Scientists and Spiritual Thinkers

While reviewing some material on the subject of science and spirituality recently, I encountered this article about meetings between Albert Einstein and Rabindranath Tagore, two individuals who I have admired for many years, and for some reason I did not ever encounter this information about their meetings.

These two men were clearly on different paths, and approached their subjects from entirely different directions, the fundamental agreement to meet and discuss their points-of-view, while not expecting to do more than exchange ideas, seemed to me to be the exact remedy for the difficulties many scientists and spiritual thinkers generally encounter.

In the interest of presenting the basic approaches they both encountered, I have included two brief excerpts from the original article from the website, “GetBengal,” written by a young woman, Saheli Mitra, and I encourage my readers to visit this site and read it in its entirety.

While searching for some additional material, I noticed that many of the thinkers who have captured my attention over the years seem to have a similar appearance, and the article about Tagore gave me the idea to have a little fun with the idea of thinkers or philosophers with long hair and beards. I am in NO WAY suggesting that I am anywhere EVEN NEAR the level of thinking that these other two men have done, but I thought it might be a funny way to include myself in my own imagination.

We must first imagine that something is possible before it ever will be!

9 thoughts on “Scientists and Spiritual Thinkers

  1. I recall reading of a similar not quite successful meeting of the minds, between Einstein and the once famous philosopher slash psychologist Henri Bergson. It was on the subject of ‘time’. Einstein could not approach Bergson’s concepts because he had to remain within a physicist’s framework (albeit a quite expansive one). And Bergson could not give complete credence to Einstein’s conceptions because they failed to allow for any consideration whatsoever of the conscious experience of time passage or duration. It was quite interesting!

    1. I am intrigued by the notion that our “conscious experience of time passage or duration,” might have any influence on time itself. While the passage of time obviously is perceived by us in a very particular way, we all recognize how swiftly time seems to pass when we are enjoying life, and how slowly it seems to pass when we are suffering in one way or another. Our perception of the passage of time in the general sense, either while watching a clock or when measuring time deliberately as we do when we attend to a rocket launching into outer space, is fairly consistent with the actual mechanistic operation of our time measurement devices, but once we are not actually paying attention to any sort of mechanism for measuring time, it can become astonishingly swift or agonizingly slow, depending on the circumstances.

      It clearly brings into question how ANYTHING can be accurately measured if we don’t take into account how it is perceived by us cognitive folks. It’s easy to sit watching a clock or to operate devices which track the passage of time, and report the results accurately in some kind of a countdown, but our PERCEPTION of the passage of time is what we actually EXPERIENCE during these events, and we cannot dismiss our perceptions cavalierly just because they don’t match up to that of a casual observer outside of our perception.

      Physicists will gladly remind us about the effect of one’s experience while traveling at the speed of light and how time would move much slower for someone so engaged, defying our common sense notions of the passage of time in our everyday lives.

      The willingness of Einstein to engage in exchanges with folks like Tagore and Bergson, and their willingness to engage with HIM, is a model for what we ALL should be agreeable to do in the interest of gaining in our understanding of life and of the nature of reality.

      1. Yes, I certainly agree about the conclusion. That open listening between rationalist scientific exponents and ‘romantic’ phenomenological exponents of the same is very necessary at present. And I appreciate also all the scope of your remarks. (There was a quote I came across recently which I cannot for the life of me attribute, but it went like this: “Time would not exist if we didn’t pay attention to it”.)

        This all circles me around to your opening sentence, which holds my curiosity. In which you wondered how our experience of time could have any effect upon ‘time itself’. But this is the core of the matter. What do we mean by ‘time itself’? And why would our phenomenological experience of a thing deserve a lesser place when figuring what constitutes the reality of that same thing? Goethe warned about this. He advised to conduct science without dismissing one’s personal impressions of the phenomena. The measuring mentality, attempting to objectify, is what is responsible for this. It declares that subjective impressions of a thing are completely divorced from the thing itself — as though any possible thing could elicit within us those similar subjective experiences.

        I think this is where Henri Bergson was trying to go, while Einstein wished to stick with the strict measurability side of things. (Don’t get me wrong — I like Einstein and adore reading his non technical essays.)

        There is definitely something like objective time, in that we can witness the passage of days, orbits of the sun, aging, and so forth. But there is also something magical about our experience of time, which I suspect can be tuned via spiritual exercises.

        Thanks much for your thoughts.

      2. Thanks so much for the opportunity to have the conversation about what I wrote and for your thoughtful and measured response. Civil discourse surrounding complex issues is possible and there would be a huge improvement in our modern society if more of us approached such exchanges in this way.

        The nature of time is also one of the thorniest issues of physics these days. As you say, there clearly is “something like objective time,” and we can observe and measure the arrow of time when we consider light traveling across the universe. We know it takes a certain amount of “time” to arrive across great distances, and the duration of its travel can be observed and measured objectively, but time is not absolute–it is relative!

        Back in 2020, I wrote at length about the nature of time and anyone who is curious might find its content interesting.

        Thanks again for your kindness in responding to my post…John H.

    1. I agree that it may have been imagined by someone, somewhere, and at some time, and that it might just be impossible to know who or where or when unless it was revealed openly, but simply acknowledging that it is POSSIBLE that someone DID do so, begs the question.

    1. I appreciate your kindness in acknowledging my post, in following my blog, and in expressing positive thoughts about your experience visiting here. Over the past few days I have been reviewing your own blog, and there is much of interest for me in your writing also. I particularly enjoyed visiting some of the links you suggest in your posts, and have decided to follow your blog as well.

      I would suggest that you include some sort of “About” page or link for your visitors to learn more about you–the author of your words.

      Warm regards…John H.

      1. Thank you very much for your kind words. You are a very generous spirit.
        I will try and follow your suggestion to write something about myself, although it seems a difficult task.

        May your spirit always shine.

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