P O L I T I C A L
TR E A T I S E
In which it is shown that the Freedom of Philosophising can not
only be allowed safe to Piety and a Republicís Peace: but
it cannot be taken away except at the same time with
the Republicís Peace and Piety.
I John: Chp. IV. vers: XIII.
By this we know that we abide in God, and God abides
in us, because he has given us of his spirit.
Published by Henry Künraht. 1670.
If human beings were able to govern all their affairs by certain deliberation, or if fortune were always favourable to them, they would be bound by no superstition. But, because they are often directed into difficulties, so that no deliberation is able to arrive, and many, because of the uncertain goods of fortune, which they desire without measure, miserably fluctuate between hope and fear: they therefore have a mind[animus] which is very prone to any believing, which, while it is in doubt, is quickly driven here and there, and is much more easily at a loss while excited in hope and fear, [they are] in turn over-confident, boastful and vain. And I think no-one is ignorant of this, although I believe many to be ignorant of themselves. No-one, indeed, has lived among human beings, who has not seen many in favourable affairs, even though they are very inexperienced, to overflow in wisdom, so that they believe there is an injury done to them if anyone wishes to give them a deliberation; however, in unfavourable affairs, in which they donít know which way to turn, and they seek, as suppliants, deliberation from anyone, there is not anything so stupid, so absurd or futile they hear which they will not follow: then, because of trivial causes they now hope for better things, and again they fear worse things. If, indeed, they see anything, while they live in fear, come about which recalls the memory of some former good or bad thing, they think that it announces a result either happy or unhappy, which therefore, although it has failed a hundred times, they call it an auspicious or inauspicious omen. If they then see something unusual with great wonder, they believe it is a portent, which indicates the anger of the gods or of the highest divine-power, which indeed human beings hold it unholy not to worship by sacrifices and offerings, being prone to superstition, being the opposite of religion; and they most of all make it up endlessly, and as if all of nature were insane with them, they interpret it in amazing modes. Since, therefore, they themselves hold this opinion, then, we especially see those who are most prone to every sort of superstition desire uncertain things without measure, all these [do so] exceedingly when they are in dangers and are not able [to bring] help to themselves, they implore divine help by offerings and womanish tears, and reason (because it is not able to show a certain path to the futile things which they desire) they call blind, and human wisdom, futile: and to believe that the delusions of the imagination, dreams and childish follies are divine answers, indeed God rejects the wise and inscribed his commands not in the mind[mens], but in the entrails of beasts, or fools and madmen and birds preach them by divine inspiration and instinct. Such dread makes human beings insane! And thus, the cause from which superstition arises, is preserved and favoured, is fear. If anyone wants to know a single example of this thing, which was said just before, let him observe Alexander, who, at last, began to summon the seers because of his superstition of mind[animus], when he first learnt to fear fortune in the passes of Sysis: however, after he conquered Darius, he stopped consulting soothsayers and seers, until, again terrified by the badness of the time, because the Bactrians had deserted and the Scythians were threatening a battle, while he, from a wound, lay inactive, again (as Curtius, bk.7.c.7., says) he turns around to superstition, the delusion of human minds [mens]; Aristandrus, to whom he had admitted his credulity, he ordered to find out the outcome of things by sacrifices. And after this mode; very many examples can be brought forth, which as clearly as possible show this; human beings, if hardened by fear, are affected by superstition; all these [portents], which ever invested religion, have been nothing but phantasms and delusions of the mind[animus], sad and timid: and then seers in the greatest difficulties of imperium rule the masses entirely and are most fearful to their rulers. But since this is common enough, I think, I will cease with these things.
From this, therefore, the cause of superstition clearly follows, all human beings are by nature prone to superstition; whatever others say, who think this to arise so, that all mortals have some confused idea of a divine-power. It follows, then, it ought to be, at the same time, most various and inconstant as all foolish things and violence of fury, and also it is maintained only by hope, hate, anger and deceit; doubtless, since it does not arise from reason [it arises] from the most effective emotion alone. Thus, how easy it is, that human beings are captured by any kind of superstition, so difficult is it to bring it about that they stay in one [course]: indeed, since the vulgar are always miserably enduring, therefore, never is it content for long, but only to that which pleases it most, which is new and which has not yet failed, indeed, this inconstancy was the cause of many rebellions and cruel wars. For, as from a mode of speaking, is it so found, and also Curtius bk.4.chp.10. has noted it best, nothing rules the multitude more effectively than superstition. Whence it comes about, that it is easily led by the form of religion, now to adore their rulers as gods, and then to curse them and to abhor them as the common plague of the human race. So as to avoid this evil, therefore, a great effort was employed, dressing up religion, true or false, with ceremony and pomp, so that in every alteration it would be held more impressive and would be worshipped in high observance by all: which [aim], indeed, has become most successful by the Turks, who even hold it unholy to dispute, and they fill the judgement of everyone with so many prejudices that they leave no place in the mind[mens] for sound reason, even for doubting.
But indeed, if in a monarchic regime the highest secret consists entirely in having human beings deceived; and they represent fear, in which they must be restrained, in the specious name of religion, that they fight for slavery as if for salvation, and they think it not disgraceful but the highest honour to threaten blood and soul for the boasting of one human being: on the other hand, in a free republic, nothing could be contrived or held to be more unhappy, inasmuch as it is entirely contrary to the common freedom, to fill the judgement of anyone with prejudices or to force them in any mode. And because it concerns seditions, which are stirred up by the form of religion, which really only arise because laws are written on speculative things, and because opinions are held and condemned as wicked as crimes, the defenders and followers of which are sacrificed, not for the public safety, but only to the hate and savageness of their adversaries. But if by the right of imperium only deeds could be charged, and speeches be safe, such seditions would be able to put on no form of right, nor could controversies be changed into seditions. Thus, since this rare happiness has come to pass to us, that we live in a republic, where the freedom of judging is complete and to worship God by his own ability is granted, and where nothing is more dear than freedom, nor is held more pleasant, I believed that I would be making a thing not ungrateful nor useless, if I were to show this freedom is not only to be granted safe to piety and the republicís peace but, moreover, at the same time it cannot be taken away unless with that very peace and piety of the republic. And this is the chief thing, which I have chosen to demonstrate in this treatise: to which it was especially necessary to indicate the chief prejudices on religion, that is, the traces of ancient slavery, then also the prejudices on the right of the highest powers, which many seize upon most boldly by some great licence for the [most] part, and they are eager by the form of religion to turn away from them the mind[animus] of the multitude, still prone to the superstition of the gentiles, and throw everyone into slavery again. But in what order these things are shown, I shall now say a few words. But before [this] I shall teach the causes which impelled me to write.
I have often wondered that human beings who claim to profess themselves of the Christian religion, that is, love, joy, peace, continence, and faith towards all, more fight in an evil mind[animus] and harass each other most bitterly with hate every day, thus that the faith of each is known more easily by these things than by those. Just now indeed the matter has reached this, that just about nobody, whoever he is, can know a Christian, Turk, Jew, or Pagan, unless by the external disposition of body and worship, or that he visits this or that church, or again, that he is bound by this or that opinion and is accustomed to swear by the words of some magistrate. Therefore, seeking the cause of this evil I have not doubted that it has arisen from here, that to value the ministries of church, dignitaries and its offices as favours, and to hold pastors in highest honour, were [due] to vulgar religion. At the same time, indeed, as this abuse began in the churches, immediately there arose a great lust in those most bad for holy offices of administrating, and love of propagating divine religion [arose] into sordid avarice and ambition, and thus the temple itself degenerated into a theatre, where not learned ecclesiastics but orators are heard. None of whom are held by the desire of teaching the people, but by striving for admiration of themselves and by publicly harassing dissenters and by only teaching things which are new and unusual, and what the vulgar would most of all admire. Whence really great contentions were bound to arise, which no amount of time could calm. It is not therefore wonderful, that nothing remains of the ancient religion except its external worship (in which the vulgar seems more to adulate God than to adore him) and that faith now is nothing other than credulity and prejudice. But what prejudices? Those which render human beings from [being] rational to [being] brutes, inasmuch as it entirely impedes anyone from using his free judgement and distinguishing true from false, and which seems as if [they are] works devised for extinguishing utterly the light of the understanding.  Piety, O Immortal God, and religion consist of absurd magic and those who entirely despise reason and scorn and turn aside the understanding as by nature corrupt, they really, which is very pernicious, are believed to have divine light. If they really had even a spark of divine light, they would not so proudly be insane, but would learn to worship God more prudently, as they now [excel] in hate, they would on the contrary excel in love amongst others; they would not persecute them with a hostile mind[animus] who do not feel as themselves, but rather (since they fear for their salvation and not their fortune) they should pity. Further, if they had any divine light, it at least would be settled from [their] doctrine. I confess that they have never been able to wonder enough about scriptureís most profound mysteries; however, I see that they have taught nothing but the speculations of Aristotelians and Platonists, and lest the gentiles would seem to conflict, they accommodate the Scripture to them. It was not enough for them to be insane with the Greeks, but they wished that the prophets be crazy with them too: which really clearly shows, that they donít see Scriptureís divinity even in sleep. And these mysteries are earnestly wondered at, which shows rather, that they themselves not so much believe Scripture as assent [to it]. It is also plain from this that many suppose as a foundation (that for, namely, its understanding and its true sense to be drawn out) it is everywhere true and divine; this indeed ought to be settled not before its intellection and severe examination, and we would be much better taught from it, which least of all needs human fictions, they set it up as a rule for its interpretation on the first threshold.
When I weighed carefully in my mind[animus] these things therefore, namely that natural light not only is condemned, but by many is damned as the fount of impiety, and that human inventions are held for divine models, faith valued as credulity, and controversies of philosophers debated in church and in the senate-house in the highest furies of mind[animus], and then most savage hates and disagreements into which human beings easily fall, and very many others, which it would be too long to narrate here, I paid attention to begin: diligently I set up to examine Scripture on a new, fresh and free mind[animus], and to assert nothing about it and to admit nothing of its doctrine which I was not most clearly taught by it. By this provision, therefore, I produced a method of interpreting the sacred volumes and this having been prepared, I began to seek before everything [else] what is prophecy, and for what reason God revealed himself to the prophets, and why these were accepted by God; whether, of course, therefore, they had sublime thoughts on God and nature, or, in truth, because of their piety alone? After I knew these things, I was easily able to determine that the authority of the prophets has weight only in those things which concern the use of life and true virtue; and their other opinions scarcely touch us. These things having been known, I sought then what it was for that the Hebrews were called the chosen of God. When, indeed, I saw that this was nothing other than that God chose for them a certain area of the earth, where they could live securely and conveniently; after this I learnt that the revealed laws of Moses from God were nothing other than the rights of the singular imperium of the Hebrews and further that excepting these [people] no-one is bound to accept those [laws]; indeed, these [Hebrews] are also not bound by those [laws] unless their imperium stands. Further, so that I might know whether it was able to be concluded from Scripture that the human understanding was by nature corrupt, I wished to inquire whether catholic religion or the divine law revealed by the prophets and the apostles to the entire human race was different from that which natural light also teaches; and then whether miracles happen against the order of nature, and whether they teach Godís existence and providence more certainly and clearly than the things which we understand clearly and distinctly through their first causes. But, since I found in these things, which Scripture expressly teaches, nothing which did not agree with the understanding, and which was contrary to it, and therefore I saw that the prophets taught nothing unless very simple things, which were able to be perceived easily by anyone, and that they adorned [Scripture] in a style and confirmed it by reasons which would most of all move the mind [animus] of the multitude to devotion to God: I was entirely convinced that Scripture leaves reason absolutely free and has nothing in common with philosophy, but that each stands on its own footing. So that I may apodictically show these things however, and determine the whole affair, I show by what way Scripture must be interpreted, and that the whole of it and knowledge of spiritual things must be sought from it alone and not from those things which we know by natural light. From here I go over to the prejudices to be shown, which have arisen because the vulgar are devoted to superstition, and because [the vulgar] loves the remnants of time above eternity itself, [the vulgar] adores more the books of Scripture than the very word of God. After these things I show that the revealed word of god is not some certain number of books, but was revealed to the prophets as a simple concept of the divine mind[mens]; namely, to obey God with your whole mind[animus], practising justice and Love. And I show this, that it is taught in the Scripture in accordance with the grasp and opinions of those among whom the prophets and apostles used to preach this word of God; which they did so, so that human beings would embrace it without any resistance and by their whole mind[animus]. Having shown, then, the foundations of faith, I then conclude, that the object of revealed knowledge is nothing except obedience, and therefore that it is in object entirely different from natural knowledge, as in its foundations and means, and has nothing in common with this, and as with this so with that, and gains its kingdom without any resistance by the other, and neither of the two ought to be the handmaid. Further, since the ability of human beings is very variable, and someone finds more pleasure in these, another in those, opinions and because this moves one to religion, another to laughter, I then conclude with what was said above, that the freedom and power of the judgement of each person, and the foundations of faith from his own ability of interpreting, must be left alone and the faith of each should be judged by his deeds alone, whether they be pious or impious. Thus, therefore, all would be able to obey god by their whole and free mind[animus], and justice and Love alone among all will be in value. After these things I have shown the freedom, which revealed divine law grants to everyone, I proceed to another part of the question; namely, that this same freedom can and should be granted safe to the republicís peace and the right of the highest powers, nor can it be removed without great danger to peace and great detriment to the whole republic. For this to be demonstrated I begin with the natural right of everyone; which of course extends itself so far as the desire and the power of everyone extend themselves, and that no-one by the right of nature is bound to live by anotherís ability, but everyone is the protector of his own freedom. Further I show no-one in fact gives up this right, unless someone transfers to another the power of defending himself, and he by necessity absolutely retains this natural right, in whom everyone transferred their right from their own particular ability of living at the same time with the power of defending themselves. And from here I show those who hold highest imperium, the right to everything they can have, that they are the sole protectors of right and freedom, and the rest must do everything by their command alone. But since no-one can so deprive his own power to defend himself, so that he ceases to be a human being, from here I conclude, that no-one can be absolutely deprived of his natural right, but the subjects retain some [rights] as if by the right of nature, which cannot be removed without great danger to the imperium, and so which are either silently conceded or bargained for with those who hold the imperium. These things having been concluded, I go over to the republic of the Hebrews, which, as I show by what reason and by the command of whom religion began to have the force of right, and incidentally other things also, which by decree seemed fitting, I describe fully enough. After these things I show, those who hold the highest imperium, not just of civil right, but they are also protectors and interpreters of sacred [right], and those alone have the right of discerning what is just, what unjust, what pious, what impious. And, at last, I conclude that they best retain this right and can wholly save the imperium, if only it is granted to everyone both to feel what he wishes and to say what he feels.
These are the things, philosophical reader, which here I give to you to be examined, and which I am confident will be not unwelcome because of the outstandingness and usefulness of the argument, of the whole work and of every chapter. I could have added many things; but I do not wish that this preface grow into a volume, especially since I believe its chief things are sufficiently or over known to philosophers. For the others, however, I am not eager to commend this treatise; for, there is nothing I could hope that [treatise] can please them in any way. Indeed I know how obstinately prejudices are stuck in their mind [mens], which by the form of piety the mind [animus] is filled. I know therefore, that it is equally impossible for the vulgar to remove superstition and fear; I know finally, that the constancy of the vulgar is stubbornness, that it is governed not by reason, but is carried off by the impulse to praise or blame. The vulgar therefore and all who are afflicted by the same emotions with the vulgar, I do not invite to this reading, but rather I wish, that they entirely neglect this book, than, as everyone is in the habit of doing, by interpreting it perversely they become annoyed, and while doing nothing useful for themselves, they harm others, who would more freely philosophise, unless this one thing stands in the way, that they think that reason ought to be the handmaid to theology. For, to these I am confident this work will be extremely useful.
Otherwise, since perhaps there will be for many neither the leisure nor the mind [animus] to read through everything, I am compelled here as at the end of this treatise to advise that I write nothing which I do not most freely submit to the examination and judgement of my fatherland. For, if something of these things which I say, they judge to be contrary to the fatherlandís laws or to harm the common safety, I wish it unsaid. I know that I am human, and to have been able to err; but that I should not have erred I have diligently taken care, and especially that whatever I have written that it entirely corresponds to the laws of the fatherland, to piety and to good morals.