Albert Einstein: On Scientific Spirituality & Reason-Based Morality

The following is a excerpt from the verbatim recording of conversations held in a series of meetings between William Hermanns and Albert Einstein in 1930, 1943, 1948, and 1954. These conversations has been published by Hermanns under the title Einstein and the Poet: In Search of the Cosmic Man (1983).

The basic laws of the universe are simple, but because our senses are limited, we can’t grasp them. There is a pattern in creation. If we look at this tree outside whose roots search beneath the pavement for water, or a flower which sends its sweet smell to the pollinating bees, or even our own selves and the inner forces that drive us to act, we can see that we all dance to a mysterious tune, and the piper who plays this melody from an inscrutable distance—whatever name we give him—Creative Force, or God—escapes all book knowledge.

Let us accept the world is a mystery. Nature is neither solely material nor entirely spiritual… Man, too, is more than flesh and blood; otherwise, no religions would have been possible.

Behind each cause is still another cause; the end or the beginning of all causes has yet to be found. Yet, only one thing must be remembered: there is no effect without a cause, and there is no lawlessness in creation.

Albert Einstein, photographed while exiled from Germany and in the United States to give a series of lectures to advanced students at Princeton University. Image courtesy of Getty Images.

If I hadn’t an absolute faith in the harmony of creation, I wouldn’t have tried for thirty years to express it in a mathematical formula.

I believe that I have cosmic religious feelings. I never could grasp how one could satisfy these feelings by praying to limited objects. I like to experience the universe as one harmonious whole. Every cell has life. Matter, too, has life; it is energy solidified. The tree outside is life, a statue is dead. The whole of nature is life, and life, as I observe it, rejects a God resembling man.

Man has infinite dimensions and finds God in his conscience. [A cosmic religion] has no dogma other than teaching man that the universe is rational and that his highest destiny is to ponder it and co-create with its laws.

The genuine scientist is not moved by praise or blame, nor does he preach. He unveils the universe and people come eagerly, without being pushed, to behold a new revelation: the order, the harmony, the magnificence of creation!

And as man becomes conscious of the stupendous laws that govern the universe in perfect harmony, he begins to realize how small he is. He sees the pettiness of human existence, with its ambitions and intrigues, its ‘I am better than thou’ creed.

This is the beginning of cosmic religion within him; fellowship and human service become his moral code. Without such moral foundations, we are hopelessly doomed.

If we want to improve the world we cannot do it with scientific knowledge but with ideals. Confucius, Buddha, Jesus and Gandhi have done more for humanity than science has done.
We must begin with the heart of man—with his conscience—and the values of conscience can only be manifested by selfless service to mankind.

Religion and science go together. As I’ve said before, science without religion is lame and religion without science is blind. They are interdependent and have a common goal—the search for truth.

Tope Akintayo

Tope Akintayo is a traveler on the road to becoming.

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