Excruciatingly Large Things

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Einstein on the Nature of the Mysterious

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"The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. He who knows it not and can no longer wonder, no longer feel amazement, is as good as dead, a snuffed-out candle. It was the experience of mystery--even if mixed with fear-that engendered religion. 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 this alone, 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 marvellous structure of reality, together with the single-hearted endeavour to comprehend a portion, be it never so tiny, of the reason that manifests itself in nature."
From The World as I See It by Albert Einstein

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Anonymous Moss David Posner, M.D. said...

This is very interesting and very personal for me.
When I was 17 years old, I had a correspondence with Einstein on his book "Cosmic Religion," in which he discussed this view as you have stated it. I asked him to clarify this view--and he did. What was most revealing was that, in all other subjects, he was inordinately dogmatic; but in expressing this, he was elegantly poetic.
I have his letter at home. He took mine and scrawled his letter on it--in German. It is one of my priceless possessions.

January 31, 2006 9:48 AM    

Blogger Danieru said...

That must surely be a most prized posession. I can think of no other recent human whom I would rather receive a letter from.

But my envy ebbs away when I think that in some small way, through your post to this blog, the six degrees of separation between Einstein and the internet surfing world just came a little more into focus.

Thanks for your response

January 31, 2006 12:28 PM    

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