Tag Archives: god

Facts I argue

On Benedict; the great, not the traitor

The French claim him as well as the Americans but, to whichever country Santayana may belong, his words are for us all . This is an excerpt from, “American Religion” by George Santayana. His is an almost poetic analysis of the Ethics of the great Benedict Spinoza. What follows is one of my favorite passages about one of my favorite thinkers. Spinoza is said to have invented the atheist’s god. For this, he was excommunicated from the Jewish religion. And for good measure, the Catholics excommunicated him as well.

Spinoza believed that religion’s purpose was to explain the divine, not to create illogical dogma that would cause logical people to turn their backs on the very concept of religion. His logical, dare I say scientific, analyses of Medieval philosophies and their shortcomings forever put an end to such philosophies’ importance to humanity. His work is claimed to have directly influenced those responsible for the Enlightenment. He argued against the division created by Descartes between the mind and the body, though his point of view has not prevailed and the West has been suffering under the ills that logically flow from an adherence to Cartesian dualism for more than three hundred years.

Spinoza came to know. In knowing, he found solace; and love. If what follows does not make sense the first reading through, read it again. It’s point is fairly simple: harmony with existence creates a love for existence. Harmony is two-fold, physical and mental. When in the presence of such a truth, even if the truth threatens your life, you love your existence because you are in harmony with your existence. You are in harmony with the Universe when  knowing your place in the bigger picture and your love becomes, thereby, Universal. Truth is, then, Spinoza’s path to god, not faith. He was excommunicated because his god was an immanent god, not a humanistic one. As Santayana put it:


“Here we touch the crown of Spinoza’s philosophy, that intellectual love of God in which the spirit was to be ultimately reconciled with universal power and universal truth. This love brings to consciousness a harmony intrinsic to existence; not an alleged harmony such as may be posited in religions or philosophies resting on faith, but a harmony which, as far as it goes, is actual and patent. In the realm of matter, this harmony is measured by the degree of adjustment, conformity, and cooperation which the part may have attended in the whole; in a word, it is measured by health. In the realm of truth, the same natural harmony extends as far as do capacity and pleasure in understanding the truth; so that besides health we may possess knowledge. And this is no passive union, no dead peace; the spirit rejoices it; for the spirit, being, according to Spinoza, an essential concomitant of all existence, shares the movement, the actuosa essentia of the universe; so that we necessarily love health and knowledge, and love the things in which health and knowledge are found. Insofar as omnificient power endows us with health, we necessarily love that power whose total movement makes for our own perfection; and insofar as we are able to understand the truth, we necessarily love the themes of an intense and unclouded vision, in which our imaginative faculty reaches its perfect function.

Of this religion of health and understanding Spinoza is a sublime prophet. By overcoming all human weaknesses, even when they seem kindly or noble, and by honoring power and truth, even if they should slay him, he entered into the sanctuary of an unruffled superhuman wisdom, and declared himself supremely happy, not because the world as he conceived it was flattering to his heart, but because the gravity of his heart disdained all flatteries, and with a sacrificial prophetic boldness uncovered and relished his destiny, however tragic his destiny might be. And presently peace descended; this keen scientific air seemed alone fit to breathe, and only this high tragedy worthy of a heroic and manly breast. Indeed the truth is a great cathartic and wonderfully relieves the vital distress of existence. We stand as on a mountaintop, and the spectacle, so out of scale with all our petty troubles, silences and overpowers the heart, expanding it for a moment into boundless sympathy with the universe.”