Einstein: A believer of cosmic spirituality seeking the Universal experience



By Gaurav Sharma

An assemblage of more than 25 lots of memorabilia and documents of renowned Physicist Albert Einstein are all set to be auctioned in the US, projected to fetch anywhere between $ 15000 and $ 40,000.

Apart from the personally handwritten autograph letters addressed to his family, the memorabilia includes a set of rare and intimate letters, including two that voice his views on religion and God.

Einstein’s views on the Atomic Bomb and the Relativity Theory are quite well known, but how exactly does the German-born Nobel laureate visualize the concept of religion and God?

The Beginning 

Born to secular Jewish parents, Einstein was a free-thinking man who, after reading various scientific books, came to realize that the state was intentionally deceiving the youth.

With this realisation, Einstein’s disposition towards every kind of social conviction became deeply skeptical.

“It is quite clear to me that the religious paradise of youth, which was thus lost, was a first attempt to free myself from the chains of the ‘merely personal,’ from an existence dominated by wishes, hopes, and primitive feelings”, says Einstein in his autobiographical notes.

At the same time, he found that an insight into the causal connections of the world presented an opportunity to, at least, partially access the great, eternal riddle of the universe.

A fierce ‘Personal God’ critic

Einstein, unequivocally, rubbished and derided the thought of a Supreme God. The concept of a personal God as propounded by the Church seemed “naive” and “childlike” to the father of the photoelectric effect.

“It seems to me that the idea of a personal God is an anthropological concept which I cannot take seriously. I feel also not able to imagine some will or goal outside the human sphere”, he is known to have stated.

Einstein bluntly demolished the concepts of a Supreme Being, proposed by philosophers and theosophists, as mere myths.

After reading Eric Gutkind’s book, Choose Life: The Biblical Call To Revolt, Einstein lettered a reply which said that the word God for him was nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends.

Such sentiments are also expressed in his book The World As I See It. Questioning that very morality of a personal God, Einstein says, “I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his creatures, or has a will of the type of which we are conscious in ourselves.”

He lambasted the believers of such a God as “fearful and absurdly egoistic” feeble souls.

An Agnostic Spiritualist

Even though Einstein, outrightly denounced the concept of God as a personal being, he did not consider him as an atheist either.

You may call me an agnostic, but I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist. I prefer an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being”, the genius freethinker is known to have said.

Einstein’s views on the Universe were more on the lines of Pantheism, a doctrine which identifies God with nature.

While contemplating the universe Einstein compared himself to a child who notes a ‘mystical order’ in the arrangement of books, which it does not comprehend but dimly suspects.

A believer in cosmic religion

While recognising the “miraculous order which manifests itself in all of nature as well as in the world of ideas”, Einstein dubbed himself as “devoutly religious”.

After segregating himself from the religious beliefs of fear and social morality, Einstein formulated a brand new category of religion called “cosmic religion”, and cast himself within its bounds. He classified this specific religious category as one of deep awe and mystery.

However, Einstein’s conjecture, “the sublimity and marvelous order which reveals itself in nature, makes the individual want to experience the universe as a single significant whole”, suggests a close similarity with the concept of Brahman as expounded by the Vedanta philosophy.

Also, Spinoza’s philosophy of the unity between the soul and the body, which has significant parallels with the Vedanta philosophy, deeply fascinated Einstein.

Both philosophies start with concept of the indeterminable being and admit the relative reality of particular things. And both schools of thought rule out existence of an external creator at the very outset.

Moreover, both philosophies posit the idea of a self-dependant and unconditioned being, albeit in different forms. In case of Spinoza, that being is the Universe, whereas for the Vedantist, it is an underlying principle.

Further, the hypothesis of modification by Spinoza is analagous to the Vedantic theory of Maya or illusion

Hence, it can be reasonably argued that Einstein’s view on nature, reality and Universe were close on the heels of Advaita Vedanta, although he never could fathom the concept of a transcendental reality.