Spinoza (1632-1677 A.D.)
By Richard E. Noble
Spinoza was a contemporary of Descartes, Locke, and Milton living in Holland through the period of the English Civil War, 1688. He died at the early age of forty three of phithisis (whatever that is). He lived poorly and shabbily in a little garret polishing lenses for a livelihood. I think of him as kind of like a 'love child' of the sixteen sixties, but much like the love children of our era, trying to pass out flowers at the airport, his talk of love and God just seemed to annoy and anger nearly every passer by and all who were close to him. Everybody told him to shut the hell up. They even tried to kill him. When that failed they tried to bribe him. And when that failed they excommunicated him, cursed and petitioned evil demons to descend upon him, and shunned him from the entire religious community of which he was a part.
Shunning meant that no one could talk to him, listen to him, or read anything that he had written, or deal with him in any way shape or fashion. Yet Kings, Nobles, and the greatest minds of the times descended upon him at his little garret for conversation and inspiration. Go figure, huh?
What did he say? Well, he said that to create something from nothing was impossible and it therefore followed that God had created or formed the universe and all that is from Himself.
This was nothing new. In fact, it is the basic tenant of ancient Hinduism, and many other Eastern beliefs. But believe it or not this little idea undermines all Western and Christian fundamental theology. For one thing it follows that if God created us all and everything else from His Own Divine Self, how can one of us be more 'Divine' than another? Hence, Jesus Christ was no closer to Godliness than anything or anyone else. Yes, Jesus was God, but aren't we all?
Saint Augustine put an end to this heresy centuries before by establishing the notion that God actually existed beyond existence and was not subject to the limitations of either time or space. And though this notion serves to establish the Divinity of Jesus philosophically, it also sanctions the "Super Natural," and all that is Mystical and Magical, Ghosts, and demons, angels and devils, Voo Doo and all else that is believed beyond the reasonable, rational and logical.
This belief, of Saint Augustine in effect, puts an end to all the enquiries of 'reason' into the nature and existence of God, and makes God beyond the realm of reason and discovery, beyond the limited rational mind of man.
Spinoza said no, so he had to go. To the Western and Christian theologians, this notion that God was discoverable, reasonable, and contained within Existence and not beyond the limits of Existence made Spinoza an Atheist. But Spinoza, himself, was not consistent and was more Western than the Western theologians thought. For, though he believed that nothingness was impossible and that God could not have created the universe from nothing, he also contended that God could 'annihilate' the universe if he so chose. Well, if God is the Universe, then this would be saying that God could destroy Himself (commit suicide, end His own existence) and thus though it is impossible to create something from nothing, according to Spinoza, it would nevertheless be possible to turn something (God, the universe) into nothing.
If the one is impossible, then certainly it would follow that the other be impossible also. So Spinoza's Godly equation would then be self destructive.