“There is a false, distorted way in which the mind can think of itself and of other things as individually existing as a self-contained segment of reality separate from the whole of nature and from the source of that individual mind’s sustenance.
The human body can not exist in isolation from the surrounding ecosystem that provides and sustains its life. The isolated human body would cease to exist. The mind, likewise, can exist as an individual self only if the body in which it resides is sustained by the surrounding ecosystem.
The mind 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 mind, unlike the body, has open to it this false version of individuality. Minds, unlike bodies, can know what they are but they are capable of error. The mind 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 ourselves is an inadequate understanding of individuality.
The body is an individual body separate from the totality of the whole and is defined as such. The mind which has an inadequate understanding of individuality, lacks an adequate understanding of the bodily modifications caused by emotions.
Ignorance of the causes of our pleasures and pains breeds obsession and creates states of destructive emotions. The mind in the grip of the emotional passion of obsession loses its capacity to enjoy a wide range of activities. Its affirmation becomes limited to things it conceives as the sole cause of its pleasures and pains.
Individual segments of the world are given distorted status as self-contained objects. The mind takes its own individuality to depend on falsely construed individual categories or segments of the whole, failing to grasp that they are but parts of the larger whole.
In failing to understand the objects on which it pains and pleasures depend, the mind fails as well to understand its own interconnections with larger whole.
In failing to understand our loves and hates we fail to understand ourselves.
This lack of understanding restricts our power and limits our freedom.
Self awareness is generated out of a reflective awareness of the body. The mind that emphasizes, rather than resists, the emotions to gain a better understanding of their affect 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 freedom and virtue.
A true understanding of individuality will create true freedom of mind.
Our emotions are part of nature, not aberrations from it. Human impotence does not result from the defects of human nature but from the awesome power of nature, of which we are part. Nothing happens in nature which can be attributed to any flaw in it, for the laws and rules according to which all things happen and change from one form to another are always and everywhere the same.
Freedom from the bondage of emotion comes from understanding the natural causes of emotion. We, being of nature, must follow and obey the natural order of nature which includes emotional response. Recognizing ourselves as a part of nature grants us the power to overcome our emotions.
A mind which is free replicates in it’s ideas the basic structure of reality and in knowing itself knows reality.
Knowledge of reality increases the knowledge we have of ourselves. Self knowledge allows us to become intuitively or reflectively aware of the truth. Any knowledge that we reflect on will use the knowledge that we now possess. The mind starts from acquired knowledge and proceeds through reflection to an ever increasing awareness of true ideas. The most fundamental level of knowledge has layers and layers of ideas superimposed endlessly upon it.
Truth only occurs in the presence of certainty of the truth of ideas.
True certainty is just reflection on 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.
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 can be gained through reason. This capacity to engage directly with existence makes intuition both the highest kind of knowledge and the highest form of affectivity - the mind’s love of God.
Reason is an expression of human nature and it arises from the complexity of bodily structure that distinguishes human individuals. Reason is in all human beings the same.
Reason strengthens human power especially when pursued jointly with other rational beings.
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 our awareness of ourselves.
Sameness of human nature arises from the fact that different individuals have shared affinities that allow their differences to be transcended in the realization of common pleasures. Such commonalities amidst difference are achievable because our bodies are socialized bodies.
Although we form common notions we can not entirely transcend perceiving in relation to a particular mind. Different perspectives demand different perceiving minds.
Judgement involves the affirmation of something as real.
We can not judge the good of other things in reference to ourselves.
Things are to be judged with regard to their own well being and perfection, not ours.
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 existence.
We are dependent in a force outside of ourselves for the prolongation of our existence.
This force is God.
Our minds are ideas of our body’s substance but our minds can never find solace in the awareness of this truth. With thought and experience we can reach a transitional phase were our consciousness passes over into a knowledge of the immutable aspects of material reality.
At this transitional point we will experience a conscious re-birth which brings with it an intuitive understanding of our place in the scheme of things. We come to see ourselves in relation to the truths of individuality.
We come to see ourselves as transient expressions of substance, which is equally realized in a multitude of other individuals, through which our existence is mediated.
Intuitive knowledge of my self is an idea of my actual body which exists only while my body exists.
The immutable aspects of reality can only be attributed to God.
We move to a position of awe in the magnificence of God’s power and to an enlightened understanding of our individual self as an interconnected part of the totality of organisms in God’s creation. This is affectivity or the mind’s love of 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. The understanding of itself as eternal is the other side of the coin to this understanding of itself as part of nature - transient, vulnerable, and inevitably to be destroyed.
It is impossible for humans not to be a part of nature.
It is impossible for humans not to follow the natural order of nature.
Death does not reduce the self to the status of a fiction.
Death has no power to erase what has already existed.
The mind that has ceased to exist may continue to have effects on the Earth through the interconnections it formed in life even though it no longer strives or struggles in its own right.
The eternity of the mind is not just a matter of our surviving in the memories and imaginations of others. To cease to exist is not the same as having never existed at all.
This insight comes especially from the confrontation with death.
It is in really knowing that we must die that we know that we are eternal.
It is in knowing our transience that we truly know ourselves.
This new awareness of life has in fact the same structure as self-consciousness.
In this state of eternal mind our living selves are awakened in a way that resists the ravages of time and death.
We can during life come to realize this truth.
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 we have it death is of little consequence.
It is true that we inevitably fantasize something beyond death, a form of existence beyond life.
The eternity of God is properly seen as the totality of all that ever was.
Such a totality transcends time as the character of what has occurred is not altered by the passage of time.
There can only be one infinite, divine substance, comprising all of nature or reality.
This we term God’s substance or the substance of God.
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.