Spinoza: A novel/Epilogue

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ONE night he saw a great vision. A man stood before him who was wonderful and strange to see. His head was covered with a broad hat whose color was as yellow as the grain beneath the sickle, and the hair of his head was white and flowed to his shoulders; on his brow was a sign of blood; his eyes lay hidden in their sockets overgrown with straggling hair. Two furrows reached from them to the corners of his mouth; in them his tears had once streamed, but now they were empty, for the spring was dried up. His white lips were overgrown with hair that reached to his girdle. A hair shirt flapped round his meagre body, and his feet were naked and cut. At his right side hung a pouch, and there also his robe was covered with a patch of the color of his hat. On his heart he carried a small roll in an iron case, fastened to a cord which hung round his neck and made a deep furrow in his flesh. In his right hand he held a staff which reached high above his head.

And the man bent over him, kissed him on the brow, and said:

"Knowest thou me well, O thou my son, in whom I am well pleased! Already more than six hundred times has the sun fulfilled its course since the day when woe flowed over my head. I stood in my doorway and held my child in my arms. There they brought Jesus, son of Joseph and Mary of Nazareth, who called himself our Messiah. I hated him, for we loved the earth and he showed us the Heavens. We wished for a sword, and he taught us to love the foreign yoke. He was not our Messiah. When he would have rested on the threshold of my house, I spurned him with my foot and thrust him away. But he said, 'Come with me; thy foot which hath spurned me shall find no rest until the day when I return and found my kingdom upon earth.' The child fell from my arms. I followed him. I saw him die the death on the cross. I saw my house, I saw my children no more. They were scattered like chaff before the wind, or were devoured by the sword. Unstable and unsettled as Cain I wandered through forest and field, over stream and mountain. The flowers closed their petals before my eyes, the grass withered if my feet approached it, the birds became mute in the air, and the hungry lion, roaring as he came near, recoiled in fright when he saw me. But the wild animals were merciful and kind compared with those whom I regarded as of my race. I wandered through town and country. They drowned me with wormwood and choked me with gall, they poured poison in my wounds and made my bed on thorns, and when I would have laid down my head to rest they made the ground tremble beneath me, and when I uplifted my complainings they stopped my mouth with fiery embers. In every place to which I directed my footsteps they seized me by the hair, collected wood in a pile, and thrust me into the flames; but Jehovah, the God of Israel, whose eternal Law I bore in my heart, sent his angel. And though the flames stretched out their devouring tongues towards me, he saved me; and though they shed my blood in streams, he raised me and animated me anew; and though they enveloped me in thick darkness, yet his light was kindled and shone clearly around me; and though they buried me in mouldering graves, his breath blew on me and breathed new life into me. Often I asked him, 'When will it end, O Lord? When wilt thou have mercy on me? When wilt thou hold me in kindness again before thy countenance? When wilt thou pour balm into my wounds? When soften my torments? When wilt thou let me find rest? When wilt thou turn hatred into love, that I may cease to be an abomination, and the mark of scorn unto all nations? Why must I endure eternal dying without death, an eternal death without life? See, race after race have I seen fade and pass away like the grass of the field; kingdoms have I seen arise and crumble to dust before the breath of thy mouth. Everything rots and is brought forth anew; only I alone hang like the drops to a pail that tremble in the wind but do not fall. Where the bonds of ice hold the earth everlastingly chained, there I stood; and Arabia's hot sands burned the soles of my feet; and nowhere, nowhere a land where I might sow or reap, or where I might find a grave. Jerusalem the Glorious lies in ruins. When wilt thou rebuild her? When lead us back again? Look down! I say in the morning, Would that it were eve; and in the evening. Would that it were morn. Look down! Trouble is my companion, shame and sorrow are my playfellows. I have won love from them. Give me tears, tears give me, that I may weep my misery. Wilt thou not take then thy hand from off me. Let mine enemies pierce the core of my soul, let me die, let me die. See, I have covered myself with hatred; let me take revenge on mine enemies, and ten times told over their heads what they have done unto me. Speak to the thunder that it may shatter them; command thy lightning that it may devour the marrow of their bones; or give me a sword, a sword give me, that I may bathe myself in their blood. Or will the time come when Love and Faith shall meet, Justice and Peace kiss one another, Truth spring from the earth, Justice look down from Heaven?'

"See, my son, such were my complainings, such was my despair, such my hope! Thou art come to be a Saviour to mankind, me too thou wilt save. Those who are of thy race have rejected thee, they have attempted thy life; those who are not of thy race have betrayed thee, they have embittered thy sweetest feeling. Thou knowest no anger, thou rewardest them with the truth."

The vision bent again over the sleeper and kissed him. It was a kiss of the dying Ahasuerus, who bore on himself the doom of that Israel which slew Jesus Christ on the Cross.

Spinoza went to Rhynsberg, and from there to Voorburg and the Hague, and wrote the "Theologico-Political Tractate" and the "Ethics." There, alone and deserted, he ended his days. The five books of the "Ethics" came out after his death.

He died on February 21st, 1677, in his forty-fourth year.

No thinker, arisen since Spinoza, has lived so much in the eternal as he did.