Thursday, June 27, 2013

Einstein and Michele Besso

Einstein never said "Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one." The reality behind this quote can be traced to Michele Besso, a Swiss/Italian engineer and close friend of Einstein during his years at the Swiss Federal Polytechnic in Zurich, and later at the patent office in Bern. Besso introduced Einstein to the works of physicist and philosopher Ernst Mach, who influenced Einstein greatly. 

Einstein ends his paper on special relativity by saying that he is indebted to Besso for several valuable suggestions. Einstein remarked "I could not have found a better sounding-board in the whole of Europe." In this way Einstein and Besso became inseparable.

Upon Besso's death in 1955, Einstein wrote a letter of condolence to the Besso family—less than a month before his own death—which contained the following quote "Now he has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That signifies nothing. For those of us who believe in physics, the distinction between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion."


  1. Does "the distinction between past, present and future is only a a stubbornly persisten illusion" mean that Einstein and Besso will be together in time though in different Dimensions, since matter and energy are indestructible. I will greatly appreciate your reply. My name is Rosalinda Olsen and I am in Facebook.

  2. Personally, I think it means that their contributions to physics will live forever, independent of time.

    1. If thier ideas were independent of time then they would not "live on forever", they simply exist.

  3. It means that time is eternal, so Einstien's good times with his friend have not been destroyed. In fact, he is still talking with him right "now" in a specific frame of time that hasn't been lost. At least that's what I think it means.

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  5. No, it is the idea of the so called "block-universe". Eddington (1920): ‘Events do not happen: they are just there, and we come across them... [as] . . . the observer on his voyage of exploration.’ H.Weyl (1922): ‘The objective world simply is, it does not happen. Only to the gaze of my consciousness crawling upward along the life-line of my body does a section of this world come to life as a fleeting image.’

    1. The theory is also referred to as MWI, the relative state formulation, the Everett interpretation, the theory of the universal wavefunction, many-universes interpretation, multi-history or just many-worlds. The original relative state formulation is due to Hugh Everett in 1957.

  6. Does anyone know in which language (I guess it was in German, but just to be sure) Einstein wrote that letter to Besso's family? Thank you very much.

  7. Einstein love for his best friend Besso made him ignore the veil of time and the distinction between past future and present in his letter of condolence

  8. Serafino Cerulli-Irelli (2-3-16) is heading in the right direction.

    Einstein believed in the Block Universe (BU) where everything exists - those events we consider in our "past" and events we believe to be in our "future" persist unchanging in the BU.

    Einstein also wrote: "I believe the mind is immortal in the same sense as the body for it is difficult to doubt that the capacity to build living bodies and consciousness is connected with matter."

    In addition, there are a couple of Einstein quotes about what he called "the eternity of life" ...

    "An individual who should survive his physical death is also beyond my comprehension, nor do I wish it otherwise; such notions are for the fears or absurd egoism of feeble souls. Enough for me the mystery of the eternity of life, and the inkling of the marvelous structure of reality."

    So, like myself, Einstein believed that our lives, from birth to death, exist forever in spacetime. Because of the workings of consciousness ("the mind"), which persists in spacetime, everyone who has ever lived or ever will live re-experiences their lifetimes repeatedly and eternally ... or until spacetime itself somehow comes to an end.

    I've written quite a bit about the hypothesis I call ERL - the Eternal Re-experiencing of Life - and I've tried to communicate with a couple of physicists. Strangely, everyone I've contacted is too busy to engage, including Vesselin Petkov of the Minkowski Institute, where I expected to find some interest in the ERL hypothesis.

    My name is Steve Wysong ... if you would care to continue the discussion.

    The original quote was in German - the letter of consolation was written to Besso's relatives. An alternate translation is:

    “Again he went before me by little in leaving this strange world. But this is not meaningful. For us, militant physicists, this separation between past, present and future has only the value of an illusion, however tenacious it may be.”

    1. Mr. Steve Wysong, My name is Vijay Kumar Agarwal, age 62 plus, based in Delhi (India). I am an open-mended person in search of Truth. I would certainly like to continue discussion with you, but, unfortunately, I have never studied Physics. May I take this opportunity to share with you a quotation of Einstein: "The fact that man produces a concept "I"......does not prove that there must be any specific existence behind such a concept. We are succumbing to illusions produced by our self-created language, without reaching a better understanding of anything. Most of so-called philosophy is due to this kind of fallacy." The corollary of this quotation seems to be, as perhaps also taught in Buddhism, that "nothing really exists". Similar to this, or perhaps contrary to this, is the Hindu world-view that "nothing exists except God". The Hindu world-view has been severely criticized by Dave Hunt in his book: "THE CULT EXPLOSION". To my logical mind, the criticism of Dave Hunt appears well-founded. As a result, I am feeling confused. Would you please help me in removing this confusion? Please feel absolutely free and frank and suggest any non-technical and easy-to-understand reading material that you may think I need to study to have a firm grip on these issues. My email:

  9. From this very website, here's an alternate translation of one of the "eternity of life" Einstein quotations:

    "I cannot imagine a God who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation, whose purposes are modeled after our own — a God, in short, who is but a reflection of human frailty. Neither can I believe that the individual survives the death of his body, although feeble souls harbor such thoughts through fear or ridiculous egotism. It is enough for me to contemplate the mystery of conscious life perpetuating itself through all eternity, to reflect upon the marvelous structure of the universe which we can dimly perceive, and to try humbly to comprehend even an infinitesimal part of the intelligence manifested in nature."

  10. The Three Errors:
    1) Believing space-time is linear (Block Universe is more accurate depiction),
    2) Believing the face you see in the mirror is you (you are not a thing, you are a process),
    3) Believing significant freewill is any other volition than to wake up to increased consciousness or to go back to sleep into deeper unconsciousness (The practice of Aletheia, which is Mindfulness of Truth, of Reality, of What Is, Supreme Being).
    A.N.Whitehead is a good proponent of Process Philosophy.
    See Martin Heidegger for discussion of Aletheia.
    Eckart Tolle is an exponent of Mindfulness of What-Is.
    Jesus, Buddha, and every other sage, teaches increasing consciousness through Aletheia.
    John 18:37 Therefore Pilate said to him, “So you are a king, then?”
    Yahuahshua answered, “You say that I am a king!
    The reason for which I was born and have come into the world,
    is that I should teach Aletheia.
    John 8:32 And you will have gnosis of Aletheia, and Aletheia will set you free.

  11. I understand that this means that both Besso and Einstein are dead, including any concept of soul, mind, or personality. However, all "past" interactions between the "historical" Besso and Einstein "exist" through "time." Since "you" are dead, what this gains anyone is debatable. What of terrible events and interactions?

  12. A singularity of the moment is what we all live in . No past no future just the now which is constant and present in all deminsions.