How Einstein Saw the World


“School failed me, and I failed the school. It bored me. The teachers behaved like Feldwebel (sergeants). I wanted to learn what I wanted to know, but they wanted me to learn for the exam. What I hated most was the competitive system there, and especially sports. Because of this, I wasn’t worth anything, and several times they suggested I leave.

This was a Catholic School in Munich. I felt that my thirst for knowledge was being strangled by my teachers; grades were their only measurement. How can a teacher understand youth with such a system?

From the age of twelve I began to suspect authority and distrust teachers. I learned mostly at home, first from my uncle and then from a student who came to eat with us once a week. He would give me books on physics and astronomy.

The more I read, the more puzzled I was by the order of the universe and the disorder of the human mind, by the scientists who didn’t agree on the how, the when, or the why of creation.

Then one day this student brought me Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. Reading Kant, I began to suspect everything I was taught. I no longer believed in the known God of the Bible, but rather in the mysterious God expressed in nature.

The basic laws of the universe are simple, but because our senses are limited, we can’t grasp them. There is a pattern in creation.

If we look at this tree outside whose roots search beneath the pavement for water, or a flower which sends its sweet smell to the pollinating bees, or even our own selves and the inner forces that drive us to act, we can see that we all dance to a mysterious tune, and the piper who plays this melody from an inscrutable distance—whatever name we give him—Creative Force, or God—escapes all book knowledge.

Science is never finished because the human mind only uses a small portion of its capacity, and man’s exploration of his world is also limited.

Creation may be spiritual in origin, but that doesn’t mean that everything created is spiritual. How can I explain such things to you? Let us accept the world is a mystery. Nature is neither solely material nor entirely spiritual.

Man, too, is more than flesh and blood; otherwise, no religions would have been possible. Behind each cause is still another cause; the end or the beginning of all causes has yet to be found.

Yet, only one thing must be remembered: there is no effect without a cause, and there is no lawlessness in creation.

If I hadn’t an absolute faith in the harmony of creation, I wouldn’t have tried for thirty years to express it in a mathematical formula. It is only man’s consciousness of what he does with his mind that elevates him above the animals, and enables him to become aware of himself and his relationship to the universe.

I believe that I have cosmic religious feelings. I never could grasp how one could satisfy these feelings by praying to limited objects. The tree outside is life, a statue is dead. The whole of nature is life, and life, as I observe it, rejects a God resembling man.

Man has infinite dimensions and finds God in his conscience. [A cosmic religion] has no dogma other than teaching man that the universe is rational and that his highest destiny is to ponder it and co-create with its laws.

I like to experience the universe as one harmonious whole. Every cell has life. Matter, too, has life; it is energy solidified. Our bodies are like prisons, and I look forward to be free, but I don’t speculate on what will happen to me.

I live here now, and my responsibility is in this world now. I deal with natural laws. This is my work here on earth.

The world needs new moral impulses which, I’m afraid, won’t come from the churches, heavily compromised as they have been throughout the centuries.

Perhaps those impulses must come from scientists in the tradition of Galileo, Kepler and Newton. In spite of failures and persecutions, these men devoted their lives to proving that the universe is a single entity, in which, I believe, a humanized God has no place.

The genuine scientist is not moved by praise or blame, nor does he preach. He unveils the universe and people come eagerly, without being pushed, to behold a new revelation: the order, the harmony, the magnificence of creation!

And as man becomes conscious of the stupendous laws that govern the universe in perfect harmony, he begins to realize how small he is. He sees the pettiness of human existence, with its ambitions and intrigues, its ‘I am better than thou’ creed.

This is the beginning of cosmic religion within him; fellowship and human service become his moral code. Without such moral foundations, we are hopelessly doomed.

If we want to improve the world we cannot do it with scientific knowledge but with ideals. Confucius, Buddha, Jesus and Gandhi have done more for humanity than science has done.

We must begin with the heart of man—with his conscience—and the values of conscience can only be manifested by selfless service to mankind.

Religion and science go together. As I’ve said before, science without religion is lame and religion without science is blind. They are interdependent and have a common goal—the search for truth.

Hence it is absurd for religion to proscribe Galileo or Darwin or other scientists. And it is equally absurd when scientists say that there is no God. The real scientist has faith, which does not mean that he must subscribe to a creed.

Without religion there is no charity. The soul given to each of us is moved by the same living spirit that moves the universe.

I am not a mystic. Trying to find out the laws of nature has nothing to do with mysticism, though in the face of creation I feel very humble. It is as if a spirit is manifest infinitely superior to man’s spirit. Through my pursuit in science I have known cosmic religious feelings. But I don’t care to be called a mystic.

I believe that we don’t need to worry about what happens after this life, as long as we do our duty here—to love and to serve.

I have faith in the universe, for it is rational. Law underlies each happening. And I have faith in my purpose here on earth. I have faith in my intuition, the language of my conscience, but I have no faith in speculation about Heaven and Hell. I’m concerned with this time—here and now.

Many people think that the progress of the human race is based on experiences of an empirical, critical nature, but I say that true knowledge is to be had only through a philosophy of deduction. For it is intuition that improves the world, not just following a trodden path of thought.

Intuition makes us look at unrelated facts and then think about them until they can all be brought under one law. To look for related facts means holding onto what one has instead of searching for new facts.

Intuition is the father of new knowledge, while empiricism is nothing but an accumulation of old knowledge. Intuition, not intellect, is the ‘open sesame’ of yourself.

Indeed, it is not intellect, but intuition which advances humanity. Intuition tells man his purpose in this life.

I do not need any promise of eternity to be happy. My eternity is now. I have only one interest: to fulfill my purpose here where I am.

This purpose is not given me by my parents or my surroundings. It is induced by some unknown factors. These factors make me a part of eternity.”

~Albert Einstein

Text Source: Einstein and the Poet: In Search of the Cosmic Man (1983). From a series of meetings William Hermanns had with Einstein in 1930, 1943, 1948, and 1954

PBS TV Special- How Einstein Saw the World

About Christopher Chase

Co-creator and Admin of the Facebook pages "Tao & Zen" "Art of Learning" & "Creative Systems Thinking." Majored in Studio Art at SUNY, Oneonta. Graduated in 1993 from the Child & Adolescent Development program at Stanford University's School of Education. Since 1994, have been teaching at Seinan Gakuin University, in Fukuoka, Japan.
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99 Responses to How Einstein Saw the World

  1. Another great one. Thanks Christopher. I had not read or heard of many of these OR the resource so really appreciated this perspective.

  2. Aquila says:

    School definitely failed me too. I was very gifted, did not do well with the “factory” method, scared the teachers when I’d ask questions that were not within the boundaries of the textbook. I was reading about 2nd or 3rd grade level before entering kindergarten (that alone was a guarantee of problems since the teacher called my mother in and angrily informed her that “only teachers can teach children to read” – that because I was very capable of reading the instructions in the workbook and did the whole thing within the first week of school). By the time I reached 6th grade I was reading (retaining and comprehending) graduate level college material, at which point I quit trying to do much of anything in school. That year also saw a teacher who thought I was extremely bold (only because I would ask questions she couldn’t answer and didn’t have the guts to say she didn’t know or the sense to tell me she’d see if she could find an answer for me). The rest of my “formal”education was also similarly horrid. I finally took the GED and enrolled in junior college hoping for an improved experience only to discover they were using the 6th grade biology text I’d had years before and the professor was a so-called PhD in Biology yet hadn’t a clue about the Krebs cycle, Malpighian tubules, meiosis, the respiratory/circulatory cycle and blood flow or how to do a simple dissection. It was the absolute last straw with any kind of formal education. I have since been asked what university I received my doctorate at (don’t have on), been informed that I have what amounts to 3 doctorates based on my range of knowledge by several people who do have doctorates, and asked why I am not teaching anywhere (having absolutely no credentials pretty much eliminates doing that).
    I have much to agree with Dr. Einstein about formal education – it was a miserable slog and not something I’d wish on any child then discovered that all 5 of my step-children were stuck with the same insanity but even more mindless and their biological parent refused under any circumstances to allow homeschooling.
    I apologize for the length of this. I know I’m not alone in the kind of educational experience I had and that things are not getting better. I do very much want that to change in a very fundamental way. Our children deserve so much better than we’re giving them. They are not little robots that only need to be programmed to do one thing. I hope we as human beings can do something to change the present nature of public (and some private) education in the very near future.

    • Hi. Sadly, yes, you are not alone. The smartest thing Thomas Edison’s mother did was to pull him out of school in the first grade and homeschool him. I hope you find a way to share your “gifts” with others. What kind of school or homeschool program would you design for children going through what you experienced? With the internet now there is no reason people with similar talents and views can’t come together to teach and learn from one another.

      • Aquila says:

        As a kid who did well with tests, it would be necessary to keep in mind that other children don’t. I would always rather be given the book then take the test, move on to the next one. The bore of the questions at the end of the chapter that were nothing but a restatement of the original sentence in the text finally got me to simply put the page and line number instead of copying the “answer” – drove the teacher nuts.
        As to designing a home school program – I have given it a lot of thought. Every kid is different, each learns in a different way. I don’t think it’s really possible to come up with something that suits everyone, it would be necessary to have the ability to tailor the material to each individual. Just given my experience with my step-children was enough to show me that. I think that in a way the Montessori model is on the right path. There is so much that was “required” that turned out to be pretty much useless for me as an adult. There are some things that while I did learn about them as a child, really were better revisited after I was older.
        I think that a command of English is a definite – grammar, spelling, composition, reading, comprehension. On that base it’s possible to build just about all the rest. It requires you to think about what you want to say, how to say it and make sure it’s possible for others to understand. Math was my major bugaboo, they kept changing how it was taught every 18 months or so. That made things not only difficult but left me not at all sure I had actually grasped what was necessary (into the mix of changing how it was taught, some bright nut decided that it was also necessary to change the base numbers and that only confused an already confused business even more). Beyond basic addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, some algebra and geometry, the higher math is pretty much wasted on most kids (going by my step-kids – they never used it except to pass the tests, don’t remember any of it and don’t want to remember or use it). Science, at least a basic understanding (I was always fascinated with it – biology, geology, astronomy, anatomy, physiology, not chemistry tho). History, probably also a necessary subject (again, I was fascinated). Geography, again necessary.
        I agree that the internet is an educational tool that is vastly underutilized. It is finding a way to have the quality you find on subscription (for which you pay) that doesn’t cost anything to the user. Education should be as low cost as possible. Even if I had done well in school, college would most likely been out of the question because of cost. Not as bad as things are now but still prohibitive. Just another problem to solve.
        I seem to keep going on, sorry. Something I’m passionate about.

      • I agree about Montessori schools as a good model, especially for kids who are totally bored out of their minds. They give what is missing in the factory model schools- freedom (opportunity for self direction & creativity) and a unified understanding of how all the knowledge flows together. For me that lack of a unified understanding is what has created all the problems of our modern times. History is a story. Science is a story. They compartmentalize all the information and ignore the way it all fits together into a complete interdependent whole. If I were to design an online community for kids to learn together those two ideas would be central.

    • karl says:

      you are sooooo right!!! at least my son spent several years in a charter school that did a better job educating him (west hawaii education academy – WHEA) – aloha

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  4. Karen says:

    Thanks for sharing. Found this on FB and reposted. It’s a message that bears repeating over and over, particularly in this day and age of incomplete thoughts, texting, and lack of contemplative thought.

  5. scarduci says:

    Reblogged this on Living & Learning in Portland, Oregon and commented:
    The more I read, the more puzzled I was by the order of the universe and the disorder of the human mind, by the scientists who didn’t agree on the how, the when, or the why of creation.

  6. arouda200405 says:

    Reblogged this on The Write Words and commented:
    I have finally found a state of mind where nothing makes sense more than the words of Albert Einstein in this inspiring post.

    “Religion and science go together. As I’ve said before, science without religion is lame and religion without science is blind. They are interdependent and have a common goal—the search for truth.”

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  8. Philip Kamau says:

    Reblogged this on The Thrills of Mystery and commented:
    School is good in teaching us the basics of attaining bread and butter but does not teach us how to know ourselves better and how to be happy and blissful in a miserable world.

    • Friend (Phil) says:

      & there are many ‘guides’ thru this ‘mysterious realm’; intuition being the MAIN guide, for each must remain ‘in charge of their own journey’. FREEDOM IS A GIFT OF CREATION and no wars need be fought for this GIFT, merely CLAIMED and ACCEPTED. KNOW this TRUTH and realize WE HAVE ALWAYS BEEN 100% FREE ! Ironically, we are sooo FREE,,, we may choose to think we are ‘not free… if we HAD to think we are free,, then we wouldn’t be FREE.

      • Philip Kamau says:

        There are many guides definitely but the best of all is the Enlightened Guide who has the capability of awakening the genius in ones Soul. Einstein came very close to the spring self Awakening.

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  12. It’s very trouble-free to find out any topic on web as compared to books, as I found
    this article at this website.

  13. Suranganie Dayaratne says:

    I read the whole article, not only read, but swallowed the whole thing. Thanks for sharing with others, as this is something which could help others to find out answers for the questions that disturb them. ‘Man is more than flesh and blood…………………………………….’ which makes us to think and believe the energy within.
    Yes, religions are responsible of charity, Without religions there won’t be charity. I really appreciate his thinking.

    • I felt the same way reading his words. It’s not the usual way scientists talk about religion. He didn’t believe many of the stories in the books to be true, but he saw great great value in the spiritual view of life.

  14. Suranganie Dayaratne says:

    Yes, Christopher I think both of us understood his spiritual view of life. His views are very positive, and no one can be critical, as he has not condemned beliefs of others. He had been very reasonable in what he says.

  15. Frans says:

    Thank you for the article Christopher. It is a great read to get an insight of the man he was rather than a scientist. It is interesting that Einstein said: “ … only one thing must be remembered: there is no effect without a cause “ and “ … it is only man’s consciousness that enables him to become aware of himself and his relationship to the universe “
    I think that his words meant more than what he realised:

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  17. Pierre Martin says:

    ” Intuition is the father of new knowledge, while empiricism is nothing but an accumulation of old knowledge. Intuition, not intellect, is the ‘open sesame’ of yourself.

    Indeed, it is not intellect, but intuition which advances humanity. Intuition tells man his purpose in this life. ”

    Intuition also known as ” a huntch ” , how many times do we predict the future on huntches correctly , I know I have many of times , though pay minimal attention to huntches much of the time. Some Huntches are from more then what we know or logic so it seems , hence the spiritual imput , and this to me , is what lacks in our world leaders , though many past leaders played their huntch cards , such as democracy been too important to overlook , they surely must be able to foresee where the world is headed or potentially headed as well as we all do, so , why are they not taking on the task of handing over the planet to next generations in as good a shape or better then when they took over as the ” Powerful ” good parent . it will take a severe awakening for ALL the peoples of the free world to set the future agenda and follow the lead of both the spiritual & the scientific faithfully and with the best intentions for the next generation to do so also , and I hope so for the sake of my child and her children to. .

  18. Suranganie Dayaratne says:

    I really feel sad after reading the comment made by Pierre. He sees the situation, he sees the agony of the future generation, and the last sentence prove his unhappy mind. ….I hope so for the sake of my child and her children to…” which means not only his but all of us.
    We appreciate the way Einstein narrated the reality, but,at present, those ideas and views are like songs to the deaf ears.
    We talk about spiritual inputs, but the religions, are too used as a tool to gain and protect power of those who are greedy.Thus we cannot expect the present leaders to follow both faithfully, not done even by the recent past leaders. I feel this is the declining period, yet we can do little by sharing these messages and convince those who could be convinced. I doubt about the leaders.

  19. Joey Phoenix says:

    This is so true and is the truth of all things beyond this galaxy and universe.

  20. Suranganie Dayaratne says:

    “School failed me, and I failed the school.” A motto for the present day people who direct their children to win the rat race. Formal education cannot open the hidden corners of the brain as well as heart. Yet the system is such, where people find it difficult to exist. Einstein is one good example who rejected that rat race, but through his own skills, develop the understanding and realization.
    Today, through this inhuman competition, we get, people who do not know the calmness of a smile, value of ethics.but with cruelty,who does not have a feeling for other beings. Very rare, if I justify my own statement. Find ways and means to popularize the words of great men like Einstein.

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  23. JRossJohnson says:

    Reblogged this on Our Human Life: and commented:
    Nutritious food for thought.

    • Yes, JRoss, I really admire the story if Einstein, Learning is the most important, and most vital, yet unfortunately teaching has overcome that concept and today the people do not have time to learn, as the whole process is teaching.

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  30. Jeff Peyton says:

    Harold Carpenter posted this on the California Opt Out, and so I am re-posting this here. Einstein left behind a powerful legacy for Education. His writing and commentary speak volumes to the imagination. The problem is that there are now so many advocates who are preaching to the choir. Albert Einstein was not merely an advocate, he was a problem-solver. He may not have written a field theory of learning, but with his focus on solutions which he assumed were embedded in nature, you would think we would have BUILT something by now. We are slaves to academics and as a result we are too locked down to see the true wellsprings of learning. This year the highest number yet of college graduates will start life averaging $35,000 in debt.We send our young over the cliff like lemmings. If we don’t stand up to the Frankensteins who own and operate our learning culture, then Einstein’s love–and our love– for the imagination and for questions that only children ask will fade in the shadows of people who fail to move to BUILD AND CREATE our way out of the status quo. If Einstein had focused on Education as a scientist, his deductive power would have led him to Play.

  31. rambo stanly.. says:

    thank you …rspect…to sent this usefull informations..god bless you all…

    • Suranganie says:

      What a beautiful and meaningful explanations we got to read, regarding the smooth flow of education (learning system) system, which Einstein showed and proved through himself. Identify the talents and support to develop those talents, which will, in return support the whole world. However, we need to include, positive and negative aspects too, as otherwise, talents may create problems. This is where a religion is needed. All most all the religions speak only good. As such labels are not that important. Yet, the education system has to be changed, at least taking Einstein as a proof.

  32. Jeff Peyton says:

    In 1841, near the sunlit mist of an Alpine waterfall, a rainbow caught Faraday’s eye.* In his journal, he recorded his observations about the “steadfast” behavior of light amidst the “storm of passion sweeping across it.” Typically, Michael Faraday would share his observations with his friend, James Maxwell. Nobel-prize winning physicist and author, Richard Feynman, declared that, “From a long view of the history of mankind—seen from, say, ten thousand years from now—there can be little doubt that the most significant event of the nineteenth century will be judged as Maxwell’s discovery of the laws of electrodynamics.” But arguably it was Faraday’s discovery in the mist that marks the moment of conception.

    Both Faraday and Maxwell are extraordinarily important in the history of modern physics, and yet, unlike Einstein, who read and greatly respected their work, neither is well known to the lay public.

    * Note: The above account of Michael Faraday’s discovery is adapted from In The Mind’s Eye: Visual thinkers, Gifted People with Learning Difficulties, Computer Images, and the Ironies of Creativity” by Thomas G. West.

    The fact that the two scientists responsible for the technological world we’ve inherited are largely invisible suggests that, in matters scientific, we moderns, despite being informed and connected, remain clueless about the rich processes of mind that gave us the human world we have today—and of which more will be needed in order to save it.

    The patterns of light that captivated Faraday certainly reflect inspiration, but more importantly constitute a quality of mind and a way of thinking that attracted these scientists to one another. It enabled them to see something not only in nature, but also in each other’s ideas that only they were capable of understanding at the time. Some call this ‘genius’, but perhaps they were led quite naturally to their individual discoveries by asking questions that, in Einstein’s words, “only children ask.”

    Given today’s mass populations of children requiring education, and the regressive policies of state and federal government enacted to “educate” them, the question isn’t what we can teach children, but what we can learn from them. How can we create a learning culture truly reflective of and responsive to the nature of children? In America, how can we fashion an education that exemplifies the unique qualities of our national character—our diversity, good will, innovation, and unbridled optimism? The adoption of Play as an organizing principle of Education is the first step.

    Knowing what is missing in the way we “educate” children and pointing out the symptoms is only half the battle. As in disease, we suffer until there is a cure. We must create a path and engineer our way out of the factory. We pay lip service to vision, but if someone comes forth with authentic vision, the people he/ she addresses may not have the capacity to believe that it’s real. That’s why Einstein said he preferred answering questions that only children ask. Einstein boldly pointed to Relativity-it took decades for science to develop the tools to verify his theory. We know that Play is a powerful force of nature and the seat of learning. In my own journey through Play I have carried it deep into the learning culture and in so doing created a pathway. If adults want to transform the learning culture in the image of the young, they will have to begin exercising their capacity to ask questions that children ask intuitively.

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  34. Martín López says:

    Beautiful post Christopher. If you allow me, I would like to reblog in my site and translated to spanish. Thanks!

  35. Suranganie says:

    Share this great philosophy with each and everyone, thus giving them wisdom to understand the reality.

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