The World as I See It. By Albert Einstein. - (John'Lane. 8s. 6d.)
Tnis book is a reprint of various articles, addresses and pro- nouncements by Dr. Einstein, which have been selected with the object of" giving a picture of a man." Through the accident of history Dr. Einstein has been dragged through the mud of contemporary controversy and made the victim of political persecution. Inevitably passions have run high ; his views have been misrepresented, his intentions misjudged. How important, then, says the Editor in effect, that he should be allowed to speak for himself. - What account of himself does he give ? Let us begin with tastes and beliefs. He despises forms and ceremonies, and sets little store by the goods which ordinary men value— power, luxury and wealth. For himself he desires a simple life and enjoins it upon others. He enjoys solitude, and enjoys it more as he grows older. He considers individuality im- portant, but does not believe that the individual survives bodily death. Conversely, he hates the herd and the ex- pressions and values of the herd, and especially that which is its chief expression and value—militarism : "That a man can take pleasure in marching in formation to the strains of a band is enough to make medespise him. He has only been given his big brain by mistake ; backbone was all he needed." Never- theless, he has a high opinion of humanity, and holds that the blots which stain it are neither inevitable nor per- manent—war, for example, is due to the machinations of wicked men, that is to say, "commercial and political interests acting through the schools and the Press." Politically he is a democrat and hates dictatorship in all its forms ; "force," he remarks, "attracts men of low morality, and I believe it to be an invariable rule that tyrants of genius are succeeded by scoundrels." He believes that Truth and Goodness and Beauty are at the heart of reality, and holds that the desire to penetrate their mystery is the fairest quality of human nature, as their ever-increasing revelation is the goal of human endeavour. Reverence for the mystery of the reality which underlies the world of seeming constitutes for him the truly religious attitude, Of "a God who rewards and punishes his creatures he "cannot conceive."
There is something attractive yet childlike about this catalogue. Creditable in themselves, the beliefs taken together are a hotch-potch uninformed by any underlying philosophy. Nor, if Dr. Einstein's views on the fundamental problems of man's life and destiny as set out in this volume were all, would one infer a mind of outstanding quality.
It is, for example, rather a sentimental mind. "We exist," he tells us, "for our fellow men." Possibly ! "A hundred times a day" he "reminds himself" that his "inner and outer life depend on the labours of other men." A hundred times ! It seems doubtful. When he has to thank . the Americans for welcoming him so warmly, he becomes very sentimental indeed.
And it is not always a very consistent mind. A man, be admonishes us, who considers his own life and that of his fellow creatures to be meaningless is not merely unfortunate, but almost disqualified for life." Yet on the very next page he is telling us that to enquire after the meaning or object of one's own existence" seems to him absurd. Life, in short, must have a meaning ; but it is silly to try to find out what it is. Again, he declares himself a fatalist who believes that a man does what he must out of "Inner necessity." Never- theless, he affirms that the true value of a human being is to be found in the degree "to which he has attained liberation from the self," which is like saying that it is ethically a man's duty to do what you have shown to be metaphysically im- possible. But Dr. Einstein's is in any event a very odd brand of Fatalism, which is praised because it conduces "to a view of life in whickhumour above all has its place."
But while there may be two opinions about the Fatalism, ahout the humour there can, be only one. Dr. Einstein's writing is full of it, a humour which, is that of a sly,, whimsical, occa-
sionally rather naughty, child. .Listen to him, for example, commending the American Women's League (which, felt itself called upon to protest against his visit to America) for warning their countrymen of the danger of harbouring such a, man, as he reminds them that "the Capitol of mighty ,Rorne was once saved by the cackling of its faithful _geese " : or reproving The Times at whose invitation he has written an article explaining the theory of Relativity for the inaccuracy of its description of his life and person—" Today I am de- scribed in Germany as a 'German savant', and in England as a Swiss Jew.' Should it ever be my fate to be represented as a bete noire, I should on the contrary, become a Swiss Jew' for the Germans and a 'German savant' for the English."
Dr. Einstein, it is obvious, is a very unworldly man. Indeed, it is by the virtue rather than by the knowledge of the author of these extracts that the reader is primarily impressed. Through the medium of these rather scrappy pronouncements one discerns a figure half saint and half sage which,-bewildered but benevolent, talks sometimes sense and sometimes foolishness, but always goodness, to a world which will unaccountably insist on misbehaving. Men, he is convinced, are good at heart. Why, then, will they do such absurd, such dreadful, things ? Even the extremism of his political views is the extremism of simplicity. He is an out-and-out pacifist, believing in- -complete- --dis- armament as the only way to peace and convinced that a mass refusal to fight would end war. And so it would. It is a dream that many of us cherish. But Dr. Einstein seems to think it practical politics ! Also he would send all patriotic women to the front . . . • .It is only when he comes to speak of science and of the political and social conditions which are necessary to its ad- vancement that the true quality of his mind becomes apparent. The last section of the book consists of addresses and papers read to scientific. bodies. Immediately one is conscious of .a new note. Here is a man who has so mastered his ideas that he can be at play with them, so that even when the reader does not understand the full import of what is communicated, he is convinced that it is important. And nobody has voiced more clearly and courageously than Dr. Einstein the demand for the freedom of workers in the field of the mind and the spirit from interference by the State. The following is a quotation from his letter to Signor Rocco, Minister of State in Fascist Italy "The pursuit of scientific truth detached from the practical interests of every-day life, ought to be treated as sacred by every Government, and it is in the highest interests of all that honest servants of truth should be left in peace." Again and again this sentiment appears and always it is voiced nobly and with dignity. It represents Dr. Einstein