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The Being of God is Science

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Spinoza (1632-1677) was profoundly knowledgeable about the ideas and discoveries of Kepler, Copernicus, Galileo, Hobbes, and Descartes. He attempted to use their thoughts and discoveries to combine the scientific and philosophical thinking of his time.

Spinoza was troubled by Descartes’ philosophy because Descartes doubted everything until he found premises which could not be doubted. As a result, he ended up with mental substances he was sure of, because he could not doubt the existence of his own thinking mind. And Descartes also concluded that substances must exist outside his mind, or he could not have mental images of them in the first place.

This alleged chasm between mental and physical substances disturbed Spinoza. He reasoned that if Descartes was correct, there was no way a mind could interact with physical objects or simply put, to move them about in space.

Spinoza’s solution is beautifully simple. Since God is infinite, he can have no boundaries. God must be co-equivalent with everything (The Story of Philosophy). Thus, if we describe planets, stars, water, people, all mental ideas of substances, all actual substances in the real world, we are merely describing the same reality—God.

To Spinoza, the being of God is ordered by absolute truth in much the same way that mathematics and physics are ordered. Ultimately, these logical systems follow definite laws which cannot be otherwise. Even when laws are found in error via scientific experimentation, each time their paradigm changes we are carried closer and closer to absolute truth.

God, then, is not outside the world any more than substances are inside or outside the mind. Nor is he inside anything that exists. God is everything that exists as one single unit. Spinoza's theological pantheism is beautiful in its simplicity.

Now, if we exist in an infinite God, then it is not possible for us to have free will. Our will and that of God would have to be one and the same. While we think we make choices, those choices are mere illusions. Like it or not, we are following God’s plan for us.

The best we can do is to attempt to understand the real causes of our actions as God’s will for us. In this sense, our personal problems are unimportant. We are merely following God’s will in all that we do. Thus, fate in life is what God intends for us. “God is the cause of all things which are in Him.”

Spinoza wrote his treatises in Latin. He coined this mystical expression, sub specie aeternitatis, to tell how we should view our own lives and what happens to us through the eyes of eternity, which in a sense means through God’s eyes.

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About Regis Schilken

  • Regis, your article is an interesting one and I agree with some of your interpretations. However as a non-religious Jew, as well as an Interfaith Minister of Spiritual Counseling, I’m uncomfortable with the certainty of your position. While God can be viewed as an abstract concept or a plural term, in the minds of most people – including, apparently yours – God is a personified super-being who created the world (and presumably the universe) in a miraculous way and still exists with an awareness of each of us personally, complete with an individual plan for each of our lives. You are, of course, entitled to your opinion and your faith and your view of God as you see Him. However, it is this particular and widely-held definition of God that makes the heads of the anti-religion rationalists’ heads explode. We are in a spiritual crisis in America precisely because some people espouse specific religious dogma as the one-and-only truth, which is very off-putting. I just recently came across a quote (I forget by whom) that essentially said “Even without religion, good people will do good things and bad people will do bad things – but it takes religion to make good people do bad things.” Largely because Christian and Muslim Fundamentalism have been and continue to try to define God, religion and morality for everyone, whether they like it or not, the voice of a more generic, personal, humble and questioning spirituality is not being heard, which is extremely unfortunate. And as Einstein said, “Of course Man has Free Will – he has no choice.”

  • In my mind God cannot be defined because we are incapable of processing that which is God. We tend to gravitate to symbols and allegory in our attempt to connect with the Supreme Being. I wonder if that’s due to our natural tendency to be inquisitive. We are driven by gaining knowledge and that which cannot be understood become most frustrating. Humans tend to make that which is quite simple most complicated.

    I do believe God exists but it is not defined in dogma — quite the contrary. The Universe is driven by energies of varying levels. We are organic beings encasing an energy that drives our intellect. Insofar as Free Will, I believe we all have Free Will and our actions define our paths through life. And, as Einstein pointed out, “we have no choice.”

  • Say we “exist in an infinite God”. Why would that mean that infinite god has some sort of plan? There seems to be some sort of logical error in this thinking.

    How many children does god plan to have molested today, for example? Aren’t the molesters off the hook as well if they are just part of god’s plan?

    No matter what good intent it springs from–and I think it is maybe meant to comfort, rather than harm–this scenario leads to an end that seems to be simple rationalization. It’s too convenient.