Book Review: The Tao of Physics

The Tao of PhysicsThe Tao of Physics by Fritjof Capra
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Wisdom in books never age no matter when they were written. This book, written way back in the seventies, does enchant the reader with its treatment of subjects in modern physics as related to the quantum world and relativity. The highlight of the book obviously is the association of this abstract form of new-age physics with what the author found as fascinating – Eastern philosophies and mysticism. Presenting his motivation for writing this book almost as a vision he got about Shiva’s cosmic dance while sitting on a beach in California, the author goes deep into Tao, Zen, Confucianism and Hinduism just enough to bring the so-called “parallels” with modern physics.

This book was fantastic in the effort it spent to show what was missing in the Western concepts of philosophy, science, thought and of course society. Everything seemed just about fine until the edition that I had also included future commentaries from the author fifteen years after the book got published and it became a huge universal hit. This was by far the reason why I am forced to give only three stars for the book. In a possibly unknown attempt at showing that his thinking has evolved, he has basically killed the very essence, meaning and purpose of the original intent of this book. Every book is just an expression of a thought or opinion and it is brave of an author to keep learning and refining his. But, the below thoughts of his go beyond that to almost trash the very idea of a heavily debatable and incomprehensible conceptual connect – Eastern mysticism and Modern Physics – that he so painstakingly put together and gained immense fame from.

In selling another book of his whose credentials I am not so certain about, this is what he said – “…Moreover, I no longer believe that we can adopt Eastern spiritual traditions in the West without changing them in many important ways to adapt to our culture. My belief has been enforced by my encounters with many Eastern spiritual teachers who have been unable to understand some crucial aspects of the new paradigm that is now emerging in the West”.

The above sentences suddenly made me realize the narrow-mindedness of the author in ways that shocked me, especially after reading a book that he wrote which talks about walking away from these very biased and closed world models that was the representation of classical physics vis-a-vis modern versions of quantum-relativistic concepts. While co-authoring a new book with a Christian monk who strongly represents Catholic values (which is not a problem and is not what shocks me), he has suddenly looked at his own work and trashed it mercilessly as nothing but absolute Orientalism nonsense attached to Modern Science to somehow sound serious.

What do these thoughts he shared even mean:
“…We can adopt Eastern spiritual traditions…” – where did he cover this in the Tao of Physics?
“…changing them in many important ways to adapt to our culture…” – change them? to “adapt” to “our” culture?? what happened to the universal whole?
“…My belief has been enforced by my encounters with many Eastern spiritual teachers who have been unable to understand some crucial aspects of the new paradigm…” – so you spoke to some teachers and who were they? your “belief” has been “enforced”? What was your belief? Someone was unable to understand “crucial aspects”? of a new paradigm? emerging in the West? which is nothing but social equality and looking at the ecosystem as a whole!? wow!

This very moral high handedness, Orientalist fascination and falsification is what makes him and unfortunately very many great writers and speakers nothing but closet idiots posing as revolutionary change makers in this World. Fritjof Capra writes about risking his career and his future writing this book. Well, it looks like he had taken care of it ever since. The mind of a physicist still deserves stars and there go the three stars.

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