If – as a wise person has said – enlightenment is about the unification of opposites, then it is hard to imagine a more enlightened person than the great seventeenth century philosopher Baruch (or Benedict) Spinoza.
In his unique and fascinating philosophical system, he seamlessly integrates the most rigorous scientific rationalism with the profound religious insights of the Jewish mystical tradition in which he was brought up.
He achieved the extraordinary feat of reconciling the harsh, atheistic and materialistic philosophy, psychology and political theory of Thomas Hobbes with an ethical theory full of compassion and altruism and a deeply spiritual view of life.
And his ideas form a fascinating and surprising bridge between Christianity and Buddhism – although the latter was certainly unknown to Spinoza, both his fascinating and detailed psychology and his account of the spiritual path to Enlightenment (which he calls ‘Blessedness’) are remarkable similar to those of Buddhism, while his Tractatus Theologico-Politicus succeeds in giving a coherent account of the origin and meaning of both Judaism and Christianity within an undeviatingly rational framework.
I believe that Spinoza’s ideas are of colossal importance in an age where we are bewildered by apparently irreconcilable world-views – fundamentalist religion and radical science-based atheism, Deep Ecology and Neo-Darwinism, Technofix and Back To Nature. Spinoza is an extraordinary example of a human being who had successfully integrated his intuitive right brain and analytical left brain, resulting in a profound and endlessly fascinating philosophy that I hope to share with you as these pages unfold.