Monday, July 10, 2006

Spinoza the heretic

From Benedict de Spinoza’s Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect (circa 1566)
After experience had taught me that all the things which regularly occur in ordinary life are empty and futile, and I saw that all the things which were the cause or object of my fear had nothing of good or bad in themselves, except insofar as [my] mind was moved by them, I resolved at last to try to find out whether there was anything which would be the true good, capable of communicating itself, and which alone would affect the mind, all others being rejected—whether there was something which, once found and acquired, would continuously give me the greatest joy, to eternity.

From Soren Kierkegaard’s The Concept of Dread (1844), collected in The Living Thoughts of Kierkegaard (1952)
For in order to pray there must be a God, there must be a self plus possibility, or a self and possibility in the pregnant sense; for God is that all things are possible, and that all things are possible is God; and only the man whose being has been so shaken that he became spirit by understanding that all things are possible, only he has had dealings with God. The fact that God’s will is the possible makes it possible for me to pray; if God’s will is only the necessary, man is essentially as speechless as the brutes.

From the Excommunication of Benedict de Spinoza, Congregation Talmud Torah, July 27, 1656
The Senhores of the ma’amad, having long known of the evil opinions and acts of Baruch de Espinoza, have endeavored by various means and promise, to turn him from his evil ways. But having received more and more serious information about the abominable heresies which he practiced and taught and about his monstrous deeds, and having for this numerous trustworthy witnesses who have deposed and borne witness to this effect in the presence of the said Espinoza, they became convinced of the truth of this mater; and after all of this has been investigated in the presence of the honorable hakhamim they have decided, with their consent, that the said Espinoza should be excommunicated and expelled from the people of Israel.

By the decree of the angels and by the command of the holy men, we excommunicate, expel, curse and damn Baruch de Espinoza, with the consent of God, Blessed be He, and with the consent of the entire holy congregation, and in front of these holy scrolls with the 613 precepts which are written therein, cursing him with the excommunication with which Joshua banned Jericho and with the curse which Elisha cursed the boys and with all the castigations that are written in the Book of the Law. Cursed be he by day and cursed be he by night; cursed be he when he lies down and cursed be he when he rises up. Cursed be he when he goes out and cursed be he when he comes in. The Lord will not spare him, but then the anger of the Lord and his jealousy shall smote against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the Lord shall blot out his name from under heaven. And the Lord shall separate him unto evil out of all the tribes of Israel, according to all the curse s of the covenant that are written in this book of the Law. But you that cleave unto the Lord your God are alive every one of you this day.

We warn that none may contact him orally or in writing, nor do him any favor, nor stay under the same roof with him, nor read any paper he made or wrote.

1 Kings: 21
And Eli'jah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow him: but if Ba'al, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.

From Benedict de Spinoza’s Tractatus Theologico-Politicus (1670)
Since we have the rare good fortune to live in a commonwealth where the freedom of judgment is fully granted to the individual citizen and he may worship God as he pleases, and where nothing is esteemed dearer and more precious than freedom, I think I am undertaking no ungrateful or unprofitable task in demonstrating that not only can this freedom be granted without endangering piety and the peace of the commonwealth, but also the peace of the commonwealth and piety depend on this freedom.

From Georg Christoph Lichtenberg’s The Waste Books (1800-06)
If the world should endure for an incalculable number of years, the universal religion will be a purified Spinozism. Left to itself, reason can lead to nothing else and it is impossible that it ever will lead to anything else.

1 comment:

  1. I sometimes describe myself as a Spinozist. More often as a pantheist, but same thing, really. And I am definitely a heretic.