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The Tao of physics: An exploration of the parallels between modern physics and Eastern mysticism [Unknown Binding]

Fritjof Capra
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Unknown Binding: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Collins (1976)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0007BIVVW
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Modern physics has had a profound influence on almost all aspects of human society. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Merging of Science and Mysticism 18 Nov 2004
This book weaves a magical spell over the reader who is fascinated by both science and mysticism. It covers both in great depth and detail. The essential teachings of Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism and Zen are carefully distilled and the unifying principles of these paths are identified. The one characteristic all these '-isms' share is the awareness of unity of the connectedness of the whole. Capra compares and contrasts classical and modern physics while integrating the mystical truths as discovered in these religions. It is a daunting undertaking but he succeeds with aplomb! The close parallels between Eastern mysticism and modern physics (quantum physics) is amazing - each approaches reality from a different starting point but arrives at the same place. Capra writes about the cosmic dance of particle, energy, and consciousness - highly complex topics, in a very readable manner. He touches upon Geoffrey Chew's S-matrix theory (bootstrap philosophy) and Bohm's theory of Implicate Order. He calls the paradigm shift we are experiencing "a crisis of perception" from which all problems in the world arise. The manner in which scientific ideas are interspersed with mystical concepts is truly astonishing! Fritjof Capra manages to precipitate the essential kernal of truth from apparent divergent viewpoints ...This is a great book for anyone exploring the relationship of the rational scientific view and mysticism, i.e., the spiritual journey. This is a very valuable book for the modern world. Erika Borsos (bakonyvilla)
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars FOOD FOR THOUGHT 3 Jan 2001
I can understand why this enlightening book achieved cult status as it is an excellent exposition of some real correspondences that had probably never before been pointed out. Having known very little on the physics side, it has certainly taught me a lot and I am sure these parallels will become even more obvious with advances in the studey of quantum physics. Tao was a great pleasure to read as the author takes pains to be clear and understandable, and the book is lavishly illustrated with plates and drawings. I fround the section on the I Ching hexagrams of particular interest. Dana Zohar's The Quantum Self is a good choice to read at the same time, whilst "Tao" also further stimulated my interest in sacred geometry
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Parallels are not equivalents. 22 May 2010
By bernie VINE VOICE
Format:Audio CD
There are many solid books on connections and continuity in history and religion and physics. However, Jacob Bronowski, "The Ascent of Man", would turn me over in my grave if he found out that I was reading such books as this. There are too many quasi science quasi religion books that want to take some principle and reinterpret it to be a New age truth or prove the some old blind philosopher beat us too it for example (The Seat of the Soul.)

Dr. Capra is drawing parallels in two fields and not trying to say, "See I told you so". He takes the time and pages to describe the science and does a good job of distilling complex religions down to single chapters. I leave it up to Dr. Capra and you to determine if there really is any parallel. A parallel does not mean equivalents. If you are a Gary Zukav sort of person, this book will not help you at all.
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7 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not as left field as the tittle implies. 25 Dec 2000
By bernie VINE VOICE
Jacob Bronowski, "The Ascent of Man", would turn me over in my grave if he found out that I was reading such books as this. There are too many quasi science quasi religion books that want to take some principle and reinterpret it to be a New age truth or prove the some old blind philosopher beat us too it for example (The Seat of the Soul.) Dr. Capra is drawing parallels in two fields and not trying to say "see I told you so". He takes the time and pages to describe the science and also does a pretty good job of distilling complex religions down to single chapters. I leave it up to Dr. Capra and you to determine if there really is any parallel. If you are a Gary Zukav sort of person this book will not help you at all.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  122 reviews
146 of 150 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Intriguing & Thought-Provoking Book 30 Jan 2005
By M. Hart - Published on Amazon.com
In 1975, physicist Fritjof Capra wrote an unusual book about physics and Eastern mysticism entitled "The Tao Physics". Though some of Mr. Capra's colleagues were offended that any physicist would compare the science of modern physics with the religious practices of Eastern mystics (primarily the beliefs & practices of Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism), the reality is that there are some very striking similarities with the intuitively Eastern mystical view of reality and the experimentally rational view of quantum theory. Part of the reason for this is that both physicists and Eastern mystics find it very difficult to explain their observations in language (including the language of mathematics) because each of their experiences is not encountered in our everyday, mechanistic macro world. Up until the time of Einstein, physicists were comfortable with explaining the world using Newton's mechanistic theories. However, Einstein realized that there was a fatal flaw with the Newtonian view that presumed that gravity is felt instantaneously regardless of distance. Also, Newton's law of gravity really didn't explain exactly what gravity is. With a stroke of insight, Einstein realized that nothing could travel faster than the speed of light, including gravity; and several years later was able to explain gravity as being the consequence of the curvature of four-dimensional space-time due to mass. These discoveries through the world of Newtonian physics upside-down, but as Einstein's theories demonstrated, the Newtonian view was still valid for objects whose speeds come nowhere near the speed of light. Hence, Newton's laws of motion and gravity were still valuable, but in actuality, are only good approximations that can be used to explain movement in our frame of reference. Einstein, however, could not accept the views being developed by his contemporaries in the field of subatomic particles because Einstein maintained that elegant simplicity and orderliness existed at all levels of the physical Universe. Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg, on the other hand, discovered that the subatomic world was anything but simple and orderly. Instead, they, and the physicists who followed them, discovered that the subatomic world is not comprised of hard, independent and quantifiable particles; but of highly unpredictable and interconnected packets of energy that display characteristics both as particles with mass and waves of energy that can only be partially explained through the use of probabilities.

It was the discovery of quantum theory that modern physics has come to some strikingly similar conclusions that Eastern mystics came to over 2500 years earlier: namely, that everything in the Universe is interconnected, there are no completely independent parts, and that human consciousness is not independent of the Universe either. By entering deeply meditative states of consciousness, Eastern mystics for centuries have experienced intuitively the interconnected wholeness of reality (referred to the Tao in Taoism, the Brahman in Hinduism and the Dharmakaya in Buddhism) once they are able to set aside all other conscious thought and language. To Eastern mystics, language, which attempts to distinguish between various things, creates the illusion of separateness and independence that is the hallmark of Western science and philosophy as culminating in Newtonian physics. The notion that objects could be broken down into independent and mutually exclusive, lifeless parts was the philosophy embraced by many early Greek philosophers, such as Leucippus, Democritus and Aristotle; in contrast to the Greek philosophers of Parmenides and Heraclitus who were hylozoists and Eastern mystics. The popular Western view of separateness is also part of the driving patriarchal, anthropocentric view of Christianity ("yang" in Taoists terms); as opposed to the intuitive, interconnected and interpenetrative view of Eastern mysticism ("yin" in Taoists terms) that is also part of quantum theory.

Some portions of "The Tao of Physics" may be quite difficult for someone with very little background in physics to fully understand, but Mr. Capra avoided use of complex mathematics in his very accurate explanations of observations made in subatomic physics. He also did a superb job of explaining the views of three different Eastern religions that many readers may be introduced to for the first time in this book. Though there was a time when physicists and Western philosophers believed the Universe and inorganic matter are static that could be easily explained with simple equations, modern physics has come to the same conclusion that Eastern mystics did 2500 years ago: the Universe is an extremely dynamic and ever-changing reality governed not by abstract fundamental laws, but by interactions of all matter and energy throughout and that matter itself is pure energy, impermanent, ever-changing and ever-transforming just as the Hindu's explained by the always-dancing Shiva. Further, modern science cannot explain everything; it can only provide approximate explanations for particular situations: the Universe in its totality could never be fully explained, just as the Tao cannot be fully explained. Overall, I rate "The Tao of Physics" with a resounding 5 out of 5 stars and highly recommend it.
80 of 89 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking with a bridge between East and West 11 Nov 2000
By Thomas Lapins - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I've read "The Tao Of Physics" two and one half times. The first time was fifteen years ago (the original paperback was a different edition, with a far more thought provoking cover). I then read this edition when it came out (I need to read it a third time, this time with more life experience to draw from). I'm sure most readers struggled with the technical dialogue and laws of physics throughout. I was more able to intuitively appreciate these tougher chapters than intellectually understand these sometimes very abstract and difficult theories and concepts. Mysticism at times can seem equally abstract and difficult when one has not expereinced specific "mystical" experiences or enough of life itself. However, I intuitively connected to the threads which Capra so painstakingly weaved into his book. I was not looking for the answers to the universe in this book. What I was hoping to find was guidance, and a springboard in which to think in a larger universe. And when I look back, I realize my awareness and receptiveness to a "universe"and "consciousness" which is infinitely larger and wiser than the human experience and consciousness does indeed exits. "The Tao Of Physics" opened a window or two for me, and the inertia in which I had formed my opinions and prejudices and, then, learned to see and feel and judge the world around me, seemed embarrassingly narrow, lacking and unwise. That was a great insight for this young man at that time. "The Tao Of Physics" remains one of those books and experience that initially changed me in a small way, that eventually evolved into a substantive life change in how I think and perceive the world around me, and my relationship to it.
155 of 178 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Classic of Deep Thought, but Not Quite Convincing 25 Sep 2002
By doomsdayer520 - Published on Amazon.com
In this book Fritjof Capra dwells on the parallels between modern physics and traditional Eastern thought. In classical physics and in most Western thought, the tendency is to break down the universe into smaller and smaller objects and systems that are supposedly self-contained and only interact in a linear cause-and-effect pattern. These views started to break down with Einstein's relativity, which shows the duality (or inseparability) of space and time, and even more so with quantum mechanics. The key aspect of QM used here is Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, which basically states that you can't observe a subatomic particle (or possibly any part of the universe) without interacting with it. It turns out that these new physical concepts of duality and interconnectedness, while a major shock to Western minds, are right in line with what has been thought in the East for thousands of years. In fact, many modern theoretical physicists have become interested in Eastern mysticism to help interpret their seemingly strange findings.
With that aside, this book is not quite convincing as Capra attempts to draw these parallels into an overall unified theory, and unfortunately he is quite a dry and repetitive writer. The book starts usefully with an intro to modern physics, then intros to the main schools of Eastern mysticism (Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism). Things start to break down however, in the third part of the book as Capra begins to analyze the parallels between the two worlds. Capra tends to explain the same concepts again and again is slightly different ways, in an attempt to beef up the book, only to reveal the shaky foundation on which these concepts stand. Alas, while there are certainly intriguing parallels, the grand connection fails to materialize as the book drags on. When this book first appeared in the 70's, it kicked off a new mini-revolution of deep thoughts, and Capra is surely on to something big here. Unfortunately this book doesn't quite bring home the true revolution in Western thinking. Perhaps the last 30 years of deep thoughts that this book inspired will lead to a true manifesto by Capra or one of his followers, but this book can only be seen as a good start.
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Description of a mountain from the base and the peak 26 Sep 1998
By coganps@york.uchsc.edu - Published on Amazon.com
The book is a well organized presentaion of the simple observation that science, religion, and philosophy are all trying to describe the same reality in different terms and from different perspectives. Taoism and modern physics both take a minimally subjective approach to the task of realizing what life is and are both extremely helpful to anyone searching for the source of true spirituality. The first review in this set refers to Taoism as a branch of metaphysics, which it certainly is not. Although the book deals with various major Eastern religions, it is a good introduction to Taoism and, for those searching, should be preceded by, concurrently read with, and perpetually followed by reference to the Tao Te Ching. Most importantly, awareness of ones own life and its relationship with the rest of the universe is the key; the answers can not be found in any book.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fusing eastern thought with science 21 Jan 2000
By "mmmmarkman" - Published on Amazon.com
Capra takes a step backwards to get everything into the picture and shows how a selection of eastern schools of thought and modern physics think so much alike. He manages this without shoving religious dogma down your throat or losing you in mathematics. As a physicist, I was sceptical about this book as often modern physics has been taken completely out of its context and misinterpreted. Capra shows a thorough understanding of the quantum mechanical and relativistic principles illustrated in this book. For the non-physicist I would advise reading up some material on introductory relativity and quantum physics beforehand, just as I felt disadvantaged not having a good background in eastern philosophy. This book strengthens my belief that an understanding of the human situation comes not from a single spiritual or intellectual paradigm, but from a unification of the fruits of all human endeavours.
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