As soon as we intend to know all the variety of causes and conditions influencing, directly or indirectly, a given event, causation appears so complicated that it practically becomes unrecognizable. No one short of an Omniscient Being could cognize the infinite variety of all circumstances that can influence the production of an event. (Stcherbatsky, 1930, Buddhist logic, II.II.6, p. 129)1
In the first part of his Ethics, Spinoza indicates that the notion of democracy is incompatible with that of a universe created by God. A creator God leads us to the concept of a universe that exists only by the grace of an exterior almighty force. Applied to human history, this metaphor suggests that a society is incapable of organizing itself without the intervention of an exterior almighty being, that is, a king.
The more a sovereign is powerful, the more he lives beyond the rules that govern the citizens, and the more he has the capacity to impose the politics that structure his kingdom. On the contrary, if we conceive of a universe that created itself, it becomes possible to imagine that a population can govern itself. For Spinoza, this second conceptualization is the most probable. The fact that a creator God could exist is as extraordinary, inexplicable, and improbable as a universe capable of creating itself. It is therefore more economical2 and more rational to imagine a universe that created itself.
The terms God, nature, or universe3 are interchangeable in Spinoza’s mind. Nature has almost all of the properties previously attributed to God. It is infinitely vast and powerful. It is composed of an infinite number of elements, dimensions, and attributes. Because the universe has all of the properties of God, it has the power to create itself in a coherent fashion. The only one of God’s properties that the universe does not possess is that of being a spirit a spiritual force that has a center, a will, a plan, and a goal that elaborates itself outside of the universe. Spinoza replaces an imaginary entity that fills fables and myths by an intellection4 of what exists and whose shape is about to be clarified by scientific research (Galileo, Newton, etc.). Spinoza breaks down this global universe into subsystems (galaxies, planets, societies, individuals, organs, etc.). Each system participates in the formation of its subsystems, all the while being structured by them They emerge out of a coordination of subsystems that constitute themselves in function of what contains them Nature is what emerges out of the interactions between all the existing systems. A human organism is a totality that emerges out of the interactions that combines all of its organs; it is also structured by the cultural systems (family, government, beliefs, knowledge, etc.) that contain it. The complexity of all of these connections is such that it is out of the question that a single subsystem, such as the mind, could apprehend everything that regulates it.5