“This existence of ours is as transient as autumn clouds . To watch the birth and death of beings is like looking at the movements of a dance. A lifetime is like a flash of lightning in the sky, rushing by like a torrent down a steep mountain.”
~ Buddha (563 – 483 BC)
“In the beginning was Atman; the one without a second.”
“We are like the spider. We weave our life and then move along in it. We are like the dreamer who dreams and then lives in the dream. This is true for the entire universe.”
~ Aitareya Upanishad
A corporeal phenomenon, a feeling, a perception, a mental formation, a consciousness, which is permanent and persistent, eternal and not subject to change, such a thing the wise men in this world do not recognize; and I also say that there is no such thing.
~ Buddha (563 – 483 B.C)
Is there anything permanent
in Heaven’s vast firmament?
Is there a Perfection
beyond all conception –
a Cause of all that’s so?
Is there a force – an Eternal Source –
that we can ever know?
Is it our task, to seek and to ask,
and so to ever grow?
‘Tis a Perennial Puzzlement!
Ron’s recitation of Perennial Permanence Puzzlement
“In the beginning was the word
and the word was with God
and the word was God”
~ John 1:1
“Better than a thousand useless words is one useful word,
hearing which one attains peace.
Better than a thousand useless verses is one useful verse,
hearing which one attains peace.”
“…since in order to speak,
one must first listen,
learn to speak by listening.”
“Speak little; say much.”
~ Swami Ron Onandonananda
Words About Words
Words are thoughts.
Words are mind symbols uttered or inscribed
to denominate and communicate ideas.
Words are then,
Life is NOW.
Life is a word game:
Adding a few syllables to the Ineffable,
we play the word game of life
until we find and become THAT –
Silence that says ALL.
Language can be a ladder for ascent to the Ineffable.
With wisdom words
words never explicate.
Truth transcends wisdom:
Wisdom is primordial;
Truth is pre-primordial.
There’s nothing to say, but words point the way.
So, let’s elevate our spiritual “lexi-consciousness.”
In the beginning was the Word,
but in the end Silence says all.
We maximize the impact of our words
when we minimize the number of our words.
The epigrammatic is most dramatic.
Better than any words is experience.
As the Bible says, “God” is a word – a noun –
with countless connotations, different for different people –
all believing or disbelieving in “God”.
“God” is a word designating different ideas of a Transcendent Power.
Thus, “God” did not create man,
but man created the word “God” –
with thoughts from ruminations, revelations, intuitions, and speculations,
trying to identify THAT which is beyond words, beyond all thought.
When words are inscribed or uttered with deep insight
and heartfelt compassion, they can be very powerful.
Such words are imbued with the energy of their originator.
So, words from an ‘enlightened being’ are like sun rays;
they radiate the light of their Source.
Live laconically, and
Walk your talk:
Join “The Society of Laconic Walk/Talkers”, where –
The less we talk,
the further we go.
The further we go,
the more we Know.
The more we Know,
the less we say,
’Til as Silence we are the Way.
Ron’s audio recitation of “Words About Words”
Many Faiths, One Truth
By TENZIN GYATSO
WHEN I was a boy in Tibet, I felt that my own Buddhist religion must be the best — and that other faiths were somehow inferior. Now I see how naïve I was, and how dangerous the extremes of religious intolerance can be today.
Though intolerance may be as old as religion itself, we still see vigorous signs of its virulence. In Europe, there are intense debates about newcomers wearing veils or wanting to erect minarets and episodes of violence against Muslim immigrants. Radical atheists issue blanket condemnations of those who hold to religious beliefs. In the Middle East, the flames of war are fanned by hatred of those who adhere to a different faith.
Such tensions are likely to increase as the world becomes more interconnected and cultures, peoples and religions become ever more entwined. The pressure this creates tests more than our tolerance — it demands that we promote peaceful coexistence and understanding across boundaries.
Granted, every religion has a sense of exclusivity as part of its core identity. Even so, I believe there is genuine potential for mutual understanding. While preserving faith toward one’s own tradition, one can respect, admire and appreciate other traditions.
An early eye-opener for me was my meeting with the Trappist monk Thomas Merton in India shortly before his untimely death in 1968. Merton told me he could be perfectly faithful to Christianity, yet learn in depth from other religions like Buddhism. The same is true for me as an ardent Buddhist learning from the world’s other great religions.
A main point in my discussion with Merton was how central compassion was to the message of both Christianity and Buddhism. In my readings of the New Testament, I find myself inspired by Jesus’ acts of compassion. His miracle of the loaves and fishes, his healing and his teaching are all motivated by the desire to relieve suffering.
I’m a firm believer in the power of personal contact to bridge differences, so I’ve long been drawn to dialogues with people of other religious outlooks. The focus on compassion that Merton and I observed in our two religions strikes me as a strong unifying thread among all the major faiths. And these days we need to highlight what unifies us.
Take Judaism, for instance. I first visited a synagogue in Cochin, India, in 1965, and have met with many rabbis over the years. I remember vividly the rabbi in the Netherlands who told me about the Holocaust with such intensity that we were both in tears. And I’ve learned how the Talmud and the Bible repeat the theme of compassion, as in the passage in Leviticus that admonishes, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
In my many encounters with Hindu scholars in India, I’ve come to see the centrality of selfless compassion in Hinduism too — as expressed, for instance, in the Bhagavad Gita, which praises those who “delight in the welfare of all beings.” I’m moved by the ways this value has been expressed in the life of great beings like Mahatma Gandhi, or the lesser-known Baba Amte, who founded a leper colony not far from a Tibetan settlement in Maharashtra State in India. There he fed and sheltered lepers who were otherwise shunned. When I received my Nobel Peace Prize, I made a donation to his colony.
Compassion is equally important in Islam — and recognizing that has become crucial in the years since Sept. 11, especially in answering those who paint Islam as a militant faith. On the first anniversary of 9/11, I spoke at the National Cathedral in Washington, pleading that we not blindly follow the lead of some in the news media and let the violent acts of a few individuals define an entire religion.
Let me tell you about the Islam I know. Tibet has had an Islamic community for around 400 years, although my richest contacts with Islam have been in India, which has the world’s second-largest Muslim population. An imam in Ladakh once told me that a true Muslim should love and respect all of Allah’s creatures. And in my understanding, Islam enshrines compassion as a core spiritual principle, reflected in the very name of God, the “Compassionate and Merciful,” that appears at the beginning of virtually each chapter of the Koran.
Finding common ground among faiths can help us bridge needless divides at a time when unified action is more crucial than ever. As a species, we must embrace the oneness of humanity as we face global issues like pandemics, economic crises and ecological disaster. At that scale, our response must be as one.
Harmony among the major faiths has become an essential ingredient of peaceful coexistence in our world. From this perspective, mutual understanding among these traditions is not merely the business of religious believers — it matters for the welfare of humanity as a whole.
Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, is the author, most recently, of “Toward a True Kinship of Faiths: How the World’s Religions Can Come Together.”
Originally published as an Op-Ed by New York Times on May 24, 2010
”All things appear and disappear because of the concurrence of causes and conditions. Nothing ever exists entirely alone; everything is in relation to everything else.”
“The Now is as it is because it cannot be otherwise. What Buddhists have always known, physicists now confirm: there are no isolated things or events. Underneath the surface appearance, all things are interconnected, are part of the totality of the cosmos that has brought about the form that this moment takes.”
~ Eckhart Tolle
Q. “Are only the important events in a man’s life,
such as his main occupation or profession, predetermined,
or are trifling acts also, such as taking a cup of water or
moving from one part of the room to another?”
A. “Everything is predetermined.”
~ Sri Ramana Maharshi
“Nothing perceivable is real.
Your attachment is your bondage.
You cannot control the future.
There is no such thing as free will. Will is bondage.
You identify yourself with your desires and become their slave.”
~ Nisargadatta Maharaj
In the mind there is no absolute or free will; but the mind is determined to wish this or that by a cause, which has also been determined by another cause, and this last by another cause, and so on to infinity.
~ Baruch Spinoza
“There is no such thing as chance;
and what seems to us merest accident
springs from the deepest source of destiny.”
~ Johann Friedrich Von Schiller
“There are no mistakes, no coincidences,
all events are blessings given to us to learn from.”
~ Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
Nothing in the universe happens by chance or accident. The universe is a coherent concurrence and interaction of innumerable conditions attendant on the infinite number of energy patterns. In the state of Awareness, all this is obvious and can be clearly seen and known. Outside that level of awareness, it could be likened to innumerable, invisible magnetic fields which automatically coalesce or repel one’s position and which interact according to the positions and relative strengths and polarities. Everything influences everything else and is in perfect balance.
~ David R. Hawkins
“Freedom is not a reaction; freedom is not a choice. .
Freedom is found in the choiceless awareness of our daily existence and activity.”
“…Choice in every form is conflict. Contradiction is inevitable in choice; this contradiction, inner and outer breeds confusion and misery.”
~ J. Krishnamurti
“Everything happens through immutable laws, …everything is necessary… There are, some persons say, events which are necessary and others which are not. It would be very comic that one part of the world was arranged, and the other were not; that one part of what happens had to happen and that another part of what happens did not have to happen. If one looks closely at it, one sees that the doctrine contrary to that of destiny is absurd; but there are many people destined to reason badly; others not to reason at all others to persecute those who reason.”
“The assumption of an absolute determinism is the essential foundation of every scientific enquiry.”
~ Max Planck
“We must believe in free will, we have no choice.”
~ Isaac Bashevis Singer
On Albert Einstein’s March 14th birthday anniversary, we honor him not only for his extraordinary scientific genius and moral integrity, but for his mystical wisdom and intuitive realization of ineffable Reality beyond human comprehension.
In other posts (linked below) we have shown that although Einstein rejected conventional views about God, individual survival of physical death, reincarnation, or of reward or punishment in heaven or hell after physical death, he was not an atheist but a deeply religious mystic. Though Einstein did not believe in formal dogmatic religion, his views on religion were consistent with highest non-dualistic Eastern religious teachings, like Indian Advaita Vedanta philosophy, as well as with his revolutionary non-mechanistic science. So he was an exemplar of the inevitable confluence of Western science with Eastern religion.
Here we highlight Einstein’s unconventional views about free will and determinism and show how they were also largely consistent with highest Eastern non-duality mystical teachings.
Until his death in 1955, Albert Einstein rejected the “uncertainty” principle of quantum mechanics advanced by most respected physicists of his time. Einstein stubbornly maintained his view, consistent with ancient mystical insights, that “God does not play dice with the universe”; that the principle of cause and effect (or karma) pervades the phenomenal Universe without exception; that the ideas of chance or “uncertainty” arise from causes and conditions not yet recognized or perceived.
In a 1929 interview, when the argument about quantum mechanics “uncertainty” was at its height, Einstein modestly said: “I claim credit for nothing”, explaining that:
“Everything is determined, the beginning as well as the end, by forces over which we have no control. It is determined for the insect, as well as for the star. Human beings, vegetables, or cosmic dust, we all dance to a mysterious tune, intoned in the distance by an invisible piper.” [Einstein: The Life and Times, Ronald W. Clark, Page 422.]
Though theologians have mostly believed that people choose and are morally responsible for their actions, Einstein agreed with medieval philosopher Baruch Spinoza that one’s actions, and even one’s thoughts, are determined by natural laws of causality.
“In the mind there is no absolute or free will;
but the mind is determined to wish this or that by a cause,
which has also been determined by another cause,
and this last by another cause, and so on to infinity.”
Thus, in 1932 Einstein told the Spinoza society:
“Human beings in their thinking, feeling and acting are not free
but are as causally bound as the stars in their motions.”
Einstein’s belief in causal determinism seemed to him both scientifically and philosophically incompatible with the concept of human free will. In a 1932 speech entitled ‘My Credo’, Einstein briefly explained his deterministic ideology:
“I do not believe in freedom of the will. Schopenhauer’s words: ‘Man can do what he wants, but he cannot will what he wills’ accompany me in all situations throughout my life and reconcile me with the actions of others even if they are rather painful to me. This awareness of the lack of freedom of will preserves me from taking too seriously myself and my fellow men as acting and deciding individuals and from losing my temper.”
Einstein’s 1931 essay “The World As I See It” contains this similar passage:
“In human freedom in the philosophical sense I am definitely a disbeliever.
Everybody acts not only under external compulsion but also in accordance with inner necessity. Schopenhauer’s saying, that “a man can do as he will, but not will as he will,” has been an inspiration to me since my youth, and a continual consolation and unfailing well-spring of patience in the face of the hardships of life, my own and others’. This feeling mercifully mitigates the sense of responsibility which so easily becomes paralyzing, and it prevents us from taking ourselves and other people too seriously; it conduces to a view of life in which humor, above all, has its due place.”
Schopenhauer – who had studied Buddhism – postulated that human experience is but a reflection and manifestation of universal law – not human “will”; that humans must adhere to the imperatives of natural laws (like gravity and magnetism) which harmoniously rule everywhere without exception. Thus Schopenhauer said:
“The fate of one individual invariably fits the fate of the other and each is the hero of his own drama while simultaneously figuring in a drama foreign to him—this is something that surpasses our powers of comprehension, and can only be conceived as possible by virtue of the most wonderful pre-established harmony.”
So in rejecting “free will” and other prevalent theistic religious ideas while humbly expressing his awe, reverence and cosmic religious feeling at the immense beauty, harmony and eternal mystery of our Universe, Einstein was influenced by both the philosophies of Spinoza and Schopenhauer and by his intuition and his science.
But despite his deterministic philosophy and science, Einstein realized that people’s belief in free will is pragmatically necessary for a civilized society; that it causes them to take responsibility for their actions, and enables society to regulate such actions.* So he said:
“I am compelled to act as if free will existed, because if I wish to live in a civilized society I must act responsibly. . . I know that philosophically a murderer is not responsible for his crime, but I prefer not to take tea with him.”*
Thus Einstein dedicated his life to going beyond the “merely personal” and acted morally with a self-described “passion for social justice”. In a letter to his sister, Einstein stated that “the foundation of all human values is morality”. And in addressing a student disarmament meeting, he said:
“The destiny of civilized humanity depends more than ever on the moral forces it is capable of generating.”
But, like the non-dualistic mystics, Einstein believed that morality was for humanity not divinity. He said:
“Morality is of the highest importance — but for us, not for God.”
Determinism versus morality and social justice questions
Since acting morally implies human freedom of choice, how can we reconcile Einstein’s passion for social justice and morality with his deterministic ideology that “Human beings in their thinking, feeling and acting are not free but are as causally bound as the stars in their motions.” ?
How would Einstein explain the apparent contradiction between his many idealistic efforts as a social justice activist, pacifist, and democratic socialist and his deterministic philosophy and science? Would he attribute his efforts and passion for a peaceful, civilized society to a pre-destined causal compulsion?
We can only speculate. But it is quite possible that Einstein would have agreed with Isaac Bashevis Singer’s statement that “We must believe in free will, we have no choice.”
According to Eastern non-dualism, as long as we self-identify as limited persons within space/time/causality we have apparent free choice but are inescapably subject to the law of karmic causality. Thus our every thought, word or deed inevitably reaps its corresponding reward of either suffering or joy in this or another lifetime. Only when we self-identify with spirit or soul, do we transcend this illusory impermanent world of samsara and its inevitable causal sufferings.
This was explained by Swami Vivekananda as follows:
“[T]he soul is beyond all laws, physical, mental, or moral. Within law is bondage; beyond law is freedom. It is also true that freedom is of the nature of the soul, it is its birthright: that real freedom of the soul shines through veils of matter in the form of the apparent freedom of man.”
“[T]here cannot be any such thing as free will; the very words are a contradiction, because will is what we know and everything that we know is within our universe, and everything within our universe is moulded by the conditions of space, time, and causation. Everything that we know, or can possibly know, must be subject to causation, and that which obeys the law of causation cannot be free.”
“The only way to come out of bondage is to go beyond the limitations of law, to go beyond causation.” [by self-identifying with soul or spirit] . . . . “This is the goal of the Vedantin, to attain freedom while living.”
~ Swami Vivekananda – Karma Yoga
Like ancient non-dualistic mystics, Einstein had realized – through his revolutionary non-mechanistic science – that “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”; and that “Space and time are not conditions in which we live, they are modes in which we think.” Consequently, he knew that from an ever mysterious Cosmic perspective, our apparent phenomenal reality is but an illusionary play of consciousness.
But, Einstein’s acceptance of the necessity for recognizing humanity’s freedom to choose a moral rather than evil destiny was also consistent with highest non-dualistic Eastern religious teachings that we ‘reap as we sow’ until we transcend this illusionary world, as well as with prevalent Western religious ideas that we are morally responsible for our actions.
Thus, Einstein’s insistence that the principle of cause and effect (or karma) pervades the phenomenal Universe without exception and that morality is for Humanity not Divinity was consistent with ancient non-dualistic mysticism as was his rejection of a personal “God who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation”.
Though Einstein had not achieved the mystic goal of attaining “freedom” from causality while living, his mystical wisdom and professed behaviors in not “taking too seriously myself and my fellow men as acting and deciding individuals and from losing my temper” were consistent with a very evolved – if not “enlightened” – state of being.
*Einstein’s views on pragmatically living with supposed free will notwithstanding a belief in universal determinism, were similar to those of Leo Tolstoy, whose epic War and Peace novel reflected Tolstoy’s view that all is predestined, but that we cannot live without imagining we have free will. Like Einstein, Tolstoy was greatly influenced by Schopenhauer and, also, he was later enthralled by the teachings of Swami Vivekananda.
“The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with Nature.”
~ Joseph Campbell
“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls.”
~ Joseph Campbell
“God is a metaphor for that which transcends all levels of intellectual thought.
It’s as simple as that.”
~ Joseph Campbell
“Opportunities to find deeper powers within ourselves come when life seems most challenging.”
~ Joseph Campbell
During the 1980’s I was Chairman of Board of Trustees of the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS), an accredited graduate school giving degrees in areas of psychology, philosophy, comparative religion, and related disciplines. In that capacity, I was occasionally obliged to give commencement talks and to bestow honorary degrees. In October, 1983, I was told on short notice that I would be awarding to Dr. Joseph Campbell an honorary degree of Doctor of Philosophy and Religion, and that I should prepare an appropriate presentation talk. I was told that two other speakers would be discussing Dr. Campbell’s impressive academic accomplishments, but was not told the order of speakers. I had never met Dr. Campbell. And since by that time he was very famous (especially after Bill Moyers’ PBS interviews), I was in a quandary about how much or what I should say.
A couple of days before the event, I was walking along the beach toward the Golden Gate bridge, when synchronistically an “inner voice” told me to write down some words for Campbell, and I obliged. On three little paper scraps, I wrote five sentences that were ‘dictated’ by the inner voice. (*I saved the scraps – copy linked below.)
The presentation took place in San Francisco on October 8, 1983 at the Palace of Fine Arts theater adjoining the Exploratorium. Campbell and I and the other speakers filed on stage wearing traditional black cap and gown attire, and we sat down. I was seated next to Dr. Campbell, on his right. The program provided for my presentation to follow introductory talks by two other school officials – Dean Ralph Metzner and Chairman Emeritus Michael Toms – who were lavishing profuse praise on Campbell. During the second talk, which sounded to me like a long, living eulogy, I suddenly and spontaneously put my left hand on Campbell’s right knee and without thinking whispered, “Don’t let this go to your head.”
Finally, with paper scraps in hand, I made the presentation, uttering the following five sentences which had been given to me on the beach:
“Dr. Joseph Campbell, the Board of Trustees of the California Institute of Integral Studies is privileged and pleased to bestow on you the honorary degree of Doctor of Philosophy and Religion.
“We acknowledge thereby your mastery of these disciplines through your studies of myths and symbols.
Like masters of other disciplines you have realized the Source common to all disciplines – to all wisdom.
A Source which integrates and unifies this creation, which is diverse in appearance but the same in essence.
“So in presenting this degree to you, we honor symbolically that Source – within you and within each of us.”
Thereupon, Dr. Campbell humbly accepted the new honor.
After the program, a very intuitive PhD student with whom I was friendly, approached me and asked: “Ron, was your talk ‘channeled’?” After a moment’s hesitation, I replied “yes”.
From then on I began receiving more and more inner ‘dictation’ of spiritual thoughts, aphorisms and poetry. Even now my “inner voice” is assisting with these memoirs.
*Ron’s notes and brochure from Joseph Campbell event, 10/8/83
“I don’t try to imagine a personal God;
it suffices to stand in awe at the structure of the world,
insofar as it allows our inadequate senses to appreciate it.”
~ Albert Einstein
“I believe in Spinoza’s God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with fates and actions of human beings.”
~ Albert Einstein
“Atheism is a disease of the soul,
before it becomes an error of the understanding.”
“Small amounts of philosophy lead to atheism,
but larger amounts bring us back to God.”
~ Francis Bacon
“Yes, all one’s confusion comes to an end if one only realizes that it is God who manifests Himself as the atheist and the believer, the good and the bad, the real and the unreal; that it is He who is present in waking and in sleep; and that He is beyond all these.” ….”God alone is the Doer. Everything happens by His will.”
~ Ramakrishna Paramahamsa
“The Atheist is God playing at hide and seek with Himself;
but is the Theist any other?
Well, perhaps; for he has seen the shadow of God and clutched at it.”
~ Sri Aurobindo
“Atheism is a non-prophet organization”
~ George Carlin
“The worst moment for the atheist is when he is really thankful and has nobody to thank.”
~ Dante Gabriel Rossetti
This essay reveals that Albert Einstein was not an atheist or a monotheist; that he was annoyed by anti-religious atheists who selectively quoted him to support their erroneous contention that Einstein was an atheist.
Einstein explicitly denied that he was an atheist. But he revered and did not deny or disbelieve the existence of an impenetrable supreme universal power – which he called Universal Intelligence. He was a modern Western non-dualistic mystic whose religious views paralleled the most elevated non-dualistic ancient Vedic and Buddhist philosophies.
Albert Einstein was not only an acclaimed scientist but a wise philosopher and a pragmatic “true mystic” … “of a deeply religious nature.” (New York Times Obituary, April 19, 1955)
Einstein did not believe in a formal, dogmatic religion, but was reverently awed and humbled with a cosmic religious feeling by the immense beauty and eternal mystery of our Universe.
He often commented publicly on religious and ethical subjects, and thereby became widely respected for his moral integrity and mystical wisdom, as well as for his scientific genius.
Einstein rejected prevalent religious ideas about God, and individual survival of physical death, reincarnation, or of reward or punishment in heaven or hell after physical death. But in an essay entitled The World As I See It, first published 1933, Einstein explained his reverence for God as Eternal Universal Intelligence. He said:
I am a deeply religious man. 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. An individual who should survive his physical death is also beyond my comprehension, nor do I wish it otherwise; such notions are for the fears or absurd egoism of feeble souls. Enough for me the mystery of the eternity of life, and the inkling of the marvelous structure of reality, together with the single-hearted endeavor to comprehend a portion, be it ever so tiny, of the reason that manifests itself in nature. [The World As I See It]
Because Einstein repeatedly rejected all conventional theistic concepts of a personal “God”, atheists often eagerly have claimed that Einstein was one of them, selectively citing Einstein quotes.
Thus, prominent atheist/scientist Richard Dawkins, devoted an entire section of his book “The God Delusion” to Einstein. And atheist author Christopher Hitchens cited many Einstein quotations in “The Portable Atheist”, mistakenly claiming Einstein rejected all belief in “God”.
Often cited by atheists is a 1954 letter, sometimes called Einstein’s “God” letter, which recently sold for $3 million dollars in an eBay auction. Handwritten by Einstein – a non-observant Jew – to German-Jewish philosopher and author Eric Gutkind, the letter explained Einstein’s rejection of theistic Jewish “God” concepts, superstitions and religious exceptionalism, despite his great appreciation of Jewish culture. It said:
“The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still primitive legends. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this.” …….. “For me the Jewish religion like all other religions is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong and with whose mentality I have a deep affinity have no different quality ..than all other people. As far as my experience goes, they are also no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything ‘chosen’ about them.”
Though Einstein rejected the concept of “God” as it has been defined by most theistic religions, he also clearly rejected atheism, which he associated with mistaken certainty regarding nonexistence of a Supreme Power. Thus, he said:
“I have repeatedly said that in my opinion the idea of a personal God is a childlike one. … But I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist whose fervor is mostly due to a painful act of liberation from the fetters of religious indoctrination received in youth. I prefer an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being.”
“There are people who say there is no God, but what makes me really angry is that they quote me for support of such views.” “I’m not an atheist. The problem involved is too vast for our limited minds. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn’t know what that is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of the most intelligent human toward God.”
“[T]he fanatical atheists…are like slaves who are still feeling the weight of their chains which they have thrown off after hard struggle. They are creatures who—in their grudge against the traditional ‘opium of the people’—cannot bear the music of the spheres.”
When once asked by an atheist whether he considered himself religious, Einstein responded:
“Yes, you could call it that. Try and penetrate with our limited means the secrets of nature and you will find that, behind all the discernible laws and connections, there remains something subtle, intangible and inexplicable. Veneration for this force beyond anything we can comprehend is my religion.”
Despite his rejection of any personal God, Einstein suggested that he would never seek to challenge orthodox religious belief in the existence of a supreme universal power, because “such a belief seems to me preferable to the lack of any transcendental outlook.” Also at times Einstein used the “God” word to explain his reverence for Universal Intelligence.
Thus, he said:
“That deeply emotional conviction of a presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe, forms my idea of God.”
And throughout his adult life, Einstein repeatedly affirmed his religious awe of that mysterious eternal power which reveals itself in “the lawful harmony of all that exists.”
Albert Einstein was not an atheist; he did not deny or disbelieve the existence of a supreme universal power. He was a modern Western non-dualistic mystic whose religious views paralleled the most elevated non-dualistic ancient Vedic and Buddhist philosophies.
Einstein’s rejection of prevalent religious ideas about God and individual survival of physical death and afterlife was consistent with his revolutionary non-mechanistic science as well as with ancient Eastern non-dualistic teachings that apparent separation between subject and object is an unreal “optical illusion of consciousness.”
But Einstein’s mystical views – like his non-mechanistic science – have been very difficult for Western materialist minds to comprehend because they question the substantiality of matter and the ultimate reality of space, time and causality.
Like those ancient non-dualistic mystics, Einstein said:
“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”
“Our separation of each other is an optical illusion of consciousness.”
“Space and time are not conditions in which we live, they are modes in which we think”
And like non-dualistic Eastern mystics, he was reverently awed and humbled with a cosmic religious feeling by the immense beauty and eternal mystery of our Universe, whose Source he venerated, saying:
“That which is impenetrable to us really exists. Behind the secrets of nature remains something subtle, intangible, and inexplicable. Veneration for this force beyond anything that we can comprehend is my religion.”
Thus, Einstein was a non-dualistic mystic who venerated a supreme universal power which he called Universal Intelligence. He was not an atheist or a monotheist.
Thousands of years ago mystics were able to solve the deepest mysteries of physics with only their power of mind. Einstein made great strides in at long last reconciling modern physics with ancient mysticism.
May he ever inspire contemporary scientists to transcend mechanistic mental blinders and to merge physical science with mystical science, bringing us out of the darkness of ignorance into a bright new age of peace and harmony on our precious planet.
And so may it be!
How I See the World – PBS Documentary Film About Einstein:
“The brain does not create consciousness,
but consciousness created the brain,
the most complex physical form on earth, for its expression.”
~ Eckhart Tolle
I regard consciousness as fundamental.
I regard matter as derivative from consciousness.
We cannot get behind consciousness.
Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing,
~ Max Planck, Nobel laureate physicist, as quoted in The Observer (25 January 1931)
“The very study of the physical world leads to the conclusion that
consciousness is an ultimate reality and,
all the possible knowledge, concerning objects
can be given as its wave function”
~ Eugene Wigner, Nobel laureate physicist and co-founder of quantum mechanics
For millennia mystics and seers have realized experientially that our space/time/causality reality is but a play of consciousness; that all impermanent appearances, all apparent forms and phenomena – including human brains – are but holographic projections of timeless Universal Awareness.
But very few scientists have shared this revelatory mystical world view. Most scientists do not regard as “real” that which is beyond perception and conception.
Rather than recognizing consciousness as the ultimate and eternal Source of our reality, reductionistic and materialistic mainstream science says that brains generate consciousness, and that we see via our brains.
However, there have been innumerable published reports of near death and out of body experiences and other mystical experiences which contradict this mainstream brain hypothesis. (*See footnote re Near Death Experiences [NDE’s].) Nonetheless, until now most brain scientists have dismissed these reports as untrustworthy “anecdotal” evidence. Rarely have mainstream brain scientists transcended their mistaken materialistic paradigm. But there have been noteworthy exceptions. (see e.g. Atlantic Monthly: The Science of Near-Death Experiences.)
Dr. Eben Alexander
Thus, in October 2012 Dr. Eben Alexander, a neurosurgeon who has taught at Harvard Medical School, went public with an autobiographical account of a life changing dramatic and vivid near death experience (NDE) of what he called “heaven” while he was in a week-long comatose state with a non-functional brain neocortex. (His best-selling first book, ”Proof of Heaven”, was published by Simon and Schuster on October 23, 2012.)
Dr. Alexander reported being told in “heaven”:
“‘You have nothing to fear. There is nothing you can do wrong.’ The message flooded me with a vast and crazy sensation of relief.”
He has written that prior to his NDE he did not believe in such experiences, and ‘scientifically’ dismissed them.
“As a neurosurgeon, I did not believe in the phenomenon of near-death experiences. I grew up in a scientific world, the son of a neurosurgeon. I followed my father’s path and became an academic neurosurgeon, teaching at Harvard Medical School and other universities. I understand what happens to the brain when people are near death, and I had always believed there were good scientific explanations for the heavenly out-of-body journeys described by those who narrowly escaped death.”
“According to current medical understanding of the brain and mind, there is absolutely no way that I could have experienced even a dim and limited consciousness during my time in the coma, much less the hyper-vivid and completely coherent odyssey I underwent.”
“There is no scientific explanation for the fact that while my body lay in coma, my mind—my conscious, inner self—was alive and well. While the neurons of my cortex were stunned to complete inactivity by the bacteria that had attacked them, my brain-free consciousness journeyed to another, larger dimension of the universe: a dimension I’d never dreamed existed and which the old, pre-coma me would have been more than happy to explain was a simple impossibility.”
Raised as a Christian, Dr. Alexander used the religious concepts of “God” and “heaven”, to describe his extraordinary experience.
“Communicating with God is the most extraordinary experience imaginable, yet at the same time it’s the most natural one of all, because God is present in us at all times. Omniscient, omnipotent, personal-and loving us without conditions. We are connected as One through our divine link with God.”
Apart from referring to God, he also identified unconditional Love as the the ultimate Reality and “basis of everything” that exists.
“Love is, without a doubt, the basis of everything. Not some abstract, hard-to-fathom kind of love but the day-to-day kind that everyone knows-the kind of love we feel when we look at our spouse and our children, or even our animals. In its purest and most powerful form, this love is not jealous or selfish, but unconditional. This is the reality of realities, the incomprehensibly glorious truth of truths that lives and breathes at the core of everything that exists or will ever exist, and no remotely accurate understanding of who and what we are can be achieved by anyone who does not know it, and embody it in all of their actions.”
With newfound openness to “anecdotal” evidence, Dr. Alexander now expresses optimism that as science and mysticism ever more agree, humankind will evolve to wonderful new states of being.
And so may it be!
*Near Death Experiences [NDE’s].
The term ‘Near Death Experience’ [NDE] was coined in 1975 by Raymond A. Moody, Jr., PhD, MD, in his book Life After Life which sold over thirteen million copies worldwide. Since then numerous NDE accounts have been published and discussed in mainstream media, on the internet, in films and videos, and in magazines and books. Many spiritually inspiring NDE stories have been published and researched by the International Association For Near-Death Studies [IANDS] and others. So NDE’s have become widely considered, especially by those who claim to have experienced them. And some non-materialist scientists cite NDE’s as evidence that consciousness survives physical death. For millions of people NDE’s, and other extraordinary mystical experiences, have proven to be spiritually inspirational, and transformative events, diminishing or ending fear of death and encouraging a newly open, trusting and loving lifestyle. (see e.g. Atlantic Monthly: The Science of Near-Death Experiences.)