By the assertion of what precedes [N1] we not only wanted to make
known that there are no Devils, but also, indeed, that the
causes (or, to express it better, what we call "Sins") which
hinder us in the attainment of our perfection are in ourselves.
We have also shown already, in what precedes, how and in
what manner, through reason as also [N2] through the fourth
kind of knowledge, we must attain to our blessedness,
and how the passions *which are bad and should be banished*
must be done away with: not as is commonly urged, namely,
that these [passions] must first be subdued before we can attain
to the knowledge, and consequently to the love, of God. That
would be just like insisting that some one who is ignorant must
first forsake his ignorance before he can attain to knowledge.[N3]
But [the truth is] this, that only knowledge can cause the
disappearance thereof -- as is evident from all that we have
said. Similarly, it may also be clearly gathered from the above
that without Virtue, or (to express it better) without the guidance of the
Understanding, all tends to ruin, so that we can enjoy no rest,
and we live, as it were, outside our element. So that even if
from the power of knowledge and divine love there accrued to
the understanding not an eternal rest, such as we have shown,
but only a temporary one, it is our duty to
seek even this, since this also is such that
if once we taste it we would exchange it for
nothing else in the world.
[Note N1]: B: of the preceding chapter.
[Note N2]: B omits these four words.
[Note N3]: B continues thus: but just as knowledge alone can cause
the annihilation of this (as is evident from all that we have said) so it
may likewise be clearly gathered from the above...
This being so, we may, with reason, regard as a
great absurdity what many, who are otherwise
esteemed as great theologians, assert, namely,
that if no eternal life resulted from the love of
God, then [N1] they would seek what is best for
themselves: as though they could discover anything
better than God! This is just as silly as if a
fish (for which, of course, it is impossible to
live out of the water) were to say: if no eternal
life is to follow this life in the water, then
I will leave the water for the land; [N2] what else,
indeed, can they say to us who do not know God?
[Note N1]: B continues thus: people would seek and
consider pleasures of sense, merriment, and
worldly enjoyments: as though...
[Note N2]: B continues: so it is also with the
foregoing; for, what else,...
Thus we see, therefore, that in order to arrive
at the truth of what we assert for sure concerning
our happiness and repose, we require no other
principles except only this, namely, to take to
heart our own interest, which is very natural in
all things.[N1] And since we find that, when we
pursue sensuousness, pleasures, and worldly
things, we do not find our happiness in them, but,
on the contrary, our ruin, we therefore choose the
guidance of our understanding. As, however, this
can make no progress, unless it has first attained
to the knowledge and love of God, therefore it was
highly necessary to seek this (God); and as (after
the foregoing reflections and considerations) we
have discovered that he is the best good of all
that is good, we are compelled to stop and to rest
here. For we have seen that, outside him, there is
nothing that can give us any happiness. And it is
a true freedom to be, and to remain, bound with
the loving chains of his love.
[Note N1]: B omits this sentence.
Lastly, we see also that reasoning is not the
principal thing in us, but only like a
staircase by which we can climb
up to the desired place, or like a good genius which, without any
falsity or deception, brings us tidings of the highest good in
order thereby to stimulate us to pursue it, and to become united
with it; which union is our supreme happiness and bliss.
So, to bring this work to a conclusion, it remains to indicate
briefly what human freedom is, and wherein it consists. For
this purpose I shall make use of these following propositions, as
things which are certain and demonstrated.
1. The more essence
a thing has, so much more has it also of
activity, and so much less of passivity. For it is certain that
what is active acts through what it has, and that the thing
which is passive is affected through what it has not.
2. All passivity that passes from non-being to being, or from
being to non-being, must result from some external agent, and
not from an inner one: because no thing, considered by itself,
contains in itself the conditions that will
enable it to annihilate itself when it exists, or to create itself
when it does not exist.
3. Whatever is not produced by external causes can have
nothing in common with them, and can, consequently, be
neither changed nor transformed by them.
And from these last two [propositions] I infer the following
4. The effect of an immanent or inner cause (which is all one
to me) cannot possibly pass away or change so long as this
cause of it remains. For such an effect, just as it
is not produced by external causes, so also it cannot be changed
[by them]; following the third proposition. And since no thing
whatever can come to naught except through external causes, it
is not possible that this effect should be liable to perish so long
as its cause endures; following the second proposition.
5. The freest cause of all, and that which is most
appropriate to God, is the immanent: for the effect of
this cause depends on it in such a way that it can
neither be, nor be understood without it, nor is it
subjected to any other cause; it is, moreover, united with
it in such a way that together they form one whole.
Now let us just see what we must conclude from the
above propositions. In the first place, then,
1. Since the essence
of God is infinite, therefore it has an
infinite activity, and an infinite negation of passivity,
following the first proposition; and, in consequence of this,
the more that, through their greater
essence, things are
united with God, so much the more also do they have of
activity, and the less of passivity: and so much the more
also *are they* free from change and corruption.
2. The true Understanding can never perish; for in itself it
can have no cause to destroy itself, following the second
proposition. And as it did not emanate from external
causes, but from God, so it is not susceptible to any
change through them, following the third proposition. And
since God has produced it immediately and he is only [N1] an inner
cause, it follows necessarily that it cannot perish so long
as this cause of it remains, following the fourth proposition.
Now this cause of it is eternal, therefore it is too.
[Note N1]: A: is not only.
3. All the effects of the *true* understanding, which are
united with it, are the most excellent, and must be valued
above all the others; for as they are inner effects, they must
be the most excellent; following the fifth proposition; and,
besides this, they are also necessarily eternal, because their
cause is such.
4. All the effects which we produce outside ourselves are
the more perfect, the more they are capable of becoming
united with us, so as to constitute one and the same nature
with us; for in this way they come nearest to inner
effects. For example, if I teach my neighbours to love pleasure,
glory, avarice, then whether I myself also love these or do not love
them, whatever the case may be, I deserve to be punished, this is
clear. Not so, however, when the only end that I endeavour to attain
is, to be able to taste of union with God, and to bring forth true
ideas, and to make these things known also to my neighbours; for
we can all participate equally in this happiness, as happens
when it creates in them [N1] the same desire that I have, thus causing
their [N2] will and mine to be one and the same, constituting one and
the same nature, agreeing always in all things.[N3]
[Note N1]: A: him.
[Note N2]: A: his.
[Note N3]: Instead of the three preceding paragraphs, B has the following:
2. As (according to Proposition 2.) no thing can be a cause of its
own annihilation, nor, if it is not the effect of any external cause, can
it (according to Proposition 3.) be changed by such, but (according
to Proposition 4.) the effect of an inner cause can neither pass
away, nor change so long as this cause thereof endures; it follows
that the true understanding, since it is produced by no external cause,
but immediately by God, is, through this cause, eternal and
immutable, can neither perish nor change, but, with it, necessarily
remains eternal and lasting.
3. Since the inner effects of an immanent cause (according to
Proposition 5.) are the most excellent of all, all the effects of the
true understanding which are united therewith, must also be valued
above all others, and [must] necessarily be eternal with their cause.
Whence it follows that
4. The more perfect the effects are which we produce outside us,
the more capable are they of becoming united with us so as to
constitute one and the same nature with us. It is thus when,
through my union with God, I conceive true ideas, and make them
known to my neighbours, so that they may likewise participate
with me in this happiness, and so that there arises in them a
desire like mine, making their will one and the same with mine,
so that we thus constitute one and the same nature, agreeing in
From all that has been said it may now be very easily conceived
what is human freedom, [N1] which I define to be this: it is, namely,
a firm reality which our understanding
acquires through direct union with God, so that it can bring forth ideas
in itself, and effects outside itself, in complete harmony with its
nature; without, however, its effects being subjected to any external
causes, so as to be capable of being changed or transformed by
them. Thus it is, at the same time, evident from what has been said,
what things there are that are in our power, and are not
subjected to any external causes; we have likewise also
proved here, and that in a different way from before,
the eternal and lasting duration of our understanding; and, lastly,
which effects it is that we have to value above all others.
[Note N1]: The servitude of a thing consists in being subjected to external
causes, freedom, on the contrary, in not being subjected to
them, but freed from them.
So,[N1] to make an end of all this, it only remains for me still to
say to my friends to whom I write this :[N2] Be not astonished at these
novelties; for it is very well known to you that a thing does not
therefore cease to be true because it is not accepted by many. And
also, as the character of the age in which we live is not unknown
to you, I would beg of you most earnestly to be very careful about
the communication of these things to others. I do not want to say that
you should absolutely keep them to yourselves, but only that if
ever you [N3] begin to communicate them to anybody,
then let no other aim prompt you except only the
happiness of your neighbour, being at the same
time clearly assured by him that the reward will
not disappoint your labour. Lastly, if, on
reading this through, you should meet with some
difficulty about what I state as certain, I
beseech you that you should not therefore hasten
at once to refute it, before you have pondered
it long enough and thoughtfully enough, and if
you do this I feel sure that you will attain to
the[N4] enjoyment of the fruits of this tree which
you promise yourselves.
[Note N1]: In the margin of this paragraph A has the following note: the
author's entreaty to those for whom, at their request, he had
dictated this treatise, and therewith the conclusion of all.
[Note N2]: B continues: that they should not be astonished at the
novelties (which they might find here); since a thing does not
therefore cease to be true when it is not accepted by many.
[Note N3]: B continues: wish to communicate them to others, then you
shall have no other object in view except only the Happiness of
your neighbour; being at the same time clearly assured that the
reward of your labour will not disappoint you therein.
[Note N4]: B concludes: