09 Aug Albert Einstein
“The exaggerated esteem in which my lifework is held makes me very ill at ease. I feel compelled to think of myself as an involuntary swindler.”
Albert Einstein was identified as having “impostor syndrome,” having doubts about his significant accomplishments and talents and fear that others would ultimately realize he was a fraud, not the extraordinary genius they held him to be. Impostor syndrome is not a mental illness, rather a psychological behavior pattern. Other luminaries with impostor syndrome include Tom Hanks, Sheryl Sandberg, David Bowie and Serena Williams.
While impostor syndrome may reflect underlying insecurities, in Einstein’s case it reflected his enlightenment. Like Einstein, enlightened individuals have a terrific sense of humor and interesting insights about the nature of the universe. They happily welcome each day as it is the first and last day of their lives; grateful, optimistic and free from karmic prisons.
The foundation of karmic prisons is the belief that we are the same person today as the people we were in passed days of our lives. (Passed days of our lives is what several spiritual practices refer to as our past lives.) The stories we and others tell about those past people define our roles in the play of life. Our roles imprison us by limiting our perspectives as we experience the world not as it is but in the context of what we “learned” in previous lives (our stories, characterizations, categorizations and general descriptions about the world).
The foundation of karmic prisons crumbles when we come to know the nature of reality, that the universe is forever changing, eternal and beyond description as everything is unique. It is what it is whatever it is. We are not the same people we were in passed lives. Our experience of the universe need not be limited by what we’ve learned and our memories but by our imagination.(1)
Einstein didn’t suffer from impostor syndrome. In describing himself as a willing swindler, he realized that he was simply another physics researcher among thousands in the world; that he was not the genius who long before made the great discoveries associated with him; that he was a fraud by willingly acting in the role assigned him as the greatest mind of the 20th century. That is true genius.
(1) “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.” Albert Einstein.