What Happened When Einstein Met Indian Mystic Tagore

Albert Einstein gives his surprising perspective on truth to Indian philosopher Rabindranath Tagore.


The natures of truth, reality, beauty, and consciousness are the kind of weighty, meaty topics great minds love to discuss. In Germany in 1930, just such a conversation took place between Albert Einstein and Indian philosopher Rabindranath Tagore. Explored in the new book Science and the Indian Tradition: When Einstein Met Tagoreby David L. Gosling, this dialogue wasn’t the usual religion vs. science debate you’re likely to see on CNN.

Tagore says, “It is a relative world, depending for its relativity upon our consciousness.” His entire argument is that beauty and truth are completely dependent on humans observing them, that there is no beauty without an admirer, and no truth without a believer.

Einstein disagrees with the truth aspect, stating that “the Pythagorean theorem in geometry states something that is approximately true, independent of the existence of man. Anyway, if there is a reality independent of man, there is also a Truth relative to this reality; and in the same way the negation of the first engenders a negation of the existence of the latter.”

Einstein and Tagore had a genuine curiosity about each other's perspectives, how they complement one another and how they differ.

Einstein believed more in absolute truth than the religious man he was debating, which apparently surprised Einstein as he exclaimed, “Then I am more religious than you are!” Tagore replied, “My religion is in the reconciliation of the Super-personal Man, the universal human spirit, in my own individual being.” The whole universe inside you and you inside the universe — it brings to mind the famous Carl Sagan quote: “We are all made of star stuff.”

Read the whole conversation between Einstein and Tagore here.

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