Heisenberg and Tagore

Rabindranath Tagore, ca. 1930.

Werner Heisenberg, 1933.

In 1972, I met Werner Heisenberg, one of the giants of modern physics, whose book Physics and Philosophy had a decisive influence on my thinking and, in fact, determined the trajectory of my entire career as a scientist and writer. I gave a detailed account of my conversations with Heisenberg and of my personal impressions of him in my book Uncommon Wisdom (Simon and Schuster, 1988; pp. 40ff.).

At that time, I had just begun to work on The Tao of Physics, and so I was naturally curious to hear Heisenberg’s thoughts on Eastern philosophy. He told me to my great surprise not only that he had been well aware of the parallels between quantum physics and Eastern thought, but also that his own scientific work had been influenced, at least at the subconscious level, by Indian philosophy.

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Science and Spirituality Revisited

In 1977, two years after the publication of The Tao of Physics, I was invited to speak at a conference in London, “Mystics and Scientists,” organized by the Scientific and Medical Network (UK). This conference turned into an annual event, and last April they celebrated their 40-year anniversary. I was invited again to give the keynote speech at this event, and I did so via Skype.

In my speech (printed in Network Review, the journal of the Scientific and Medical Network), I talked about the origins, the main thesis, and the impact of The Tao of Physics, which is still my best known book, and about the evolution of my view of the relationship between science and spirituality over the past forty years.

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Transformative Ecological Economics

(Foreword to a new book by Ove Jakobsen, Routledge, 2017)

My friend and colleague Prof. Ove Jakobsen, who teaches ecological economics at Nordland University in Bodø, Norway, just published this inspiring book to which I wrote the Foreword posted below. Ove and I also coauthored a paper titled “A Conceptual Framework for Ecological Economics Based on Systemic Principles of Life,” to be published later this year in the International Journal of Social Economics.

When we look at the state of the world today, what is most evident is the fact that the major problems of our time — energy, environment, economy, climate change, social justice — cannot be understood in isolation. They are systemic problems, which means that they are all interconnected and interdependent, and they require corresponding systemic solutions. As Pope Francis puts it in his remarkable encyclical “Laudato Sì”:

Our common home is falling into serious disrepair… [This is] evident in large-scale natural disasters as well as social and even financial crises, for the world’s problems cannot be analyzed or explained in isolation… It cannot be emphasized enough how everything is interconnected. (Paragraphs 61, 138)

The global economy, in particular, is an integral part and, in fact, the main engine of our multi-faceted global crisis. In recent years this fact has been widely recognized, and many eloquent critiques of our current system of global capitalism have been published. However, there have been very few, if any, comprehensive narratives of an alternative economic system. In my view, this is the main achievement of the present book.

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Werner Heisenberg: Explorer of the Limits of Human Imagination

Zentralbild Prof. Dr. phil Werner Kar. Heisenberg, Physiker, geboren 5.12.1901 in Würzburg, Professor für theoretische Physik, Direktor des Max-Planck-Instituts für Physik in Göttingen, Nobelpreis für Physik 1932 (Aufnahme 1933) 39049-33

Prof. Dr. phil Werner Kar. Heisenberg (Aufnahme 1933)

(published in Resurgence, UK, September/October 2016)

Werner Heisenberg, who died forty years ago, was one of the founders of quantum theory and will be remembered, along with Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr, as one of the giants of modern physics. He played a leading role in the dramatic change of concepts and ideas that occurred in physics during the first three decades of the twentieth century. These concepts brought about a profound change in our worldview: from the mechanistic worldview of Descartes and Newton to a holistic and ecological view.

At the very core of this change of paradigms lies a fundamental change of metaphors from seeing the world as a machine to understanding it as a network. As Heisenberg put it in his classic Physics and Philosophy: “The world thus appears as a complicated tissue of events, in which connections of different kinds alternate or overlap or combine and thereby determine the texture of the whole.”

The new view of reality was by no means easy to accept for physicists at the beginning of the twentieth century. The exploration of the atomic and subatomic world brought them in contact with a strange and unexpected reality. In their struggle to grasp this new reality, scientists became painfully aware that their basic concepts, their language, and their whole way of thinking were inadequate to describe atomic phenomena.

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Two New Italian Publications

Crescita-Qualitativa2Agricoltura-e-cambiamento-climatico2I am happy to announce that my article on “Qualitative Growth,” coauthored with Hazel Henderson (see my blog post of September 14, 2009) is now available in Italian from Aboca, Sansepolcro, Italy (see http://www.abocashop.com/en/qualitative-growth).

In addition, Aboca recently published an article on “Agriculture and Climate Change,” which I wrote with Anna Lappé (see http://www.abocashop.com/en/agricoltura-e-cambiamento-climatico-2). In this article we present the multiple links between agriculture and climate change as a typical systemic problem and agroecology as the ideal systemic solution.


Danish edition of The Systems View of Life

Liv-system-helhed_dropshadowI am delighted to announce that a Danish edition of my textbook The Systems View of Life, coauthored by Pier Luigi Luigi and published originally by Cambridge University Press, has been published by Forlaget Mindspace in Copenhagen.

The book is now available in 5 editions in English (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, and Delhi, India), Italian (Aboca, Sansepolcro, Italy), Portuguese (Cultrix, Sâo Paulo, Brazil), and Danish (Mindspace, Copenhagen, Denmark).

The Ecology of Law wins Benjamin Franklin Book Award


The Benjamin Franklin Award for excellence in book publishing is regarded as one of the highest national honors for small and independent publishers.

The Ecology of Law by Fritjof Capra and Ugo Mattei was the Gold Winner in the Political/Current Events Category.

The Award is given by the Independent Book Publishers with help from over 150 book publishing professionals including librarians. bookstore owners, reviewers, designers, publicity managers, and editors. In 2016, more than 1400 titles were submitted in competition for the awards in 54 categories.

Zen in the Art of Environmental Activism

TompkinsRemembering Doug Tompkins

Douglas Tompkins, former ski racer, world-class kayaker and mountain climber, visionary business leader, environmental philosopher and activist, conservationist and philanthropist, died tragically in a kayaking accident in southern Chile on December 8. I received the sad news while listening to the song “Imagine” and remembering John Lennon, who died on the same day 35 years earlier. It occurred to me that there is a deep connection between the philosophy of Lennon’s iconic song and Doug’s philosophy of life.

I met Doug Tompkins in the late 1980s, when he became a major supporter of the Elmwood Institute, the ecological “think-and-do tank” I had founded in Berkeley with a group of friends and colleagues in 1984. Our first encounters took place at Doug’s home off Lombard Street on San Francisco’s Russian Hill, where he held a series of informal and intimate salons.

When you entered the gate to the house from the busy street, often full of tourists, you found yourself in a large garden with lush green foliage — an oasis of peace and tranquility. To enter Doug’s living room, you took off your shoes and stepped on a pristine white carpet. The room, with its white walls and minimalist furniture, was dominated by several large masterpieces of the Colombian artist Fernando Botero.

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Capra’s life work reviewed in new Indian online magazine

Recently, a beautiful new online magazine from India, Sutra Journal, was brought to my attention. The inaugural issue, dated August 2015, includes a very extensive review of my life’s work as a writer by the Tamil scholar Aravindan Neelakandan, who also works with the ecological NGO Vivekananda Kendra – Natural Resources Development Project. The article, Fritjof Capra and the Dharmic Worldview, spans the entire arc of my work from the Dance of Shiva to Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, and ends with my textbook, The Systems View of Life, coauthored with Pier Luigi Luisi.

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