Nikola Tesla’s Thoughts On the Soul and the Afterlife
1. Tesla’s reasoning is the reasoning of a practical man of science, who has not only given laboratory tests but deep mental consideration to the question of immortality. There is a deal of the esthetic about Tesla, and as he talks his deep-set eyes seem to be looking into the far distance. Born of a Greek church clergyman, in Smiljan in Serbia, it was intended that the young Tesla follow theology as a profession, but the inventive genius, inherited from his mother, took him into the realm of science. But all his life–he is now 68 years old–he has given deep thought to the question of life after death. He has come to no hasty conclusions, and his remarkable statement might be said to be a brief summarizing of years of thought.
“Since time immemorial the most profound thinkers have tried to lift the veil that hides the beyond. I have read thousands of volumes of literature and thought for years in the hope that I might get some kind of evidence to show that death is not the end. But all in vain. To me the universe is simply a marvelous mechanism, and the most complex forms of human life, as human beings, are nothing else but automatic engines, controlled by external influence. Through incessant observation I have so convinced myself of the truth of this that I cannot perform any act or even conceive a thought without locating at once the external stimulus that prompted it.
“A forceful argument in support of the existence of a creative agent is made of the law, order and harmony perceptible everywhere. But it must not be forgotten that Kant’s reasoning and conclusion in this respect are irrefutable. According to this philosopher, the conception of fitness has been created in the speculative mind of men, which thus admires a miracle wrought by itself.
“Granted a planetary system, it is absolutely inevitable that in the course of eons such organized beings as we are will evolve. The cooling of the hot masses results in a precipitation of water, and under the influence of the sun’s rays heliotropic action takes place and life is started. Through chemical and other agents and continuous adjustment complex mechanisms come into being, and these ultimately develop into structures of marvelous complexity with capacities of response to the faintest stimulae from the environment.
“When we realize this as a fact we begin to grasp the great idea of Buddha–that self is an illusion. Indeed, we are nothing but waves in space and time which when dissolved exist no more.
“There is this to be said, however, that science without hope is not satisfactory, and unless one has some ideals he cannot achieve happiness. The religious is the most lofty ideal, and it seems that the great reformers who, ages ago, laid down rules of conduct were right in their conclusions that a peaceful existence and a continued onward march of man on this globe is essentially dependent on the conception of a God.
“I have read Mr. Burbank’s statement in which he expresses an opinion shared by most natural philosophers, but one must not be too rash in contradicting the conclusions reached by countless men of genius who spent their lives in endeavors to ascertain the destiny of the human race. A single individual, however well informed and capable, may be partially unaware of if not utterly blind to evidences of a certain kind, which might be quite sufficient for others. This is the reason why I am distrustful of my own findings. Possibly Mr. Ford, who I understand is accepting old traditions, may be closer to the truth than such men as Burbank and myself.
“I have searched during many years for some process or means to test the possibility of future existence by scientific experiment, and I have devised one, which, to my great disappointment, has failed. But perhaps some more skillful experimenter might succeed if I suggest to him the course. To put it briefly, it is this:
“Our bodies are composed of molecules of various elements, harmoniously united. Do these molecules retain any after-effect when the body is dissolved? To ascertain this take, say, two molecules of hydrogen from the body of an individual and also one molecule of oxygen. Furthermore, provide another molecule of oxygen taken from some other body. Now place the two molecules of hydrogen so they can combine with the oxygen, and if they prefer that molecule of oxygen with which they were previously united, then reincarnation is proved. For, though it may take ages and ages, ultimately the molecules which constituted that body will get together again, just as in a vast city individuals from a distant land finally meet and establish close contact.”
“After Death — WHAT?” Lima News, Lima, Ohio, March 14, 1926.
2. “That an aggregation of impressions, thoughts and feelings having no materiality, and vaguely designated as mind, or soul, should be substance susceptible of quantitative determination is altogether too absurd for discussion.
“The change however, which takes place in the human body during its awful transition from life to death is a great subject for scientific investigation which may possibly lead to important results. If the experiments of Massachusetts physicians are to be at all seriously considered, it is only in this respect.
“I could not help being struck by the fact that men of a scientific caliber sufficiently large to undertake measurements requiring the greatest delicacy and skill, should not be correspondingly resourceful in devising the apparatus for the purpose. A scale responding to the weight of one tenth of an ounce is not a fit instrument for weighing the human soul.
“It is not less astonishing that such trained observer should have overlooked a trivial cause responsible for the seeming lightening of the body. I use this term designedly, for accepting the exudations which have been taken into consideration there was no loss of substance in death.
“When the rigor mortis sets in there is an increase of volume for various reasons. Just to give a rough idea I shall assume that the living body, weighing a hundred and sixty pounds, had filled a space of three cubic feet. The air in a sick room may weigh about fourteen ounces per cubic feet. Half an ounce of the air would consequently occupy a space of sixty-two cubic inches, and that would be only one percent of the original volume of three cubic feet. As will readily be seen, a very slight general deformation of the body, scarcely perceptible, is adequate to explain the puzzling observation. The sudden tipping of the scale demonstrates nothing except the coarseness of the instrument. Had the balance been very sensitive, owing to the resistance of the air, the platform would have ascended slowly.“
“Scientists Doubt The Human Soul Was Weighed.” New York World, March 17, 1907.
3. “Ah, but there is no soul or spirit. These are merely expressions of the functions of the body. These life functions cease with death and so do soul and spirit.”
“What humanity needs is ideals. Idealism is the force that will free us from material fetters.
“Tesla Seeks to Send Power to Planets.” New York Times, July 11, 1931.
4. “To me, the universe is simply a great machine which never came into being and never will end. The human being is no exception to the natural order. Man, like the universe, is a machine. Nothing enters our minds or determines our actions which is not directly or indirectly a response to stimuli beating upon our sense organs from without. Owing to the similarity of our construction and the sameness of our environment, we respond in like manner to similar stimuli, and from the concordance of our reactions, understanding is barn. In the course of ages, mechanisms of infinite complexity are developed, but what we call “soul ” or “spirit,” is nothing more than the sum of the functionings of the body. When this functioning ceases, the “soul” or the “spirit” ceases likewise.“
“A Machine to End War.” Liberty Magazine, February 9, 1935.