Interviewing the dead Albert Einstein about free will

Interviewing the dead Albert Einstein about free will

by Jon Rappoport

September 21, 2014

It was a strange journey into the astral realm to find Albert Einstein.

I slipped through gated communities heavily guarded by troops protecting dead Presidents. I skirted alleys where wannabe demons claiming they were Satan’s reps were selling potions made from powdered skulls of English kings. I ran through mannequin mansions where trainings for future shoppers were in progress. Apparently, some souls come to Earth to be born as aggressive entitled consumers. Who knew?

Finally, in a little valley, I spotted a cabin, and there on the porch, sitting in a rocker, smoking a pipe and reading The Bourne Ultimatum, was Dr. Einstein.

He was wearing an old sports jacket with leather patches on the elbows, jeans, and furry slippers.

I wanted to talk with the great man because I’d read a 1929 Saturday Evening Post interview with him. He’d said:

“I am a determinist. As such, I do not believe in free will…Practically, I am, nevertheless, compelled to act as if freedom of the will existed. If I wish to live in a civilized community, I must act as if man is a responsible being.”

Dr, Einstein went inside and brought out two bottles of cold beer and we began our conversation:

Q: Sir, would you say that the underlying nature of physical reality is atomic?

A: If you’re asking me whether atoms and smaller particles exist everywhere in the universe, then of course, yes.

Q: And are you satisfied that, wherever they are found, they are the same? They exhibit a uniformity?

A: Surely, yes.

Q: Regardless of location.

A: Correct.

Q: So, for example, if we consider the make-up of the brain, those atoms are no different in kind from atoms of the same elements, wherever in the universe they are found.

A: That’s true. The brain is composed entirely of these tiny particles. And the particles, everywhere in the universe, without exception, flow and interact and collide without any exertion of free will. It’s an unending stream of cause and effect.

Q: And when you think to yourself, “I’ll get breakfast now,” what is that?

A: The thought?

Q: Yes.

A: Ultimately, it is the outcome of particles in motion.

Q: You were compelled to have that thought.

A: As odd as that may seem, yes. Of course, we tell ourselves stories to present ourselves with a different version of reality, but those are social or cultural constructs.

Q: And those “stories” we tell ourselves—they aren’t freely chosen rationalizations, either. We have no choice about that.

A: Well, yes. That’s right.

Q: So there is nothing in the human brain that allows us the possibility of free will.

A: Nothing at all.

Q: And as we are sitting here right now, sir, looking at each other, sitting and talking, this whole conversation is spooling out in the way that it must. Every word. Neither you nor I is really choosing what we say.

A: I may not like it, but it’s deterministic destiny. The particles flow.

Q: When you pause to consider a question I ask you…even that act of considering is mandated by the motion of atomic and sub-atomic particles. What appears to be you deciding how to give me an answer…that is a delusion.

A: The act of considering? Why, yes, that, too, would have to be determined. It’s not free. There really is no choice involved.

Q: And the outcome of this conversation, whatever points we may or may not agree upon, and the issues we may settle here, about this subject of free will versus determinism…they don’t matter at all, because, when you boil it down, the entire conversation was determined by our thoughts, which are nothing more than atomic and sub-atomic particles in motion—and that motion flows according to laws, none of which have anything to do with human choice.

A: The entire flow of reality, so to speak, proceeds according to determined sets of laws. Yes.

Q: And we are in that flow.

A: Most certainly we are.

Q: The earnestness with which we might try to settle this issue, our feelings, our thoughts, our striving—that is irrelevant. It’s window dressing. This conversation actually cannot go in different possible directions. It can only go in one direction.

A: That would ultimately have to be so.

Q: Now, are atoms and their components, and any other tiny particles in the universe…are any of them conscious?

A: Of course not. The particles themselves are not conscious.

Q: Some scientists speculate they are.

A: Some people speculate that the moon can be sliced and served on a plate with fruit.

Q: What do you think “conscious” means?

A: It means we participate in life. We take action. We converse. We gain knowledge.

Q: Any of the so-called faculties we possess—are they ultimately anything more than particles in motion?

A: Well, no, they aren’t. Because everything is particles in motion. What else could be happening in this universe?

Q: All right. I’d like to consider the word “understanding.”

A: It’s a given. It’s real.

Q: How so?

A: The proof that it’s real, if you will, is that we are having this conversation. It makes sense to us.

Q: Yes, but how can there be understanding if everything is particles in motion? Do the particles possess understanding?

A: No they don’t.

Q: To change the focus a bit, how can what you and I are saying have any meaning?

A: Words mean things.

Q: Again, I have to point out that, in a universe with no free will, we only have particles in motion. That’s all. That’s all we are. So where does “meaning” come from?

A: “We understand language” is a true proposition.

Q: You’re sure.

A: Of course.

Q: Then I suggest you’ve tangled yourself in a contradiction. In the universe you depict, there would be no room for understanding. Or meaning. There would be nowhere for it to come from. Unless particles understand. Do they?

A: No.

Q: Then where do “understanding” and “meaning” come from?

A: [Silence.]

Q: Furthermore, sir, if we accept your depiction of a universe of particles without free will, then there is no basis for this conversation at all. We don’t understand each other. How could we?

A: But we do understand each other.

Q: And therefore, your philosophic materialism (no free will, only particles in motion) must have a flaw.

A: What flaw?

Q: Our existence contains more than particles in motion.

A: More? What would that be?

Q: Would you grant that whatever it is, it is non-material?

A: It would have to be, but…

Q: Then, driving further along this line, there is something non-material which is present, which allows us to understand each other, which allows us to comprehend meaning. We are conscious. Puppets are not conscious. As we sit here talking, I understand you. Do you understand me?

A: Of course.

Q: Then that understanding is coming from something other than particles in motion. Without this non-material quality, you and I would be gibbering in the dark.

A: You’re saying that, if all the particles in the universe, including those that make up the brain, possess no consciousness, no understanding, no comprehension of meaning, no freedom, then how can they give birth to understanding and freedom. There must be another factor, and it would have to be non-material.

Q: Yes. That’s what I’m saying. And I think you have to admit your view of determinism and particles in motion—that picture of the universe—leads to several absurdities.

A: Well…perhaps I’m forced to consider it. Otherwise, we can’t sit here and understand each other.

Q: You and I do understand each other.

A: I hadn’t thought it through this way before, but if there is nothing inherent in particles that gives rise to understanding and meaning, then everything is gibberish. Except it isn’t gibberish. Yes, I seem to see a contradiction. Interesting.

Q: And if these non-material factors—understanding and meaning—exist, then other non-material factors can exist.

A: For example, freedom. I suppose so.

Q: And the drive to eliminate freedom in the world…is more than just the attempt to substitute one automatic reflex for another.

A: That would be…yes, that would be so.

Q: In one way or another, there is a great impulse to deny the non-materiality of the qualities that are inherent to human life. Scientists, for example, would be absolutely furious about the idea that, despite all their maneuvering, the most essential aspects of human life are beyond the scope of what they, the scientists, are “in charge of.”

A: It would be a naked challenge to the power of science.

Exit From the Matrix

Einstein puffed on his pipe and looked out over the valley. He took a sip of his beer. After a minute, he said, “Let me see if I can summarize this, because it’s really rather startling. The universe is nothing but particles. All those particles follow laws of motion. They aren’t free. The brain is made up entirely of those same particles. Therefore, there is nothing in the brain that would give us freedom. These particles also don’t understand anything, they don’t make sense of anything, they don’t grasp the meaning of anything. Since the brain, again, is made up of those particles, it has no power to allow us to grasp meaning or understand anything. But we do understand. We do grasp meaning. Therefore, we are talking about qualities we possess which are not made out of energy. These qualities are entirely non-material.”

He nodded.

“In that case,” he said, “there is…oddly enough, a completely different sphere or territory. It’s non-material. Therefore, it can’t be measured. Therefore, it has no beginning or end. If it did, it would be a material continuum and we could measure it.”

He pointed to the valley.

“That has energy. But what does it give me? Does it allow me to be conscious? Does it allow me to be free, to understand meaning? No.”

Then he laughed. He looked at me.

“I’m dead,” he said, “aren’t I? I didn’t realize it until this very moment.”

I shook my head. “No. I would say you WERE dead.”

He grinned. “Yes!” he said. “That’s a good one. I WAS dead.”

He stood up.

“Enough of this beer,” he said. “I have some schnapps inside. Let me get it. Let’s drink the good stuff! After all, I’m apparently Forever. And so are you. And so are we all.”

Jon Rappoport

The author of three explosive collections, THE MATRIX REVEALED, EXIT FROM THE MATRIX, and POWER OUTSIDE THE MATRIX, Jon was a candidate for a US Congressional seat in the 29th District of California. He maintains a consulting practice for private clients, the purpose of which is the expansion of personal creative power. Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, he has worked as an investigative reporter for 30 years, writing articles on politics, medicine, and health for CBS Healthwatch, LA Weekly, Spin Magazine, Stern, and other newspapers and magazines in the US and Europe. Jon has delivered lectures and seminars on global politics, health, logic, and creative power to audiences around the world. You can sign up for his free emails at

15 comments on “Interviewing the dead Albert Einstein about free will

  1. Hah-hah-hah-hah-hah!

    Now, if only we could get this to Dr. Stephen Hawking, THEN we could be talking the “good talk” about there being far more to this thing called “reality” and “existence”, and HE would have a hard time disproving the mere possibility of such!

    We, as a species, and an intelligently-aware species at that, have lost much when we allowed science and spirituality to be split apart and then pared against each other, because they are two disciplines of knowledge that literally “dance together” in complementary existence.

    – Rev. Dragon’s Eye

  2. R. Fowler says:

    There is no free will in the sense that the universe is causal. We have choice but it can never be free. We choose what is most important to us at the time. We cannot choose otherwise. Free will is an illusion. In order to choose freely when we attempt to make a choice every influence that is acting on us would have to be doing so in equal measure. This is impossible. Therefore all our choices are ultimately influenced and therefore not free.

    • Michael Burns says:

      You are living in an illusion…a total illusion…the powers that be go to a great cost, both financial and in human life to keep the illusion factories pumping out more…more taste, more color, more emotion, more sound and words and images and narratives and so on and so on ad nauseum. We are only ghosts in a machine.
      I have been sitting in this horrible cafe, staring at a dreadful quiche and sipping bad coffee and wondering why did I desire bad quiche today.

      “We are more than you can possibly dream of, Horatio…” Billy S.

    • Avi says:

      At first, as you say, freewill looks like a grain of sand in the determined universe but on the contrary, freewill as tiny a change could that bring is a monster of a challenge since you, Mr Fowler can act not as you are programmed to do, by your material/social characteristics, but differently and that small change you as a man can bring to existence is of a huge impact, much bigger than what you would believe !

    • Then I guess that means “imagination” is a total illusion too?!?!?

      Then I guess “the arts” are a complete waste of time and effort?!?!?

      Then I guess the idea of “consumer choice” or even expecting there to be variety to satisfy so many different choices is a complete lie?!?!?

      Then I guess Dr. Benjamin Spock’s assumption that all children are the same holds weight with you?!?!?

      – Yeah, Okay! Keep telling yourself that.

  3. mark says:

    Engaging and important Jon.Thank you.
    Bringing the Bible into the investigation, there’s sound contention that Augustine’s overraction to Pelagius set the whole ‘future exhaustively settled’ in motion. ‘Open – or freewill – theism’ rediscovers what the Biblical writers/revelation more likely had in mind. This is rarely (never?) discussed by those who talk about the battle/awakening from a Christian perspective or otherwise. Although David Ray Griffin’s an exception, going one step further (too far for me) into ‘process theology’. Bible believing, or otherwise, the implications of this traditional outlook in all major faiths and most contemporary escoteric takes is immense.
    I’ve heard you on this before. Please press on sir, it’s root stuff and my encouragement to you to somewhat pioneer ahead in this.

  4. Hi Jon,

    At first I was at first a bit shocked and surprised to learn that Einstein clung to the deterministic point of view…even into late in his life. As I understand it, Quantum Physics suggests that the universe is anything but deterministic. Interesting background information is here:

  5. Colin says:

    First off, let me say that the underlying nature of physical reality is not atomic. This is supported by the conclusion drawn through your dialogue that non-material factors—understanding and meaning—do exist. They and other qualities are manifestations of what we term “intelligence.” And whence the source of such capacity?

    Can science measure the life force? “. . .despite all their maneuvering, the most essential aspects of human life are beyond the scope of what they, the scientists, are ‘in charge of.’” Atomic particles in living brains are “charged” with the life force within an environment of electro-chemical sequential programming. This energy patterning is beyond the capacity of human science to control, let alone originate. We acquire knowledge by participation in life, we do not originate it.
    Yes, qualities we possess “are entirely non-material.” And based upon the preponderance of evidence to which we have access, matter is subservient to and controlled by a superior energy force. Silicon chips and granite rock are particles in motion, yet is that the power of thought? Only intelligence can beget intelligence either within or outside of our physical universe. We don’t have a monopoly on any dimension of time or space, nor any way to measure what may lie beyond our known sphere and laws of physics as we do measure them.

    The speed at which light travels through a vacuum, about 186,000 miles per second, is enshrined in physics lore as a universal speed limit. Nothing can travel faster than that speed, according to freshman textbooks and conversation at sophisticated wine bars; if anything could, Einstein’s theory of relativity would crumble, and theoretical physics would fall into disarray. Yet, the work of Dr. Lijun Wang at the NEC research institute in Princeton seems to have given us a glimpse of multi-dimensional reality. When Wang transmitted a pulse of light towards a chamber filled with specially treated cesium gas, he recorded its travel through the chamber at an accelerated speed of up to 300 times the speed of light, suggesting the possibility of time travel.

    Even as the moving charges that produce visible light (like electrons) also produce other forms of electromagnetism the unaided eye is blind to – including radio, infrared, ultraviolet, microwaves, x-rays, and gamma rays3 – so the powerful life force that underlies the material universe we observe has dimensions and forms far beyond anything to which we can place our filthy paws or upon which we may speculate beyond our limited designation of “spiritual.”

    The Great I AM is non-material. Therefore, He can’t be measured. Therefore, He has no beginning or end. He manifests His presence in our daily continuum of life that we call our eco-system. Yes, it was warped by an intelligence given the power of choice, yet the Supreme Intelligence is working out the vindication of His governmental design. He manifested the character of this strategy by a singular appearance in humanity 2000 years ago. He will again manifest a singular appearance to restore all to His original design and purpose.

  6. medusajoe says:

    Predestination is about the positive foreknowledge of God and those he knows he redeemed before they did.
    And who knows , it could be everyone.
    But it is by Grace through faith and can be rejected
    Free will is something different entirely I believe this to be so, but because God allows free will, judgment comes into play as a result, and the bad get badder so to speak.. Because they choose to get addicted to the poison which God allows them to keep swallowing seeing as they want to.

    • Well.

      In an attempt to avoid being preachy here,

      “Free Will” exists in every living thing, to some greater or lesser degree. The aspect of individual choice can reflected and predicated on what “choices” knows about (and maybe a little previous experience in those particular choices).

      I do not believe in anything like a “redemption” being necessary to have a life of choices. We who are wiling to entertain the notion, will already come to know our God and that it is God who gave us the ability to “choose” by NOT hard-wiring us to a limited thinking capability. Whereas, others may not even consider such as important to their own lives.

      We simply KNOW our own right of choice, if we have been exposed to that knowledge, and if we have been enabled to practice the choosing. The aspect of choise is still an individual act, and usually an independent act.

    • mark says:

      For the church that God believes in, ‘foreknows’ – he predistined ‘us’.
      It certainly can be everyone.
      Rejected by rejecting and some to destruction, but like you, I’m a hopeful universalist.
      Free will is. Because exhaustive foreknowledge doesn’t exist for God.
      The bad do get badder and therein God has even heardened hearts. Yet only then.
      Mercy triumphs over judgement.
      God loves us.
      God wants to bless Jon in his quest to understand – for me – the most underwritten subject which surely sits, moves, controls – what’s going on?
      What did… Augustine, unleash?
      Keep on mj

  7. Loghead says:

    I’ve been following Jon for a while now and look forward to his new post’s. for those that do the same (or don’t i guess) check this guy out! i love his sarcasm.

  8. usurykills says:

    So, we don’t know what creates consciousness but we’re sure atoms don’t have it. Not like we ever asked one. Maybe they get together and say, “Hey! Let’s become Lindsay Lohan!” We don’t know.

    Once you combine enough atoms in just the right ways, then you get consciousness I presume.

    Saying a particle has no consciousness and therefore no person has consciousness is like saying an atom is not a bowl of soup. Nope. An atom is not a bowl of soup, but a bowl of soup contains atoms. Put enough atoms together in just the right way and Viola! – Mmm good.

    So, back to the endless debate on free will or determinism. I don’t think it’s either/or but a combination of both. What is, is. Sometimes we’re too ignorant to understand. Some things are apparently impossible for us to know for sure.

    I enjoy your writing, Jon, but your philosophy makes me wonder who you work for sometimes. I am not willing buy into religious booga-booga just because I don’t understand consciousness. Cockroaches look conscious to me. Do bugs have souls? I hear dogs don’t.

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