05 November 2009


In interest of full discussion of Albert Einstein, the complex person and his beliefs concerning religion, one must consider the famous letter, written by hand in 1954 a year before he died, and auctioned last May 2008, in which he said some things that might surprise those religionists who quote other statements he made at other times.

Einstein was quite clear in some of his comments about his not believing in a personal god and in his general condemnation of religion, although, paradoxically (it would seem) he thought that religion could enrich life.

Einstein admired Baruch Spinoza and his pantheism--that God and Nature were more or less synonymous. In a telegram to a rabbi he stated, "I believe in Spinoza'a God, who reveals Himself in the lawful harmony of all that exists, but not in a God Who concerns himself with the fate and doings of mankind."

In the 1954 letter, Einstein, writing to a philosopher friend who had written a book about Judaism, said that, "The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weakness, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still purely primitive, legends which are nevertheless pretty childish." He goes on to say that, "the Jewish religion like all other religions is an incarnation of the most childish superstition."

Was Einstein "spiritual?" Yes, I believe he clearly was. But not in the way that some would want. Anyone who examines the edge of reality, as did Einstein, must think about "spiritual" reality, or about what is (concrete) reality. He was lifting the veil of the physical universe and appearing underneath--or perhaps beyond the edge, although he does not seem to have made any statements about anything beyond the physical universe.

Yes, Einstein stated in his speech "On Science & Religion," that "Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind." Yet, I'm not sure he had any more insights than that; at least as for as I know he never said much more. Still, even though it is clear that he found the practice of religion distasteful, he never condemned belief itself.

All this makes me admire Einstein, in his mostly nondogmatic views. He clearly was neither an atheist nor a theist nor a religionist--in their usual meanings. So, what was he? I do not think he exactly developed a complete spiritual view of reality. Perhaps the key to this is that his last 25 years were spent in fruitless search for a unified field theory based on a fundamental misunderstanding of modern physics.

Was he chasing a "unified field theory of physico-spiritual reality?" I'm sure he would have loved to have found it in a neat mathematical formula.

What I learn from Einstein's life and his life search is that I can marvel and wonder at the reality of the Universe, as he must have done, and even use religion and spiritual views in the process of marvel and wonder--but science does not reveal these ultimate realities. That seems to have been the position of Einstein. For me, that's my view also. Today and in the end, that's also pretty much all I can do.

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