The Spinozist

writing by Paul Mendrik


My name is Paul Mendrik, I’m interested in how it feels to exist - and the possibilities of sentience. My writing examines that liminal space between what is and what might become.

My basic sentiment is that we will all die, that nothing of ours will remain. The universe is vast, weird and mostly unknown to us, yet here we are alive, sentient and vile. So we might as well kick life squarely in the pants, and live with as much vigour, zest and kindness as we can muster. Doing so is an integral, ecological project: equal parts individual responsibility and sociocultural design.

With a degree in philosophy, and studying for a phD, The Spinozist reflects my reading and writing; it advocates the benefits of Spinoza's thinking and how it can help us overcome our ever-increasing existentialist anxiety in a world of confusion and despair.

Some time ago, something happened to me that can only be described by one term: I was broken. I suddenly found myself wandering in a field of ruins , where, I discovered that the path I had followed bordered on the unreal, but it was the path my talent or rather my talents had shown me.

I discovered the absurdity of the domination of my talented nature and the subjugation to myself. Fortunately, I was given the compassion which enabled me to break out of this state. In September 2014, I was fully prepared to die, and let everything die with me. Nevertheless there was no question I could allow this to happen. Most men live only for what they are intended for and for that for which they were designed. I could never know what love was, because you only know it if you love and if you are loved yourself. You never wake up for yourself. Love gives life even to what has died outside of itself.

This epiphany let me to discover Spinoza, a philosopher , who was admired by such luminaries as Holderlin, Heine, Goethe, Nietzche, and Albert Einstein. He continues to be as popular today, influencing the growth of democratic, secular, philosophical and scientific thought among ethicists, radical political theorists, environmentalists and philosophers.

To Spinoza, God is an unlimited Reality, a Being whose intelligent structure endlessly unfolds in the universe we know. 

For Spinoza, in one interpretation, the universe is one giant mind, since all that exists possesses both extension in space-time and consciousness (res and cogitas). 

The universe is not a person, and does not will one thing over another, but rather wills all that occurs, continually, out of its own being. God does not create for any reason, God simply creates whatever is possible to create according to the laws of God’s own being. All things are “modes”, or lawful transformations, of God’s being, which applies to parakeets, supernovas, me and you and Donald Trump.

Clearly, there is a lot more to Spinoza’s philosophy, his radical and brilliant ideas about human freedom, mind-body monism, the structure of human emotions, and the way to happiness. 

Spinoza’s God has awareness, being, intelligent structure and lawfulness, and everything unfolds forever out of, and within, it’s immensely powerful heart. Spinoza’s God has more in common with that of the Neo-Platonists, or the most radical interpretations of Kabbalah, but Spinoza’s God does not care. Einstein, when questioned by a Rabbi, said, “I believe in Spinoza’s God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with the fates and actions of human beings.”

Spinoza’s vision of “God, or nature” (deus sive natura) allows us to see the universe as an intelligent unity, and even to love it in its miraculous beauty and interconnectedness — if we can transcend our human desire, it can work for our benefit.