The Nobel Prize-winning physicist Albert Einstein (1879-1955) is celebrated mostly for his world-changing scientific theories, but also for some of his pronouncements on the fundamental nature of reality, which have often been interpreted by the general public as having spiritual connotations.
Perhaps the most famous of these was his insistence that God does not “play dice with the world,” by which he meant that he disagreed with a basic tenet of quantum mechanics holding that reality is governed by randomness and uncertainty at the atomic level, though many have read it instead as an expression of religious faith.
“We see a universe marvelously arranged, obeying certain laws, but we understand the laws only dimly,” Einstein said on another occasion. “Our limited minds cannot grasp the mysterious force that sways the constellations.”
Although Einstein sometimes spoke of God, the bulk of the evidence suggests that he did not mean it in a literal sense. “A lot of physicists do this,” philosopher Rebecca Goldstein said in an interview with the New York Times in December 2018. “It misleads people into thinking they’re theists, they believe in God. It’s a metaphorical way of talking about absolute truth.”
That hasn’t stopped people from trying to re-invent Einstein as a man of faith, even to the extent of making up facts and quotations to prove it. For example, an apocryphal anecdote making the internet rounds for the past 20-plus years portrays the physicist as a young college student humiliating an atheist professor by disproving the latter’s assertion that God doesn’t exist. In another instance, a fabricated quote attributes to Einstein the sentiment that “Love is God and God is Love,” with love being the “universal force” that governs all of reality.
These statements bear no resemblance to anything in Einstein’s actual writings.
The same is true of another quote attributed to Einstein that prompted skeptical inquiries from Snopes readers who encountered it on social media:
“We are slowed-down sound and light waves, a walking bundle of frequencies tuned into the cosmos. We are souls dressed up in sacred biochemical garments and our bodies are the instruments through which our souls play their music.”
Among the “influencers” who have shared this item is pop singer Christina Aguilera, who boasts 17 million Twitter followers:
Einstein inspo— “We are slowed down sound and light waves, a walking bundle of frequencies tuned into the cosmos.
We are souls dressed up in biochemical garments and our bodies are the instruments through which our souls play their music.” pic.twitter.com/L7jNoGxxpz
— Christina Aguilera (@xtina) May 16, 2019
The quote lacks the clarity and precision of Einstein’s prose, smacking more of the pseudo-scientific utterances of post-1960s “New Age” authors who purport to find spiritual truths in such disciplines as quantum physics and biochemistry (e.g., this statement by self-help guru Deepak Chopra: “Our biological rhythms are the symphony of the cosmos, music embedded deep within us to which we dance, even when we can’t name the tune”).
We found that although it has been shared scores of times via social media since 2014, no source or date of origin has been cited for the quote. Nor were we able to find instances of it (sourced or unsourced) in any searchable periodicals or books (including The Ultimate Quotable Einstein, a compendium of the physicist’s most memorable statements, published in 2013). WikiQuote.org categorizes the quote as “Unsourced and dubious/overly modern sources,” noting that Google searches turned up no examples of it dated prior to February 2001. Nor is it simply a case of misattribution, as we found no instances of the passage being credited to anyone other than Einstein.
Given that the statement is of such recent origin, that it doesn’t match any verified statements actually made by Einstein, and that it expresses a sentiment he might well disagree with in verbiage unlike any he actually used, we rule the claim that he said it false.