Baruch Spinoza, Philosopher

Copyright Michael D. Robbins 2005


Astro-Rayological Interpretation & Charts
Images and Physiognomic Interpretation

to Volume 3 Table of Contents


Baruch Spinoza (the “Gentle Philosopher”, the “God-intoxicated Philosopher”):

December 4, 1632, Amsterdam, Holland, 4:00 PM, LMT. (Source: Marc Penfield who references Matthews who gave Spinoza Gemini rising). Died, February 21, 1677



(Chart Referenced: Ascendant, Gemini; Sun in Sagittarius, with Mercury conjunct Saturn also in Sagittarius; Moon and Uranus in Virgo; Venus conjunct Mars in Capricorn; Jupiter conjunct Pluto in Taurus; Neptune in Scorpio)

Again we are faced with the possibility of two or, perhaps, three charts. A date of November 24, 1632 is sometimes suggested , but it is uncertain whether this date is to be interpreted in the Old Style which would convert it to December 4, 1632, New Style (a date also frequently used and the one which will be used in the present interpretation). The New Style positions for December 4, 1632 and the Old Style Positions for November 24, 1632, 4:00 PM are as given above. The New Style positions for November 24, 1632, 2:00 PM are as given immediately below:

(Alternative Chart not Referenced: Ascendant, Aries: Sun in Sagittarius conjunct Saturn also in Sagittarius; Moon in Taurus; Mercury in Scorpio; Venus conjunct Mars in Sagittarius; Jupiter conjunct Pluto in Taurus; Uranus in Virgo; Uranus in Virgo; Neptune in Scorpio)

(Another alternative chart could be erected with Gemini on the Ascendant for the earlier date, November 24, 1632. Such a chart is suggested by Marc Penfield in his An Astrological Who’s Who, 1972, and shows the last degree of Gemini rising. When Penfield published his Penfield Collection in 1978, he utilized the December 4th date, and changed the Ascendant in Gemini from the 30th degree to the 18th degree. It is this latter chart which will be used as the basis for the interpretation.)

The author has done his best to compare these charts to Spinoza’s character and to the events in his life. The December 4th chart, NS, was chosen for the following reasons.

1. Immediately before his mother’s death in late 1638 or early 1639 there was a solar eclipse (on December 5, 1638) in the very same degree as Spinoza’s Sun in the December 4th natal chart. The Sun is ruler of the IC in all Gemini rising charts for Spinoza, and, therefore, rules the “mother”.

2. Immediately before his own death which occurred on February 21, 1677, there was another solar eclipse (on December 5, 1676) which occurred within just a degree of Spinoza’s Sun in the December 4th natal chart. The fourth house rules, among other things, the “end of life”.

3. These two very similar eclipses were decisive in his life and would not have touched any such significant points in the chart erected for November 24th, New Style, for the Sagittarius Sun would have been in only the third degree.

4. The rigor and exactitude of Spinoza’s rationalistic thought are characteristic of a conjunction between Saturn and Mercury (in Sagittarius). This conjunction occurs only in the December 4th chart.

5. Spinoza died of tuberculosis, apparently aggravated by his inhaling glass dust from lens grinding. In the 4:00 PM chart for December 4th, Saturn in Sagittarius is placed in the sixth house (ruling his occupation—not his true philosophical career or vocation). Saturn is the ruler of the eighth house, the house of death. This placement, therefore, shows the cause of death as related to his occupation or employment. This is not the case with the chart usually offered for the November 24th date—a chart with Aries rising and Saturn in the eighth house.

6. Further, in the Gemini rising charts, the December 4th chart shows a conjunction between Saturn and Mercury—Mercury being the orthodox ruler of the Gemini Ascendant. Mercury and Gemini are associated with the lungs and Spinoza died of a lung affliction. In the earlier Gemini rising chart (for November 24th), Saturn and Mercury are at least eleven degrees from each other—too wide for a conjunction. The cause of death as tuberculosis is far more accurately reflected by the Saturn/Mercury conjunction (with Saturn as the bringer of affliction)—especially since Sagittarius, in which they are both found, since it is the sign reciprocal to Gemini, is often involved in lung ailments.

7. Spinoza developed considerable expertise as a lens grinder. The Virgo Moon of the December 4th chart is more suggestive of this skill. Additionally, Mars and Venus have moved into Capricorn in this later chart. These three earth signs suggest something of the exactitude required for mastery of such a craft—much more so than a Taurus Moon and Mars and Venus in Sagittarius (in the November 24th chart).

8. The Aries rising chart of November 24th does not correlate well with the character of the “gentle philosopher”, who, it appears, ever sought to avoid confrontation (even with the elders of the Jewish Synagogue who unjustly accused him of blasphemy and heresy).

9. The extensive correspondence which Spinoza carried forward, correlates far better with a Gemini Ascendant and a Sun near the seventh house cusp than with the Aries Ascendant.

10. The Virgo Moon, found only in the December 4th chart, seems suitable for Spinoza’s retiring way of life and bachelorhood. Further, when his father died in March of 1654, there was a lunar eclipse (on March 3, 1654) two degrees from the Virgo Moon. There was property dispute as a result of this death, and the Moon, implicated by eclipse, symbolizes property, and is the ruler of the third house in the December 4th chart. The dispute was with one of Spinoza’s siblings (siblings are ruled by the third house)—his stepsister. Another solar eclipse about six months before the father’s death occurred within twenty minutes of arc of Spinoza’s Uranus position. In the Gemini rising chart of December 4th, Uranus is the ruler of the Aquarius MC, indicating the (sudden?) loss of the father.

11. Most convincing of all for the chart with the 18th degree of Gemini rising is Spinoza’s excommunication from the Jewish Synagogue in July of 1656. Again two solar eclipses are involved—one in the 10th degree of Leo about a year before the excommunication and another in the 7th degree of Aquarius about six months before this determining event. The Aquarius/Leo MC/IC in the December 4th Gemini chart was, therefore, implicated—though the “hit” was not exact.. Nothing would be touched in the Aries rising chart of November 24th.

12. Further, and most impressively, Pluto which is the planet ruling excommunication, expulsion and exile was making a transit across the ascending degree (the 18th degree of Gemini) exactly at the time of the excommunication. In addition, after that expulsion from the synagogue, he was banished (Pluto) from Amsterdam for a short time by the civil authorities. All of this most certainly points to the validity of a Gemini rising chart, as Pluto had passed the opposition of his Sagittarius Sun some two years before, and nothing so dramatic had occurred. The Gemini rising chart for December 4th is far more convincing than the a Gemini rising chart for November 24th.

Life and Chart Analysis

Benedict (Baruch) Spinoza was one of the world’s great philosophers. He was both a rigorous rationalist and a pantheist, seeking to understand the world by the Euclidean method, reasoning deductively from self-evident axioms and carefully formulated definitions to profound conclusions concerning the nature of God, Man and human society.

Since his death in 1677, Spinoza has at various times been both in and out of favor. The period of particular disfavor occurred for about a century after his death, during which times his ideas were widely considered as blasphemous. A skeptical critic, Pierre Bayle called Spinozism “the most monstrous hypothesis imaginable, the most absurd”. David Hume, a Scottish Skeptic, empiricist and historian, referred to the “hideous hypothesis” of Spinoza.

Yet, no lesser minds that the great German initiate poet, novelist, and scientist, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, as well as dramatist and critic G.E. Lessing, and the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge found in Spinoza much to admire—an intensely spiritual understanding of reality yet divorced from all religious dogma.

Spinoza has been called the “gentle philosopher” and the “God-intoxicated philosopher”. A man of modest and retiring habits, he had a profound effect upon some of the foremost thinkers of the seventeenth century and his influence has continued to grow in philosophical circles, especially since the early 19th century. Spinoza became so popular with unusually diverse groups of philosophers partially because it was possible to read into his works a support for such widely contrasting world-views as atheism, materialism, pantheism, absolute idealism, and empiricism, to name only a few.

That so many antagonistic schools of thought could find a resonance with Spinoza’s philosophy gives some idea of the breadth and depth (and perhaps, the essential obscurity) of Spinoza’s lucidly-articulated ideas.

Spinoza’s principle works are the Ethics (1665), the Short Treatise on God, Man, and His Well-Being, the Treatise on the Correction of the Understanding, the geometrical version of René Descartes' Philosophical Principles, A Treatise on Religious and Political Philosophy (1670), and Posthumous Works, including the Treatise on the Improvement of Understanding, Letters, and Hebrew Grammar.

Spinoza belonged to a group of Jews who fled the Inquisition from Spain and Portugal. His family settled in Holland, which after its successful revolt from Spain adopted a policy of religious toleration. Spinoza was educated in the orthodox Jewish manner, but studied Latin, absorbed the works of the significant philosophers, especially Thomas Hobbes and René Descartes, and received a thorough schooling in scholastic theology and philosophy.

He emerged as an independent thinker which led him into constant conflict with the authorities of the Jewish Synagogue of Amsterdam. After threats and bribes failed to silence him, he was excommunicated from the Synagogue in July, 1656. He abandoned his Hebrew name, “Baruch”, and chose the Latin name, “Benedict”.

Apart from his philosophical pursuits, Spinoza became a lens grinder of great skill (Moon in Virgo and the presence of the fifth ray). Some suggest that he undertook this occupation of necessity in order to make a living, but others see him pursuing a scientific interest in optics. Apparently he was also supported by a series of grants, pensions and bequests which made it possible for him to pursue his interest in philosophy.

Spinoza lived a modest and retiring life. He had numerous friendships with the philosophically and scientifically minded, and shared his writings within these circles; he dared not publish them for fear of the authorities—civil and religious. Only one of his books (A Treatise on Religious and Political Philosophy) actually was published under his true name during his lifetime.

Spinoza maintained a wide correspondence (Gemini Ascendant) and was visited by many philosophers, the distinguished Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz among them. A few years before his death he was offered a professorship at Heidelberg, but he preferred his quiet life and especially the freedom of thought which it afforded him.

He contracted tuberculosis (Gemini/Sagittarius axis, with Mercury conjunct Saturn) and his condition was apparently aggravated by his inhalation of glass dust from the grinding of lenses. He died on February 21, 1677, leaving instructions for the posthumous publication of various of his works—under his own name.

Spinoza’s Metaphysics: Spinoza philosophy was rationalistic, deductive and monistic (i.e., characterized by the hypothesis of one fundamental substance). Deductive rationalism is characteristic of the third ray (the Ray of Abstract Intelligence); Monism suggests the presence of the inclusive second ray of Love-Wisdom. Spinoza shared with Descartes an intensely mathematical appreciation of the universe, though he differed with Descartes on certain fundamentals.

Whereas, for Descartes, mind and body were two different substances, for Spinoza there was but one substance of which mind and body could be considered different aspects. He called this substance both “God” and “Nature”. He conceived the universe as a single substance capable of an infinitude of attributes (hence his pantheism). “God is a Being infinite in an infinite number of ways”. The universe can be known by two of these attributes especially—“extension” (the major property of matter) and “thought”, (the major property of mind). God is not seen as a supernatural Entity in contradistinction to Nature; God and Nature are one. God is Nature in its fulness.

Although Spinoza was a rationalist, he was, unlike a number of the absolute idealists, also an empiricist. He was a close observer of Man and Nature. He studied physical experiences in order to produce “adequate ideas” which, in his view, depended upon a coherent, logical association of perceived physical experiences. His belief in observation and empiricism was, it might be said, out-pictured in his secondary occupation—that of lens grinding. He interest was in how things are seen. His respect for empiricism and his deepening understanding of optics both speak for the presence of the scientific fifth ray in his ray formula.

In his most famous and revolutionary work, the Ethics, Spinoza explores the concepts of freedom, bondage and free will. In many ways, Spinoza is a determinist, seeing the universe as a mechanistic system, and taking issue with the existence of free will (either for God or Man).. The principle of necessity (Saturn is conjunct Mercury and is dispositor of his Venus/Mars conjunction) is of determining importance in his thought. All beings seek to maintain and express the power of their being, and thus virtue and power are one.

But for Spinoza, power derives from a knowledge of necessity. When powerful or virtuous persons act, they understand why they must act. They are free only in their understanding. What they must do, they cannot escape doing, but, because the have “adequate ideas”, they are aware of the necessity of so doing.. Those, on the contrary, who are not free, act without awareness of the law of their being (i.e., they are driven to act by instinct and do not understand why they must act or how they must act). Man is rigorously compelled and determined, but some human beings see and know what is happening to them (and are thus free—at least, in consciousness) and others do not see and know, and hence are enslaved.

The free individual is guided by the laws of his own nature. Those so guided are never out of harmony with others similarly guided because the true law of one’s nature is never at variance with the true law of another’s. Always there is an inescapable conformity to law, and no possibility of evading the law of one’s nature. The person in bondage is moved by causes which he does not understand or about which he is confused.

For Spinoza, there is no distinction between will and reason. Ideas cannot be passively entertained and later put into action. Ideas, and not will, are the causes of action. By equating idea with power and virtue, and thus discounting the will as an independent agency, Spinoza displays his third ray bias. The third ray exalts the mind above all other faculties. Thus, for Spinoza, the clear and reasonable mind is the cause of all correct action. Will is subsumed into mind. Indeed, in Spinoza’s ray makeup, the first ray is deficient, and his view of the process of willing and thinking reflects this deficiency.

In the realm of political philosophy, Spinoza shares with Thomas Hobbes a number of similarities, but their conclusions are very different. Both identify the reality of the “social contract”. Right is seen as relative, and the social contract proves binding only as long as it serves the advantage of the participants. But for Hobbes, strongly influenced by Aries, Taurus and a greater intensity of the first ray, advantage lies in satisfying as many desires a possible. Hobbes was the more materialistic thinker. For Spinoza (focussed upon the Sagittarius/Gemini axis) advantage is found is escaping from those desires through understanding. Spinoza’s is the more detached view.

To clarify Spinoza’s view of man’s social possibilities, it can be said that Hobbes does not imagine a community of individuals whose desires can be consistently satisfied, so the use of force or repression is always necessary; Spinoza, however, more benign in his imagination, can foresee just such a community and such consistent satisfaction, so, in his political and religious thought, the notion of freedom, especially freedom of inquiry (Gemini, Mercury, fifth ray), is of fundamental importance. Again, we see a somewhat detached mind at work, perhaps naïve in its estimation of the ease with which man’s instinctual nature can be managed.

The November 24th chart, shows an Aries Ascendant, like that of Hobbes, and a Taurus Moon (Hobbes also had a strong stellium of four planets and two asteroids in Taurus). This kind of chart does not seem correct for the “gentle philosopher”, so detached from his well controlled emotions (Moon in Virgo). Spinoza is capable of ‘mentalizing’ the life process, and seeks freedom from the bio-psychic compulsions; Hobbes seems rather more in their grip. Thus, again, the later chart for December 4th, emphasizing Gemini and Virgo (Sagittarius remains the same) seems more suitable.

With this woefully brief summary of Spinoza’s philosophy and some knowledge of his life process, we can offer a speculative hypothesis regarding his rays.

Monad: Ray Two

Soul: Ray III

Personality: Ray 2

Mental Vehicle: Ray 5

Astral Vehicle: Ray 2

Physical Vehicle Ray 7

Perhaps it is not possible to gain a good idea of the ray of Spinoza’s monadic vehicle. The overall impression of his energy system is that it offers a mixture of rays two and three. Spinoza, as one of the greatest of philosophical minds, may well have stood at an evolutionary point where the ray of the monad could be considered influential. There is much to suggest that he was an initiate of the third degree or, at least, very nearly at that stage. His profound love and respect for geometry connects him to that Ray Lord Who is known as “The Grand Geometrician” — the Ray Lord of the second ray.

The following quotation from The Secret Doctrine contrasts Leibniz’ and Spinoza’s views with respect to ultimate reality—(for us) the realm of the monad.

“The student must now be shown the fundamental distinction between the system of Leibniz* and that of occult philosophy, on the question of the Monads, and this may be done with his Monadology before us. It may be correctly stated that were Leibniz' and Spinoza's systems reconciled, the essence and Spirit of esoteric philosophy would be made to appear. From the shock of the two -- as opposed to the Cartesian system -- emerge the truths of the Archaic doctrine. Both opposed the metaphysics of Descartes. His idea of the contrast of two substances -- Extension and Thought -- radically differing from each other and mutually irreducible, was too arbitrary and too unphilosophical for them. Thus Leibniz made of the two Cartesian substances two attributes of one universal unity, in which he saw God. Spinoza recognised but one universal indivisible substance and absolute ALL, like Parabrahman. Leibniz, on the contrary perceived the existence of a plurality of substances. There was but ONE for Spinoza; for Leibniz an infinitude of Beings, from, and in, the One. Hence, though both admitted but one real Entity, while Spinoza made it impersonal and indivisible, Leibniz divided his personal Deity into a number of divine and semi-divine Beings. Spinoza was a subjective, Leibniz an objective Pantheist, yet both were great philosophers in their intuitive perceptions”. (SD Vol. I, 629)

Spinoza was, in HPB’s words a “subjective Pantheist”, and Leibniz, an “objective Pantheist”. Here, it can be argued, we see the difference between a profoundly unitive second ray and the profundity of the ray of multiplicity and discrimination—the third. Both philosophers sought to overcome the “Cartesian split”, but Spinoza had recourse to a “universal, indivisible substance and absolute ALL, (in HPB’s words) like Parabrahman”, and the other, more influenced at a fundamental level by the third ray, believed in an “infinitude of beings”.

Like Plato and Aristotle, the truth lies in the combination of perspectives—Plato representing more the second ray and Aristotle the third. There is something Neptunian about the tendency to dissolve all multiplicity into a single substance, and indeed, Neptune is prominent in the December 4th, 4:00 PM chart, conjunct the Vertex in Spinoza’s chart for December 4th. .

Conduits for the second ray in Spinoza’s astrological chart are several. Firstly, if Gemini is the Ascendant (as can be reasonably hypothesized), then the second ray is strongly represented. Further, if we speak of monadic influence with respect to the second ray, the point opposite the Sun (considered by the author as the “monadic point”) would be found in second ray Gemini, and would therefore be an important point of entry for second ray energies related to the monad. This does not mean however, that all monadically sensitive individuals with a Sagittarius Sun (and thus a monadic point in second ray Gemini) would necessarily have a second ray monad, just as the ray or rays distributed by the soul-oriented Ascendant do not necessarily reveal the ray of the soul.

Anther conduit for the second ray is the Moon in second ray/sixth ray Virgo. The Moon is the esoteric ruler of Virgo and veils either Vulcan or Neptune. Spinoza’s pervasive, gently unitive (rather than ardent) mysticism makes the veil of Neptune more likely, though for a highly advanced and mental individual, Uranus must always be considered in relation to the veiling Moon. In Spinoza’s chart, Uranus, as it happens, is in Virgo relatively close to the Moon, with the Part of Fortune at the midpoint between the two.

Still another second ray conduit is second ray Jupiter found in the second sign, Taurus. Jupiter, as the orthodox ruler of the Sagittarius Sun sign, is a powerful planet. Placed in Taurus, it emphasizes the Wisdom rather than the Love aspect of the second ray.

Jupiter is also closely parallel to one of the alternative Ascendants—the Equatorial Ascendant. As well, Jupiter is found in the twelfth house, a mansion in which it is accidentally dignified and friendly to the expression of the second ray, for the sign most correlated with the twelfth house is Pisces, which distributes the second ray as well s the sixth.

Spinoza’s soul ray (a subray of the monadic ray) was very probably the third, which inclined him him, initially, to identify so strongly with the thought of René Descartes, to the point that Spinoza re-systematized and presented in a more geometrical form Descartes’ Principia. His connection with another great third ray soul, Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz was also profound. By one’s deep affiliations on the physical plane, the ray of the soul can be reasonably estimated. .

Spinoza was a rationalist and ‘deductivist’—approaches to thought supported by the reasonable and reasoning third ray rather than the more strictly empirical fifth ray, or the more intuitive second. Of course, any thinker on any ray can use deductive, empirical/inductive or intuitive means, but the preponderance of emphasis indicates the preponderant ray quality.

Further, the emphasis upon necessity, conformity to law, and lack of free will relates Spinoza to the Saturnian aspect of the third ray. Mercury as well as Saturn distributes the third ray (Mercury, probably, in its planetary personality nature), and Sagittarius (in which these two planets are found conjuncted) is the third fire sign much associated with the third aspect of the spiritual triad—the higher mind. Seen in this way the Mercury/Saturn conjunction in Sagittarius represents a powerful third ray focus (though it would also strengthen a concrete mind upon the fifth ray).

Further, Spinoza’s historical emphasis in Biblical interpretation and criticism links him to the historical third ray. He was a thoughtful enemy of unwarranted credulity (so often found upon the sixth ray). His freedom from both religious dogmatism and blind faith, however, were not the effect of the third ray alone (which when combined with the sixth can, indeed, be dogmatic), but were equally caused by the probable absence of the sixth ray in his ray makeup (regardless of power of sixth ray Sagittarius), and by the strong representation (on possibly three levels—monadic, personal and astral) of the second ray of Love-Wisdom.

Spinoza placed a strong emphasis upon intelligibility. For him the doctrine of free will (whether ascribed to Man or to God) rendered the world unintelligible. He therefore repudiated the presumed freedom of a transcendent God and with it, the free will of Man.. He, therefore, espoused a variety of exacting determinism frequently found when the third ray conditions the thought process.

As well, he was dissatisfied with the informality of exposition characteristic of his first two works. In his search for rational, deductive rigor, he was responding to the thought-systematizing tendencies of the third ray, supported by the fifth and seventh. This rigorous approach is truly characteristic of the reasoning Saturn/Mercury conjunction. His purpose was to present metaphysics deductively, that is, as a series of theorems derived by necessary steps from self-evident premises expressed in terms that are either self-explanatory or defined with unquestionable correctness. In this approach we can surely see how much he blended the third and fifth rays.

Third ray conduits in Spinoza’s astrological chart are found in relation to the sometimes third ray sign, Capricorn (containing a conjunction of Mars and Venus) and also through Gemini (the third sign), and through Virgo (like Gemini ruled by sometimes third ray Mercury, and, itself, identified with the third or matter aspect). As previously stated the Saturn/Mercury conjunction in Sagittarius can also represent a third ray center of focus.

The second ray seems the appropriate ray for the personality of this “gentle philosopher”. He was mentally bold, but personally retiring and inoffensive. Often he was employed as a teacher or tutor, frequently gathering through his magnetism a study circle around him. His method was one of accommodation. When, at his father’s death, his stepsister sought to claim the entire inheritance, he entered a law suite (which he won), only to let her keep nearly everything. This is characteristic of the kind, second ray personality, and hardly consistent with the possibility of an Aries Ascendant.

Spinoza’s interest in optics and, in general, in the science of the day relates him to the fifth ray—the “Ray of Science and Concrete Knowledge”. It has already been noted that he embraced the value of empiricism (while keeping it as a subset of third ray rationalism). Empiricism is also motivated the fifth ray. Sagittarius conveys the fifth ray, and the Virgo Moon and the Mercury/Saturn conjunction can reinforce its exacting, discriminating tendencies. Fifth ray Venus is the esoteric ruler of the hypothesized Gemini Ascendant, and is placed in Capricorn, a sign friendly to the power of the discriminating mind.

The Venus in Capricorn position must be noted in relation to the possibility of the third initiation (which it rules). That initiation is ruled by the fifth ray and Capricorn, Venus is, thus, hierarchically placed, offering to those capable of fulfilling its potential, the possibility of intense illumination. Spinoza was capable. His doctrine of substantial monism was his own way of revealing unity—the task of every disciple who aspires to the third degree or has achieved it.

On a more objective level, Spinoza’s method of thought is clear, lucid and logical. Throughout his work, he explicitly or implicitly emphasizes the value of definition (the province of the fifth ray), and is at pains to define with precision so that his deductive method can be maximally fruitful. As well, the practicalities of lens grinding and polishing certainly must have demanded the fifth ray (plus the seventh) if the task were to be successfully accomplished. He was, after all, an expert in the craft. As well, his ongoing search for what he called “clear and distinct ideas”, certainly suggests the presence of the fifth ray.

The seventh ray (entering especially through Capricorn) can be inferred because of his apparent physical delicacy, his modesty, quietude, and also his practical work with optics. The orderly and logical presentation of his Ethics also suggests the ordering quality of the seventh ray.

Turning more specifically to Spinoza’s astrology, we find his Sun, Mercury and Saturn all in Sagittarius. In many ways, Sagittarius is the philosopher’s sign, and also that of the seer. His interest in vision and optics is, thus, partially related to this sign. Sagittarius is also related to the quest for pure truth—especially when combined with the second and third rays (the philosophical rays).

For Spinoza, the wisdom that philosophy seeks is achieved when one perceives the universe in its wholeness, through the “intellectual love of God,” which merges the finite individual with the eternal unity and provides the mind with the pure joy that is the final achievement of its search. How very much this objective sounds like the purpose of occult philosophy. One can see that the deeper purpose of the Great Quest is not only the knowing but the merging—thus the importance of the second ray (distributed by Jupiter—a ruler of Sagittarius).

The Virgo Moon contributed modesty, humility, practicality and precision in matters of technique (for, it is said that he became an expert lens grinder), and, in general, an ability to detach from the life of the emotions (which he sought to understand, thus avoiding the tyranny of desire). It also gave Spinoza the conviction that philosophy was a personal and moral quest (Sagittarius), not only for wisdom in life, but for the achievement of human perfection (Virgo).

The proposed Gemini Ascendant would be highly important, and a more probable sign than combative, confrontive Aries. When faced with the censorious attitude of the elders of the Synagogue, Spinoza did not seek to enflame the situation with a head-on confrontation characteristic of Aries. Instead, he sought to defend himself rationally, and in an accommodating manner.

Some six months before his excommunication, he even gave a substantial monetary offering as a demonstration of his loyalty to the faith. His troubles had begun because of his unorthodox thinking, teaching, reasoning—and conversation. He simply found the orthodox approach to religious thought unreasonable and unintelligible, and said so, especially in conversations (Gemini) with other students. His practical fifth ray mind saw no reason to believe in angels, in the immortality of the soul, or that God had no body. His rebellion was of the mind rather than of the personality; the second ray personality is not given to the more drastic, physicalized forms of rebellion.

Uranus, the planet of the new and better way, is implicated in his troubles with the Jewish religious authorities.. His mind was rigorous and orthodox enough (but only in relation to the definitions he formulated and to his strict manner of reasoning from principles which he considered self-evident).

Rebellious Uranus, however, stands in quintile to his Sagittarian Sun, and square to his Venus/Mars conjunction in Capricorn. The quintile promotes originality of thought and demands a mentally creative solution to problems. Uranus never promotes acceptance of tradition—even though, in terms of devising a technique to arrive at truth, his mind could be considered conservative (Saturn conjunct Mercury). Venus, as a planet of harmony and correct social relations, would be disrupted by the Uranus square, and the square between Uranus and Mars would lead to all sorts of unintended (accidental), unmanageable consequences.

HPB thinks of Spinoza as an intuitive philosopher. Surely his first principles were derived intuitively. What he did with them was ultra-rationalistic. We see Gemini as a sign promotive of his intuitive process, and Sagittarius, in which his Sun, Mercury and Saturn are placed is also an intuitive sign. Because the esoteric ruler of Gemini, Venus, is placed in rigorous Capricorn, there is a blend of intuition and intense mental illumination—a stage of mental perception characteristic of the third initiation.

This configuration of the Gemini Ascendant and its ruler gives him, via the philosophical antahkarana, direct access to buddhi-manas. It is important to realize that Spinoza was impersonal in his thought, and that he was, therefore in certain ways, bypassing the causal body, which, for all its beauty and quality, represents the sublimation of personally harvested quality. Esoterically speaking, Spinoza had an actively employed antahkarana, however rigorously rational he sought to be once the accessed ideas entered the lower mental vehicle qualified by the fifth ray.

The Mars/Venus conjunction in Capricorn tells us something about a possible sublimation of the sexual instinct (a useful exercise in the achievement of the soul-illumined mind). Very little is known about Spinoza’s relationship life, except for some information about his important friends, professional associations, and the family with which he stayed on very good terms during the years before his death. Mars and Venus together can represent a strong sexuality, or the reverse. In Spinoza’s case there is good reason to argue the reverse, pointing to the Moon in chaste Virgo, transmutative Uranus exactly sextile the Juno position in Scorpio, and suppressive Saturn only three degrees away from Juno.

Both Venus and Mars are powerful in Capricorn—Venus, hierarchically, and Mars because it is the exalted planet. But Venus (already the esoteric ruler of the hypothesized Gemini Ascendant) is really a planet of greater spiritual strength than Mars, and in this case could be thought of as subduing the passional nature of Mars, and absorbing such energies for the sake of illumined soul culture.

Ultimately, Venus in Capricorn represents the “light supernal” found upon the mountain top of initiation. One can see Spinoza’s ‘mental passion’ (Mars in Capricorn) bending every effort to reach the sublime light. This conjunction, therefore, can represent the power of the soul (Venus) over the personality (Mars), and the conquest of passion (Mars) by dispassion (Venus). One has the sense that Spinoza knew what it was to negate the “ancient authority” of the personality, and thus pass into the greater Light.

Spinoza’s most important work was his Ethics. Sagittarius conduces to reasoning about ethical matters, and the second decanate of the Gemini Ascendant, ruled by Libra, presents issues of right human relationship for deliberation. As well, the Sun is found very near the seventh house cusp where deep questions concerning the structure and patterns of human society are to be solved. Further, the Moon is Virgo, gives the tendency to find the flaw and offer critique in the effort to heal. The asteroid of commitment, Vesta, is found in the Libra, the sign of justice, fair play and right human relations, augmenting Spinoza’s interest in ethical considerations and his hope for solutions to humanity’s social problems.

By nature, Spinoza was an optimist (Sun in Sagittarius), though strangely he did not believe in freewill. He believed that humanity could be released from its passions through the power
of understanding. Was he imagining that the majority of human beings could achieve what he had? If so, perhaps he was overly optimistic, for few stood at his level, depth and breadth of perception.

The conjunction of Jupiter and Pluto in Taurus (both conjuncted to the Equatorial Ascendant) is significant for several reasons. First of all, it creates because of its spatial contrast with the remaining planets, a “seesaw” pattern—indicative of alternation and the need for balancing and harmonizing opposing forces. This conjunctive blending of the planets Jupiter and Pluto (one upon the second ray and the other upon the first) focused in the karmic and summarizing twelfth house where resolution and synthesis are to be sought, accounts for an important dynamic in Spinoza’s life. He was, in his thought, at once constructive (Jupiter) and destructive (Pluto). Jupiter in Taurus can be related to his philosophy of one, all-embracing (Jupiter) substance (Taurus).

Pluto relates to his philosophical need to eliminate both a transcendent God and human free will and to see all action as the necessity (Saturn) and the compulsion (Pluto) of law (Saturn). Pluto further represents the banishment of many personally comforting religious and theological thoughts to the realm of illusion. These two planets are, therefore, closely related to his substantial monistic pantheism. God is all (Jupiter) of Nature (Taurus).

There is but one all-inclusive (Jupiter) substance (Taurus). This one substance annihilates (Pluto) all distinctions. Pluto is the esoteric and hierarchical ruler of this twelfth house, and represents the destructive power which reduces all things to one thing.

Pantheistic, anti-Deist ideas were considered heretical and dangerous. Spinoza did not and could not directly challenge the prevailing repressive and unphilosophical religious opinion which surrounded him. Jupiter represents the power to publish, and it is in the twelfth house where expression is suppressed and inhibited. Pluto strengthened the inhibition upon publication. Pluto, in this case, represents the dire penalty which would have been exacted had Spinoza published his thoughts directly and under his own name.

Together these two planets can be interpreted as ‘surreptitious (Pluto) publication (Jupiter)’ (which was the method he chose in order to bring his writings into at least some sort of circulation—mostly among his friends and sympathizers).

So we see Spinoza’s Pantheism anchored in his Jupiter/Pluto conjunction in the twelfth house, and Neptune at the Vertex. His rationalism and determinism were working through his Saturn/Mercury conjunction. His elevation of thought over passion is indicated by the Venus/Mars conjunction in sober, purposeful Capricorn and also Saturn at the midpoint between Mercury and Juno. His rebellion against conventional perspectives entered through his Uranus quintile to his Sagittarius Sun and the Uranus square to Venus and Mars.

The mastery of his precise craft (lens grinding) was facilitated by his Virgo Moon and, again, by the Saturn/Mercury conjunction. His intuition was promoted by his Gemini Ascendant with its esoteric ruler, Venus, in Capricorn, the sign of supernal light. Ceres, the asteroid of nurturance is found in the seventh house (of the social contract) within two degrees of the cusp, and indicates his care and concern for the improving the quality of human interaction. The Ascendant and Sun are opposed to each other (and contraparallel) indicating his broad, objective perspective, and his attempt to apply an ethical solution of the conflict between self and others.

For all his rationalism and lofty impersonal thought, Spinoza must have been very aware of the power of opposing, irrational forces. His Mars is conjunct the “evil” star Facies, which relates to ruthlessness and aggression, to being the perpetrator or victim of violence. The negative potentials did not work out in physical violence in Spinoza’s life, but he must have been acutely aware of the horrific potentials lurking in the “beast”, the sumtotal of aroused and poorly comprehended instinctual nature.

Indeed, his excommunication from the Jewish Faith was the result of psychological violence directed against him; the “archer” of religious bigotry had taken aim at his freedom of thought. Perhaps the potency of Venus, so close to Mars by conjunction, served to transmute and elevate this difficult energy, so that, at least he was the victim rather than the perpetrator.

Another difficult star was influential in his nature. Jupiter is also conjunct Capulus, which signifies male sexual energy, aggression and libido. Again, however, a “benefic” planet (Jupiter) is involved with the difficult star, offering the Jupiterian possibility of elevation through understanding. The presence of negative and materially-tending energies gives no indication about how an individual will handle them. So much depends upon the level of evolution; Spinoza’s was high.

The closest of these star aspects is a parallel between Alcyone (the “Star of Individuality”) and the Ascendant. Perhaps this connection to Alcyone connected Spinoza to a deep appreciation for the true nature of substance—for the Pleiades are fundamentally connected with the substantial/material nature of reality. There is an important triangle between the Pleiades, Gemini and Sagittarius, expressed through Mercury (found in Sagittarius).This triangle emphasizes the importance of matter and intelligence. is reminded of a revelatory jest by the Master K.H., when He stated, ironically, “Don’t you realize we are materialists?” His knowledge of the equivalence of spirit and matter lay behind this statement.

Perhaps a few quotations from Spinoza himself, will more vividly illustrate the nature and quality of his thought:

“Whatsoever is, is in God, and without God nothing can be, or be conceived”. (Ethics, Book I, Proposition XV)

This is a pantheistic statement, and overcomes the split between God and His Creation.

“God is the efficient cause not only of the existence of things, but also of their essence.
Corollary. Individual things are nothing but modifications of the attributes of God, or modes by which the attributes of God are expressed in a fixed and definite manner”.(Ethics, Book I, Proposition XXV)

We could well be dealing with Gnostic Emanationist Theory. This position is very like the one taken in Eastern Esotericism. The complete identification between God and ‘things’ is hereby enunciated. The fusion of the second and third rays is evident. The One and the Many are united; this union can be appreciated under the Sagittarius (the One) and Gemini (the Many) polarity.

“He, who has a true idea, simultaneously knows that he has a true idea, and cannot doubt of the truth of the thing perceived”. (Ethics, Book II, Proposition XLIII)

Here we touch the planet of pure reason, the buddhi plane, and come face to face with the “straight knowledge”, the unmediated knowledge of the intuition. Mind in the usual sense has been transcended. Reasoning has turned to pure reason. It is clear that Spinoza knew the joys of triadal perception.

“As men’s habits of mind differ, so that some more readily embrace one form of faith, some another, for what moves one to pray may move another to scoff, I conclude ... that everyone should be free to choose for himself the foundations of his creed, and that faith should be judged only by its fruits”. (A Theologico-Political Treatise)

Here is a statement advocating complete toleration of all religious views. It arises particularly from the sign Gemini, which understands the relativity of all things, and from Sagittarius which honors the religious impulse..

“Anyone who seeks for the true causes of miracles, and strives to understand natural phenomena as an intelligent being, and not to gaze at them like a fool, is set down and denounced as an impious heretic by those, whom the masses adore as the interpreters of nature and the gods. Such persons know that, with the removal of ignorance, the wonder which forms their only available means for proving and preserving their authority would vanish also” (Ethics, Book I, Appendix).

Here is rationalism at its clearest, and an example of the clear-seeing analysis of Saturn Mercury, supported by the luminosity of Venus in Capricorn. Spinoza is speaking from a chapter of his own history, when he was excommunicated from the Jewish faith for thinking (and discussing) his metaphysical ideas freely. This occurred as expulsive Pluto transited his Ascendant.

Spinoza himself probably would not have seen much validity in astrology. He was part of the Enlightenment, which sought to do away with superstitious ideas which clouded the mind. Perhaps, if he had accepted astrology (as Newton did), he would have found in it only a method for justifying the inescapable determinism which was so much a part of his mechanistic world view.

When we consider Benedict Spinoza, we find ourselves in the presence of a profound, careful and original thinker—a lover of wisdom (philosopher) with deep spiritual intuitions and a mind insistent upon presenting these intuitions to the world of human thought in the most rational and reasonable way possible. History has demonstrated the enmity of the unconscious forces to such enlightened systems.

In light of the events of the twentieth century, Spinoza could be considered a naïve optimist. Nature is not “rational” (apparently); Man is unmanageable; human progress is not assured and chaos, it seems, is built into Creation. Yet we suspect Spinoza was privy to certain perceptions which can be gathered only when focussed within the realm of the spiritual triad, and which are eternally true upon that level. Somehow, he found “God” there, and sought to convey that vision of unity to those who were capable of thinking about it .

”In unison let the group perceive the Triad shining forth, dimming the light of the soul and blotting out the light of form. The Macrocosmic Whole is all there is. Let the group perceive that whole and then no longer use the thought, ‘my soul and thine’.” (Rule V for Disciples and Initiates, R&I 20)


Ambition is the immoderate desire for power.

Desire is the very essence of man.

Do not weep; do not wax indignant. Understand.
(Sun in Sagittarius conjunct Mercury & Saturn)

Fame has also this great drawback, that if we pursue it, we must direct our lives so as to please the fancy of men.

Fear cannot be without hope nor hope without fear.

Happiness is a virtue, not its reward.

He alone is free who lives with free consent under the entire guidance of reason.

I call him free who is led solely by reason.

I would warn you that I do not attribute to nature either beauty or deformity, order or confusion. Only in relation to our imagination can things be called beautiful or ugly, well-ordered or confused.

If men were born free, they would, so long as they remained free, form no conception of good and evil.

None are more taken in by flattery than the proud, who wish to be the first and are not.

One and the same thing can at the same time be good, bad, and indifferent, e.g., music is good to the melancholy, bad to those who mourn, and neither good nor bad to the deaf.

Only that thing is free which exists by the necessities of its own nature, and is determined in its actions by itself alone.

Peace is not an absence of war, it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence, justice.

The endeavor to understand is the first and only basis of virtue.

The greatest pride, or the greatest despondency, is the greatest ignorance of one's self.

There is no hope unmingled with fear, and no fear unmingled with hope.

Those who are believed to be most abject and humble are usually most ambitious and envious.

True virtue is life under the direction of reason.

We feel and know that we are eternal.

Whatsoever is contrary to nature is contrary to reason, and whatsoever is contrary to reason is absurd.

Will and intellect are one and the same thing.

Nothing in the universe is contingent, but all things are conditioned to exist and operate in a particular manner by the necessity of the divine nature.

The order and connection of ideas is the same as the order and connection of things.

Men would never be superstitious, if they could govern all their circumstances by set rules, or if they were always favoured by fortune: but being frequently driven into straits where rules are useless, and being often kept fluctuating pitiably between hope and fear by the uncertainty of fortune’s greedily coveted favours, they are consequently for the most part, very prone to credulity.

He, who has a true idea, simultaneously knows that he has a true idea, and cannot doubt of the truth of the thing perceived.

As for the terms good and bad, they indicate no positive quality in things regarded in themselves, but are merely modes of thinking, or notions which we form from the comparison of things with one another. Thus one and the same thing can be at the same time good, bad, and indifferent. For instance music is good for him that is melancholy, bad for him who mourns; for him who is deaf, it is neither good nor bad.

Nothing comes to pass in nature, which can be set down to a flaw therein; for nature is always the same and everywhere one and the same in her efficiency and power of action; that is, nature’s laws and ordinances whereby all things come to pass and change from one form to another, are everywhere and always; so that there should be one and the same method of understanding the nature of all things whatsoever, namely, through nature’s universal laws and rules.

Anyone who seeks for the true causes of miracles, and strives to understand natural phenomena as an intelligent being, and not to gaze at them like a fool, is set down and denounced as an impious heretic by those, whom the masses adore as the interpreters of nature and the gods. Such persons know that, with the removal of ignorance, the wonder which forms their only available means for proving and preserving their authority would vanish also.

I would warn you that I do not attribute to nature either beauty or deformity, order or confusion. Only in relation to our imagination can things be called beautiful or ugly, well-ordered or confused.

The more we understand individual things, the more we understand God.

“The world would be happier if men had the same capacity to be silent that they have to speak"

“All happiness or unhappiness solely depends upon the quality of the object to which we are attached by love"

“Happiness is a virtue, not its reward"

“The highest activity a human being can attain is learning for understanding, because to understand is to be free"

“I do not know how to teach philosophy without becoming a disturber of established religion"

“If you want the present to be different from the past, study the past."
(Saturn in Sagittarius)

“I have made a ceaseless effort not to ridicule, not to bewail, not to scorn human actions, but to understand them"

“I call him free who is led solely by reason"

“Freedom is absolutely necessary for the progress in science and the liberal arts"

“True virtue is life under the direction of reason"

“It may easily come to pass that a vain man may become proud and imagine himself pleasing to all when he is in reality a universal nuisance"

“Be not astonished at new ideas; for it is well known to you that a thing does not therefore cease to be true because it is not accepted by many."

“Pride is pleasure arising from a man's thinking too highly of himself."

“We feel and know that we are eternal"

“Sin cannot be conceived in a natural state, but only in a civil state, where it is decreed by common consent what is good or bad"

“Self - complacency is pleasure accompanied by the idea of oneself as cause"

“So long as a man imagines that he cannot do this or that, so long as he is determined not to do it; and consequently so long as it is impossible to him that he should do it"

“Men govern nothing with more difficulty than their tongues, and can moderate their desires more than their words"

“As nature preserves a fixed and immutable order; it must clearly follow that miracles are only intelligible as a relation to human opinions, and merely mean events of which the natural cause cannot be explained by a reference to any ordinary occurrence"

“God is the indwelling and not the transient cause of all things"

“Nothing exists from whose nature some effect does not follow"

“The endeavor to understand is the first and only basis of virtue."

“Popular religion may be summed up as a respect for Ecclesiastes"

“Speculation, like nature, abhors a vacuum”


Baruch Spinoza

Benedictus de Spinoza
Name: de Spinoza
Birth: November 24, 1632 (Amsterdam, Netherlands)
Death: February 21, 1677 (The Hague, Netherlands)
School/tradition: Rationalism, founder of Spinozism

Following their expulsion from Spain around 1492, many Jews sought refuge in Portugal, only to be instructed to accept Christianity or be expelled. Spinoza was born in Amsterdam, in the Netherlands, to parents of Sephardic Jewish descent, among the Portuguese Jews of that city - Miguel de Espinosa and Ana Débora, Miguel's second wife who died when Spinoza was a little boy of six. They were Marranos who had fled from Portugal in order to escape the Portuguese Inquisition and return to Judaism. Some say that the Spinoza family had, in fact, its remote origins in Spain, others claim that they were Portuguese Jews who had moved to Spain and then returned in 1492 to their country of origin - Portugal. There, they were forcibly converted to Catholicism in 1498. Spinoza's father, Miguel de Spinoza, would be born about a century after this forced conversion in the small Portuguese city of Vidigueira, near Beja in Alentejo. When Spinoza's father was still a child, Spinoza's grandfather, Isaac de Spinoza (who was from Lisbon), went with all his family to Nantes in France. They were expelled in 1615 and moved to Rotterdam, where Isaac died in 1627. Spinoza's father and his uncle, Miguel and Manuel respectively, then moved to Amsterdam, where they assumed their Judaism (Manuel even changed his name to Abraão de Spinoza, though his "commercial" name was still the same). His father was a successful importer/merchant and Baruch had an orthodox Jewish upbringing; however, his critical, curious nature would soon come into conflict with the Jewish community. After wars with England and France decimated his family's fortune and after the death of his father, he was eventually able to relinquish responsibility for the business and its debts to his brother, Gabriel, and devote himself to philosophy and optics.

He initially gained infamy for positions that defied the Jewish law, with highly critical positions towards the Talmud and other sacred texts. In general, Judaism is quite tolerant with atypical representations of God; nonetheless, Spinoza believed that God was Nature/Universe, a thought that definitely outgrows any traditional semblance of what God is. In the summer of 1656, he was issued the writ of cherem (Hebrew:???) , (similar to excommunication)[1] from the Jewish community, for the apostasy of how he conceived God. The terms of his cherem were quite severe (see Kasher and Biderman): it was never revoked. Following his excommunication, he adopted the first name Benedictus, the Latin equivalent of his given name, Baruch; they both mean "blessed". In his native Amsterdam he was also known as Bento de Spinoza, which was the informal form of his name.

After his excommunication, it is purported that Spinoza lived and worked in the school of Franciscus van den Enden, who taught him Latin in his youth and may have introduced him to modern philosophy, although Spinoza never mentions Van den Enden anywhere in his books or letters. Van den Enden was a Cartesian and atheist who was forbidden by the city government to propagate his doctrines publicly. Spinoza, having dedicated himself completely to philosophy after 1656, fervently desired to change the world through establishing a clandestine philosophical sect. Because of public censure this was only eventually realized after his death through the dedicated intercession of his friends.

During this period Spinoza also became acquainted with several Collegiants, members of a non-dogmatic and interdenominational sect with tendencies towards rationalism and Arianism. Spinoza also corresponded with Peter Serrarius, a radical Protestant merchant. Serrarius is believed to have been a patron of Spinoza at some point. By the beginning of the 1660s, Spinoza's name became more widely known, and eventually Gottfried Leibniz and Henry Oldenburg paid him visits. He corresponded with the latter for the rest of his life. Spinoza's first publication was his Tractatus de intellectus emendatione. From December 1664 to June 1665, Spinoza engaged in correspondence with Blyenbergh, an amateur Calvinist theologian, who questioned Spinoza on the definition of evil. Later in 1665, he notified Oldenburg that he had started to work on a new book, the Theologico-Political Treatise, published in 1670. It should be noted that Leibniz disagreed harshly with Spinoza in Leibniz's own published Refutation of Spinoza.

When the public reactions to the anonymously published Theologico-Political Treatise were extremely unfavourable to his brand of Cartesianism, Spinoza was compelled to abstain from publishing more of his works. Wary and independent, he wore a signet ring engraved with his initials, a rose and the word "caute" (Latin for caution). The Ethics and all other works, apart from the Principles of Cartesian Philosophy and the Theologico-Political Treatise, were published after his death in the Opera Postuma edited by his friends in secrecy to avoid confiscation and destruction of manuscripts.

Spinoza relocated form Amsterdam to Rijnsburg (near Leiden) around 1661 and later lived in Voorburg and The Hague respectively. He earned a comfortable living from lens-grinding. While the lens-grinding aspect of Spinoza's work is uncontested, the type of lenses he made is in question. Many have said he produced excellent magnifying glasses, and some historians credit him with being an optician (in the sense of making lenses for eyeglasses). He was also supported by small, but regular, donations from close friends. He died in 1677 while still working on a political thesis. His premature death was due to a lung illness, possibly silicosis, the result of breathing in glass dust from the lenses he ground. Only a year earlier, Spinoza had met with Leibniz at The Hague for a discussion of his principal philosophical work, Ethics, which had been completed in 1676 (Lucas, 1960). Spinoza never married, nor did he father any children.

Overview of his philosophy
Spinoza's system imparted order and unity to the tradition of radical thought, offering powerful weapons for prevailing against "received authority." As a youth he first subscribed to Descartes's dualistic belief that body and mind are two separate substances, but later changed his view and asserted that they were not separate, being a single identity. He contended that everything that exists in Nature/Universe is one Reality (substance) and there is only one set of rules governing the whole of the reality which surrounds us and of which we are part. Spinoza argued that God and Nature were two names for the same reality, namely the single substance (meaning "to stand beneath" rather than "matter") that underlies the universe and of which all lesser "entities" are actually modes or modifications, that all things are determined by Nature to exist and cause effects, and that the complex chain of cause and effect are only understood in part. That humans presume themselves to have free will, he argues, is a result of their awareness of appetites while being unable to understand the reasons why they want and act as they do. The argument for the single substance runs as follows:

Substance exists and cannot be dependent on anything else for its existence.
No two substances can share the same nature or attribute.
Proof: Two distinct substances can be differentiated either by some difference in their natures or by the some difference in one of their alterable states of being. If they have different natures, then the original proposition is granted and the proof is complete. If, however, they are distinguished only by their states of being, then, considering the substances in themselves, there is no difference between the substances and they are identical. "That is, there cannot be several such substances but only one." [2]
A substance can only be caused by something similar to itself (something that shares its attribute).
Substance cannot be caused.
Proof: Something can only be caused by something which is similar to itself, in other words something that shares its attribute. But according to premise 2, no two substances can share an attribute. Therefore substance cannot be caused.
Substance is infinite.
Proof: If substance were not infinite, it would be finite and limited by something. But to be limited by something is to be dependent on it. However, substance cannot be dependent on anything else (premise 1), therefore substance is infinite.
Conclusion: There can only be one substance.
Proof: If there were two infinite substances, they would limit each other. But this would act as a restraint, and they would be dependent on each other. But they cannot be dependent on each other (premise 1), therefore there cannot be two substances.
Spinoza contended that "Deus sive Natura" ("God or Nature") was a being of infinitely many attributes, of which extension and thought were two. His account of the nature of reality, then, seems to treat the physical and mental worlds as two different, parallel "subworlds" that neither overlap nor interact. This formulation is a historically significant panpsychist solution to the mind-body problem known as neutral monism. The consequences of Spinoza's system also envisage a God that does not rule over the universe by providence, but a God which itself is part of the deterministic system of which everything in nature is a part. Thus, God is the natural world and has no personality.

Spinoza was a thoroughgoing determinist who held that absolutely everything that happens occurs through the operation of necessity. For him, even human behaviour is fully determined, with freedom being our capacity to know we are determined and to understand why we act as we do. So freedom is not the possibility to say "no" to what happens to us but the possibility to say "yes" and fully understand why things should necessarily happen that way. By forming more "adequate" ideas about what we do and our emotions or affections, we become the adequate cause of our effects (internal or external), which entails an increase in activity (versus passivity). This means that we become both more free and more like God, as Spinoza argues in the Scholium to Prop. 49, Part II. However, Spinoza also held that everything must necessarily happen the way that it does. Therefore, there is no free will.

Spinoza's philosophy has much in common with Stoicism in as much as both philosophies sought to fulfil a therapeutic role by instructing people how to attain happiness (or eudaimonia, for the Stoics). However, Spinoza differed sharply from the Stoics in one important respect: he utterly rejected their contention that reason could defeat emotion. On the contrary, he contended, an emotion can be displaced or overcome only by a stronger emotion. For him, the crucial distinction was between active and passive emotions, the former being those that are rationally understood and the latter those that are not. He also held that knowledge of true causes of passive emotion can transform it to an active emotion, thus anticipating one of the key ideas of Sigmund Freud's psychoanalysis.

Some of Spinoza's philosophical positions are:

The natural world is infinite.
Good and evil are definitions of Humans not nature.
Everything done by humans and other animals is excellent and divine.
All rights are derived from the State.
Animals can be used in any way by people for the benefit of the human race, according to a rational consideration of the benefit as well as the animals' status in nature.[3]

Ethical philosophy
Encapsulated at the start in his Treatise on the Improvement of the Understanding (Tractatus de intellectus emendatione) is the core of Spinoza's ethical philosophy, what he held to be the true and final good. Spinoza held a relativist's position, that nothing is intrinsically good or bad, except to the extent that it is subjectively perceived to be by the individual. Things are only good or evil in respect that humanity sees it desirable to apply these conceptions to matters. Instead, Spinoza believes in his deterministic universe that, "All things in nature proceed from certain necessity and with the utmost perfection". Therefore, no things happen by chance in Spinoza's world, and reason does not work in terms of contingency. In the universe anything that happens comes from the essential nature of objects, or of God/Nature. Perfection therefore abounds according to Spinoza. If circumstances are seen as unfortunate it is only because of our inadequate conception of reality. While elements of the chain of cause and effect are not beyond the understanding of human reason, our grasp of the infinitely complex whole is limited because of the limits of science to empirically take account of the whole sequence. Spinoza also asserted that sense perception - while the basis of all ideas - leads only to what is false, because we are ignorant of the causes that determine our desires and actions. His concept of "conatus" - man's natural inclination to strive toward preserving essential being, and assertion that virtue/human power is defined by our success in this preservation of being by the guidance of reason is his central ethical doctrine; the highest virtue being the intellectual love or knowledge of God/Nature/Universe. In the final part of the "Ethics" his concern with the meaning of "true blessedness" and his unique approach and explanation of how emotions must be detached from external cause in order to master them is distinctive and presages 20th c. psychological techniques. His concept of three types of knowledge - opinion, reason, intuitive - and assertion that intuitive knowledge provides the greatest satisfaction of mind, leads to his proposition that the more we are conscious of ourselves and Nature/Universe, the more perfect and blessed we are (in reality) and that only intuitive knowledge is eternal. His unique contribution to understanding the workings of mind is extraordinary, even during this time of radical philosophical developments, in that his views provide a bridge between religions' mystical past and psychology of the present day.

The pantheism controversy (Pantheismusstreit)
In 1785, Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi published a condemnation of Spinoza's pantheism, after Lessing was thought to have confessed on his deathbed to being a "Spinozist", which was the equivalent in his time of being called an atheist. Jacobi claimed that Spinoza's doctrine was pure materialism, because all Nature and God are said to be nothing but extended substance. This, for Jacobi, was the result of Enlightenment rationalism and it would finally end in absolute atheism. Moses Mendelssohn disagreed with Jacobi, saying that there is no actual difference between theism and pantheism. The entire issue became a major intellectual and religious concern for European civilization at the time, which Immanuel Kant rejected, as he thought that attempts to conceive of transcendent reality would lead to antinomies in thought.

The attraction of Spinoza's philosophy to late eighteenth-century Europeans was that it provided an alternative to Materialism, Atheism, and Deism. Three of Spinoza's ideas strongly appealed to them:

the unity of all that exists;
the regularity of all that happens; and
the identity of spirit and nature.
Spinoza's "God or Nature" provided a living, natural God, in contrast to the Newtonian mechanical First Cause or the dead mechanism of the French "Man Machine."

Modern relevance
Late twentieth century Europe has demonstrated a greater philosophical interest in Spinoza, often from a left-wing or Marxist perspective. Notable philosophers Gilles Deleuze, Antonio Negri, Étienne Balibar and the Brazilian philosopher Marilena Chauí have each written books on Spinoza. Deleuze's doctoral thesis, published in 1968, refers to him as "the prince of philosophers". (Deleuze, 1968). Other philosophers heavily influenced by Spinoza include Constantin Brunner and John David Garcia. Stuart Hampshire wrote a major English language study of Spinoza, though H. H. Joachim's work is equally valuable. Unlike most philosophers, Spinoza and his work were highly regarded by Nietzsche.

Prominent Cambridge philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein evoked Spinoza with the title (suggested to him by G. E. Moore) of the English translation of his first definitive philosophical work, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, an allusion to Spinoza's Tractatus Theologico-Politicus. Elsewhere, Wittgenstein deliberately borrowed the expression sub specie aeternitatis from Spinoza (Notebooks, 1914-16, p. 83). Otherwise, however, Wittgenstein did not appear to have owed very much to Spinoza, although the structure of his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus does have certain structural affinities with Spinoza's Ethics (though, admittedly, not with the latter's own Tractatus), in erecting complex philosophical arguments starting from basic logical assertions and principles.

Spinoza has had influence beyond the confines of philosophy. The nineteenth century novellist, George Eliot, produced her own translation of the Ethics, the first known English translation thereof. The twentieth century novellist, W. Somerset Maugham, alluded to one of Spinoza's central concepts with the title of his novel, Of Human Bondage.

Albert Einstein named Spinoza as the philosopher who exerted the most influence on his world view (Weltanschauung). Spinoza equated God (infinite substance) with Nature, consistent with Einstein's belief in an impersonal deity. In 1929, Einstein was asked in a telegram by Rabbi Herbert S. Goldstein whether he believed in God. Einstein responded by telegram "I believe in Spinoza's God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with the fates and actions of human beings."[1] Spinoza's pantheism has also influenced the environmental theory. Arne Næss, the father of the deep ecology movement, acknowledged Spinoza as an important inspiration. Moreover, Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges, was greately influenced by Spinoza's world view. In many poems and short stories, he makes constant allusion to the philosopher's work, not as a partisan of his doctrines, but merely in order to use these for aesthetical purposes. He has done it many times with all the philosophers whose work he admired.

Spinoza is an important historical figure in the Netherlands, where his portrait was featured prominently on the Dutch 1000-guilder banknote, legal tender until the euro was introduced in 2002. The highest and most prestigious scientific award of the Netherlands is named the Spinozapremie (Spinoza grant).

Spinoza's works and personality are currently featured in the book The Courtier and the Heretic: Leibniz, Spinoza, and the Fate of God in the Modern World, by Matthew Stewart.


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