Adventures of the Mind
Albert Einstein - Beyond Relativity
In the years following his early scientific breakthroughs, in many respects Albert Einstein’s influence beyond science became even more like that of a prophet as he spoke out on social and political issues. His circle of friends and associates beyond academia included royalty, in particular the Belgian’s royal family, and politicians, including Churchill and Roosevelt
It is perhaps difficult to appreciate today how big a celebrity he was back in the 1920s and 30s when every appearance and utterance was front page news. In particular he never held back his political and ethical views. Following WW1 and up until Adolf Hitler came to power he was a voice on the world stage advocating pacifism and demilitarisation. He was anti-nationalism and spoke out for there to be an international organisation, more powerful than the League of Nations which was set up after WW1. In fact, once Fascist and Communist dictatorships came to power in the 1930’s he advocated that such an organisation should have its own armed forces that could intervene and hold the peace between warring factions. How much Einstein influenced the birth of the United Nations, the international organisation embodied with such powers, is worth considering.
In March 1933 he and his wife Elsa escaped from Germany, just in time before his home was raided. He had accepted a post at Princeton University in the USA. However, the situation developing in Germany, with Hitler inspiring nationalistic fervour, the persecution of Jews and re-arming for war, his involvement in charitable causes, particularly in raising money to support the Jews in Europe, markedly increased, Quoting from Walter Isaacson,
‘These causes had become almost as important to him as his science. As he declared at one of the events, “Striving for social justice is the most valuable thing to do in life.”
Whilst what Einstein held most dear was the freedom of the individual to speak his mind on anything, he was nevertheless willing to change his point of view, which is the hallmark of a true scientist. He turned from pacifism to nations being armed for the defence of personal freedom. Although he was not part of the Manhattan Project assigned to build the first Atomic Bomb, he feared Hitler was building one and urged that America did the same. But once the bomb was invented he used all his influence to try and prevent its use. He failed. He also tried to persuade America to not develop the more powerful H-Bomb.
‘For the remaining ten years of his life,’ writes Isaacson, ‘his passion for advocating a unified governing structure for the globe would rival that for finding a unified field theory that could govern all the forces of nature. Although distinct in most ways, both quests reflected his instincts for transcendent order. In addition, both would display Einstein’s willingness to be nonconformist, to be serenely secure in challenging prevailing attitudes.’
To conclude this adventure of the mind, which I began more out of intuition than anything more objective, I am more convinced than ever that the distinction between divine revelation and imagination or rather the relationship of one with the other, is a very intimate one. I still believe in the word of God, but will put more faith in those God has chosen as his mouthpieces here and now than those who wrote 5000 years ago. I also believe that the some of the greatest recipients of revelation have been those we currently call scientists, and the proof of this are the practical fruits born of those revelations and in the case of creation and evolution, the awe with which we view God’s handiwork and the desire to protect it.
But having said this about past writers, I recently attended an endowment session in the Preston Temple and as usual sat pondering the creation. Before leaving the celestial room I picked up a Bible and randomly opened it. The verses that caught my immediate attention were Ecclesiastes 8:16-17 which I quote omitting the line in verse 16 that is bracketed:
'When I applied mine heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done upon the Earth, I beheld all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun: because though a man labour to seek it out, yet he shall not find it; yea further; though a wise man think to know it, yet shall he not be able to find it.'
Nevertheless, you cannot blame man for trying so long as he is humble enough to acknowledge that God has many mysteries he still keeps to Himself.
Albert and second wife Elsa..
His political philosophy Isaacson summarised in two paragraphs:
‘Throughout his life, Einstein was consistent in the fundamental premises of his politics. Ever since his student days in Switzerland, he had supported socialist economic policies tempered by a strong instinct for individual freedom, personal autonomy, democratic institutions, and protection of liberties. He befriended many of the democratic socialist leaders in Britain and America, such as Bertrand Russell and Norman Thomas, and in 1949 he wrote an influential essay for the inaugural issue of the Monthly Review entitled, Why Socialism.
In it he argued that unrestrained capitalism produced great disparity of wealth, cycles of boom and depression, and festered levels of unemployment. The system encouraged selfishness instead of cooperation, and acquiring wealth rather than serving others. People were educated for careers rather than for a love of work and creativity. And political parties became corrupted by political contributions from owners of great capital.’
Looking back over the past fifty or more years the above reads like pure prophecy.