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Robert Bridges, ed. (1844–1930). The Spirit of Man: An Anthology. 1916.

From De Intellectus Emendatione

Baruch Spinoza 1632–1677

Spinoza is telling of himself.
AFTER experience had taught me that the common occurrences of ordinary life are vain and futile, and I saw that all the objects of my desire and fear were in themselves nothing good nor bad, save in so far as the mind was affected by them; I at length determined to search out whether there were not something truly good and communicable to man, by which his spirit might be affected to the exclusion of all other things: yea, whether there were anything, through the discovery and acquisition of which I might enjoy continuous and perfect gladness for ever. I say that I at length determined, because at first sight it seemed ill-advised to renounce things, in the possession of which I was assured, for the sake of what was yet uncertain…. I therefore turned over in my mind whether it might be possible to come at this new way, or at least to the certitude of its existence, without changing my usual way of life, [a compromise] which I had often attempted before, but in vain. For the things that commonly happen in life and are esteemed among men as the highest good (as is witnessed by their works) can be reduced to these three, Riches, Fame, and Lust; and by these the mind is so distracted that it can scarcely think of any other good. With regard to Lust, the mind is as much absorbed thereby as if it had attained rest in some good: and this hinders it from thinking of anything else. But after fruition a great sadness follows, which, if it do not absorb the mind, will yet disturb and blunt it…. But love directed towards the eternal and infinite feeds the mind with pure joy, and is free from all sadness. Wherefore it is greatly to be desired, and to be sought after with our whole might … [and] although I could perceive this quite clearly in my mind, I could not at once lay aside all greed and lust and honour…. One thing I could see, and that was that so long as the mind was turned upon this new way, it was deflected, and seriously engaged therein; which was a great comfort to me; for I saw that those evils were not such as would not yield to remedies: and though at first these intervals were rare and lasted but a short while, yet afterwards the true good became more and more evident to me, and these intervals more frequent and of longer duration.