The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed. This insight into the mystery of life, coupled though it be with fear, has also given rise to religion.

This is from Einstein's writing.

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    It looks like Einstein originally wrote this in German and then it was translated to English, which might explain some of the phrasing. "He to whom" is correct, but it's a rather poetic and flowery phrasing, and the translator might have been trying to retain the German phrasing.
    – stangdon
    Oct 23, 2017 at 11:51

1 Answer 1


coupled though it be is a concession clause with subjunctive form of BE.

though it be coupled with fear

although it be coupled with fear

coupled though it be with fear

Introducing the concession clause with the subject modifier coupled gives that notion a slightly more prominent place in the clause.


The sweater, damaged though it was by moths, would still keep a person warm. without subjunctive

The narrow road winding up the side of the mountain, dangerous though it be, is your only option. with subjunctive

The subjunctive here is somewhat old-fashioned. It has a literary feel to it, rather than a conversational one.

P.S. A comment of mine was deleted by someone to whom rules are more important than politeness, so I will add it to the answer.

The phrase in the original which results in the he to whom structure is the idiom "X is a stranger to him", meaning "He does not know X" or "He is unfamiliar with X". To be a stranger to s.o.

The main verb phrase is "is as good as dead" and so the subject is the person who has not experienced the mysterious, he, that person, is as good as dead.

He to whom this emotion (i.e. the sense of the mysterious) is a stranger...is as good as dead.

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