Spinoza: A novel/Chapter 16
OLYMPIA from day to day revealed the wealth of her intellectual and spiritual life more freely to Spinoza, and he felt himself most agreeably excited by the vivacity and elasticity of her mental powers. She had not only that rare quality in a woman—the desire for unvarnished truth in the correction of her modes of thought, but that of accepting unreservedly and freely these demands against herself. She had, moreover, a sort of hospitable motherliness which took charge with friendly alacrity of all that was brought to her, even of what she did not know what to do with. Thus it happened that she perpetually attracted fresh offerings, and many things that the bringer had wholly forgotten she brought forward on some later occasion to his astonishment, and occasioned a double feeling of pleasure to the original possessor—pleasure in the unforeseen possession and in its faithful guardian. Thus Spinoza's thoughts easily took reference to Olympia, and he was more communicative to her than to his friends. Was not such devotion love?
Spinoza knew himself to be free from all desire to possess Olympia; he found so much to blame in her, and can love find anything to blame in the object of its regard? He rightly disapproved, however, of Olympia's referring so often with indestructible naïveté to the wealth and luxury of her earlier experiences; if a new life had begun for her with his appearance, what was this resurrection of the dead for? Ought not the past to disappear without leaving a trace behind in view of present happiness? Olympia, strange to say, thought to strengthen her partially weakened natural power by her traditional power, but Spinoza's disapproval thereof ought to have served as a proof that he was not perfectly free from the desire for possession, since he certainly desired monopoly of rule. One day Spinoza and Oldenburg were with Olympia.
"Heaven is not favorable to us to-day," said Oldenburg, "for it makes such a tearful face at us that we must renounce all idea of spending a pleasant day at your hospitable Buiten (country house)."
"Heaven, that is a fine invention!" retorted Olympia jestingly; "that weather prophet (pointing to a barometer) is the thing now. Heaven can no longer do as it likes, Torricelli has shown himself its master. Is it not perfect despair to think that we have now neither Heaven nor Hell? Copernicus and Galileo, more fortunate than the Titans, have stormed Heaven. The stars nearest to us are dark bodies like the earth, and the earth far off is as bright as the twinkling stars; our star-decked carpet is gone; where now can we place the throne of God? Hell, too, we have no more. There, we used to think, below, far below, roasted and stewed the godless, till Columbus steered ever westward, and now we know that people live there too just as we live. What shall we do now with our pious and godless ones?"
"Jufrow Olympia," answered Spinoza, "did you not perfectly agree with me last Friday when I explained to you that the external appearances of things had justly fallen away that men might hold fast to the ideal of them? Every elevation of mind by which a man rises above his personal harmony and chimes in with the universal harmony—the existence of God you may call it, if you are so fond of the term—is, to my ideas, Heaven and its felicity; that state of forcible separation from self, no hold in self, and no external support in opposition to the laws of natural destiny, shaken by the slightest impulse, without consciousness of unity with the whole—can there be a more frightful hell?"
"Granted," replied Olympia, "but I prefer my earlier ideas."
"That I believe," said Oldenburg; "but you cannot throw such metaphysical ideas at any one's head; that is not friend Spinoza's fault, however."
Oldenburg had not intended his words to contain any double meaning, but they gave that impression. Olympia blushed, and a pause ensued; but, though embarrassed, she quickly tried to resume the thread of their discussion.
"You can hardly believe," she began, "how inexpressibly miserable I was, when, as a child of ten years old—you must not find out how long ago that is—I realized that there was no sky, and that the earth turned round in infinite space. It seemed as if I held my life in my hand, and might at any moment let it fall. My father soon set me at rest as to the movement of the earth, but I cannot endure the loss of the heavens yet. It was so beautiful when it was a firm canopy, and now the blue dome is nothing but refraction, the blue of the heavens nothing but the blue of the distant mountains, produced by light on one side, and dark bodies in the background on the other. Oh, our beautiful blue heavens!"
Spinoza thought of his grief at the death of his Uncle Immanuel; it was singularly fascinating to feel that Olympia had gone through the same struggle as himself. Oldenburg took it upon him to answer.
"I condole sincerely with you," he said, "to be robbed of the delicious hope of one day hearing your silvery voice resound in the chorus of the angels, and with wings on your back, glistening with rainbow tints, sing Hallelujah and Hosanna all day long for entertainment."
"The ambassadors of Heaven do not use such stale compliments as the envoys of the Hanse towns," replied Olympia hastily, and, turning to Spinoza, continued: "Listen, I can give you an example from very near what a good refuge the old Heaven, is. My cousin Cecilia, who has stayed very long at mass to-day, was the betrothed of my brother Cornelius; now he is dead she is pleased to see her charms fade, for her daily prayer is that God may be pleased soon to take her to her bridegroom in Heaven. On his birthday she writes to him regularly, and describes her life of the past year, rejoicing that another year of their long probation has gone before their eternal union. It is often quite weird to me to be with her. I feel as if I had a sleep-walker with me who, by some unexpected cry, might be startled from her safe elevation."
Cecilia entered dressed in the deep mourning which she had never laid aside since the death of her lover; from the customary black veil, which covered her from head to foot, looked forth a pale, refined face on which pain and sorrow were at home; the weary eyelids drooped over the blue eyes, whose fire was extinguished. The painful shock which pervades a company when any one enters who has just been spoken of was deepened now by the singular apparition of Cecilia; with a rose-garland in her hand and that pious endurance in her countenance she looked like some beatified penitent. Olympia was secretly annoyed that she had—for which the two friends had already blamed her in their own minds—so publicly revealed the secrets of a broken heart. No one could find a word with which to resume the conversation; even Oldenburg, the sworn foe of all melancholy, could not suppress a shudder when he looked at Cecilia. She, too, felt that she had caused embarrassment, and soon excused herself on the pretext of having forgotten a visit.
"I often envy Cecilia the peacefulness of her faith," said Olympia.
"You can acquire it yourself," replied Spinoza.
"No, I cannot," replied Olympia hastily. "I once complained of my unhappiness to my uncle Boniface, who was priest of St. John's here. He advised me to read the Bible; I did, but it was of no use. He told me perpetually to read it with a believing mind, but that is what I was seeking in it; if I had it already I should not want the Bible. It seems so hard and difficult often, when I think that I cannot understand the reason and object of the world."
"I think Descartes could help you over your doubts."
"Oldenburg, you are a zealous missionary for your philosophical warrior," said Spinoza. "Do you think Jufrow Olympia would agree with the view that soul and body are each self-existent beings, who would not follow each other if the miraculous intervention of God did not connect them, and constrain them to mutual obedience?"
"That would be a pair in harness such as Frau Gertrui Ufmsand calls unwilling matrimony. I hate that like death."
"Tell me plainly, do you find the doctrine of Descartes so thoroughly unsatisfactory?" inquired Oldenburg.
"It is not my business to discover the faults of others."
"Then tell us simply your own solution of the eternal problem."
"That is not so easy to do; rules concerning external facts are much more easily defined than concerning processes of thought."
"I have noticed," said Oldenburg, "instead of Descartes' cogito ergo sum you put sum cogitans. To think and to be are inclusive, not exclusive. In that case thunder and lightning are one, even though two different minds first perceive them one after another."
Spinoza nodded smilingly, and after considerable opposition he explained: "The connection into which Descartes has brought his two substances by means of a third is only apparent. Two perfectly independent and unconnected substances cannot be co-existent, for where the one ceases the other begins; they exist in proportion, in the exact proportion to their limitation and negation of each other, each one thus neutralizing the absolute independence of the other. Nor can two equally perfect wholes co-exist together, for either they are totally or partially dissimilar, so that neither is perfect, because each one lacks certain perfections of the other, or they are totally similar, in which case they are identical. So that these two substances are not held together by a third, but are merely different appearances of one thing; and we can only think of one thing as perfect and independent of all others, and that is God. Spirit and matter, thought and space, are but different manifestations of one and the same being."
"Is there then a God?" asked Olympia.
"God alone is; the idea of God as necessarily includes the idea of existence as the idea of a triangle includes the idea that the three angles are equal to two right angles."
"Can we have as clear an idea of God as of a triangle?"
"If you ask. Can we have as clear an idea of God as of a triangle? I answer, 'Yes.' If you ask, Can we have as plain an image of him as of a triangle? I answer, 'No.' For we cannot represent God to ourselves in an image; we can only recognize him in thought. He is the infinitude of all qualities thought of as a unit; but we recognize him only in single manifestations, which we trace back to him as the centre; but we cannot comprehend this centre as such, nor make any exhaustive representation of it. The words one and only one, with which we could designate God as the only self-existent substance, are always founded on human conceptions. God is an incommensurable quantity, which can have no reference to any other, because nothing beyond it exists. One and only one, though taken in their exclusive sense, still presuppose a reference to some other."
"Does God then stand in no relation of comparison with nature and history?"
"Nothing exists that is not of him and from him; all that occurs he does; all that is he is; it is only a change of form; the eternal, the infinite is ever the same."
"Oh, that is glorious!" cried Olympia; "the pure childlike joy of nature, with its hidden, smiling deities, such as the ancients had, is here so beautifully combined with the awe-inspired reverence that Jews and Christians observe in the contemplation of nature. God lives in us, ourselves; from the crimson lips of the rose, from the modest eyes of the violet, in the melting notes of the nightingale, the same spirit speaks that lives in me; they know, and see, and hear me as I see them; we are one. Yea, I think even the inanimate objects have what we call individual life or soul, and cannot understand. Any unskilful lout can blow a flute, but, as we express it, the tones are no longer pure and true; and though we notice no difference in the material, its Psyche is injured. Only a skilful master can again draw out its rightful tones with careful handling; and again we notice no alteration in the material parts. Ay, and the soul of man can just the same be put out of tune, and how it rejoices when the right tone is again elicited."
It Was difficult after this digression, which had a certain relative aim, to return to the original common train of thought. Oldenburg wished to hold fast to his more than ordinarily communicative friend, and, in his peculiar manner, he tried first to secure his ally, and enable him to proceed at the same pace. So he turned to Olympia and said:
"Women do not like demonstrations that are not pictorial, in which they are often like children. If philosophy, however, is to be compared to any art it should not be to music, but to the plastic art. Yes, you may smile. Ideas are cold and colorless as marble. The images of the chisel, like abstract thoughts, are not mere portraits of this or that particular figure. They rise the higher the more they become typical. There the beauty of humanity, here true humanity. The philosopher is a sculptor, however paradoxical it may sound."
Olympia, too, was ready to fall in with his humor, but she turned, not to Oldenburg, but to Spinoza, and said:
"Many ways lead to Rome, also to the Rome of free thought. Each one works out the given material, according to his custom and requirements. I will prove to you that I understand you. When you say we have as clear an idea, but not as clear an image of God as of a triangle, I translate it to myself thus: there are no pure notes; each tone comprises several different ones as it is struck, swells, and dies away. We cannot perceive the pure note, it is too fine for us. Even so we can, in the thought of God, form only an ideal, not an image."
Spinoza said at last, smiling:
"I would only explain still further, that though we feel ourselves one with the infinite, the degrees of consciousness of the innate divine power are yet infinitely different. Above all we must lay aside that pride of humanity that regards everything around it as mere means, and itself alone as the end and aim; that values everything only in its relation to itself—the supposed turning-point. Everything in the world consists of means and end combined."
"I follow the banner of my generalissimo," interrupted Oldenburg, "and ask, Is it not merely a refined materialism to which you return?"
"Were it rational, it would be justifiable, but I come to quite another result. The only and exclusively enduring substance, which to me remains the only conceivable one, is not the rough clod which cannot in any case be got rid of. I do not materialize spirit, I spiritualize matter."
"How do you explain with this eternally identical substance the origin of the world?"
"The idea of cause and effect is innate in us, and recognized by external evidence. If you follow up the train of effects and causes you must at last come to a first cause; this first cannot be the result of any other; it contains the reason of its existence in itself; it is cause and effect in its original uncreatedness; is God in his revelation as world. The origin of the world is the origin of God himself; the one is not imaginable without the other. The world is the only external manifestation of the existing God. If God has the power in himself to create the world he must create it, for in him dwells no power that does not immediately proceed to its exercise; a latent, useless power would be imperfection which we could not ascribe to God as the ideal of all perfection. It can neither be a casual nor an arbitrary external, nor a similar internal motive which sets this power in motion; not external, for God, as the epitome of all perfection, must be absolutely independent, and cannot be subject to any external influence; it cannot be internal either, as a mere exertion of arbitrary will, for if God could will this, or will the other, he might also will something imperfect, in opposition to his nature; he can only will the perfect, and his will is deed, so all in him is inevitable necessity. God has the world in him, and is in it; God and the world are alike eternal. Truly those who have thought of God as something above the world, floating in empty space (which does not exist), to them God was before the world; he created it out of nothing, and still hovers over it in Heaven. But long ago men were aware that from nothing something cannot come, and so must have recourse to strange theories of emanation. So the world remains ever something that God has cut loose from himself, which he watches over and with which he interferes from time to time; so that, according to their theory of things, the miracles are acts by which God disturbs the once firmly settled order of nature, his own revelation. But miracles were done only as long as men believed in them; in our time there are no more. Are we therefore forsaken of God? In any case, if this were the true view, but it is not, for God is not the external cause, but the internal innate cause of the world's existence, in him all is an act of free necessity, everything—"
"Look! look! there is a white raven!" cried Olympia, rushing to the window, and Oldenburg stood up to see what she meant by the ill-timed jest; Spinoza only sat still and smiled quietly; but Olympia could hardly contain herself for laughing.
"You a statesman!" cried Spinoza, "and not see that I was guilty of a mésalliance between royal families of ideas! But sit down again, and I will avenge you on the jester, I purposely chose the expression. Tell me what is the meaning of necessity?"
"I was confirmed long ago, and need not be catechised so strictly; yet—necessity is anything that must be."
"Only half expressed; all that without innate opposition to its own nature cannot otherwise than be, that is necessity. That no slumbering power can be imagined in God I have already proved to you; and all that he does, and is, he is and does from innate necessity, but freely; for to be free is to be moved to act of himself, and from no outward or neighboring cause. God, therefore, outside whom nothing is, and who continually wills of himself, acts continually in perfect freedom; ay, even men then are not free (as is usually believed) when they act in contradiction to the laws of their nature; for there it is always an external impulse they obey, not their own nature; they are only truly free when they act in accordance with the necessities, or, if you prefer it, the laws, of their nature, for then it is only themselves whom they obey."
"Still another question occurs to me," interrupted Olympia. "God, who has his laws or his necessities in himself, is in all his acts free; but men, who have received the cause and laws of their actions from God, act according to the universal will, and yet are not free?"
"The individual inclination is as different from the universal will as Peter and Paul are from mankind; they exist and act for themselves in individual freedom, though they fall collectively under the idea and laws of humanity, of which they cannot pretend to be perfect representatives. Whoever has advanced so far that his individual inclinations are in immediate accord with the universal laws of reason, so that he destines himself for what God or nature has destined him, he lives in God, and is a partaker in the highest felicity, but only a partaker. In the individual the community cannot be included; it is as impossible as the squaring of the circle."
"But in that way," objected Oldenburg, "if everything happened inside the limits and according to the laws of the universal or divine will, the evil would be as much of necessity as the good, and he who does evil is not accountable for it. All therefore must be blessed. And the Scriptures lie that say, God punishes the wicked. Evil is thus a necessity, and why did God create it?"
"When it is called so in the Scriptures, it is because they are not written to teach men philosophy, but only obedience and righteous living, and therefore accommodate themselves to ordinary ways of expression. God, however, did create what we in our ordinary conceptions call imperfections, because he had the material to create everything with one word, from the highest to the lowest degrees of perfection; or, to speak more exactly, because the laws of his nature are so comprehensive that they are sufficient for the creation of all that can only be grasped by an infinite intelligence. Men can be excused their deeds, and though losing in happiness on that account, they may be chastened with much trouble and sorrow. I answer with Paul," continued Spinoza in a stern voice, 'They act according to their nature like serpents, and like serpents must therefore be destroyed.' He who becomes mad through a dog's bite, is he not excused? And yet men do right to burn him. He who cannot restrain his inclinations, or control himself by regard for the law, is to be excused on account of his weakness; but yet he will never rejoice in peace of mind, the knowledge and love of God, which is the only true good; it is a matter of necessity that he goes to ruin."
"You speak of the love of God," said Oldenburg, "of that which we have for him, and of that which he bestows upon us. If, as you say, God does everything of necessity, he does nothing for love, and because he must do everything, if he would not resign his own existence, he cannot demand our love, and we could not offer it to him."
"That is a fine objection!" replied Spinoza. "Must love be something in opposition to nature, or arbitrary, to be accepted as such, or to earn a return of love? Was it not love that your father bestowed upon you? And did you love him less, because he must love you according to his innate nature? What is commonly called the miracle of love arises from that innate, and therefore free, determination by that highest necessity which is placed in our nature; and that is true love, with the indelible stamp of divinity. Each outward act, each labor, each work of art is the freer and more perfect the less arbitrary will has to do with it, the more thorough the innate law has become and lets it appear to be a free product of nature. The self-knowledge of what each one will, or ought to do, that is salvation; therefore love of God is the highest salvation, or, as I might call it, the highest felicity."
Olympia followed the two friends but unwillingly and with difficulty into the icy region of metaphysical contemplation, where no flowers bloomed, and no birds sang, and all below was enveloped in the mists of the universal. She admired and reverenced Spinoza's intellectual power that could bear her up there, and give her a glimpse of the infinite, but it was strange to her to be here above the clouds, the way to her organ, her well-ordered books and gay canary birds lay so far away; so she greeted these words of Spinoza's as a message from her happy, familiar home life. She was no longer afraid of this heaven-storming hero-mind, for he who could speak such words as these, he must know how to love. Her cheeks glowed, her sparkling eyes gazed absently into space, her whole soul was deeply moved. The two friends did not notice it, for they were discussing the unbroken and insoluble connection of the universe. At last Spinoza looked at Olympia, and she at him; their eyes met.
"Where were you then?" asked Spinoza with tender reproach.
"Oh, everywhere!" answered Olympia as if just awakened.
"But not with us," said Spinoza. He little knew how these words wounded Olympia.
"There I have another plain proof," triumphed Oldenburg, "that body and soul are two perfectly distinct and independent things. Your soul floated far away in far distant realms, and wholly forgot that you were simply here with us."
"If you turn all the events of the moment so quickly to your own interest, I congratulate the inhabitants of the good town of Bremen on their envoy."
"Never mind," said Spinoza; "he only wants to revenge himself for the white crow; he is not in earnest."
"At least I am in earnest in thinking that such examples taken from surrounding circumstances are the best warnings against vague speculations."
"So-called practical proofs easily take a somewhat angry or fanatical tone," answered Spinoza, laughing. "I only said spirit and body were inseparable and dependent on each other in so far that they can only be viewed as different manifestations of one and the same being; the spirit cannot be confined by the body nor the body by the spirit. Still no one has discovered what the body is capable of without the spirit, or by what means the spirit sets the body in motion. Indeed there is a considerable class of ideas to which we know indubitably certain qualities of body are needful. Speech and silence even, which we regard as prerogatives of the mind, and from which man deduces his absolute pre-eminence, prove nothing, for in sleep and delirium men speak without any voluntary effort, yet through the mind. Free thought, reaching far beyond our mere bodily sphere, always finds room without the intervention of any independent separation from the body."
"As for me I will not attempt to oppose your theory," said Oldenburg; "this co-ordinance, and so to say co-divinity of mind and body, agrees with a favorite idea of my own. I always disliked to hear the phrase, 'fleshly desires war against the spiritual.' This helotry of our body with the godly suppression of the devil-nature of our physical selves, must if consistent, as with the Hindoos, not only excuse suicide, but even represent it as the highest moral duty."
"Paradox, rank paradox!" said Spinoza. "A suicide under any circumstances is guilty of spiritual cowardice, for he lets himself be completely overcome by external things that happen to be in opposition to his nature. From the lowest stage to the higher of the natural order it is the fundamental duty of every component part to fulfil its destiny, and this in a reasonable manner; that is, as our veritable constitution, shown by nature, would do by Virtue. This is no egotistical principle, for this self-preservation is impossible without the corresponding preservation of others. What corresponds externally with our nature and this effort of self-preservation is good, so much the more what lies in our nature itself is good; naturally we must herewith keep firmly before our eyes that only the true knowledge of God and our own nature is the essential good, and that we must direct the aim of our lives to this. Good and evil, viewed on their own merits, are not positive qualities (which is also, to a certain extent, the watchword of your General); they are only differing forms of thought or conception which arise because we compare things to one another. Your favorite occupation, for example, Jufrow Olympia, music, is good to the melancholy, bad to the sad, and to the deaf is neither good nor bad." Olympia would have objected, but Spinoza continued with animation:
"We would have it for the ideal of mankind that we should consider the expression Good as answering to all of which we certainly know that it is approximate to the original model of human nature, and Evil, of which we certainly know that it is in opposition to it. No man, thief, murderer or debauchee, no man desires evil for evil's sake; but, in the moment in which he commits the crime, it seems good to him for his self-preservation, for the increase and improvement of his own well-being, and is only erroneous in this, that in following his passions he becomes unfaithful to the laws of his nature. The freeman, that is one who, coming straight from the hands of God or nature, knows naught of the ideas of good or evil, acts in every circumstance according to the immediate impulse of the laws of his nature; then, when the dissension between his wishes and requirements, and the commands of his nature first enters, and when he wishes to avoid this by the intervention of others, the knowledge of good and evil, and evil itself, enters. The dissension occurs because he wishes to control himself by another and an external means, and no longer acts in free accord with his internal laws; the discord lies in the fact that, for the fulfilment of his natural laws he requires an agreement with outward circumstances. The free, independent human being, such as the earliest one, knows no difference of good and evil; he acts ever in accordance with internal harmony and freedom. With society entered dissension, sin and history. It must ever remain our highest object again to incorporate this freedom and independence, without disturbing the existing constitution of society. On the contrary, not in solitude, but in communities, where we live in mutual conformity, we are free. We must mentally return to that standpoint of innate freedom where it was given us to know and follow of necessity the laws of God, that is, of our nature. Such was the pure object of Jesus Christ, to lead mankind back to the original freedom of their laws, in natural harmony with them. Therefore was he come, according to his own words, not to destroy the law, but to fulfil it."
Spinoza had carefully avoided all details that could give occasion for a digression; but Olympia, who had again obliged herself to follow the discussion, now asked:
"Can we not demand from your ideas that they should heal the ills of the world, and make the sick and sorrowful whole and joyful!"
"I do not understand what you mean."
"I ask how, in your view of the creation, do you explain physical ill? That is, something actual? You have told us of the merry glass-polisher, Peter Blyning. How was the good man in fault that he should be doomed to shuffle along club-footed?"
"You confuse your questions so one with another that I must take the liberty of separating them. What consolation has the usual view of things for Peter Blyning? such as, 'Whom God loveth he chasteneth,' or 'We are here but candidates for a higher career.' The question still remains, Why should his candidature be made so difficult? Above, all will be set right for him, they say; but if he is to have two feet up there, he has not them here, and has much pain for want of them. The easiest way of shuffling off this question is to say, 'The ways of God are unfathomable;' that is, in other words, to let the question remain a question. But the solution of this problem lies in quite another direction. All ideas of perfection and imperfection, beauty and ugliness, like the final causes which we ascribe to nature, are not necessarily appropriate, but merely ascribed to her by us, for we give things relations which they do not possess. All these ideas merely arise because we compare things of similar form and species, and then discover faults and failings where none such exist. Everything is perfect, for each thing must be compared with itself alone. Error and confusion always arise because we prefer to measure things by ideals, that is, with universal ideas which we have acquired or imagined. The ideal or pure idea of any given thing should only be derived from itself, from its own nature and attributes. Then the complaint ceases, that the world does not realize our expectations. Each force exists and appears according to its own laws, not according to an ideal. What does not follow inevitably from the necessary working of the natural cause is no part of the nature of a thing, and all that necessarily follows from the nature of the effecting cause must of necessity be. Beyond this we cannot and must not demand anything; there is no rule and no obligation beyond, and we can apply no higher measure. Peter Blyning is, when viewed on his own merits, as perfect as the most perfect Adonis. He can no more desire other feet than he can demand wings, for the fundamental cause of his being merely suffices for this form, and for no other. Do you think it an imperfection that an ox is an ox and not an eagle? To every stage of human existence it is permitted to feel and to find agreement with self and with the universe, and to be raised to, and sustained in, serenity by it. Our consciousness of harmony or discord with our assigned nature; the belief that this consciousness is given us, which man as a mere instinct calls conscience—"
"Conscience is a stocking that fits any foot. The savage strikes his father dead when he is old and infirm, and thinks it his conscientious duty; the Jew's conscience reproaches him when he eats the flesh of swine, and the Catholic beats his breast when he has neglected mass."
So spoke old Van den Ende, who then suddenly entered. Spinoza quietly replied that no man could reason away conscience. That pure conscience which merely exists in the feelings, and which men have dressed in all manner of external shapes, must often be liable to deception; but that inner voice which enters our consciousness, which tells us so plainly when we have acted in opposition to the laws of our nature and the universal order, is as undeniable and reliable as our knowledge of our own existence."
"Yes, my dear father," said Olympia; "shall always be grateful to Herr von Spinoza for the many great ideas which he has imparted to us."
She then explained to her father the leading ideas of what had just been said. Spinoza had now and then to add something, but on the whole he saw with inexpressible pleasure how completely Olympia had entered into the grounds of his views. This pleasure did not long remain undisturbed, for the laughter of old Van den Ende annoyed him extremely.
"Do you remember the saintly Christopher in the asylum at Milan, of whom I told you?" he said. "He would suit you very well; he, too, was of a piece with God. Ha, ha, ha! There is yet something excellent left to laugh at."
Spinoza's whole soul rose against these words. Mockery is the deadliest poison to kill the seed of life in a growing character or a growing idea. Our philosopher, however, was sufficiently strong already to blunt and turn off with little trouble all the pointed arrows that Van den Ende discharged at his speculations. Spinoza felt strangely touched when Olympia said to him at parting:
"I am now quite grateful to the rain for having confined us to four walls. I do not think such connected trains of thought as you have given us could arise, or be expressed, in the freedom of nature; color, sound and fragrance would protest against it, for that we must be alone and at home. The wise Greeks did not attain to it because they lived and taught in the open air. Come to-morrow to our Buiten; Socrates and Plato await you among the green bushes."
Spinoza had not time to explain what a singular echo this expression awoke in him, for he recollected that the Rabbis ordain: "When two go together to speak of the Revelation (the Thora), and one says, 'Look how beautiful that field is, how beautiful that tree'—he has committed a deadly sin."
Does the highest thought demand abstraction from the outer world?
The two friends left the house in silence; Cecilia met them just in front of it.
"You too must say, 'He that is able to receive it let him receive it'" (Matt. xix. 12), said Oldenburg; Spinoza pressed his hand and they separated.
After such a discussion he was obliged to go to the synagogue.