A LETTER written by Albert Einstein, in which he rebuts a claim by a Jesuit priest that he had conceded that the universe was governed by a “supreme intellect” was expected to sell for up to $200,000 (£153,000) at an auction in the United States this month.
The single-page note, typewritten in 1945, was a reply to a young US naval officer who had contacted the scientist to report a conversation that he had had with an unnamed priest. In it, the cleric alleged that he had persuaded Einstein to believe in an ultimate controlling power.
Einstein retorts: “I have never talked to a Jesuit priest in my life, and am quite astonished by the audacity to tell such lies about me. . . I am, of course, and always have been, an atheist.”
He continues: “We have to admire in humility the beautiful harmony of the structure of the world — as far as we can grasp it. And that is all.”
The letter comes from the private archive of historical papers gathered by the American collector Eric C. Caren, and is part of a two-week online sale of his documents, from 6 to 14 March, by Bonhams, in New York.
It preceded by almost a decade Einstein’s famous “God letter” of 1954 to the German philosopher Eric Gutkind, in which the scientist took issue with belief in God, describing it as “nothing but the expression and product of human weaknesses”; and the Bible as “a collection of venerable, but still rather primitive, legends”. That letter was auctioned last December for £2.3 million.