Nikola Tesla (July 10, 1856 – January 7,1943), was an American electrical engineer, physicist, scientist, and a world-renowned inventor in groundbreaking technological discoveries. He made revolutionary developments in the field of electromagnetism in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Tesla helped usher in the Second Industrial Revolution. Tesla had patents on alternating current (AC), including the polyphase system, electric motor, radio, and the Tesla coil, with major contributions in establishing radar, remote control, robotics, and adding to the expansion of theoretical physics and nuclear physics. Tesla’s inventions included the AC hydroelectric power system, fluorescent lighting, and wireless communication.
Some say he was a man born out of time, a man born too soon, that his inventions changed the world, and that he was an unappreciated genius who wanted to give free energy to people. The son of an Orthodox priest, Tesla was a mystic who had out-of-body experiences from the time he was seven years old. The defining event of young Nikola’s childhood was the day he witnessed the death of his older brother Dane in a riding accident. In the years following the tragedy, Tesla (the son and grandson of Serbian Orthodox priests) began seeing visions of the air around him “filled with tongues of living flame.”
As an adolescent Tesla learned to exercise his willpower to control the visions. While still a child, he saw a photograph of Niagara Falls and prophesied that one day he would harness the power there (which he did). He came up with his idea for alternating current (AC) in a vision he received while watching a sunset in a park in Budapest. Another example of one of his prophetic ideas was his realization that matter and energy were interchangeable, an inspiration he received years before Einstein demonstrated the same idea with his Theory of Relativity.
He is a person some would describe as “spiritually open.” He was not limited by his Orthodox upbringing to reject ideas originating in other faith traditions. For example, Tesla had a warm relationship with Swami Vivekananda, the Indian sage who came to the United States to speak at the Parliament of World Religions in 1893. See: http://www.teslasociety.com/tesla_and_swami.htm
In an essay entitled: “Tesla and Ancient Vedic Philosophy and the Properties of Space”, the author Arjun Walia wrote:
We’ve seen a very interesting trend (especially within the past decade) of modern-day science catching up to an ancient understanding about the true nature of reality, its make-up, how it functions and how we can work with it to bring about change on our planet. For anybody to label the merging of ‘spirituality’ and science as pseudoscience means they have not properly investigated it. Spiritual concepts of our ancient world are directly intertwined with modern-day science, more so quantum physics, and Nikola Tesla was well aware of this.
“All perceptible matter comes from a primary substance, or tenuity beyond conception, filling all space, the akasha or luminiferous ether, which is acted upon by the life giving Prana or creative force, calling into existence, in never-ending cycles all things and phenomena.”– Nikola Tesla, Man’s Greatest Achievement, 1907
As you can see, Tesla was aware of ancient concepts and the correlation it had with the science he was working on using sanskrit worlds like “akasha,” and “prana” to describe the force and matter that exists all around us.
As mentioned, Nikola Tesla had correlations with Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902), who was one of the most famous and influential spiritual leaders of the philosophies of Vedanta (one of the six schools of Hindu philosophy, the term originally referred to the upanishads, a collection of philosophical texts in Hinduism) and Yoga. He was the chief disciple of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and the founder of Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission. He is a giant figure in the history of the Hindu reform movements.
“Mr. Tesla thinks he can demonstrate mathematically that force and matter are reducible to potential energy. I am to go and see him next week to get this new mathematical demonstration. In that case the Vedantic cosmology will be placed on the surest of foundations. I am working a good deal now upon the cosmology and eschatology of the Vedanta. I clearly see their perfect union with modern science, and the elucidation of the one will be followed by that of the other.” – Swami Vivekananda
Tesla began using the Sanskrit words after meeting with Swami, and after studying the Eastern view of the true nature of reality, about the mechanisms that drive the material world. Eventually, it led him to the basis for the wireless transmission of electrical power, what is known as the Tesla Coil Transformer. During this year he made the following comments during a speech before the American Institute of Electrical Engineers.
“Ere many generations pass, our machinery will be driven by a power obtainable at any point in the universe. This idea is not novel…We find it in the delightful myth of Antheus, who derives power from the earth; we find it among subtle speculations of one of your splendid mathematicians….Throughout space there is energy. Is this energy static, or kinetic? If static our hopes are in vain; if kinetic – and this we know it is, for certain – then it is a mere question of time when men will succeed in attaching their machinery to the very wheel work of nature.”
The Vedas are a group of writings that consist of hymns, prayers, myths, historical accounting, science and the nature of reality. They date back at least 5000 years, and are not so different from other ancient texts that dive into the same matters from all across the globe. The language used is Sanskrit and its origins are unknown.
“Swami Vivekananda was hopeful that Tesla would be able to show that what we call matter is simply potential energy because that would reconcile the teachings of the Vedas with modern science. The Swami realized that in that case, the Vedantic cosmology (would) be placed on the surest of foundations. Tesla understood the Sanskrit terminology and philosophy and found that it was a good means to describe the physical mechanisms of the universe as seen through his eyes. It would behoove those who would attempt to understand the science behind the inventions of Nikola Tesla to study Sanskrit and Vedic philosophy.” – Toby Grotz, President, Wireless Engineering
Apparently, Tesla was unable to show the identity of energy and matter, this did not come until Albert Einstein published his paper on relativity, which was known in the East for the last 5000 years.
“All the powers in the universe are already ours. It is we who have put our hands before our eyes and cry that it is dark.” – Swami Vivekananda
Tesla’s vision of the wireless transmission of electricity and free energy has been postponed for almost one hundred years now.
Nikola Tesla discovered the basic operation of the alternating-current motor after a vision appeared to him in Budapest’s City Park, where he quickly drew his mental images in the sand with a stick. Young Tesla had arrived in Budapest from Prague with a promised job to assist Tivadar Puskas and his team at their telephone center, just being built at the time. With support from his relatives, he managed to get a job, but was plagued with an extreme form of hyper-sensitivity. His health condition in this period was described in The Autobiography of Nikola Tesla, which was published decades later:
“In Budapest I could hear the ticking of a watch with three rooms between me and the time-piece. A fly alighting on a table in the room would cause a dull thud in my ear. A carriage passing at a distance of a few miles fairly shook my whole body. The whistle of a locomotive twenty or thirty miles away made the bench or chair on which I sat, vibrate so strongly that the pain was unbearable. The ground under my feet trembled continuously. I had to support my bed on rubber cushions to get any rest at all. The roaring noises from near and far often produced the effect of spoken words which would have frightened me had I not been able to resolve them into their accumulated components. The sun rays, when periodically intercepted, would cause blows of such force on my brain that they would stun me. I had to summon all my will power to pass under a bridge or other structure, as I experienced the crushing pressure on the skull. In the dark I had the sense of a bat, and could detect the presence of an object at a distance of twelve feet by a peculiar creepy sensation on the forehead. My pulse varied from a few to two hundred and sixty beats and all the tissues of my body with twitchings and tremors, which was perhaps hardest to bear. The whistle of a locomotive twenty or thirty miles away made the bench or chair on which I sat, vibrate so strongly that the pain was unbearable. A renowned physician who have me daily large doses of Bromide of Potassium, pronounced my malady unique and incurable.”
But a cure was found in the end: Tesla’s friend and helping companion, Antal Szigety (or Szigeti in other sources) was said to get him exercise, which brought his vigor back. They went for walks in a park nearby, the park where Tesla had his miraculous vision while citing Goethe’s Faust:
“At that age, I knew entire books by heart, word for word. One of these was Goethe’s ‘Faust’. The sun was just setting and reminded me of the glorious passage, ‘The glow retreats, done is the day of toil; It yonder hastes, new fields of life exploring; Ah, that no wing can lift me from the soil Upon its track to follow, follow soaring! A glorious dream! though now the glories fade. Alas! the wings that lift the mind no aid Of wings to lift the body can bequeath me.!’ As I uttered these inspiring words the idea came like a flash of lightening and in an instant the truth was revealed. I drew with a stick on the sand, the diagram shown six years later in my address before the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, and my companion understood them perfectly.
The images I saw were wonderfully sharp and clear and had the solidity of metal and stone, so much so that I told him, ‘See my motor here; watch me reverse it.’ I cannot begin to describe my emotions. Pygmalion seeing his statue come to life could not have been more deeply moved. A thousand secrets of nature which I might have stumbled upon accidentally, I would have given for that one which I had wrested from her against all odds and at the peril of my existence…”
In another example of Tesla’s flashes of insight, he wrote:
“One day I went alone to the river to enjoy myself as usual. When I was a short distance from the masonry, however, I was horrified to observe that the water had risen and was carrying me along swiftly.… The pressure against my chest was great and I was barely able to keep my head above the surface.… Slowly and gradually I became exhausted and unable to withstand the strain longer. Just as I was about to let go, to be dashed against the rocks below, I saw in a flash of light a familiar diagram illustrating the hydraulic principle that the pressure of a fluid in motion is proportionate to the area exposed and automatically I turned on my left side. As if by magic, the pressure was reduced.”
Tesla never married; he said his chastity was very helpful to his scientific abilities. However, toward the end of his life, he told a reporter, “Sometimes I feel that by not marrying, I made too great a sacrifice to my work …” There have been numerous accounts of women vying for Tesla’s affection, even some madly in love with him. Tesla, though polite and soft-spoken, did not have any known relationships.
Tesla was asocial and prone to seclude himself with his work. However, when he did engage in a social life, many people spoke very positively and admiringly of Tesla. Robert Underwood Johnson described him as attaining a “distinguished sweetness, sincerity, modesty, refinement, generosity, and force.” His loyal secretary, Dorothy Skerrit, wrote: “his genial smile and nobility of bearing always denoted the gentlemanly characteristics that were so ingrained in his soul. Tesla’s friend, Julian Hawthorne, wrote, “seldom did one meet a scientist or engineer who was also a poet, a philosopher, an appreciator of fine music, a linguist, and a connoisseur of food and drink.”
Tesla was a good friend of Walter Russell, Francis Marion Crawford, Robert Underwood Johnson, Stanford White, Fritz Lowenstein, George Scherff, and Kenneth Swezey. In middle age, Tesla became a close friend of Mark Twain’s; they spent a lot of time together in his lab and elsewhere. Twain notably described Tesla’s induction motor invention as “the most valuable patent since the telephone.”
Near the end of his life, Tesla walked to the park every day to feed the pigeons and even brought injured ones into his hotel room to nurse back to health. He said that he had been visited by a specific injured white pigeon daily. Tesla spent over $2,000, including building a device that comfortably supported her so her bones could heal, to fix her broken wing and leg. Tesla stated,
“I have been feeding pigeons, thousands of them for years. But there was one, a beautiful bird, pure white with light grey tips on its wings; that one was different. It was a female. I had only to wish and call her and she would come flying to me. I loved that pigeon as a man loves a woman, and she loved me. As long as I had her, there was a purpose to my life.”
Tesla had a profound respect for Buddhism, and became a vegetarian in his later years, living on only milk, bread, honey, and vegetable juices. On 7 January 1943, Tesla, 86, died alone in room 3327 of the New Yorker Hotel, impoverished and in debt.
Tesla wrote a number of books and articles for magazines and journals. Among his books are My Inventions: The Autobiography of Nikola Tesla, compiled and edited by Ben Johnston; The Fantastic Inventions of Nikola Tesla, compiled and edited by David Hatcher Childress; and The Tesla Papers. Tesla’s legacy has endured in books, films, radio, TV, music, live theater, comics and video games. The lack of recognition received during his own lifetime has cast him as a tragic and inspirational character, well suited to dramatic fiction. The impact of the technologies invented or envisioned by Tesla is a recurring theme in several types of science fiction. On Tesla’s 75th birthday in 1931, Time Magazine put him on its cover. The cover caption “All the world’s his power house” noted his contribution to electrical power generation. He received congratulatory letters from more than 70 pioneers in science and engineering, including Albert Einstein.
For an extended online biography of Tesla, with a number of informative links, see:
A comprehensive website devoted to Tesla can be found here:
A well-regarded documentary by PBS on Tesla called “Tesla: Master of Lightning”, can be found here:
Some quotes from Nikola Tesla:
“If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.”
“The day science begins to study non-physical phenomena, it will make more progress in one decade than in all the previous centuries of its existence.”
“If your hate could be turned into electricity, it would light up the whole world.”
“My brain is only a receiver, in the Universe there is a core from which we obtain knowledge, strength and inspiration. I have not penetrated into the secrets of this core, but I know that it exists.”
“I do not think there is any thrill that can go through the human heart like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success . . . Such emotions make a man forget food, sleep, friends, love, everything.”
“What we now want is closer contact and better understanding between individuals and communities all over the earth, and the elimination of egoism and pride which is always prone to plunge the world into primeval barbarism and strife… Peace can only come as a natural consequence of universal enlightenment…”
“Everyone should consider his body as a priceless gift from one whom he loves above all, a marvelous work of art, of indescribable beauty, and mystery beyond human conception, and so delicate that a word, a breath, a look, nay, a thought may injure it.”
“Our virtues and our failings are inseparable, like force and matter. When they separate, man is no more.”
“Let the future tell the truth, and evaluate each one according to his work and accomplishments. The present is theirs; the future, for which I have really worked, is mine.”
“It is not a dream, it is a simple feat of scientific electrical engineering, only expensive — blind, faint-hearted, doubting world! […] Humanity is not yet sufficiently advanced to be willingly led by the discoverer’s keen searching sense. But who knows? Perhaps it is better in this present world of ours that a revolutionary idea or invention instead of being helped and patted, be hampered and ill-treated in its adolescence — by want of means, by selfish interest, pedantry, stupidity and ignorance; that it be attacked and stifled; that it pass through bitter trials and tribulations, through the strife of commercial existence. So do we get our light. So all that was great in the past was ridiculed, condemned, combated, suppressed — only to emerge all the more powerfully, all the more triumphantly from the struggle.”
“Be alone, that is the secret of invention; be alone, that is when ideas are born.”
“Fights between individuals, as well as governments and nations, invariably result from misunderstandings in the broadest interpretation of this term. Misunderstandings are always caused by the inability of appreciating one another’s point of view. This again is due to the ignorance of those concerned, not so much in their own, as in their mutual fields. The peril of a clash is aggravated by a more or less predominant sense of combativeness, posed by every human being. To resist this inherent fighting tendency the best way is to dispel ignorance of the doings of others by a systematic spread of general knowledge. With this object in view, it is most important to aid exchange of thought and intercourse.”
“When we speak of man, we have a conception of humanity as a whole, and before applying scientific methods to the investigation of his movement we must accept this as a physical fact. But can anyone doubt to-day that all the millions of individuals and all the innumerable types and characters constitute an entity, a unit? Though free to think and act, we are held together, like the stars in the firmament, with ties inseparable. These ties cannot be seen, but we can feel them. I cut myself in the finger, and it pains me: this finger is a part of me. I see a friend hurt, and it hurts me, too: my friend and I are one. And now I see stricken down an enemy, a lump of matter which, of all the lumps of matter in the universe, I care least for, and it still grieves me. Does this not prove that each of us is only part of a whole?
For ages this idea has been proclaimed in the consummately wise teachings of religion, probably not alone as a means of insuring peace and harmony among men, but as a deeply founded truth. The Buddhist expresses it in one way, the Christian in another, but both say the same: We are all one. Metaphysical proofs are, however, not the only ones which we are able to bring forth in support of this idea. Science, too, recognizes this connectedness of separate individuals, though not quite in the same sense as it admits that the suns, planets, and moons of a constellation are one body, and there can be no doubt that it will be experimentally confirmed in times to come, when our means and methods for investigating psychical and other states and phenomena shall have been brought to great perfection. Still more: this one human being lives on and on. The individual is ephemeral, races and nations come and pass away, but man remains. Therein lies the profound difference between the individual and the whole.”
“Life is and will ever remain an equation incapable of solution, but it contains certain known factors.”
“Today’s scientists have substituted mathematics for experiments, and they wander off through equation after equation, and eventually build a structure which has no relation to reality.”
“Invention is the most important product of man’s creative brain. The ultimate purpose is the complete mastery of mind over the material world, the harnessing of human nature to human needs.”
“Nature may reach the same result in many ways. Like a wave in the physical world, in the infinite ocean of the medium which pervades all, so in the world of organisms, in life, an impulse started proceeds onward, at times, may be, with the speed of light, at times, again, so slowly that for ages and ages it seems to stay, passing through processes of a complexity inconceivable to men, but in all its forms, in all its stages, its energy ever and ever integrally present. A single ray of light from a distant star falling upon the eye of a tyrant in bygone times may have altered the course of his life, may have changed the destiny of nations, may have transformed the surface of the globe, so intricate, so inconceivably complex are the processes in Nature. In no way can we get such an overwhelming idea of the grandeur of Nature than when we consider, that in accordance with the law of the conservation of energy, throughout the Infinite, the forces are in a perfect balance, and hence the energy of a single thought may determine the motion of a universe.”
“From childhood I was compelled to concentrate attention upon myself. This caused me much suffering, but to my present view, it was a blessing in disguise for it has taught me to appreciate the inestimable value of introspection in the preservation of life, as well as a means of achievement. The pressure of occupation and the incessant stream of impressions pouring into our consciousness through all the gateways of knowledge make modern existence hazardous in many ways. Most persons are so absorbed in the contemplation of the outside world that they are wholly oblivious to what is passing on within themselves. The premature death of millions is primarily traceable to this cause. Even among those who exercise care, it is a common mistake to avoid imaginary, and ignore the real dangers. And what is true of an individual also applies, more or less, to a people as a whole.”
“If you only knew the magnificence of the 3, 6 and 9, then you would have the key to the universe.”
“I am part of a light, and it is the music. The Light fills my six senses: I see it, hear, feel, smell, touch and think. Thinking of it means my sixth sense. Particles of Light are written notes. O bolt of lightning can be an entire sonata. A thousand balls of lightening is a concert. For this concert I have created a Ball Lightning, which can be heard on the icy peaks of the Himalayas.”
“What one man calls God, another calls the laws of physics.”
“The gift of mental power comes from God, Divine Being, and if we concentrate our minds on that truth, we become in tune with this great power.”
“The scientific man does not aim at an immediate result. He does not expect that his advanced ideas will be readily taken up. His work is like that of the planter — for the future. His duty is to lay the foundation for those who are to come, and point the way. He lives and labors and hopes.”
“Every living being is an engine geared to the wheelwork of the universe. Though seemingly affected only by its immediate surrounding, the sphere of external influence extends to infinite distance.”
“Most certainly, some planets are not inhabited, but others are, and among these there must exist life under all conditions and phases of development.”
“You may live to see man-made horrors beyond your comprehension.”
“But instinct is something which transcends knowledge. We have, undoubtedly, certain finer fibers that enable us to perceive truths when logical deduction, or any other willful effort of the brain, is futile.”
“There is no conflict between the ideal of religion and the ideal of science, but science is opposed to theological dogmas because science is founded on fact. 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.”
“Our first endeavors are purely instinctive prompting of an imagination vivid and undisciplined. As we grow older reason asserts itself and we become more and more systematic and designing. But those early impulses, though not immediately productive, are of the greatest moment and may shape our very destinies. Indeed, I feel now that had I understood and cultivated instead of suppressing them, I would have added substantial value to my bequest to the world. But not until I had attained manhood did I realize that I was an inventor.”
“Its not the love you make. It’s the love you give.”
“Within a few years a simple and inexpensive device, readily carried about, will enable one to receive on land or sea the principal news, to hear a speech, a lecture, a song or play of a musical instrument, conveyed from any other region of the globe. The invention will also meet the crying need for cheap transmission to great distances, more especially over the oceans. The small working capacity of the cables and the excessive cost of messages are now fatal impediments in the dissemination of intelligence which can only be removed by transmission without wires.”
“When a child is born its sense-organs are brought in contact with the outer world. The waves of sound, heat, and light beat upon its feeble body, its sensitive nerve-fibres quiver, the muscles contract and relax in obedience: a gasp, a breath, and in this act a marvelous little engine, of inconceivable delicacy and complexity of construction, unlike any on earth, is hitched to the wheel-work of the Universe.
The little engine labors and grows, performs more and more involved operations, becomes sensitive to ever subtler influences and now there manifests itself in the fully developed being — Man — a desire mysterious, inscrutable and irresistible: to imitate nature, to create, to work himself the wonders he perceives.
Inspired to this task he searches, discovers and invents, designs and constructs, and covers with monuments of beauty, grandeur and awe, the star of his birth. He descends into the bowels of the globe to bring forth its hidden treasures and to unlock its immense imprisoned energies for his use. He invades the dark depths of the ocean and the azure regions of the sky. He peers in the innermost nooks and recesses of molecular structure and lays bare to his gaze worlds infinitely remote. He subdues and puts to his service the fierce, devastating spark of Prometheus, the titanic forces of the waterfall, the wind and the tide. He tames the thundering bolt of Jove and annihilates time and space. He makes the great Sun itself his obedient toiling slave. Such is his power and might that the heavens reverberate and the whole earth trembles by the mere sound of his voice.
What has the future in store for this strange being, born of a breath, of perishable tissue, yet Immortal, with his powers fearful and Divine? What magic will be wrought by him in the end? What is to be his greatest deed, his crowning achievement?
Long ago he recognized that all perceptible matter comes from a primary substance, or a tenuity beyond conception, filling all space, the Akasha or luminiferous ether, which is acted upon by the life-giving Prana or Creative Force, calling into existence, in never ending cycles, all things and phenomena. The primary substance, thrown into infinitesimal whirls of prodigious velocity, becomes gross matter; the force subsiding, the motion ceases and matter disappears, reverting to the primary substance.
Can man control this grandest, most awe-inspiring of all processes in nature? Can he harness her inexhaustible energies to perform all their functions at his bidding? more still cause them to operate simply by the force of his will?
If he could do this, he would have powers almost unlimited and supernatural. At his command, with but a slight effort on his part, old worlds would disappear and new ones of his planning would spring into being. He could fix, solidify and preserve the ethereal shapes of his imagining, the fleeting visions of his dreams. He could express all the creations of his mind on any scale, in forms concrete and imperishable. He could alter the size of this planet, control its seasons, guide it along any path he might choose through the depths of the Universe. He could cause planets to collide and produce his suns and stars, his heat and light. He could originate and develop life in all its infinite forms.
To create and to annihilate material substance, cause it to aggregate in forms according to his desire, would be the supreme manifestation of the power of Man’s mind, his most complete triumph over the physical world, his crowning achievement, which would place him beside his Creator, make him fulfill his Ultimate Destiny.”
“While I am not a believer in the orthodox sense, I commend religion, first, because every individual should have some ideal — religious, artistic, scientific, or humanitarian — to give significance to his life. Second, because all the great religions contain wise prescriptions relating to the conduct of life, which hold good now as they did when they were promulgated.”