# Erwin Schrödinger

Nirvana is a state of pure blissful knowledge... It has nothing to do with the individual.

Erwin Rudolf Josef Alexander Schrödinger (12 August 18874 January 1961) was an Austrian physicist, one of the founders of quantum theory, and winner of the 1933 Nobel Prize for Physics. His ideas were heavily influenced by monist philosophy and he is particularly well known for original interpretations of the significance of the wave function and for devising the Schrödinger's cat thought experiment.

## Quotes

No self is of itself alone.
This is not mere allegory, but an eternal memory.
Although I think that life may be the result of an accident, I do not think that of consciousness.
We are never in a position to say what really is or what really happens, but we can only say what will be observed in any concrete individual case.
• Nirvana is a state of pure blissful knowledge... It has nothing to do with the individual. The ego or its separation is an illusion. Indeed in a certain sense two "I"'s are identical namely when one disregards all special contents — their Karma. The goal of man is to preserve his Karma and to develop it further... when man dies his Karma lives and creates for itself another carrier.
• Writings of July 1918, quoted in A Life of Erwin Schrödinger (1994) by Walter Moore ISBN 0521437679
• No self is of itself alone. It has a long chain of intellectual ancestors. The "I" is chained to ancestry by many factors … This is not mere allegory, but an eternal memory.
• Writings of July 1918, quoted in A Life of Erwin Schrödinger (1994) by Walter Moore
• The stages of human development are to strive for:
(1) Besitz [Possession]
(2) Wissen [Knowledge]
(3) Können [Ability]
(4) Sein [Being]
• Writings of August 1918, quoted in A Life of Erwin Schrödinger (1994) by Walter Moore
• For thousands of years men have striven and suffered and begotten and woman have brought forth in pain. A hundred years ago, perhaps, another man sat on this spot; like you he gazed with awe and yearning in his heart at the dying light on the glaciers. Like you he was begotten of man and born of woman. He felt pain and brief joy as you do. Was he someone else? Was it not you yourself? What is this Self of yours? What was the necessary condition for making the thing conceived this time into you, just you and not someone else?
• "Seek for the Road" (1925)
• ${\displaystyle {\frac {\partial \psi }{\partial t}}=-{\frac {2\pi i}{h}}E\psi }$
• The "Schrödinger equation", equation (3') in "Quantisierung als Eigenwertproblem, Vierte Mitteilung", Annalen der Physik (1926)
• Although I think that life may be the result of an accident, I do not think that of consciousness. Consciousness cannot be accounted for in physical terms. For consciousness is absolutely fundamental. It cannot be accounted for in terms of anything else.
• As quoted in The Observer (11 January 1931); also in Psychic Research (1931), Vol. 25, p. 91
• Conditions are admittedly such that we can always manage to make do in each concrete individual case without the two different aspects leading to different expectations as to the result of certain experiments. We cannot, however, manage to make do with such old, familiar, and seemingly indispensable terms as "real" or "only possible"; we are never in a position to say what really is or what really happens, but we can only say what will be observed in any concrete individual case. Will we have to be permanently satisfied with this...? On principle, yes. On principle, there is nothing new in the postulate that in the end exact science should aim at nothing more than the description of what can really be observed. The question is only whether from now on we shall have to refrain from tying description to a clear hypothesis about the real nature of the world. There are many who wish to pronounce such abdication even today. But I believe that this means making things a little too easy for oneself.
• "The Fundamental Idea of Wave Mechanics", Nobel lecture, (12 December 1933)
• God knows I am no friend of probability theory, I have hated it from the first moment when our dear friend Max Born gave it birth. For it could be seen how easy and simple it made everything, in principle, everything ironed and the true problems concealed. Everybody must jump on the bandwagon [Ausweg]. And actually not a year passed before it became an official credo, and it still is.
• The task is, not so much to see what no one has yet seen; but to think what nobody has yet thought, about that which everybody sees.
• As quoted in Problems of Life (1952), by Ludwig von Bertalanffy, as reported in A Dictionary of Scientific Quotations (1991) edited by Alan L. Mackay, p. 219
• I insist upon the view that 'all is waves'.
• The multiplicity is only apparent. This is the doctrine of the Upanishads. And not of the Upanishads only. The mystical experience of the union with God regularly leads to this view, unless strong prejudices stand in the way.
• As quoted in The Eye of Shiva: Eastern Mysticism and Science (1981) by Amaury de Riencourt
Multiplicity is only apparent, in truth, there is only one mind...
• Multiplicity is only apparent, in truth, there is only one mind...
• "The Oneness of Mind", as translated in Quantum Questions: Mystical Writings of the World's Great Physicists (1984) edited by Ken Wilber
• Consciousness is never experienced in the plural, only in the singular. Not only has none of us ever experienced more than one consciousness, but there is also no trace of circumstantial evidence of this ever happening anywhere in the world. If I say that there cannot be more than one consciousness in the same mind, this seems a blunt tautology — we are quite unable to imagine the contrary...
• "The Oneness of Mind", as translated in Quantum Questions: Mystical Writings of the World's Great Physicists (1984) edited by Ken Wilber
• In itself, the insight is not new. The earliest records, to my knowledge, date back some 2500 years or more... the recognition ATMAN = BRAHMAN (the personal self equals the omnipresent, all-comprehending eternal self) was in Indian thought considered, far from being blasphemous, to represent the quintessence of deepest insight into the happenings of the world. The striving of all the scholars of Vedanta was after having learnt to pronounce with their lips, really assimilate in their minds this grandest of all thoughts.
Again, the mystics of many centuries, independently, yet in perfect harmony with each other (somewhat like the particles in an ideal gas) have described, each of them, the unique experience of his or her life in terms that can be condensed in the phrase: DEUS FACTUS SUM (I have become God).
To Western ideology, the thought has remained a stranger... in spite of those true lovers who, as they look into each other's eyes, become aware that their thought and their joy are numerically one, not merely similar or identical...
• "The I That Is God" as translated in Quantum Questions: Mystical Writings of the World's Great Physicists (1984) edited by Ken Wilber
The plurality that we perceive is only an appearance; it is not real.
• The plurality that we perceive is only an appearance; it is not real. Vedantic philosophy... has sought to clarify it by a number of analogies, one of the most attractive being the many-faceted crystal which, while showing hundreds of little pictures of what is in reality a single existent object, does not really multiply that object...
• "The Mystic Vision" as translated in Quantum Questions: Mystical Writings of the World's Great Physicists (1984) edited by Ken Wilber
Inconceiveable as it seems to ordinary reason, you — and all other conscious beings as such — are all in all.
• It is not possible that this unity of knowledge, feeling and choice which you call your own should have sprung into being from nothingness at a given moment not so long ago; rather this knowledge, feeling, and choice are essentially eternal and unchangeable and numerically one in all men, nay in all sensitive beings. But not in this sense — that you are a part, a piece, of an eternal, infinite being, an aspect or modification of it... For we should then have the same baffling question: which part, which aspect are you? what, objectively, differentiates it from the others? No, but, inconceiveable as it seems to ordinary reason, you — and all other conscious beings as such — are all in all. Hence, this life of yours... is, in a certain sense, the whole... This, as we know, is what the Brahmins express in that sacred, mystic formula... 'Tat tvam asi' — this is you. Or, again, in such words as 'I am in the east and in the west, I am below and above, I am this whole world.'
Thus you can throw yourself flat on the ground, stretched out upon Mother Earth, with certain conviction that you are one with her and she with you … For eternally and always there is only now, one and the same now; the present is the only thing that has no end.
• "The Mystic Vision" as translated in Quantum Questions: Mystical Writings of the World's Great Physicists (1984) edited by Ken Wilber
• Our mind, by virtue of a certain finite, limited capability, is by no means capable of putting a question to Nature that permits a continuous series of answers. The observations, the individual results of measurements, are the answers of Nature to our discontinuous questioning.
• As quoted in Schrödinger: Life and Thought (1989) by Walter Moore
It is these chromosomes … that contain in some kind of code-script the entire pattern of the individual's future development and of its functioning in the mature state.

### What Is Life? (1944)

What Is Life? The Physical Aspect of the Living Cell (1944) This work is famous for introducing the idea of an "aperiodic crystal" that contained genetic information in its configuration, which inspired James D. Watson to become a geneticist and to work on the discovery of the genetic role of DNA.
• The spread, both in and width and depth, of the multifarious branches of knowledge by during the last hundred odd years has confronted us with a queer dilemma. We feel clearly that we are only now beginning to acquire reliable material for welding together the sum total of all that is known into a whole; but, on the other hand, it has become next to impossible for a single mind fully to command more than a small specialized portion of it. I can see no other escape from this dilemma (lest our true who aim be lost for ever) than that some of us should venture to embark on a synthesis of facts and theories, albeit with second-hand and incomplete knowledge of some of them -and at the risk of making fools of ourselves.
• What we call thought (1) is itself an orderly thing, and (2) can only be applied to material, i.e. to perceptions or experiences, which have a certain degree of orderliness. This has two consequences. First, a physical organization, to be in close correspondence with thought (as my brain is with my thought) must be a very well-ordered organization, and that means that the events that happen within it must obey strict physical laws, at least to a very high degree of accuracy. Secondly, the physical impressions made upon that physically well-organized system by other bodies from outside, obviously correspond to the perception and experience of the corresponding thought, forming its material, as I have called it. Therefore, the physical interactions between our system and others must, as a rule, themselves possess a certain degree of physical orderliness, that is to say, they too must obey strict physical laws to a certain degree of accuracy.
PHYSICAL LAWS REST ON ATOMIC STATISTICS AND ARE THEREFORE ONLY APPROXIMATE
• In physics we have dealt hitherto only with periodic crystals. To a humble physicist's mind, these are very interesting and complicated objects; they constitute one of the most fascinating and complex material structures by which inanimate nature puzzles his wits. Yet, compared with the aperiodic crystal, they are rather plain and dull. The difference in structure is of the same kind as that between an ordinary wallpaper in which the same pattern is repeated again and again in regular periodicity and a masterpiece of embroidery, say a Raphael tapestry, which shows no dull repetition, but an elaborate, coherent, meaningful design traced by the great master.
• The laws of physics and chemistry are statistical throughout.
• It is these chromosomes … that contain in some kind of code-script the entire pattern of the individual's future development and of its functioning in the mature state. Every complete set of chromosomes contains the full code...
• We have just introduced the term gene for the hypothetical material carrier of a definite hereditary feature...
• In Darwin's theory, you just have to substitute 'mutations' for his 'slight accidental variations' (just as quantum theory substitutes 'quantum jump' for 'continuous transfer of energy'). In all other respects little change was necessary in Darwin's theory...
• How would we express in terms of the statistical theory the marvelous faculty of a living organism, by which it delays the decay into thermodynamical equilibrium (death)?... the device by which an organism maintains itself stationary at a fairly high level of orderliness... really consists in continually sucking orderliness from its environment.
• We must therefore not be discouraged by the difficulty of interpreting life by the ordinary laws of physics. For that is just what is to be expected from the knowledge we have gained of the structure of living matter. We must also be prepared to find a new type of physical law prevailing in it. Or are we to term it a non-physical, not to say a super-physical, law?
• The only possible alternative is simply to keep to immediate experience that consciousness is a singular of which the plural is unknown; that there is only one thing and that what seems to be a plurality is merely a series of different aspects of this one thing, produced by a deception (the Indian MAJA); the same illusion is produced in a gallery of mirrors, and in the same way Gaurisankar and Mt Everest turned out to be the same peak seen from different valleys.

### Science and Humanism (1951)

The isolated knowledge obtained by a group of specialists in a narrow field has in itself no value whatsoever, but only in its synthesis with all the rest of knowledge and only inasmuch as it really contributes in this synthesis toward answering the demand, "Who are we?
• I am born into an environment — I know not whence I came nor whither I go nor who I am. This is my situation as yours, every single one of you. The fact that everyone always was in this same situation, and always will be, tells me nothing. Our burning question as to the whence and whither — all we can ourselves observe about it is the present environment. That is why we are eager to find out about it as much as we can. That is science, learning, knowledge; it is the true source of every spiritual endeavour of man. We try to find out as much as we can about the spatial and temporal surroundings of the place in which we find ourselves put by birth
• It seems plain and self-evident, yet it needs to be said: the isolated knowledge obtained by a group of specialists in a narrow field has in itself no value whatsoever, but only in its synthesis with all the rest of knowledge and only inasmuch as it really contributes in this synthesis toward answering the demand, "Who are we?"
• I consider it extremely doubtful whether the happiness of the human race has been enhanced by the technical and industrial developments that followed in the wake of rapidly progressing natural science.
• You may ask — you are bound to ask me now: What, then, is in your opinion the value of natural science? I answer: Its scope, aim and value is the same as that of any other branch of human knowledge. Nay, none of them alone, only the union of all of them, has any scope or value at all, and that is simply enough described: it is to obey the command of the Delphic deity: gnothi seauton... get to know yourself!

### Nature and the Greeks (1954)

We do not belong to this material world that science constructs for us. We are not in it; we are outside. We are only spectators.
• I am very astonished that the scientific picture of the real world around me is deficient. It gives a lot of factual information, puts all our experience in a magnificently consistent order, but it is ghastly silent about all and sundry that is really near to our heart, that really matters to us. It cannot tell us a word about red and blue, bitter and sweet, physical pain and physical delight; it knows nothing of beautiful and ugly, good or bad, God and eternity. Science sometimes pretends to answer questions in these domains, but the answers are very often so silly that we are not inclined to take them seriously.
Sensations and thoughts do not belong to the "world of energy."
• We do not belong to this material world that science constructs for us. We are not in it; we are outside. We are only spectators. The reason why we believe that we are in it, that we belong to the picture, is that our bodies are in the picture. Our bodies belong to it. Not only my own body, but those of my friends, also of my dog and cat and horse, and of all the other people and animals. And this is my only means of communicating with them.
• Science cannot tell us a word about why music delights us, of why and how an old song can move us to tears.
• The observing mind is not a physical system, it cannot interact with any physical system. And it might be better to reserve the term "subject" for the observing mind. … For the subject, if anything, is the thing that senses and thinks. Sensations and thoughts do not belong to the "world of energy."
• The scientific world-picture vouchsafes a very complete understanding of all that happens — it makes it just a little too understandable. It allows you to imagine the total display as that of a mechanical clockwork which, for all that science knows, could go on just the same as it does, without there being consciousness, will, endeavor, pain and delight and responsibility connected with it — though they actually are. And the reason for this disconcerting situation is just this: that for the purpose of constructing the picture of the external world, we have used the greatly simplifying device of cutting our own personality out, removing it; hence it is gone, it has evaporated, it is ostensibly not needed.
• In particular, and most importantly, this is the reason why the scientific worldview contains of itself no ethical values, no esthetical values, not a word about our own ultimate scope or destination, and no God, if you please. Whence came I and whither go I?

### Mind and Matter (1958)

The world is given to me only once, not one existing and one perceived. Subject and object are only one.
• The world is given to me only once, not one existing and one perceived. Subject and object are only one. The barrier between them cannot be said to have broken down as a result of recent experience in the physical sciences, for this barrier does not exist.
• If we were bees, ants, or Lacedaemonian warriors, to whom personal fear does not exist and cowardice is the most shameful thing in the world, warring would go on forever. But luckily we are only men — and cowards.
• There is obviously only one alternative, namely the unification of minds or consciousnesses. Their multiplicity is only apparent, in truth there is only one mind.
• The material world has only been constructed at the price of taking the self, that is, mind, out of it, removing it; mind is not part of it...
• Matter and energy seem granular in structure, and so does "life", but not so mind.
• Nature has no reverence towards life. Nature treats life as though it were the most valueless thing in the world.... Nature does not act by purposes.
• The sensation of colour cannot be accounted for by the physicist's objective picture of light-waves.
• To my view the ‘statistical theory of time’ has an even stronger bearing on the philosophy of time than the theory of relativity. The latter, however revolutionary, leaves untouched the undirectional flow of time, which it presupposes, while the statistical theory constructs it from the order of events. This means a liberation from the tyranny of old Chronos. What we in our minds construct ourselves cannot, so I feel, have dictatorial power over our mind, neither the power of bringing it to the fore nor the power of annihilating it. But some of you, I am sure, will call this mysticism. So with all due acknowledgement to the fact that physical theory is at all times relative, in that it depends on certain basic assumptions, we may, or so I believe, assert that physical theory in its present stage strongly suggests the indestructibility of Mind by Time.

### My View of the World (1961)

Mein Leben, meine Weltansicht [My Life, My Worldview or My View of the World] (1961)
This life of yours which you are living is not merely a piece of this entire existence, but in a certain sense the whole; only this whole is not so constituted that it can be surveyed in one single glance.
Vedanta teaches that consciousness is singular, all happenings are played out in one universal consciousness and there is no multiplicity of selves.
• Not one word is said here of acausality, wave mechanics, indeterminacy relations, complementarity, … etc. Why doesn’t he talk about what he knows instead of trespassing on the professional philosopher’s preserves? Ne sutor supra crepidam. On this I can cheerfully justify myself: because I do not think that these things have as much connection as is currently supposed with a philosophical view of the world.
• pp. vii-viii
• The unphilosophical and philosophical attitudes can be very sharply distinguished (with scarcely any intermediate forms) by the fact that the first accepts everything that happens as regards its general form, and finds occasion for surprise only in that special content by which something that happens here today differs from what happened there yesterday; whereas for the second, it is precisely the common features of all experience, such as characterise everything we encounter, which are the primary and most profound occasion for astonishment.
• p. 10
• The self is not so much linked to its ancestors, it is not so much the product, and merely the product, of all that, but rather, in the strictest sense of the word, the same thing as all that: the strict, direct continuation of it, just as the self aged fifty is the continuation of the self aged forty.
• p. 28
• If I try to hold on the currently predominant view and derive the unity of my self, … I find myself with an impenetrable thicket of questions. … Why is it precisely at this intermediate level in the hierarchy of successively superimposed unities (cell, organ, human body, state)—why, I ask, it is precisely at the level of my body that unitary self-consciousness comes into the picture, whereas the cell and the organ do not as yet possess it and the state possesses it no longer?
• p. 33
• This life of yours which you are living is not merely a piece of this entire existence, but in a certain sense the whole; only this whole is not so constituted that it can be surveyed in one single glance. This, as we know, is what the Brahmins express in that sacred, mystic formula which is yet really so simple and so clear; tat tvam asi, this is you. Or, again, in such words as "I am in the east and the west, I am above and below, I am this entire world."
• There is no kind of framework within which we can find consciousness in the plural; this is simply something we construct because of the temporal plurality of individuals, but it is a false construction... The only solution to this conflict insofar as any is available to us at all lies in the ancient wisdom of the Upanishad.
• Chapter 4