The Tao of Physics by Fritjof Capra

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The Tao of Physics by Fritjof Capra

Post by snowheight » Wed Jun 08, 2011 11:47 am

This book has been around for quite some time, but the premise is one that defies obsolescence: that the movement of Western thought and philosophy as embodied by the Scientific method has, after almost 400 years, finally undermined it's own foundation of the possibility of objective truth.

The author illustrates this by way of an analogy. He compares the Zen Koans and the paradoxes of the Vedics and the Tao Te Ching to the current experimental formulations forced on modern-day practitioners of high-energy particle physics and cosmology.

You see, once Bhor, Dirac, Schrodinger and the gang took Einstein's observations of the photo-electric effect to the next logical station, we were left with the paradox of the wave-particle duality of matter -- and the result that two people in relative motion don't measure the length of a ruler as the same is a literal statement of the end of objective truth.

This does not mean that the scientific method (have faith only in what can be conceptualized, modeled, and confirmed by experiment, and then don't even have faith, but instead suspend disbelief in the formulation of where to go next) has outlived usefulness. Any pronouncement of the end of scientific advancement will be as doomed to laughability as the prediction of the rapture. Be certain of this: while we don't destroy ourselves we will move the technological ball forward, and tomorrow is destined to look much different from today.

What it does mean is that the way in which science is performed at the frontiers is fundamentally different now. This is embodied in the sorts of questions that scientists are forced to ask as the basis of the formulation of experiment. Capra gets to the heart of this at the start of Chapter's 12 and 13 in the book:


Modern physics has confirmed most dramatically one of he basic ideas of Eastern mysticism; that all concepts we use to describe nature are limited, that they are not features of reality, as we tend to believe, but creations of the mind; parts of the map, not of the territory. Whenever we expand the realm of our experience, the limitations of our rational mind become apparent and we have to modify, or even abandon, some of our concepts."


The central aim of Eastern mysticism is to experience all phenomena in the world as manifestations of the same ultimate reality. This reality is seen as the essence of the universe, underlying and unifying the multitude of things and events we observe. The Hindus call it Brahman, the Buddhits Dharma-kya (the Body of Being), or Tathata (Suchness), and the Taoists Tao; each affirming that it transcends our intellectual concepts and defies further description."

For me, this bolded sentence was a major a-ha! moment! It took me quite a bit of contemplation before I accepted this.

But Fritjof also reports of the next step:

"This ultimate essence, however, cannot be separated from its multiple manifestations. It is central to its very nature to manifest itself in myriad forms which come into being and disintegrate, transforming themselves into one another without end."
Stop talking. Hear every sound as background. Look straight ahead and focus. Take one deep breath. This is you. This is Now.

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