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6/01/2013

Albert Einstein's View Of Cosmic Spirituality

When I began my long research on religion in the 1970's, after becoming painfully disillusioned with mine, I haunted library's for decades reading almost everything on every religion I could find. I studied all the pros and cons of theist's versus scientific and other views, but wasn't satisfied with what I had gradually come to believe until I read the "ultimate" scientist, Albert Einstein's views and decided his explanation was good enough for me to accept. It's  brought me more peace than religion ever did, though I remain very spiritual in my own way, I consider myself now to be an agnostic. So did Einstein. Below is a sample of Einstein's views of "Cosmic Spirituality."
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In Einstein's 1949 book The World As I See It, he wrote: "A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, of the manifestations of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which are only accessible to our reason in their most elementary forms—it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute the truly religious attitude; in this sense, and in this alone, I am a deeply religious man."

Einstein referred to his belief system as "cosmic religion" and authored an eponymous article on the subject in 1954, which later became his book Ideas and Opinions in 1955. The belief system recognized a "miraculous order which manifests itself in all of nature as well as in the world of ideas," devoid of a personal God who rewards and punishes individuals based on their behavior. It rejected a conflict between science and religion, and held that cosmic religion was necessary for science. He told William Hermanns in an interview that "God is a mystery. But a comprehensible mystery. I have nothing but awe when I observe the laws of nature. There are not laws without a lawgiver, but how does this lawgiver look? Certainly not like a man magnified."] He added with a smile "some centuries ago I would have been burned or hanged. Nonetheless, I would have been in good company."

In a 1930 New York Times article, Einstein distinguished three human impulses which develop religious belief: fear, social morality, and a cosmic religious feeling. A primitive understanding of causality causes fear, and the fearful invent supernatural beings analogous to themselves. The desire for love and support create a social and moral need for a supreme being; both these styles have an anthropomorphic concept of God. The third style, which Einstein deemed most mature, originates in a deep sense of awe and mystery. He said, the individual feels "the sublimity and marvelous order which reveal themselves in nature ... and he wants to experience the universe as a single significant whole." Einstein saw science as an antagonist of the first two styles of religious belief, but as a partner in the third. He maintained, "even though the realms of religion and science in themselves are clearly marked off from each other" there are "strong reciprocal relationships and dependencies" as aspirations for truth derive from the religious sphere. For Einstein, "science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind." He continued:

"a person who is religiously enlightened appears to me to be one who has, to the best of his ability, liberated himself from the fetters of his selfish desires and is preoccupied with thoughts, feelings and aspirations to which he clings because of their super-personal value. It seems to me that what is important is the force of this superpersonal content ... regardless of whether any attempt is made to unite this content with a Divine Being, for otherwise it would not be possible to count Buddha and Spinoza as religious personalities. Accordingly a religious person is devout in the sense that he has no doubt of the significance of those super-personal objects and goals which neither require nor are capable of rational foundation ... In this sense religion is the age-old endeavor of mankind to become clearly and completely conscious of these values and goals and constantly to strengthen and extend their effect. If one conceives of religion and science according to these definitions then a conflict between them appears impossible. For science can only ascertain what is, but not what should be..."
An understanding of causality was fundamental to Einstein's ethical beliefs. In Einstein's view, "the doctrine of a personal God interfering with natural events could never be refuted, in the real sense, by science," for religion can always take refuge in areas that science can not yet explain. It was Einstein's belief that in the "struggle for the ethical good, teachers of religion must have the stature to give up the doctrine of a personal God, that is, give up that source of fear and hope" and cultivate the "Good, the True, and the Beautiful in humanity itself."


Religious views of Albert Einstein: From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 

16 comments:

Monica Brinkman said...

Very interesting article. Me, I get so very tired of religions wanting to be 'right' or the only religion. For it is a personal choice and, after all, one must be true to how they really feel.

Lona Inero said...

There is a strong misconception about Albert Einstein. Publicly, he exhibited a absent-minded, but kindly professor personality. But privately, he was tyranical. Before he finally married Mileva Maric, she gave birth to a daughter - Einstein did not visit Mileva or the daughter nor attempt to support them. When the daughter was two years old, and Mileva and Einstein finally married, she gave the daughter up for adoption so as not to besmirch Einsteins career. Einstein was married twice and wrote abusive manifestos to both his wives, stating "you will not sit with me at home, you will not accompany me out, you will not speak to me unless I speak to you, we will have no physical contact, etc." He betrayed both his wives with other women. When he left Europe for Princeton in 1933, he left his two sons with his first wife, Mileva. One of his sons, Eduard, was a schizophrenic who was in and out of Bergholzi Clinic in Zurich all his life. Einstein never visited Eduard or saw him again he moved to Princeton. When Eduard sent his father a poem, Einstein sent back a criticism on how he could improve it.

Anna Maria said...

Thanks Monica. Yes...one's "religion" is truly a personal choice and those that try to force their beliefs on other's make me, and the whole wide world, weary of the crusades, inquisitions, and terroristic wars religious dogma causes.

Anna Maria said...

Thanks for visiting Lona. I have read all those personal quirks of Einstein's and lived through the era he was an international celebrity and everything he did was written about.

We all have a few undesirable traits, but it was his take on religion I was most interested in. He was born an Orthodox Jew, I a Catholic, and for reasons of our own chose to embrace a more universal and cosmic view of a Supreme Creator.

DMS said...

Awesome post! I enjoyed reading his thoughts on religion. So interesting. :)
~Jess

Anna Maria said...

Thanks Jess. Einstein was a fascinating man from his youth until his death. He was in the magazines and newspapers a lot while I was growing up, he fascinated a lot of people with his eccentricity and quotes.

Jon said...

Interesting that the person we associate with genius is also someone we associate with wisdom.

GRACE PETERSON said...

The nice thing about enlightenment is successfully separating the deity from the rules, the Creator from the church. To me this is incredibly freeing.

Anna Maria said...

Yes Jon, no doubt Einstein will remain for a long time the highest mark on the "genius" pole. I suppose it isn't that much of a stretch to understand why he had wisdom to match. Most of his quotes are simply amazing.

Anna Maria said...

Grace...indeed it is, though it took me a long time to understand it was alright for me to change my belief system.

I've often wondered if you are raised in a "strict' religion, if it takes longer to break the "chains" they bind and brainwash you with.

Andre Gensburger said...

Faith is only as valid as the person exercising it. We are too bent on requiring absolute answers that I believe we will never get (in the life.). I have no doubt that Einstein knows the truth now, whatsoever that may be. For the rest of us, it is merely an exercise in arguing.

Anna Maria said...

Andre...so true, we will never know the answers to what life is all about and where we came from that humanity has long sought...and whatever "faith" one believes in is legitimate, as long as it gives them peace and doesn't negatively affect others as various religions have done so much in the past as well as the present.

Nancy Alborell said...

People only worship a God they can agree with. ;=D

Anna Maria said...

Nancy...the mystery to me is why so many worship a disagreeable and wrathful God.

c emerson said...

Once again a great post, thanks. But I also thank L.I. for bringing in some of the reality to show how separate the world of thought can become from the world of daily relationships. The crux of understanding the human condition would seem to rest in being able to explain the existence of both parts of this total reality. It may take another Einstein to understand the first Einstein. We may have a long wait. The breadth and depth of our ability to think is often wrapped or in hidden in a mass of animalistic and equally biological behavior. What a strange combination of internal forces at work shaping all of humankind. Thanks, A.M. for bringing such diversity to our attention. Cheers.

Anna Maria said...

Thanks C. Emerson! Yes, as Lona pointed out, Einstein had his human faults as well as his brilliance the standard of "genius" is still measured by. He was a product of his own generation and I doubt anyone, even with a genius mind off the scale, will ever be able to figure him totally out. That is what is so unique about the human mind...there are no two alike. :)