3/22/2006

The Tao of Physics

If you haven’t yet read this book by Fritjof Capra, I highly recommend it. It was of great help to me when I began my Journey, since I come from an analytical and intellectual background, and had no idea what to do with a mystical experience such as I had. Physicists like Capra are attempting to point out similarities between new quantum discoveries and Eastern mysticism (Buddhism, Taoism and Hinduism), and it’s changing how we perceive our world. “The further we penetrate into the submicroscopic world, the more we shall realize how the modern physicist, like the Eastern mystic, has come to see the world as a system of inseparable, interacting and ever-moving components with the observer being an integral part of this system.” (p. 25)

Both new physics and mystical experiences are difficult to put into words – they are both full of paradox. Einstein wrote, “All my attempts to adapt the theoretical foundation of physics to this (new type of) knowledge failed completely. It was as if the ground had been pulled out from under one, with no firm foundation to be seen anywhere, upon which one could have built.” Capra wrote, “…discoveries of modern physics necessitated profound changes of concepts like space, time, matter, object, cause and effect…to change them felt something of a shock.” (p. 54)

The discovery that subatomic units were not solid objects sent a wave of disbelief through the scientific community. Further it was noted that the simple act of observation seemed to have an effect on them. They realized they could never predict atomic events with certainty. Thus, “Quantum theory has thus demolished the classical concepts of solid objects and of strictly deterministic laws of nature.” (p. 68) It seemed as if classical ideals of ‘reason’ were thrown out the window; as Capra quoted Chuang Tzu, “The most extensive knowledge does not necessarily know it; reasoning will not make men wise in it. The sages have decided against both these methods.” (p. 113)

Capra states that the mystic and physicist alike arrive at the same conclusion, “one starting from the inner realm, the other from the outer world…” (p. 305) He notes a further similarity, that both “their observations take place in realms which are inaccessible to the ordinary senses.” (p. 305)

For me, this book made the unreasonable reasonable, and the nonsensical sensible. It eased my aching analytical brain, and I was able to open myself to further ‘mystical’ experience – transforming my world and my life.

1 comment:

ilachina said...

Wonderful book indeed (and that comes from a Ph.D. in theoretical physics!) If you have enjoyed this book, I would strongly recommend a few others that resonate with it deeply: The wholeness of Nature (Goethian science...presages much of modern complex systems theory):

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0940262797/sr=8-1/qid=1143895407/ref=sr_1_1/102-7188474-6644951?%5Fencoding=UTF8

Mind and Nature by Gregory Bateson:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1572734345/sr=8-2/qid=1143895514/ref=pd_bbs_2/102-7188474-6644951?%5Fencoding=UTF8

and, one of the most remarkable books (four volumes actually) to have come around inn the last generation, The Nature of Order by Christopher Alexander:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0972652949/qid=1143895571/sr=1-2/ref=sr_1_2/102-7188474-6644951?s=books&v=glance&n=283155

Each of these books, in their own way, expands on the diea of wholeness, coherence and harmony. While none is mathematical (Alexander's opus comes close), each also hints at an underlying mathematical theory that, when developed, will help what we currenrlty understand as "science" to take an enormous intellectural/spiritual leep forward.

You can see some more of my musings on these matters on my own Blog.