For Clarification

I’ve been making my way slowly through Walter Isaacson’s Einstein: His Life and Universe (furthering my attempt to not fear physics…)  It’s an engaging biography and turns Einstein into a real person rather than this mythological genius.  I’ve had several discussions about physics with my grandfather, an engineer, about my fascination with physics.  It’s a delicate balance between imagination and math in a way I never thought they could go together.  I love the imaginative aspect that seems to trigger the development of theories that are then tested.  This has led to interesting conversations between boy and me about what we would do if stranded in space without a chance of getting back to earth.  (I’d want to build up as much speed as I could so I could see how far I could go, but then the risk of getting hit!  Too high..)

Anyway, I’ve just reached the point where Einstein is now 50 years old and very much a celebrity, and the public keeps picking at his beliefs.  I know I have heard several times that Einstein believed in God, but it didn’t entirely seem to jive with being a scientist.  Reading his comments, I have to say I agree with what he says.  He always shunned authority and hated being type-casted.  I know the feeling – I hate being pigeon-holed.  I always want to leave room for change.  So here are some passages that I struck me as very non-specific, yet say so much about how he thought regarding religion:

The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mysterious.  It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of all true art and science.  He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead, a snuffed-out candle.  To sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is something that our minds cannot grasp, whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly: this is religiousness.  In this sense, and in this sense only, I am a devoutly religious man.

Every one who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe — a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble.  In this way the pursuit of science leads to a religious feeling of special sort, which is indeed quite different from the religiosity of someone more naive.

..science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “For Clarification

  1. Amazing – “religion without science is blind.” So true.

  2. Richard

    If I may intrude on this topic…

    …what Einstein had to say, is basically a ‘sense of connection’, ‘of communion with’, ‘an awareness of’ – of something/someone greater ‘out there’.

    The meanings and nuances of words on this topic have different meanings and nuances to different people and in different eras – ‘religion’, ‘religiosity’, ‘spirituality’, and so on.

    In what Einstein was getting at, there is this word ‘mysticism’. It can mean different things to different people, and to some it means something ‘mysterious’, ‘unknown’, ‘mystifying’, and hence should be avoided in the search for ‘spirituality’.

    However, if the word is taken benignly, it simply means a ‘connection with’, ‘an awareness of”, of a greater Being.

    This mysticism is present in all ‘religions’, including Christianity.

    See –

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mysticism

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_mysticism#Biblical_foundations

    In fact, a very prominent American psychiatrist, after examining for himself all the ‘religions’, came to the conclusion that Christ is the greatest mystic of all – from His sayings, and His being both divine and human at the same time.

    Lost
    On painted sky
    Where the clouds are hung
    For the poet’s eye
    You may find Him
    If you may find Him

    There
    On a distant shore
    By the wings of dream
    Through an open door
    You may know Him
    If you may

    Be
    As a page that aches for a word
    Which speaks on a theme that is timeless
    While the Sun God will make for your day
    Sing
    As a song in search of a voice that is silent
    And the one God will make for your way

    And we dance
    To a whispered voice
    Overheard by the soul
    Undertook by the heart
    And you may know it
    If you may know it

    While the sand
    Would become the stone
    Which begat the spark
    Turned to living bone
    Holy, holy
    Sanctus, sanctus

    Be
    As a page that aches for a Word
    Which speaks on a theme that is timeless
    While the Sun God will make for your day
    Sing
    As a song in search of a voice that is silent
    And the one God will make for your way

    – “Jonathan Livingston Seagull’, Neil Diamond

    Listen/see it here:

    …have a good day!

  3. Intrude away!
    I’m going to give a very shallow response because religion isn’t my favorite topic to open for discussion (despite how I like to share how abandoning it in a traditional sense has helped me find a deeper passion in other things.)
    I think this is a matter of terminology. I view being humble toward something mysterious different than seeking a connection to a higher being.
    The most important thing for me that I felt was emphasized in Einstein’s statements is not being indifferent to the world. I can’t stand indifference. And that’s more important than stating “Einstein was religious AND a scientist” which is something I have had people use as a way to push god as truth.

  4. Richard

    Depth is often found in simplicity and clarity, and I don’t find your response shallow; on the contrary.

    I agree with your observation that being aware is different from seeking a connection.

    “..despite how I like to share how abandoning it in a traditional sense has helped me find a deeper passion in other things..”

    Would you like to share (only if you are comfortable with it)? I am all ears.

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