Chapter 8 of The Turning Point - Fritjof Capra (1982)
Introduction & Foreward - Source Material
Forward to this Presentation
This web publication consists of the 8th Chapter of Fritjof Capra's "The Turning Point"
- Science, Society and the Rising Culture -
which was published in 1982. The chapter is entitled "The Systems View of Life" and
discusses the emergent specifications of life in terms of recent advances in inter-disciplinary
scientific thought. Due to its length, it has been split - in this web publication - into four
sequentially parts as follows:
Part 1 - Machines, Organisms and the Self-Organisation of Systems
Part 2 - Independent Physical Entities in Physics and Microbiology and Simbiosis
Part 3 - Evolution, Nature and the Emergence of Ecological & Evironmental Knowledge
Part 4 - Human Nature, Consciousness - Physicists and Mystics
The reading of this text is recommended for researchers in the broadest of fields,
for it clearly outlines what Capra observes as the New Vision of Reality.
The formulation of a systems approach of nature - both Inner and Outer - is by necessity
a research and development project which is inter-disciplinary. The interconnectivity
of each and every part of the cosmos to the cosomos, and vice verse, is the natural
observation of the ecologist and environmentalist, the physical scientist and the mystic.
And in the long run, all the disciplines of mankind - along with the race of man
and all other living beings within the terrestrial and cosmic environments - will
share support to the specifications of the nature of nature.
In the following sections there is outlined some background information concerning the
author - Fritjof Capra - inclusive of other publications, books and articles which he
has contributed to this emergent potential for interdisciplinary advancement of the
human culture and sciences, and also that of the individuals who contibute thereto.
As are all other publications at this website, this publication is dedicated to the
global internet community at large - and with special reference to those who perceive
themselves to be students of Life.
Mountain Man Graphics
Newport Beach, Australia
In the Southern Winter of 1996
Fritjof Capra is a theoretical high-energy physicist, author, and writer of the screenplay
for the film MINDWALK. Born in Vienna, Austria on February 1, 1939, he received his Ph.D.
on the gravitational collapse of neutron stars from the University of Vienna in 1966 where
he studied with Werner Heisenberg. He taught and researched theoretical high-energy physics
at Orsay in Paris from 1966-1968, the University of California in Santa Cruz from 1968-1970,
Stanford Linear Accelerator Centre, and at the Imperial College in London. Capra founded
and served as Director of the Elmwood Institute, Berkeley, which is dedicated to nurturing
new ecological visions and applying them to current social, economic and environmental
problems. He has published many technical papers and lectured extensively on the philosophical
implications of modern science. He does research at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory and
lectures at the University of California, Berkeley.
"The Tao of Physics," London 1975 .... (Refer below)
"The Turning Point," New York 1981 .... (This publication)
"Uncommon Wisdom," New York 1988 .... (Refer below)
Capra, Fritjof. Turning point. Pages 242-250 in Gandhi, K., editor.
Evolution of consciousness. Place? Publisher? 1983.
Capra, Fritjof. New vision of reality: toward a synthesis of Eastern
wisdom and modern science. Pages 135-148 in Grof, S., editor. Ancient
wisdom and modern science. Place? Publisher? 1984.
Capra, Fritjof. Turning point: science, society and the rising culture.
New York: Bantam Books, 1983.
Capra, Fritjof. Fritjof Capra in conversation with Michael Toms. Lower
Lake, CA: Aslan Pub., 1994.
Capra, Fritjof. Tao of physics: an exploration of the parallels between
modern physics and Eastern mysticism. Boston: Shambhala Publications,
Capra, Fritjof. Belonging to the universe: explorations on the frontiers
of science and spirituality. San Francisco: Harper, 1991.
Capra, Fritjof. Uncommon wisdom: conversations with remarkable people.
New York: Bantam Books, 1989.
Capra, Fritjof and Charlene Spretnak. Green politics: the global promise.
New York: Dutton, 1984.
Capra, Fritjof. Buddhist physics. pages 131-143 in Kumar, S., editor.
Schumacker Lectures. Place? Publisher? 1980.
Capra, Fritjof. Dynamic balance in the subatomic world. Parabola, 1979,
volume 4, number 2, pages 61-65.
Capra, Fritjof. Dance of Shiva. Main Currents, September-October, 1972,
volume 29, pages 15-20.
Capra, Fritjof. Turning point: a new vision of reality. Futurist,
December, 1982, volume 16, number 6, pages 19-24.
Capra, Fritjof. Ecologically conscious management. Environmental Law,
Winter, 1992, volume 22, number 2, pages 529-537.
Clifton, Robert K. and Marilyn G. Regehr. Toward a sound perspective on
modern physics: Capra’s popularization of mysticism and theological
approaches reexamined. Zygon, March, 1990, volume 25, number 1, page 73
Capra, Fritjof. Crisis of perception. Futurist, January-February, 1990,
volume 24, number 1, page 64.
Capra, Fritjof, et al. Psychology, science and spiritual paths:
contemporary issues. Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 1978, volume
10, number 2, pages 93- 111.
Indra - Who or What is Indra?
A good explanation of the Hindu/Buddhist myth of Indra's net is found in, of all places,
The Tao of Physics, by Fritjof Capra:
"...particles are dynamically composed of one another in a self-consistent way, and in
that sense can be said to 'contain' one another. In Mahayana Buddhism, a very similar
notion is applied to the whole universe. This cosmic network of interpenetrating things
is illustrated in the Avatamsaka Sutra by the metaphor of Indra's net, a vast network
of precious gems hanging over the palace of the god Indra. In the words of
Sir Charles Eliot:
In the Heaven of Indra, there is said to be a network of pearls,
so arranged that if you look at one you see all the others reflected in it.
In the same way each object in the world is not merely itself
but involves every other object and in fact IS everything else.
"In every particle of dust, there are present Buddhas without number.'
The similarity of this image with the hadron bootstrap is indeed striking.
The metaphor of Indra's net may justly be called the first bootstrap model,
created by the Eastern sages some 2,500 years before the beginning of particle physics."
Page 390 in "The Turning Point"
The recognition of the non-linear nature of all systems dynamics is
the very essence of ecological awareness, the essence of "systemic wisdom",
as Bateson called it (1972, page 434). This kind of wisdom is
characteristic of traditional non literature cultures
but has been sadly neglected in our over rational and mechanised society.
Systemic wisdom is based on a profound respect for the wisdom of nature,
which is totally consistent with the insights of modern ecology.
One natural environment consists of ecosystems inhabited by countless
organisms which have co-evolved over billions of years, continuously
using and recycling the same molecules of soil, water and air.
The organising principles of these principles must be considered
superior to those of human technologies bases on recent inventions,
and, very often, on short term linear projections.
The respect for nature's wisdom is further supported by the insight
that the dynamics of self organisation in ecosystems is basically
the same as in human organisms, which forces us to realise that our
natural environment is not only alive but also mindful. The mindfulness
of ecosystems, as opposed to many human institutions, manifests itself
in the pervasive tendency to establish cooperative relationships that
facilitate the harmonius integration of systems components at all
levels of organization.
Conclusion of Introduction
The Systems View of Life
Chapter 8 of the "Turning Point"
Fritjof Capra - 1982