Thursday, May 18, 2006

Pantheism of Baruch Spinoza

I happened to get to know about a Jewish 18th century philosopher - Baruch Spinoza, who lived and died in Amsterdam.

He fought against the beliefs of his own clan. He questioned whether there exists something called superior race. This greatly infuriated the Jews of his time.

According to him, God is not a “personality” but a substance like nature. He claimed, there is no good or bad – no emotion or event, there is not any separate substance. So, everyone, everything, every action/substance is a reflection of the supreme nature! This philosophy is today known as Pantheism. God is in everyone and everything. (Does it ring any bell that Hindu Philosophy Advaita has similarities with Pantheism?). When someone asked Einstein whether he believes in God, he replied “I believe in Spinoza’s God”. Spinoza’s rejection of God as a personality irritated fellow Jews and Christians, as he questioned their beliefs. He was declared as an atheist and was excommunicated from the society. This happened in his early 20s! This ban was never lifted till his premature death, while he was working as a lensman.

A lensman is a highly skilled artisan who grinds the glass to make lens. He started working as a lensman after this excommunication. (Indeed Dutch lenses were quite famous in that period!)

Excommunication is banishing a person from interacting with the society. No member of the society is supposed to talk (forget interacting!) to an excommunicated person. (People, who happened to watch village based Tamil films can easily relate to this – in which a white shirt – white dhoti clad rich man sitting under a huge banyan tree will pronounce the verdict of keeping the condemned – mostly the Hero, away from the village, while rest of the villagers would watch in a mournful silence!)

Unlike the radicals who questioned the religion of his times, Spinoza was very simple, of clean habits and was nice to people. He was a great influence to the western philosophers like Hegel and Goethe. All his philosophies are collectively known as Spinozism. There are two books written on him recently and you can find an excellent article on those in Salon. Happy reading!

Great da! Was thinking all the while the kinda of spiritual maturity that the south east asians has no equivalent thoughts in rest of the world. But spinozism parallelism with adavaitha is really tht provoking.
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Aha! So there is a Spinoza. And I was under the impression Bertie Wooster was looking for "Spindrift" all the time...
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