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Albert Einstein & The Beauty of Mystery

I recently stumbled upon this article written by Albert Einstein.  The article was titled, The World as I See It"

This was my favorite passage of the entire piece:

"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed. It was the experience of mystery -- even if mixed with fear -- that engendered religion. A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, our perceptions of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which only in their most primitive forms are accessible to our minds: it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute true religiosity. In this sense, and only this sense, I am a deeply religious man... I am satisfied with the mystery of life's eternity and with a knowledge, a sense, of the marvelous structure of existence -- as well as the humble attempt to understand even a tiny portion of the Reason that manifests itself in nature."
I love the way how Einstein states that, "the most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious."  I think that this line perfectly summarizes the mystery necessary for a life of true faith.

Atheists and scientists have long advocated an overly rationalist view of the universe.  This view can be mainly attributed to the philosophy of Rene Descartes.  Descartes believed that the human mind could unlock all of the secrets of the natural world through a process called rational deduction.   That which the mind could not unlock was not reality.  Unfortunately much of modern science has adapted this rationalistic mindset forsaking the mysterious, the unknown . 

Rationality itself is a great thing, a uniquely human ability.  It gives us the opportunity to critically analyze and to draw conclusions about the natural world. However, Descartes' philosophy is a perversion of this because unwittingly he makes an idol out of the mind.  This mentality is incompatible with our faith.  Ironically Atheism also requires great faith; faith in acknowledging that there is no such thing as a higher power, the greatest of all mysteries.

Our faith instead stresses the mysterious.  Our faith teaches us that we are finite, and limited in our knowledge.  Our greatness lies through acknowledging this limitation and accepting the mystery of God.  Psalm 8 captures this sentiment appropriately,"What is man that thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that thou dost care for him? Yet thou hast made him little less than God, and dost crown him with glory and honor."  (verses 4-5)

 Einstein, albeit in a roundabout way agrees with this Psalm.  Einstein stresses that a healthy sense of mystery is a necessary prerequisite for authentic faith.  Without this disposition life would be dull, and faith unnecessary.  Why believe in something that is unknown if one assumes that everything in life can be known? Is our finite mind capable of perceiving the infinite?  Einstein argues instead that true beauty stems from the fact that at its core it is still unknown. Why so?  Because ultimately true beauty is God. Atheism is like worshipping what the artist created instead of worshipping the artist who created it in the first place.  The belief in mystery is the great revealer of the unknown.  Fortunately for us as believers we believe this intuitively. 

The paradoxical truth about this is that once one accepts the mysterious one is able to understand it more fully.  Does this mean that only believers in God can unlock the secrets of the universe?  Of course not.  Some of the greatest scientists and philosophers throughout history have been atheists.  I am not trying to make a point of exclusivity here   My main point here is that there is much more to existence than the natural, empirical world.  Ironically each time one discovers something new about the universe one discovers something unknown.  For every new solution there is a new problem. It seems like every generation is trying to build a new tower of Babel only to stumble again and again into profound confusion.  It is like God is playing a practical joke.  By giving us a free will we are led to believe that we can do anything. But through pretending to have total knowledge through a mistaken notion of freedom we become imprisoned and like in the biblical Tower of Babel we stumble through our self made altar of confusion.  

To know God is to embrace the unknown.  True beauty is unknown.  This mystery gives life its greatest meaning for through beauty and mystery one encounters God.


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