Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 11.djvu/232

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not sufficiently occupying themselves with the First Cause. Perhaps his reminiscences of Jewish theology, that ancient wisdom of the Hebrews before which he often bows, suggested to him higher views and more sublime aspirations in this matter. Not only the ideas held by the vulgar, but those even of thinkers on Divinity, appeared to him inadequate. He saw plainly that there is no assigning a limited part to the Infinite; that Divinity is all, or is nothing; that if the Divine be a reality, it must pervade all. For twenty years he meditated on these problems without for a moment averting his thoughts. Our distaste nowadays for system and abstract formula no longer permits us to accept absolutely the propositions within which he had thought to confine the secrets of the Infinite. For Spinoza, as for Descartes, the universe was only extension and thought; chemistry and physiology were lacking to that great school, which was too exclusively geometrical and mechanical. A stranger to the idea of life, and those notions as to the constitution of bodies that chemistry was destined to reveal—too much attached still to the scholastic expressions of substance and attribute—Spinoza did not attain to that living and fertile Infinite shown us by the science of Nature and of history as presiding in space unbounded, over a development more and more intense; but, making allowance for a certain dryness in expression, what grandeur there is in that inflexible geometrical deduction leading up to the supreme proposition, "It is of the nature of the Substance to develop itself necessarily by an infinity of infinite attributes infinitely modified!" God is thus absolute thought, universal consciousness. The ideal exists, nay, it is the true existence; all else is mere appearance and frivolity. Bodies and souls are mere modes of which God is the substance: it is only the modes that fall within duration; the substance is all in eternity. Thus, God does not prove himself; his existence results from his sole idea; everything supposes and contains him. God is the condition of all existence, all thought. If God did not exist, thought would be able to conceive more than Nature could furnish—which is a contradiction.

Spinoza did not clearly discern universal progress; the world, as he conceives it, seems as it were crystallized in a matter which is incorruptible extension, in a soul that is immutable thought; the sentiment of God deprives him of the sentiment of man; forever face to face with the Infinite, he did not sufficiently perceive what of the Divine conceals itself in relative manifestations; but he, better than any other, saw the eternal identity which constitutes the basis of all transitory evolutions. Whatever is limited seems to him frivolous, and unworthy to occupy a philosopher. Bold in flight, he soared straight to the lofty, snow-covered summits, without casting a glance on the rich display of life springing tip on the mountain's side. At an altitude where every breast but his own pants hard, he lives, he enjoys, he flourishes there, as men in general do in mild and temper-