уторак, 06. новембар 2012.

An Unusual Meeting

After "Museum Night" in Amsterdam, Spinoza's hometown, I decided to continue with the "museum atmosphere" by following some of the foot-steps and I could say "door-steps" of the great philosopher: I decided to visit Spinoza's house in Rijnsburg, close to Leiden, and after that the house where he died in 1677, in Hague.
It was a personal philosophical pilgrimage for me and a perfect way to use the ticket from Amsterdam to Antwerp, which allowed me to make multiple stops on the way.

Leaving the bus leave me behind at the station "Spinozalaan" in Rijnsburg, I spread my umbrella and started looking for the house. After receiving instructions from a couple walking a white dog, I made my way to the house through the rain, experiencing "typical Dutch weather" thereby.
I have to admit that the rain added to the mysterious atmosphere of my visit, as everything about Spinoza in a way remains having some touch of mysteriousness.

A very young-spirited old man opened the freshly painted green door of the house for me and welcomed we into the Spinoza house. I was allowed to use the lenses of my camera to create some photographs in the house of a lens-maker/philosopher Spinoza. It is therefore only adequate for this blog to support the text with some of those pictures.

Small library. Spinoza's study room. Old books on the shelve, the material that had been going through Spinoza's spirit and had been sharpening his own perspective on the world. Today there could exist a library of books, solely dedicated to the study of Spinoza. Books affect books, libraries affect libraries, perhaps Spinoza would say.

Accompanying several portraits of a previous inhabitant of the house and the hero of this story, a portrait of Rene Descartes too lays on the wall. A good way to symbolicaly contrast the two philosophies: on one hand the dualism (represented by Descartes), which is the doctrine saying there are two separate substances in the world: the mind and the material things, and  on the other hand the monism (represented by Spinoza), a doctrine indicating that there is only one substance: the mind and matter, and even other to us unknown things can only be modifications of the one substance. That substance Spinoza calls Nature or God.

In an other small room there was an old device, which seemed to had been used for some kind of craftsmanship. An older couple who was also in the house with me thought it may be what Spinoza used for carving lenses, his working tool of some kind. However, the device didn't have anything to do with Spinoza and his work as a lens-carver, we later learned from the host. But whatever device Spinoza used, it represents a tool for freedom, a mean to write what he gunuinly thought. The work as a lens-maker made him financially independent and able to be dedicated to philosophy in his free time. He once refused an offer to make a living out of teaching philosophy (at the Univerisity in Hedelberg), arguing it would limit his freedom of expression, and saying,  "I do not know how to teach philosophy without becoming a disturber of established religion".

My plan was that my next stop would be Hague, where I will search for the house where Spinoza lived after living in Rijnsburg and in Voorburg (the house in Voorburg doesn't exist any more). That house in Hague is the house where eventually the soul of the philosopher "remained in this world", so to say, as it would be contrary to Spinoza's philosophy to say it "left" it... Beacuse where could it go other than back to the one substance?

Well, whatever the case may be, the two other modifications of one substance, namely the older couple, which I above mentioned as also being present in the house at that time, offered me to take me to Hague. It was pouring rain and they were there with a car, intending to go back to Hague. I ofcourse accepted their kind offer. A nice coincidence about visiting Spinoza, which in that case couldn't possibly be called a coincidence, as everything happens according to the necessity, says he.

Before entering the car I stoped to take a photo of the house from outside. The figure of the kind host, framed in the green door of Spinoza's house, was captured between my lenses.

When we arrived to Hague, it was a bit difficult to drive through the center, as they seem to be closing the roads for cars in that part of the city. But that actually turned out to be good for me, as we had to go around and around and I managed to see a bit more of the city, such as the Dutch parlament and the international court of justice. And I was lucky to be riding with a man, who is orinigally from Hague (while his wife is American) and he eventually found a place where he could drop me off, from where I could find for me the second house, and for Spinoza the last house. The last place where he was in the form of being a body of Baruch Spinoza.

And I was able to make pictures myself, to capture my own Spinoza, from an intimate closeness.
I once heard that Gilles Delueze said about Spinoza that he is "The Prince of Philosophy". Portrayed in the form of statue in front of his house of death, he indeed reminds of a prince, sitting on his philosophy throne. I had seen the pictures of the statue before, but now I was there, on a place where Spinoza was entering and exiting the house, walking, thinking... 

      [An old postcard from Hague, with Spinoza's statue in the middle, and children around it]

I stood under my umbrella, looking at the house, imagining Spinoza living there. And he indeed did, that was an exciting fact. He was a really existing body in that really existing house, and I stood there, also as a really existing body. It was a moment of an unusual meeting. 


It rained heaviliy, I turned and left the house of the dead Spinoza behind me, heading along "Spinozastraat" towards the train station Hague HS. Soon after I was in the train to Antwerp, looking at the photos I just made, thinking about my philosophical visits that day.