Einstein had his cosmic religious feeling, but today’s preference for emotion at the expense of reason represses or impairs the urge to work out a personal philosophy of life. (Photo: S. Brunier/ESO)
What Einstein referred to as the “cosmic religious feeling” is a drive, like sex, hunger, thirst, and so on. Fear exists to make one run when flight is necessary. Anger makes one fight when struggle is necessary. Thirst makes one drink to avoid death by dehydration. Hunger makes one eat to avoid death by starvation. Lust makes one copulate to ensure the survival of the species. The cosmic religious feeling makes one quest for answers – the purpose being to advance the cause of Man’s ever-growing consciousness and to enhance our scientific understanding of the cosmos. The tools of this quest or task are introspection and intellectual striving. One of its interesting by-products is art.
Einstein saw the cosmos as an orderly whole designed by a deity who played by an understandable set of rules. God does not play dice with the universe. The idea is clearly an externalization of Einstein’s preferred reality. However, we humans have evolved in a cosmos that verifiably does have a set of scientific laws. We all observe, albeit imperfectly, that cause precedes effect. These causal realities unite with the human effort to control (or at least understand) the environment, and by so doing, prosper. Out of this union comes the drive to benefit from making sense of things as a whole – the cosmic religious feeling. Both practical knowledge and philosophy accrue from the attempt to plumb the vast universe around us.
Einstein’s cosmic religious feeling was his personal philosophy. Regrettably, the current Western preference for making emotion our primary concern while relegating reason to the status of party-pooping nuisance has, for most of us, largely repressed the urge (or clobbered the ability) to forge our own personal philosophy of life. Philosophy may mean love of wisdom, but acquiring wisdom requires thought. Being little more than feeling hulks, we are no longer in a position to emulate Einstein’s acquisition of a more sophisticated vision.
Psychology must shoulder a lot of blame for our loss. The practitioners of this one-sided belief system ramble on endlessly about emotions and their importance yet have precious little to say about rational thinking skills and their usefulness in forging a stronger personality. Negative thinking is treated as psychopathology largely because it is viewed as a source of emotional distress. The profession aggressively promotes a near obsessive preoccupation with feelings, as if wisdom could somehow come from the mere oozing of hormones. Out of this bias arises the risible proliferation of grief and crisis counsellors and our constant unwholesome absorption in sob-story charity cases, wounded animals, and people with serious illnesses and disabilities. Individuals enticed into this emotional quagmire are unlikely ever to develop an intelligent coherent personal philosophy of life.
Other factors also repress the urge to form a personal philosophy of life. Foremost among them is the pampered risk-free nanny-state lifestyle “enjoyed” by so many in the West. Getting benefits from the government of a socialist country (instead of providing for ourselves) is a “no brainer.” Who needs to work anything out? We allow others – mostly leftists – to do our thinking for us. Leftists, of course, always eager to get control of everything, welcome the chance to spread their standard slate of beliefs: the welfare state, feminism, multiculturalism, cultural relativism, pacifism, world government, and so on. All we have to do is swallow the hogwash whole, make like a good parrot, and await the arrival of our lovely “entitlements.” (Oh, I almost forgot. We must all pretend not to notice that virtually every welfare state on the planet is in the throes of impending national bankruptcy. See what I mean about reason being a party-pooper?)
When the majority of people in a society abandon the search for some kind of personal philosophy and instead unthinkingly adopt some pre-packaged claptrap like leftist ideology (or any philosophy worked out by other people) that society rapidly becomes unwise indeed. Unlike uniform ideology, personal philosophies vary immensely. They are by their very nature individual, so things can get a bit strident, but with a variety of unique viewpoints always in play, some outstanding solutions for current problems would emerge. Individuals holding personal philosophies of life make a society both wise and strong.