Einstein has long been considered one of the world’s greatest thinkers, and he voiced opinions on a wide variety of subjects including his thoughts on a higher power. For example, in 1929 he stated “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.”1 And in 1954 he wrote a letter in response to a questioner stating, “I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.”2 Over the years the Research staff at The Mary Baker Eddy Library has been asked whether Einstein had a specific interest in Christian Science.
The documentation on this topic demands careful assessment. Much of the evidence of Einstein’s interest in Christian Science has proven unreliable or based on sources that can’t be verified. However, there is certainly evidence to suggest that Einstein had some interest in Christian Science.
In the early 1950s Einstein attended a Wednesday noonday meeting at Fifth Church of Christ, Scientist, New York City. After the service he was greeted by George Nay, then a member of The Christian Science Board of Lectureship. During their conversation, Nay later recalled that Einstein said, “Do you people realize what a wonderful thing you have?”3 According to various eyewitnesses, Einstein also attended several Wednesday evening meetings of the Christian Science church in Princeton, New Jersey, his home from the 1930s until his death in 1955. There is an account of this in The Mary Baker Eddy Library archives by Mary Spaulding. She states that Einstein, in regards to Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, said, “…to think that a woman knew this over eighty years ago.”4 Spaulding also stated that Einstein is reported to have visited the Reading Room in Princeton on a number of occasions.
Based on information provided to the Archives and Library Department in 1970 from the New Jersey Committee on Publication, Helen Dukas (Einstein’s secretary from 1928 until his passing in 1955) was contacted regarding his relationship with Christian Science. She stated that so far as she knew, Einstein knew nothing about Christian Science, had no interest in it, expressed no opinion about it, and made no reference to it in his papers.5
Some Library patrons have shared that they read of Einstein’s interest in Christian Science in the second edition of the book Physics, Metaphysics and God by Jack Geis. This book is about “the study of basic quantum mechanics principles and phenomena” and how they “strongly” suggest “that consciousness plays a primary role in the shaping of physical reality.”6 Einstein is mentioned in Geis’s book as having insight into what Geis calls an “Eternal, Purposeful Universe of Spirit.”7 In the footnote on page 220, Geis states that many comments about Einstein and Christian Science were taken from the booklet Professor Albert Einstein on Religion, Math and Life in General by Robert Hough.
Researchers at The Mary Baker Eddy Library have read Hough’s booklet and found that much of the content doesn’t involve Einstein’s relationship to Christian Science. The parts that do are either forgeries, incorrect, or don’t have any citations to validate their statements. The letters from individuals who share their experiences about Einstein are either second- or third-hand accounts, and the sources are not identified.
For example, the materials in the booklet include supposed letters from Einstein to Dr. William Frederick Underwood, a Christian Scientist and scientist. These letters were supposedly written while Einstein was living in Paris in 1939 and 1941. However, Einstein was not there at that time; he was living in the United States. Furthermore, after investigating a collection of Einstein’s correspondence at Boston University (photocopies of original documents located at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem), staff at the Library found that the handwriting in the supposed letters to Underwood is not Einstein’s. In our own research of his writings, we did not come across any correspondence with Underwood or any mention of him. As a result, observations based on these letters, including Geis’s, must be discounted.
The third edition of Geis’s book acknowledges these doubts and removes much of the material found in the second edition. As Geis notes,
Unfortunately, because of recent new information, the Hough statements in the unpublished booklet, made specifically in regard to Einstein’s purported relationship with Nancy Kiefer’s father, Dr. William Frederick Underwood, can no longer be considered to be verified by oral or written testimony of witnesses other than Kiefer. I have, therefore, removed these statements from this Third Edition….8
The third edition includes research regarding Einstein’s interactions with Christian Science that has been compiled by William Cooper, Professor Emeritus of the School of Information at the University of California, Berkeley. This research is taken from a number of sources including the archives of The Mary Baker Eddy Library. For more information, you can access his paper, “On Albert Einstein’s Interest in the Metaphysics of Mary Baker Eddy.”
- Walter Isaacson, Einstein: His Life and Universe (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2008), 388-389.
- Albert Einstein to Joseph Dispentiere, 24 March 1954, Albert Einstein Papers, The Hebrew University.
- SF – Einstein, Albert.
- Jack Geis, Physics, Metaphysics and God, 2nd ed. (Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2006), i.
- Jack Geis, Physics, Metaphysics and God, 3rd ed. (Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2010), 220.