Einstein Was More Than A Scientist - He Was Also A Seer
Whenever people talk of Einstein, they tend to think of him as related purely to science; no-one speaks of his philosophy, except for those that have taken the trouble to find out:
This is just one of his many statements related to his philosophy:
A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling 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 to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.
Albert Einstein stands as a precursor and example of the unique type of scientist so sorely needed in the world today, the type that Bhagavan is currently graduating from His Institute of Higher Learning. Under Swami's loving hand, these are "whole" scientists. Their aim is to benefit society and not merely accomplish selfish ends without thought to their work's impact upon humanity and the environment. These are scientists who combine spiritual awareness with state of the art training. Swami's graduates are at the leading edge of discovery in various fields. Three recent Ph.D.'s in physics had the unheard of experience of having their papers published in American physics journals within a year of receiving their degrees! Grounded in the truth that God is the source of all phenomena and knowledge, they maintain the perspective that the best path to understanding creation is to study the Creator.
Einstein also was this type of scientist, and his life was guided by this principle. His overriding goal was to "Understand how the 'Old One' thinks." And he devoted his life to the effort to gain "knowledge of the ultimate immu¬table essence that underlies the mutable, illusory world."
In the first part of this article I will mention some personal stories about my family, Baba and Einstein. The second part will include some of Einstein's thoughts on science, spirituality, education and character, as well as what Swami had to say about him during a recent interview.
Although Einstein was deeply saddened by the ironic fact that some of his work led to the development of nuclear weapons, we might also consider that the work also holds within it a scientific illustration of the spiritual truth. This article will conclude with some musings on how some of Einstein's work may be useful as one more 'tool' to help free us from Maya and accept the unseen Atma as the fundamental truth of life.
My father, Dr. Henry Abrams, opened his general medical practice in Princeton, New Jersey, in 1938. A year later, the physician who had been caring for Prof. Einstein, his daughter Margot and secretary Miss Helen Dukas, was leaving for further training. He approached my father and asked if he would care to take over, and he readily agreed. He cared for Einstein and the others until the out¬break of World War II.
GODFATHER EINSTEINDuring the war my father was stationed on the cold and desolate island of Greenland. He and Einstein corresponded. While in Greenland my father received a letter from Einstein remarking that this should be a "contemplative period" for him, and urging him to consider getting further medical training in some speciality. Subsequently, my father did that, and returned to Princeton as the town's sole ophthalmologist. When I was born in 1949, he asked the profes¬sor, as Einstein preferred to be called, if he would be my Godfather, and Einstein consented. Thus, following Jewish tradition, Einstein was the one who held me for the eris Milah, the ritual circumcision ceremony. He was to have a minor contact, but a major impact over my life in the years to come. Further, because in the West the Godfather is considered a child's spiritual teacher, I have come to consider Professor Einstein to be the first of several spiritual teachers in this life. They ultimately led me to Bhagavan.
Einstein died when I was six, and my recollections of him are few. I do remember that he had a very nice laugh, which he used often. For my fourth birthday, my parents and I were invited for a small celebration. My uncle took the opportunity to photograph the Professor and me dealing with the gifts that his secretary had obtained: a toy log cabin and a bag of foil covered chocolates in the form of "gold coins." It was this latter which occupied most of my attention. Professor Einstein worked on the log cabin, trying to fit the simple pieces of wood together. Interestingly, when I grew up and printed all the negatives, there was a picture of my mother leaning over Professor Einstein and the logs, showing him how the ends joined.
Of course at that young age I had no idea of what was so special about being around this nice old man. It wasn't until I was at college that I really began to appreciate the honour of being his Godson and to consider what his scientific work meant.
I discovered meditation at the age of twenty. As my spiritual journey proceeded I became intensely curious as to what my link was with such a luminous soul.
EINSTEIN AND THE GITABaba found me at twenty three. As you can imagine, I regarded my first trip to the Avatar as a possible opportunity, among other things, to learn more about my relationship with Einstein. It may come as no surprise that throughout these and subsequent trips, Leelas have been the order of the day.
Baba, the consummate "tour guide", treated my wife Marsha and me to a host of travel experiences over the course of my first visit to India. We had no desire to be anywhere but where He was, and since He went to Delhi, Madras and Hyderabad we were overjoyed to be allowed to follow Him.
In Hyderabad a most interesting incident occurred during a discourse Swami was giving in a large auditorium. It was very hot and I had just eaten lunch. As time went on, I realized to my horror that I was being overtaken by a powerful drowsiness. As 1 was sinking into thamas, I projected a thought to the Lord: "Baba, the only thing that could keep me from falling asleep right now is if You were to mention Einstein...” I knew He could do it but didn't really expect it at all and continued my descent. Within sixty seconds, my head thrust backwards as Swami's lilting pronunciation of the name "Einstein” entered my consciousness from His ongoing flow of Telugu.
I was awake then, and became riveted to the story He recounted of how a young Indian physicist during an appointment with Einstein eagerly probed for the ultimate in Western scientific wisdom. What he received from Einstein however, was, to roughly quote Swami, "Every major conclusion I’ve arrived at is contained in your Bhagavad Gita. Look there!"
My curiosity about the connection was inflamed anew! I was dying to get some insight into "why me?" As Swami's translator for the discourse was himself a nuclear physicist, I approached him afterwards hoping for some kernel of insight. He had nothing personally to share, and as far as learning more from Sai he said, "I counsel patience..." I was disappointed but left knowing I had received sound advice.
AT PRASHANTI NILAYAMApproximately one month later we found ourselves in the interview room at Prashanti Nilayam. I was sitting on the floor just to Swami's right as He was talking to various people in the group. Seeing His footstool off to the side and recalling how frequently He is seen using one, I took the opportunity to perform the logical but minor Seva of placing it in position. He accepted and I felt happy. After some time there was a lull in the give and take of conversation. No one was asking questions and Swami was silent, save for the quiet phrase "And you sir?" drawing the words out slowly. The thought came that He seemed to be addressing me. I was at a complete loss for words. I was embarrassed to be addressed personally in front of the group. I definitely had something I wanted to ask and whether I was being addressed or not, it was an absolutely clear, appropriate chance to approach Baba about it. Perhaps as many as two or even three solid minutes passed. An ego-based lack of confidence prevented me from simply asking, "What is my connection to Einstein, Baba?" I feel Baba gave me many chances there, but finally, a new dialogue began with someone else. The moment was lost and I clearly could not cut in. I was to wonder many times after that if the opportunity might not have been lost forever.
That was in 1978. More blessed interviews occurred in ensuing years and questions about more important matters were raised than about my Godfather. It was okay; I had become patient and accepted that He would reveal whatever I needed to know in its own best time.
After Professor Einstein's death in 1955, Miss Einstein and Miss Dukes remained patients of my father and friends of the family, remembering birthdays and attending my Bar Mitzvah at 13. My mother sometimes gave them rides around town as they did not drive.
For some time I had had a yearning to visit Einstein's home to see his study. In 1983 my sister planned to get married in Princeton and this looked like a good opportunity. My father called Miss Einstein to arrange a visit and on a cold December day he, my stepmother and I spent about two hours chatting with this completely unassuming artist in the parlour of the house where she had lived for close to fifty years. She told us of her time spent studying art at a convent in Italy and showed us a beautiful little wax sculpture of Saint Francis, for whom she had a special affection.
EINSTEIN’S STUDYSomewhat paralleling that 1978 interview with Swami, I had been feeling some reserve during this conversation about requesting to see the Professor's study. This woman was elderly and appeared frail and I didn't want to trouble her by an extra trip upstairs. Clearly it was getting time to go. I had to act quickly or the chance would be lost. Thinking of Swami I made my request and she responded with an enthusiastic "Sure!!" and charged up the stairs to the room in question. On the way we passed her father's bedroom which was very plainly furnished, like a monastic cell. Then we were in the study. Bookshelves lined the walls, and a wide window faced a deep garden in the back of the house. To the left of this picture-window were two portraits, one of a bearded Jewish sage, the other of Mahatma Gandhi. One shelf contained all of the original issues of "Der Annalen der Physik" (Annual of Physics), the journal in which both Theories of Relativity were first published. Then, just as I noticed a large easy chair and footstool, Miss Einstein "commanded" me to sit in it. How could I refuse? I smiled broadly to myself, remembering Swami's footstool and feeling His subtle presence in what for me was a meaning¬ful coincidence. We took pictures, looked around a bit more and left. Later, I remembered Swami had said Einstein had a copy of the Bhagavad Gita and wished I'd looked for it.
As we left, my father recalled the time, years before, when he'd brought his brother in law Elliott Montroll over for what Einstein's formidable secretary had said would only be a three-minute appointment. My uncle, who was to be later named to the Einstein Chair of Physics at the University of Rochester, would have been overjoyed just to have shaken hands, but Einstein offered them lunch. They declined. My uncle ended up spending half an hour at Einstein's dining room table, talking and laughing with him about physics, while my father beamed with joy, understanding not one word.
SERVICE TO HUMANITYMy father, only on being asked recently, recounted to me how every three or four months for some years he would receive a call from Einstein's secretary asking him if he might be able to spare a few minutes, as the Professor wished to talk. Somehow, especially in the early years of his practice, he always found time to go over, for discussions involving the non-scientific topics his host was interested in, such as philosophy, and world and national events.
Always straightforward and humble in human dealings, Einstein came to accept and use the bewildering fame that was thrust upon him in the only way that made sense to him—service to humanity. He worked tirelessly throughout his life promoting peace, freedom, and respect for all people.
Dad recalled how Einstein's efforts during the 1930's and World War II enabled a certain number of Jews to escape Nazi persecution. The Professor also spent many years working for the United Jewish Appeal in establishing the state of Israel and accepted my father's invitation to co chair the local fundraising campaign with him in Princeton for several years.
My father considers himself a rational scientific and appropriately sceptical man, who, while loving his religion and believing in God, puts great stock in what can be touched, seen, and measured.
During the interview Baba gave everyone private time, answered questions on all aspects of personal life, and blessed Marsha's and my entry into advanced studies in psychology. He materialized a diamond pendent for her, and a red, white and blue on gold pen¬dent for my daughter Nilima. I was sitting next to Baba in the same position as in 1978 and was filled to overflowing.
Again, I had an opportunity to pose my question about the meaning of my relationship to Einstein. I took the opportunity, and Swami revealed some personal information that I will ponder for some time to come. (After the Interview, one of those present said that the thought occurred to him that the spirit of Einstein might have also been present as a participant.)
EINSTEIN'S REGRETSwami then went on to say the following to the group: "Einstein is a body. That body is dead. He was a very good man. Einstein was very patient. Peace, Peace, Peace. He was always thinking of Bhagavan."
Swami, in an apparent reference to Einstein's pain that his work laid the foundation for nuclear weapons, said "Einstein made 'gunpowder' and felt bad at the end (of, his life), — he said: 'I have made a mistake, this was a mistake.' ”
Swami: "What is a scientist! Science is the study of creation. Spirituality is studying the Creator."
[Swami draws a circle with His finger on the wall:] "Man as scientist works from senses down. Man as Spirit works from senses up." [Points to top of circle] "See, science is only a ' C,' (tracing one half of a circle) but Spirit is full circle. It is the difference between this and that."
Swami concluded by saying: "If science were more spiritual, it would know more. Science is no love. Science tries to get the exact truth but has no goal; it is random. Always in the laboratory. There is no love in science. Study Spirit! Spirit has a goal. Know yourself and you know everything.”
EINSTEIN ON 'GOD AND MAN'Following are some of Albert Einstein's thoughts on what he considered to be most important in life: closeness to God and love of humanity. We can readily see how they correspond to the modes of consciousness, and attitudes of open heartedness, sadhana and service Swami strives to teach us.
These thoughts of Einstein's and the exploration of the spiritual implications of his work to follow, illustrate how in some ways he can be seen as having helped usher in the Golden Age of Sai. I perhaps continuing to serve as an ongoing instrument in its fulfillment as well.
"That deeply emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe, forms my idea of God."(This corresponds to the Vedantic dictum to which Bhagavan Baba frequently refers that the characteristics of Divinity ate Sathyam, Sivam, and Sundaram; i.e., Truth, Goodness and Beauty. These ancient Sanskrit words also form the title of Prof. Kasturi's biography of the Avatar. )
"The true value of a human being is determined by the measure and sense in which he has attained to liberation from the self."
"A human being is a part of the whole, called by us the 'Universe', a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feel¬ings 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 to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty... the striving for such an achievement is in itself a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security."
"I am happy because I want nothing from anyone. I do not care for money. I do not crave praise."
"I want to know how God created this world. I am not interested in this or that phenomenon. I want to know His thoughts, the rest are details."
"The principal art of the teacher is to awaken the joy in creation; and knowledge."
"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."
"The most beautiful and profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the source of all true science."
"The feeling from which true scientific research draws its spiritual sustenance"... "is a sort of intoxicating joy and amazement at the beauty and grandeur of this World... I maintain that cosmic religious feeling is the strongest and noblest incitement to scientific research."
EINSTEIN ON THE 'LIMITS OF REASON'
"Pure logical thinking cannot yield us any knowledge of the empirical world; all knowledge of reality starts from experience and ends in it. Propositions arrived at by pure logical means are completely empty.”This last statement is so profound in its implications that it bears comment.
"Since, however, sense perception only gives information of this external world indirectly, we can only grasp the latter by speculative means."
"I arrived at none of my major theories through rational thought."
WHAT ABOUT THE FUTURE?To Einstein's sadness, a major response to his discoveries about relativity has been fear about the future of the planet itself.
A question arises: Does a means exist to view or make use of Einstein's insights in a positive way—one that will truly be a "blessing to mankind, and not a curse?”
I am not a physicist or mathematician; but I offer several thoughts about this question.
I believe that not only can the example of Einstein's life stand as a blessing to humankind, but that one of the most profound expressions of his work can serve as well: the formula E = mc² (energy equals mass times the velocity of light squared).
We are accustomed to think of this formula in primarily negative terms the unleashing of the atom's destructive potential. Paradoxically, I feel that it embodies something of a most heartening spiritual nature as well.
E = mc² mathematically expresses the unity to which Swamiji frequently refers, through its having scientifically established that matter and energy—the tangible and the invisible—are wholly equivalent and interchangeable i e., that mass is simply concentrated energy; and that energy is mass minus form.
MATTER, ENERGY AND SPIRITBhagavan Baba places great emphasis on teaching us that the whole of existence, matter, energy and spirit, is One, stemming from the Supreme, Indivisible, Absolute. He asserts that what we dualistically think of as 'Matter versus Spirit' are in reality "two sides of the same coin", inseparable from their source in Divine Consciousness.
In all of His communications Swami invites us to reduce our fascination for the world of matter and to get rid of the illusion that only what can be perceived by the senses is real and valuable. He asks us to develop awareness of, and reliance upon, the Atma our invisible, Indwelling Divinity.
Baba's teachings help us realize the truth that matter, much less the energy from which it is derived, could not have been originally created from matter: that matter being congealed energy, is "nothing but gravitationally trapped light" and itself derived from conscious¬ness. This Consciousness is Spirit—Divine Thought—which is quite invisible in and of itself, but is in fact the bed¬rock of existence and the source from which the Mayic illusion of duality springs.
If we consider Spirit to be the highest manifestation of energy, I think Einstein's formula can stand as a source of confirmation of the reality of Spirit to a pre¬dominantly materialistic world which doubts the existence of a Loving Intelligence.
If all things are composed of energy, then it stands to reason that they should be subject to the effects of energy; if matter can release energy then energy should influence matter We can see this principle in operation at all levels on the hierarchy between the grossest matter to the subtlest energy, or Divine Thought. Energy as energy cannot be seen. It can only be known through its impact upon matter. Electricity, or the energy produced in a car engine cannot be seen, yet we would be lost without their effects
At a subtler level, the human mind is a form of energy whose work manifests in both positive and negative ways. Negatively, it is well established that the mind can contribute to such mental and psychosomatic illnesses as depression, or high blood pressure and ulcers.
Benign influence is apparent in the mind's healing response to such non-materialistic interventions as therapeutic conversation, or the presence of compassion or love. How much more so the profound, demonstrable effects of cosmic or spiritual energy upon matter, (from invisible to "visible”) in terms of the transformation of human thinking and functioning? Though one cannot generally see spiritual energy (in the form of God's intentionality or Grace) many of us have seen and benefited from its effects in our own lives and those of countless others through the boundless Grace of our beloved Sai.
To expand: Starting with denser forms of energy, we might consider Einstein's discovery E = mc² as a metaphorical “two sided coin", with one side dark, the other light.
We are quite familiar with the "dark side"—nuclear fission. The concept of a "light" side could be considered along the following lines of thought
On the "dark" side, it seems that by tracing matter, visible and tangible, to its most extreme potentiality, we ob¬serve that it transmutes into energy, having a destructive effect upon other matter (nuclear fission).
If we do the reverse, and trace energy, diffuse and invisible, back through its various forms; from radiation, combustion, electricity, and human thought, we come to its ultimate state, Divine Thought, which we know can exert a most constructive influence upon matter.
BABA'S PRESENCEEinstein's formula accomplishes two things: It teaches the fundamental truth that "All" is in fact "One", and that the various forms of this One can be used either for our annihilation or for our highest good, depending on the consciousness with which it is used.
Paradoxically, E = mc² provides both the means to destroy the world, and scientific validation of a liberating truth that everything is interconnected and stems from one source. (The threat of the former perhaps also motivating us to seek the latter). That Source, Reality which Einstein laboured to discover, has come among us in the form of Bhagavan Baba.
While the Lord, in His infinite wisdom, granted Albert Einstein rare insight into some of the workings of His creation, and though Einstein revolutionized science and our perception of reality, like any of us, he was not fully able to grasp all aspects of his favourite subject of study.
Like Spinoza, Einstein asserted his belief in an impersonal God saying, "I can't believe in a God who gets involved in the affairs of men." Ironically, though he helped in preparing us for the Presence by demonstrating the essential unity of all creation, like Moses, Albert Einstein glimpsed but did not enter the Promised Land: he died never knowing that the Eternal Principle he sought had actually come among us.
Interestingly, and consistent with many aspects of both physics and spirituality, an element of paradox exists re¬garding this question. As those who have come into the orbit of Sri Sathya Sai Baba can well attest, the Creator is infinitely multi faceted and unpredictable; at one moment seemingly detached and remote "from the affairs of men” while at another (if not simultaneously) intimately involved with them, down to the minutest details of their lives...
Baba's Presence here among us, perhaps the greatest expression of Hi love, and far transcending our limits knowledge, represents the perfect synthesis of energy and matter, time and space. To gaze upon Him is in fact to see energy and matter combined in their most mysterious and perfect form.
When we consider the fact the Baba has given us His personal assurance that the world will not end in nuclear annihilation, we can know that we are beyond the shadow of the fearful implications of E = mc² and in the light of His Divine Presence, which beckon us to realize that energy, as Light, Love—God—is our only Reality. Firmly rooted in this truth, we can confidently proceed with our individual roles in Swami's transformation of the present era into a Golden Age of Divine Consciousness, utterly permeated by His Love.
May Sai bless us with the faith and skill to traverse this world, always remembering who He declares we are:"A true synthesis of matter and Diving Energy".