Albert Einstein was my Godfather and a family friend. Over the years I have sought to increase my understanding of this great man, and the spiritual implications of his work. Einstein was a scientific giant who, perceiving the unified nature of reality, was able to express some of it mathematically. Beyond the role of scientist, he can best be thought of as a spiritual giant whose life, in terms of humility, compassion for humanity, and one pointed focus on God, stands as an example of how Sathya Sai Baba teaches us to live most happily.
Albert Einstein stands as a precursor and example of the unique type of scientist so sorely needed in the world today the type that Bhagawan is currently graduating from His Institute of Higher Learning. Under Swami's loving hand, these are "whole" scientists. Their aim is to benefit society and not merely accomplish selfish ends without thought to their work's impact upon humanity and the environment. These are scientists who combine spiritual awareness with state of the art training. Swami's graduates are at the leading edge of discovery in various fields. Three recent Ph.D.'s in physics had the unheard of experience of having their papers published in American physics journals within a year of receiving their degrees! Grounded in the truth that God is the source of all phenomena and knowledge, they maintain the perspective that the best path to understanding creation is to study the Creator.
Einstein also was this type of scientist, and his life was guided by this principle. His overriding goal was to "Understand how the 'Old One' thinks." And he devoted his life to the effort to gain "knowledge of the ultimate immutable essence that under girds the mutable, illusory world."
In this part of this article I will mention some personal stories about my family, Baba and Einstein. The continuing part will include some of Einstein's thoughts on science, spirituality, education and character, as well as what Swami had to say about him during a recent interview.
Although Einstein was deeply saddened by the ironic fact that some of his work led to the development of nuclear weapons, we might also consider that work also holds within it scientific illustration of spiritual truth. This article will conclude with some musings on how some of Einstein's work may be useful as one more 'tool' to help free us from Maya and accept the unseen Atma as the fundamental truth of life.
My father, Dr. Henry Abrams, opened his general medical practice in Princeton, New Jersey, in 1938. A year later, the physician who had been caring for Prof. Einstein, his daughter Margot and secretary Miss Helen Dukas, was leaving for further training. He approached my father and asked if he would care to take over, and he readily agreed. He cared for Einstein and the others until the outbreak of World War II.
During the war my father was stationed on the cold and desolate island of Greenland. He and Einstein corresponded. While in Greenland my father received a letter from Einstein remarking that this should be a "contemplative period" for him, and urging him to consider getting further medical training in some speciality. Subsequently, my father did that, and returned to Princeton as the town's sole ophthalmologist. When I was born in 1949, he asked the professor, as Einstein preferred to be called, if he would be my Godfather, and Einstein consented. Thus, following Jewish tradition, Einstein was the one who held me for the eris Milah, the ritual circumcision ceremony. He was to have minor contact, but major impact over my life in the years to come. Further, because in the West the Godfather is considered a child's spiritual teacher I have come to consider Professor Einstein to be the first of several spiritual teachers in this life. They ultimately led me to Bhagavan.
Einstein died when I was six, and my recollections of him are few. I do remember that he had a very nice laugh, which he used often. For my fourth birthday, my parents and I were invited for a small celebration. My uncle took the opportunity to photograph the Professor and me dealing with the gifts that his secretary had obtained: a toy log cabin and a bag of foil covered chocolates in the form of "gold coins." It was this latter which occupied most of my attention. Professor Einstein worked on the log cabin, trying to fit the simple pieces of wood together. Interestingly, when I grew up and printed all the negatives, there was a picture of my mother leaning over Professor Einstein and the logs, showing him how the ends joined.
Of course at that young age I had no idea of what was so special about being around this nice old man. It wasn't until I was at college that I really began to appreciate the honour of being his Godson and to consider what his scientific work meant.
I discovered meditation at the age of twenty. As my spiritual journey proceeded I became intensely curious as to what my link was with such a luminous soul.
(to be continued...)