Philosophical Theology

Spinoza and Union with God through the Spirit of Christ

 

Spinoza and Union with God Through “the Spirit of Christ”

Aldo Di Giovanni

 

 

“At that time certain things seemed to me to tend to the detriment of Religion, when I measured it by the standard provided by the common herd of Theologians, and accepted Formulas of the Confessions …But now as I rethink the whole matter more deeply,  many things occur to me which persuade me that you are so far from trying to harm true religion, or solid philosophy, that on the contrary you are working to commend and establish the authentic purpose of the Christian Religion … I now believe that in your heart you have this intention …your old and honest Friend, who longs for the happiest outcome of such a godly plan.…

 

Henry Oldenburg, 1st Secretary of the Royal Society
to Benedictus de Spinoza, (Ep 61, 1675), concerning:
the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus

 

 

Abstract

The first section (A) of this study considers Spinoza’s “divine agency”, which is the spirit (idea) of Christ, and which “inscribes” the human mind and heart generating a person’s true human essence providing the person with a mind like the mind of Christ, determined by their indwelling idea of Christ. Such a mind reveals “divine natural law” inherent in human nature or the in essence of the human mind. Because Spinoza considers this natural, he is at odds with philosophers of nature who undertake to objectively mechanize or mathematize nature or God, which Spinoza claims is a fictional aspiration. Spinoza proposes and demonstrates the existence of immediate and mediate necessary and infinite modes of God. He also proposes the existence of finite modes which are fixed and eternal things. Together these proposals provide an ontological framework for Spinoza’s Christology and soteriology.

The second section (B) considers Spinoza’s descriptions of people living in the “state of nature” and living in a “state of religion”. Living in a state of religion is living according divine natural law while still in the state of nature. He also speaks about a fictional state of nature absent divine natural law. Spinoza describes how in emending a person’s intellect, the divine agency unites the person to God. In union with God, the person’s original natural freedoms and rights transfer to God, subjecting the person’s mind to divine natural law. An existential covenant is established in our union with God. The divine agency generates a second spiritual birth in which the person’s essence of mind according to the world after the flesh is supplanted by the acquired essence of “Christ according to the spirit” or by the spirit of Christ. The natural indwelling idea of Christ generates or determines the ideas of the person’s acquired mind to be like the ideas of the eternal mind of Christ. Dissenting from the new spiritual essence (mind) renders a person sinful or in privation of God. Assenting to the new spiritual essence (mind) establishes salvation. Awareness of the union makes a person blessed. Finally, the study illustrates the correspondence of some 29 letters between Spinoza and Oldenburg are evidence of Oldenburg’s written declarations that Spinoza’s work aimed at advancing Christian religion; and, that Oldenburg encouraged Spinoza to that end. For his part, Spinoza fully claimed what Oldenburg sensed.

 

A

Spinoza[1]  was justifiably offended by accusations of being an atheist[2]. In reality, there is a solid, credible Christology embedded in Spinoza’s few but influential writings, making his work important to Christian philosophy and Christian theology.  Spinoza’s Christology provides for an eternal and infinite Christ, sub specie aeternitatis or “series of fixed and eternal things”, and a temporal and finite Christ in the circumstantial “series, or order of existing”[3]. Articulating Spinoza’s particular Christology will contribute to understanding Christianity philosophically and theologically, especially his advancement of the place of the idea and mind of Christ in individual human freedom from bondage to salvation.

Detractors of Spinoza’s Christian thinking and beliefs may claim he is a denominational heretic. Spinoza was not a denominational Christian; therefore, to hardline denominationalists he would be thought to be a heretic. They cannot claim he is not religiously Christian, except in terms of their limited denominational biases. In regards to his Christian experience, thinking and belief, Spinoza speaks for himself. The reality of Christianity, for Spinoza, is not in the words and images used in denominational doctrines, statements of belief, etc. He tends to avoid using their language in his Ethics.

Spinoza identifies a crucial “divine agency”[4] inherent in the human intellect and thought, which inscribes the human mind[5] with the Wisdom or Word of God, “the true original text of God” or “God’s laws”[6]. Spinoza maintains the intellects of all people inherently contain this “divine agency”[7] that inscribes their hearts and minds to generate their spiritual essence or nature. This divine inscribing into our intellect and mind determines our mind to be “the first cause of divine revelation”[8]. Spinoza references the apostle Paul and Jeremiah,

“God, however, has revealed through his Apostles[9] that his covenant is no longer written with ink, or on stone tablets, but written on the heart, by the spirit of God.”[10]

 

“…Jeremiah (31: 33) proclaimed to them a time to come, when God would inscribe his law in their hearts. So at one time it was appropriate to contend for a law written in tablets … It is not suitable at all for those who have it written in their minds.”[11]

 

In chapter 1 of TTP, Spinoza describes the difference between natural universal revelations of God’s essence or nature, given to all people through the mind of Christ[12]; and, the individualized circumstantial revelations given to Prophets (and Apostles) through their limited imagination for use at the time and place. Writes Spinoza,

“The words and the visible forms were either true, and outside the imagination of the Prophet who heard or saw them, or else imaginary”[13]

 

According to Spinoza, among prophets, only Moses[14] uniquely heard true words that were “outside the imagination” or not “imaginary”. The words were abstractions all the same, but were true abstractions. Moses ‘heard’ true words and understood them. Only Moses, as a prophet, uniquely heard God’s truths by way of a true voice[15] and not in an imaginary way. Moses ‘heard’ only words from the voice of god[16] and only ‘saw’ God face to face; he did not immediately connect to God “mind to mind”[17] or spirit to Spirit, as Christ immediately[18] did.

Spinoza did not consider Christ to be a prophet[19] because Christ taught accessible truths naturally common to all people, which does not require special circumstantial revelation given in imagination alone[20]. Christ did not ‘hear’ the kind of voice Moses heard and did not see’ God face to face. Rather, Spinoza says, Christ is the “mouth of God”[21] which forms the “voice of God”[22] or the Word of God, which through Christ speaks to people, not with words, but by inscribing[23] people’s minds, ‘mind to mind’ not with words. Likewise then, Christ did not ‘see; God face to face; Christ is the intelligible face of God that the human mind is able to grasp and know. The temporal Christ used words to teach and preach, not to actually inscribe human minds. “God’s laws as truths” [24]  are known through the eternal mind of Christ, rather than through his temporal words, the knowledge is spiritual and given in real intuitions of “universal revelation”[25].  Spinoza sets down a thorough 21 paragraph analysis of the use of the phrase the spirit of God in scripture, during which Spinoza shows that according to scripture the spirit of God is the same as mind of God[26]. Based on that biblical analysis[27]  and other statements by Spinoza; we can also say that the spirit of Christ, about which Spinoza has much to say, is the mind of Christ. What Spinoza writes concerning the spirit of Christ applies to his understanding of the mind of Christ, visa versa. Finally, as a whole the mind of Christ is determined by an idea: the idea of Christ.

When Spinoza speaks about the temporal finite Christ, including the idea of Christ and the ideas of the mind of temporal finite Christ that simultaneously involves the eternal infinite Christ; for the temporal finite Christ exists as an idea in eternity as does the idea of the eternal infinite Christ. This is an important element of Spinoza’s Christology.

In Spinoza’s thinking about divine revelation we find:

  • special revelation given to prophets, including Moses, through their corporeal senses by way of words and images,
  • revelation given to Moses in a special way, through his understanding words spoken by the voice of God, concerning some universal ideas (i.e. that God exists, that we should worship God, and that we are to trust God. These are found in doctrines 1, 5, and 7, of Spinoza’s 7 doctrines of universal faith.[28])
  • universal revelation given to the whole human race through the mind of Christ.

 

In the universal revelation given in having a mind like the mind of Christ, God communicates his essence to all people without corporeal means[29]. God’s essence is immediately communicated to us by means of our union with God in which we possess the idea of our essence according to Christ. We use our possession of the our idea of Christ to conceive, determine or generate ideas of our mind to be like the ideas of the mind of Christ along with their properties and governing divine laws. Such a constitution of our mind reveals the divine natural law inscribed in us. That divine natural law cannot be deduced by reason or from

“things which aren’t contained in the first foundations of our knowledge, and can’t be deduced from them”[30]

 

Our second acquired human mind governed by natural divine law is only like the mind of Christ; the ideas of the human mind are only like the ideas of the mind of Christ.

Spinoza applies several theological phrases to describe Christ. Philosophically they are all simply the idea of Christ, which itself determines the ideas of the mind of Christ in eternity along with their properties and governing laws. The spirit of Christ[31] (i.e. our idea of God to an extent) is an idea of “a particular affirmative essence”[32], namely a distinctly specific and determinate mode[33] of substance.  Spinoza writes, numerous times, that all people have the spirit of Christ in them[34]. That means all people have the idea of Christ[35] in them. Our union and communion with God is in the natural acquisition of a mind like the eternal mind of Christ through the understanding’s intuitions is “a more excellent way, which agrees best with the human mind”[36].

Spinoza differentiates the spirit (idea) of Christ, the Holy Spirit and the Holy Ghost. What people call the Holy Spirit is people sensing the effects of the activating spirit or idea of Christ in us[37]. The Holy Spirit is the effects or signs of the spirit or idea of Christ actually forming or generating[38] us in second spiritual birth[39]. Spinoza thinks some people confuse the effects of the spirit (idea and mind) of Christ with our indwelling activating idea of Christ as it is in itself. That includes our ideas conceived to be like the ideas of the mind of Christ. People use their temporal sensations of the effects of the idea or spirit of Christ to weave together a kind of quasi-corporeal ‘object of the senses’[40] which Spinoza thinks is what people call the Holy Ghost.

The “divine agency” of regeneration[41] or second birth[42] is neither the Holy Ghost nor the Holy Spirit. It is the “particular affirmative essence”[43] which is the actual idea (i.e. spirit) of the eternal Christ that we all individually possess, actively determining “true Universal Faith” in us[44]. ‘Christ’, the ‘spirit of Christ’ or ‘Christ according to the spirit’ has a singularly critical role to play in human salvation and ultimate existential freedom described by Spinoza in his Ethics. Spinoza says all people have Christ in them, but by that he does not mean all people have the temporal, historical finite Christ in them. The idea (spirit) of the eternal Christ should not be confused with the temporal Christ in duration, of which Spinoza “believes” certain things. In TTP chapters 1 and 4, Spinoza forcefully states that the eternal mind of Christ illuminates the human race through a kind of universal revelation naturally given to all people through our understanding, which he says he demonstrated in chapter 1 of TTP.

“Christ was not so much a Prophet as the mouth of God. As we have shown in Chapter 1, God revealed certain things to the human race through the mind of Christ”[45]

 

As the mouth of God, Christ is the existential portal for the breath and spirit of God, through which God breathes life into people and through which the Word of God is given to us. Those revealed certain things (i.e. the divine things from which we come to know divine natural laws) are universally revealed to all people; therefore they are not mere subjective imaginings. Revelations given through the mind of Christ are intuited products of a natural emendation of the intellect, according to the fixed eternal idea and mind of Christ. Spinoza writes that assuming or taking on a human nature, Christ or rather the idea of Christ, “was the way of Salvation”[46]. Based on scripture alone, Spinoza says,

“So I do not believe that anyone else has reached such perfection, surpassing all others, except Christ[47], to whom the decisions of God, which lead men to salvation, were revealed immediately — without words or visions. …Christ, indeed, communicated with God mind to mind. We have asserted, then, that except for Christ no one has received God’s revelations without the aid of the imagination, i.e., without the aid of words or images.”[48]

 

The particular revelations “without words or visions” given to the temporal Christ were not “immediately communicated to human minds”[49]. Instead in his earthly teaching and earthly preaching, the temporal Christ in flesh and blood terms only communicated words and images, re-presenting what God immediately communicated to him “mind to mind”. Those words and images were seen and heard as corporeal “objects of the senses” through imagination of other people. They are the means of human salvation.

From our temporal perspective, Christ took on human nature in temporal duration. From God’s eternal perspective the idea of Christ took on human nature in eternity. At first glance it would seem that in the above passage, Spinoza was speaking only about the temporal Christ after the flesh. But Christ after the flesh housed or tabernacled Christ after the spirit. He was speaking about latter, while it was yet in the flesh. The ideas of the mind of Christ were immediately given to the temporal Christ through Christ’s mind to mind immediate communion with God. The fixed and eternal Christ had the ideas of God as they are in themselves, and these ideas were in the temporal Christ’s mind. Unlike the temporal Christ, we do not ‘incarnate’ the eternal mind of Christ; we only ‘incarnate’ a mind like the mind of Christ. Our mind is “inscribed” by our native idea of Christ, which inscribing Spinoza calls “divine agency”[50]. Christ’s mind is not like that of the prophets, Apostles or any other person whose minds are generated or formed in second birth. In generated second spiritual birth, we assume or take on the divine nature through our idea of the immediate, necessary and infinite mode of the eternal Christ, modifying or emending our mind, determining it[51] to be like the mind of Christ.

The “divine agency” referred to by Spinoza in TTP i, 4-6, is aptly characterized by Christ in John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7, as the spirit of Truth, and in Greek that guide (and guidance) is called the “Paraclete” (literally: para=alongside clete=calling). The Paraclete is our idea of the eternal Christ. In John 16:12, Christ says, “when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth”[52]. The Patriarchs, writes Spinoza, were “guided by the Spirit of Christ, i.e., by the idea of God”[53], i.e. their idea of the eternal Christ, to recover human freedom.  Like Paul, Spinoza holds that people actually being guided by the idea of Christ[54] or the Paraclete and having a mind like the mind of Christ are “the true original text of God”. In Paul’s words in 2 Corinthian 2:14-6 and 3:3, such people are a “letter from Christ” who exhibit the fruits of the spirit like an “aroma”. The eternal intellect and mind of Christ is constituted with ideas that cannot be inferred or deduced from the foundations of the understanding’s knowledge[55]. They are existentially given, i.e. revealed, in the make of the understanding in human nature as “guided by the spirit of Christ”[56]. They are also reflected in scripture, properly read. Spinoza points out that the mind of Christ was revealed to the Apostles[57] through their minds’ understanding and in this way Apostles could teach people[58] to be Pious or Moral[59].

Spinoza identifies God’s divine law as “a principle of living”  “which aims only at the supreme good”[60] of human kind. This principle is the basis of Spinoza’s ethics. Spinoza says Christ writes “the law” “thoroughly in their hearts”[61] producing an intellectual knowledge of the operations of natural divine law[62] in people. The natural laws of physical nature as described by ‘mechanizing’ natural philosophers or scientists at the time or since, do not convey this “aim”, “principle of living” or rather natural property of human nature inclining the human mind to the supreme good. Inscribing divine law in the mind activates and reveals knowledge of divine natural law in people’s understanding, which knowledge in turn engenders their actions and obedience.  Obedience or praxis to the divine law is natural to those who take possession of it as the touchstone of their understanding. Spinoza references Paul in Romans 8:9 to drive home the role of the divine inscribing of the mind of Christ,

“… Romans 8: 9 teaches that no one becomes blessed unless he has in himself the mind of Christ, by which he perceives God’s laws as eternal truths.”[63]

 

The activating idea of Christ is the “divine agency” naturally “in” people, inclining minds emended according to the idea of Christ, to desire[64] the supreme good or union with God and knowledge of that union.

“…God’s eternal word and covenant, and true religion, are inscribed by divine agency in men’s hearts, i.e., in the human mind, and that this is the true original text of God, which he himself has stamped with his seal, i.e., with the idea of him, as an image of his divinity.”[65]

 

In his thinking Spinoza identifies the knowable God of our actual intellect[66] to be God as God is to an extent only[67]. This extent is expressed, for example, in Spinoza’s phrase, “God insofar as he constitutes the nature of the human Mind”[68]. God in so far as he constitutes the nature of the human body is not knowable by the human mind[69]. Insofar as God constitutes the nature of the human mind, the human mind knows God to an extent and intuitively knows itself.[70] We cannot know the nature of the human mind through the human body or its interactions with other bodies[71]. Furthermore, neither can we adequately know the human mind through the series of things in the common order of nature[72] under the attribute of thought. If and when the human mind is related to “God insofar as he constitutes the nature of the human mind” we can adequately know our mind, including the idea of God[73] in our mind. God constitutes the nature or essence of the human mind when God, in an immediate, necessary and infinite mode[74] of thought, assumes or takes on human nature. This creates human nature or the essence of the human mind and does so in the eternal, immediate, necessary and infinite Christ.

“God’s Wisdom, that is, a Wisdom surpassing human wisdom, assumed a human nature in Christ, and that Christ was the way to salvation”[75]

 

God’s Wisdom is the idea (spirit) of the eternal Christ, which is an immediate, necessary and finite mode under the attribute of thought. The idea of Christ constitutes the nature of the human mind when the human mind is ordered not according to the series of the ideas of our affections in the common order of nature, but when it is emended and ordered according to certain fixed and eternal things (i.e. the idea of the eternal Christ and the necessary and finite ideas of the mind of Christ[76] determined by the idea of the eternal Christ. From our human perspective in duration, the divine immediately assumed a human nature twice: once in essence in eternity as the idea or spirit of the eternal Christ; and once, in the series of events in the common order of nature in the temporal mind of the fleshy person of Christ.

God as God is, is absolutely infinite, eternal Being in itself, identified as self-causing Substance “God or Nature”[77]. Spinoza’s understanding of “Nature”[78],  Spinoza writes to Henry Oldenburg, (Secretary of the Royal Society, theologian, natural philosopher and intermediary between Robert Boyle and Spinoza) is not the Nature “defended” by the “Modern Christians”[79] of Oldenburg’s acquaintance.

 “…I maintain …all things are in God and move in God, I affirm, I say, with Paul, … Nevertheless, some people think the Theological-Political Treatise rests on the assumption that God is one and the same as Nature (by which they understand a certain mass, or corporeal matter). This is a complete mistake.”[80]

 

When Spinoza documents that he agrees with or documents citations of Paul or John, he is effectively self-identifying as a Johnnine/Pauline Christian, which is not a denominational or ‘church’ defined Christian. An example of this is his epigraph for the TTP, which cites 1 John 4:13. He repeats the citation in TTP xiii, 22; xiv, 17; and Ep 76.

In Ep 73 to Oldenburg, Spinoza distanced himself from “Modern Christians” views of Nature, i.e. natural philosophers, or ‘scientists’ like Descartes or Boyle, etc. Spinoza did not objectify or anthropomorphize God; neither did he objectify Nature. Spinoza’s Natura (even as perceived under the attribute of extension) includes more than “a certain mass or corporeal matter”; it includes real divine things, their properties and divine natural laws. Spinoza wrote to Oldenburg that “modern Christians”, i.e. the mechanical philosophers’ and theologians’ understanding of Spinoza’s “God or Nature” “is a complete mistake”. For Spinoza there is a marked difference between abstract mechanized laws applied to nature and errantly taken to be Nature itself; and the natural divine law of God’s nature as it is in itself to an extent, resides in human nature.

It is not surprising that in his Ethics, dealing with human bondage and freedom from captivity, in the part that concerns “the nature and origins of the mind[81]”, in the scholium to corollary of E IIP10, dealing with the “constitution” of the “essence of man”[82], Spinoza tries to ensure that people not confuse the “fictions” of “the things that are called the objects of the senses” of “Modern Christian” natural philosophers and theologians. They errantly look to corporeal objects of the senses. Spinoza first looks to incorporeal, i.e. mental, objects of the senses. Spinoza says of those “Modern Christians”,

“…many say … they believed … that the things that are called objects of the senses are prior to all…”[83]

 

Theologians[84] who believe people are naturally depraved are forced to look outside and past humanity to find God. They appeal to superstitions or try to find God in Nature, which they do not understand. Looking to mechanized or even mathematized nature, natural philosophers and natural theologians look for God outside past a human nature with inherent divinity, and look to the great empty machine they presume nature to be. The tendency to prefer such fictionalized worldviews has continued despite the replacement of earlier fictions being replaced by other fictions favoured at the time. Spinoza looks to human nature emended by the spirit or nature of Christ, to find God.

“For example, if God’s nature is known to us[85], then affirming that God exists follows necessarily from our nature, just as it proceeds from the nature of a triangle that its three angles equal two right angles.”[86]

 

Spinoza situates the experience-able and knowable spirit (idea) of Christ in the “constitution” of the “essence of man”, which essence is a natural thing made divine by the spirit or idea of Christ in us.

The mechanization of nature is so subtly entrenched in our thinking that it is prudent to keep in mind that not only is Nature not mechanized for Spinoza, neither is substance, modes, thought or extension. While we may be inclined to consider these things in a mechanized way; they should not be considered this way. What modes are and what are modes are made of must not be taken to be mechanical in nature. For Spinoza the science of mechanics, like geometry is abstract not real. If substance is not mechanical in nature, how should we understand the nature of modes of substance? In themselves modes are neither modes of extension or thought. Immediate, necessary and infinite and finite modes are modes, specifications or distinctions of existence and existing itself. Mediated necessary and infinite modes are further specified or distinguished modes of immediate necessary and infinite and finite modes. These are not corporeal “things that are called objects of the senses”.

The idea of Christ or the spirit of Christ is incorporeal; it not what Spinoza calls an object of the (corporeal) senses. It is not corporeally touched, seen or heard. It is an eternal, immediate, necessary and finite mode of Existence and Existing. It is a person’s incorporeal union with God’s essence determined by “divine agency”, which we actually experience and perceive in thought as the essence of God. Nor are the ideas of the mind of Christ corporeal objects of the senses. The effects or products of the ideas of the mind of Christ, i.e. fruits of the spirit, may appear and seem to be evident as corporeal objects of the senses. Just because we corporeally see the effects of the wind blowing, that does not mean we understand the incorporeal wind, or where it comes from or where it goes (see John 3:7), so it is with evidence of the presence of the fixed and eternal Christ. The idea of or the spirit of Christ is sensed or felt by the mind as an incorporeal intellectual object[87].

Those corporeal “things that are called objects of the senses”, are human constructs that re-present our actual temporal experience of things in themselves. They are sensations that form representations or form fictional things of the imagination that represent things in themselves. Such representations are utilized in the study of religion as much as the study of nature or science. When fictional things of the imagination are de-constructed, the remaining mere sensations have no significance or meaning that is not inherent in them merely as sensations distinct from what they had represented. If the construed fictions are mistakenly taken to be real things and people connect their hopes and fears to them, superstition[88] and superstitious beliefs emerge rendering people in bondage, susceptible to abuse and exploitation..

In their study of their corporeal perceptions of natural objects (i.e. “their first fictions, on which they had built the knowledge of natural things”) “Modern Christians” thought they were properly studying God as God is. Instead they were studying ‘man’-made fictions, they then inappropriately applied to God. If the laws of science as articulated by them were the only natural laws of God, Nature would be a kind of dead machine. In regards to those philosophers and theologians, Spinoza concluded,

“So it is no wonder that they have generally contradicted themselves.”[89]

 

The fictional mechanization of Nature led to a severe limiting and an enduring impoverishment of Christian natural theology. In that paradigm, Nature or God exists apart from people. Subsequent theories of nature maintained the separation. Significantly, theologians’ undertook to apply similar corporeal fictions to spiritual things, in particular to Christology. Experience and reasoning of a natural theology derived only from corporeal (mechanical) natural philosophy, and its successors, is “not clear and distinct but confused” [90]. Spinoza discounts that prevailing natural theology[91] and instead proposes[92] an enlarged natural knowledge that includes certain intuitions of divine knowledge which are natural to our human intellect. Theologians also “have generally contradicted themselves” by thinking that the truths of the bible as perceived by them only through abstract words and images, are prior to the truths of real actual experience of their intuitions of incorporeal the spirit (idea and mind) of Christ. For Spinoza, scripture provides knowledge through imagination[93]; i.e. first through the body’s perceiving the appearance of a physical scroll or book, and second by our reading a record of no longer existing historical events. It does not reveal our personal present first hand or direct experiencing of God or the things of God, as does our union with God and our conceiving our mind to be like the mind of Christ.

Spinoza defines reality and perfection as the same[94]. People have more or less real actual perfection[95] or more or less reality.  They are ‘more or less’ actively united with God. Spinoza describes how people go from a passive essence to an active essence or from a less perfect to a more perfect essence[96]. A person’s passive “godless” essence cannot and does not co-exist with the person’s active Godly essence[97]. Ideas of the mind are organized and connected according to either one of two concurrent yet exclusive systems or ‘orders’[98]. One is the series of events in the common order of nature, as determined by things external to our person[99]. The other order is the order of the infinite intellect, conceived from within our mind and known under an aspect or as a species of eternity, i.e. sub specie aeternitatis[100]. Being incompatible, the passive mind’s essence and the active mind’s essence strive against each other[101]. Our union with God emends our mind according to the order of the intellect. God to an extent is clearly understood or explained in union with us, “…through the nature of the human mind, or insofar as he constitutes[102] the essence of the human mind”[103],

In the temporal Christ, God immediately constitutes the idea of God to the extent of human understanding and immediately constitutes the ideas of the mind of Christ. In all other people, union with God is immediately determined by divine agency, i.e. the idea of the eternal Christ, which determines or conceives their ideas to be like the ideas of the mind of Christ.  Because the idea or spirit of Christ is the essence of being truly human, people in union with God conceive or generate their spiritual formation and assume their true essence when have a mind like the mind of Christ.  Ideas, that are actively caused or objectively determined by the intellect’s intuition of its idea of God, are active conceptual[104] presentations of things in themselves or presentations of “the essence of things”[105] sub specie aeternitatis.

‘Supernatural’ revelation, says Spinoza, is given to few people, e.g. prophets of various nations[106], through their imagination[107]. Importantly, Spinoza identifies another kind of revelation: divine natural knowledge of “divine natural law”[108] at work in the human mind. We naturally have the idea of God to an extent in us[109]. We naturally participate in God’s essence[110] and in doing so have knowledge of God’s essence, including God’s divine natural laws.  Knowledge of divine law revealed in the imagination of the Prophets and Apostles is limited by the nature of the corporeal imagination. It is caught up and snared in cultural biases leading to privation of our knowledge of divine natural law. Universal truths caught in special revelations can be reliably discerned by natural light. Spinoza writes,

“… I wanted to ask [in Chs. 4 and 5] whether universal Religion, or the divine law revealed to the whole human race through the Prophets and Apostles, was anything other than what the natural light also teaches?”[111]

 

Spinoza concluded that the main precept of scriptural texts[112] inadequately revealed only to a few people through their imagination is adequately revealed to all people through natural intellection[113]. Universal Christian Religion and its divine laws, is revealed and known through the mind of Christ, which says Spinoza, “we have shown in Chapter 1” of TTP[114] .

Spinoza is clear that “God’s law” or “divine law” is both universal and natural to people because it is “inscribed divinely in our mind”.

“I said explicitly in Ch. 4 that the chief point of the divine law— which I said (in Ch. 12) has been inscribed divinely in our mind— and its main precept is that we should love God as the greatest good…”[115], [116]

 

“… the Nature of natural divine law, … is universal, or common to all men, for we have deduced it from universal human nature; … it does not require faith in historical narratives, … For since this natural divine law is understood simply by the consideration of human nature[117], it is certain that we can conceive it just as much in Adam as in any other man, just as much in a man who lives among others as in a man who lives a solitary life.”[118]

 

Given our idea of Christ and our conceiving ideas like the ideas of the mind of Christ along with their properties, we sense and become aware of the “natural divine law” that governs them. From these properties of the idea of Christ and from the ideas of the mind of Christ, we abstract common notions that we fashion into our abstract understanding of divine natural law using abstract reasoning. This is why Spinoza says that he has “deduced it[119] from universal human nature[120]”. The wisdom of God, which is surpasses our original human understanding, does not surpass Christ’s original wisdom, because God’s wisdom assumed human nature in Christ, in effect constituting human nature or the essence of the human mind perfectly or most real. Divine natural law was not inscribed in the mind of Christ; it constitutes the fixed and eternal mind of Christ. What is more, it is the constitution of the ‘living’ or activating fixed and eternal idea and mind of Christ that inscribes other minds to be like mind of Christ. Divine natural law is naturally inscribed or revealed by intuition “to the human race through the mind of Christ”[121], when members of the human race acquire minds like the mind of Christ.

The main precept of scripture[122] is also the “main precept” inscribed in the individual human mind[123]. The latter we know clearly and adequately, the former we know “through a glass darkly” and inadequately. The divine natural law given in the intellect is not the abstract mechanistic laws of nature described by “Modern Christian” natural philosophers such as Descartes, Boyle or those in the Royal Society. Oldenburg describes the Royal Society as pursuing “Mechanical Arts” and that “we regard it as settled” that things are best explained “on Mechanical Principles”[124]. Spinoza’s position is that we have actual knowledge of natural divine law from within our divinely inscribed mind; whereas we only have knowledge of natural mechanical laws of nature from our perceptions of the endless effects of external bodies on our body. God’s Wisdom, wrote Spinoza, assumed or took upon itself “a human nature in Christ”[125]. The “divine agency” that “assumed” or took on human nature and “inscribes the mind” is the essence or spirit of eternal idea and eternal mind of Christ built in the nature of human understanding itself.

The mind’s natural sensing of the intellect’s intuitions of incorporeal internal experience[126] of God and of the things of God, reveals knowledge of the divine natural laws of the idea and the mind of Christ[127]. Citing Paul, Spinoza holds that,

“…everyone, by natural light, clearly understands God’s power and eternal divine laws from which he can know and deduce what he ought to pursue and what he ought to flee…”[128]

 

The “natural light” by which “everyone” “clearly understands God’s power and eternal divine laws” is the spirit (i.e. essence or idea) of Christ, or Word of God; and the “natural light” within us is the natural foundation of universal ethics based on God’s nature.

In our union with God, we possess our singular idea (i.e. spirit) of Christ which “is not the consequence of anything else, but is immediate” and intuited. Intuited revelations of God to an extent are given and known through the intellect or mind of Christ[129] constituted by ideas determined by the idea of Christ. To be united with God, we do not know God as God is; we need only to participate in the essence, spirit or idea and mind of Christ. We possess the fourth intuitive kind of knowledge in our possessing knowledge of God as God singularly is in “Christ according to the spirit”.

“I do not say that we must know him as he is; it is enough for us to know him to some extent in order to be united with him. … That this fourth [kind of] knowledge, which is the knowledge of God, is not the consequence of anything else, but immediate, is evident from what we have previously proven, viz. that he is the cause of all knowledge which is known through itself alone, and not through any other thing.”[130]

 

“…the knowledge of singular things[131] I have called intuitive, or knowledge of the third kind (see IIP40S2), can accomplish, and how much more powerful it is than the universal knowledge I have called knowledge of the second kind.” [132]

 

Attributes do not cause effects in one another[133]. The mind (thought[134] or spirit) does not and cannot determine the body to motion; the body (extension) does not and cannot determine the mind to thinking[135]. Therefore, it is important to know that in his temporal manifestation Christ not only had a body determined in the series of things in the common order of nature, but also had a mind immediately determined by the idea of Christ. Nothing of Christ’s corporeal body, under the attribute of extension, determined Christ’s mind to action under the attribute of thought. Similarly, our knowledge of our union with God is given under the attribute thought though our participation in it[136]; it cannot be acquired by our understanding of things external to thought.

It has been suggested that the infinite intellect of God is an immediate, necessary and infinite mode[137]. That is not something Spinoza directly suggests. Even if the infinite intellect of God is an immediate, necessary and infinite mode, that does not mean Spinoza considers the spirit of Christ to be the infinite intellect of God. We have and know the certain and determinate or finite mind of Christ[138]; we do not have and know the infinite intellect of God as it is[139]. The idea of Christ is an immediate, necessary and finite mode of thought that in a certain and determinate way constitutes the human Godly essence naturally in[140] all humans. The infinite intellect of God is beyond limited human understanding and would be nothing like the intellect of the mind of Christ[141], which is within the reach of human understanding. The specific and distinct eternal idea (spirit) of Christ, native to the human intellect, and the specific and distinct ideas of the eternal mind of Christ determined by the indwelling eternal idea of Christ, are different from the infinite intellect of God in the singular fixed and eternal individuality.

Under the attribute of thought we know things, from a human perspective, according to the series of things in the common order of nature, i.e. the series of mutable changeable things[142]. Under the attribute of thought in our union with God we know things from the perspective of God, i.e. according the order of fixed and eternal things[143] sub specie aeternitatis. In regards to Christology the idea of the eternal Christ and the ideas of the eternal mind of Christ are fixed and eternal things that determine the presence of Christ in our changeable minds. We participate in the idea and mind of Christ and to an extent know what Christ knows.

Our idea of the eternal Christ is immediately communicated to us in our spiritual (ideational) generating or forming because we, in our actual union with God, actively participate in thought. The properties and governing laws of the eternal idea of Christ constitute the necessary and infinite ideas of the eternal mind of Christ, including real, actually existing loving-kindness, gladness, peace, patience, beneficence, goodness, good faith, gentleness and self-restraint[144]; trust[145]; consideration for others[146]; as well as mercy or charity, hope, righteousness, justice, and love of God and others; etc. These ideas are some of the ideas expressed in Christ’s messages and teaching in scripture. The immediate idea of the mind of the eternal Christ and the immediate ideas of the eternal mind of Christ are immediately manifested in the singular temporal mind of Christ in duration[147]. Of Christ’s temporal mind in duration, we can only have an inadequate knowledge through imagination. Spinoza therefore speaks of only believing[148] certain things about the temporal Christ.

From the nature of our intellect, we immediately intuit our idea of God to an extent, which is the idea of the idea (spirit) of Christ we naturally possess, because we actively participate in God to an extent, so that God’s essence is actively in us. We participate in our acts (fruits of the spirit) caused in our union with God. Writes Spinoza,

“…we clearly understand that God can communicate himself immediately to men, for he communicates his essence to our mind without using any corporeal means”[149]

 

God immediately communicates or inscribes his essence or nature, as it is in the immediate, necessary and finite idea of Christ, to our mind or intellect, under the attribute of incorporeal thought. That communing or rather uniting is determined by the “divine agency” that “inscribes” the mind with “the true original text of God”[150]. Being so inscribed, the mind actually produces fruits — fruits of the spirit — in its actions.

In “assuming” a human nature, the Word or wisdom of God forms the essence of human nature in the eternal idea of Christ, through which God immediately communicates himself to the human mind sub specie aeternitatis. This actual indwelling idea of Christ producing our mind to be like the mind of Christ “is the first cause of divine revelation” [151]. That first cause of the universal divine revelation communicates to and determines in us the true essence of human nature involving divine natural law by inscribing our minds to be like the mind of Christ. Citing Paul in Romans 8:9, Spinoza says we perceive “God’s laws as eternal truths”, (i.e. as divine natural laws), when we have a mind like the mind of Christ in us[152]. We “clearly and distinctly understand” [153] spiritual things because our emended spiritual mind contains God nature. First our immediately intuited idea of Christ is given in our union with God; and second, the intuitions or ideas of our mind are mediated or determined by our native or natural idea of the eternal Christ. Without real immediate and mediated necessary and finite modes or ideas of Christ, as well as our actual idea of Christ and our actually conceiving a mind like the mind of Christ, there would be no real Christology or means of human salvation and freedom in the very nature of God or Nature, i.e. in reality itself. It is not that the idea and mind of Christ is separate from reality, rather they are the reality of God to the extent required for our union with God.

The immediate eternal finite and necessary idea of Christ is different from our immediate temporal indwelling [154]idea of the eternal Christ. The latter is determined in our personal temporal existence which in itself is not necessary[155] until it actually exists. Though not one and the same, the two ideas of Christ have common properties. If, like the Patriarchs[156], we are led by our idea of Christ (which all people possess) to emend our intellects and minds according to the idea (spirit) of Christ, we would have the properties and divine laws of the mind of Christ in common with people whose intellects are likewise emended, and we would understand and know those commonalities in other people.

Spinoza identifies a kind of difference (e.g. between the eternal idea of Christ and our idea of Christ), when he writes,

“For the intellect and will which would constitute God’s essence would have to differ entirely from our intellect and will, and could not agree with them in anything except the name. They would not agree with one another any more than do the dog that is a heavenly constellation and the dog that is a barking animal. I shall demonstrate this…”[157]

 

Unlike Spinoza’s constellation and barking dog example, the eternal mind (i.e. spirit) of Christ and our emended mind like the mind of Christ share properties and governing laws. It is necessary for to become the other.  Though sharing common properties, they exist each in its own kind. Christ, as divine agency, connects and unites people to God to the extent or the certain and determinate mind of Christ. The immediate communion between God and Christ conveys Godliness in the immediate communion between Christ and our individual self.

Imagination[158] involves the mind’s remote passive perceptions or representations of things in themselves. Intellection[159] involves experiencing the immediate active conceiving and conceptions of incorporeal ideas and their interactions in themselves. We intellectually sense these internal thought experiences in our mind[160]. As Spinoza writes, we need to know how our senses work[161], both our corporeal and incorporeal senses. We can perceive or feel external objects of the bodily senses through images of eyes, ears, touch etc., and their processing. We also can sense or feel internal objects of the mental senses through intellectual ‘images’, notions, ideas and intuition and their processing. The two processes, their elements and governing laws differ,

“…we know that those activities by which imaginations are produced happen according to other laws, wholly different from the laws of the intellect, and that in imagination the soul only has the nature of something acted on.” [162]

 

While recognizing that the laws that govern “singular, changeable things” differ from the laws that govern “fixed and eternal things”, it is not clear how these synchronize in actually existing. For example, it is not clear how laws of causality found in singular changeable things work relative to fixed and eternal things. In regards to necessary infinite and finite modes, including the eternal idea of Christ and the eternal ideas of the mind of Christ, Spinoza says,

“…these fixed and eternal things are singular, nevertheless, because of their presence everywhere, and most extensive power, they will be to us like universals, or genera of the definitions of singular, changeable things, and the proximate causes of all things. But since this is so, there seems to be a considerable difficulty in our being able to arrive at knowledge of these singular things. For to conceive them all at once is a task far beyond the powers of the human intellect[163].”[164]

However many fixed and eternal singular things exist, what matters in regards to human salvation or freedom are those that actually determine our union with God and inscribe God’s decrees or decisions regarding salvation in our mind. We do not need to conceive them all at once to adequately know some, i.e. God to an extent[165].

“For we can’t imagine God, but we can indeed understand him. We should also note this here: I don’t say that I know God completely, but only that I know some of his attributes, not all of them, nor even most of them. Certainly being ignorant of most of them does not prevent my knowing some. When I began to learn Euclid’s Elements, I understood first that the three angles of a triangle equal two right angles. I understood this property of the triangle clearly [NS: and distinctly], though I was ignorant of many other properties of the same triangle.”[166]

 

We cannot imagine the spirit of Christ or Christ according to the spirit, but we can understand it in our understanding of the mind of Christ. We only require that our idea of Christ actually determines in us what is required in our union with God and our salvation. When determined by the fixed and eternal idea and mind of Christ, the “singular, changeable things” (i.e. people’s minds) manifest God in their existence and existing, evidenced in the presence of the fruits of the spirit, i.e. “the offspring, or fruits of the intellect”[167].

It is difficult for people to at once know these “singular” “fixed and eternal things” regarding human salvation and freedom, from “first foundations of knowledge”[168]. Spinoza says this was not true for the temporal Christ. God’s “decisions” were given immediately to Christ without words (reasoning) or images (imagination)[169]. There is no agency between the idea of God and Christ. The divine agency in the human intellect is the idea and mind, (i.e. spirit) of Christ that unifies us and God. For his part, Spinoza envisioned that we might come to demonstrable knowledge of the process of divine universal revelation common to all people uniting with God.

“Before we equip ourselves for knowledge of singular things[170], there will be time to treat those aids, all of which serve to help us know how to use our senses and to make, according to certain laws, and in order, the experiments that will suffice to determine the thing we are seeking, so that at last we may infer from them according to what laws of eternal things it was made, and its inmost nature may become known to us, as I shall show in its place.”[171]

 

The “thing we are seeking” is our personal, highest human good or our union with God, and knowing how our union with God is determined by fixed and eternal things generating or determining a human nature “stronger and more enduring than”[172] our own. Spinoza had acquired such a character and he wanted to help others acquire[173] it as well.

 

 

B

According to Spinoza, people are determined to exist, experience and have knowledge under the attribute of thought in two ways, each exclusive of the other[174]. In one we are captive, made passive in bondage to things other than our true essence. This way creates the illusion that we construct our own human essence from our experience of Existence and Existing. In the other, in union with God we freely express or manifest our true human essence. In one way, our mind is acted on. In itself, our mind after the flesh is not the cause of ‘our’ acts[175]. In the other way the mind acts in in union with its indwelling idea of God. Emerging as disorganized, inadequate and confused, a person’s first or original intellect and mind[176], is passive in its formation, being bound to and being bound by the vagrant series of events of the world after the flesh[177].  By way of intellectual emendation informed by the intellect’s indwelling idea of God[178] as explained by human nature, a person conceives or generates a second active[179] intellect and mind. In union with God, we are essentially active in the formation or cause of our mind or spirit. In this second way, we act in union with God, driven by the power or conatus of God we necessarily, naturally and knowingly act obedient to God’s nature or to divine law. In this second ‘religious’ mind, we are, in union with God, the cause of our mind’s acts.

Spinoza is clear that we do not and cannot possess an adequate idea of God as God is or know God as God is[180]. The idea of God to an extent actualizes in our intuition of the simple idea of Christ; a phrase not used by Spinoza.  The mind of Christ[181], a critical phrase used by Spinoza in significant ways, is constituted with specific and distinct ideas, their properties and governing laws, distinctly and specifically determined by the idea of Christ. The emendation of a person’s intellect and mind through personal second spiritual birth actually conceives the person’s mind to be configured like the mind of Christ. The emending aligns or reconciles the person’s intellect and mind to the infinite intellect of God within the parameters of the idea and mind of Christ.

Towards the end of his Ethics, Spinoza writes

“And really, he who, like an infant or child[182], has a Body capable[183] of very few things, and very heavily dependent on external causes[184], has a Mind which considered solely in itself [185]is conscious of almost nothing of itself, or of God, or of things. On the other hand, he who has a Body capable of a great many things[186], has a Mind which considered only in itself[187] is very much conscious of itself, and of God, and of things[188]. In this life, then, we strive[189] especially that the infant’s Body may change (as much as its nature allows and assists) into another, capable of a great many things and related to a Mind very much conscious of itself, of God, and of things.”[190]

 

The difference in human mind or human spirit which that scholium points to is a difference in human essence. It is a difference in generation[191] or difference in formation of the mind’s active essence.  In response to Blijenbergh’s Ep 20, Spinoza explains difference of the first and second  minds essences or constitutions, and therefore of what is true human essence, to Blijenbergh in Ep 23,

“Finally, I should like it noted that— though the acts of the pious (i.e., of those who have clearly that idea of God according to which all their acts and thoughts are determined), and of the godless those who do not have that idea of God, but only confused ideas of earthly things, according to which all their acts and thoughts are determined), and, finally, the acts of everything there is, follow necessarily from God’s eternal laws and decree, and continually depend on God— nevertheless, they differ from one another not only in degree, but also essentially.”[192]

 

Spinoza is clear the mind of the “man of the flesh cannot understand”[193] “the divine law and its highest precept”[194]. And concerning “godliness” in people, Spinoza contends divine law, “is the ultimate end toward which all our actions ought to be directed”[195]. And concerning “godless” people, he says, “they lack the love of God” “through which alone” “we are said to be servants”[196].  “Bodily birth after the flesh, when the person unites with their body, provides a person of “flesh” with “godless” experience in a “state of nature”, [197] generating an original passive mind deprived of its true essence or human nature. The religious ‘man’ in union with God generates and experiences a second spiritual birth[198] generating an acquired active mind which situates ‘him’ in “a state of religion” under natural religious command or law[199]. The first birth is a corporeal event or ‘object of the senses’ that is prior in time to the second incorporeal event. We are not the cause of our first-birth-mind; it is generated by the affects of the world after the flesh on our body. In union with God we participate in our spiritual generation in, of and from God and do so under a form or aspect of eternity, while we are yet in the flesh. The spiritual person in a “state of religion” generates or acquires an active mind manifesting his or her true essence realized in union with God. This spiritual mode manifests certain divine laws of nature, which can be discerned[200] like any other law of nature. The actions of religious or spiritual minds are guided by “spiritual things”[201]. Spinoza writes that the essence or nature of the minds of these two kinds of people: “differ from one another not only in degree, but also essentially”[202].

“…such a constitution of mind is contrary to all the others which we call evil. Therefore, they cannot exist in one subject.”[203]

 

What has often been translated as “born again” (literally “born from above”) in John 3:3 should be understood in conjunction with John 3:5-8.  It involves being “born of the spirit (3:8)”, not born of the flesh (3:6) or “of water (3:5)”. It is the birth of an essence generated by the spirit i.e. “wind (3:8)” and not caused any way by corporeal “objects of the senses” which we corporeally “hear (3:8)” with our corporeal senses. The second spiritual birth which forms the spiritual person is not a ‘rebirth’ of the same one spirit or mind; it is not same essence that transforms into a different essence. The spiritual person is different in essence from the person of flesh. The second spiritual birth from above generates a completely different person whose essence, according to Spinoza is contrary to the person of flesh. The spiritually born person formulates activities producing fruits of the spirit or in effect “offspring”[204] or products of the mind of Christ, common to all whose mind is like the mind of Christ.

Savan demonstrates the importance of Spinoza’s scientific study of biblical texts,

“…Spinoza showed that the methods of the natural sciences could be fruitfully extended to the scientific study not only of the Bible but of historical texts generally. Spinoza is the founder of scientific hermeneutics. … It was in the extension of the scientific outlook and scientific methods to the study of the historical texts that Spinoza was innovative and influential.”[205]

Nevertheless, scientific hermeneutics is not to be confused with the study of true religion, which Spinoza defines without reference to scriptural texts or their study,

“Whatever we desire and do of which we are the cause insofar as we have the idea of God, or insofar as we know God, I relate to Religion.”[206]

In regards to Religion, scripture corroborates or demonstrates what is already known of religion by intuition. Spinoza had and used intuited knowledge of “Christ according to the spirit”[207] in him to recognize the main precepts of divine law in scripture. Spinoza’s Christology begins with reality itself, not the texts of historical accounts. Spinoza writes to Blijenbergh,

“…anyone who perceives the Method of Demonstrating[208] will judge that Scripture, just as it is, is the true revealed Word of God. I cannot have a Mathematical Demonstration of it, except by Divine Revelation. And for that reason I said “I believe”— but not “I know in a mathematical way…”[209]

We “cannot have a Mathematical Demonstration”, unless the demonstrating is based on naturally accessible universal divine revelation. Spinoza undertook to articulate Christ from reality itself or from Existence itself, free of reference to prophetic revelations or the texts of scripture. Spinoza provides and demonstrates an ontological argument for the necessary and infinite existence of Christ as well as the idea and mind of Christ in eternity.

Scripture is not the foundation or basis of Spinoza’s Christology; neither is reason. Spinoza writes about knowledge based on reason and reasoning.

“… when the essence of a thing is inferred from another thing, but not adequately. This happens, either when we infer the cause from some effect, or when something is inferred from some universal, which some property always accompanies.”[210]

Knowledge construed from abstract reasoning, even if true, is inadequate. It does not arise from our union with God, nor does it further our actual union with God. Says Spinoza about reason,

“…we can, in a sense, say that we have an idea of the thing… But still, it will not through itself be the means of our reaching our perfection.”[211]

It is one thing to construct a reasoned model[212] mind of Christ and demonstrate it by deduction, inference and experimentation properly done; it is quite another thing to actually conceive a personal mind that is like the mind of Christ. The “means of our reaching our perfection” is our actual encountering, experiencing as well as intuitively knowing or understanding God’s immanence to the extent of our actual existence and existing in union with God as determined by “Christ according to the spirit.”

In an obtuse passage that underlies his Christology. Spinoza, in effect, argues the immediate idea and the immediate ideas of the mind (or spirit) of Christ is “the most excellent of all”, and that people are excellent in essence and existence when they manifest Christ’s excellence.

“… the end[213] turns nature completely upside down. For what is really a cause, it considers as an effect …What is by nature prior, it makes posterior. And finally, what is supreme and most perfect, it makes imperfect. … as has been established in PP21-23, that effect is most perfect which is produced immediately by God, and the more something requires intermediate causes to produce it, the more imperfect it is. But  if the things which have been produced immediately by God had been made so that God would achieve his end, then the last things, for the sake of which the first would have been made, would be the most excellent of all.”[214]

Spinoza says the mind of Christ surpassed the minds of others because it was more perfect and the ideas of Christ’s mind were given immediately by God “mind to mind”[215]. Spinoza cautions when he claims that in Christ God’s Wisdom or the Word of God assumed or took on human nature and that Christ is the “way of salvation”, that he does not mean “things that some churches[216] claim about Christ”[217]. His Christology is not like their Christologies. Their doctrines confuse corporeal “objects of the senses”, with things in themselves; as well as things according to the flesh and things according to the spirit. Spinoza does not speak against the doctrines of those denominations: he quite simply admits or says he does not understand them[218]. Spinoza does not understand churches who claim the infinite transforms into the finite, vice versa. Spinoza only speaks against any actions of any denominations that harm others. In Spinoza’s Christology, those unfounded doctrines established by church denominations centuries after Christ temporal existence contradicts reality as he understands it. In regards to metaphysics and ontology, Spinoza’s Christology accounts for the infinite and the finite, for the eternal Christ and the temporal Christ, as well as their relation to God. For his part, Spinoza speaks of the historical Christ in duration when he is talking about things in duration. But when speaking about things in eternity, Spinoza considers the eternal and infinite Christ existing in eternity and considers the temporal, finite, historical Christ existing in eternity sub specie aeternitatis. Spinoza does not attempt to miraculously merge the finite and the infinite by way of ‘mystery’, his approach accommodates both — there is no need for a supernatural solution because there is no problem.

If Christ exists so God can ‘save’ people; then in essence people are God’s primary creation and concern, not Christ. For Spinoza it is because Christ is prior to people that Christ established what human essence is and establishes that people manifest that essence, which is the idea of the eternal Christ. Spinoza holds to an “order of Philosophizing”[219], which starts with perfect reality, God or existence itself, then emanates to creatures (i.e. people) of that reality, that God or that Existence and Existing. Christ does not exist to save people; rather because Christ exists people find salvation. A person’s true human essence is attained as an effect or manifestation of the reality of the eternal idea of Christ in their essence and existing. When the idea of Christ we possess, is determining the conceiving of our ideas to be like the ideas of the mind of Christ, this emendation or emanation manifests God’s nature as perfect as possible for the individual person.

Spinoza’s own view, and his reading of Paul, is that everyone has divine “natural light” by intuited natural revelation because God operates in them, apart from what is inferred by or deduced in abstract reasoning.

“Finally, we must not by any means pass over that passage in Paul (Romans 1: 20) where he says (as Tremellius[220] translates from the Syriac text): for from the foundations of the world, God’s hidden things are visible in his creatures through the understanding, and his power and divinity, which are to eternity; so they are without escape. By this he indicates clearly enough that everyone, by the natural light, clearly understands God’s power and eternal divinity, from which he can know and deduce what he ought to pursue and what he ought to flee. Hence he concludes that no one has any escape and none can be excused by their ignorance, as they certainly could be, if he were speaking of the supernatural light, and of the fleshly passion of Christ and his resurrection etc.”[221]

 

Of “God’s hidden things” scripture says, ‘they have ears but do not hear, eyes but do not see’[222], or in Spinoza’s terms “God’s hidden things” are not clearly “visible” through corporeal imagination or abstract reason. Those things of God according to Paul and Spinoza are known through the intellect’s ‘hearing and seeing’ using its natural light. They are neither ‘supernaturally’ given to only few specially chosen people, not constrained by the limits of historical events known, once again, only by a few selected and chosen people.

In regards to denominational doctrines about the blood-sacrifice and corporeal resurrection of the “fleshly” Christ, Spinoza simply did subscribe to the global notion (after the flesh) that human weakness or sin requires compensation through the taking of life in blood sacrifice. Nor did Spinoza think that there was a need for the “fleshy” Christ to endure in the flesh after dying in the flesh. The ontological status of Christ is not altered whether he endures in the world in the flesh or not. Spinoza’s Christology allows for the idea of a temporal finite Christ to eternally exist in God’s eternal infinite intellect as well as allowing the idea (spirit) of the eternal Christ to exist eternally in God’s infinite intellect, as an immediate, necessary and finite configuration of the essence of substance or God. In eternity, the two are connected by one and the same essence: one is perceived by people in duration, the other is conceived by people sub specie aeternitatis.

As discussed above, we participate in extension when we unite with our temporal bodies. Sensing and becoming aware of our union with our temporal bodies and the effects of that union is bodily birth in and of the flesh[223]. Our first, original emergent mind is passively formed in our first corporeal birth and corporeal experiences. Using our inadequate ideas of our bodies’ affects[224], we passively participate in thought in forming our first, original passive minds[225]. In E IIP2S, Spinoza points out that knowledge of our body and how it functions is extremely limited. We also participate in and have awareness of our union with God under a species or form of eternity. Sensing and becoming aware of our union with God, in terms of our human nature’s intellect, and sensing and becoming aware the incorporeal effects of that union, is “spiritual” generation, formation or birth in and of the spirit. With spiritual birth and life we are united to God so that God is in us and we are in God, while we are yet in the flesh. We actively participate in thought through our intellect to form our idea of Christ immediately determined in our union with God.

In E IIP12, 13 and 13C, Spinoza considers corporeal things (bodies) under the attribute of extension, which we perceive with our corporeal senses. The human body is an object of the senses representing affections of our body from which we infer perceptions of other bodies acting on our body, under extension. The human body is the object of the idea of the human mind in so far as that mind is constituted according to experiences of the. We do not and cannot have an adequate knowledge of the corporeal object of our mind (our body) or of the corporeal objects of the senses which appear to interact with our body. Our mind’s emendation according to our union with God in a certain and determinate way is the object of innate idea of the essence of God. Our mind’s understanding is informed by our idea of God (as explained by the nature of the human mind. As Spinoza puts it,

“since our mind— simply from the fact that it contains God’s Nature objectively in itself, and participates in it… whatever we clearly and distinctly understand, the idea and nature of God dictates to us.”[226]

 

“There is, as we have said, this idea[227] … which pertains to the essence of the Mind[228], and which is necessarily eternal[229]. …we feel and know by experience that we are eternal. …the eyes of the mind[230], by which it sees and observes things, are the demonstrations[231] themselves. … we nevertheless feel that our mind, insofar as it involves the essence of the body under a species of eternity, is eternal and that this existence it has cannot be defined by time or explained through duration. “[232]

 

Our body’s essence considered under a species of eternity is not “defined by time or explained through duration”. When our body’s true essence is conceived “under a species of eternity” it is the object of a mind that exists and is understood or known as eternal, with God as first cause. This is not at all our body in “the series, or order of existing” being the object of the mind. According to 1 Corinthians 15 (which Spinoza cites in Ep 75), Paul likewise thinks the eternal ‘resurrected’ mind is not like the carnal flesh and blood mind[233]. We sense the effects our eternal union with God[234], our intuiting the idea of Christ and our intuiting our ideas to be like the ideas of the mind of Christ,

“… no one can doubt this unless he thinks that an idea is something mute, like a picture on a tablet, and not a mode of thinking, viz. the very [act of] understanding. … As the light makes both itself and the darkness plain, so truth is the standard both of itself and of the false.”[235]

 

We do not have adequate knowledge of the human body[236] as it is in duration, but we have adequate knowledge of the human mind[237] known under a form of eternity[238]. Intuitions are ideas in themselves, which are not experienced as objects of the corporeal senses but are self-evidently experienced in themselves.

People corporeally experience and interact with other extended bodies through union with their body[239]. They have only inadequate imagination knowledge of such interactions[240]. Their first or original “worldly”, “earthly” passive intellects and minds[241] are determined by things external[242] to their true human essence. Knowledge about our essence and existence from our original or first externally determined mind is confused, inadequate and disorganized. People also experience “incorporeal” spiritual things[243] (i.e. ideas) determined in their union with God, which they consequently know adequately under the aspect or form of eternity from their union with God or Nature.

Using abstracted common notions and properties of revealed intuited ideas of Christ, a person can use reasoned inference and deduction to construct a perfect reasoned character “model of human nature”[244]. A properly[245] construed “model of human nature” is a practical aid in establishing true rules or a true plan of living, and using the plan to live “according to the guidance of reason” based on our idea of Christ. Spinoza calls following such an abstract plan of reason is called “Piety” or “Morality”. “The Desire to do good generated in us by our living according to the guidance of reason, I call Morality.”[246] “living according to guidance of reason” presupposes the possession of the idea of Christ on which that reasoning is based. Quite apart from developing those notions or things of reason (ens rationis); the intellect has real guiding Inner Light within itself. “It pertains to the essence of the human Mind (by IIP47) to have an adequate knowledge of God’s eternal and infinite essence.”,[247] or intuited knowledge of the idea of Christ.That “adequate knowledge” is an activating knowledge; it is not passive. Spinoza calls it to “Religion”[248]. In regards to “Religion”, Spinoza identifies the indwelling “divine agency”, the eternal, necessary and infinite Christ as the “only”[249] and “necessary” “way of salvation”[250]. Christ after the flesh in duration is external to us, not in union with us in the fabric of our emended minds[251]. Christ after the flesh would be inadequately known to us through our perceptions by imagination (words and images) both at the time or subsequently.

The saving work of Christ in us is two-fold. One venue is universally in each thinking thing (person); the other varies with the particular capacities given to each individual thinking thing. All thinking people possess the fixed and eternal idea of Christ which expresses God’s essence in way that it is explained and understood by the individual person. People’s capacity to conceive the ideas of the mind of Christ as determined by their idea of Christ is gifted in different degrees, therefore “…is not a gift common to all”[252] in equal measure. The actual, real properties of the idea of Christ, manifest in the actually produced fruits of the spirit of Christ, include, for example, loving-kindness, gladness, peace, patience, beneficence, goodness, good faith, gentleness, and selfrestraint, mercy, hope, joyfulness, patience, loving-kindness, etc.[253], are different from our knowledge of the ideas that constitute the mind of Christ. Knowing is not necessarily being. In regards to our real and active idea of Christ and our ideas conceived by it to like the ideas of the mind of Christ. Knowledge and necessary obedience or necessary action meld into Christian praxis, operationalized by God in us uniting us to God as participants in God’s nature.

Spinoza identifies two states or conditions of human existence and existing: “the state of nature” and “the state of religion”[254]. In temporal existence, our mind actually exists first in a state of or condition of privation of divine knowledge. Given the privation in our original state or condition, we are not bound to live by divine natural law. We are generated, in duration, a second time into a state of religion when we acquire knowledge of divine natural law and use that knowledge to free ourselves from bondage to our first mind according to the flesh.  Being free from that mind frees us from captivity. It does not necessarily liberate our true essence expressing itself in a new second spiritual or religious mind. Being aware of divine law in a state of nature; we can dissent from it and continue to be deprived of God in our dissenting condition. In actual human existence, the state of nature is “prior in nature and in time” to “the state of religion”. Spinoza discusses natural rights under a state of nature in TTP xvi and xvii, as well as in TP iii. He discusses people’s surrender their original natural rights and come to exist under divine natural law, as given in the idea of Christ.

In entering into “the state of religion”, according to Spinoza, people surrender their original rights and freedoms under the state of nature. People’s rights and freedoms transfer to God as God “inscribes” the person’s mind and heart with God’s Word. In their knowledge of God’s Word or God’s wisdom, people become aware that they are actually bound by divine natural law. When we surrender or transfer our original rights to God, we assume our rights under religion. Religion, or being religious, is an existential condition. Our desires and actions are caused by the idea of God “insofar as we know God”[255] We are freed from bondage to the original state of nature by immanent natural divine law to do and know as Christ does or knows. Under the state of religion our conatus is that of Christ or God explicated by the nature of the human mind[256]. This is a major theme in Paul’s letter to the Romans. In the state of or condition of religion, people can knowingly exist and live assenting to divine natural law or knowingly exist and live dissenting from it. Spinoza writes that his “conception” or views are confirmed by the authority of Paul[257].To enter a state of religion people surrender to or align their minds to the God in existential union in accord with the laws of the mind of Christ. It is of ultimate importance that people’s minds are not in bondage to or united with perceptions of corporeal “things that are called objects of the senses…”[258] Surrendering to corporeal ‘fictional’ objects of the senses (i.e. idolatry), is to dissent from our given natural knowledge of divine law.

There is no “super” in Spinoza’s Nature; only certain events and things we cannot explain with the knowledge we have. There is nothing spiritual in the performance of miracles. It is noteworthy that Spinoza considers the performance of miracles to be a natural gift after the flesh exercised through people’s natural rights[259].The performance of a miracle in the world after the flesh, i.e. our temporal world, produces a natural product or natural fruit. It may amaze, cause wonder and carry material power, but in itself it does not produce a spiritual fruit or product. Miracles can be used and have been used to encourage and promote Piety, but can equally well be used as a means to control people through their fears and hopes. Miracles may be performed by those who assent to natural divine law, but they are also used by those who dissent from it to perform miracles for their own purpose or ends.

On the surface, Spinoza’s 7th “doctrine” of “universal faith”, or 7th “fundamental” principle “aimed at by the whole of Scripture”, is puzzling. It is rooted in “pardons”, “sin” , “No one is without sin”, “believes”, “mercy”, “repentance”, knowing “Christ according to the spirit” and “having Christ in” us. These are not typical ‘philosophical’ wordings.

“VII. Finally, God pardons the sins of those who repent. No one is without sin. … whoever firmly believes that God, out of mercy and the grace by which he directs everything, pardons men’s sins … that person really knows Christ according to the Spirit, and Christ is in him.”[260]

 

The puzzle is resolved as follows. Like a thought experiment that considers a candle burning in a vacuum[261], in a fictitious or hypothetical ‘state of nature’ people’s privation prevents them being aware that they are bound to obey divine natural law. The “state of nature” absent the natural divine law, is a fiction. In reality, because divine natural law is native to understanding itself, in their very existing and thinking spiritually activated people are naturally aware of divine law inherent in their essence[262]. If they exist and live dissenting from the divine law inherent in their essence, they “sin” against God by sinning against their own true nature in God. Except for Christ, all people in privation, under their first birth and its accompanying original passive mind, dissent divine law[263] because their first original carnal mind according to the flesh emerged out of the world after the flesh; it differs from their mind according to the spirit  “not only in degree, but also essentially”[264]. The mind according to the flesh is “contrary” to the mind according to the spirit, “Therefore, they cannot exist in one subject.”[265]Actively transferring their natural rights and freedoms to God, people exist and live assenting to the divine law inherent to their essence, repenting in virtue of their second birth. Guided by the idea (i.e. spirit) of Christ[266], to emend their minds to be like the mind of Christ, Christ is actively in them. Having a mind determined by the idea of the eternal Christ in them, the emendation provides “forgiveness” by the nature of their union with God. And, in that union they really know “Christ according to the Spirit”. Spinoza concludes that in reality all people naturally having the idea of Christ in them are essentially bound to obey universal divine law, as they are bound to live in accordance with reason.

“In the state of nature each person is bound by revealed law in the same way he’s bound to live according to the dictates of sound reason: it’s more advantageous to him and necessary for his salvation.”[267]

 

To be free and saved, people must live “according to the dictates of sound reason”, as some people in a state of nature might plan to do and also do according to their plan. In the actual reality of existence, we are necessarily bound by our native or revealed knowledge of natural divine law to be obedient to divine law. We “strive”[268] or “desire” to act and live according to divine natural law, in the state of religion in two ways. We desire to live by the Inner Light or idea of Christ following a reasoned plan of living in accordance with that idea. Spinoza calls this desire and action Morality[269] (which also translates as Piety). Or secondly, we live actually possessing the idea of Christ determining our mind to be like the mind of Christ, generating actions which Spinoza calls Religion[270].

In chapter 2[271] of his Political Treatise, Spinoza describes nature’s laws as though separate from divine law, but also spells out the existence and manifestation of divine natural law in nature. Speaking particularly about religion[272] in paragraph 22, Spinoza writes

“So we ought to remember that a man can indeed do something against these decrees of God insofar as they have been inscribed as laws in our Mind, or in the Mind of the Prophets[273]. But he can’t do anything against God’s eternal decree[274], which has been inscribed in the whole of nature and concerns the order of the whole of nature.”[275]

 

The “decrees of God” can be violated by people because the decrees are natural divine laws that are not inscribed in the whole of nature. In regards to people in duration, they are inscribed and take effect only in the human mind when that mind is like the mind of Christ. When people violate divine natural laws, they violate themselves in themselves, not nature in itself. Spinoza’s views are in keeping with those of Paul as found in Romans. The study of the natural world absent divine natural law, as undertaken by “Modern Christian” [276] natural philosophers, will never provide knowledge of how in union with God, we are freed from bondage into salvation or freedom. In reality, God is to be found and adequately known only in people who in union with God possess an intelligible idea of the eternal Christ, Inner Light or the Word of God within.

Spinoza says the purpose of the TTP was to separate faith from philosophy[277]. That is, separate mere belief from truth. Mere belief itself is not saving. He notes

“Faith[278] is not saving by itself…”[279]

 

Therefore he argues, in regards to their faith people can believe anything[280] that encourages their piety, providing their belief or faith encourages and supports obedience to divine law not disobedience to it. An act of authentic Christian religion is not a verbal utterance or a passive knowing; it is an action of the spiritually generated person’s essence. Such action generates evidence of saving faith. Actual salvation is in actually being guided by the spirit of Christ to be and act according to the idea and mind of Christ. How that comes to be is irrelevant. What matters is what we desire and do. Saving faith is the work of the idea (i.e. spirit) of Christ in us, which causes us to be bound to divine natural law revealed to us in the mind of Christ. The measure of saving faith is obedience to God[281] following from our revealed knowledge of divine natural law. If obedience to God or divine natural law does not follow from our faith or belief, then the faith or belief is an illusionary empty fiction serving some other thing or purpose.

In the 1st chapter of TTP, Spinoza speaks to natural divine knowledge, special revelation by imagination, and natural (i.e. not abstract) universal revelation by intellection, the Spirit of God, as well as the spirit and mind of Christ as these are given in scripture. Given in scripture, these revelations are things of the imagination, words and images representing something else. Given in reality itself, intuited natural universal revelation, the immanent Spirit or essence of God constituting the spirit and mind of Christ, are real things in which we actually participate while they actually participate in us as first cause of our essence or spirit.  The means of our participation is Christ. Spinoza discusses in detail, his analysis that

“…except for Christ, no one has received[282] God’s revelation without the aid of imagination, i.e. without the aid of words or images.”[283]

 

With Christ in them, people received “God’s revelation”. We do not know the inmost essence of Christ through the series of events in the common order of nature. Based only on what is found in scripture, Spinoza states that only Christ is described in scripture as immediately communicating with God mind to mind. According to scripture everyone else had communication through their imagination. We learn about special revelations recorded in scripture through words and images in our imagination, not from direct real experience. Spinoza explains that prophetic special revelations of the Spirit of God are indirectly revealed, in a limited way, in prophets’ imagination. On the other hand, Spinoza goes on to say that the real idea of the eternal Christ actually in people, actually determines them to conceive a mind like the mind of Christ that causes them to intuitively acquire adequate knowledge of the things and laws of God, apart from scripture. Putting on a mind like the mind of Christ, reveals, like a clarifying lens of a microscope or telescope, God’s revelations to us. Citing Paul in Romans chapters 2 and 3[284], Spinoza says, these are revelations given to the whole[285] human race through the mind of Christ. They are given to a person’s intellect but only through or in and from Christ’s fixed eternal mind (i.e. spirit), which is God’s Wisdom or the Word of God expressed in human terms.

In keeping with John 1:1 and 1:14[286], Spinoza holds that the Wisdom or Word of God assumed or took upon itself human nature [287]   in Christ. In Ep 73, and then in Ep 75, Spinoza says Christ manifested God and suggests,

“To express this more powerfully, John said that the word became flesh.”[288]

The preeminent Johnnine scholar Raymond Brown, interpreting the phrase “The Word became flesh” in John 1:14, notes of “the Word”,

“…this divine being has taken on human form and has thus found the most effective way in which to express himself to men.”[289]

 

The eternal, necessary and infinite idea and mind of Christ did not morph, transubstantiate or transform into finite flesh, nor did finite flesh turn into the eternal mind or spirit of Christ. With Christ in John 3: 6, Spinoza holds that flesh does not beget spirit[290]. In our union with God, the Spirit begets our spirit[291] to be like the spirit of Christ.

Spinoza writes of his belief[292] that only in the historical Christ[293] was a person’s original mind not mediated. The actual finite ideas of the mind of the historical Christ were immediately determined by the necessary and finite modes constituting the ideas of the mind of Christ (i.e. Christ’s own mind). The “fleshly”[294] body of Christ was determined by the series of events in the common order of nature, but critically, the actual intellect and mind of the historical Christ in duration was not. In Spinoza’s Christology, the flesh and blood events of the historical Christ is not the “divine agency”[295] that inscribes “God’s eternal word and covenant, and true religion” which “is the true original text of God” in the human mind. The human heart and mind is inscribed according to the spirit or mind of Christ by the fixed and eternal idea and mind of Christ.

In Spinoza’s thinking, acquisition of the activating knowledge of divine natural law engenders natural obedience to the things and laws of God. For Spinoza, Christian praxis is the bedrock of Christian faith.

“According to the foundation we’ve given, faith must be defined as follows: [Faith is] thinking such things about God that if you had no knowledge of them, obedience to God would be destroyed, whereas if you are obedient to God, you necessarily have these thoughts. … Now I’ll briefly show what follows from it:
1. Faith is not saving by itself, but only in relation to obedience.”[296]

 

Authentic Christian faith is existentially active or alive. It is actually being caused or being determined by the ‘living’ idea of God indwelling specifically in our idea of Christ. Faith is in our activating union with God producing actions or fruits of the spirit, and attendant intuitive knowledge of the union and its actions. This provides each individual person with positive or affirmative ‘ultimate existential significance’.

“For as I’ve said, with John, justice and loving-kindness are the unique and most certain sign of the true Universal faith. They are the true fruits[297] of the Holy Spirit. Wherever they are present, Christ is really present; wherever they are absent, Christ is absent. For only by the Spirit of Christ can we be led to the love of justice and loving-kindness.”[298]

 

Spinoza distinguishes between “the unique and most certain sign of Universal Faith” and authentic faith itself. For example, the apparent effects of the wind described by Christ in John 3:7 are different from the Spirit that causes those effects.

Spinoza writes that only “a very few” people effectively use a reasoned model ethical character under “the guidance of reason” to “acquire a habit of virtue”. Such success is “hard” and “rare”[299].  “…only a very few (compared with the whole human race) acquire a habit of virtue from the guidance of reason alone.”[300] Reflectively comprehending and understanding salvation with an exact knowledge of God is given to few, and is very difficult to attain. The “rare”[301] , “very hard” and “difficult” way abstractly described by Spinoza[302] in his Ethics is not merely a way of obedience to the idea of Christ; it is a difficult way. Experience shows that most people follow a simpler path.

Echoing Paul’s letter to the Romans 1:25, Spinoza proposed an “order of philosophizing[303], to properly determine the “essence of man”. Spinoza notes,

“We can’t perceive by the natural light that simple obedience is a path to salvation. Only revelation teaches that this happens, by a special grace of God, which we cannot grasp by reason.”[304]

 

That universal “revelation” is what the mind of Christ reveals to us to be human essence. Knowledge that obedience to the Word of God ‘living’ in people is the path that leads to salvation does not come from the natural light of reason; it is a revelation in the our acquisition of knowledge of “divine natural law”[305], given “by a special grace of God” in having a mind like the mind of Christ. Most people attain salvation in simple obedience to what is revealed in their simple idea of Christ, which is the core of their mind and heart. They do not require complete knowledge of all the ideas of the mind of Christ to be obedient to the essence or spirit of Christ[306]. He explains this to Boxel in Ep 56, and uses the successful application of geometry even if one does not know the whole of geometry. Spinoza writes, “I do not say that we must know him as he is; it is enough for us to know him to some extent in order to be united with him.”[307]

In light of the above study of Spinoza’s Christology, it comes clear that in the exchange of correspondence with Oldenburg from June 1675 to February 1676 (Ep 61, 62, 68, 69, 71, 73, 74, 75, 77, 78 and 79), Spinoza was freely explaining his Christian understanding as distinct from that of “superstitiously religious and Christian” kinds of people identify by de Vries in Ep 8, as well as distinct from Oldenburg’s “Modern Christian” acquaintances (i.e. people in the Royal Society and its precursor). Of the 84 letters in Spinoza’s extant correspondence, the 29 letters between him and Oldenburg make up a full third. It is clear from many of Oldenburg’s letters to Spinoza, including the earlier letters, that Oldenburg was well dispose towards Spinoza’s religious or spiritual thinking. But, in regards to the views of prominent theologians, Oldenburg considers them a “foolish”[308] “common herd”[309] and a growling “mob”[310], and whose “accepted Formulas of the Confessions (which seem to be too full of partisan zeal)”[311] and were detrimental to “authentic purpose of Christian Religion”. Of particular interest to Oldenburg is Spinoza’s views on the nature of God, the power of the human mind, the union of the human spirit or mind to the body, Oldenburg is not the only acquaintance of Spinoza that testifies to Spinoza’s “godly plan” “to commend and establish the authentic purpose of Christian Religion”. For his part, Spinoza writes that as friends, they would share “especially spiritual things”[312]. Apart apart from pedantic descriptions of experiments and updates on ‘science’, the extant Oldenburg-Spinoza correspondence largely concerns their Christian faith. In Ep 61 of June 1675, Oldenburg wrote that he had just read or reread Spinoza’s TTP and had altered his previous poorly formed opinion of Spinoza’s views concerning the “authentic purpose of the Christian Religion”.  Oldenburg writes,

“…I indicated my opinion of that Treatise, which now, having subsequently examined and weighed the matter more carefully, I certainly think was premature. At that time certain things seemed to me to tend to the detriment of Religion, when I measured it by the standard provided by the common herd of Theologians, and the accepted Formulas of the Confessions (which seem to be too full of partisan zeal). But now, as I rethink the whole matter more deeply, many things occur to me which persuade me that you are so far from trying to harm true religion, or solid philosophy, that on the contrary you are working to commend and establish the authentic purpose of the Christian Religion, and indeed, the divine sublimity and excellence of a fruitful Philosophy. Since, therefore, I now believe that in your heart you have this intention [to advance the cause of true Christianity], … I shall only endeavor to gradually dispose the minds of good and wise Men to embrace those truths you sometimes bring into a fuller light, and to abolish the prejudices conceived against your Meditations. If I’m not mistaken, you seem to see very deeply into the nature and powers of the human Mind, and it’s Union with our Body. “[313]

 

In the 11 letters involved in the 1675-1676 correspondence, references to “virtue” or “religion” should be taken to be references to Christian virtue and Christian religion. Spinoza did not dispute Oldenburg’s description of Spinoza’s intentions. On the contrary in Ep 73, Spinoza writes to Oldenburg effectively declaring that “no one can attain blessedness” unless they know Christ according to the spirit or unless they have a mind like the mind of Christ. In Ep 78, Spinoza uses Paul as an example of this. Spinoza tells Oldenburg that Paul was not deceived about Christ’s resurrection, as many others were.

“But Paul, to whom Christ appeared afterward[314], gloried that he knew Christ not according to the flesh[315], but according to the spirit.[316][317]

Besides a few letters to Tschirnhaus concerning the variety of bodies (May 1676 to July 1676) and a single note to Jelles (?) from the same period, there no other surviving letters from Spinoza last years. In effect the last words we have from Spinoza about Christology, affirms what he wrote in Ep 73 and 75:  Paul, Spinoza claims, experienced Christ as Spinoza describes the idea of the eternal Christ in Spinoza’s Christology.

 

Resources:

  1. Balling, Pieter. Het Licht op den Kandelaar, 1662. See: Jarig Jelles, The Light on the Candlestick, 1663, (mistakenly attributed to William Ames). <hTTP://universalistfriends.org/printable/candle_printable.html#3>.
  1. Rufus, M. Jones. Coornhert And The Collegiants — A Movement For Spiritual Religion In Holland, in Spiritual Reformers in the 16th and 17th Centuries, MacMillan and Co., Limited St. Martin’s Street, London 1914 Copyright. <hTTP://archive.org/stream/spiritualreforme24934gut/24934.txt>.
  1. Lee, Ethel Rosa. The Influence of Mennonites, Collegiants and Quakers on the Life and Writings of Spinoza, Thesis, 1917.
  1. Kennington, Richard, Analytic and Synthetic Methods in Spinoza’s Ethics, in The Philosophy of Baruch Spinoza; Studies in Philosophy and the History of Philosophy, Catholic University of America Press ; Washington, 1980.
  1. Cadbury, Henry J. Spinoza and a Quaker Document of 1657, Jr. of Med. Renn. St., Vol 1, pp. 130-32, 1961.
  1. Popkin, Richard H., Spinoza’s Relations with the Quakers in Amsterdam (Quaker History, Vol. 73, No. 1, 1984, pp. 14-28), 14-19.
  1. Richard Henry Popkin, Some New Light in the Roots of Spinoza’s Science of Bible Study, in Spinoza and the Sciences, in Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science Series 91 (Boston: Reidel, 1986) xix + 336 pp. Ed. Debra Nails and Marjorie Grene, pp 95 – 123.
  1. David, Savan. Spinoza: Scientist and Theorist of the Scientific Method, in Spinoza and the Science, Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science Series 91 (Boston: Reidel, 1986) xix + 336 pp. Ed. Debra Nails and Marjorie Grene, pp 95 – 123.
  1. Fix, Andrew, Prophecy and Reason: The Dutch Collegiants in the Early Enlightenment, Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1991.
  1. Wiep van Bunge & W.N.A. Klever (Ed.). (1996). Disguised and Overt Spinozism around 1700. Papers presented at het International Colloquium held at Rotterdam, 5-8 October 1994 (Brill’s Studies in Intellectual History, 69). Leiden/New York/Köln: E.J. Brill.
  1. Herman De Dijn, Spinoza on Revealed Religion, Studia Spinozana 11 (1995), 39-52.
  1. Micheil Wielema, Spinoza in Zeeland: the Growth and Suppression of” Popular Spinozism (c.1700-1720), Wiep of Bunge & Wim Klever (ed.), Disguised and Overt Spinozism Around 1700, Leiden: Brill, 1996, pp. 103-115. 103-115.
  1. Graeme, Radical Protestantism in Spinoza’s Thought. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2005.
  1. Brown, Raymond E., The Gospel According to John, The Anchor Bible, Vol. 29, Yale University Press, 2006.
  1. Polka, Braydon, Between Philosophy and Religion: Spinoza, The Bible, and Modernity, Lexington Books, 2007.
  1. Wiep van Bunge, Spinoza Past and Present. Essays on Spinoza, Spinozism, and Spinoza Scholarship, Leiden-Boston: Brill, 2012.
  1. Halmi, Nicholas, Coleridge’s Ecumenical Spinoza, <hTTP://id.erudit.org/iderudit/1018604ar> Digital Publication : Sept. 30, 2013.
  1. Belcheff, David, Spinoza on the Spirit of Friendship, Thesis, Arizona State University. May 2014.
  1. van Cauter, Jo, Spinoza on History, Christ and Lights Untamable, Philosophy Doctoral Dissertation, Ghent University, Faculty of Letters and Philosophy, in May 2016.

 

Footnotes:

[1] Spinoza, Benedictus. The Collected Works of Spinoza Vol I & II, Curley, Edwin. Ed &Trans. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, Digital Edition, 2nd, Printing, 1988.

(KV = Short Treatise on God, Man and His Well-Being = Short Treatise; TdIE = Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect = Treatise on the Intellect ; Ep. = Letters; CM = Appendix Containing Metaphysical Thoughts; E = Ethics; A = axiom; D (immediately following a roman numeral) = definition; D (immediately following an arabic numeral) = demonstration; P = proposition; C = corollary; S = scholium; PP ID5 = Descartes’ Principles, Part I, Definition 5; E IP8S2 = Ethics, Part I, proposition 8, scholium 2; KV II, xxv, 1 refers to Part II, chapter xxv, section 1 of the Short Treatise; “TdIE, 101” refers to section 101 of the Treatise on the Intellect; “TP II, 5” = Political Treatise chapter 2, paragraph 5.The translator adds text in square brackets to support his translations.) All italics are the writer’s emphases.

[2] Ep 6, 30, 43; see also Ep 68 and TTP ii, 2

[3] TdIE 99-103

[4] TTP i, 4-6

[5] This approach is akin to a nativist approach in that the presence of the divine agency and its determinations of in the dynamics and structure of the human intellect or mind.

[6] See E IDviii; IVPref. IP29S; and E IIP31, D

[7] TTP i, 4-6

[8] TTP i, 5

[9] i.e., Paul, see 2 Corinthians 3:3; Romans 2:15, 7:6. Prophets ad Apostles would have both universal revelations and special individualized revelations.

[10] TTP xviii, 2; see also v, 1 and 5

[11] TTP xii, 3

[12] TTP i, 20

[13] TTP i, 9

[14] TTP i, 21

[15] TTP i, 20 Spinoza identifies Christ as the voice of God, so that Christ articulates words, he does not hear another’s voice.

[16] TTP i, 17-18

[17] TTP i, 24

[18] TTP i, 23

[19] TTP i, 4

[20] TTP ii, 25, iii, 44

[21] TTP i, 19-20

[22] TTP i, 23

[23] TTP i, 41; v 1 and 5; xvii, 2; Ep 73

[24] TTP iv, 36

[25] See TTP Pref, 23; iv, 30-31

[26] TTP i, 41

[27] TTP i, 25-41

[28] TTP xiv, 24-28

[29] TTP ii, 22; KV II, xxii, 7

[30][30] TTP i, 22; KV II, xxii, 7

[31] TTP v, 46; Ep 73, 76

[32] TdIE 93, 100-103

[33] While specific and determinate, this eternal mode is immediate, necessary and infinite mode that we know as a mode under the absolute nature of thought perceived as God’s essence.

[34] TTP iv, 36; TTP i, 4-6

[35] Spinoza makes clear in TTP i, that spirit and mind (i.e. idea) are one and the same thing.

[36] TTP i, 3-6; E IIP40S, VP36CS

[37] TTP xv, 41

[38] See Ep 4

[39] KV II, xxii, 7

[40] See E IIP10CS

[41] See title of KV II, xxii.

[42] KV II, xxii, 6-7

[43] See TdIE 93, 98

[44] Ep 76

[45] TTP i,  19-20

[46] TTP 1, 23

[47] i.e., the temporal, historical finite Christ who housed the idea of Christ and the mind of Christ in themselves.

[48] Ibid

[49] Ibid

[50] TTP i, 4-6

[51] See E VP39S

[52] See John 14 and 16

[53] E IVP68S

[54] See E IVP68S

[55] TTP iv, 22

[56] E IVP68S

[57] TTP i, 22-23

[58] See TTP xi

[59] Spinoza’s definition of Morality or Piety: “The Desire to do good generated in us by our living according to the guidance of reason, I call Morality.” E IVP37S1

[60] TTP iv, 9; This principle of living is native to human nature as the indwelling idea of Christ.

[61] TTP iv, 34-36

[62] see TTP xvi, 55-57

[63] TTP iv, 36

[64] See TdIE 13-15;

[65] TTP i, 4-6

[66]

[67] KV II, xxii, 2; or as he says in in his definition of religion (E IVP37S1) “insofar as we know God”.

[68] E IIP23D

[69] See E IIP24-29

[70] See E IIP32, 46, 47; P23D; VP22, 30, 31

[71] E IIP6, 7, 19, 23-5

[72] E IIP29C

[73] See E IIP20, 32, 46, 47

[74] E IP21-23

[75] TTP i, 23, Ep 73 and 75

[76] i.e., ideas of the necessary and infinite modes mediated (see E IP21-23) or determined by the idea of the eternal Christ.

[77] See E IDviii; IVPref. IP29S; and E IIP31, D

[78] Spinoza’s “Nature” is Existence itself.

[79] EP 73; i.e. the modern Christians are Oldenburg’s acquaintances in the Royal Society and its precursor.

[80] Ibid

[81] By mind Spinoza understands spirit, see TTP i

[82] See also E IIP11C

[83] E IIP10CS

[84] See TTP ii, 2

[85] Which it is,  see E IIP47

[86] EP 21

[87] E VP23S; IIP43S; TTP xiii, 17; KV II, xxii 7

[88] See TTP Pref; E IIIP50S

[89] Ibid

[90] E IIP28

[91] E IIP28, D and S

[92] E IIP32 and 47

[93] Knowledge of the first or second kind,  not of reason or intuition; see E IIP40S2; TdIE 19; TTP i, 4-6

[94] E IID6

[95] E VP40

[96] E IVpref

[97] Ep 23

[98] see Ep 23, IIIP5

[99] IIP2, D, S; IIIP3, D, S

[100] E VP23D and S

[101] IIIP7, see also Ep 23

[102] i.e. assumes or takes on; see TTP i, 23, Ep 73 and 75

[103] E IIP11C

[104] see E IID3Exp

[105] see E IIP40S

[106] TTP iii, 35

[107] TTP i; iv, 30-37; ii, 46

[108] TTP iv, 18, 20, 21, 39; v, 14

[109] E VP30

[110] E IIP47, D, S; IVP6, S

[111] TTP Pref, 23

[112] see TTP iv, 38-47; Ep 43

[113] see TTP iv, 9-36

[114] TTP iv, 31

[115] Ep 43

[116] Natural divine law is embedded in human nature by the idea of Christ.

[117] i.e., The true human nature of the emended human mind.

[118] TTP iv, 18

[119] i.e. natural law

[120] i.e. not from scripture or tradition

[121] TTP iv, 31

[122] TTP iv, 38-47

[123] TTP iv, 31; TTP iv, 36; TTP i, 4

[124] Ep 3

[125] TTP i, 23, Ep 73 and 75

[126] KV xxii, 7; see also E IIP5 and D; VP23S; TTP xiii, 17

[127] TTP i, 23; iv, 32

[128] TTP iv, 47-48

[129] TTP iv, 31; TTP iv, 36; TTP i, 4

[130] KV II, xxii, 2-3; see also Ep 56

[131] i.e. the idea of Christ and the ideas of the mind of Christ

[132] E VP36CS

[133] E IID2; E IIP5, 6; IIIP2, D, S

[134] i.e. from Spinoza’s analysis mind is spirit

[135] E IIIP2, D, and S

[136] E ID4

[137] Yetzhak T. Melamed, “Christus secundum spiritus” Spinoza, Jesus and the Infinite Intellect, in Neta Stahl (ed.), The Jewish Jesus. Routledge (2012).

[138] TTP iv, 31, 36; also Spinoza frequently writes that we have the spirit (i.e. mind) of Christ in us.

[139] E IP17C2S; see also CM Appendix 2, chapter 11

[140] E IIP47

[141] Ibid

[142] TdIE

[143] TdIE

[144] TTP v, 50

[145] TTP v, 30

[146] TTP v, 41

[147] TTP believe given immediately only to Christ

[148] TTP 1, 23

[149] TTP i, 22-23

[150] See E IDviii; IVPref. IP29S; and E IIP31, D

[151] TTP i, 4-6

[152] TTP iv, 36; TTP i, 4-6

[153] TTP i, 3-6

[154] See E IIP37-39

[155] E IIP10

[156] E IVP68S

[157] E IP17C2S; see also CM Appendix 2, chapter 11

[158] E IIP40S2, TTP i, 22-24

[159] E IIP20, P21, P40S2; E VP24, P25

[160] E VP23S, IIP43S; TTP xiii, 17; KV II, xxii 7

[161] TdIE 102

[162] TdIE 86

[163] These cannot be deduced or inferred from the foundations of our knowledge; they are universally revealed.

[164] TdIE 100-103

[165] KV II, xxii, 2-3, see also Ep 56

[166] Ep 56; see also KV II, xxii, 2-3

[167] TTP iv, 20

[168] TTP iv, 22

[169] TTP i, 23

[170] i.e. the “fixed and eternal things” (TdIE 100-103)

[171] TdIE 100-103

[172] TdIE 13

[173] TdIE 11-14

[174] Ep 23

[175] E IVP37S1

[176] i.e. spirit, Spinoza

[177] E IIP29, C, S; E IIP40S2

[178] See E IVP37S1, P68S, VP18D

[179] E IIP14, also see E IVP37S1, P68S, VP18D

[180] See CM Appendix 2, chapter 11; TTP xiii; TTP xxii, 24; E IP17S

[181] i.e. the spirit of Christ

[182] See Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:11-12

[183] Capable of actions which it itself causes, apart from those caused other bodies

[184] i.e. the series of events in the common order of nature acting on the passive mind

[185] i.e. solely and not in union with God determining its true existential essence

[186] Capable of actions which it itself causes, apart from those caused other bodies in the series or order of existing

[187] i.e. only itself while in union with God, that is itself in its true existential essence

[188] Things related to God, “All things, insofar as they are related to God are true.” E  IIP32

[189] See E IIIP7, D; P9S

[190] E VP39S

[191] See Ep 4

[192] Ep 23

[193] TTP iv, 16

[194] TTP iv, 15

[195] Ep 19

[196] Ep 19

[197] TTP xvi, 53-55; TP II, 18, 22

[198] KV II, xii, 6-7

[199] TTP xvi, 54; xii, 113

[200] TdIE 100-103

[201] Ep 2; TTP v, 8; (also see discussion on Paraclete above and John 14-16)

[202] Ep 23

[203] Ibid

[204] TTP iv 20

[205] David, Savan. Spinoza: Scientist and Theorist of the Scientific Method, in Spinoza and the Sciences. Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science Series 91 (Boston: Reidel, 1986) xix + 336 pp. Ed. Debra Nails and Marjorie Grene, pp 95 – 123.

[206] E IVP37S1

[207] TdIE 14; TTP xiv, 28; see also Ep 73

[208] i.e. not mathematical demonstrating

[209] Ep 21

[210] TdIE 19

[211] TdIE 28

[212] See E IVPref; TTP viii, 26-30; TdIE 13

[213] In E IApp Spinoza identifies the propensity for people to imagine that God is like they imagine themselves to be, therefore God acts to achieve some end which is like people’s carnal aspirations

[214] E IApp

[215] TTP i, 24-25; iv, 31-32.

[216] i.e. denominations

[217] TTP i, 23-24

[218] Spinoza does not understand how some church contain the infinite in the finite;

[219] Ibid

[220] Tremellius was a Jewish convert to Christianity (1510-1580): first to Catholicism and a year after to Calvinism. He translated the bible from Hebrew and Syriac (Aramaic) to Latin), which was favoured by John Milton.

[221] TTP iv, 47-48

[222] See Psalms 115:5, 135:16; Ezekiel 12:2; and Mathew 13:15.

[223] KV II, xxii, 6-7

[224] E IIP19, 22, 24, 27, 28

[225] See KV II, xvi, 5; Ep 23; E IIP20, 21 and S; E IVpref; E IID3Exp

[226] TTP i, 3-6

[227] i.e. the idea of our existence in union with God, according to Christ after the spirit (which in Ep 78, Spinoza says Paul had)

[228] i.e. the eternal idea of Christ that determines true human essence

[229] Note – but not infinite

[230] i.e. intuitions

[231] i.e. natural self-evident demonstrations

[232] E VP23S

[233] See Ep 75

[234] KV II, xxii, 7

[235] E IIP43S

[236] E IIP24, 25, 27, 28, 29

[237] E IIP47, 46, 32, 40

[238] Under the attribute of thought but having a corresponding mode under extension

[239] E IIP13

[240] E IIP27-31

[241] See KV II, xvi, 5; Ep 23; E IIP20, 21 and S

[242] E IIP16, P19, P22, P24, P25

[243] KV II, xvi, 5; Ep 23; E IIP20, 21 and S

[244] See E IVPref; see also TTP viii, 26-30; TdIE 13

[245] E IApp

[246] E IVP37S1

[247] E IVP36S, see also E IVP36; and E IIP47, D, S

[248] E IVP37S1

[249] See TTP v, 50; Ep 76

[250] Ep 78; TTP i, 23 and 24; in 24, Spinoza cites John 14:6.

[251] See also John 14:16-20;  17:21-23

[252] TTP xiii, 9; xv, 45; E VP42S

[253] See also Ep 76

[254] TTP xvi, 53-55

[255] See E IVP37S1 – Spinoza’s definition of religion.

[256] E IIP11, D, C, 40, D, 43, D, S47, D, S

[257] TTP xvi, 54

[258] E IIP10CS

[259] TTP v, 50; TP iii, 10

[260] TTP xiv, 28

[261] See TdIE 57-58

[262] See TTP xvi, 56-57; TP II, 18, 22

[263] TTP iv, 47-48

[264] Ep 23

[265] Ibid

[266] See EIVP68S

[267] TTP xvi, 56-57; TP II, 18, 22

[268] See E IVP58D

[269] E IVP37S1

[270] E IVP37S1

[271] This TP chapter 2 encapsulates TTP and E; in particular TP II, 22, captures a number of points in Spinoza’s Christology.

[272] E IVP37S1

[273] The same decrees were given to the minds of the prophets and to all our minds, by way of intuiting thoughts or ideas. This is different than what was especially given in unique ways to a few prophets through their imagination.

[274] i.e. a single decree that establishes Natura Naturata

[275] TP ii, 22

[276] See Ep 73; and the related discussion below.

[277] TTP xiv, 5

[278] TTP xiv, 13

[279] TTP xiv, 14

[280] TTP xiv, 30-34

[281] TTP xiv, 13-20

[282] i.e. immediately

[283] TTP i, 2

[284] TTP i, 44-45

[285] TTP iv, 30-31

[286] Spinoza references passages those passages in Ep 75

[287] TTP i, 23

[288] Ep 75

[289] Brown, Raymond E., The Gospel According to John, The Anchor Bible, Vol. 29, Yale University Press, 2006, p.32.

[290] E IIIP2, D, and S

[291] KV II, xxii 7

[292] i.e. something he could not ‘mathematically demonstrate’

[293] TTP i, 23, 25; Ep 73, 75; E VP36D

[294] TTP iv, 47-48

[295] TTP i, 4-6

[296] TTP xiv, 13

[297] These “fruits” are signs of the properties and laws of existence itself according to the spirit of Christ.

[298] Ep 76

[299] E VP42S

[300] TTP xv, 44

[301] TTP i, 47

[302] E VP42S

[303] E IIP10CS, considered above

[304] TTP xv, 45

[305] TTP iv, 18, 20, 21

[306] Ep 56; see also KV II, xxii, 2-3

[307] KV II, xxii, 2-3; see also Ep 56

[308] Ep 6,

[309] Ep 61

[310] Ep 16

[311] Ep 61

[312] Ep 2

[313] EP 61

[314] i.e. after Christ’s fleshly death

[315] i.e. as an “object of the senses”

[316] i.e. according to the intellect or mind

[317] Ep 78