Spinoza and the Prophecies

                                                                                                            by Caroline Leclerc

            Les prophecies sont des faits aléatoires,des observations et des comprehensions claires de certaines choses, de certains faits et de certains états, sans pour autant connaitre rationnellement les vrais causes de la Nature.  C’est une revelation de la sagesse de Dieu.”

Prophecies are perceptions or windows of the Absolute Truth, or God as we like to name it.  We can’t see everything because of our human limitations produced by our temper and opinions, constructed by the society where we live and by our own experiences.  Our knowledge and personality give us therefore a personal interpretation of what could be the revelation from God.  This was, what, I think, Spinoza tried to explain in his text A Theologico – Political Treatise of Prophets.

Prophecies are then interpretations of signs of God that some men an imagine, see, hear or even feel.  I agree with Benedict de Spinoza that prophets did not have the real knowledge of Nature’s laws, but neither did he nor us.  My understanding of it is that the prophet could be certain of his assumptions; knowing and seeing that all the elements and factors present and given, occur in one clear direction.  It is then called prophecies because it has predicted a future among all the probabilities where we live.  In some way, prophecies are the revealed order created from Chaos.

Spinoza wrote that revelation comes out of absurdity (p.17), an absurdity for human’s reason and the rationality of our contemporary time (or evolution).  From Spinoza’s life, and since then, certain attitudes and beliefs toward God and Nature had been lost to new ones radically opposed to these.  During this turning point, where scientific knowledge was taking over religion and the worship of nature, a pessimistic view was floating within the intellectual minds.  They became disillusioned by the Scriptures meanings and were not at ease with the wisdom of the parables that were being taught.  Revelations were not taken into consideration anymore, the logic of that period was to ask for qualitative and quantitative proofs.

However, I personally consider that the biblical Scriptures, with their prophets and revelations were only a stage of the human evolution; expressing in images and words (that they knew and could relate to their creative mind) the answers of existential questions that were compromising them.  The Bible and its Scriptures are beautiful stories describing some universal principles, but they are also an informative history with complex cultures and well organized structures, which have dealt with the situations of their time; like as well with Spinoza’s.

The emotions of human beings, through their life’s experiences, put themselves in a quest for the pure answers, the ones that lead us up to a level of the universal knowledge, “the Wisdom of God.”  These questions are born from our fears of loosing control and not being to survive and to become a perfect being.  To feed that fear, we first unconsciously believe in some existing power that created all, and being part of all.  To find the answers it seems to need awareness, faith, knowledge of the world and knowledge of ourselves and about nature.  The prophets were conscious of some of these truths, and because of their skills as orators, leaders or negotiators had been able to build a Faith, which was putting order in the mind’s collectivity.  They put words, which interpreted their vision, using a limited language, and visualizing symbolically the holy wisdom given.  The collectivity would now be able to build their minds and imaginations around some principles and beliefs.  But as any other strong ideology, the Western religions (i.e. Judaism and Christianity) have lost their meaningful power of what life is to be, to the scientific thought during the Enlightenment of the 17th century.  Most intellectuals (except some, like Newton and Descartes) have been deceived by the answers given from the religious Scriptures.  Not everyone could have revelations from the Lord, and despite their strong minds, they often received no insights from God giving affirmation that what they were doing was right.

The loss of faith toward a Supreme Being, which we could not see, slowly evolves into the rebels’ mind.  The question was then, “Does God indeed exist?”  If we, as humans, can understand and conceptualize the world and nature by ourselves, using reason rather than our spiritualized beliefs for something that cannot be proven, why should we believe then in Scriptures and in the teaching of religion?  Benedict de Spinoza thought that the prophets had only a great and incredible imagination, not knowing exactly the facts that were really occurring.  But let’s imagine for as second that a man like him receive some revelations about himself and his reality through dreams, and by a creature of his own imagination.  Would he put more faith in it? And try to prophesize it to the others, by writing a book?

Spinoza and his comrades were only using other words and other interpretations of what they saw and comprehended about Nature and Life.  Perhaps, since the Scientific Revolution, we have lost sense of the great awareness and wisdom of our ancestors.  Nowadays, revelations could be translated (by other words and interpretations), into scientific discoveries and understanding of our reality constructed by society.

Every man as so every prophet sees the world and reality according to their intimate opinions.  We have the proof with science’s thoughts that some great men have made evolve our society by the way they saw their world.  They had answers for their time.  It gives a style to each prophecy, but as even with God, we shall look for the meaning behind the Scriptural words.