Spinoza’s god of the Lurianic Kabbalah was the permanent and immutable Substance, which is the ground of all things. The Renaissance idea that the universe could be both lawful and evolving in a constant process of perfection, was incomprehensible to him. Spinoza’s god was trapped in the same set of fixed rules in which mens' minds were trapped.
Since not even God can change these fixed laws, a far less powerful mankind must live in a universe defined by these fixed relationships. It is these fixed relationships, or ‘natural law’, that set the limits to man’s activities, not moral choices of self-restraint.
Such a philosophical presupposition was wholly consonant with a Marrano socio-political outlook and can be taken as a metaphorical presentation of that outlook. In an amoral universe everyone has a ‘right’ to act deceitfully, angrily, discordantly, violently, etc. towards others, in whatever manner they see fit, as long as they are able to do so; their ‘rights’ are only limited by their ability.
The Marrano holder of such a view is elevated in terms of power vis-à-vis others in society who hold to an overtly moral code of behaviour, especially when he pretends to act by that same moral code.
This is where John Locke came in. He strongly upheld the right to hold property as a ‘right’ under a Spinozist ‘natural law’, but that this ‘right’ should be expressed through civil laws.
We do not retain our right to punish the transgressors of property rights according to Locke. Instead, it is precisely our abrogation of the right to punish which is transferred to a state that makes the political realm possible.
Within the civil law, the economy became increasingly regarded as a self-governing phenomenon and the basis of liberalism. The meaning of ‘liberty’ in this sense being a Spinozist freedom from moral constraint, with no distinction between right and wrong, or good and evil.
The right to punish, which was transferred to the state, made the state a guarantor of Spinozist ‘liberty’. The feigned ‘moral’ element was transferred to those who held political power.
A Lockean right to property was Marrano ‘liberty’, deceitfully clothed in political ‘justice’.
Nominally ‘free’ trade enjoyed the protection of the state. Not just any enthusiastic would-be entrepreneur could engage in the tea and opium trade, usury, slave trading and the founding of the Bank of England.
© John Dunn.