chapter  2
Love, love of God, intellectual love of God
Pages 16

Let us start with the three levels of knowledge in Spinoza: imagination, reason, and intuition. Imagination consists in inadequate, vague ideas acquired on the basis of the perception of singular phenomena through chance encounters and of signs, without knowing the causal relations behind them (Spinoza 1993a: 54-61, 68). Since it is the ‘phantoms of imagination’ (Spinoza 1951a: 4) that define religion as superstition, the task of practical thought vis-à-vis superstition consists in denouncing illusions. And this task can be undertaken only by the second level of knowledge, which corresponds to reason, that is, a knowledge of ‘common notions’, through which what is singular is positioned in relation to other singularities through general categories. At this level things are no longer regarded as contingent but as necessary, that is, as part of a relational network (Spinoza 1993a: 71). Consequently, the joy attained on the basis of the second kind of knowledge is an active joy that corresponds to our power to act and to understand. Ultimately, with the third and the highest form of knowledge, intuitive knowledge, one attains the knowledge of eternity, of the virtual. One no longer only conceives of things as actual but as ‘contained in God and to follow from the necessity of the divine nature’ (Ibid. 211). Knowledge now goes beyond the actual, beyond things in their relationality in chronological time and empirical space, and seeks to perceive the essence of things as singular events outside time and space, as singularities which directly express their virtual cause, God. The active joy that arises here is what Spinoza calls the ‘intellectual love of God’, a joy that is ‘accompanied by the idea of God as its cause’ (Ibid. 212).