Baruch (Benedict de) Spinoza was misunderstood by his contemporaries and later philosophers as well.

This misunderstanding occurred because many saw Spinoza's explanation of reality as subsuming the individual.

For two reasons Spinoza's explanation of reality was rejected.

The first reason is that as each of us have an individually unique bodily substance we inevitably think of ourselves as an individual thing separate from all other things that exist.

Secondly individuals hold an unjust fear that persuades them to believe that the individual identity of self would, by necessity, be subsumed when the individual merges with the whole - subsumed by the autonomy of the oneness of all things.

Spinoza saw self-consciousness and knowledge in a different light than Rene Descartes. Although Rene Descartes realized mind, consciousness, spirit or soul was not material substance. In doing so he made it possible for the mind to stand outside of nature and observe nature. The ability of the mind to do this was first conceptualized in words as Descartes' Cartesian self which stood alone by itself outside of nature.

Rene Descartes saw correctly that the ability of the mind to remove itself from nature allowed that mind an ability to observe natural phenomena without considering itself in relation to the phenomena observed.

Spinoza repudiated Descartes' Cartesian self as a mistake in the fact that Descartes' Cartesian self was considered to be an actual fact as opposed to a mental exercise.

To understand Spinoza let us look through the eyes of Genevieve Lloyd in her book Part of Nature: Self Knowledge in Spinoza's Ethics.

an old image of me

Spinoza saw the Eternal Human Soul as a part of nature and not separate from nature. If Spinoza could communicate with us now his philosophy would be as follows:


Nothing happens in NATURE which can be attributed to any flaw in it, for THE LAW according to which all things happen and change from one form to another, are always and everywhere the same.


"When we separate ourselves from nature as we have done with technology, when we replace interdependency with "security" and trust with control, we separate ourselves as well from part of ourselves. Nature, internal and external, is not a gratuitous though practically necessary other, but an inseparable part of ourselves. To attempt its separation creates a wound no less severe than to rip off an arm or a leg. Indeed, more severe. Under the delusion of the discrete and separate self, we see our relationships as extrinsic to who we are on the deepest level; we see relationships as associations of discrete individuals. But in fact, our relationships - with other people and all life - define who we are, and by impoverishing these relationships we diminish ourselves. We are our relationships." - Charles Eisenstein

There is a false, inadequate distorted way in which the mind can think of itself and of other things as individually existing in self-contained segments of reality separate from the whole of nature and from the bodily source of mind.

The ego exists as an individual self only while the body in which it resides exists.

The ego has only a fragmentary incomplete awareness of the body in which it exists and therefore has a fragmentary incomplete awareness of itself.

In this state of fragmentary, incomplete awareness the mind does not grasp the basis of the body's individuality and hence does not fully understand its own individuality either.

The ego, unlike the body, has open to it a false version of individuality.

The ego can think of the body, and hence of itself, falsely
- it can think of itself as substance, as the body is substance.

The mind that derives a false understanding of that mind's status will do so from a lack of self-knowledge.

At the core of this failure to know one self is an inadequate understanding of individuality.

A true understanding of individuality will create true freedom of mind - true individuality in integral consciousness.

When individual segments of the world are falsely given distorted status as self-contained objects then the mind takes its own individuality to depend on falsely construed individual categories or segments of the whole and fails to grasp that these segments are but parts of the larger whole.

A mind which has an inadquate understanding of individuality,
lacks an adequate understanding of bodily changes modifications caused by emotions.

obsession and emotions

Ignorance of the emotional causes of pleasure and pain breeds Obsession.

Obsession spawns a state of destructive emotion.

The mind in the grip of the emotional passion of Obsession loses its capacity to enjoy a wide range of activities.

Self-affirmation becomes limited to the things that the self conceives of as the cause of pleasures and pains. In failing to understand the objects on which ones pains and pleasures depend, the mind fails as well to understand its own interconnections with the larger whole.

This lack of understanding self restricts individual power and limits individual freedom.

The mind that emphasizes, rather than resists, the emotions to gain a better understanding of their effect upon the self can transform false ideas of self into true ideas of self.

That individual mind will come to greater self-knowledge
which is the path to enlightenment, freedom and virtue.

Enlightened minds recognize emotions as a part of Nature, not aberrations from Nature and recognize human impotence does not result from the defects of human nature but from the Awesome Power of Nature, of which we are a microcosmic part.

Freedom from the bondage of emotion comes from understanding the natural causes of emotion. We, being of nature, necessarily follow and obey the Natural Order of Nature which includes emotional response.

When self recognizes itself as a part of Nature self understands it has the power to overcome emotion.

Self-enlightenment is generated out of
a reflective awareness of the body.

A mind which is free replicates,
in it's conceptualization of Reality,
the true basic structure of Reality
and in knowing itself knows Reality.

true knowledge or wisdom

Any knowledge that a mind reflects on will,
by necessity, use the knowledge that one now possess'.

Knowledge of reality increases the knowledge one has of oneself.

Self-knowledge allows us to become intuitively or reflectively aware of the truth. The mind starts from acquired rational knowledge and proceeds through reflection to an ever increasing awareness of true knowledge. True knowledge has also been termed spiritual knowledge.

The most fundamental levels of true knowledge
have layers and layers of ideas superimposed endlessly upon them.

Truth is a reflection of true knowledge.

Knowledge through calculation goes beyond
knowledge based upon a general rule or rules.

Knowledge based on reason goes beyond knowledge based on calculations.

Beyond the knowledge of reason lies the realm of clear true knowledge which involves the immediate recognition of things in a mode of understanding more like an emotion than a reasoned thought. This is commonly known as intuition.

{"Soul receives from soul that knowledge, therefore not by book nor from tongue. If knowledge of mysteries come after emptiness of mind, that is illumination of heart." - Rumi}

{" Since they have failed to acquire true knowledge from its very Source, they have perished in the perilous vale of waywardness and misbelief." - Bahá'u'lláh}

{"Mind has two levels by nature. The first level is the clear experience of knowing (true knowledge). The second and ultimate nature of the mind is experienced with the realization of the absence of this minds inherent existence." - Dalai Lama}

Truth only occurs in the presence
of certainty of the truth of knowledge.


Intuitive knowledge of self,
an idea of one's body, exists only while the body exists.

Intuition is directed to the specificity of a case rather than simply grasping a case as falling under or contained in a general rule.

Intuition's engagement with the actual reality of things
is more powerful than concepts gained through reason.


Reason is an expression of human nature.

Reason is in all human beings the same.

Reason strengthens human power especially when pursued jointly with other rational beings in cooperative social organizations.

social cohesion

Sameness of human nature arises from the fact that different individuals share affinities that allow their differences to be transcended in the realization of common pleasures.

Social cultural conditioning creates social cultural bonds through the creation of commonalities amidst individual differences.

If human power is enriched by the operations of good forms of social organization it is to be expected that that power is impeded by bad forms of social organization.

Social arrangements modify one's awareness of self.

Although individuals form common notions individuals can not entirely transcend perceiving themselves in relation to a their own particular social culture.


Different perspectives spawn different perceptions.

Making a 'good/bad' judgement in reference to one's self or social culture correctly requires reason based on true knowledge. Social cultures or individuals making judgements with regard to their own well being based on anything other than reason backed up by true knowledge spawns false opinion within the individual mind or within the social culture.

The power to judge well, to distinguish the false from the true, is equally available to all humanity.

However reason, or the power to judge well, fails to capture of itself how the essences known through common notions are related to individual existence.

immutable truth of mind

One's mind is an idea of one's bodily substance but one's mind can not find solace in the awareness of this truth.

One realizes oneself to be a transient expression of substance, equally realized in a multitude of other individuals, through which personal knowledge and experience of existence must be mediated.

With thought and experience the self reaches a transitional phase were consciousness passes over into a knowledge of the immutable aspects of material reality.

At this transitional point the self experiences a consciousness rebirth which brings with it an intuitive understanding of the self's place in the scheme of things.

From self-observation one oneself to be dependent on a force outside of one's self for the prolongation of individual existence.

This force, granting life, holding together inanimate matter and setting the rules for the immutable aspects of reality, we conceptualize as God.

The mind's struggles for self-knowledge and to the extent that it does understand itself it sees itself increasing as a part of nature and God's natural order.

One's consciousness moves to a position of awe in the magnificence of God's power and to an enlightened understanding of one's individual self as an interconnected part of the totality of organisms in God's creation.

This capacity to engage directly with existence makes true knowledge or intuition both the highest category of knowledge and the highest form of affectivity which is defined as the mind's love of God as seen in God's creation - nature.
When one sees oneself as a part of nature one realizesthat self existence must follow the natural order of nature.

Understanding self as eternal is the flip side to understanding self as a part of nature - transient, vulnerable, and inevitably to be destroyed.

eternal mind

The Eternity of the Mind is not just a matter of one's self surviving in the memories and imaginations of others.

To think of the mind experiencing oblivion after death is as much an illusion as thinking of it enjoying pleasure or pain. It is an illusion to think that the hopeful mind might discover at death that nothing awaits it.

The content of this perception is such that once an individual
has it death of self has no power to create inner turmoil.

With true knowledge of the self's transience one truly understands self and one understands that in knowing that the self will end when the body dies that one knows that self is eternal.

This insight comes especially after individual confrontation with death.

{"Better than a hundred years not seeing one's own immortality is one single day of life if one sees one's own immortality." - Dhammapada}

In this state of eternal life our living selves are awakened in a way that resists the ravages of time and death as time and death have no power over self-consciousness.

Self can, during life, come to realize this truth.

This new awareness of self has in fact
the same structure as self-consciousness.

The problem with religion and theology is that they confuse their approach to God with rational truth and turn from piety to dogmatism and superstition.

Laws which prescribe what everyone must believe, and forbid men to say or write anything against this or that opinion, are often passed to gratify, or rather to appease the anger of those who cannot abide independent minds.

Baruch (Benedict de) Spinoza, Jewish Spanish-Dutch philosopher.

Benedict de Spinoza was forced to flee his home in Spain during the Spanish Inquisition.

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