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Spinoza Study email replies

The following are a few replies to email comments/inquiries about the site. I will keep all email correspondents identities in confidence unless otherwise instructed and include here only my general comments:

On a comment that I seem to be synthesizing Christian faith and Spinoza I replied in part:

Synthesizing faith or Theology with Spinoza's Philosophy seems to me impossible in light of such statements as: "It remains for me to show that between faith or theology, and philosophy, there is no connection, nor affinity." [Spinoza TPT]. Of course in the same work he praises Christ, not for any theology but for the apparent fact that "Christ communed with God mind to mind" which is the Highest Good Spinoza is striving for! Where else but from the Gospels and Paul's writings could Spinoza have figured this out about Christ? Still, he could only recognize the man behind the writings because he (Spinoza) himself was coming to know what Christ knew.

Buddha had the same problem. Many of his followers (and it continues today) turned his simple and profound psychological teachings into a religion and worship him as if he were a "god". Spinoza, of course understood the tendency for the human mind to do this but he was working very hard to avoid it for himself and to help his students and readers to avoid it too.

I have included the Gospels on the site for non-theological study but of course people will make of them what they will. Maurice Nicoll (a student of Gurdjieff) wrote a wonderful book called "The New Man" about the Inner Teachings of Christ found in the Gospels and it seems to me to be in harmony with Spinoza's ideas. Most Christian churches I suspect would consider what he, and Spinoza have written to be non-sense. I do not myself see anything wrong with having both faith and philosophy working in one's life. Man is very complex and can hardly avoid altogether the traps of the imagination and if one's faith helps him to live in harmony with his neighbors then this is fine. But clearly, Spinoza put his Philosophy before any Theology (again, by his own repeated statements) rather than the other way around. He praises Reasoning "based on axioms which must be sought from nature alone" and Intuition (direct knowledge) above everything else and this does not come from any faith based on scripture nor even from his own writings but from the power of our own mind as it expresses God's Essential Nature.

On a question referring to the Thoreau quote under 'Related Thoughts', whether my message is to the "one in a hundred million" rather than to the "one in a million":

To me, Thoreau's expression helps take me out of [Formatory thinking, a term used by Gurdjieff, indicating black/white judgment that cannot see the ratio of things] and places me more into Spinozistic Wonder where I can begin to separate imagination from Understanding, find my bearings, and continue my climb in the right direction. Now, if my message was intended for the "one in a hundred million" it would seem to me I would have to at least consider myself to be in such company. If this were so why would I quote someone who admits in that very expression that he himself is hardly "quite awake"? Or do you believe Thoreau to be saying that he himself is of the "one in a hundred million" and simply has not found anyone else in that group? This to me would be absurd and I do not believe this was intended by him though others may place him in such a category. Why wouldn't he be able to look another in the face if he too were fully awake? The look of such a one would remind you that though you believed yourself to be awake you were actually "dreaming with your eyes open" to borrow Spinoza's phrase.

Recognizing that the path Spinoza blazed requires great effort and that progress may come in small increments I believe it is useful to reflect on our relative growth now and then. Some whole days I pass in "sleep". Occasionally, on other days there are moments when I have "one eye opened" and see a little beyond the dream world. On much more rare occasions I find myself "Gloriously Awake!". Then I know myself to be relatively more Awake and at these times even Spinoza's reasoned message falls by the way side and I Know Intuitively (in Spinoza's sense of the term Intuitive) my own nature to be an expression of 'The One'.

My messages are for anyone who might be able to use them to gain direction in coming to their own relatively more 'Awake' state. The quotes I include and most everything else represent ideas I am finding useful in my own growth. Do I believe there are others like Spinoza much more advanced and 'Awake' than I am? Yes, of course. Do I remember when I began having flashes of insight and went looking for help to figure out what it was I was experiencing? Yes, of course. Do I feel moved to offer material that may aid others in search of greater Understanding? Yes, of course.

Spinozistic Intuition is not a goal one reaches as you must know. It establishes a growth direction but there is no end to the growth and by analogy, there is no end to the degree of awakening. What is Awake at one level is Sleep at another.

 Yours in Inner (yawnnnnnn...zzzzz Uh!) Friendship :-)

On a request to provide a graphic plot of the x,y algorithms found on the Opening Page:

Well, gee, that would be kind of like explaining a joke and depriving the listener of the joy of the old adage "he who laughs last laughs hardest" as the energy built up trying to "get it" is released in one burst. However, I will give some hints.

Both routines were written in HP-Basic, a form of the Basic language that came on the HP-85 Instrument Controller computer that included language extensions like "PI" for that well known constant, "INF" for the largest number the machine could represent, "PLOT" to actually graph x,y values into a general purpose graphic screen. The variable I chose was the common "t" for "time" so...

"For time equals zero to infinity, take the 'sine of the time' (adjusted a bit in this or that direction) and plot a line to the newly calculated position in the Cartesian plane. Increment the time a bit and repeat to infinity."

Now the beginning comment in each routine gives a clue:
"!Sine seeking computer generation..."
may sound to some suspiciously like Matthew 16:4; "A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign;...".


"! a pure river of..."
might recall (to the mind of the previously encountered 'stream followers'), Revelations 22:1; "And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb."

I will also say that I first encountered the two resulting figures on the face of an old TV set I had converted into a rudimentary oscilloscope in junior high electric shop (under the direction of my favorite shop teacher). These figures appeared while beating two variable frequency sine waves, with various phase relations, against the vertical and horizontal axis and are only two of an infinite set of what I later found are called "Lissajous" patterns.

Perhaps you might use this as an opportunity to get acquainted with some young budding programmer. You might present it in the form of a puzzle and see if they can figure it out for you. They will probably have to use some other command like "LINE -(x,y)" in place of "PLOT x,y" (tell them to be sure to use the same scale for both x and y and make the extents in both directions at least +/- 5 units). They may have to set "PI = 3.14159" and "INF = 9999" (some arbitrarily large number) and use Radians, not Degrees for the sine calculations if as in the HP-85 they have a choice.

Ps: Any relation between Descartes' Analytic Geometry, and the figures produced is merely coincidental!

On my making of an "Anglo-american cocktail by mixing his [Spinoza's] texts with Blake and Thoreau, which fits not so much for a central-european, german-speaking perspective."
and also:
"...you are too religion-soaked, that you have the problem, which you should not have, how to synthesize Spinoza with Christianity."
I replied:

   Thank you for your comments on the site. If it appears Anglo-american centric then it merely reflects my own upbringing and current surroundings. I do not have enough personal resource or experience to be able to study all cultural spiritual perspectives and relate them to Spinoza's ideas.

   As for the "synthesizing" of Spinoza and Christianity I have no such intention if you mean by "Christianity" a faith or theology, though I understand that at first glance it might appear that way. Spinoza wrote the TPT primarily to make the "Fundamental distinction between faith and philosophy - the key-stone of the present treatise." Why did he feel the need to make such a distinction? I believe it was due to the tendency of the human imagination to blend the two and his desire to bring the human mind to the higher conception of God through his philosophy. As for bringing together Christ and Spinoza's ideas, Spinoza did that himself both in the TPT and elsewhere but of course it was not the "theological Christ".

   Also; "religion-soaked"?, what religion? Spinoza expressed: "...whatsoever we desire and do, whereof we are the cause in so far as we possess the idea of God, or know God, I set down to Religion." What God is he speaking of; the "God" of theology or God as Substance consisting of infinite attributes? If he wanted to avoid confusion why did he not just refer to his idea as "Nature" or with some other term? I believe he purposely used the term God to force us to examine our common imaginations associated with that term and to move on to the reasoned and intuitive conception he presents. Spinoza seems to indicate that Christ had attained to such higher conception though of course the things written in the Gospels are heavily tainted by the theology of the writers. Spinoza, in one of his letters expressed:

"...I therefore conclude, that the resurrection of Christ from the dead was in reality spiritual, and that to the faithful alone, according to their understanding, it was revealed that Christ was endowed with eternity, and had risen from the dead (using dead in the sense in which Christ said, "let the dead bury their dead"), giving by His life and death a matchless example of holiness. Moreover, He to this extent raises his disciples from the dead, in so far as they follow the example of His own life and death. It would not be difficult to explain the whole Gospel doctrine on this hypothesis."

and I feel it is useful to examine the Gospel in Spinoza's Light.

   I would like to see many more Spinoza sites, perhaps one for each language and culture on earth. I have seen where others relate Spinoza's ideas with the teachings of Buddha and to the extent that I have studied these teachings I concur. We cannot start at the end but must travel the path leading from where we first find ourselves. Of course in the end the true paths all lead toward intuitive knowledge of the one God or Substance consisting in infinite attributes.

   I wish for you continued progress along your particular path,
      Yours in Inner Friendship,

I welcome any thoughts on the above subjects or any others related to the ideas expressed.
You may send email to:
tneff [at] earthlink [dot] net

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