Baruch de Spinoza is the Netherlands’ most famous philosopher: defining the image of history in Western thinking. In his masterpieces Tractatus theologico-politicus and Ethica, he declared himself in favour of critical thinking, toleration, democracy and freedom of speech. According to Spinoza God is not outside, but is part of, nature. His ideas made him a controversial figure in religious institutions and among political authorities, even in the relatively free-thinking Republic. Banished from the Jewish community, Spinoza found a new circle of friends in the Rijnsburger Collegianten, including his Baptist publisher Jan Rieuwerts. Thinking and looking at things critically were for Spinoza complementary to each other – he earned a living as a lens grinder.