Selection from – On the Improvement of the Understanding (Page 7)

Spinoza's Words: (on the chief good of life)

However, human weakness cannot attain to this order in its
own thoughts, but meanwhile man conceives a human character much more
stable than his own, and sees that there is no reason why he should
not himself acquire such a character. Thus he is led to seek
for means which will bring him to this pitch of perfection, and
calls everything which will serve as such means a true good.

The chief good is that he should arrive, together with other
individuals if possible, at the possession of the aforesaid
character. What that character is we shall show in due time,
namely, that it is the knowledge of the union existing between
the mind and the whole of nature.


Spinoza has taken a chance on us. He has revealed his trump card. Thrown it out on the table without much preparation. The true good is the knowledge of the union existing being the mind and the whole of nature. The words are straightforward but their implication is not immediately evident. There is a relationship stated here and it is cosmic. The whole of nature is involved. And you and I. Spinoza remains impersonal here as he is throughout all his writings. He says that the human mind, he means us – we have a connection with all that is. Staggering, if true.

A union between us and the whole of nature? A place in nature. A relationship, a dependency? Well, yes, we are beginning to be aware that we are not special beings, lords of creation. We are one of the creatures of this earth. We are umbilical to our Earth mother. Made by natural laws and processes, belonging to nature. We are beginning to acknowledge that we are part of nature; we are beginning to catch up to Spinoza. He is here just getting started. His life was given to explaining this connection.