Philosophy Information

Einstein and Eirugena

ALBERT EINSTEIN: - "I am satisfied with the Mysteries of life."

"A human being is part of a whole, called by us the "Universe," a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest--a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty."

"The human mind is not capable of grasping the Universe. We are like a little child entering a huge library. The walls are covered to the ceilings with books in many different tongues. The child knows that someone must have written these books. It does not know who or how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. But the child notes a definite plan in the arrangement of the books---a mysterious order which it does not comprehend, but only dimly suspects."

"The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity."

"What I see in Nature is a magnificent structure that we can comprehend only very imperfectly, and that must fill a thinking person with a feeling of "humility." This is a genuinely religious feeling that has nothing to do with mysticism"

"The finest emotion of which we are capable is the mystic emotion. Herein lies the germ of all art and all true science. Anyone to whom this feeling is alien, who is no longer capable of wonderment and lives in a state of fear is a dead man. To know that what is impenetrable for us really exists and manifests itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, whose gross forms alone are intelligible to our poor faculties -- this knowledge, this feeling ... that is the core of the true religious sentiment. In this sense, and in this sense alone, I rank myself among profoundly religious men."

Einstein saw there were people who sought to say he was religious in sense of being what they personally thought was God and he had to set them straight. Unfortunately many people have their memories tarnished by people succeeding in this propaganda that co-opts good people. He was a great man and fought most of his life for an end to standing armies. Despite the advances since his death he still makes sense in many areas of thinking including that for which he became most famous. I think this last simple quote by him says a lot.

"Two things inspire me to awe -- the starry heavens above and the moral universe within."

"Einstein died in 1955. He is best known for the theory of relativity, which states that time, mass and length all change according to velocity. Space and time are a unified continuum, which curves in the presence of mass.

The last three decades of his life were devoted to the search for a field theory which would unify gravitation and electro-magnetism.

Einstein always said that he was a deeply religious man, and his religion informed his science. He rejected the conventional image of God as a personal being, concerned about our individual lives, judging us when we die, intervening in the laws he himself had created to cause miracles, answer prayers and so on. Einstein did not believe in a soul separate from the body, nor in an afterlife of any kind.

But he was certainly a pantheist. He did regard the ordered cosmos with the same kind of feeling that believers have for their God. To some extent this was a simple awe at the impenetrable mystery of sheer being. Einstein also had an urge to lose individuality and to experience the universe as a whole.

But he was also struck by the radiant beauty, the harmony, the structure of the universe as it was accessible to reason and science. In describing these factors he sometimes uses the word God, and sometimes refers to a divine reason, spirit or intelligence. He never suggests that this reason or spirit transcends the world - so in that sense he is a clear pantheist and not a panentheist. However, this reason is to some extent anthropomorphic, and to some extent involves Einstein in a contradiction.

His religious thinking was not systematic, so he never ironed out this discrepancy. But it seems likely that he believed in a God who was identical to the universe - similar to the God of Spinoza. A God whose rational nature was expressed in the universe, or a God who was identified with the universe and its laws taken together. His own scientific search for the laws of this universe was a deeply religious quest.

Einstein's attachment to what he once called `the grandeur of reason incarnate' led him into the longest battle and the greatest failure of his life. He was implacably opposed to Niels Bohr's interpretation of quantum physics. Bohr believed that matter was fundamentally indeterminate, and our knowledge of it limited to probabilities.

Einstein's comment, "God does not play dice," became notorious. The phrase uses the present tense, not the past. This suggests that Einstein was probably not referring to the fact that a creator God would not in the beginning have created a universe in which chance reigned supreme. Rather he may have meant that as God or reason incarnate, the universe could not be governed by chance alone." (1)

EIRUGENA: - John Scotius Eirugena (means Irish born) was a great philosopher in the late first millennium AD. Bertrand Russell seems not to know much about Irish culture when he expresses surprise to have to admit he is the greatest of minds in a very Dark Age. In fact he was just rephrasing Pelagius who was maintaining some of the remnants of Druidic thought as I see it. It annoys me to spend a day looking for a biography on a great man like this and find some fools have hundreds of links whereas he had nary a one.

Author of Diverse Druids

Columnist for The ES Press Magazine

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