Einstein and Religion

“Scientists are likely to be atheists.”

This is a new-age myth that materialists attempt to foster. It is not based in truth. Indeed many surveys have shown that a greater proportion of scientists believe in God, personal or otherwise, than do the general population.

I want to work through the writings on the subject of some real scientific heros – Neils Bohr, Max Planck, Erwin Schroedinger, Werner Heisenberg and the man who got me started – with his work with Karl Jung – Wolfgang Pauli.

But, to start. What did Albert Einstein really think? (Apart from “God doesn’t play dice”).

He spoke often about the relation – and complementarity – of religion and science. His view was, of course, often canvassed. He set down his thoughts most extensively in “Ideas and Opinions” (1954) and ” The World As I See It” (1949).

Einstein was most definitely not a materialist, and considered  “true” science and “true” religion to be complementary.

“The interpretation of religion, as here advanced, implies a dependence of science on the religious attitude, a relation which, in our predominantly materialistic age, is only too easily overlooked. While it is true that scientific results are entirely independent from religious or moral considerations, those individuals to who we owe the great creative achievements of science were all of them imbued with the truly religious conviction that this universe of ours is something perfect and susceptible to the rational striving for knowledge”.

He did not adhere to any one religion. In his earlier writing he categorises his view of a kind of “progression” of religious thought from a “religion of fear” through to “moral religions” and finally a “cosmic religious feeling” – which he finds 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”

 

He also admired particularly the writing and thinking of Francis of Assisi and Spinoza, together with the “Jewish-Christian” tradition.

“The highest principles for our aspirations and judgments are given to us in the Jewish-Christian religious tradition. It is a very high goal which, with our weak powers, we can reach only very inadequately, but which gives a sure foundation to our aspirations and valuations”

Einstein did not think of religion and science as being in conflict – except where one sought to make statements related to the sphere of the other. This, applies both ways. He identified that each validly approached a different question.

“the scientific method can teach us nothing else beyond how facts are related to, and conditioned by, each other. The aspiration toward such objective knowledge belongs to the highest of which man is capable, and you will certainly not suspect me of wishing to belittle the achievements and the heroic efforts of man in this sphere. Yet it is equally clear that knowledge of what is does not open the door directly to what should be..Objective knowledge provides us with powerful instruments for the achievement of certain ends, but the ultimate goal itself and the longing to reach it must come from another source.. mere thinking cannot give us a sense of the ultimate and fundamental ends”.

Einstein did not in the end believe in an anthropomorphic God – made in man’s image, but he certainly believed in something beyond the material and knowable.

“A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, of the manifestations of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which are only accessible to our reason in their most elementary forms – it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute the truly religious attitude; in this sense, and in the alone, I am a deeply religious man”.

Anatta and Reincarnation

Let us, as a postulate, embrace the “illusion of self” that is central to Buddhism. There are  powerful intellectual supporters for that statement. David Hume and neuroscientists for example.

Why then, and on what basis, do Buddhists need to claim re-incarnation. What is being re-incarnated? No soul, no self – what then keeps coming back? This seems to me to be a fundamental inconsistency.

Surely, if our self is an illusion – then this is a release from self. Indeed a release from death. What is not there in the first place cannot presumably cease thereafter?

Teilhard de Chardin would have it that all of matter is evolving toward consciousness. Separately he has it that there will be an “Omega Point” where each realises that we are all-in-all to each other – and that all energy is Love and God.

In that case surely our “self” is an illusion. We are already part of what Martin Buber would call the “eternal Thou”. We only have to realise it. Put another way, for Buber our “I” does not exist except in relation to “Thou” – with a reality of “I-Thou” that opens us to our relationship with the “eternal Thou” (I think I have that right?). In that case our “self” doesn’t exist. Indeed ignoring the “Thou” only gets you to a kind of Freudian thinking – “I-It” materialism –  the self-reflective dead end of narcissism.

So. I am attracted to Buddhism, but don’t buy their take on reincarnation. Anatta yes, but only because we’re already all-in-all.

(This by the way is I believe a fundamentally Christian viewpoint).

 

 

 

 

 

The Long View

I am not yet born; O hear me.
Let not the bloodsucking bat or the rat or the stoat or the
club-footed ghoul come near me

For those of us who believe that this is not the only life, whatever our persuasion, then we stand in a similar perspective to that unborn child. What comes next? We don’t know for certain and therefore we are full of fear – as is McNeice’s subject. At least though that baby – all unknowing of what will come in that next life – is assured of there is one.

The poem if applied to most of us, unborn in this life, would be a contemplation of the moment of birth/death rather than of what lies beyond. So many of us get stuck with the question “Is there life after death”, rather than contemplating what it is and beginning to live it now.

Indeed  that we spend so much of our time avoiding the whole subject of death and the wider context of existence –  is I suspect a significant driver behind the rise of materialism. (Consume to forget. Materialism – the opiate of the masses). My hunch is that the most virulent evangelical atheists are those who are most full of fear. Their need is to convert, because like any addict there is at least a temporary relief from their underlying hunger.

I am perhaps fortunate that I almost died as a toddler (meningitis), since they say that this experience in small children – if survived – gives them a glimpse of beyond this life and therefore a context for the living of it. I know someone well who had a different experience though – aged 7 or so their near death experience left them with a knowledge of the short span of this life – much earlier than most – but possibly with the fear of the unknown rather than the hope of life to come.

I will ask their permission to talk further of their experience and journey since (indeed  I would like to understand it better).

However it does seem to me that life is better lived with the long view. The context of what lies beyond this transitory set of experiences. Indeed it is this landscape that gives meaning to existence. Ours, and the worlds.

Prayer Before Birth

I am not yet born; O hear me. Let not the bloodsucking bat or the rat or the stoat or the      club-footed ghoul come near me.

I am not yet born, console me. I fear that the human race may with tall walls wall me,      with strong drugs dope me, with wise lies lure me,         on black racks rack me, in blood-baths roll me.

I am not yet born; provide me With water to dandle me, grass to grow for me, trees to talk      to me, sky to sing to me, birds and a white light         in the back of my mind to guide me.

I am not yet born; forgive me For the sins that in me the world shall commit, my words      when they speak me, my thoughts when they think me,         my treason engendered by traitors beyond me,            my life when they murder by means of my               hands, my death when they live me.

I am not yet born; rehearse me In the parts I must play and the cues I must take when      old men lecture me, bureaucrats hector me, mountains         frown at me, lovers laugh at me, the white             waves call me to folly and the desert calls               me to doom and the beggar refuses                  my gift and my children curse me.

I am not yet born; O hear me, Let not the man who is beast or who thinks he is God      come near me.

I am not yet born; O fill me With strength against those who would freeze my      humanity, would dragoon me into a lethal automaton,         would make me a cog in a machine, a thing with            one face, a thing, and against all those               who would dissipate my entirety, would                  blow me like thistledown hither and                     thither or hither and thither                        like water held in the                           hands would spill me.

Let them not make me a stone and let them not spill me. Otherwise kill me.

Louis Macneice

Momentum and Reality

Reality is bound up with the present. This, according to Zen and as re-expressed by Eckhart Tolle – the Power of Now..

The present, now, is the door to reality and focus on the past and future distracts from the intensity of experience.

But…

How does that square with Alfred North Whitehead’s theory of relativity – where reality is a process and certainly not an instant?

It seems to me that the integration of these two concepts through the interpretation of the present – Now – as momentary rather than instantaneous. By this I mean to include the immediate past and the immediate future into a lengthened and extended instant. I think (though I’m never certain when trying to understand Process and Reality) that this is what Whitehead refers to as prehension.

It seems then that consciousness requires some element of time, that which immediately surrounds the instant in which we exist. It is observation that crystallises out the particular reality which we choose. (Bohr, Born, Schrodinger – the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics). The experience of reality requires the flow of time – to allow the immediate past and future to give context to the instant that is now.

Consciousness can then be described as observation surfing on time, and the fragment of time that surrounds the instant creates the moment in which we exist. Hence – reality as momentum.

Reality as Momentum

Reality is bound up with the present. This, according to Zen and as re-expressed by Eckhart Tolle – the Power of Now..

The present, now, is the door to reality and focus on the past and future distracts from the intensity of experience.

But…

How does that square with Alfred North Whitehead’s theory of relativity – where reality is a process and certainly not an instant?

It seems to me that the integration of these two concepts through the interpretation of the present – Now – as momentary rather than instantaneous. By this I mean to include the immediate past and the immediate future into a lengthened and extended instant. I think (though I’m never certain when trying to understand Process and Reality) that this is what Whitehead refers to as prehension.

It seems then that consciousness requires some element of time, that which immediately surrounds the instant in which we exist. It is observation that crystallises out the particular reality which we choose. (Bohr, Born, Schrodinger – the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics). The experience of reality requires the flow of time – to allow the immediate past and future to give context to the instant that is now.

Consciousness can then be described as observation surfing on time, and the fragment of time that surrounds the instant creates the moment in which we exist. Hence – reality as momentum.

Mystical Ellipticism

Why are all the great thinkers difficult to understand, at least with our mind? Perhaps because reality is so difficult for us to perceive – as through a glass darkly. That wouldn’t be surprising I guess. Our brain is evolved to help our bodies survive in jungles. We don’t see polarised light as bees do. The point is – it’s not some kind of perfect instrument designed to understand the outer reaches and meaning of creation. Neither does it have complete sensory input.

At least for me, those who have most changed my life all point to reality in relation. That is to say – reality existing in the magnetism between two points. As opposed to reality in the points themselves,

Carl Jung, for instance, in his search for integration between opposites “The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed”. Martin Buber sets out his form of existentialism entirely against a backdrop of relationship – his “philosophy of dialogue” with it’s primary words I-Thou and I-It. Teilhard de Chardin saw the process of evolution (powered by love) toward a shared consciousness. Alfred North Whitehead saw the whole of reality as process.

All of these elliptical thinkers seem to expose facets of the same underlying truth. It’s connection that matters, not matter that connects.

And yet..

For the Dawkins of this world it’s so simple. Matter. Of Fact. Simple(s). Nothing there but things. Science, thought and our brains have solutions. Death comes and there is nothing beyond. Love, kindness, a shared smile – all just twitchings of the material – set in the one-way street of time.(It’s not what science shows, but there you are .. better read Rupert Sheldrake on the subject.)

The writings of Buddha, the parables of Christ, the music of Bach. Complex – difficult. Mystical. Elliptical.