About God – 3

June 15, 2010


Kindly read the previous post: https://rajeevne.wordpress.com/2010/06/14/about-god-1/

Spinoza

Spinoza (1632-1677) always receives a special and detailed mention by critics because of his radical views on all the subjects he wrote about. Spinoza’s life was full of hardships and cotroversies. Spinoza’s early studies of Christian and Jewish faith led him towards doubt. He then studied under Van Den Ende, a Dutch scholar (who criticized the king of France and was hanged). He learned Latin, because his teacher’s beautiful daughter also was taking Latin classes. But she left Spinoza for a wealthy friend (and probably because of that Spinoza became a Philosopher). Spinoza however mastered Latin and studied Greek philosophers. He later also was the pupil of the Italian who was burnt alive in so-called ‘bloodless punishment’ – Bruno (1548-1600).  Bruno had postulated that mind and matter are One. All the reality is One. Philosophy is therefore to pursue Unity in Diversity and the highest intellectual knowledge of Oneness is the love of God. Spinoza was also influenced by Descartes (1596 – 1650) and was attracted by Descartes theorem – “There is a homogeneous substance which constitutes Matter and another which constitutes Mind” and built his theories based on this.

Spinoza was excommunicated by Amsterdam’s Ecclesiastical Council at the age of 23 for possibly promulgating his following views he used to share with his friends:

  1. God might have a body, the matter.
  2. Angels might be hallucinations.
  3. Soul might be merely Life (and not a stand-alone entity).
  4. Old Testament said nothing of immortality.

In his four books he recorded the following observations:

  1. All scriptures are written for common and mainly uneducated masses. Therefore they narrate in such style and order so as to move men to devotion and fuel their imagination, rather than giving causes or reason. Hence, they rely upon miracles and repeated appearances of Gods. People therefore think that God is inactive as long as nature works in balance. In turn, they assume two powers – Power of God to move nature and Power of Nature. God and processes of Nature are one and not different.
  2. God acts due to His necessity and His decree are eternal truths.
  3. There is no separation between Old (Jewish) and New (Christian) Testament. A Christian Philosopher and a Jew Philosopher can co-exist in peace and cooperation. If all the improbable dogmas and miracles are removed, Jesus is the noblest of all prophets – not divine, but the First amongst all men. The eternal wisdom of God is shown forth in all things, most importantly in man’s mind, and Jesus.
  4. God is immanent and not extraneous. All is in God.
  5. If you ask a triangle what is God, it will say God is a triangle. If you ask a circle, it will say God is a circle. Likewise, everyone ascribes his own attributes to God. Like laws of triangles are to triangles, or circles to circles, God is to the world. God is the Causal Chain, the underlying condition, the law and structure.
  6. Ideals of men are not applicable to God. What is Good or Bad for men is not applicable to God.
  7. The intellect of the God is the sum of all intellects (diffused consciousness) in space and time. Neither mind nor will pertains to God, but the mental and molecular processes, their causes and their laws are God.
  8. We perceive everything in terms of the Life (mind) and Body (matter). In that sense, we can say that god has matter and mind. However, God is only the process, and has no embodiment. Neither intellect nor body will pertain to the nature of God.
  9. The greatest good is in the union we have with nature. Although we appear separate as individuals, this may be illusory and we are part of the universal stream of law and cause – the God. (Similar to Hindu philosophy of the all-encompassing – Bramha and of the illusion – Maya).
  10. Blessedness is not the reward of virtue, but the virtue itself. Immortality is not the reward of clear thinking but the clear thought itself, which carries the past into present and reaches out to future. Therefore, thought is Immortal. Every truth is a permanent creation.
  11. If man ceases to be unconscious of himself, of God and of things he ceases to be. However, a Wise Man remains conscious of himself, of God and of things by some eternal necessity, is scarcely moved in spirit, never ceases to be and is always satisfied in mind.

Not to take sides, but while we read the Western philosophers – Greek and the later ones (including Spinoza), we are always reminded of the principles in the Hindu (and Buddhist) scriptures. The quest for God is universal and has the same direction. If there indeed was exchange between Indian and Greek Philosophers, and it appears that there was, it is really amazing.

There is a possibility that Democritus visited India. He put forward the concept of “Whole” which has a parallel in “Poorna” in Hindu scriptures, also meaning Whole or Absolute. Plato also possibly visited the plains of the river Ganga during his twelve-year exile after Socrates’ death. Plato’s Dialogues are considered to have an ideal form for engaging readers. However, all the Upanishads and the Bhagwadgeeta has been written in this fashion.

Alexander, Aristotle’s pupil, had come very close to India when on crusade, but went back after he was repulsed by the King Pauras. However, some Greeks then settled in India. Also, Alexander used to send manuscripts and new species and specimens to Aristotle for his museum cum laboratory.

Hindu and Buddhist scriptures are older than the Greek. They are many in number and they cover every aspect of the Life, Abstract and Lord, even if in a complex terminology. As such there is freedom and choices abundant, available to the seeker of Wisdom. One wonders if this river has enlightened others also.

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(Image curtsey : http://www.google.co.in/imgres?imgurl=http://www.wutsamada.com/alma/modern/spinoza.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.wutsamada.com/alma/modern/spinoza.htm&usg=__lGmWf4QyMJsp1sLaTZixiXgXPW4=&h=349&w=279&sz=20&hl=en&start=1&itbs=1&tbnid=V63m0HJw_ok8hM:&tbnh=120&tbnw=96&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dspinoza%26hl%3Den%26gbv%3D2%26tbs%3Disch:1 )

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