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Re: [spinoza-ethics] third form of knowledge and how to achieve it

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  • Terry Neff
    Hi John and All, You wrote in part (snipping for brevity the propositions): ... ...and... ... Thank You for sharing with us these propositions from Spinoza s
    Message 1 of 2 , Apr 24, 2009
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      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 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.

      Thank You for sharing with us these propositions from Spinoza's Ethics
      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
      the case.

      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:

      ====== TEI-P24(21):
      ...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

      Best Regards,
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