[Sidenote: The Main Subject here Is his Religion and not his Philosophy.]
Modern Pantheism as a religion begins with Spinoza. Whether it ended with him is a question which the future will have to decide. But the signs of the times are, at least in my view, very clearly against such a conclusion. And amongst the omens which portend immortality, not necessarily for the philosophical scheme, but for the “God-intoxicated” devoutness of his Pantheism, is the desire, or rather the imperious need increasingly realized, for a religion emancipated from theories of creation or teleology, intolerant of any miracle, save indeed the wonders of the spiritual life, and satisfying the heart with an ever present God. For it is to be remembered that Spinoza was the first Pantheist who was also a prophet, in the sense of speaking out the divine voice of the infinite Universe to its human constituent parts. Not that I would minimize the religious fervour of the Neo-Platonists: it is their Pantheism that seems to have been imperfect. But in Spinoza we have a man who, inheriting by birth the tradition—I might even say the apostolic succession—of the Jewish prophets, and gifted with an insight into the consummation of that tradition in Jesus Christ, was driven by a commanding intellect to divorce the spiritual life he prized from creeds that had become to him Impossible, and to enshrine it in the worthier temple of an eternal Universe identical with God. It is not, then, with his philosophy that I am so much concerned as with his religion.
[Sidenote: His Originality.]
[Sidenote: Relation to Descartes.]
It is given to no man to be absolutely original in the sense of creating ideas of which no germs existed before his day. But short of such an impossible independence of the past, Benedict de Spinoza had perhaps as much originality as any man who ever lived. Yet with a modesty ever characteristic of moral greatness, he himself was disposed, at any rate during his earlier philosophical development, to exaggerate his indebtedness to the philosopher Descartes, whose system he laboriously abridged in the inappropriate form of a series of propositions supposed to be demonstrated after the fashion of Euclid.
[Sidenote: Fundamental Differences.]
[Sidenote: Spinoza Discards Creator and Creation,]
[Sidenote: Beginning and End.]
[Sidenote: Takes the Universe as it Is.]
[Sidenote: And Worships the Static Whole as God.]
But whatever may have been the esoteric belief of Descartes about creation out of nothing and the theological dogmas connected therewith, he attached too much importance to the social and political functions of established ecclesiastical institutions to declare himself independent of them. And though his submission, signalised on his death-bed, did not interfere with the freest working of his brilliant intellect within limits permitted