Baruch Spinoza was a 17th century rationalist who spun his philosophy monistically around the belief that mind, and matter — are ultimately one, and the same.
Stepping away from his Judaic roots, Spinoza radically redefined the traditional views of existence, and the role of God within the cosmos.
Here are 5 things that the ‘Prince’ of Philosophers left us with:
1. Religion is scientific, not superstitious.
- Traditionally speaking, religion is about what we don’t see in our observable world within the observable universe. It is a hopeful view point to bring order and meaning to the unprecedented chaos that truly does exist within every facet of existence — one that extends beyond the human experience.
- In this regard, Spinoza feels that religion should take no identity with false hopes, and occult traditions in an attempt to appease the unknown. Instead, religion should address the unknown with observational science, discovery, and experience. In this manner, the unknown may someday become known– not by hope, but because it has been witnessed.
- Likewise, Spinoza deems it a necessity that everyone’s duty to explore the world– in such a manner — ultimately progresses the nature of existence from an intellectual standpoint.
2. God Is Alive In Nature
- The evidence of God’s existence is all around us. The remnant of matter post-creation– the Big Bang, or whatever other version of creation you agree with– is proof enough to a superior energy. It is here where Spinoza exemplifies universal existence by bridging an identity within nature.
- The sheer fact that things do exist in this world at all– let alone existing under such unimaginable intricacies — shows that there must be a source to all this matter. Therefore, the very laws that govern nature and reality is all that is necessary to illustrate the concept of a God. And that is to say, that this God also exists within the very same laws that govern nature and reality itself.
- To take on the old watchmaker analogy: the watch can not exist without the watchmaker. And comically enough, the intention and design of the watch can not exist outside of the order that governs it after it has already been made.
- What does this mean? That the energy put into such a watch is intricate enough to keep it a watch and nothing more– at least not without any further involvement.
3. Sorry narcissist’s, but we’re not that special
- Spinoza’s take is to get real. God doesn’t care about us, but most of all, we are not special in any right. In this regard, it is irrational to think that God plays favorites across the universe. God does not care about the trivial matters of our lives, nor should he care that you prayed 300 times last year to get that 10 cent raise at work. Spinoza feels that identifying with God in this manner is highly narcissistic. Moreover, it is delusional to think that the world is willfully changing specifically for your limited and greedy earthly desires.
- In the grand scheme of things, we are all one and the same. And though we do have minuscule and unique features, we are 99.9% the same— genetically speaking. These similarities are observable throughout many different people and cultures, with similarities that can be furthered across many different species. However, the differences only become exacerbated when we are taking a look in through the microscope, but in looking through a telescope— so to speak– perhaps the perspective of an omniscient force, and everything on this planet, including the planet itself is one and the same thing.
- The point is, we’re not as great as we think we are. Even if we were created in God’s image — at least from religion’s perspective — it still doesn’t make us special. If each of us is a ‘mini God’ than the person next to us on our commute to work is also a ‘mini God’, and the ‘mini God’ next to him is also a ‘mini God’, and so on and so forth.
- Ultimately, we are a dime a dozen that is replaceable by our next of kin, if we haven’t phased ourselves out in our lifetime.
4. Traditional prayer sucks
- Traditionally speaking, prayers address our individual problems with the world. In them, we typically ask God for favors to change, or to avoid painful circumstances. If God exists in the orderly nature of things, then there is clearly no time to peddle with humanity’s tears and sorrows. The best way to address prayer then, is to address how the world is without conspiring for changing it. In this manner, it is imperative to accept the world for the chaotically organized wonder that it is.
- Perhaps our perceptions are to blame for a miserable world view, but the problem with prayer is that they are typically intrinsic. And though many people do have altruistic intentions to their prayers, the underlying —and often subconscious– motive to praying is geared to be beneficial to the so called ‘prayee’.
- Spinoza seemingly associates traditional prayer with a victimized undertone. As we plead with God to bring some form of relief from the perils of our world, we are asking to be alleviated from our dilemmas in miraculous fashion.
- Alternatively, Spinoza would prefer an origin of prayer that builds off a complete and unadulterated worldview– one that takes existence in for what it truly is— beautifully pleasant, yet frighteningly miserable. In this perspective, we accept all the good with the bad in our existing experience, where praying takes on a documenting role vs a victimized one. The latter separates ourselves from the responsibilities of this world, while the former objectively fills in the gap of knowledge between our maker’s footsteps, and that of our own. According to Spinoza, if humanity accepted this perspective, we have also accepted a life of true meaning.
5. Meaning Is Found Within The Puzzle Of Knowledge
- Spinoza terms the meaning of our existence with these two key terms: Sub specie durationis (under the aspect of time), and Sub specie aeternitatis (under the aspect of eternity). The former is the local perspective— one that escalates our problems between ourselves — while the latter is the global perspective — the orchestration of God’s balance between order and chaos.
- Saving ourselves from the victimization and suffering of humanity means to accept it all– the bad along with the good. In turn, our purpose should be to rise above our localized and limited motives, and drives, and to shift it towards the global perspective of better understanding. Therefore, we can rise above our local viewpoints that often absorb our energies into this everlasting battle between good and evil.
- In this sense, we struggle for happiness because of our trivially diminutive needs. Our path then– towards happiness, growth, and enlightenment — should take on a broader approach to life by taking on an understanding of the universe. This means, to take an active account of the ‘projects’ that God has orchestrated before us to unfold. From this, we can grow by learning and piecing together a universal understanding that also helps us better understand ourselves.
- Lastly, Spinoza deems it an imperative to make more of an effort as a unified species of human. In this unity, we must take greater strides in bettering our understanding of our universe. This –and only this– is perhaps the greatest reach towards ultimate greatness, where Spinoza’s definition of a life devoted towards true meaning comes alive.
The maker is in the machine, and the machine is in the maker
We tend to deviate from the typical supreme deity that is both father-like and trivially selective, to one that is unbiased and fully intertwined within the orchestration of its own creation.
In this manner, the laws of nature — the miraculous flow between chaos and harmony existing within the underlying fabric of our existence that has remained to mysteriously unfold — is proof and essence for God.
Being as it is then, what do we do with this philosophy?
Spinoza left a beautiful impression of philosophical literature behind, and though seemingly lost in interest– aside from its utilization of study by other philosophers, and educational purposes — the irony is that his vision of change for humanity against an ‘outdated’ religious perspective, was never fully realized.
Instead of a nature based, and scientifically observable religion — as one that discounts the trivial intervention of God– it seems that most have kept hope alive in the traditional aspect of things where faith trumps reason.
Comically enough, this proves Spinoza’s philosophy in that his hopes and expectations of humanity were never heard to be realized in his death– beacuase as you know, God doesn’t deal with such matters. Alternatively perhaps, disproving his efforts– simply because, he wasn’t one of God’s favorites.