Intro. MT ST TEI Ethics TPT Corr. Index PrevPg NextPg

Short Treatise on God, Man, and His Well-Being:
Part 2, Chapter 26.

    By the assertion of what precedes [N1] we not only wanted to make known that there are no Devils, but also, indeed, that the causes (or, to express it better, what we call "Sins") which hinder us in the attainment of our perfection are in ourselves. We have also shown already, in what precedes, how and in what manner, through reason as also [N2] through the fourth kind of knowledge, we must attain to our blessedness, and how the passions *which are bad and should be banished* must be done away with: not as is commonly urged, namely, that these [passions] must first be subdued before we can attain to the knowledge, and consequently to the love, of God. That would be just like insisting that some one who is ignorant must first forsake his ignorance before he can attain to knowledge.[N3] But [the truth is] this, that only knowledge can cause the disappearance thereof -- as is evident from all that we have said. Similarly, it may also be clearly gathered from the above that without Virtue, or (to express it better) without the guidance of the Understanding, all tends to ruin, so that we can enjoy no rest, and we live, as it were, outside our element. So that even if from the power of knowledge and divine love there accrued to the understanding not an eternal rest, such as we have shown, but only a temporary one, it is our duty to seek even this, since this also is such that if once we taste it we would exchange it for nothing else in the world.
[Note N1]: B: of the preceding chapter.

[Note N2]: B omits these four words.

[Note N3]: B continues thus: but just as knowledge alone can cause the annihilation of this (as is evident from all that we have said) so it may likewise be clearly gathered from the above...

    This being so, we may, with reason, regard as a great absurdity what many, who are otherwise esteemed as great theologians, assert, namely, that if no eternal life resulted from the love of God, then [N1] they would seek what is best for themselves: as though they could discover anything better than God! This is just as silly as if a fish (for which, of course, it is impossible to live out of the water) were to say: if no eternal life is to follow this life in the water, then I will leave the water for the land; [N2] what else, indeed, can they say to us who do not know God?
[Note N1]: B continues thus: people would seek and consider pleasures of sense, merriment, and worldly enjoyments: as though...

[Note N2]: B continues: so it is also with the foregoing; for, what else,...

    Thus we see, therefore, that in order to arrive at the truth of what we assert for sure concerning our happiness and repose, we require no other principles except only this, namely, to take to heart our own interest, which is very natural in all things.[N1] And since we find that, when we pursue sensuousness, pleasures, and worldly things, we do not find our happiness in them, but, on the contrary, our ruin, we therefore choose the guidance of our understanding. As, however, this can make no progress, unless it has first attained to the knowledge and love of God, therefore it was highly necessary to seek this (God); and as (after the foregoing reflections and considerations) we have discovered that he is the best good of all that is good, we are compelled to stop and to rest here. For we have seen that, outside him, there is nothing that can give us any happiness. And it is a true freedom to be, and to remain, bound with the loving chains of his love.
[Note N1]: B omits this sentence.

    Lastly, we see also that reasoning is not the principal thing in us, but only like a staircase by which we can climb up to the desired place, or like a good genius which, without any falsity or deception, brings us tidings of the highest good in order thereby to stimulate us to pursue it, and to become united with it; which union is our supreme happiness and bliss.

    So, to bring this work to a conclusion, it remains to indicate briefly what human freedom is, and wherein it consists. For this purpose I shall make use of these following propositions, as things which are certain and demonstrated.

    1. The more essence a thing has, so much more has it also of activity, and so much less of passivity. For it is certain that what is active acts through what it has, and that the thing which is passive is affected through what it has not.

    2. All passivity that passes from non-being to being, or from being to non-being, must result from some external agent, and not from an inner one: because no thing, considered by itself, contains in itself the conditions that will enable it to annihilate itself when it exists, or to create itself when it does not exist.

    3. Whatever is not produced by external causes can have nothing in common with them, and can, consequently, be neither changed nor transformed by them.

    And from these last two [propositions] I infer the following fourth proposition:

    4. The effect of an immanent or inner cause (which is all one to me) cannot possibly pass away or change so long as this cause of it remains. For such an effect, just as it is not produced by external causes, so also it cannot be changed [by them]; following the third proposition. And since no thing whatever can come to naught except through external causes, it is not possible that this effect should be liable to perish so long as its cause endures; following the second proposition.

    5. The freest cause of all, and that which is most appropriate to God, is the immanent: for the effect of this cause depends on it in such a way that it can neither be, nor be understood without it, nor is it subjected to any other cause; it is, moreover, united with it in such a way that together they form one whole.

    Now let us just see what we must conclude from the above propositions. In the first place, then,

    1. Since the essence of God is infinite, therefore it has an infinite activity, and an infinite negation of passivity, following the first proposition; and, in consequence of this, the more that, through their greater essence, things are united with God, so much the more also do they have of activity, and the less of passivity: and so much the more also *are they* free from change and corruption.

    2. The true Understanding can never perish; for in itself it can have no cause to destroy itself, following the second proposition. And as it did not emanate from external causes, but from God, so it is not susceptible to any change through them, following the third proposition. And since God has produced it immediately and he is only [N1] an inner cause, it follows necessarily that it cannot perish so long as this cause of it remains, following the fourth proposition. Now this cause of it is eternal, therefore it is too.
[Note N1]: A: is not only.

    3. All the effects of the *true* understanding, which are united with it, are the most excellent, and must be valued above all the others; for as they are inner effects, they must be the most excellent; following the fifth proposition; and, besides this, they are also necessarily eternal, because their cause is such.

    4. All the effects which we produce outside ourselves are the more perfect, the more they are capable of becoming united with us, so as to constitute one and the same nature with us; for in this way they come nearest to inner effects. For example, if I teach my neighbours to love pleasure, glory, avarice, then whether I myself also love these or do not love them, whatever the case may be, I deserve to be punished, this is clear. Not so, however, when the only end that I endeavour to attain is, to be able to taste of union with God, and to bring forth true ideas, and to make these things known also to my neighbours; for we can all participate equally in this happiness, as happens when it creates in them [N1] the same desire that I have, thus causing their [N2] will and mine to be one and the same, constituting one and the same nature, agreeing always in all things.[N3]
[Note N1]: A: him.

[Note N2]: A: his.

[Note N3]: Instead of the three preceding paragraphs, B has the following:

2. As (according to Proposition 2.) no thing can be a cause of its own annihilation, nor, if it is not the effect of any external cause, can it (according to Proposition 3.) be changed by such, but (according to Proposition 4.) the effect of an inner cause can neither pass away, nor change so long as this cause thereof endures; it follows that the true understanding, since it is produced by no external cause, but immediately by God, is, through this cause, eternal and immutable, can neither perish nor change, but, with it, necessarily remains eternal and lasting.

3. Since the inner effects of an immanent cause (according to Proposition 5.) are the most excellent of all, all the effects of the true understanding which are united therewith, must also be valued above all others, and [must] necessarily be eternal with their cause. Whence it follows that

4. The more perfect the effects are which we produce outside us, the more capable are they of becoming united with us so as to constitute one and the same nature with us. It is thus when, through my union with God, I conceive true ideas, and make them known to my neighbours, so that they may likewise participate with me in this happiness, and so that there arises in them a desire like mine, making their will one and the same with mine, so that we thus constitute one and the same nature, agreeing in all things.

    From all that has been said it may now be very easily conceived what is human freedom, [N1] which I define to be this: it is, namely, a firm reality which our understanding acquires through direct union with God, so that it can bring forth ideas in itself, and effects outside itself, in complete harmony with its nature; without, however, its effects being subjected to any external causes, so as to be capable of being changed or transformed by them. Thus it is, at the same time, evident from what has been said, what things there are that are in our power, and are not subjected to any external causes; we have likewise also proved here, and that in a different way from before, the eternal and lasting duration of our understanding; and, lastly, which effects it is that we have to value above all others.
[Note N1]: The servitude of a thing consists in being subjected to external causes, freedom, on the contrary, in not being subjected to them, but freed from them.

    So,[N1] to make an end of all this, it only remains for me still to say to my friends to whom I write this :[N2] Be not astonished at these novelties; for it is very well known to you that a thing does not therefore cease to be true because it is not accepted by many. And also, as the character of the age in which we live is not unknown to you, I would beg of you most earnestly to be very careful about the communication of these things to others. I do not want to say that you should absolutely keep them to yourselves, but only that if ever you [N3] begin to communicate them to anybody, then let no other aim prompt you except only the happiness of your neighbour, being at the same time clearly assured by him that the reward will not disappoint your labour. Lastly, if, on reading this through, you should meet with some difficulty about what I state as certain, I beseech you that you should not therefore hasten at once to refute it, before you have pondered it long enough and thoughtfully enough, and if you do this I feel sure that you will attain to the[N4] enjoyment of the fruits of this tree which you promise yourselves.
[Note N1]: In the margin of this paragraph A has the following note: the author's entreaty to those for whom, at their request, he had dictated this treatise, and therewith the conclusion of all.

[Note N2]: B continues: that they should not be astonished at the novelties (which they might find here); since a thing does not therefore cease to be true when it is not accepted by many.

[Note N3]: B continues: wish to communicate them to others, then you shall have no other object in view except only the Happiness of your neighbour; being at the same time clearly assured that the reward of your labour will not disappoint you therein.

[Note N4]: B concludes: desired END.

Intro. MT ST TEI Ethics TPT Corr. Index PrevPg NextPg
Slack padding.