"Astrology is a science in itself and contains an illuminating body of knowledge. It taught me many things and I am greatly indebted to it." Misattributed to Einstein.
Over many years this falsely attributed quote gained traction and eventually mushroomed with the opportunity for unrestricted misinformation granted by the Internet! Despite the popularity, this spurious quote never appealed to me. Unlike Einstein’s numerous brilliant quotes, the words hold no significance and there is no evidence that Einstein studied astrology. I remember reading an article maybe ten years ago in the Astrological Journal confirming that this quote was indeed a
Now, Einstein is being misquoted to promote the false notion that he saw astrology as the inner enemy.
Last night, I came across Claire Court's excellent astrology
blog. Having published the erroneous quote unwittingly on her website, she retracted it as soon as she
knew the facts. Showing professional integrity, Claire also copied a large section of the
an article written by Dennis Hamel from the ‘Skeptical Inquirer’
November-December 2007 that investigated the origin of this rogue quote. He claims to have tracked the quote down to Carl Heinrich Huter, author of a German Astrological Almanack published in 1959.
One part of
Hamel’s article concerned me:
I was able to tell Calaprice [Alice
Calaprice, co-editor of The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein] that the word
astrology had most likely been used only on one occasion in print by Einstein,
and then it was in order to excuse Kepler for having practiced astrology
extensively throughout his life as a means to earn a more decent living. In
1951, Einstein wrote an introduction to Carola Baumgardt's 1951 book, Johannes
Kepler: Life and Letters, with an Introduction by Albert Einstein. The last
sentence of his introduction reads as follows:
"The reader should note the
remarks on astrology. They show that [for Kepler] the inner enemy, conquered and
rendered innocuous, was not yet completely dead."
It was then obvious that
the other quote so popular in astrological circles could not possibly have been
written by Albert Einstein.
Shortly after its publication in 2000, I
purchased The Expanded Quotable Einstein. It is with some satisfaction that I
realized that Calaprice took into account my communication to her. She created
(on page 272) an entry for astrology and reproduced the real opinion of Einstein
on the subject, as the "inner enemy." She also put the false quote that
astrologers are so fond of on pages 320-321, in the section '[Attributed to
Einstein]' noting it as "an excellent example of a quotation someone made up and
attributed to Einstein in order to lend an idea credibility. Yet several people
have asked me to confirm it."
What concerned me, is Hamel and Calaprice’s apparent assumption from this snippet that Einstein’s real opinion of astrology was that it was the inner enemy. This struck me as strange. In
all that I have read about Einstein, his biography, writing and quotes, this
seemed out of character. I always had the impression that Einstein
was not the type of scientist who pronounced on subjects about which he evidently knew
nothing. He explored possibilities that were unimaginable to most conventional scientists and
was not known for ruling out any line of thought without thorough
“The important thing is not to stop questioning.
Curiosity has its own reason for existing. ” ~ Albert
This doubt prompted me to check the quote. And lo and behold!
The context of the full quote gives an entirely different reading from the conveniently edited
"…He [Kepler] had to realize clearly that logical-mathematical
theorizing, no matter how lucid, could not guarantee truth by itself; that the
most beautiful logical theory means nothing in natural science without
comparison with the exactest experience. Without his philosophic attitude, his
work would not have been possible. He does not speak about this, but the inner
struggle is reflected in the letters. The reader should note the remarks on
astrology. They show that the inner enemy, conquered and rendered innocuous, was
not yet completely dead."
From Einstein's Introduction to Carola Baumgardt's 1951 book, Johannes
Kepler: Life and Letters
IMO Einstein is saying that Kepler struggled
between the theoretical and the empirical. His work was only possible through
this inner struggle. Kepler’s comments on astrology show that his urge towards
observation and personal experience were contained but still alive.
course, my take on Einstein’s thinking could be wrong. However, by taking this
section as a whole, two matters are clear. The ‘inner enemy’ is Kepler’s and
not Einstein’s. Second, Kepler’s inner enemy was the challenge of supporting
his theories with empirical evidence.
So by quoting only part of
Einstein’s comments to create a misleading impression that Einstein saw
astrology as the ‘inner enemy’, Hamel and Calaprice are as guilty as the
perpetrator of the original misquote. Hamel has proved himself to be like a dog
with a bone when it comes to pursuit of the ‘truth’. If he is genuinely interested in the
truth, rather than his own ideology, then he will no doubt be contacting all
those websites from Wikipedia to Susan Boyle’s fansite, where his quote has been unquestioningly recycled out of context to validate their beliefs.
None of us will ever know Einstein's view on astrology and it is an insult to his memory that he should be falsely upheld as a supporter or detractor. In the right column, I have listed my (biased) selection of Einstein quotes and I leave it to anyone reading this to draw their own conclusions as to
what Einstein might have thought.
Robert Currey References
"You question my interpretation of the phrase by Einstein in his intro to the Baumgardt book on Kepler and you are partly right. It is true when one reads carefully the whole introduction that astrology is not Kepler's inner ennemy, but rather is the sign of his infection and the inner ennemy is in actually his way of thinking of which he was slowly freeing himself. His cosmic a priori (the polyheadrons) for example were to be false as soon as Uranus was to be discovered. So clearly, Einstein said that Kepler was curing of his infection but it was not complete yet and the inner ennemy "while conquered and rendered innocuous was not yet completely dead" and the sign is his use of astrology all his life.
I was mislead myself by a french astrologer Jacques Sadoul who questioned in his 'Énigme du zodiaque' the opinion of Einstein on Kepler and astrology. However, thanks to Sadoul, I could from that point definitely be sure that Einstein could not have written that "astrology was a life elixir for humanity". ~ Denis Hamel, Email to Robert Currey, 30 Sept. 2010 ^“It is the theory..” This statement was made in the context of the discussion about the Quantum Theory. I cannot find the source. Taken out of context it seems to reflect Einstein’s opinion. However, Einstein’s opinion is expressed for example in an interview with Alfred Stern, Contemporary Jewish Record 8 (June 1945), 245–249: Source: Correspondence from Barbara Woolfe, Einstein Archives, Hebrew University Jerusalem ^Autobiographical Notes, 1949, in Schilpp 1949 p.81 ^“It is in fact..”: Autobiographical Notes, 1949, in Schilpp 1949 p.17.
^“Quantum mechanics..” from a letter to Max Born, December 4, 1926
^“The important thing..” In his obituary for Einstein, William Miller, an editor, recalls these words; quoted in Life magazine, May 2, 1955
^“To know that…” is an excerpt of a questionable translation of Wie ich [in] die Welt sehe, 1929. This essay was published for the first time in Forum and Century 84 (1930), and re-translated and re-published various times since (The World As I See It)
^“Those people...” : from a letter dated July 23, 1952. But in another letter, on November 15, 1950, he wrote: “I have no reason to believe that there is something real behind the stories of the 'Flying Saucers.'” Source: Einstein Archives
^ “No, this trick..” This quote is not retrievable in the reference books and literature at the Einstein Archives.
^“Not everything..” Although this quote has been widely published, the Einstein Archives have no evidence for its authenticity.
“Everything is determined..” from an interview in 1929 with George Sylvester Viereck, a journalist whose notes and memory are not considered reliable. Einstein may have said something similar, but … (“What Life Means to Einstein,” Saturday Evening Post, October 26, 1929.) Source: Einstein Archives
“Whoever undertakes ...” from essays presented to Leo Baeck on the Occasion of His Eightieth Birthday (1954), p. 26; Baeck's birthday was 23 May 1953; Source: Einstein Archives 28-962. via "The New Quotable Einstein" by Alice Calaprice (2005), p. 120-121
Note! Denis Hamel and I have been in discussion over this article. Though I believe we now agree that Einstein's 'Kepler' quote should always be published in full context to avoid misunderstanding, Hamel has now found a letter attributed to Einstein where he claims astrology is a pseudo-science. However, I have recently tracked down an unpublished letter from Einstein in connection with the work of an astrologer. The letter is currently being translated from German and nothing will be published until I have permission from the copyright holders. I can reveal that the provenance is a extremely reliable.
"It is the theory that decides what we
can observe." ~ Albert Einstein
“I am not a positivist. Positivism states that what cannot be observed does not exist. This conception is scientifically indefensible, for it is impossible to make valid affirmations of what people 'can' or 'cannot' observe. One would have to say 'only what we observe exists', which is obviously false. ~ Albert Einstein
"Physics is an attempt conceptually to grasp reality as something that is considered to be independent of its being observed. In this sense one speaks of 'physical reality.'” ~ Albert Einstein 
"It is in fact nothing short of a miracle that the modern
methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of
inquiry; for what this delicate little plant needs more than anything, besides
stimulation, is freedom. It is a very grave mistake to think that the enjoyment
of seeing and searching can be promoted by means of coercion and a sense of
duty." ~ Albert Einstein
"Quantum mechanics is certainly imposing. But
an inner voice tells me that it is not yet the real thing. The theory says a
lot, but does not really bring us closer to the secret of the 'Old One.' I, at
any rate, am convinced that He is not playing at dice." ~ Albert Einstein
thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One
cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of
life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to
comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy
curiosity." ~ Albert Einstein
The following quotes by Einstein may not be an accurate reflection of his views.
"To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists,
manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, which our
dull facilities can comprehend only in the most primitive forms--this knowledge,
this feeling, is at the center of true religiousness. In this sense, and in this
sense only, I belong to the ranks of the devoutly religious men." ~ Albert Einstein
people have seen 'something'. What it is I do not know and I can not care to
know." ~ Albert Einstein (on flying saucers)
The following quotes are attributed to Einstein, but the provenance is unknown and should be considered apocryphal.
"No, this trick won't work...How on earth are you ever going to
explain in terms of chemistry and physics so important a biological phenomenon
as first love?" ~ attributed to Albert Einstein
"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not
everything that counts can be counted." ~ attributed to Albert Einstein
determined, the beginning as well as the end, by forces over which we have no
control. It is determined for insects as well as for the stars. Human beings,
vegetables or cosmic dust, we all dance to a mysterious tune, intoned in the
distance by an invisible piper." ~ attributed to Albert Einstein
"Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods." ~ Albert Einstein
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