To all those who have studied or are interested in the ideas presented in Spinoza's writings,
I have studied the ideas of Spinoza for a number of years and have had some rather profound 'experiences' that I attribute directly to my understanding of them. Lately these experiences are becoming much stronger and longer lasting. I would describe them as 'moments' in Eternity and they often invoke statements like: "Our mind, in so far as it knows itself and the body under the form of eternity, has to that extent necessarily a knowledge of God, and knows that it is in God, and is conceived through God." (E5P30). But these are merely words following and reflecting the 'experience'.
A recent occurrence while walking along the beach lasted for about two hours by the clock though I was unaware of the duration until later or to be more correct I was occasionally aware of both time and a sense of 'timelessness' and for a moment acknowledged that the 'time-based' world continued as usual. But then I would focus back on some of Spinoza's ideas and though the words would be there my consciousness was not made up of the words. The words were simply 'mind chatter' going on at a lower level and the sense was I had climbed higher and found a new viewpoint. At the peak of these experiences there is a profound sense of Eternity and the Infinite and Spinoza's ideas seem to come alive for me.
In the past these moments have been over so quickly I couldn't study them. They were always just odd 'feelings' and I didn't recognize the strong sense of 'timelessness' which I now call 'moments' in Eternity until much later. Again by 'moments' in Eternity I'm trying to express the idea of time and timelessness in one experience while the timelessness seems 'above and outside' of time. Now however, during that two-hour experience and others lasting many minutes to an hour or so I seem to have some control to keep it going by thinking over some of Spinoza's ideas but then letting the words go. I even catch an inner voice saying, "let that go" (when I'm trying to remember some specific words from Spinoza), "go back to that later, for now, you are here already" No, I don't mean some 'angel' showed up or other apparition, just the usual inner voice I'm sure we all hear now and then. I am still interacting with 'life' when this happens. If I come to an intersection I wait for the walk sign, etc. I'm just seeing from a different viewpoint in which my thinking seems more alive and very clear.
I've read descriptions of 'mystical experiences' that go something like: "It was as though I had lifted my head for the first time and could see all at once the things around me that had been blocked and hidden in the ordinary view". But this is just a metaphor, for me no sense images are involved, no actual shift of view to an elevated position such as is described sometimes by people who report 'out of body experiences'. Also no hallucinations or 'visions', my eyes are opened and I see exactly the same things I had been seeing the moment before. One thing that does tie each occurrence more and more together is that I recognize this is 'where' I was the last time it occurred and there is a sense of advancing from where I left off the time before.
These experiences all ring true to my understanding of Spinoza's ideas and I am convinced that Spinoza has provided a handbook for attaining growth to a higher level of being and state of mind than is met with in ordinary life and that when he said: "The mind's highest good is the knowledge of God, and the mind's highest virtue is to know God." (E4P28) he was not expressing an abstract concept but rather something that can be truly realized and 'experienced' by the human understanding.
To anyone else who may have had similar (or any other) experiences related to your understanding of Spinoza's writings I would be deeply interested in corresponding (see my email address below) or discussing them in the context of this slow reading group. I believe these experiences occur to each of us at different times but we don't know what they are and we soon forget them and fall back into ordinary life. Spinoza seems to be opening a doorway to them for me.
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