|Posted on June 9, 2013 at 4:25 PM|
The most vivid memory I have of the New Yorker Hotel is from May 13, 1979. There in the hallway of the 30th floor, I was introduced to my wife, Connie, for the first time.
Recently, I was made aware of another story surrounding the New Yorker Hotel that has special meaning for me – three floors above the spot where I met my wife is the room where Nikola Tesla spent the last 10 years of his life.
Nikola Tesla was a Serbian-American inventor who possessed one of the most brilliant minds of all time. He is famous as the man who designed the generators that harnessed the power of Niagara Falls in 1895, the first large-scale hydroelectric project in the world.
The son of an Orthodox priest, Tesla was a mystic who had out-of-body experiences from the time he was seven years old. As a child, he saw a photograph of Niagara Falls and prophesied that one day he would harness the power there. 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.”
I feel an affinity for Tesla because I believe he was a mystic who was being inspired by the spirit world. In my view, many great scientific inventions have come as revelations from heaven. I believe that heaven was working through Tesla, and others like him, to advance God’s Providence. Tesla was very idealistic and hoped that his inventions would be used for the benefit of all humanity.
One of the things I appreciate about Tesla is the fact that 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. Vivekananda believed Tesla had the potential to help bring about harmony between the ideas of religion and science; Tesla adopted the Vedic words “prana” and “akasha” in his writings to denote “energy” and “matter.”
Tesla immigrated to the United States in 1884 with a letter of recommendation addressed to Thomas Edison. For a time Edison employed him in West Orange, New Jersey for the paltry sum of $18 a week, but after a dispute over pay Tesla resigned. This is unfortunate, because Edison could have learned a lot from Tesla. For example, Tesla understood why alternating current (AC) was such a better system for delivering electricity than the direct current (DC) to which Edison was so committed. It appears that Edison’s stubbornness and Tesla’s pride resulted in the dissolution of a partnership that potentially could have been the greatest scientific team-up in history.
In particular, I wish the two of them had collaborated on the most interesting of Edison’s projects – the “spirit phone.” In an interview with American Magazine in 1920, Edison announced that he was working on a device that would allow the living to communicate with the dead. His statement caused a national sensation; and the magazine received more than 600 letters from people interested in the device. Edison died in 1931, before he could realize the dream of the “spirit phone,” but I’m convinced he would have had a much better chance if he had Tesla by his side to help him.
Tesla died on January 7, 1943. At his funeral, New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia delivered the eulogy. He remarked that “…a man who was 87 years of age died in his humble hotel room. His name was Nikola Tesla. He died in poverty, but he was one of the most useful and successful men who ever lived.”
That “humble hotel room” is room 3327 of the New Yorker Hotel. There is a plaque on the door commemorating him, and there is another one on 34th Street attached to the outside wall of the New Yorker Hotel building.
In my view, we can best commemorate Tesla by continuing the work of harnessing science for the benefit of humanity, fostering unity between religion and science, harmonizing religions, and supporting the dream of the “spirit phone.” Who knows, one day you might pick up your phone, answer a call, and recognize the voice of Nikola Tesla on the other side.