third form of knowledge and how to achieve it
- Friends of Spinoza,
It strikes me there are two broad themes in Spinoza's Ethics:
1. All things happen according to God's will, i.e. all things happen by necessity and nothing is contingent.
2. Our greatest good is to love God through the third form of knowledge, i.e. through an intuitive knowledge of concrete things.
In support of the first point, I would offer the following propositions:
E1:PROP. 29. Nothing in the universe is contingent, but all things are conditioned to exist and operate in a particular manner by the necessity of the divine nature.
E1:PROP. 33. Things could not have been brought into being by God in any manner or in any order different from that which has in fact obtained.
E2: PROP. 44. It is not in the nature of reason to regard things as contingent, but as necessary.
E2: PROP. 44, Corollary 1.--Hence it follows, that it is only through our imagination that we consider things, whether in respect to the future or the past, as contingent.
E5: PROP. 6. The mind has greater power over the emotions and is less subject thereto, in so far as it understands all things as necessary.
E5: PROP. 6, Note. --The more this knowledge, that things are necessary, is applied to particular things, which we conceive more distinctly and vividly, the greater is the power of the mind over the emotions, as experience also testifies.
In support of the second point, I would offer the following propositions:
E5: PROP. 25. The highest endeavour of the mind and the highest virtue is to understand things by the third kind of knowledge.
E5: PROP. 27. From this third kind of knowledge arises the highest possible mental acquiescence.
I have no trouble with the first point, that all things happen by necessity. This is a potent truth and can be practiced frequently throughout the day and as part of formal meditation. Seeing the necessity of "what is" makes for contentment and peace. It is the rational version of the prayer, "Thy will be done".
On the issue of loving God through the third form of knowledge, I am somewhat perplexed. I do not find Spinoza's definition of the third form of knowledge at all comprehensible. I do understand the following propositions:
E5: PROP. 3. An emotion, which is a passion, ceases to be a passion, as soon as we form a clear and distinct idea thereof.
E5: PROP. 3, Corollary.--An emotion therefore becomes more under our control, and the mind is less passive in respect to it, in proportion as it is more known to us.
E5: PROP. 4. There is no modification of the body, whereof we cannot form some clear and distinct conception.
E5: PROP. 4, Corollary.--Hence it follows that there is no emotion, whereof we cannot form some clear and distinct conception.
E5: PROP. 15. He who clearly and distinctly understands himself and his emotions loves God, and so much the more in proportion as he more understands himself and his emotions.
E5: PROP. 16. This love towards God must hold the chief place in the mind.
E5: PROP. 24. The more we understand particular things, the more do we understand God.
These propositions lead one in the direction of loving God according to the third form of knowledge, but they don't quite take you there; something still seems to be missing. Yet the third floor of knowledge seems to be absolutely central to Spinoza's message on how one arrives at Blessedness or Salvation. Can anyone help me out to understand how to develop and practice this third form of knowledge? Thank you in advance.
- Hi John and All,
You wrote in part (snipping for brevity the propositions):
> I have no trouble with the first point, that all things happen by
> necessity. This is a potent truth and can be practiced frequently
> throughout the day and as part of formal meditation. Seeing the
> necessity of "what is" makes for contentment and peace. It is
> the rational version of the prayer, "Thy will be done".
> On the issue of loving God through the third form of knowledge,
> I am somewhat perplexed. I do not find Spinoza's definition of
> the third form of knowledge at all comprehensible. I do
> understand the following propositions:
> These propositions lead one in the direction of loving GodThank You for sharing with us these propositions from Spinoza's Ethics
> according to the third form of knowledge, but they don't quite
> take you there; something still seems to be missing. Yet the
> third floor of knowledge seems to be absolutely central to
> Spinoza's message on how one arrives at Blessedness or Salvation.
> Can anyone help me out to understand how to develop and
> practice this third form of knowledge? Thank you in advance.
which I must say I agree with as being very helpful also in my own
meditations. Has your list changed over time? and do you sometimes have
moments during your purposeful meditations, or, maybe even more powerfully,
moments during your ordinary life activities, when your mind seems to open
up to Reality Itself apart from any words and images (whether in
propositional form or as poetry, etc.)?, and where no particular images hold
any place other than perhaps as background scenery on what also appears to
be no more than a stage play in which you find yourself simply repeating
your lines and actions from your own memory patterns? If you have not been
aware of something like such moments, where you see that "the world" you
perceive is actually your own body's sense and memory patterns, it may be
because you are expecting the Third Kind of Knowledge to be just the next
step (but still a step) or the next link in a chain of reason which is not
For me, in moments such as these, even Spinoza's propositions, having
served their purpose of guiding my thinking up the Grand Staircase of Reason
(see Spinoza's Short Treatise, Part 2, Chapter 26) far enough for the moment
that I can now catch a glimpse directly of that towards which he has been
aiming, become nothing more than the treasure map in my hand as my mind
becomes one with the Actual Inner Treasure which has always been there and
which has only seemed to have been hidden and in need of being dis-covered.
This to me is the nature of the "experience" (for lack of a better term) of
Third Kind of Knowledge. And although, as Spinoza pointed out...:
====== E5: PROP. 28:
The endeavour or desire to know things by the third kind of knowledge
cannot arise from the first, but from the second kind of knowledge.
...still, the Second Kind of Knowledge (Reason), which he has been
expressing throughout the Ethics even in the last half of Part 5 where he
reasons about the Third Kind of Knowledge, is following a chain of adequate
ideas while the Third Kind of Knowledge is direct or immediate and the ideas
are "all together at once" --without any steps or process in between as he
expressed here for instance:
...Mathematicians, however, know by the proof of the nineteenth proposition
of the seventh book of Euclid [by Reason, as is also expressed in the
Ethics. --TNeff], what numbers are proportionals, namely, from the nature
and property of proportion it follows that the product of the first and
fourth will be equal to the product of the second and third: still they do
not see the adequate proportionality of the given numbers or, if they do see
it, they see it not by virtue of Euclid's proposition [and, again in the
case of the Ethics, not by virtue of Spinoza's propositions. --TNeff], but
intuitively, without going through any process.
Spinoza points again toward that Great Difference between what he has
expressed in the Ethics using the process of Reason, and those "same
conclusions" drawn directly from Intuitive Knowledge of the mind itself, and
of God and of things when he writes:
====== E5: PROP. 36 Corollary, Note:
...the knowledge of particular things, which I have called intuitive or of
the third kind (E2P40N2), is potent, and more powerful than the universal
knowledge, which I have styled knowledge of the second kind. For, although
in Part 1 I showed in general terms, that all things (and consequently,
also, the human mind) depend as to their essence and existence on God, yet
that demonstration, though legitimate and placed beyond the chances of
doubt, does not affect our mind so much, as when the same conclusion is
derived from the actual essence of some particular thing, which we say
depends on God.
And just what is that "particular thing", the "actual essence" of which
our mind affirms directly? The proposition which plays in the background of
many of my "higher moments" or which comes to mind as these moments fade
away and I fall back into "ordinary life" is this:
====== E5: PROP. 30:
Our mind, in so far as it knows itself and the body under the form of
eternity, has to that extent necessarily a knowledge of God, and knows that
it is in God, and is conceived through God.
One of the hardest things I have found to do, when trying to follow
Spinoza's propositions, is to recognize when to "set aside" or to "look up
from" the treasure map and to realize that the Treasured "Union existing
between the mind and the whole of nature" belongs already to my own
Essential Nature and is not a step along the staircase of reason.
This may not be much help in response to your desire "to understand how
to develop and practice this third form of knowledge" but the question puts
me in mind of Jonathan Livingston Seagull and the response he received from
Chiang, one of his teachers, when Jonathan asked him for help in improving
and perfecting his flying.
--------- Chiang replied:
"To fly as fast as thought, to anywhere that is, you must begin by knowing
that you have already arrived..."
Intuitive Knowledge is already ours, we do not develop it by reason.
Reason's staircase only helps us to rise up out of the confusion of your own