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Quotations from Albert Einstein

1879-1955

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 feelings, as something separate from the rest -- a kind of optical delusion of 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 understanding and compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security.

New York Post

A man should look for what is, and not what he thinks should be.

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A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.

"Religion and Science", New York Times Magazine (November 9, 1930)

A man's moral worth is not measured by what his religious beliefs are but rather by what emotional impulses he has received from Nature during his lifetime.

Letter to Sister Margrit Goehner (February, 1955)

As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain, and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.

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Buddhism has the characteristics of what would be expected in a cosmic religion for the future: It transcends a personal God, avoids dogmas and theology; it covers both the natural and spiritual; and it is based on a religious sense aspiring from the experience of all things, natural and spiritual, as a meaningful unity.

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Creating a new theory is not like destroying an old barn and erecting a skyscraper in its place. It is rather like climbing a mountain, gaining new and wider views, discovering unexpected connections between our starting point and its rich environment. But the point from which we started out still exists and can be seen, although it appears smaller and forms a tiny part of our broad view gained by the mastery of the obstacles on our adventurous way up.

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Everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe - a spirit vastly superior to that of man... In this way the pursuit of science leads to a religious feeling of a special sort, which is indeed quite different from the religiosity of someone more naive.

Letter to a child who asked if scientists pray (January 24, 1936)

Everything should be made as simple as possible - but not simpler.

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Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from that of their social environment.

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Fortunate Newton, happy childhood of science. Nature to him was an open book. He stands before us strong, certain, and alone.

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God is subtle, but he is not malicious.

Remark made during his first visit to Princeton University (April, 1921)

I am a deeply religious nonbeliever... This is a somewhat new kind of religion.

Letter to Hans Muehsam (March 30, 1954)

I believe in Spinoza's God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of all that exists, not in a God who concerns himself with fates and actions of human beings.

Upon being asked if he believed in God by Rabbi Herbert Goldstein (April 24, 1921)

I believe in the brotherhood of man and the uniqueness of the individual. But if you ask me to prove what I believe, I can't. You know them to be true but you could spend a whole lifetime without being able to prove them. The mind can proceed only so far upon what it knows and can prove. There comes a point where the mind takes a higher plane of knowledge, but can never prove how it got there. All great discoveries have involved such a leap.

Interview with Professor William Hermanns

I cannot accept any concept of God based on the fear of life or the fear of death or blind faith. I cannot prove to you that there is no personal God, but if I were to speak of him I would be a liar.

Interview with Professor William Hermanns

I cannot imagine a God who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation, whose purposes are modeled after our own - a God, in short, who is but a reflection of human frailty. Neither can I believe that the individual survives the death of his body, although feeble souls harbor such thoughts through fear or ridiculous egotism. 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 (1949)

I don't try to imagine a God; it suffices to stand in awe of the structure of the world, insofar as it allows our inadequate senses to appreciate it.

Letter to S. Flesch (April 16, 1954)

I have never imputed to Nature a purpose or a goal, or anything that could be understood as anthropomorphic. What I see in Nature is a magnificent structure that we can comprehend only very imperfectly, and that must fill a thinking person with a feeling of humility. This is a genuinely religious feeling that has nothing to do with mysticism.

Quoted in Dukas and Hoffman, 'Albert Einstein the Human Side' (1954/5)

I never think of the future. It comes soon enough.

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I see only with deep regret that God punishes so many of His children for their numerous stupidities, for which only He Himself can be held responsible; in my opinion, only His nonexistence could excuse Him.

Letter to Edgar Meyer (January 2, 1915)

I would not think that philosophy and reason themselves will be man's guide in the foreseeable future; however, they will remain the most beautiful sanctuary they have always been for the select few.

Letter to Benedetto Croce (June 7, 1944)

If A is a success in life, then A equals x plus y plus z. Work is x; y is play; and z is keeping your mouth shut.

Quoted in The Observer, 15 January 1950

If men as individuals surrender to the call of their elementary instincts, avoiding pain and seeking satisfaction only for their own selves, the result for them all taken together must be a state of insecurity, of fear, and of promiscuous misery.

Out of My Later Years, chapter 7 (1950)

If there is any religion that could respond to the needs of modern science, it would be Buddhism.

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It is easier to denature plutonium than to denature the evil spirit of man.

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It is my view that the vegetarian manner of living by its purely physical effect on the human temperament would most beneficially influence the lot of mankind.

Letter to Vegetarian Watch-Tower (December 27, 1930)

It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.

Letter (March 24, 1954)

My position concerning God is that of an agnostic. I am convinced that a vivid consciousness of the primary importance of moral principles for the betterment and ennoblement of life does not need the idea of a law-giver, especially a law-giver who works on the basis of reward and punishment.

Letter to M. Berkowitz (October 25, 1950)

My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble minds. That deeply emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible Universe, forms my idea of God.

Quoted in the New York Times obituary (April 19, 1955)

Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.

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Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.

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Once you can accept the universe as matter expanding into nothing that is something, wearing stripes with plaid comes easy.

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One may say the eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility.

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One should guard against preaching to young people success in the customary form as the main aim in life. The most important motive for work in school and in life is pleasure in work, pleasure in its result, and the knowledge of the value of the result to the community.

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One thing I have learned in a long life: that all our science, measured against reality, is primitive and childlike - and yet it is the most precious thing we have.

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Only a life lived for others is a life worth living!

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Perfection of means and confusion of goals seem - in my opinion - to characterize our age.

Out of My Later Years, chapter 14 (1950)

Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. That's relativity.

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Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.

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Stand still. The trees ahead and bush beside you are not lost.

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The idea of a Being who interferes with the sequence of events in the world is absolutely impossible.

Has Science Discovered God? (1931)

The important thing is not to stop questioning.

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The man of science is a poor philosopher.

Out of My Later Life, chapter 12 (1950)

The man who regards his own life and that of his fellow creatures as meaningless is not merely unhappy but hardly fit for life.

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The minority, the ruling class at present, has the schools and press, usually the Church as well, under its thumb. This enables it to organize and sway the emotions of the masses, and make its tool of them.

Letter to Sigmund Freud

The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mystical. It is the power of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms - this knowledge, this feeling, is at the center of true religiousness. In this sense, and in this sense only, I belong to the rank of devoutly religious men.

The World As I See It (1949)

The physicists say that I am a mathematician, and the mathematicians say that I am a physicist. I am a completely isolated man and though everybody knows me, there are very few people who really know me.

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To assume the existence of an unperceivable being... does not facilitate understanding the orderliness we find in the perceivable world.

Letter to an Iowa student who asked, 'What is God?' (July 1953)

We should take care not to make the intellect our god; it has, of course, powerful muscles, but no personality.

Out of My Later Life, chapter 51 (1950)

Whatever there is of God and goodness in the universe, it must work itself out and express itself through us. We cannot stand aside and let God do it.

From a conversation recorded by Algernon Black (Autumn, 1940)

You can't solve a problem on the same level you created it.

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