Feb 21, 2017

The Theosophy of Albert Einstein

Philosophical Ideas of an Ethical Scientist

Carlos Cardoso Aveline

The Theosophy of Albert Einstein
 Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

1. False Scholars Can’t Read the Classics

One of the hallmarks of modern pseudo-theosophy and superficial thought at all times is to make believe that it is not necessary to read the classics. Weak and lazy minds try to convince themselves and others that it is enough to take a look at the works of contemporary authors.

As a result, in the two main varieties of pseudo-theosophy - the 1920s Besantian pseudo-Masonic ritualism and the 1990s pseudo-academic “modernizing” skepticism - the false idea has been adopted that H.P. Blavatsky’s works are “outdated”, and their Ethics unnecessary or at least inconvenient.

One could as well say that Shakespeare, Plato, Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius, or the Bhagavad Gita, the Dhammapada, the Upanishads and the very search for truth in itself are all “out of fashion”.

Classical authors are contemporary to every time, and the main problem with lazy minds is that they suffer from a form of blindness. Albert Einstein wrote these wise words about ancient and recent thought:

“Somebody who reads only newspapers and at best books of contemporary authors looks to me like an extremely near-sighted person who scorns eyeglasses. He is completely dependent on the prejudices and fashions of his times, since he never gets to see or hear anything else. And what a person thinks on his own without being stimulated by the thoughts and experiences of other people is even in the best case rather paltry and monotonous.”

Einstein added:

“There are only a few enlightened people with a lucid mind and style and with good taste within a century. What has been preserved of their work belongs among the most precious possessions of mankind. We owe it to a few writers of antiquity that the people in the Middle Ages could slowly extricate themselves from the superstitions and ignorance that had darkened life for more than half a millennium.”

He got to this final conclusion:

“Nothing is more needed to overcome than the modernist’s snobbishness.” [1]

Indeed, true ethics and theosophy are hard to grasp from the point of view of those shallow thinkers and would-be scholars who can’t read the classics or think by themselves.

2. Ethics and the Purpose of Life

Sylvia Cranston demonstrated that Einstein was a careful reader of Helena Blavatsky’s masterpiece “The Secret Doctrine”. [2]

In philosophical matters, he was, of course, no mere reader. He developed his own theosophical approach to life and the universe. He became a true philosopher of altruism, as every theosophist must learn to be in one way or another. In 1934, Einstein wrote on the need of freedom from selfishness:

“The true value of a human being is determined primarily by the measure and the sense in which he has attained liberation from the self.” [3]

And he added:

“I am absolutely convinced that no wealth in the world can help humanity forward, even in the hands of the most devoted worker in this cause. The example of great and pure individuals is the only thing that can lead us to noble thoughts and deeds. Money only appeals to selfishness and irresistibly invites abuse. Can anyone imagine Moses, Jesus, or Gandhi armed with (…) money-bags (…)?” [4]

3. Gandhi or the Sociology of Brotherhood

Einstein dedicated the last part of his life to the ideal of a weapon-free, universal brotherhood among nations. He was intensely active in working for the establishment of a planetary democracy, and felt a profound admiration for “Mahatma” Gandhi.

He wrote on the Indian activist and thinker:

“A leader of his people, unsupported by any outward authority: a politician whose success rests not upon craft nor the mastery of technical devices, but simply on the convincing power of his personality; a victorious fighter who has always scorned the use of force; a man of wisdom and humility, armed with resolve and inflexible consistency, who has devoted all his strength to the uplifting of his people and the betterment of their lot; a man who has confronted the brutality of Europe [5] with the dignity of the simple human being, and thus at all times risen superior. Generations to come, it may be, will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth.” [6]

4. The Limits of the Intellect

Einstein made his own individual bridge between Buddhi, the spiritual soul, and Manas, or mind. His science was Buddhi-Manasic. He instinctively struggled for ethics because there can be no “spiritual soul” in the absence of ethics. 

Einstein’s intellectual view of life was powerful enough to be also intuitive and spiritual. He wrote:

“Our age is proud of the progress it has made in man’s intellectual development. The search and striving for truth and knowledge is one of the highest of man’s qualities - though often the pride is most loudly voiced by those who strive the least. And certainly we should take care not to make the intellect our god; it has, of course, powerful muscles, but no personality. It cannot lead, it can only serve; and it is not fastidious in its choices of a leader. This characteristic is reflected in the qualities of its priests, the intellectuals. The intellect has a sharp eye for methods and tools, but is blind to ends and values. So it is no wonder that this fatal blindness is handed from old to young and today involves a whole generation.” [7]

5. Universal Brotherhood Preserves Diversity

When citizens share a humanistic intention, diversity of thought is acknowledged as an enriching factor in life. There is a subtle yet fundamental difference between brotherhood and uniformity of thought. Albert Einstein saw the need for free individual thinking, combined to mutual help mechanisms. He wrote:

“Only the individual can think, and thereby create new values for society, nay, even set up new moral standards to which the life of the community conforms. Without creative personalities able to think and judge independently, the upward development of society is as unthinkable as the development of the individual personality without the nourishing soil of the community.”

He added:

“The health of society thus depends quite as much on the independence of the individuals composing it as on their close social cohesion. It has rightly been said that the very basis of Graeco-European-American culture, and in particular of its brilliant flowering in Italian Renaissance, has been the liberation and comparative isolation of the individual.” [8]

Elsewhere, the scientist and philosopher said:  

“To see with one’s own eyes, to feel and judge without succumbing to the suggestive power of the fashion of the day, to be able to express what one has seen and felt in a trim sentence or even in a cunningly wrought word - is that not glorious? Is it not a proper subject for congratulation?” [9]

What determines real unity in any theosophical association or humanistic movement is not uniformity of thought but shared intentions, motives, and methods. Thus one is able to handle differences in a creative way and can turn diversity and contrast into advantages along the common path.

Mutual reliability is the indispensable basis of cooperation. Those who want to live in a better civilization must start the desired change by being reliable. Their example will be followed in due time. Of course, a deep sense of self-confidence is the foundation of altruism and cooperation, and self-confidence is associated to self-knowledge. There are numerous reasons to be confident about oneself and about life. All living beings result from and are sustained by the process of affinity and cooperation in Nature, and Albert Einstein wrote:

“When we survey our lives and endeavors, we soon observe that almost the whole of our actions and desires are bound up with the existence of other human beings. We notice that our whole nature resembles that of other social animals. We eat food that others have produced, wear clothes that others have made, live in houses that others have built. The greater part of our knowledge and beliefs has been communicated to us by other people through the medium of a language which others have created. Without language our mental capacities would be poor indeed, comparable to those of the higher animals; we have, therefore, to admit that we owe our principal advantage over the beasts to the fact of living in human society. The individual, if left alone from birth, would remain primitive and beastlike in his thoughts and feelings to a degree that we can hardly conceive.[10] The individual is what he is and has the significance that he has not so much in virtue of his individuality, but rather as a member of a great human community, which directs his material and spiritual existence from the cradle to the grave.”

“A man’s value to the community depends primarily on how far his feelings, thoughts, and actions are directed toward promoting the good of his fellows. We call him good or bad according to his attitude in this respect. It looks at first sight as if our estimate of a man depended entirely on his social qualities. And yet such an attitude would be wrong. It can easily be seen that all the valuable achievements, material, spiritual, and moral, which we receive from society have been brought about in the course of countless generations by creative individuals. Someone once discovered the use of fire, someone the cultivation of edible plants, and someone the steam engine.” [11]

Human progress is provoked into a great extent by the relatively Few who prefer to think by themselves, who decide to be creative, and who make self-devised efforts with a noble intention.

6. Competition Produces Decadence

Cooperation sustains life, and the competitive “struggle for existence” of modern science provokes the decay of civilization.

Fortunately, the illusion of selfishness is but a passing dream and those who know the Law of life have reasons to be optimistic. Einstein wrote:

“No wonder there is no lack of prophets who prophesy the early eclipse of our civilization. I am not one of these pessimists; I believe that better times are coming. Let me briefly state my reasons for such confidence.”

He then added:

“In my opinion, the present manifestations of decadence are explained by the fact that economic and technologic developments have highly intensified the struggle for existence, greatly to the detriment of the free development of the individual. But the development of technology means that less and less work is needed from the individual for the satisfaction of the community’s needs. A planned division of labor is becoming more and more of a crying necessity, and this division will lead to the material security of the individual. This security and the spare time and energy which the individual will have at his disposal can be turned to the development of his personality. In this way the community may regain its health, and we will hope that future historians will explain the morbid symptoms of present-day society as the childhood ailments of an aspiring humanity, due entirely to the excessive speed at which civilization was advancing.” [12]

Realism shows us that the way ahead leads to universal brotherhood. 

It would be an impossible utopian dream indeed to imagine that a materialistic civilization could go on forever and cause endless pain to human population.    

7. The Elevation of Mankind

While all forms of generosity may inspire admiration, the best way to actually help people is to respect their autonomy and give them the means to elevate themselves by their own merit.

Therefore Einstein wrote:

“It is right in principle that those should be the best loved who have contributed most to the elevation of the human race and human life. But if one goes on to ask who they are, one finds oneself in no inconsiderable difficulties. In the case of political, and even of religious, leaders it is often very doubtful whether they have done more good or harm. Hence I most seriously believe that one does people the best service by giving them some elevating work to do and thus indirectly elevating them. This applies most of all to the great artist, but also in a lesser degree to the scientist. To be sure, it is not the fruits of scientific research that elevate a man and enrich his nature, but the urge to understand, the intellectual work, creative or receptive.” [13]


[1] “Ideas and Opinions”, Albert Einstein, based on “Mein Weltbild” and other sources, Bonanza Books, New York, 1954, 374 pp., see pp. 64-65.

[2] “HPB - The Extraordinary Life and Influence of Helena Blavatsky, Founder of the Modern Theosophical Movement”, by Sylvia Cranston, a Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam Book, published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, 1994, 648 pp.. See preface, p. XX; pp. 434-435; and note 22 to Part 7 of the book, at pp. 605-606.

[3] “Ideas and Opinions”, Albert Einstein, p. 12.

[4] “Ideas and Opinions”, Albert Einstein, pp. 12-13.

[5] As Einstein was born in Europe, he had a right to say so.

[6] “Ideas and Opinions”, Albert Einstein, 1954, 374 pp., see pp. 77-78.

[7] “Out of My Later Years”, Albert Einstein, Wings Books, New York, 1996, 280 pp., see p. 260.

[8] “Ideas and Opinions”, Albert Einstein, p. 14.

[9] “Ideas and Opinions”, p. 17.

[10] Human education and interaction, and the contact with one’s elders play a central role in the awakening of one’s higher principles of consciousness, within the limits of one’s possibilities.

[11] “Ideas and Opinions”, pp. 13-14.

[12] “Ideas and Opinions”, p. 15.

[13] “Ideas and Opinions”, p. 12.


In September 2016, after a careful analysis of the state of the esoteric movement worldwide, a group of students decided to form the Independent Lodge of Theosophists, whose priorities include the building of a better future in the different dimensions of life.  


E-Theosophy e-group offers a regular study of the classic, intercultural theosophy taught by Helena P. Blavatsky (photo).

Those who want to join E-Theosophy e-group at YahooGroups can do that by visiting https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/E-Theosophy/info.