This was sent to me by a cousin who thinks that it will be “uplifting” for me. I have verified that this conversation took place in reality as there are any number of references to it in the web. Enjoy!
ON THE NATURE OF REALITY
Albert Einstein in Conversation with
Rabindranath Tagore visited Einstein’s house in Caputh, near Berlin, on July 14, 1930. The discussion between the two great men was recorded, and was subsequently published in the January, 1931 issue of Modern Review.
TAGORE: You have been busy, hunting down with mathematics,
the two ancient entities, time and space, while I have been
lecturing in this country on the eternal world of man, the universe
EINSTEIN: Do you believe in the divine isolated from the world?
TAGORE: Not isolated. The infinite personality of man comprehends
the universe. There cannot be anything that cannot
be subsumed by the human personality, and this proves that the
truth of the universe is human truth.
EINSTEIN: There are two different conceptions about the nature
of the universe — the world as a unity dependent on humanity,
and the world as reality independent of the human factor.
TAGORE: When our universe is in harmony with man, the eternal,
we know it as truth, we feel it as beauty.
EINSTEIN: This is a purely human conception of the universe.
TAGORE: The world is a human world — the scientific view
of it is also that of the scientific man. Therefore, the world
apart from us does not exist; it is a relative world, depending
for its reality upon our consciousness. There is some standard
of reason and enjoyment which gives it truth, the standard of
the eternal man whose experiences are made possible through
EINSTEIN: This is a realization of the human entity.
TAGORE: Yes, one eternal entity. We have to realize it through
our emotions and activities. We realize the supreme man, who
has no individual limitations, through our limitations.
Science is concerned with that which is not confined to individuals;
it is the impersonal human world of truths. Religion realizes
these truths and links them up with our deeper needs. Our individual
consciousness of truth gains universal significance. Religion
applies values to truth, and we know truth as good through
own harmony with it.
EINSTEIN: Truth, then, or beauty, is not independent of man?
TAGORE: No, I do not say so.
EINSTEIN: If there were no human beings any more, the Apollo
Belvedere no longer would be beautiful?
EINSTEIN: I agree with this conception of beauty, but not with
regard to truth.
TAGORE: Why not? Truth is realized through men.
EINSTEIN: I cannot prove my conception is right, but that is
TAGORE: Beauty is in the ideal of perfect harmony, which is
in the universal being; truth is the perfect comprehension of
the universal mind. We individuals approach it through our
own mistakes and blunders, through our accumulated experience,
through our illumined consciousness. How otherwise can
we know truth?
EINSTEIN: I cannot prove, but I believe in the Pythagorean
argument, that the truth is independent of human beings. It is
the problem of the logic of continuity.
TAGORE : Truth, which is one with the universal being, must
be essentially human; otherwise, whatever we individuals realize
as true, never can be called truth. At least, the truth which is
described as scientific and which only can be reached through
the process of logic—in other words, by an organ of thought
which is human. According to the Indian philosophy there is
Brahman, the absolute truth, which cannot be conceived by the
isolation of the individual mind or described by words, but can
be realized only by merging the individual in its infinity. But
such a truth cannot belong to science. The nature of truth which
we are discussing is an appearance; that is to say, what appears
to be true to the human mind, and therefore is human, and may
be called maya, or illusion.
EINSTEIN: It is no illusion of the individual, but of the species.
TAGORE: The species also belongs to a unity, to humanity.
Therefore the entire human mind realizes truth; the Indian and
the European mind meet in a common realization.
EINSTEIN: The word species is used in German for all human
beings; as a matter of fact, even the apes and the frogs would
belong to it. The problem is whether truth is independent of
TAGORE: What we call truth lies in the rational harmony between
the subjective and objective aspects of reality, both of
which belong to the superpersonal man.
EINSTEIN: We do things with our mind, even in our everyday
life, for which we are not responsible. The mind acknowledges
realities outside of it, independent of it. For instance, nobody
may be in this house, yet that table remains where it is.
TAGORE: Yes, it remains outside the individual mind, but not
the universal mind. The table is that which is perceptible by
some kind of consciousness we possess.
EINSTEIN: If nobody were in the house the table would exist all
the same, but this is already illegitimate from your point of view,
because we cannot explain what it means, that the table is there,
independently of us. Our natural point of view in regard to the
existence of truth apart from humanity cannot be explained or
proved, but it is a belief which nobody can lack—not even primitive
beings. We attribute to truth a superhuman objectivity. It
is indispensable for us—this reality which is independent of our
existence and our experience and our mind—though we cannot
say what it means.
TAGORE: In any case, if there be any truth absolutely unrelated
to humanity, then for us it is absolutely non-existing.
EINSTEIN: Then I am more religious than you are!
TAGORE: My religion is in the reconciliation of the superpersonal
man, the universal spirit, in my own individual being.