In July, 1930, Albert Einstein welcomed a guest in his home in Berlin. His guest was Rabindranath Tagore, an Indian philosopher, Nobel laureate and musician.
Einstein and Tagore had a conversation about one of the most discussed subjects in history. They spoke about the very old friction between religion and science. This conversation can be regarded as one of the most intellectual conversations that were ever led in history.
Tradition and science
The conversation of Einstein and Tagore was a discussion about the Western scientific doctrine and the Indian traditions. It examined definitions of philosophy, science, consciousness and beauty. It also dealt with the most fundamental questions about human existence.
Einstein asked Tagore about his beliefs in the Divine. He wondered whether Tagore saw the Divine as something that is isolated from the world.
Tagore believed that the Devine is not isolated. The Man can understand the universe. Tagore strongly claimed that there is nothing that humans cannot understand.
Tagore even explained his beliefs to Einstein with a scientific approach. He said that matter seems solid and it consists of electrons, protons and gaps between them. In the same manner, individuals exist with gaps between them, but they interact and give unity to the world. The universe is linked like this, so it is a universe of the humans. Tagore came to this conclusion following the principles of religious consciousness, literature and art.
Einstein furthered the discussion by speaking of the two conceptions about the universe – that the universe depends on humans and the other that the universe is not dependent on the humans.
Tagore continued to discuss his beliefs by explaining that humans and universe must be in harmony. We feel this harmony in the form of beauty.
Einstein opposed this claim because it is only the simple conception of the universe held by humans.
However, Tagore continued to support his theory by saying that there can be no other conception of the universe except that of the people. Even science comes from humans.
Even the Eternal Man has experiences that come from our own experiences.
According to Tagore, we have to realize this through our activities and emotions. The Eternal man has no limitations like our limitations.
Meanwhile, science is not concerned with the humans. It is impersonal. On the other side, religion tries to understand the truths of the humans and link them to our deep necessities. Our consciousness of the truth is extremely significant. Religion also gives value to truth and we are aware of truth because we live in harmony with it.
Einstein realized through this discussion that truth and beauty cannot be separated from humans. Tagore agreed with this.
If the humans stop to exist, beauty and truth will be over too. The things we know as beautiful will stop being that.
However, Einstein agreed that if there are no human there would be no beauty, but he disagreed that the same happens with truth.
On the other side, Tagore disagreed with this. According to him, truth can only be realized and exist through human beings.
Beauty can be found in perfect harmony and perfect harmony is found in the universal being. On the other side, truth is the understanding of the universal mind. Human beings approach truth through consciousness, their own experiences. In other way, human beings cannot know about truth.
Einstein explained that he cannot prove in a scientific way that truth should be seen as something separate from humanity, but he strongly believes in this notion. He explained this with an example. He said that the Pythagorean theorem is something true which is not dependent on human beings. So, if there is reality that is not dependent on man, there must be a truth that does not depend on human beings.
Tagore continued with his disagreement. As truth is one of the universal things, it must be connected to humans. If it is not, what we see as true cannot be truth. This would apply at least to scientific explanation of what is truth or that truth is something that can be reached with a logical process.
Consequently, a logical process can only be achieved with our brain, which is part of humans. According to Indian philosophy there is an absolute truth called Brahman. This absolute truth cannot be reached by isolation of an individual and his mind. It also cannot be explained with words. This truth can only be realized by uniting the individual in infinity. This type of truth cannot belong to science. It can only belong to the human beings.
Truth is realized by the whole human mind. In this realization, all of the civilizations meet.
According to Tagore, science tries to eliminate the limitations of the human mind. In this way, we try to understand the truth. Meanwhile, the truth is always part of the mind of a man.
Einstein found another problem is this Tagore’s theory. His question was whether truth is independent from the consciousness of human beings.
Tagore replied that truth can be found in the harmony of the objective and subjective aspects of reality. Both of these aspects are something that belongs to the super personal human being.
On the other side, Einstein believed that even in everyday life feel that reality is something that is independent of us. We can see this in the objects that we use every day. For example, we are not in a house, but the house is still part of reality.
However, Tagore explained that the house may not be part of the thoughts of an individual, but it is part of the universal mind.
Einstein answered that we cannot explain how a table is there in the house and it is independent of us.
We cannot explain how truth and reality exist independent of us, but we firmly believe in this.
According to Tagore, science explained that the table is an object, but if the mind does not see it as one, it would not exist. On the other side, the physical reality is made of electrical forces that also belong to the human beings.
Tagore explained that for many years, ethics, philosophy and science tried to explain the different between the universal mind and the mind of an individual. However, if there is truth that is not connected to humans, then truth does not exist.
Einstein concluded that he may be even more religious than this Indian philosopher.
Reference: Brain Pickings