Fritjof Capra

Fritjof
Capra
1939

Austrian-born Scientist, Philosopher, Futurist, Physicist, Systems Theorist, and author of five international bestsellers

Author Quotes

I believe that the world view implied by modern physics is inconsistent with our present society, which does not reflect the harmonious interrelatedness we observe in nature. To achieve such a state of dynamic balance, a radically different social and economic structure will be needed: a cultural revolution in the true sense of the word. The survival of our whole civilization may depend on whether we can bring about such change. It will depend, ultimately, on our ability to adopt some of the yin attitudes of eastern mysticism; to experience the wholeness of nature and the art of living with it in harmony.

Organizations need to undergo fundamental changes, both in order to adapt to the new business environment and to become ecologically sustainable.

The influence of modern physics goes beyond technology. It extends to the realm of thought and culture where it has led to a deep revision in man's conception of the universe and his relation to it.

The Vedic concept of Rita anticipates the idea of karma which was developed later to express the dynamic interplay of all things and events. The word karma means ‘action’ and denotes the ‘active’, or dynamic, interrelation of all phenomena. In the words of the Bhagavad Gita, “All actions take place in time by the interweaving of the forces of nature.”

I think self-organization and the newer understanding of life and complexity, when it is applied to the social realm and human organizations, can help people to find their authenticity as human beings The old paradigm model is a mechanistic model where people are seen as parts of a big machine and the machine is designed by experts who either sit at the top of the organization or are brought in from outside as consultants. Then this design of new structures is imposed upon the people who work in the organization and they are pigeon-holed in certain departments with well-defined boundaries. So the underlying model is that of a machine working very smoothly. What self-organization tells you, among many other things, is that creativity is an inherent property of all living systems. All living systems are creative because they have the ability to reach out and create something new. In the last 20-25 years we have begun to understand the dynamics of this creativity, in terms of emergence of new structures and in terms of instability, bifurcation points, and the spontaneous emergence of order. This is the underlying dynamics of creativity at all levels of life. When people understand this they will realize that human individuals as well as groups of individuals are inherently creative. So when you have an organization and you want to design a new structure and you bring in outside experts and then impose this structure on the organization you have to spend a lot of energy and money to sell the idea to the employees and the manager. Since human beings are inherently creative they will not accept the idea as it is. since this will deny their humanity. Therefore you can give them orders and they will nominally adhere to the orders but they will circumvent the orders; they will re-invent the orders and will modify it, either boycott it or embellish it, adding their own interpretation.

Physicists do not need mysticism, and Mystics do not need Physics, but humanity needs both.

The mathematical framework of quantum theory has passed countless successful tests and is now universally accepted as a consistent and accurate description of all atomic phenomena. The verbal interpretation, on the other hand – i.e., the metaphysics of quantum theory – is on far less solid ground. In fact, in more than forty years physicists have not been able to provide a clear metaphysical model.

These networks of communication are self-generating. Each communication creates thoughts and meaning, which give rise to further communications, and thus the entire network generates itself – it is autopoeitic. As communications recur in multiple feedback loops, they produce a shared system of beliefs, explanations, and values – a common context of meaning – that is continually sustained by further communications. Through this shared context of meaning individuals acquire identities as members of the social network, and in this way the network generates its own boundary. It is not a physical boundary but a boundary of expectations, of confidentiality and loyalty, which is continually maintained and renegotiated by the network itself.

If physics leads us today to a world view which is essentially mystical, it returns, in a way, to its beginning, 2,500 years ago.... This time, however, it is not only based on intuition, but also on experiments of great precision and sophistication, and on a rigorous and consistent mathematical formalism.

Plants play a vital role in the flow of energy through all ecological cycles. Their roots take in water and mineral salts from the earth, and the resulting juices rise up to the leaves, where they combine with carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air to form sugars and other organic compounds. (These include cellulose, the main structural element of cell walls.) In this marvelous process, known as photosynthesis, solar energy is converted into chemical energy and bound in the organic substances, while oxygen is released into the air to be taken up again by other plants, and by animals, in the process of respiration.

The more we study the major problems of our time, the more we come to realise that they cannot be understood in isolation. They are systemic problems, which means that they are interconnected and interdependent.

This spontaneous emergence of order at critical points of instability, which is often referred to simply as “emergence,” is one of the hallmarks of life. It has been recognized as the dynamic origin of development, learning, and evolution. In other words, creativity—the generation of new forms—is a key property of all living systems.

A careful analysis of the process of observation in atomic physics has shown that the subatomic particles have no meaning as isolated entities, but can only be understood as interconnections between the preparation of an experiment and the subsequent measurement. Quantum theory thus reveals a basic oneness of the universe. The mathematical framework of quantum theory has passed countless successful tests and is now universally accepted as a consistent and accurate description of all atomic phenomena. The verbal interpretation, on the other hand, i.e. the metaphysics of quantum theory, is on far less solid ground. In fact, in more than forty years physicists have not been able to provide a clear metaphysical model.

In a human organization, the event triggering the process of emergence may be an offhand comment, which may not even seem important to the person who made it but is meaningful to some people in a community of practice. Because it is meaningful to them, they choose to be disturbed and circulate the information rapidly through the organization’s networks. As it circulates through various feedback loops, the information may get amplified and expanded, even to such an extent that the organization can no longer absorb it in its present state. When that happens, a point of instability has been reached. The system….is forced to abandon some of its structures, behaviours, or beliefs. The result is a state of chaos, confusion, uncertainty and doubt; and out of that chaotic state a new form of order, organized around new meaning, emerges. The new order was not desgned by any individual but emerged as a result of the organization’s collective creativity.

Reconnecting with the web of life means building and nurturing sustainable communities in which we can satisfy our needs and aspirations without diminishing the chances of further generations. For this task we can learn valuable lessons from the study of ecosystems, which are sustainable communities of plants, animals and microorganisms. To understand these lessons, we need to learn the basic principles of ecology. We need to become, as it were, ecologically literate. Being ecologically literate, or “ecoliterate,” means understanding the principles of organization of ecological communities (ecosystems) and using those principles creating sustainable human communities. We need to revitalize our communities – including our educational communities, business communities, and political communities – so that the principles of ecology become manifest in them as principles of education, management, and politics.

The mystic and the physicist arrive at the same conclusion; one starting from the inner realm, the other from the outer world. The harmony between their views confirms the ancient Indian wisdom that Brahman, the ultimate reality without, is identical to Atman, the reality within.

Today our environment is so interwoven with bacteria that it is almost impossible to say where the inanimate world ends and life begins. We tend to associate bacteria with disease, but they are also vital for our survival, as they are for the survival of all animals and plants. ‘Beneath our superficial differences we are all of us walking communities of bacteria,’ writes Margulis and Sagan. ‘The world shimmers, a pointillist landscape made of tiny living beings.’

A page from a journal of modern experimental physics will be as mysterious to the uninitiated as a Tibetan mandala. Both are records of enquiries into the nature of the universe.

In biology the Cartesian view of living organisms as machines, constructed from separate parts, still provides the dominant conceptual framework. Although Descartes' simple mechanistic biology could not be carried very far and had to be modified considerably during the subsequent three hundred years, the belief that all aspects of living organisms can be understood by reducing them to their smallest constituents, and by studying the mechanisms through which these interact, lies at the very basis of most contemporary biological thinking. This passage from a current textbook on modern biology is a clear expression of the reductionist credo: 'One of the acid tests of understanding an object is the ability to put it together from its component parts. Ultimately, molecular biologists will attempt to subject their understanding of cell structure and function to this sort of test by trying to synthesize a cell.

Rutherford’s experiments had shown that atoms, instead of being hard and indestructible, consisted of vast regions of space in which extremely small particles moved, and now quantum theory made it clear that even these particles were nothing like the solid objects of classical physics. The subatomic units of matter are very abstract entities which have a dual aspect. Depending on how we look at them, they appear sometimes as particles, sometimes as waves; and this dual nature is also exhibited by light which can take the form of electromagnetic waves or of particles. This property of matter and of light is very strange. It seems impossible to accept that something can be, at the same time, a particle- i.e. an entity confined to a very small volume- and a wave, which is spread out over a large region of space.

The new paradigm may be called a holistic world view, seeing the world as an integrated whole rather than a dissociated collection of parts. It may also be called an ecological view, if the term "ecological" is used in a much broader and deeper sense than usual. Deep ecological awareness recognizes the fundamental interdependence of all phenomena and the fact that, as individuals and societies we are all embedded in (and ultimately dependent on) the cyclical process of nature.

We do not need to invent sustainable human communities. We can learn from societies that have lived sustainably for centuries. We can also model communities after nature's ecosystems, which are sustainable communities of plants, animals, and microorganisms. Since the outstanding characteristic of the biosphere is its inherent ability to sustain life, a sustainable human community must be designed in such a manner that its technologies and social institutions honor, support, and cooperate with nature's inherent ability to sustain life.

According to quantum theory, matter is thus never quiescent, but always in a state of motion.

In Hinduism, Shiva the Cosmic Dancer, is perhaps the most perfect personification of the dynamic universe. Through his dance, Shiva sustains the manifold phenomena in the world, unifying all things by immersing them in his rhythm and making them participate in the dance- a magnificent image of the dynamic unity of the Universe.

Scientists, therefore, are responsible for their research, not only intellectually but also morally. This responsibility has become an important issue in many of today's sciences, but especially so in physics, in which the results of quantum mechanics and relativity theory have opened up two very different paths for physicists to pursue. They may lead us — to put it in extreme terms — to the Buddha or to the Bomb, and it is up to each of us to decide which path to take.

Author Picture
First Name
Fritjof
Last Name
Capra
Birth Date
1939
Bio

Austrian-born Scientist, Philosopher, Futurist, Physicist, Systems Theorist, and author of five international bestsellers