Einstein's Enlightenment

Einstein's Legacy

Einstein's article 'Religion and Science'

Einstein's Legacy

Einstein's legacy to us includes his spiritual insights. Einstein considered the great  religions as spiritually primitive realms and believed our future spiritual home would be the cosmic arena:

But there is a third stage of religious experience which belongs to all of them, even though it is rarely found in a pure form: I shall call it cosmic religious feeling. It is very difficult to elucidate this feeling to anyone who is entirely without it, especially as there is no anthropomorphic conception of God corresponding to it.

Einstein viewed our worldly concerns as a prison from which science can help free us. He exhorts us to widen our spiritual framework and experience the cosmic religious experience:

‘A human being is a part of a whole, called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest...a kind of optical delusion of his 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 compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.’

Einstein recognized that this spiritual realm is accessible to a limited number of people; people he described as ‘individuals of exceptional endowments and exceptionally high-minded communities’. He saw that many of these enlightened individuals engaged in seeking the truth through scientific research:

Only one who has devoted his life to similar ends (scientific research) can have a vivid realization of what has inspired these men and given them the strength to remain true to their purpose in spite of countless failures. It is the cosmic religious feeling that gives a man such strength.

He trusted that a wide range of people, not only scientist, could access this spiritual kingdom. He believed science can provide a doorway for many:

 ‘In my view, it is the most important function of … science to awaken this feeling and to keep it alive in those who are receptive to it.’

Let’s be clear. Albert Einstein, arguably the greatest scientist of all time, saw this function of science, its ability to awaken and keep alive the cosmic religious experience, as the most important function of science.

Few people are aware of this aspect of Einstein's genius and we might ask why this is so. Why isn’t there a thriving sect of devotees committed to attaining spiritual enlightenment through the understanding of science? Einstein claimed this community exists: the scientific community. He saw the cosmic religious experience as the common motivator of the scientific quest, but he also held out hope for those who are not scientists. Why have we not responded?

One obvious reason is that science, especially at the time Einstein wrote, can be very difficult for the non-professional to understand. When I was a boy it was widely rumoured that only a dozen people in the world understood general relativity.

The good news is that today accessibility to science is easier. At the time  Einstein wrote, Darwin’s theory was arguably the scientific theory best understood by the general public but it was still undeveloped and parts  unclear. Since then many more details have been discovered, DNA has been identified as the evolutionary replicator and many of the great evolutionary theorists have written books for the general public. Darwin’s ideas have been extended to provide viable theories concerning the creation of design in the cosmos and in culture.

Universal Darwinism opens a unified and more easily understood doorway to science. It integrates science into a complete picture and provides a comprehensive context for scientific knowledge.  Universal Darwinism also provides an explanation for all design found in the universe and provides answers to the ‘big questions’. It is my hope that this doorway will bestow access to Einstein’s enlightened realm for many.


In my view, it is the most important function of science to awaken this feeling of cosmic religious experience and to keep it alive in those who are receptive to it.’

Albert Einstein