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old wives' fables. Naturally pervaded deeply with the religious element, he sought firmer ground to stand upon than these effete traditions. The struggle seems to have begun with him, as with so many others beside, upon the problem of authority. Aben-Ezra, he tells us, had hinted, though timidly and obscurely enough, that the authors of the historic books of Scripture were other and less ancient than commonly supposed. From this he passed not unnaturally to the question of the claim of the Hebrew Scriptures as a whole, and found himself unable longer to accept it as final. He was also struck with the fact of the lameness of the proofs relied on in it for certain doctrines deemed of prime importance in the Jewish church, — as the immortality of the soul, the personal existence of angels, &c. At about the same time he entered upon the broader studies, commencing Latin first with a German teacher, and prosecuting it afterwards with Van den Ende, a physician of Amsterdam, formerly a Jesuit, but now the proprietor of a popular philological seminary, to which the wealthy of the city intrusted their sons and daughters for instruction. This Van den Ende is charged by his enemies as having been guilty of certain infidelities in belief, and of inculcating them upon the minds of his school. He may have exerted some influence at this time upon the thought of Spinoza. Under the influence of the recent revival of science, great attention was given to studies of physical nature, and to these Spinoza devoted himself ardently, in company with two or three other friends, young and enthusiastic like himself.
Of course, as his interest in these things increased, his interest in the Jewish dogmas and ceremonials diminished He became infrequent in his attendance upon the synagogue, reserved and reticent towards the rabbis. The eyes of the watchful were upon him; here was a case that required attention. Two young persons were deputed to approach him, and, under guise of friendship and desire for illumination and instruction, to draw out of him the points of this belief, that they might act the informer against him. The judges of the synagogue, aflame with zeal, and full of indignation for the dishonor shown their law, summoned the offender before them. Spinoza obeyed cheerfully, conscious of no wrong.
Pained and apprehensive from the reports that were told of his belief, anxious that the hopes his early promise had raised should not be disappointed, they had called him, that he might, if innocent, vindicate himself; if guilty, let him remember the terrible consequences, and in quick time purge himself of his sin. Upon his affirming that he had uttered no impiety, the two stood up and testified that he had spoken disparagingly of the Jews, pronouncing them the most narrow and superstitious of all people, unknowing what God is, yet claiming with utmost effrontery to be of all the especial people of God. He had also spoken against the Law, pronouncing it of human origin. To these statements were added others, professing to report his words touching the Divine existence, the soul, angels, and spirits; and altogether the multitude were excited to such exasperation as loudly to clamor for his condemnation, even before the accused should have had any opportunity for defence. The judges shared fully the prevailing feeling, and plied importunity and threat to the utmost. Spinoza answered sharply and with sarcasms.
Morteira, apprised of the perilous position into which his pupil was brought, hastened to the assembly, determined to correct and recover him. He reminded him of the great pains taken for his early education, the deep solicitude and devotion of the teacher through all these years, and of the strong obligations of gratitude that bound the pupil. Was this to be the requital ? Would he thus disappoint the cherished hope, become an outcast and a curse, and meet, as he must, the avenging wrath of the Almighty? His sin was great and damning; but here and now was opportunity for repentance.
Spinoza was nothing moved by all this and much more, the specious argumentation, and passionate in terrorem appeals. Nothing could sway him from the steadfastness of his belief, and he replied only as became a free man. Fully conscious, as he declared, of the weight of the threat, and of the power for personal injury his enemies had over him, he yet had nothing to retract, could equivocate in nothing. Morteira, chafed and enraged that he could effect nothing, vowed his excommunication. He deemed that the threat would, ere the day for its execution, intimidate and subdue him ; but the result showed that he had not yet learned what qualities of courage and persistence were in that young man.
Bribery and assassination were each in turn attempted. A pension of a thousand florins was offered him, on condition he should keep still, and assist from time to time in the ceremonies. The proffer was rejected with scorn. Soon after, as he was returning one evening from the synagogue, he saw the gleam of the assassin's knife before him. He parried the blow, and the instrument penetrated no deeper than his coat. The garment he preserved, and used sometimes to exhibit as a memorial.
Meanwhile the synagogue went on preparing the excommunication. Among the different forms of excommunication, that pronounced against Spinoza was the severest known to the Jewish ritual, full of direst imprecations. Mingled with the utterance of the execration and the curse were certain scenic representations, designed to impress upon the beholders a deep sense of the horrid fate to which the outcast was consigned. There were dismal chantings, and the shrill notes of a trumpet, black wax-candles lighted and held reversed, that they might fall drop by drop into a tub filled with blood, and finally plunged of a sudden therein.
Spinoza was about twenty-three years old when thus renounced, made a hated outcast from his kindred and people, and thrown solitary and unfriended upon Gentile hospitalities. He received the sentence with calmness; is reported to have said, when the account of it was related to him, (he was not present at the time, for he had voluntarily left the synagogue before,) “ They compel me never to anything which I would not otherwise have done of myself.” He wrote a defence of himself in the Spanish tongue, a work never printed, but probe ably given in substance in one of the chapters of the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus.
The house of Van den Ende afforded him a refuge ; he prosecuted his studies, and, as compensation for board and tuition received, was after a time to assist in the school. With a daughter of Van den Ende, herself also an assistant in the school, he fell deeply in love, and would fain have wed her. But he had too powerful a rival in one Kerkering, a young Hamburgher and a fellow-pupil, who, being able to make costly gifts of pearl and jewels, carried off the fair prize, and our young philosopher again found himself in deep solitude. The disappointment, however, though severe, was not crushing, for he was erelong himself again, and buried more deeply in studies than ever.
Hardly content to spend his time altogether in the business of school instruction, and desirous to become in such measure as he might independent and free for his chosen pursuits, he learned the glass-polisher's trade, polishing for microscopes and telescopes. His acquaintance with mathematics and optics was intimate, giving him superior advantage in this manufacture ; his friends took care for the sale of his wares, and the reputation of these became erelong so good as to give them a ready market.
The Jewish hierarchy moved the authorities for the banishment of this young “ blasphemer" from the city. They referred the matter for investigation to the reformed clergy, and these in turn, with characteristic intolerance, - an intolerance hardly less intense in those days with Protestants than with Papists and Jews, — took sides with the Jewish inquisitors, and decided for the banishment. Spinoza, accounting himself already unsafe in Amsterdam, since the attempt at assassination, withdrew to the house of a friend a short way from the city, where he found shelter in deep seclusion. In 1660 he removed to Rhynburg, near Leyden, and here commenced that life of exclusive devotion to meditation and study which he henceforth uninterruptedly led. By nature of a deeply meditative turn, his experiences of life had wrought in the same direction. His renunciation and bitter persecution by his own people, his disappointment in love, his deep isolation and solitude from all, doubtless contributed much to throw him in upon himself.
His acquaintance with the Latin tongue gave him access to Des Cartes, who was at this time a great name in Europe, especially in Holland, where he had lived and taught. In this philosopher was opened a new mine to him. Here was recognition of the realm of substance, affirmation of the authority
and transcendent worth of the ideas of the soul; and Spinoza became an ardent, though not a blind disciple.
The fruit of these studies appeared, in 1663, in a work entitled Renati Des Cartes Principia Philosophie, the only writing he ever published over his full name. Here he substitutes for his Hebrew prænomen Baruch the equiralent Latin Benedictus. The Principia is a clear and impressive exposition in geometric method of the leading points of the Cartesian philosophy, while the Appendix contains certain metaphysical reflections of his own. He had also in readiness and desired to publish another work, the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, but the reception of the Principia among his countrymen did not offer him such encouragement as he had hoped.
The Principia, however, attracted the attention and admiration of cultivated and thoughtful men everywhere. Numbers came to visit the young author, and he had a large correspondence. But there were trials and manifold embarrassments. Bigotry did what it could to cripple him and subject him to outlawry. He seems to have found no abidingplace; he was at the Hague, at Voorburg, at Schiedam, at Amsterdam, and again at Voorburg, all in the space of three years. Mention is made in one of the letters of this time of “ manifold businesses and solicitudes, — almost too great for extrication.” Many a battle, he observes, must one fight, ere he can have attained to full freedom, holding the world under his feet. “ Love towards the Eternal and the Infinite fills the soul with joy alone, and it knows no sorrow.”
From 1666 to 1670 he seems to have resided at Voorburg, and a part of the time in the family of one Tideman, a painter. With him he studied the art of design, and became an expert. Men of affairs as well as men of letters sought his presence, military men, merchants, and statesmen; among them the celebrated Jan de Witt, who was, not only strongly attracted, but deeply impressed by Spinoza. At the instance of these friends he removed, in 1670, to the Hague, where he remained to the end of his life. He resided at first with a widow Van Velde, but for considerations of economy he took quarters erelong in the house of one Van der Spyck, a military official, and also a painter.