The Tao of Physics
Capra (Fritjof)
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Philosophers Index Abstract

  1. This speculative book explores alleged parallels between modern physics and the mystical aspects of "eastern" religions and philosophies as described in very short expositions of Hinduism, Buddhism, Chinese "thought," Taoism and Zen Buddhism;
  2. The parallels are about: the unity of all things, beyond semantic/logical opposites, space-time, emptiness and form patterns of change, the cosmic dance and the "new koans" of physics.

Back Cover Blurb
  1. Since its first publication, The Tao of Physics has become a cult book and international bestseller. Fritjof Capra was the first to explore in detail and with authority the connections between Eastern mysticism and modern physics. His book has contributed to the new awareness of a profound harmony between the world views of science and of the mystical tradition. And recent developments in subatomic physics - the subject of a new chapter for this edition - have reinforced his thesis.
  2. 'The parallels... are indeed most striking' Sir Bernard Lovell
  3. 'In the role of interpreter of... the "philosophy" of physics today, Dr Capra has few equals' John Gribbin, TES
  4. '... sets the reader thinking in an unusual way' New Scientist
  5. For this new edition Fritjof Capra has added a substantial chapter to take account of recent developments in subatomic physics. He has also made some minor revisions to the text, including a few corrections to the physics.
  6. Fritjof Capra received his PhD from the University of Vienna in 1966 and has since researched and taught at various European and American universities. He is currently lecturing at the University of California in Berkeley and researching at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory. Besides his technical research papers, he has written articles about the relationship between modern physics and Eastern mysticism, and has lectured extensively on this topic in England and the United States. His latest book The Turning Point (1982) is also published in Flamingo.

    Preface – 11
    Preface to the Second Edition – 14
    1. Modern Physics — Path with a Heart? 21
    2. Knowing and Seeing – 33
    3. Beyond Language – 53
    4. The New Physics – 61
    1. Hinduism – 97
    2. Buddhism – 105
    3. Chinese Thought – 113
    4. Taoism – 125
    5. Zen – 131
    1. The Unity of All Things – 141
    2. Beyond the World of Opposites – 157
    3. Space-time – 177
    4. The Dynamic Universe – 209
    5. Emptiness and Form – 229
    6. The Cosmic Dance – 249
    7. Quark Symmetries — A New Koan? 273
    8. Patterns of Change – 287
    9. Interpenetration – 315

    Epilogue – 335
    Afterword — The New Physics Revisited – 341
    Notes – 355
    Bibliography – 365
    Index – 371

  • Sub-Title: "An Exploration of the Parallels Between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism".
  • Flamingo, HarperCollins, London, 1985, Paperback.

"Capra (Fritjof) - The Tao of Physics"

Source: Capra - The Tao of Physics: An Exploration of the Parallels Between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism

  1. Five years ago, I had a beautiful experience which set me on a road that has led to the writing of this book. I was sitting by the ocean one late summer afternoon, watching the waves rolling in and feeling the rhythm of my breathing, when I suddenly became aware of my whole environment as being engaged in a gigantic cosmic dance. Being a physicist, I knew that the sand, rocks, water and air around me were made of vibrating molecules and atoms, and that these consisted of particles which interacted with one another by creating and destroying other particles. I knew also that the Earth's atmosphere was continually bombarded by showers of 'cosmic rays', particles of high energy undergoing multiple collisions as they penetrated the air. All this was familiar to me from my research in high-energy physics, but until that moment I had only experienced it through graphs, diagrams and mathematical theories. As I sat on that beach my former experiences came to life; I 'saw' cascades of energy coming down from outer space, in which particles were created and destroyed in rhythmic pulses; I 'saw' the atoms of the elements and those of my body participating in this cosmic dance of energy; I felt its rhythm and I 'heard' its sound, and at that moment I knew that this was the Dance of Shiva, the Lord of Dancers worshipped by the Hindus.
  2. I had gone through a long training in theoretical physics and had done several years of research. At the same time, I had become very interested in Eastern mysticism and had begun to see the parallels to modern physics. I was particularly attracted to the puzzling aspects of Zen which reminded me of the puzzles in quantum theory1. At first, however, relating the two was a purely intellectual exercise. To overcome the gap between rational, analytical thinking and the meditative experience of mystical truth, was, and still is, very difficult for me.
  3. In the beginning, I was helped on my way by 'power plants' which showed me how the mind can flow freely; how spiritual insights come on their own, without any effort, emerging from the depth of consciousness. I remember the first such experience. Coming, as it did, after years of detailed analytical thinking, it was so overwhelming that I burst into tears, at the same time, not unlike Castaneda, pouring out my impressions on to a piece of paper.
  4. Later came the experience of the Dance of Shiva which I have tried to capture in the photomontage shown in Plate 7. It was followed by many similar experiences which helped me gradually to realize that a consistent view of the world is beginning to emerge from modern physics which is harmonious with ancient Eastern wisdom. I took many notes over the years, and wrote a few articles about the parallels I kept discovering, until I finally summarized my experiences in the present book. This book is intended for the general reader with an interest in Eastern mysticism who need not necessarily know anything about physics. I have tried to present the main concepts and theories of modern physics without any mathematics and in non-technical language, although a few paragraphs may still appear difficult to the layperson at first reading. The technical terms I had to introduce are all defined where they appear for the first time and are listed in the index at the end of the book.
  5. I also hope to find among my readers many physicists with an interest in the philosophical aspects of physics, who have as yet not come in contact with the religious philosophies of the East. They will find that Eastern mysticism provides a consistent and beautiful philosophical framework which can accommodate our most advanced theories of the physical world.
  6. As far as the contents of the book are concerned, the reader may feel a certain lack of balance between the presentation of scientific and mystical thought. Throughout the book, his or her understanding of physics should progress steadily, but a comparable progression in the understanding of Eastern mysticism may not occur. This seems unavoidable, as mysticism is, above all, an experience that cannot be learned from books. A deeper understanding of any mystical tradition can only be felt when one decides to become actively involved in it. All I can hope to do is to generate the feeling that such an involvement would be highly rewarding.
  7. During the writing of this book, my own understanding of Eastern thought has deepened considerably. For this I am indebted to two men who come from the East. I am profoundly grateful to Phiroz Mehta for opening my eyes to many aspects of Indian mysticism, and to my T'ai Chi master Liu Hsiu Ch'i for introducing me to living Taoism.
  8. […]

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