The Intuitive Mind Is a Sacred Gift and the Rational Mind Is a Faithful Servant

Albert Einstein? Bob Samples? Apocryphal?

einstein01Dear Quote Investigator: A well-known scholar delivered a lively and appealing lecture online which included the following quotation. The words were attributed to Einstein, but I am skeptical:

The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.

Does this quotation interest you enough to investigate?

Quote Investigator: Albert Einstein died in 1955. The earliest evidence known to QI linking Einstein to this expression appeared in the 1976 book “The Metaphoric Mind: A Celebration of Creative Consciousness” by Bob Samples. The author did not claim he was quoting Einstein; instead, Samples was presenting his personal interpretation of Einstein’s perspective. Boldface has been added to the following excerpts: 1

The metaphoric mind is a maverick. It is as wild and unruly as a child. It follows us doggedly and plagues us with its presence as we wander the contrived corridors of rationality. It is a metaphoric link with the unknown called religion that causes us to build cathedrals — and the very cathedrals are built with rational, logical plans. When some personal crisis or the bewildering chaos of everyday life closes in on us, we often rush to worship the rationally-planned cathedral and ignore the religion. Albert Einstein called the intuitive or metaphoric mind a sacred gift. He added that the rational mind was a faithful servant. It is paradoxical that in the context of modern life we have begun to worship the servant and defile the divine.

QI hypothesizes that the words of Samples have been altered over time to match the modern quotation given by the questioner. Also, the resultant expression has improperly been assigned directly to Albert Einstein. In addition, the reader should note that the final sentence is presented as the opinion of Samples and not Einstein.

Several researchers have been unable to locate a statement by Einstein matching the expression above though Einstein did speak highly of intuition. Samples articulated his opinion about Einstein’s beliefs more than once. For example, on a later page in the same book he wrote the following: 2

This quality — invention — is what led Einstein and others to view the intuitive qualities of the metaphoric mind as a “sacred gift.” It is enriched by an infinity of knowings, and it ceaselessly repatterns these to a compound infinity of possibilities as it wanders across the face of the world.

In 1977 “The Phi Delta Kappan” magazine published an article by Bob Samples titled “Mind Cycles and Learning” which included this passage: 3

Albert Einstein once spoke of intuition as a sacred gift and likened rationality to a faithful servant. Our basic purpose was to shift the tendency to worship the servant and ignore the sacred.

Note that the second sentence reflected the goal of Samples.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

In 1986 the article “Theater: A Catalyst for Dialogue and Action” by Linda H. Lewis was published, and she cited the 1976 book by Samples. She recapitulated the remark by Samples about Einstein, and she streamlined the phrase by omitting the word “metaphoric”: 4

Albert Einstein (Samples, 1976) viewed the intuitive mind as a sacred gift and the rational mind as a faithful servant. In order to truly enhance adult learning, continuing educators must develop appropriate techniques that capitalize on both modes of knowing by actively involving individuals in the process of learning.

By 1997 the modern version of the saying had emerged with an ascription to Einstein. A discussant posting in the newsgroup soc.culture.greek of Usenet included an instance of the quotation in a signature block appended to his message: 5

“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.” A. Einstein

This misquotation has been widely disseminated. For example, in 2001 a newspaper in Eugene, Oregon printed an article about alternative schools with an epigraph matching the statement immediately above, and Einstein was credited. 6

In conclusion, QI believes that this saying was derived from the words of Bob Samples who was presenting his individual analysis of Albert Einstein. The phrasing evolved over time, and by 1997 someone had placed quotation marks around the descendant expression and had assigned the words to Albert Einstein. However, the ascription to Einstein is spurious.

(Special thanks to the fine researcher Jesse Mazer at Wikiquote who located the 1976 citation. Thanks also to Tim O’Neill who pointed to the book by Samples in a discussion at Quora. Great thanks to the person who asked about this quotation and desired to remain anonymous.)

Notes:

  1. 1976, The Metaphoric Mind: A Celebration of Creative Consciousness by Bob Samples, Quote Page 26, Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Reading, Massachusetts. (Verified on paper)
  2. 1976, The Metaphoric Mind: A Celebration of Creative Consciousness by Bob Samples, Quote Page 62, Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Reading, Massachusetts. (Verified on paper)
  3. 1977 May, The Phi Delta Kappan, Issue title: Turmoil in Teacher Education, Volume 58, Number 9, Mind Cycles and Learning by Bob Samples, Start Page 688, Quote Page 689, Published by Phi Delta Kappa International. (JSTOR) link
  4. 1986, Experiential and Simulation Techniques for Teaching Adults, Edited by Linda H. Lewis, “Theater: A Catalyst for Dialogue and Action” by Linda H. Lewis, Start Page 91, Quote Page 98, Jossey-Bass, Inc., San Francisco, California. (Verified on paper)
  5. 1997 January 8, Usenet discussion message, Newsgroup: soc.culture.greek, From: michael Talaodoros @hotmail.com, Subject: Re: MURDEROUS GREEK CULTURE, (Google Groups Search; Accessed September 18, 2013)
  6. 2001 February 2, The Register-Guard (Eugene Register-Guard), Series: The Arts in Our Community, “Alternative schools play up arts, music” by Joy Archer, (Epigraph to article), Quote Page 15A, Column 1, Eugene, Oregon. (Google News Archive)