Archive | Albert Einstein RSS feed for this section

The Laws of Causality and… Synchronicity

21 Jun

Human opinions are children’s toysHeraclitus

All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and hold this must minute solar system of the atom together. We must assume behind this force the existence of a consciousness and intelligent Mind. This Mind is the matrix of all matter. – Max Planck, Nobel Prize speech in 1944.

Oswald Spengler (1880-1936) gave a vivid account of the causal thinking that we, humans, are proud of.

 With his hand, his weapon, and his personal thinking man became creative. All that animals do remains inside the limits of their genus-activity   and does not enrich life at all. Man, however, the creative animal, has spread   such a wealth of inventive thought There is already activity in the existence of the animals, but deeds begin only with Man.   Nothing is more enlightening in this connexion than the story of fire. Man   sees (cause and effect) how a fire starts, and so also do many of the beasts. But Man alone (end and means) thinks out a process   of starting it. No other act so impresses us with the sense of creation as this one. One of the most uncanny, violent, enigmatic phenomena   of Nature — lightning, forest fire, volcano — is henceforth called into   life by Man and action all over the world that he seems perfectly   entitled to call his brief history “world-history” and to regard his entourage as “humanity,”   with all the rest of Nature as a background, an object, and a means.The act of   the thinking hand we call a deed. himself, against Nature. What it must have been to man’s soul, that first   sight of a fire evoked by himself! – Oswald Spengler [1]

The discovery of fire is the first instance when humankind understood the cause and effect kind of law, and from that moment this law serve as a guide to us. Quite interestingly, fire was discovered by human species well before what previously was thought. Researchers recently discovered evidence of human use of fire dating back about 1 million years ago, in the Wonderwerk Cave, in South Africa, a massive cavern located near the edge of the Kalahari Desert.

Every problem contains its own solution, and it is part of human life to be repeatedly confronted with sources of difficulties that requires a solution. In fact, these situations are the ones that keep us alert, sharpens our senses and challenges our rational mind.

We live in a materialistic world bound by a narrow logic, and constrained “physical laws” that restrain the appealing of the mysterious in us.

The usual causal thinking follows a linear trail, where events A,B,C follow one after the other, C takes place because of B, and B is due to A. Jung hypothesized that causal effects have place with transmission of energy from cause to effect. However, there are some effects that apparently occur without Exchange of energy, and the event was called acausal by Carl Jung. A well-known physical effect representing an acausal effect is the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen effect, which is also a non-local effect.

I am therefore using the general concept of synchronicity in the special sense of a coincidence in time of two or more causally unrelated events which have the same or similar meaning…Synchronicity therefore means the simultaneous occurrence of a certain psychic state with one or more external events which appears as meaningful parallels to the momentary subjective state-and, in certain cases, vice-versa. – Carl Jung, p. 251 Ref. [3].

Chinese philosophy thought occurrence of events differently from us. We usually ask: what causes this? Classic chinese texts ask: what likes to occur with what?…

But there is mysterious and inexplicable coincidences in our lives that we feel are full of meaning, although we don’t understand if we follow the stringent logic of reason, as teached by Aristotle and others in the West. These coincidences are what Carl Jung called “meaningful coincidences”, James Joyce’s “epiphanies”, and those that experienced them (and we all did) feel as they are occasions when a bridge are formed in order to connect the inner and outer worlds. We quote now the very funny text wrote by James Joyce and entitled “Stephen Hero” where he gave his definition of epiphany {FN1}:

He [Stephen Hero] was passing through Eccles’ St one evening, one misty evening, with all these thoughts dancing the dance of unrest in his brain when a trivial incident set him composing some ardent verses which he entitled a “villanelle of the Temptress.” A young lady was standing on the steps of one of those brown brick houses which seem the very incarnation of Irish paralysis. A young gentleman was leaning on the rusty railings of the area. Stephen as he passed on his quest heard the following fragment of colloquy out of which he received an impression keen enough to afflict his sensitiveness very severely.

The Young Lady-(drawling discreetly) … 0, yes … I was … at the … cha … pel …

The Young Gentleman- (inaudibly) … I … (again inaudibly) … I …

The Young Lady-(softly) … 0 … but you’re … ve … ry … wick … ed .

This trivialit*y made him think of collecting many such moments together in a book of epiphanies. By an epiphany he meant ‘ a sudden spiritual manifestation, whether in the vulgarity of speech or of gesture or in a memorable phase of the mind itself. He believed that it was for the man of letters to record these epiphanies with extreme care, seeing that they themselves are the most delicate and evanescent of moments. He told Cranly that the clock of the Ballast Office was capable of an epiphany. Cranly questioned the inscrutable dial of the Ballast Office with his no less inscrutable countenance:

-Yes, said Stephen. I will pass it time after time, allude to it, refer to it, catch a glimpse of it. It is only an item in the catalogue of Dublin’s street furniture. Then all at once I see it and I know at once what it is: epiphany.


-Imagine my glimpses at that clock as the gropings of a spiritual eye which seeks to adjust its vision to an exact focus. The moment the focus is reached the object is epiphanised. It is just in this epiphany that I find the third, the supreme quality of beauty.

-Yes? said Cranly absently.

What we see here, is the apparent lack of rational explanation in terms of the usual methods that are currently teached in school, in terms of causal links and connections that hide a fabric of underlying patterns where the mental and the material coincide in what seems to be connectors with potential to transform our lives. The transformative power of synchronicities led the outstanding physicist Wolfgang Pauli to explore the deep connections between the psyche and matter in the book “Resurrection of Spirit within the World of Matter” [2]{3}.

Why a great physicist, as Wolfgang Pauli was, become interested in Synchronicity and the role of the psychic life, may be found in the tragedy that attained him when his mother committed suicide, after knowing about his father’s infidelity. This tragedy accompanied Pauli all his entire life, and the series of dreams that so much have perturbed him, lead him to Carl Jung, and from the therapeutics sessions he had with Jung, it followed an intense collaboration and sharing of thoughts about these matters, that culminated in Jung’s book “Psychology and Alchemy”. One recurrent dream that Pauli had, called “The World Clock”. Pauli recurrently saw two clocks with a common axis, but one clock was at 90 degrees with other, connecting two different patterns of movement, and apparently showing a link between the real time and the complex time, since complex numbers can be represented since Euler, Wessel and D’Argand in a kind of Cartesian frame where the Ox axis represents real numbers and the Oy axis the complex numbers (see Complex Plane).

Wolfgang Pauli 45's birthday.

Wolfgang Pauli 45’s birthday.

Pauli’s mind was full of strange dreams that reflect his deep interest about all this world we are living in. He was deeply interest in a dimensionless constant of physics that is near the cabalistic number “137” (the fine-structure constant representing the coupling of light to matter). We may say here that Pauli was na outstanding physicist, maybe greater than Albert Einstein, but instead to be willing at the front with other succesful physicists, he choose to stay behind, thinking and giving ideas to others. He died in a hospital room number 137…

Another strange dream that was reported about Pauli involves a Persian figure. Pauli asks: “Are you my shadow?” The Persian replies: “I am between you and the light, hence you are my shadow. Not the other way around.” Pauli: “Are you studying physics?” The Persian: “Your language thereof is too difficult for me, but in my language you would not understand physics.”{4}

As David Peat wrote in his inspiring book “Synchronicity: the Bridge between Matter and Mind and the Resurrection of Spirit in the World” [4]:

The universe was perceived not so much in terms of separately distinct objects connected by forces but through sympathies, influences, humors, resonances and patterns that belong together. It was not that movements of the planets causally influenced events on earth, but that an essential harmony was maintained between the patterns of heaven and earth. Within such a world-view, synchronicity is perfectly natural.

The concept of Causal relationships implies a linear concept of time, introduced with the rise of banking and commerce, when lending money implies accumulating interest. With the Renaissance, all other concepts of time (including the idea of a circular time, the eternal return) were definitively banned, and replaced with a “time” used for prediction, control, accumulation rates, and wealth. With this time it followed the concept of biological evolution (Krishnamurty and David Bohm they don’t believe on this concept, see important interview), and the general idea that pervades our societies that linear time lead us all to progress.

It is progressively clear that Science is not serving humanity the way it should. Since the Atomic Bombs and the horror provoked in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Cold War and its sequels, the use of science (including fractal geometries) to finance that ultimately led us to the bankruptcy, and the end of the dream, the use of technology to submit man to powerful people who the only good they seek is money and power, is not a good asset for our future. Scientists must depart in a new journey, developing a new Science where the soul and qualities are treated  equally, finishing with the general mechanistic view, and thinking about what kind of Science is good for all of us. Otherwise, Science risks to become a real danger, or at minimum no more an interesting subject with important outcomes for Society (for example, David Bohm and even Einstein, they wouldn’t choose the same profession, if reborn). In a way, I believe that a new Era for humanity is already beginning, scientists (including me) are committed to explore new paths, aiming to serve humanity, helping us to more deeply what means to be a human being, and for what purpose we are here on this little planet.

We recall here Pauli, again, as reported in his autobiography by the brilliant Dutch theoretician H.B.G. Casimir who discover an important proof of the existence of the vacuum as having an internal structure: “We are living in curious times. Christianity has lost its grip on humanity. Other times should come. I think that I know, what will come. I know it quite certain. But I won’t tell anyone, because otherwise they will think that I am crazy.”


[1] Oswald Spengler, Man and Technic

[2] David Peat, Synchronicity

[3] Jung and the Postmodern: the interpretation of Realities, by Christopher Hauke

[4] “Synchronicity: the Bridge between Matter and Mind and the Resurrection of Spirit in the World”, by F. David Peat, Edited by Robert jon Religa

[5] H.B.G. Casimir, Haphazard Reality: Half a Century of Science, 1984, Harper Collins.


{1} Hot Find! Humans Used Fire 1 Million Years Ago, Charles Choi, LiveScience Contributor

{2} Excerpt of James Joyce’s Stephen Hero.

{3} Listen to Sting, singing together with The Polices, the theme Synchronicity

{4} Towards One World

Spinoza and the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus

5 Apr

We choose our joys and sorrows long before we experience them. – Kahlil Gibran [1]

Konstatiert ist es, das der Lebenswandel des Spinoza frei von allem Tadel war,und rein und makellos wie das Leben seines gbttlichen Vetters, Jesu Christi. Auch wie Dieser litt er fiir seine Lehre wie Dieser trug er die Dornenkrone. Ueberall, wo ein grosser Geist seine Gedenken ausspricht, ist Golgotha. – Heinrich Heine

Scientists face every day the problem of the origin of being. From where all things came from? But due to the frugality of information we possess, of our knowledge and experiences in this world, the temptation to believe that there is a God at the source of all that exists is enormous. We do not intend here to quest this possibility since we cannot “prove” it. That is a question of faith. In my humble opinion, we are too far away to really understand what is God (we do not even know who we are, human beings, and the proof is the lack of respect we submit to the other human fellows permanently around the globe). Hence, in the West, our temptation resides in to see God as an old man, sat above the clouds (this is the image that, we, Catholics, we learn at school) and which in my viewpoint not even minimally respectable it is.

In this text, I am concerned about a man who thought about this fundamental quest, Benedict de Spinoza. His family were natives from Portugal, as I am, and this condition allows me to draw some conclusions, since, in my viewpoint, the actual mentality pervading all our activities in the actuality is not much different from the one that Spinoza felt, when he lived in the bosom of the Portuguese Jewish Community of Amsterdam. His parents bestowed on his only son (they had also two girls), the best education at the Jewish High School, with the guidance of a learned Talmudist, Morteira. He was introduced to the learning of the Hebrews, the mysteries of the Cabala and the Talmud, the Old Testament, commented by Ibn Ezra and Maimonides. He had knowledge of Portuguese, Spanish, French, Italian, and German. He wrote in Dutch with difficulty, which is quite surprising. He studied Latin by himself {FN2}, and after with Francis Van den Ende, a physician, with whom he gained knowledge of physical sciences, «which so largely leavened his philosophy» (in the Introduction of Ref. [3]).

But his thoughts collided with the wall of incomprehension. As referred by R. H. M. Elwes, one of the best scholars on Spinoza, “[…] hence with curious irony his works, which few read and still fewer understood, became associated with notions of monstrous impiety, and their author, who loved virtue with single-hearted and saintly devotion, was brand as a railer against God and a subverter of morality, whom it was a shame even to speak of.» [3]

The grinding lathe for optical lenses. Spinoza’s house in Rijnsberg near Leiden, Netherlands. Spinoza (1632-1677) lived in Rijnsberg between 1660 and 1663. Image credit:

The Jewish doctors tried to retain him in their community, even offering to him a yearly pension of 1,000 florins,, but Spinoza rejected. It is told that Spinoza’s life was threatened, one day when he was coming out of the Portuguese synagogue. Finally, he was then excommunicated [2].

He then had no reason to stay in Amsterdam, and he leaves this city to work manually polishing glasses and studying with his mind in an acquaintance house, in a place situated in the road that links Amsterdam to Auwerkerke. When he finishes his polishing, his friend takes care of them, sell them and remit the money to him [2]. Spinoza engages in the activities of trade in order to provide means for life’s necessities. Trade is a basic aspect of human’s life.

One episode shows a characteristic of his personality. On the death of his father, his sisters wanted to deprive him of the inheritance (sustaining that he was a heretic). Spinoza claim his rights on the court of law, he gained the process, but at the end he gave back all the inheritance to his sisters, only retaining one bed…

Interior of the Portuguese Synagogue of Amsterdam.

The best biography of this great thinker is probably the one of Johannes Colerus, The Life of Benedict de Spinoza [2].

Coleridge expressed the opinion that Ethics, the Novum Organum, and the Critique of Pure Reason were “the three greatest works written since the introduction of Christianity [1]. Despite the rigorous character of his writings, recurring to a kind of geometric exposition (influence of Euclid), numerous poets and imaginative writers embraced his philosophical exposition and study him deeply. Among them, we may refer Goethe, Novalis (who celebrated him as “the man intoxicated with Deity”) [4], Lessing, Lord Byron, Heine, Auerbach, Coleridge, Shelley, George Eliot.

Benedict de Spinoza. Image credit: Wikipedia.

In the preface, Benedict de Spinoza immediately starts to situate the problem with a fact we already know: «Men would never be superstitious, if they could govern all their circumstances by set rules, or if they were always favoured by fortune: but being frequently driven into straits where rules are useless, and being often kept fluctuating pitiably between hope and fear by the uncertainty of fortune’s greedily coveted favors, they are consequently, for the most part, very prone to credulity. The human mind is readily swayed this way or that in times of doubt, especially when hope and fear are struggling for the mastery, though usually, it is boastful, over-confident, and vain.» [3]

He also gave a clarified example: «Superstition, then, is engendered, preserved, and fostered by fear. If anyone desires an example, let him take Alexander, who only began superstitiously to seek guidance from seers when he first learned to fear fortune in the passes of Sysis; whereas after he had conquered Darius he consulted prophets no more, till a second time frightened by reverses. When the Scythians were provoking a battle, the Bactrians had deserted, and he himself was lying sick of his wounds, “he once more turned to superstition, the mockery of human wisdom, and bade Aristander, to whom he confided his credulity, inquire the issue of affairs with sacrificed victims.” [Note 1]. Very numerous examples of a like nature might be cited, clearly showing the fact, that only while under the dominion of fear do men fall a prey to superstition; that all portents ever invested with the reverence of misguided religion are mere phantoms of dejected and fearful minds; and lastly, that prophets have most power among the people, and are most formidable rulers, precisely at those times when the state is in most peril. I think this is sufficiently plain to all, and will, therefore, say no more on the subject”. »

Alexandre the Great. Image credit:

Superstition and fear makes people dependent on charlatans, and their freedom, life and well-being is seriously menaced, as you can infer from the video here, showing a bishop from the Church “Igreja do Reino de Deus”, teaching other acolyte how to rob people with the easy talk about “religion”, not Religion, a way for Man to get in touch with higher qualities of Nature. And he becomes a very wealthy man…Nowadays, it is easy to find people with such a greed everywhere, as the financial crisis has shown to everyone.

One aspect of his system of philosophy stays in the spirit of the times when people believed that truth was something definite and relatively simple to grasp with a thinking brain, diligence, and a sound method. In times we can read works with a tone of confidence, that nowadays is fade away since Kurt Gödel and others have shown to us, how fragile are our systems of thought. Spinoza chooses a system of geometric presentation, in the way of Euclides, believing to get rid of error. “It is the part of a wise man, not to bewail nor to deride, but to understand”. Descartes is also present in his system of philosophy.

Einstein’s had a great admiration for his philosophy, and he told to Rabbi Herbert Goldstein when inquired about God: “I believe in Spinoza’s God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with fates and actions of human beings.”{FN3}. Also, Richard P. Feynman, one of the best minds of the last century, also intended to clarify the idea of God, a major purpose in the work and life of Spinoza {FN4}, as it is clear on this video below, sustaining that “our Gods are too provincial”. Feynman stresses too, in one of his talks, that science can’t prove if flying saucers exist, but science can tell us if they likely or unlikely exist…

The work of Spinoza benefited from science method of thinking, his thoughts are organized in a kind of geometric way. He inherited from the Hebrews the taste of freedom (conquered through science, magic, and knowledge), as it is understood by the writings of the Old Testament, which runs through the whole struggle of the Israelites – actually an amalgam of tribes, – the liberation from bondage, as it is clearly transmitted in the Exodus, an important part of the Bible. His life gives us examples which can be an inspiration for all of us in the actuality, in the actuality of this immensely beautiful, but miserable world, too. Anybody who understood Baruch Spinoza, that really understood his message, knows that we all must strive to be free…


[1] Kahlil Gibrain

[2] Joannes Colerus, The Life of Benedict de Spinoza

[3] Benedict de Spinoza, Tractatus Thelogicus-Politicus

[4] Novalis, This Life, Thoughts and works, edited and translated by M. J. Hope


{FN1} Here, Spinoza, apparently cites Curtius, Vol. 4, see also p.4 of Ref. [3] by yourself.

{FN2} Interestingly, we can read in a footnote of p.xi: «A translator has special opportunities for observing the extent of Spinoza’s knowledge of Latin. His sentences are grammatical and his meaning almost always clear. But his vocabulary is restricted; his style is wanting in flexibility, and seldom idiomatic; in fact, the niceties of scholarship are wanting. He reminds one of a clever workman who accomplishes much with simple tools.»

{FN3} This answer was given to the Rabbi Herbert Goldstein of the Institutional Synagogue, New York, April 24, 1921, published in the New York Times, April 25, 1929; from Einstein: The Life and Times, Ronald W. Clark, New York: World Publishing Co., 1971, p. 413; also cited as a telegram to a Jewish newspaper, 1929, Einstein Archive 33-272, from Alice Calaprice, ed., The Expanded Quotable Einstein, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000, p. 204. THIS REFERENCE WAS OBTAINED IN THE SITE OF STEPHEN JAY GOLD.

{FN4} Here I thank M. Garber for calling my attention to the opinion that Feynman had about Spinoza:

“My son is taking a course in philosophy, and last night we were looking at something by Spinoza and there was the most childish reasoning! There were all these attributes, and Substances, and all this meaningless chewing around, and we started to laugh. Now how could we do that? Here’s this great Dutch philosopher, and we’re laughing at him. It’s because there’s no excuse for it! In the same period there was Newton, there was Harvey studying the circulation of the blood, there were people with methods of analysis by which progress was being made! You can take every one of Spinoza’s propositions, and take the contrary propositions, and look at the world and you can’t tell which is right.”

Richard P. Feynman, The Pleasure of Finding Things Out


(1) the Jewish Virtual Library


%d bloggers like this: