in living, as a con 
sequence of theistic assumptions, a life of "justice 
and charity," and in enjoying its natural fruits of 
peace and security. So far as conduct is concerned, 
therefore, the practical results of a life according to 
reason and of a life according to religion are about 
the same. Both kinds of life are determined by 
ethical truths, but in one case these are deduced from 
correct, in the other from entirely false notions of 
ultimate reality. 

7. Providence. 

This is another term belonging to the vocabulary 
of religion which Spinoza does not hesitate to retain 
in his non-religious system. In its real meaning it 
cannot be brought into any kind of relation to his 
philosophy. It is the word and not the meaning that 
he adopts, applying it to that in his system which 
takes the place of providence in religion, namely to 
necessary, blind causation. Already in the "Short 
Treatise" he makes causation and providence equiv 
alent, referring to God as in the same sense "the 
cause and providence" 1 of things. With reference 
to the scholastic distinction between a general and 
a special providence, he accordingly speaks as fol- 

1 Korte Verhandeling, I, Cap. 6. 


lows: "General providence is that by which every 
thing, in so far as it is a part of the whole nature, 
is produced and sustained. Special providence is 
the effort (poginye) ichlch everything makes to pre 
serve its peculiar being, in so far as it is conceived, not 
as a part of nature, but as a whole in itself." 1 

For a benevolent divine person without whose 
knowledge and will nothing takes place, Spi 
noza s doctrine substitutes an impersonal necessity 
whose fast embrace extends to the last details of real 
ity. His "providence," therefore, shows only a 
formal resemblance to the religious doctrine, it pre 
cludes all accidents. A formal resemblance, we say ; 
for in Spinoza s thought the impossibility of acci 
dents does not, as in a religious system, imply security 
through the oversight of a benevolent person, but 
only the uniformity of unethical nature. According 
to him, as we have seen, cosmic activity does not pro 
ceed "from the standpoint of the good." 2 His 
doctrine supplies changeless data for science, it is 
true ; and on this account it is calculated to minister 
intellectual satisfaction; but, inasmuch as it fails to 
mitigate the merciless aspects of nature and of life 
by postulating a transcendent world in the light of 
which they are assumed to be justified, it has no real 
resemblance to the Christian doctrine of providence. 
Religiously it possesses the same value as materialis 
tic fatalism ; no more and no less. 

8. Prayer. 

If Spinoza had not employed this word in theo 
logical controversy in such a way as to enable one 

1 Op. cit. I., Cap. 5. The italics are ours. 
2 Bth. I, 33, schol. 2, at the end. 


to quote him as a believer in prayer, it would be 
superfluous to mention the subject in this connection ; 
for prayer can have no justification where all events 
result from an impersonal necessity. Even in the 
modified sense of mere articulate resignation or of 
spiritual communion, it can find no place in Spi 
noza s system. Hence he takes no notice of it until 
the question of its legitimacy and value is forced 
upon him in controversy. Then he says, "I do not 
deny that prayers are very useful to us; for my in 
tellect is too small to find out all the means which 
God possesses for leading men to the love of himself, 
i. e., to salvation." 1 In the light of his philosophy 
and of what we have learned concerning his treat 
ment of religion in general, this can only mean, of 
course, (if it means anything) that, as far as he can 
see, prayer may be a beneficial exercise for the child 
ren of the imagination, although for the children of 
reason it is not only useless but inconsistent. 

The value of such language, employed in con 
troversy, may be correctly estimated by comparing 
it with the attitude Spinoza assumed toward prayer 
when speaking with trusted friends. What that at 
titude was is revealed by expressions quoted from 
Spinoza in a letter addressed to him by his friend 
Hugo Boxel in 1674 expressions that are indeed 
so significant that they ought to be sufficient in them 
selves to settle the question of Spinoza s at 
titude toward religion. They were not generally 
known to exist until 1899, when Prof. Freudenthal 
of Breslau, who had found the original Dutch letter 
in an old library at Amsterdam, gave it to the public. 
Previously the letter had been known only in the 

1 Epis. 21 (olim 34). Opera II, p. 279. 


Latin translation published with the rest of Spi 
noza s correspondence; but in this translation the 
editors had omitted, for reasons that will be intel 
ligible, the particular passage in question. The gen 
eral subject of correspondence was the reality of 
spirits and the genuineness of alleged supernatural 
phenomena. At the conclusion of a letter in which 
he had ridiculed Boxel s inclination to believe in 
such things, Spinoza had employed language which 
Boxel incidentally reproduces in his reply. "At the 
end of your letter," he writes, "you say that to com 
mend me to God is something you cannot do without 
laughing." 1 

Philippus van Limborch asserts 2 that he once found 
himself at a dinner where Spinoza was present, and 
he observed that, while some were saying grace, Spi 
noza made certain signs by which he apparently 
wished to indicate the stupidity of the performance. 
Spinoza s well-known prudence and considerateness 
would forbid our believing, even on the word of so 
trustworthy a witness as Limborch, that he was 
guilty of any intentional rudeness to those who be 
gan the meal with a prayer; but there is nothing dis 
creditable in the supposition that he made signs to 

1 Freudenthal s Lebensgeschichte Spinoza s, p. 198, 
lines 20-23. The passage appears cancelled in the Dutch 
original, and, as remarked above, is entirely wanting in 
the Latin translation. Spinoza s letter from the end of 
which the sentence quoted by Boxel is taken appears 
truncated in Spinoza s published correspondence, so that 
the connection in which the words occurred is unknown. 
I suppose he refers to the use of a conventional phrase 
sometimes employed in conclusion committing the friend 
addressed to the care of Providence. 

2 Cf. a letter of Limborch s published in the appendix 
to Meinsma s "Spinoza en zijn Kring," p. 14. An extract 
is given in Freudenthal s "Lebensgeschichte Spinoza s," 
p. 211. 


intimate friends indicating his estimate of it, 
and that these signs may incidentally have caught 
the eye of Limborch. Whether the incident was real, 
or, as has generally been supposed hitherto, imagi 
nary, we are unable to determine with certainty; 
but, in the light of Boxel s letter, it will scarcely be 
considered any longer as improbable. 



The question whether Spinoza s philosophy con 
stitutes a religious system is not identical with the 
question whether he possessed a religious interest. 
It is conceivable that a thinker might have a genuine 
religious interest, and nevertheless feel com 
pelled, as a consequence of metaphysical pre 
suppositions, to accept a non-religious or an anti- 
religious view of the world. That Spinoza s philos 
ophy is not a religious system, but a typical ex 
pression of the antithetical world-view, has become 
sufficiently clear. It remains only to consider the 
question whether there are adequate grounds for 
the common assumption that, whatever be the char 
acter of his system, he was personally a man of 
strong religious interest. The final answer to this 
question, which might have been expected in connec 
tion with the "Biographical Sketch," was purposely 
deferred until after we should become acquainted 
with the characteristics of Spinoza s thinking; for, 
although anti-religious tenets may not be conclusive 
proof of the absence of all religious interest, the 
mental characteristics revealed in a philosopher s 
thinking constitute an essential part of the total 
manifestation of his personality, and must be known 
in order to determine accurately his relation to re 
ligion. That attitude, as it has come to light in 
the foregoing investigations, has led us to assert that 
Spinoza s dominant interest was cognitive and that 


this was unmixed with anything which may be called 
the religious interest. We propose here to justify 
that conclusion more completely. 

In any intelligent discussion of this question, the 
first thing to settle is the meaning of religious in 
terest/ We have already shown that there is no 
warrant for applying the term religion to any atti 
tude toward reality which does not postulate, ex 
plicitly or implicitly, a higher personal power, or 
higher personal powers, behind the sensuous world; 
and that religion consists in a personal attitude to 
the assumed power or powers. Religious interest, 
therefore, is an interest in the reality of a world 
so constituted; or, in other words, it is a psychical 
condition that requires for its satisfaction the peace, 
the sense of security, the optimism, the idealism, the 
filial consciousness, etc., that are involved in such a 
world-view, and in just the way they are involved in 
such a world-view. And since interest necessarily 
issues in a volitional experience, we may describe it 
in ultimate terms as a preference for a world peopled 
with superhuman intelligences or controlled by one 
supreme intelligence, these intelligences or this in 
telligence being conceived as not indifferent to hu 
man life. Observe that we do not say it is the ac 
ceptance of, but a preference for, such a world-view. 
When we dispel the haze that generally envelops 
the several expressions, religious sentiment, re 
ligious feeling, religious spirit, religious interest, 
etc., and attempt to put into them some intelligible 
content, they are seen to have no other construable 

The religious interest in this sense is a child of 
our complex experience of reality, or of particular 


elements in that experience. The consciousness of 
dependence on objective reality, of which so much 
has been made by different writers, is perhaps the 
most important of these elements, although it does 
not of itself constitute the religious interest. The 
consciousness of dependence gives rise to the reli 
gious interest only when the individual is disposed, 
often on account of a sense of orphanage, to conceive 
as a person the power on which he ultimately de 
pends; when, in other words, he revolts at the 
thought of being ruled by unfeeling, inexorable 
things. Without undertaking to describe all the 
other elements of experience which may condition 
the religious interest, it is sufficient for our present 
purpose to note that conceivably the determining 
factor may be a perception of the vanity of the 
ordinary goods of life. But neither is this dissatis 
faction, in itself, the religious interest; it is only a 
favorable condition for its birth when it does not 
exist, and for its maintenance where it is already 
found as a result of early education or of unreflec- 
tive impulse. With the felt inadequacy of the com 
mon objects of pursuit a religious interest may, or 
may not, be associated. Such dissatisfaction might 
favor a purely ethical, a purely aesthetic, or a purely 
cognitive interest. Indeed it could co-exist with 
passive pessimism, or even with a positive antipathy 
to religion. Here we are concerned only with the cir 
cumstance that, in the case supposed, the religious 
interest is not present unless the dissatisfied spirit 
craves, among other things, a world controlled by a 
personal power. 

We wish to emphasize the fact that the religious 
interest has its roots in the emotional nature and is 


the expression of personal needs. In how far the 
personal needs thus expressed are facts which, in a 
scientific account of the world, would appear as a ra 
tional justification of the religious postulates, is a 
question with which we are not here concerned. 
Whether religion is based on truth or untruth, it 
cannot be questioned that the distinctively religious 
interest is concerned with values, and, can become 
strong only in a richly emotional nature. In this 
respect, it is the antithesis of the scientific interest, 
which is concerned only with facts. The latter may 
make religion, as well as anything else, an ob 
ject of reflection, but it does not thereby become the 
religious interest. Investigations in theology and 
in the philosophy of religion do not necessarily im 
ply a religious interest, but only a scientific in 
terest in religion. But when the religious interest 
is strong, it tends, of course, like any other, to sub 
ordinate the cognitive activity to its own ends; and 
its influence is distinctly traceable in the movements 
and results of a man s thinking. Whether, in a 
particular case, reflection on religion has been oc 
casioned by a religious interest or by a scientific in 
terest in religion, can be learned only from the way 
in which the subject is treated. 

In Spinoza we have, as all agree, a person in whom 
the emotional life found little place. Whether we 
consider it a virtue or a fault, we must recognize the 
fact that, in his case, feeling was sacrificed to knowl 
edge, heart to intellect. The claims of the emotional 
nature were allowed neither in his life nor in his 
system. On this point we would add nothing to 
what has recently been said by one of his warmest 
admirers : He is not a man of feeling So 


great in him is the power of the intellect, that in his 
character there appears at times a certain matter- 
of-fact-ness and coldness, which represses important 
aesthetic interests and undeniable needs of the 
heart (Gemtit). This accounts for his one-sided 

judgments on art and religion The most 

beautiful creations of poetry, such as Ariosto s Ro 
land, are for him mere trumpery (nugae)." 1 It is 
evident, therefore, that to expect to find in Spinoza 
a strong religious interest would be as unwarrant 
able as to look for lilies at the North Pole. 

The fact that Spinoza wrote much on religion has 
been interpreted as an evidence of religious interest ; 
but one could as well argue that, for the same rea 
son, Lucretius was a man of strong religious interest. 
To justify the assumption in Spinoza s case, it 
would be necessary to point out in the peculiarities 
of his thinking a subjective preference for a world 
controlled by a personal power. But we have seen 
that on almost every page he betrays the strongest 
antipathy to such a world. In all his writings there 
cannot be found the slightest evidence that, even 
in his early years, the loss of faith in the religious 
instruction of his youth, caused him any pain. In 
the case of men of strong religious interest, such a 
crisis is always attended with grief. The assump 
tion of some 2 that, when Spinoza wrote his first 
works, his thinking was inspired by the desire of 
harmonizing religion with reason, and that, in his 
later works only, did he come to reject religion en 
tirely, cannot be justified. The period in which his 
thinking had a religious aim, if there ever was such 

1 Freudenthal, "Sp. : Sein Lebeii u. seine Lehre," I, 197. 

2 Avenarius for example. 


a period, was already passed before the composition 
of any of his works. 

The fact that Spinoza thought and wrote much on 
religious matters is adequately explained by the 
circumstance that these subjects were the ones with 
which he was occupied at the time when his scientific 
interest awoke. They lay immediately in his way, 
and it would have been very strange, in any case, 
if he had not dealt with them. 

The supposed expressions of religious interest, 
when sifted, turn out to be what we have already 
found Spinoza s religious doctrines to be, either 
empty phraseology or expressions of the cognitive 
interest. The introduction to his "Improvement of 
the Understanding" may be taken as the most 
characteristic example. It reads as follows : 

"After experience had taught me that all the things 
which frequently obtain in ordinary life were vain and fu 
tile; when I saw that all things which I was wont to fear 
were neither good nor bad, except in so far as the mind is 
affected by them; I finally decided to inquire whether 
there were something that is an attainable real good, 
by which alone, all other things having been rejected, 
the mind would be affected; whether, indeed, there were 
something which, when found and possessed, would en 
able me to enjoy continual and supreme happiness for 
ever. I say finally decided, for at first thought it seemed 
unwise to be willing to drop a certain thing for one as 
yet uncertain. I saw in fact the advantages of honor 
and riches, and that I should be forced to renounce the 
pursuit of them, if I wished to give serious attention to 
something different and new; and, if perchance the 
highest happiness really resided in those things, I saw 
that I should be deprived of it; but, if it did not reside in 
them and I should give attention to them, I should also 
be deprived of the highest happiness. 


I considered the question, therefore, whether it were 
not perhaps possible to arrive at a new mode of life, or 
at least at a certainty concerning its existence, without 
changing the usual conduct of my life; but I often at 
tempted it in vain. For those things in life which, as is 
evident from men s actions, are esteemed to be the highest 
good may be reduced to these three: riches, honor, and 
sensual pleasure. By these three things the mind is so 
distracted that it is able to think very little about any 
other good. For as regards sensual pleasure, the mind 
is thereby rendered so inactive that it rests in it as if in 
some real good; so that it is in the highest degree hin 
dered from thinking about any other; and such enjoy 
ment is followed by the greatest depression of spirits, 
which, if it does not suspend the mind s activity, at least 
disturbs and dulls it. 

By the pursuit of honors and riches also the mind is 
not a little distracted, especially when they are sought 
for their own sake; for then they are assumed to be the 
summum &OMWW. But by honor the mind is still more dis 
tracted than by riches; for it is always supposed to be 
good for its own sake, and as a final end, to the attain 
ment of which all things are employed as means 

When I saw, therefore, that all these things would hinder 
me from applying myself to any new mode of life; that, 
in fact, they were so opposed thereto, that either the one 
or the other would have to be renounced, I was compelled 
to inquire, which would be the more advantageous to 
me. .... After earnest reflection, I came to see that 

I should be leaving certain evils for a certain good 

The evils were seen to have resulted from the fact, that 
happiness or unhappiness depends on the quality of the 
object loved. For unless a thing is loved, no quarrels 
arise concerning it; and there will be no sadness, if it 
perish; no envy if it is possessed by another, no fear, 
no hatred, in a word, no perturbations of the mind at all. 
All these arise when we love those things which can 
perish, such as the objects of which I have just spoken. 
But love towards an eternal and infinite thing feeds the 
mind with joy only and is free from all sadness." 


The "Improvement of the Understanding" was 
composed, as is well-known, while Spinoza was 
studying Bacon V No vum Organum"and Descartes 
"Discours de la Methode." The influence of Descar 
tes is easily discerned, especially in the form. We 
subjoin, in opposite columns, the introductory words 
of Spinoza s work and corresponding passages from 
Descartes : 

Improvement of the Under 
standing. 1 

"After experience taught 
me that all things which 
frequently obtain in ordinary 
life were vain and futile, . . . 
I finally decided to inquire 
whether there were something 
that is an attainable real 
good; .... whether in fact 
there were something 
which, when found and pos 
sessed would enable me to 
enjoy continual and supreme 
happiness forever," 

Discours de la Methode. 3 
For I have already 
reaped such fruits [from 
my method] that, although 
when viewed philosophic 
ally, nearly all the divers 
activities and undertakings of 
men seem to me vain and 
futile, I never cease to re 
ceive extreme satisfaction 
from the progress I think 
I have made in the search 
of truth, and to receive 
such hopes for the future 
that, if among the occupa 
tions of men there is some 
one that is really good and 
important, I venture to be 
lieve it is this one which I 
have chosen." (I. 3). 

"For those things in life 
which, as is evident from 
men s actions, are es 
teemed to be the highest 
good are reducible to these 
three: riches, honor, and 
sensual pleasure." 

(See next page for Note 2.) 

1 De Intellects, etc. "Postquam me experientia docuit, 
omnia, qua? in communi vita occurrunt, vana et futiUa esse: . . 


"When I saw that all the "My third maxim was to 
sources of my fears are attempt always to conquer 
neither good nor bad, ex- myself rather than fortune, 
cept in so far as the mind and to change my desires 
is affected by them," rather than the order of 

the world, and in general 
to accustom myself to be 
lieve that there is nothing 
entirely within our power, 
except our thoughts." 
(III. 4 Cf. III. 5). 

"For although I really "But I confess there is 
saw these things clearly, I need of prolonged exercise 
was nevertheless not able arid of oft-repeated medita- 
on that account to lay aside tion, in order to accustom 
all love of riches, sensual oneself to look at all things 
pleasure and fame" (p. 5). in this way." (III. 4). 

"Which I often at 
tempted in vain." (p. 3). 

constitui tandem inquirere, an aUquid daretur, quod rcruni 
bonuni, et sui communicabile esset; ..... imo an aliquid 
daretur, quo invent o et acquisito, continua ac suininii in 
(sternum f merer laetitia." 

"Quae plerumque in vita occurrunt, et apud homines, 
ut ex eorum operibus colligere licet, tanquam summura 
bonum aestimantur, ad haec tria rediguntur: divitias 
scilicet, honorem, atque libidinem." 

"Cum viderem omnia, a quibus et quae timebam, nihil 
neque boni neque mali in se habere, nisi quatenus ab iis 
animus movebatur." 

"Nam quamvis haec mente adeo clare perciperem, non 
poteram tamen ideo omnem avaritiam, libidinem, atque 
gloriam deponere" (p. 5). 

"Quod saepe frustra tentavi" (p. 1). 

2 Dlscours, etc. "Car j en ai [de ma methode] 
recueilli de tels fruits, que .... encore que regardant 
d un wil de pliilosopJie les diverges actions et entre- 
prises de tons les Jwmmes, il n y en ait quasi aucune qui ne 
me seml)le uaine et inutile, je ne laisse pas de recevoir une 
extreme satisfaction du progres que je pense avoir deja 
fait en la recherche de la verite, et de recevoir de telles 
esperances pour 1 avenir, que si, cntre les occupations des 


As regards the way in which they introduce 
their common subject only two noteworthy differ 
ences appear: (1) Spinoza, consistently with his 
general habit, employs, when he can, language that 
has more or less of religious associations, as in 
ceternum for permanent, while Descartes does noth 
ing of the kind; and (2) les diver ses actions et enter- 
prises des hommes, which both pronounce vain, are 
specifically named by Spinoza as the pursuit of 
riches, honor, and sensual pleasure, each of which he 
treats in some detail. 

Many other striking points of resemblance be 
tween the two writings will be discovered by anyone 
who will take the pains to compare them carefully. 
The likeness which Spinoza s introduction bears to 
the way Descartes approaches the same subject, 
would justify the supposition that Spinoza borrowed 
from Descartes at least the idea of writing it in the 
form of personal experience, that, in short, this 
form was not spontaneous, and represents a hypo 
thetical rather than a real experience. It may be a 
mere pedagogical device. One may doubt whether he 
actually aimed to describe anything more than the 
typical experience of a rational man. 

But if the experience related was literally his 
own. we should still be making a mistake to regard 

hommes . . . il y en a quelqu itne- qui soit solidement bonne et im- 
portante, fuse croire que c est celle que fai choisie." (I. 3). 

"Ma troisieme maxime 6tait de tacher toujours plutot 
a me vaincre que la fortune, et a changer mes desirs que 
1 ordre du monde, et generalement de m accoutumer a 
croire qu il n y a rien qui soit entierement en notre 
pouvoir que nos pensges." (III. 4. Cf. III. 5). 

"Mais j avoue qu il est besoin d un long exercice et 
d une meditation souvent reiteree pour s accoutumer a 
regarder de ce biais toutes les choses" (p. 36). 


it as evidence of a religious interest. A religious 
interest, as we have shown, resolves itself into a sub 
jective preference for a world-view that contains 
a genuine God. What he was seeking was not God, 
nor any grounds for positing the existence of God, 
but the summum bonum ; and this he was quite satis 
fied to find, not in the belief that the world is con 
trolled by a personal power, but in what he rather 
enigmatically called "the knowledge of the mind s 
union with the whole of nature" 1 of nature un- 
idealized, the system of mechanical forces. This 
"union," or "knowledge" of it, (the two expres 
sions seem to designate the same thing) is mentioned 
in other works; but its nature is so unclearly de 
scribed that we should have to abandon all hope of 
understanding it, if we did not know its equivalents. 
It is the same as the Amor Dei Intellectualis, which 
we have already considered, and as "the love toward 
an eternal and infinite thing," 2 mentioned in this 
connection. But these formulae are so vague to 
Spinoza s thought that they represent several differ 
ent things at will: (1) the satisfaction the intellect 
finds in a system of fixed laws, (2) the mere joy of 
cognition, and (3) such a recognition of the neces 
sity and invariable order of nature as quenches all 
desire for anything else than the actual ; the 
"love" of an eternal and infinite thing (changeless 
and resistless nature) thus saving us from the dis 
appointments of those who set their hearts on riches, 
honor, pleasure, or any other perishable and 

1 De Int. Emend., Opera I, p. 6. "cognitionem unionls, 
quam mens cum tota Natura habet." 

2 De Int., Opera I, Emend., p. 5. "Amor erga rem 
aoternam et infinitam." 


variable objects of desire; In this aspect it is not 
essentially different from the happiness which, ac 
cording to Descartes, those possess who cease not 
to recognize the limitations prescribed for them by 
nature, and are so fully persuaded nothing is in their 
power except their own thoughts, that this alone is 
sufficient to prevent them from having any affection 
for other things; and who thus dispose of them so 
absolutely that they have in this fact some reason 
for esteeming themselves richer, more powerful, 
freer, arid happier than those, who, for want of this 
philosophy, are unable, however much favored by 
nature and fortune, to have in their power all they 
desire." 1 If Spinoza s language is that of a reli 
gious spirit, so is Descartes . 

It should be observed that this supposed mystical 
"union" has for its auxiliaries: (1) Moral Phi 
losophy; (2) Pedagogy; (3) Medicine; and (4) Me 
chanics. 2 

With the value of these thoughts of Spinoza s, 
considered as ethical doctrines, we are in no way 
concerned. It is sufficient for our purpose to note 
that neither in the result at which he arrives, nor in 
the way in which he reaches it, can be found the 
slightest influence of a religious interest. 3 

In Spinoza s different writings, especially where 
he has occasion to vindicate his views against the 

1 Discours de la Methode, p. 36. Cf. Sp. De Int. Emend., 
p. 5. 
. J De Int. Emend., p. 6. 

8 We regard as misleading, therefore, Professor Royce s 
treatment of this passage in his "Spirit of Modern Philos 
ophy," and also Freudenthal s in the work just pub 
lished, "Spinoza," etc., I, p. 109. 


charge of irrcligion, we sometimes meet language 
that sounds like the profession of a profound re 
ligious experience. In his correspondence with 
Blyenbergh, for example, occurs this characteristic 
passage: "In the meantime I know (that which 
supplies me with the highest satisfaction and peace 
of mind) that all things come to pass by the power 
and immutable decree of a Being supremely per 
fect." 1 How nai ve it would be to mistake this for 
a bona fide expression of that religious peace which 
the Christian saint sometimes professes in adversity 
as a result of the assurance of divine care, the reader 
who has followed us thus far need not be told. 
Our analysis of Spinoza s "supremely perfect 
Being" has shown that it is nothing more than the 
mechanical cause of impersonal, unethical nature, 
whose perfection consists only in its size and im 

In so far therefore as this language is anything 
more than a gloss employed to vindicate his system 
from the charge of impiety, it can be understood 
only as an expression of the satisfaction which the 
scientific mind finds in the uniformity of nature. As 
Spinoza was the very impersonation of the cognitive 
interest, the satisfaction he describes may have been 
real ; but it was in no sense a religious experience. 

Opera II, Epist. 21 (olim 34), p. 276. Agnosco In 
terim (id quod summam mihl praebct satisfactloncm et 
mentis tranquillitatem) cuncta potentia Entis summe per 
fect! ac ejus immutabili ita fieri decreto. 


In conclusion we may briefly summarize the re 
sults, already stated at different places in the fore 
going chapters, to which our investigations have 
brought us. 

An accurate description of Spinoza s system is 
not given when it is called Pantheism. This word 
is so vague in its meaning that it may be applied to 
every sort of Monism even to Materialism on the 
one hand and to certain forms of Theism on the 
other. Etymologically the term ought to denote 
only such systems as transfigure the world by ele 
vating it into God, i. e., by spiritualizing it. In 
systems of this type the world is swallowed up in 
God, God being the only reality. But it is possible 
to read the term in the opposite direction also, and 
to apply it to systems which bring God down to the 
level of the mechanical world, i. e., substitute the 
de-spiritualized world for God. In systems of this 
type God is swallowed up in the world, or rather is 
abolished that the mechanical world may be the sole 
reality. If, from the standpoint of religion, we are 
to give Spinoza s system an unambiguous name, it 
is evident that we must employ some other term than 
Pantheism. As a matter of fact, it is necessary to 
call it by a name that has often been used as an 
opprobrious epithet; but, it scarcely need be added, 
the present writer employs the term in its strictly 
etymological signification, as applying to a system of 
thought, and in no way as dishonoring the blameless 
man who created that system. The right name for 


Spinoza s philosophy is Atheistic Monism. It repre 
sents a world-view which, in its essential features, is 
the very antithesis of that required by the religious 

Particular utterances of Spinoza s which, taken 
by themselves, seem obviously to express religious 
conceptions and religious feeling, evaporate under 
critical examination into mere phraseology; a part 
of which may be made intelligible by translating it 
into terms of his atheistic philosophy, while a re 
siduum remains unintelligible, although it is ac 
counted for by his demonstrable purpose of some 
times accommodating his language to the religious 
views of the time. 

Personally Spinoza had no religious interest prop 
erly so-called, but only a scientific interest in reli 
gion ; which is something quite different. In fact, it 
is hardly too much to say that the only interest he 
had in anything was scientific, philosophical. He 
made religion the object of reflection, not because it 
lay near his heart, but because the peculiar circum 
stances of his life thrust the subject in the way of his 
active intellect. 



Absoluta cogitatio 190 ff. 

Accommodation, Spino 
za s 55-65 

Anathema pronounced 

against Spinoza 15 

Aristotle 12-97 

Arnold, Matthew 50, 54 n. 

Atheist, Spinoza is called 

27, 45, 48, 241 
Attribute, Spinoza s defi 
nition 112 

Attribute of extension.. 161 
Attribute of thought . .190 ft*. 
Attributes, The formal . 101 
Attributes, The real . . . 112 
Attributes, The unknown 125 

Bacon, Francis 12 

Bayle, Pierre 45 

Blyenbergh, Willem van 


Bodies, Spinoza s doc 
trine of 67-68 

Boxel, Hugo 40, 323 

Brinton, Daniel G 226 

Burgh, Albert, tries to 
convert Spinoza 40 

Cabala, The 8 

Caird, Edward 233 

Camerer 47, 276, 278 

Cartesians oppose Spi- 

nozisrn 36-37 

Casearius, Spinoza s pu 
pil 24 

Causality, The "indirect" 

135 ff. 

Cause, Immanent 131-134, 159 
Cause, Spinoza s concep 
tion of ..92, 131-134, 213-16 
Christ, Spinoza s esti 
mate of 308 ff. 

Church and State 281 

Cogitatio absoluta 190 ff. 

Coleridge 50 

Colerus (Kohler) 39 

Collegiants 18-1* 

Conde ; 38 

Costa, Uriel da, perse 
cuted 13 

Descartes 12, 99, 112 

Deterrainatio est nega- 

tio 192 

De Vries 20, 29, 21& 

Ens Indetermlnatum 128, 193 

Ens realissimum l&a 

Erdmann, Johann Ed. 

47, 11T, 279> 
"Essence" as used by 

Spinoza 136, 213-16 

Essences (eternal). 
Their relation to indi 
vidual existences ...141ff. 

"Ethics" begun 25 

"Ethics" completed 34 

Excommunication of Spi 
noza 15-17 

Extension, Absolute 161 

Ezra, Ibn ben 10 



Fades Totlus Naturae.. 175 
Ferdinand, King of 

Spain 2 

Finite, How connected 

with the infinite 134 ff. 

Fischer, Kuno, 

47, 120, 175 n., 193 n. 
Frankness, Want of in 

treating Spinoza .... 53 

1 n., 20, 48, 53, 183 n., 330 
Fullerton 150 n., 318 n. 

God as cause ...110, 131-134 
"God" employed by Spi 
noza in two different 

senses 158 

"God-intoxicated P h i - 

losopher," The... 49, 50, 56 
God, Spinoza s concep 
tion of 97 ff. 

God, The intellectual 

love of 249 ff. 

God s immutability 107 

God s infinity 103 

God s perfection 109 

God s self-existence and 

eternity 102 

God s solitariness 107 

Goethe 51, 257 

Hague, The 33 

Hardenberg, Friedrich 

von, (Novalis) 49 

Hegel 46 

Heidelberg, Spinoza s 

call to 37 

Heine, Heinrich 51 

Herder 49, 243 

Hobbes, Thomas 12 

Holland in Seventh Cen 
tury 3-5 

Huygens, Christiaan ... 30 

Idea Dei 182 

Idea Ideae, 74, 192, 194, 220 n. 
Idea, Use of the word 

by Spinoza 68-71 

Ideas, adequate... 80, 84, 85 

Ideas, inadequate 78 

Imagination 75-80 

Immortality 173, 266 ff. 

"Improvement of the 

Understanding" 23 

Inquisition in Spain .... 1-3 
Intellectus Inflnitus . . .163 ff. 
Interpretation, Rule of 

for Spinoza 65 

Intuition 83 

Isabella, Queen of Spain 2 

Jakobi 45, 243 

James, William, 221, 232, 235 

Jastrow 237 

Jews, Persecution of .... 1-3 
Jewish Colony in Am 
sterdam 6, 10 

Jewish Synagogue 
School at Amsterdam. 7 

Joachim 195 n. 

John of Damascus 98 

Kant 45, 230, 238 

Koerbagh, John and 
Adrian . 32-33 

Leibnitz 39, 45 

Limborch Philippus van 324 

Loewe, J. H 47, 195 

Love of God, The intel 
lectual 249 ff. 

Love, Spinoza s definition 

of 252 

Lullman 249 n. 

Maimonides 10 

Martineau 1, 18 n., 21. 47 

Martini, J 98 

Mathematics 86 

Meinsma 1, 324 n. 

Memory 77 

Menasseh ben Isreal, 

Spinoza s teacher 8 

Mennonites 19 

"Metaphysical Thought" 

published 25 



Method, Spinoza s 86-93 

Meyer, Lodewijk ...20, 41, 58 

Mind, The human 68-74 

Minds, An infinite num 
ber of in each body, 178 ff. 

Miracles 289 

Mishnah, The 9 

Modes, Infinite 134-136 

Morteira, Saul Levi, Spi 
noza s teacher . 8 

Natura Naturans 155 

Natura Naturata 155 

Necessity 153 

Neo-Platonism ..12, 134, 146 

"New Christians" 3 

Notiones communes .... 82 

Novalis (Hardenberg) . . 49 

Oldenburg, Henry 26 

Pensions for Spinoza ... 29 

Pfleiderer 48 

Phenomenalism, Spino 
za s relation to, 

115-120, 124 
Pollock, Sir Frederick, 

47, 90 n., 278 n., 292 n., 301 
"Posthumous Works" of 

Spinoza 42 

Prayer 322 

"Principles of Descartes 
Philos." published ... 25 

Problem, Spinoza s 97 ff. 

Providence 321 



Realism (as distin 
guished from Phe 
nomenalism), Spinoza s 

91, 113-120, 122 

Realism, Spinoza s log 
ical . j...90n., 150 n. 

Reason 80-86 

Religious consciousness, 
Analysis of 221 ff. 

Religious interest, Ex 
pressions of 326 ff. 

Remonstrants 19 

Renan, Ernest 50 

Repentance 319 

Revelation 289 ff. 

Rieuwertsz, Jan 40 

Rijnsburg 23 

Romanes 239 

Royce 337 

Salvation 320 

Schleiermacher 46, 234 

School, Jewish at Am 
sterdam , 7, 9 

Schopenhauer 47 

Schuller, Herman 40 

Scientia intuitiva 83 

Self-consciousness 74-75 

"Short Treatise" 22 

Sidgwick, H 233 n. 

Sigwart, Christoph ...47, 204 

Sigwart, S. G. W 47 

Sin 316 

Socinians 27 

Space is filled 162 

Spinoza, Baruch (Benedict): 

Birth 1 

Parentage and family 6-7 

His teachers 7-9, 11 

Refuses his share in 

the inheritance 14 

Excommunication ...15-16 
Alleged banishment 

from Amsterdam ... 18 
Composes the "Short 

Treatise" 22 

Goes to Rijnsburg .... 23 
Works upon his "Im 
provement of the 
Understanding" .... 23 
Gives private instruc 
tion in Descartes 

philosophy 24 

Publishes his exposi 
tion of the "Prin 
ciples of Descartes 
Philosophy" with 
"M etaphysical 
Thoughts" appended 

24-25, 58-59 
Begins his "Ethics" . . 25 



Spinoza, Baruch (Benedict) 


Finishes the ".Ethics" 36 
Goes to Voorburg .... 26 
Begins his "Theolog- 

ico-Polit. Treatise" . 27 
Publishes the "Theo- 

logico-Polit. Tr." ... 34 
Pensioned by De Vries 

and De Witt 29-30 

Correspondence with 

Blyenbergh 30-31 

Moves to The Hague. . 33 
Decides not to publish 

the "Ethics" 36-37 

Receives call to Hei 
delberg Univer 37 

Goes to Utrecht to 

meet Cond 38 

Meets Leibnitz 39 

Is exhorted by Albert 
Burgh to be con 
verted to Roman 

Church 40 

Last illness and death 41 f. 

His personality 42-44 

Manifests no religious 
interest in his youth 

12, 20 

Spyck, Van der 34 

Suarez 98 

Substance and modes . . . 130 
Substance, Definitions of 


Taylor, A. E 278 n. 

Tennyson, Alfred 50 

Terminology, Spinoza s 

religious 55-65 

"Theologico-Polit. Trea 
tise" 27-29, 34 

Thomas Aquinas 98, 183 

Thought attribute 190 ff. 

Trendelenburg 47, 195 

Tschirnhaus, Walter 40 

Van der Ende 11 

Van Vloten 48 

Velthuysen 35, 242 

Voigtlander 205 

Von Dalberg 49 

Voorburg 26 

William III. of House of 

Orange 35 

Witt, Jan de 30, 38 

Zeller, Ed 147, 279 n. 



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