I spent yesterday reading Einstein’s Book, “The World As I See It”, and it was really enjoyable. Well, it was a book put together by people who knew Einstein, collecting his letters, speeches, etc. Since he’s one of the most frequently misrepresented people, due to his popularity, they wanted to collect these things and put them together, to paint the true picture of the man.
I’m going to take a bunch of excerpts from the book, and briefly comment on them.
Did Einstein Believe Life Has Meaning And Purpose?
“What an extraordinary situation is that of us mortals! Each of us is here for a brief sojourn; for what purpose he knows not, though he sometimes thinks he feels it. But from the point of view of daily life, without going deeper, we exist for our fellow-men–in the first place for those on whose smiles and welfare all our happiness depends, and next for all those unknown to us personally with whose destinies we are bound up by the tie of sympathy. A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life depend on the labours of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving. I am strongly drawn to the simple life and am often oppressed by the feeling that I am engrossing an unnecessary amount of the labour of my fellow-men. I regard class differences as contrary to justice and, in the last resort, based on force. I also consider that plain living is good for everybody, physically and mentally.”
I’d enjoy sitting down and talking with Einstein. It’s amazing how much different he is from most people. He prefers a simple life, of studying and figuring things out. He doesn’t care about wealth, or money, or possessions. He hated fame. He just wants to find answers, and help bring a little joy and happiness into the world.
Did Einstein Believe In Free-Will?
“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 up, 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 paralysing, and it prevents us from taking ourselves and other people too seriously; it conduces to a view of life in which humour, above all, has its due place.”
I only know of a handful of people in the entire world who understand what this means. It’s very deep. So many of the world’s troubles would be fixed if we only understood this principle.
What Did Einstein Value?
“To inquire after the meaning or object of one’s own existence or of creation generally has always seemed to me absurd from an objective point of view. And yet everybody has certain ideals which determine the direction of his endeavours and his judgments. In this sense I have never looked upon ease and happiness as ends in themselves–such an ethical basis I call more proper for a herd of swine. The ideals which have lighted me on my way and time after time given me new courage to face life cheerfully, have been Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. Without the sense of fellowship with men of like mind, of preoccupation with the objective, the eternally unattainable in the field of art and scientific research, life would have seemed to me empty. The ordinary objects of human endeavour–property, outward success, luxury–have
always seemed to me contemptible.”
Everyone I meet is always seeking sensual pleasure, hoping to make lots of money to live a life of ease – they want to lay on the beach and run their business in their sandals. Einstein finds beauty in resistance, and the preoccupation of searching into the unknown and seeing how far he can go. He does not care about owning things, nor what others think of him, nor whether they consider him successful, nor whether he owns big homes, fancy cars, etc.
Did Einstein Want To Be The “Life Of The Party”?
“My passionate sense of social justice and social responsibility has always contrasted oddly with my pronounced freedom from the need for direct contact with other human beings and human communities. I gang my own gait and have never belonged to my country, my home, my friends, or even my immediate family, with my whole heart; in the face of all these ties I have never lost an obstinate sense of detachment, of the need for solitude–a feeling which increases with the years. One is sharply conscious, yet without regret, of the limits to the possibility of mutual understanding and sympathy with one’s fellow-creatures. Such a person no doubt loses something in the way of geniality and light-heartedness ; on the other hand, he is largely independent of the opinions, habits, and judgments of his fellows and avoids the temptation to take his stand on such insecure foundations.”
Einstein preferred to be alone, but felt sorry for his fellow human beings, so he would come out of his study and give speeches and things, hoping to make a positive change on the world. As he became more and more intelligent (as he grew older), he felt more and more isolated, as nobody understood him. He did highly value friends whom he could share things with, however.
Slowly I’m becoming the same way. I say things, and I can tell people do not understand what I’m talking about, but I do not say anything. I’ll give a huge discourse only to hear a reply that is completely irrelevant to what I was even saying. I’m sure as I get older, if I ever do make serious discoveries, I’ll be in the same boat Einstein was in. I’ll feel sorry for people, so I’ll go out and give speeches, and appear on television, even though I’ll wonder what good it’s doing. If I never do become famous in any sense, I’ll live in seclusion in my cabin, happily pondering away at problems nobody ever thinks about nor understands.
I read a thousands of pages in Principia Mathematica, trying to fully define how our minds comes to 2+2=4, or even comprehend what the number “1” is. It’s really very complicated.
I spend my life, literally 10 hours per day reading and studying. When you do that, you find so many answers, and eventually get to where people just do not understand how thoughts go in your mind anymore. You find that the questions most people ask you are so off-base, they’re not even asking the right questions. They only give you a few minutes to discuss something you’ve spent years studying, and you just think, “It’s not possible to discuss this subject in the time allotted.” A reporter once asked Einstein to tell him about relativity in one sentence. Einstein told him it’d take hours just to briefly overview it all, and that’s presupposing he knew all kinds of mathematics and physics beforehand.
What Did Einstein Think About Government?
“My political ideal is that of democracy. Let every man be respected as an individual and no man idolized. It is an irony of fate that I myself have been the recipient of excessive admiration and respect from my fellows through no fault, and no merit, of my own. The cause of this may well be the desire, unattainable for many, to understand the one or two ideas to which I have with my feeble powers attained through ceaseless struggle. I am quite aware that it is necessary for the success of any complex undertaking that one man should do the thinking and directing and in general bear the responsibility. But the led must not be compelled, they must be able to choose their leader. An autocratic system of coercion, in my opinion, soon degenerates. For force always attracts men of low morality, and I believe it to be an invariable rule that tyrants of genius are succeeded by scoundrels. For this reason I have always been passionately opposed to systems such as we see in Italy and Russia to-day. The thing that has brought discredit upon the prevailing form of democracy in Europe to-day is not to be laid to the door of the democratic idea as such, but to lack of stability on the part of the heads of governments and to the impersonal character of the electoral system. I believe that in this respect the United States of America have found the right way. They have a responsible President who is elected for a sufficiently long period and has sufficient powers to be really responsible. On the other hand, what I value in our political system is the more extensive provision that it makes for the individual in case of illness or need. The really valuable thing in the pageant of human life seems to me not the State but the creative, sentient individual, the personality; it alone creates the noble and the sublime, while the herd as such remains dull in thought and dull in feeling.”
You can see he doesn’t even think very highly of his own discoveries. People think he understood “everything”, but he felt he understood very little, was standing on the shoulders of other great thinkers, only himself found out a few new principles, and was over-glorified by the public. He believed in democracy, and the individual. As Bertrand Russell says, there can be no value in the whole unless there’s value in the parts which compose the whole.
Did Einstein Believe In War?
“This topic brings me to that worst outcrop of the herd nature, the military system, which I abhor. That a man can take pleasure in marching in formation to the strains of a band is enough to make me despise him. He has only been given his big brain by mistake; a backbone was all he needed. This plague-spot of civilization ought to be abolished with all possible speed. Heroism by order, senseless violence, and all the pestilent nonsense that does by the name of patriotism–how I hate them! War seems to me a mean, contemptible thing: I would rather be hacked in pieces than take part in such an abominable business. And yet so high, in spite of everything, is my opinion of the human race that I believe this bogey would have disappeared long ago, had the sound sense of the nations not been systematically corrupted by commercial and political interests acting through the schools and the Press.”
He was an ardent pacifist, and hated the military. I identify completely. He felt most politicians simply manipulated young people into serving their own greedy purposes. Heroism to him was stupidity. Same with patriotism. He felt the newspapers were constantly manipulating the unintelligent public into holding mindsets which constantly made them fight one another. Since the newspapers (as they still are today) were controlled by big corporations, they promoted mindsets which accomplished their own private agendas.
That’s all I see as I watch my parents watch Fox News. It’s garbage. We’d probably have world peace if we’d only turn our televisions off, and stop reading the newspapers. You can also see he didn’t think highly of school, which brings us to the next topic.
What Did Einstein Think Of The Schools?
“Academic chairs are many, but wise and noble teachers are few; lecture-rooms are numerous and large, but the number of young people who genuinely thirst after truth and justice is small. Nature scatters her common wares with a lavish hand, but the choice sort she produces but seldom. We all know that, so why complain? Was it not ever thus and will it not ever thus remain? Certainly, and one must take what Nature gives as one finds it. But there is also such a thing as a spirit of the times, an attitude of mind characteristic of a particular generation, which is passed on from individual to individual and gives a society its particular tone. Each of us has to do his little bit towards transforming this spirit of the times.”
Everytime I meet college age individuals, they’re either searching for some sort of “experience”, or they’re hoping to get the degree and make good money. It’s rare to encounter someone who truly thirsts for knowledge and wants to improve themselves. Not improve themselves to make more money, or get dates with hot women, nor entertain others by being ‘witty’ and ‘charming’, but simply because they hunger and and thirst for truth. I honestly can’t say I’ve ever met a single person.
To Einstein, what was the most important thing a man could achieve?
“The true value of a human being is determined primarily by the measure
and the sense in which he has attained to liberation from the self.”
This is all I think about these days. Life is about losing yourself. I still do not completely understand this principle, and it is my chief goal to understand it more.
Everybody wants to be the life of the party, famous, have the most stuff, … blah blah blah. They want awards, instead of being rewarded by the work itself. There’s self-glory in movies and the writings of authors, and it makes the plots shallow and uninteresting. I could go on and on.
When we come to Einstein’s views on religions, we’ll see he thought that human affairs really meant little in the big scheme of things, and he continually strived to find something greater.
Einstein On Good And Evil
“It is right in principle that those should be the best loved who have contributed most to the elevation of the human race and human life. But, if one goes on to ask who they are, one finds oneself in no inconsiderable difficulties. In the case of political, and even of religious, leaders, it is often very doubtful whether they have done more good or harm. Hence I most seriously believe that one does people the best service by giving them some elevating work to do and thus indirectly elevating them. This applies most of all to the great artist, but also in a lesser degree to the scientist. To be sure, it is not the fruits of scientific research that elevate a man and enrich his nature, but the urge to understand, the intellectual work, creative or receptive. It would surely be absurd to judge the value of the Talmud, for instance, by its intellectual fruits.”
Good and evil are important, but few have a mind discerning enough to know which things are good, and what things are bad. There are many voices claiming that such as such is the way to prosperity, and such and such the way to peril, but so often they’re completely off base. Once again, we come back to the fact that developing our minds, and hearing quality arguments and information is everything. That’s all that matters. If we had the right information, and properly educated ourselves, the world’s problems would go away. It’s because we are not properly educated that the world is the way it is. Our actions first spring forth from the thoughts in our mind. To change a man’s actions, you change how he thinks. This world today is in such a horrid condition because men think the way they do.
What Did Einstein Think About Society?
“When we survey our lives and endeavours we soon observe that almost the whole of our actions and desires are bound up with the existence of other human beings. We see that our whole nature resembles that of the social animals. We eat food that others have grow, wear clothes that others have made, live in houses that others have built. The greater part of our knowledge and beliefs has been communicated to us by other people through the medium of a language which others have created. Without language our mental capacities would be poor indeed, comparable to those of the higher animals; we have, therefore, to admit that we owe our principal advantage over the beasts to the fact of living in human society. The individual, if left alone from birth would remain primitive and beast-like in his thoughts and feelings to a degree that we can hardly conceive. The individual is what he is and has the significance that he has not so much in virtue of his individuality, but rather as a member of a great human society, which directs his material and spiritual existence from the cradle to the grave.
A man’s value to the community depends primarily on how far his feelings, thoughts, and actions are directed towards promoting the good of his fellows. We call him good or bad according to how he stands in this matter. It looks at first sight as if our estimate of a man depended entirely on his social qualities. And yet such an attitude would be wrong. It is clear that all the valuable things, material, spiritual, and moral, which we receive from society can be traced back through countless generations to certain creative individuals. The
use of fire, the cultivation of edible plants, the steam engine–each was discovered by one man.
Only the individual can think, and thereby create new values for society–nay, even set up new moral standards to which the life of the community conforms. Without creative, independently thinking and judging personalities the upward development of society is as unthinkable as the development of the individual personality without the nourishing soil of the community.”
The only comment I have to say about this is that this is just yet another reason why we have to lose ourselves. We are nothing. Most everything we have of value is because of other people’s work. People look like such idiots when they think themselves great. As human beings, we are very weak, and completely dependent on one another. We need each other. To be lost in our selves makes us lose the big picture. We are only collectively great. In isolation, we are pathetic.
What Did Einstein Think About Technology?
“In my opinion, the present symptoms of decadence are explained by the fact that the development of industry and machinery has made the struggle for existence very much more severe, greatly to the detriment of the free development of the individual. But the development of machinery means that less and less work is needed from the individual for the satisfaction of the community’s needs. A planned division of labour is becoming more and more of a crying necessity, and this division will lead to the material security of the individual. This security and the spare time and energy which the individual will have at his command can be made to further his development. In this way the community may regain its health, and we will hope that future istorians will explain the morbid symptoms of present-day society as the childhood ailments of an aspiring humanity, due entirely to the excessive speed at which civilization was advancing.”
Einstein loved technology and innovation, but he hated what we did with it. We find new ways to increase production, and make life easier, and instead of it benefitting mankind, it instead leads to mass unemployment. Just think about today’s system. What if we created robots and other computers which could do most of all the jobs which exist today? You’d think, “Wow, mankind will now be free to do anything he wants. He can study books, read, and live life in pleasure.” Unfortunately this is not what happens. Instead we have one rich business man, who fires all his employees, and keeps all the money. The rest of the public then becomes unemployed, and in poverty, struggling to even have food to eat. Since robots can’t spend money, who is there to even buy the products the robots are creating? The whole system collapses.
It’s rather ridiculous when you study economics and learn this. We have systems in place which purposely inhibit innovation. We find new ways to grow crops, and this instead leaves the farmer in poverty, so the government has to instead buy all the food, manipulate prices, and bury tons of food in the ground. How stupid is that? Millions are starving in the world, and we’re burying the food they need. Well, that’s how our system works, and it really is the chief concern of our age to find a solution. But it will require a complete rethinking of money, and how we live.
My company designs business software. We create software which can do a lot of the jobs automatically, without the need for staff. Instead of this helping people, it only helps the business owner, as he saves money in staff costs, but he ends up firing all the other workers. I’ve heard people say, “Well, they need to learn something new.” Easy for the business owner to say. We don’t have systems in place where people can easily be trained in new things, nor are they helped in the process. A lot of these people have student loan bills, and other expenses. Everytime you flippantly throw these people around, you totally destroy their lives. They only have to miss a few payments before they lose all equity in their home. Miss a payment or two on the car and you lose everything you’ve put into it.
I could go and on, but this entry is about Einstein, not my views on economics and how we need things like free college education, etc.
Also, new findings in energy technology from the forces of the atom, we could use this to have limitless energy, but we instead build bombs with it, and point them all toward each other. It’s so stupid.
Einstein’s Views On Money
“I am absolutely convinced that no wealth in the world can help humanity forward, even in the hands of the most devoted worker in this cause. The example of great and pure characters is the only thing that can produce fine ideas and noble deeds. Money only appeals to selfishness and always tempts its owners irresistibly to abuse it.
Can anyone imagine Moses, Jesus, or Gandhi armed with the money-bags of
Funny though, all the followers today of Jesus all preach “prosperity”, and how God wants you rich. It’s really just selfishness, and wishing to control the actions of others, instead of serve them.
Once again, only when the majority of people in the world change how they think will the world change. Only when they educate themselves, and learn things, will the system change. You can’t impose a change on the mind by having lots of money. You can mask over problems, but you haven’t cured the disease, which is stupidity.
I say “education” as opposed to “character”. I think with the proper type of education, you’ll become moral, as you’ll see the stupidity as to living any other way. Few throw their hands on the stove, when they know it will burn them. It’s children who do this, because they don’t know better.
A Letter From Einstein To A Woman Regarding The Education System
“I have read about sixteen pages of your manuscript and it made me–smile. It is clever, well observed, honest, it stands on its own feet up to a point, and yet it is so typically feminine, by which I mean derivative and vitiated by personal rancour. I suffered exactly the same treatment at the hands of my teachers, who disliked me for my independence and passed me over when they wanted assistants (I must admit that I was somewhat less of a model student than you). But it would not have been worth my while to write anything about my school life, still less would I have liked to be responsible for anyone’s printing or actually reading it. Besides, one always cuts a poor figure if one complains about others who are struggling for their place in the sun too after their own fashion. Therefore pocket your temperament and keep your manuscript for your sons and daughters, order that they may derive consolation from it and–not give a damn for what their teachers tell them or think of them. Incidentally I am only coming to Princeton to research, not to teach. There is too much education altogether, especially in American schools. The only rational way of educating is to be an example–of what to avoid, if one can’t be the other sort.”
Interesting letter. He believes that teachers are not so much about “teaching” all the technical details, as they are more so about warning students about what subject areas are wastes of time, so that they can focus themselves on what’s important and moves humanity forward.
It’s my own view that school tends to try to cram you through too much material too quickly. It leaves people with confused views. They’re so busy writing papers on subjects they don’t understand, instead of just sitting down and reading the books by the authors of the subject, and spending significant time thinking about it all. Really, most college textbooks I find are simply attempts to boil down certain subjects, and only highlight what’s important, or at least, what the professors think important, and they’re usually less qualified to make that judgment than the founders of the subject. Unfortnately, because of this style, a lot of the depth is completely lost, and the students, thinking they understand the subject, instead become “repeaters”, who simply spout off material they’ve memorized, but do not really understand what they’re talking about.
Engineers are the worst. They can plug numbers into equations, but have no idea how or why it works. Scientists are prone to this as well. I recently was talking with a graduate physics student at a top science university. I started talking about energy and work. He started to get confused and garbled at the distinction. I thought to myself, “How can you major in physics for all these years, and not know something so basic?” It’s because all he does is plug numbers into equations. He does not know really what he’s doing, and has been so busy working jobs while going to school, to pay off his student loan bills, that he’s had no time to think – even though his passion is with the subject. It’s a sad thing to see. But he’s a good guy. He just needs some free time, which the world gives very little of if you get caught up in “the system”.
Einstein’s Views On God And Religion
“Everything that the human race has done and thought is concerned with the satisfaction of felt needs and the assuagement of pain. One has to keep this constantly in mind if one wishes to understand spiritual movements and their development. Feeling and desire are the motive forces behind all human endeavour and human creation, in however exalted a guise the latter may present itself to us. Now what are the feelings and needs that have led men to religious thought and belief in the widest sense of the words? A little consideration will suffice to show us that the most varying emotions preside over the birth of religious thought and experience. With primitive man it is above all fear that evokes religious notions–fear of hunger, wild beasts, sickness, death. Since at this stage of existence understanding of causal connexions is usually poorly developed, the human mind creates for itself more or less analogous beings on whose wills and actions these fearful happenings depend. One’s object now is to secure the favour of these beings by carrying out actions and offering sacrifices which, according to the tradition handed down from generation to generation, propitiate them or make them well disposed towards a mortal. I am speaking now of the religion of fear. This, though not created, is in an important degree stabilized by the formation of a special priestly caste which sets up as a mediator between the people and the beings they fear, and erects a hegemony on this basis. In many cases the leader or ruler whose position depends on other factors, or a privileged class, combines priestly functions with its secular authority in order to make the latter more secure; or the political rulers and the priestly caste make common cause in their own interests.
The social feelings are another source of the crystallization of religion. Fathers and mothers and the leaders of larger human communities are mortal and fallible. The desire for guidance, love, and support prompts men to form the social or moral conception of God. This is the God of Providence who protects, disposes, rewards, and punishes, the God who, according to the width of the believer’s outlook, loves and cherishes the life of the tribe or of the human race, or even life as such, the comforter in sorrow and unsatisfied longing, who preserves the souls of the dead. This is the social or moral conception of God.
The Jewish scriptures admirably illustrate the development from the religion of fear to moral religion, which is continued in the New Testament. The religions of all civilized peoples, especially the peoples of the Orient, are primarily moral religions. The development from a religion of fear to moral religion is a great step in a nation’s life. That primitive religions are based entirely on fear and the religions of civilized peoples purely on morality is a prejudice against which we must be on our guard. The truth is that they are all intermediate types, with this reservation, that on the higher levels of social life the religion of morality predominates.
Common to all these types is the anthropomorphic character of their conception of God. Only individuals of exceptional endowments and exceptionally high-minded communities, as a general rule, get in any real sense beyond this level. But there is a third state of religious experience which belongs to all of them, even though it is rarely found in a pure form, and which I will call cosmic religious feeling. It is very difficult to explain this feeling to anyone who is entirely without it, especially as there is no anthropomorphic conception of God corresponding to it.
The individual feels the nothingness of human desires and aims and the sublimity and marvellous order which reveal themselves both in nature and in the world of thought. He looks upon individual existence as a sort of prison and wants to experience the universe as a single significant whole. The beginnings of cosmic religious feeling already appear in earlier stages of development–e.g., in many of the Psalms of David and in some of the Prophets. Buddhism, as we have learnt from the wonderful writings of Schopenhauer especially, contains a much stronger element of it.
The religious geniuses of all ages have been distinguished by this kind of religious feeling, which knows no dogma and no God conceived in man’s image; so that there can be no Church whose central teachings are based on it. Hence it is precisely among the heretics of every age that we find men who were filled with the highest kind of religious feeling and were in many cases regarded by their contemporaries as Atheists, sometimes also as saints. Looked at in this light, men like Democritus, Francis of Assisi, and Spinoza are closely akin to one another.
How can cosmic religious feeling be communicated from one person to another, if it can give rise to no definite notion of a God and no theology? In my view, it is the most important function of art and science to awaken this feeling and keep it alive in those who are capable of it.
We thus arrive at a conception of the relation of science to religion very different from the usual one. When one views the matter historically one is inclined to look upon science and religion as irreconcilable antagonists, and for a very obvious reason. The man who is thoroughly convinced of the universal operation of the law of causation cannot for a moment entertain the idea of a being who interferes in the course of events–that is, if he takes the hypothesis of causality really seriously. He has no use for the religion of fear and equally little for social or moral religion. A God who rewards and punishes is inconceivable to him for the simple reason that a man’s actions are determined by necessity, external and internal, so that in God’s eyes he cannot be responsible, any more than an inanimate object is responsible for the motions it goes through. Hence science has been charged with undermining morality, but the charge is unjust. A man’s ethical behaviour should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear and punishment and hope of reward after death.
It is therefore easy to see why the Churches have always fought science and persecuted its devotees. On the other hand, I maintain that cosmic religious feeling is the strongest and noblest incitement to scientific research. Only those who realize the immense efforts and, above all, the devotion which pioneer work in theoretical science demands, can grasp the strength of the emotion out of which alone such work, remote as it is from the immediate realities of life, can issue. What a deep conviction of the rationality of the universe and what a yearning to understand, were it but a feeble reflection of the mind revealed in this world, Kepler and Newton must have had to enable them to spend years of solitary labour in disentangling the principles of celestial mechanics! Those whose acquaintance with scientific research is derived chiefly from its practical results easily develop a completely false notion of the mentality of the men who, surrounded by a sceptical world, have shown the way to those like-minded with themselves, scattered through the earth and the centuries. Only one who has devoted his life to similar ends can have a vivid realization of what has inspired these men and given them the strength to remain true to their purpose in spite of countless failures. It is cosmic religious feeling that gives a man strength of this sort. A contemporary has said, not unjustly, that in this materialistic age of ours the serious scientific workers are the only profoundly religious people.”
My own religious convictions are near identical to Einstein’s. He said it all so well, there’s no need to comment. I don’t think there’s really any other conclusion for a person who studies science, philosophy, history, religion, etc., and sees how it all ties together.
More On Einstein’s Views On Religion And Science
“You will hardly find one among the profounder sort of scientific minds without a peculiar religious feeling of his own. But it is different from the religion of the naive man. For the latter God is a being from whose care one hopes to benefit and whose punishment one fears; a sublimation of a feeling similar to that of a child for its father, a being to whom one stands to some extent in a personal relation, however deeply it may be tinged with awe.
But the scientist is possessed by the sense of universal causation. The future, to him, is every whit as necessary and determined as the past. There is nothing divine about morality, it is a purely human affair. His religious feeling takes the form of a rapturous amazement at the harmony of natural law, which reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection. This feeling is the guiding principle of his life and work, in so far as he succeeds in keeping himself from the shackles of selfish desire. It is beyond question closely akin to that which has possessed the religious geniuses of all ages.”
Einstein On Peace and Pacifism
“The importance of securing international peace was recognized by the really great men of former generations. But the technical advances of our times have turned this ethical postulate into a matter of life and death for civilized mankind to-day, and made the taking of an active part in the solution of the problem of peace a moral duty which no conscientious man can shirk.
One has to realize that the powerful industrial groups concerned in the manufacture of arms are doing their best in all countries to prevent the peaceful settlement of international disputes, and that rulers can achieve this great end only if they are sure of the vigorous support of the majority of their peoples. In these days of democratic government the fate of the nations hangs on themselves; each individual must always bear that in mind.”
More On Peace and Pacifism
“I am very glad of this opportunity of saying a few words to you about the problem of pacificism. The course of events in the last few years has once more shown us how little we are justified in leaving the struggle against armaments and against the war spirit to the Governments. On the other hand, the formation of large organizations with a large membership can of itself bring us very little nearer to our goal. In my opinion, the best method in this case is the violent one of conscientious objection, with the aid of organizations for giving moral and material support to the courageous conscientious objectors in each country. In this way we may succeed in making the problem of pacificism an acute one, a real struggle which attracts forceful natures. It is an illegal struggle, but a struggle for people’s real rights against their governments in so far as the latter demand criminal acts of the citizen.
Many who think themselves good pacifists will jib at this out-and-out pacifism, on patriotic grounds. Such people are not to be relied on in the hour of crisis, as the World War amply proved.
I am most grateful to you for according me an opportunity to give you my views in person.”
I’d like to end this entry with a letter Einstein sent to Sigmund Freud. You’ll see he thought very highly of Freud.
A Letter To Sigmund Freud
“Dear Professor Freud,
It is admirable the way the longing to perceive the truth has overcome every other desire in you. You have shown with irresistible clearness how inseparably the combative and destructive instincts are bound up with the amative and vital ones in the human psyche. At the same time a deep yearning for that great consummation, the internal and external liberation of mankind from war, shines out from the ruthless logic of your expositions. This has been the declared aim of all those who have been honoured as moral and spiritual leaders beyond the limits of their own time and country without exception, from Jesus Christ to Goethe and Kant. Is it not significant that such men have been universally accepted as leaders, in spite of the fact that their efforts to mould the course of human affairs were attended with but small success?
I am convinced that the great men–those whose achievements, even though in a restricted sphere, set them above their fellows–are animated to an overwhelming extent by the same ideals. But they have little influence on the course of political events. It almost looks as if this domain, on which the fate of nations depends, had inevitably to be given over to violence and irresponsibility.
Political leaders or governments owe their position partly to force and partly to popular election. They cannot be regarded as representative of the best elements, morally and intellectually, in their respective nations. The intellectual èlite have no direct influence on the history of nations in these days; their lack of cohesion prevents them from taking a direct part in the solution of contemporary problems. Don’t you think that a change might be brought about in this respect by a free association of people whose work and achievements up to date constitute a guarantee of their ability and purity of aim? This international association, whose members would need to keep in touch with each other by a constant interchange of opinions, might, by defining its attitude in the Press–responsibility always resting with the signatories on any given occasion–acquire a considerable and salutary moral influence over the settlement of political questions. Such an association would, of course, be a prey to all the ills which so often lead to degeneration in learned societies, dangers which are inseparably bound up with the imperfection of human nature. But should not an effort in this direction be risked in spite of this? I look upon the attempt as nothing less than an imperative duty.
If an intellectual association of standing, such as I have described, could be formed, it would no doubt have to try to mobilize the religious organizations for the fight against war. It would give countenance to many whose good intentions are paralysed to-day by a melancholy resignation. Finally, I believe that an association formed of persons such as I have described, each highly esteemed in his own line, would be just the thing to give valuable moral support to those elements in the League of Nations which are really working for the great object for which that institution exists.
I had rather put these proposals to you than to anyone else in the world, because you are least of all men the dupe of your desires and because your critical judgment is supported by a most earnest sense of responsibility.”
Just like Einstein, I admire Freud’s honesty. Freud said things which made him the object of derision during his generation, but he always was intellectually honest, and painted a very horrible picture of mankind. It’s a picture we don’t like to look at, which is why it’s always unpopular with people who first start studying psychology. All the curtains are pulled down, and we see something a little less glorious than we thought we were. Once again, we shouldn’t live the lie and glorify ourselves, but we need to lose ourselves in a pursuit in something greater than ourselves – not falsely elevate ourselves.