Spinoza’s God

A passage from Karen Armstrong’s The Battle for God jumped out at me in her section on Spinoza.


“…there was spirituality in Spinoza’ atheism, since he experienced the world as divine. It was a vision of God immanent within mundane reality which filled Spinoza with awe and wonder” (23).


Contrary to what some of my atheist interlocutors were telling me recently on another site, there are those among the godless who do in fact have a sense of the divine, of the spiritual, and in fact, why not call it the Holy Ghost? Spinoza found it in the joy of attaining knowledge and the use of reason—the “flash of insight” that comes from thinking and learning, from connecting something previously known to something new—that in itself is Spinoza’s “God.” Others might call it “our higher selves.”

It strikes me that this idea of “God in the mundane” is akin to what James Joyce was talking about when he said epiphanies could arise from the most common experience—we see something ordinary and have the sudden realization that it all fits into the big picture, a feeling of oneness with the universe from just viewing or experiencing one little bit of it. The “Zen of washing dishes” was the way one article put it that I read long ago.

Armstrong also writes that Spinoza “believed that yearning for a transcendent God would alienate human beings from their own nature.”   In other words, organized religion and mysticism can throw us off the track.   An experience of the Spirit is readily available in certain aspects of our own human nature, or our human experiences (like the Seven Universal Sacraments in my book).


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