Fritjof Capra

Conversations with Remarkable People, New York: Bantam Books, 1989.

5 Stars

Review

Uncommon Wisdom, by Fritjof Capra, is not strictly speaking a science book, but it elucidates much about the scientist Fritjof Capra and the method of his special approach to knowledge gathering by exchanging views with others, so as to achieve at a multi-vectorial perspective.

It is a very readable and from the human point of view highly interesting book, for it shows with many examples that we arrive at a mature judgment of any problem only by exchanging with others, and if the field of study is outside our professional expertise, by consulting with the best experts in the field.

I reviewed Uncommon Wisdom (1989) only recently, and after my second lecture of the book. Previously, I had been convinced that the book cannot be reviewed as it is very personal, autobiographic and contains many conversations difficult if not impossible to paraphrase without actually quoting them. To quote them entirely was excluded because of copyright, so I had to mark the main points only.

First of all, I reflected why I should review the book. After my initial hesitation, and reading it once again, I came to realize that it is actually a very important document, because it relates the transition that the author made from The Tao of Physics (1975) to The Turning Point (1987), and how Capra was receiving broad feedback and support from other scientists, psychologists, psychiatrists and medical doctors to discuss his paradigm-changing research, and the project for the upcoming book that was certainly challenging to write. As such, the book is something like a background study for Capra’s upcoming bestseller The Turning Point (1987) while it was published two years after the latter.

The book contains conversations with Werner Heisenberg, J. Krishnamurti, Geoffrey Chew, Gregory Bateson, Stanislav Grof, R.D. Laing, Carl Simonton, Margaret Lock, E.F. Schumacher, Hazel Henderson, and Indira Gandhi. In addition, the so-called Big Sur Dialogues, a conversation about paradigm changes in medicine, at the Esalen Institute, which was led by Capra, and to which attended and contributed Gregory Bateson, Antonio Dimalanta, Stanislav Grof, Hazel Henderson, Margaret Lock, Leonard Shlain and Carl Simonton.

I have not quoted this extensive discussion, while it is one of the best documents one could possibly find for voicing the various opinions and policies that are presently leading conventional Western medicine toward a truly holistic and integrative medical healing paradigm.

It would have been against copyright to quote this entire section of the book, which is why I just mention it here, and recommend the reader of this review to buy the book and really peruse it.

Uncommon Wisdom is a must-read for everyone who wants to be informed how, since more than two decades, our fundamental scientific paradigms are changing toward a holistic worldview.

All the scholars Fritjof Capra met, and other people he mentioned in this book do not need to be introduced, as they are world-famous.

To begin with, I could not say which part of the book I liked best and which part, as it is often the case, was of lesser interest to me. It was all one fascinating read from the first to the last word. Perhaps, yes, the most captivating accounts for me were Capra’s meetings with Gregory Bateson, Stanislav Grof and Ronald David Laing. This is by the way my experience with all of Capra’s books, and I believe this has to do with both his scientific honesty and his clear, and careful writing style that doesn’t venture into speculations, but still conveys also the emotional nature of the author.

Capra is perhaps exceptional among scientists in that respect, and in this book this becomes particularly evident, as it retraces also his hippie years, and his spirit of adventure as a young man, lover, artist and scientist.

What emerges from the lecture of this book is a deep insight not only in the scientific subjects discussed in it, but in the way Capra researches. As he has outlined it in his lecture at Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, in November 2007, his research method is unique in that he doesn’t as other researchers base his knowledge-gathering on books, as the primary source of information, but on their authors. Over the many years of his research and publishing, he managed to always get in touch with the authors of the books he found important for his research, and bonds with them, and often actually befriends them. Sometimes, he spontaneously sent a manuscript to some of them, and received valuable feedback.

In this way, Fritjof Capra has befriended many great minds over the last thirty years, among them those featured in this fascinating and very personal book.

Quotes

  • Heisenberg, one of the founders of quantum theory and, along with Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr, one of the giants of modern physics, describes and analyzes in it the unique dilemma encountered by physicists during the first three decades of the century, when they explored the structure of atoms and the nature of subatomic phenomena. This exploration brought / them in contact with a strange and unexpected reality that shattered the foundations of their world view and forced them to think in entirely new ways. The material world they observed no longer appeared as a machine, made up of a multitude of separate objects, but rather as an indivisible whole; a network of relationships that included the human observer in an essential way. In their struggle to grasp the nature of atomic phenomena, scientists became painfully aware that their basic concepts, their language, and their whole way of thinking were inadequate to describe this new reality. /17–18
  • Niels Bohr, sixteen years older than Heisenberg, was a man with supreme intuition and a deep appreciation for the mysteries of the world; a man influenced by the religious philosophy of Kierkegaard and the mystical writings of William James. He was never fond of axiomatic systems and declared repeatedly: ‘Everything I say must be understood not as an affirmation but as a question.’ Werner Heisenberg, on the other hand, had a clear, analytic, and mathematical mind and was / rooted philosophically in Greek thought, with which he had been familiar since his early youth. Bohr and Heisenberg represented complementary poles of the human mind, whose dynamic and often dramatic interplay was a unique process in the history of modern science and led to one of its greatest triumphs. /18–19
  • Heisenberg himself played a decisive role in this development. He saw that the paradoxes in atomic physics appeared whenever one tried to describe atomic phenomena in classical terms, and he was bold enough to throw away the classical framework. In 1925 he published a paper in which he abandoned the conventional description of electrons within an atom in terms of their positions and velocities, which was used by Bohr and everybody else, and replaced it with a much more abstract framework, in which physical quantities were represented by mathematical structures called matrices. Heisenberg’s ‘matrix mechanics’ was the first logically consistent formulation of quantum theory. It was supplemented one year later by a different formalism, worked out by Erwin Schrödinger and known as ‘wave mechanics’. Both formalisms are logically consistent and are mathematically equivalent — the same atomic phenomenon can be described in two mathematically different languages. /19
  • The term ‘paradigm’ from the Greek paradeigma (‘pattern’), was used by Kuhn to denote a conceptual framework shared by a community of scientists and providing them with model problems and solutions. Over the next twenty years it would become very popular to speak of paradigms and paradigm shifts outside of science as well, and in The Turning Point I would use these terms in a very broad sense. A paradigm, for me, would mean the totality of thoughts, perceptions, and values that form a particular vision of reality, a vision that is the basis of a way of society organizes itself. /22
  • The hippies opposed many cultural traits that we, too, found highly unattractive. To distinguish themselves from the crew cuts and polyester suits of the straight business executives they wore long hair, colorful and individualistic clothes, flowers, beads, and other jewelry. They lived naturally without disinfectants or deodorants, many of them vegetarians, many practicing yoga or some other form meditation. They would often bake their own bread or practice some craft. They were called ‘dirty hippies’ by the straight society but referred to themselves as ‘the beautiful people’. Dissatisfied with a system of education that was designed to prepare young people for a society they rejected, many hippies dropped out of the educational system even though they were often highly talented. This subculture was immediately identifiable and tightly bound together. It had its own rituals, its music, poetry, and literature, a common fascination with spirituality and the occult, and the shared vision of a peaceful and beautiful society. Rock music and psychedelic drugs were powerful bonds that strongly influenced the art and life-style of the hippie culture. /23
  • The sixties brought me without doubt the deepest and most radical personal experiences of my life: the rejection of conventional, ‘straight’ values; the closeness, peacefulness, and trust of the hippie community; the freedom of communal nudity; the expansion of consciousness through psychedelics and meditation; the playfulness and attention to the ‘here and now’ — all of which resulted in a continual sense of magic, awe, and wonder that, for me, will forever be associated with the sixties. /24
  • The sixties were also the time when my political consciousness was raised. This happened first in Paris, where many graduate students and young research fellows were also active in the student movement that culminated in the memorable revolt that is still known simply as ‘May 68’. I remember long discussions at the Science Faculty at Orsay, during which the students not only analyzed the Vietnam War and the Arab-Israeli war of 1967, but also questioned the power structure within the university and discussed alternative, nonhierarchical structures. /24
  • I remember that my sympathy with the Black Power movement was aroused by a dramatic and unforgettable event shorty after we moved to Santa Cruz. We read in the newspaper that an unarmed black teenager had been brutally shot to death by a white policeman in a small record store in San Francisco. Outraged, my wife and I drove to San Francisco and went to the boy’s funeral, expecting to find a large crowd of like-minded white people. Indeed, there was a large crowd, but to our great shock we found that, together with another two or three, we were the only whites. The congregation hall was lined with fierce-looking Black Panthers clad in black leather, arms crossed. The atmosphere was tense and we felt insecure and frightened. But when I approached one of the guards and asked whether it would be all right for us to attend the funeral, he looked straight into my eyes and said simply, ‘You’re welcome, brother, you’re welcome!’ /25
  • After moving to California, I soon found out that Alan Watts was one of the heroes of the counterculture, whose books were on the shelves of most hippie communes, along with those of Carlos Castaneda, J. Krishnamurti, and Hermann Hesse. Although I had read books about Eastern philosophy and religion before reading Watts, it was he who helped me most to understand its essence. His books would take me as far as one could go with books and would stimulate me to go further through direct, nonverbal experience. /26
  • The impact of Krishnamurti’s physical appearance and charisma was enhanced and deepened by what he said. Krishnamurti was a very original thinker who rejected all spiritual authority and traditions. His teachings were quite close to those of Buddhism, but he never used any terms from Buddhism or from any other branch of traditional Eastern thought. He task he set himself was extremely difficult — to use language and reasoning in order to lead his audience beyond language and reasoning — and the way in which he went about it was highly impressive. /28
  • The problem that Krishnamurti had solved for me, Zen-like with one stroke, is the problem most physicists face when confronted with the ideas of mystical traditions — how can one transcend thinking without losing one’s commitment to science? It is the reason, I believe, that so many of my colleagues feel threatened by my comparisons between physics and mysticism. /31
  • The Zen tradition, in particular, developed a system of nonverbal instruction through seemingly nonsensical riddles, called koans, which cannot be solved by thinking. They are designed precisely to stop the thought process and thus make the student ready for the nonverbal experience of reality. /32
  • When I first read about the koan method in Zen training, it had a strangely familiar ring to me. I had spent many years studying another kind of paradox that seemed to play a similar role in the training of physicists. There were differences, of course. My own training as a physicist certainly had not had the intensity of Zen training. But then I thought about Heisenberg’s account of the way in which physicists in the 1920s experienced the quantum paradoxes, struggling for understanding in a situation where nature alone was the teacher. The parallel was obvious and fascinating and, later on, when I learned more about Zen Buddhism, I found that it was indeed very significant. As in Zen, the solutions to the physicist’s problems were hidden in paradoxes that could not be solved by logical reasoning but had to be understood in terms of a new awareness, the awareness of the atomic reality. Nature was their teacher and, like the Zen masters, she did not provide any statements; she just provided the riddles. /32
  • Later on, I also came to understand why quantum physics and Eastern mystics were faced with similar problems and went through similar experiences. Whenever the essential nature of things is analyzed by the intellect it will seem absurd or paradoxical. This has always been recognized by mystics but has become a problem in science only very recently. For centuries, the phenomena studied in science belonged to the scientists’ everyday environment and thus to the realm of their sensory experience. Since the images and concepts of their language were abstracted from this very experience, they were sufficient and adequate to describe the natural phenomena. /33
  • In the twentieth century, however, physicists penetrated deep into the submicroscopic world, into realms of nature far removed from our macroscopic environment. Our knowledge of matter at this level is no longer derived from direct sensory experience, and therefore our ordinary language is no longer adequate to describe the observed phenomena. Atomic physics provided the scientists with the first glimpses of the essential nature of things. Like the mystics, physicists were now dealing with a nonsensory experience of reality and, like the mystics, they had to face the paradoxical aspects of this experience. From then on, the models and images of modern physics became akin to those of Western philosophy. /33
  • Shortly before leaving California I had designed a photo-montage — a dancing Shiva superimposed on tracks of colliding particles in a bubble chamber — to illustrate my experience of the cosmic dance on the beach. One day I sat in my tiny room near Imperial College and looked at this beautiful picture, and suddenly I had a very clear realization. I knew with absolute certainty that the parallels between physics and mysticism, which I had just begun to discover, would someday be common knowledge; I also knew that I was best placed to explore these parallels thoroughly and to write a book about them. I resolved there and then to write that book, but I also decided that I was not yet ready to do so. I would first study my subject further and write a few articles about it before attempting the book. /35
  • The Taoist sages concentrated their attention fully on the observation of nature in order to discern the ‘characteristics of the Tao’. In doing so they developed an attitude that was essentially scientific; only their deep mistrust of the analytic method of reasoning prevented them from constructing proper scientific theories. Nevertheless, their careful observation of nature, combined with a strong mystical intuition, led them to profound insights which are confirmed by modern scientific theories. The deep ecological wisdom, the empirical approach, and the special flavor of Taoism, which I can best describe as ‘quiet ecstasy’, were enormously attractive to me, and so Taoism quite naturally became the way for me to follow. /36
  • Castaneda, too, exerted a strong influence on me in those years, and his books showed me yet another approach to the spiritual teachings of the East. I found the teachings of the American Indian traditions, expressed by the legendary Yaqui sage Don Juan, very close to those of the Taoist tradition, transmitted by the legendary sages Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu. The awareness of being embedded in the natural flow of things and the skill to act accordingly are central to both traditions. As the / Taoist sage flows in the current of the Tao, the Yaqui ‘man of knowledge’ needs to be light and fluid to ‘see’ the essential nature of things. /36–37
  • The strongest influence of Buddhist tradition on my own thinking has been the emphasis on the central role of compassion in the attainment of knowledge. According to the Buddhist view, there can be no wisdom without compassion, which means for me that science is of no value unless it is accompanied by social concern. /37
  • Although the years 1971 and 1972 were very difficult for me, they also were very exciting. I continued my life as part-time physicist and part-time hippie, doing research in particle physics at Imperial College while also pursuing my larger research in an organized and systematic way. I managed to get several part-time jobs — teaching high-energy physics to a group of engineers, translating technical texts from English into German, teaching mathematics to high school girls — which made enough money for me to survive but did not allow for any material luxury. My life during those two years was very much like that of a pilgrim; its luxuries and joys were not those of the material plane. What carried me through this period was a strong belief in my vision and a conviction that my persistence would eventually be rewarded. During those two years I always had a quote from the Taoist sage Chuang Tzu pinned to my wall: ‘I have sought a ruler who would employ me for a long time. That I have not found one shows the character of the time.’ /37
  • I packed my suit, shirts, leather shoes, and physics papers in a bag, put on my patched jeans, sandals, and flowered shirt, and hit the road. The weather was superb and I greatly enjoyed traveling through Europe the slow way, meeting lots of people and visiting beautiful old towns on the way. My overriding experience on this trip, the first to Europe after two years of California, was the realization that European national borders are rather artificial divisions. I noticed that the language, customs, and physical characteristics of the people did not change abruptly at the borders, but rather gradually, and that the people on either side of the border often had much more in common with each other than, say, with the inhabitants of the capitals of their countries. /38
  • Today The Tao of Physics is an international bestseller and is often praised as a classic that has influenced many other writers. But when i planned to write it, it was extremely difficult for me to find a publisher. Friends in London who were writers suggested that I should first look for a literary agent, and even that took considerable time. When I finally found an agent who agreed to take on this unusual project, he told me that he would need an outline of the book plus three sample chapters to offer to prospective publishers. This put me in a great dilemma. /45
  • In the meantime, my agent offered the manuscript to the major publishers in London and New York, all of / whom turned it down. After a dozen rejections, a small but enterprising London publishing firm, Wildwood House, accepted the proposal and paid me an advance that gave me sufficient support to write the entire book. /45–46
  • According to the bootstrap hypothesis, nature cannot be reduced to fundamental entities, like fundamental building blocks of matter, but has to be understood entirely through self-consistency. Things exist by virtue of their mutually consistent relationships, and all of physics has to follow uniquely from the requirement that its components be consistent with one another and with themselves. /51
  • The mathematical framework of bootstrap physics is known as S-matrix theory. It is based on the concept of the S matrix, or ‘scattering matrix’, which was originally proposed by Heisenberg in the 1940s and has been developed, ever the past two decades, into a complex mathematical structure, ideally suited to combine the principles of quantum mechanics with relativity theory. /51
  • This bootstrap philosophy not only abandons the idea of fundamental building blocks of matter, but accepts no fundamental entities whatsoever — no fundamental constants, laws, or equations. The material universe is seen as a dynamic web of interrelated events. None of the properties of any part of this web is fundamental; they all follow from the properties of the other parts, and the overall consistency of their interrelations determines the structure of the entire web. /51
  • My many interests beyond physics have kept me from doing research with Chew full time, and the University of California has never found it appropriate to support my part-time research, or to acknowledge my books and other publications as valuable contributions to the development and communication of scientific ideas. But I do not mind. Shortly after I returned to California, The Tao of Physics was published in the United States by Shambhala and then by Bantam Books, and has since become an international bestseller. The royalties from these editions and the fees for lectures and seminars, which I have given with increasing frequency, finally put an end to my financial difficulties, which had persisted through most of the seventies. /57
  • According to Chew, this bootstrapping will include the basic principles of quantum theory, our conception of macroscopic space-time, and eventually, even our conception of human consciousness. ‘Carried to its logical extreme’, writes Chew, ‘the bootstrap conjecture implies that the existence of consciousness, along with all other aspects of nature, is necessary for self-consistency of the whole.’ /61
  • Quantum mechanics has something intrinsically discrete about it, whereas the idea of space-time is continuous. I believe that if you try to state the principles of quantum mechanics after having accepted space-time as an absolute truth, then you will get into difficulties. /62
  • Bohm’s starting point is the notion of ‘unbroken wholeness’, and his aim is to explore the order he believes to be inherent in the cosmic web of relations at a deeper, ‘nonmanifest’ level. He calls this order ‘implicate’, or ‘enfolded’, and describes it with the analogy of a hologram, in which each part, in some sense, contains the whole. If any part of a hologram is illuminated, the entire image will be reconstructed, although it will show less detail than the image obtained from the complete hologram. In Bohm’s view the real world is structured according to the same general principles, with the whole enfolded in each of its parts. /64
  • Bohm’s theory is still tentative, but there seems to be an intriguing kinship, even at the preliminary stage, between his theory and the implicate order and Chew’s bootstrap theory. Both approaches are based on a view of the world as a dynamic web of relations; both attribute a central role to the notion of order; both uses matrices to represent change and transformation, and topology to classify categories of order. /64
  • Geoffrey Chew has had an enormous influence on my world view, my conception of science, and my way of doing research. Although I have repeatedly branched out very far from my original field of research, my mind is essentially a scientific mind, and my approach to the great variety of problems I have come to investigate has remained a scientific one, albeit within a very broad definition of science. It was Chew’s influence, more than anything else, that helped me to developed such a scientific attitude in the most general sense of the term /65
  • It appears that the science of the future will no longer need any firm foundations, that the metaphor of the building will be replaced by that of the web, or network, in which no part is more fundamental than any other part. Chew’s bootstrap theory is the first scientific theory in which such a ‘web philosophy’ has been formulated explicitly, and he agreed in a recent conversation that abandoning the need for firm foundations may be a major shift and deepest change in natural science. /66
  • A methodology that does not use well-defined questions and recognizes no firm foundation of one’s knowledge does indeed seem highly unscientific. What turns it into a scientific endeavor is another essential element of Chew’s approach, which represents another major lesson I learned from him — recognition of the crucial role of approximation in scientific theories. /67
  • Over the years I experienced a profound change of perception and thought in this respect, and in the book that I finally wrote, The Turning Point, I no longer presented the new physics as a model for other sciences but rather as an important special case of a much more general framework, the framework of systems theory. /72
  • A central aspect of the emerging new paradigm, perhaps the central aspect, is the shift from objects to relationships. According to Bateson, relationship should be the basis of all definition; biological form is put together of relations and not of parts, and this is also how people think; in fact, he would say, it is the only way in which we can think. /78
  • The world gets much prettier as it gets more complicated, he [Bateson] would say. /79
  • One of Bateson’s main aims in his study of epistemology was to point out that logic was unsuitable for the description of biological patterns. Logic can be used in very elegant ways to describe linear systems of cause and effect, but when causal sequences become circular, as they do in the living world, their description in terms of logic will generate paradoxes. This is true even for nonliving systems involving feedback mechanisms, and Bateson often used the thermostat as an illustration of his point. /80
  • Bateson would always insist that he was a monist, that he was developing a scientific description of the world which did not split the universe dualistically into mind and matter, or into any other separate entities. He often pointed out that Judeo-Christian religion, while boasting of monism, was essentially dualistic because it separated God from His creation. Similarly, he insisted that he had to exclude all other supernatural explanations because they would destroy the monistic structure of his science. /83
  • Bateson’s most outstanding contributions to scientific thought, in my view, were his ideas about the nature of mind. He developed a radically new concept of mind, which represents for me the first successful attempt to really overcome the Cartesian split that has caused so many problems in Western thought and culture. /83
  • My first breakthrough in understanding Bateson’s notion of mind came when I studied Ilya Prigogine’s theory of self-organizing system. According to Prigogine, physicist, chemist, and Nobel laureate, the patterns of organization characteristic of living systems can be summarized in terms of a single dynamic principle, the principle of self-organization. A living organism is a self-organizing system, which means that its order is not imposed by the environment but is established by the system itself. In other words, self-organizing systems exhibit a certain degree of autonomy. This does not mean that they are isolated from their environment; on the contrary, they interact with it continually, but this interaction does not determine their organization; they are self-organizing. /84
  • Over the last fifteen years, a theory of self-organizing systems has been developed in considerable detail by a number of researchers from various disciplines under the leadership of Prigogine. My understanding of this theory was helped enormously by extensive discussion with Erich Jantsch, a system theorist who was one of Prigogine’s principle disciples and interpreters. /84
  • It was Erich Jantsch who pointed out to me the connection between Prigogine’s concept of self-organization and Bateson’s concept of mind. Indeed, when I compared Prigogine’s criteria for self-organizing systems to Bateson’s criteria of mental process, I found that the two sets of criteria were very similar; in fact, they seemed close to being identical. I realized immediately that this meant that mind and self-organization were merely different aspects of one and the same phenomenon, the phenomenon of life. /85
  • From that moment on my understanding of the relationship between mind and life, or and and nature, as Bateson put it, continued to deepen, and with it came an increased appreciation of the richness and beauty of Bateson’s thought. I realized fully why it as impossible for him to separate mind and matter. When Bateson looked at the living world, he saw its principles of organization as being essentially mental, with mind being immanent in matter at all levels of life. He thus arrived at the unique synthesis of notions of mind with notions of matter; a synthesis that was, as he liked to point out, neither mechanical nor supernatural. /85
  • This is where Laing parted company with most of his colleagues. He concentrated on the origins of mental illness by looking at the human condition — at the individual embedded in a network of multiple relationships — and thus addressed psychiatric problems in existential terms. Instead of treating schizophrenia and other forms of psychosis as diseases, he regarded them as special strategies that people invent in order to survive in unlivable situations. This view amounted to a radical change in perspective, which led Laing to see madness as a sane response to an insane social environment. In The Politics of Experience he articulated a trenchant social critique that resonated strongly with the critique of the counterculture and is as valid today as it was twenty years ago. /95
  • The absence of any distinct drug-specific effects and the enormous range of phenomena that occur during these sessions have convinced me that LSD is best understood as a powerful unspecific amplifier, or catalyst, or mental processes, which facilitates the emergence of unconscious material from different levels of the human psyche. /97
  • Grof’s cartography encompasses three major domains: the domain of ‘psychodynamic’ experiences, involving complex reliving of emotionally relevant memories from various periods of the individual’s life; the domain of ‘perinatal’ experiences, related to the biological phenomena involved in the process of birth; and an entire spectrum of experiences going beyond individual boundaries and transcending the limitations of time and space, for which Grof has coined the term of ‘transpersonal’. /100
  • In perinatal experiences the sensations and feelings associated with the birth process may be relived in a direct, realistic way and may also emerge in the form of symbolic, visionary experiences. For example, the experience of enormous tensions that is characteristic of the struggle in the birth canal is often / accompanied by visions of titanic fights, natural disasters, and various images of destruction and self-destruction. To facilitate an understanding of the great complexity of physical symptoms, imagery, and experiential patterns, Grof has grouped them into four clusters, called perinatal matrices, which correspond to consecutive stages of the birth process. / 101
  • ‘A frequent error of current psychiatric practice’, Grof concluded, ‘is to diagnose people as psychotics on the basis of the content of their experiences. My observations have convinced me that the idea of what is normal and what is pathological should not be based on the content and nature of people’s experiences but on the way in which they are handled and on the degree to which a person is able to integrate these unusual experiences into his or her life. Harmonious integration of transpersonal experiences is crucial to mental health, and sympathetic support and assistance in this process if of critical importance to a successful therapy. /122
  • ‘Once the therapeutic process has been initiated’, Grof went on, ‘the role of the therapist is to facilitate the emerging experiences and help the client overcome resistances./ 122
  • Laing then went on to speculate about a new kind of language that would be appropriate for the new science. He pointed out to me that conventional scientific language is descriptive,whereas language to share experience needs to be depictive. It would be a language more akin to poetry, or even to music, which would depict an experience directly, conveying, somehow, its qualitative character. / 139
  • In addition to the yin/yang system’, Lock continued, ‘the Chinese used a system called Wu Hsing to describe the great patterned order of the cosmos. This is usually translated as the ‘five elements’, but Porkert has translated it as the ‘five evolutive phases’, which conveys the Chinese idea of dynamic relationships much better. Lock explained that an intricate correspondence system was derived from the five phases, which extended to the entire universe. The seasons, the atmospheric influences, colors, sounds, parts of the body, emotional states, social relations, and numerous other phenomena were all classified into five types related to the five phases. When the five-phase theory was fused with the yin/yang cycles, the result was an elaborate system in which every aspect of the universe was described as a well-defined part of a dynamically patterned whole. This system, Lock explained, formed the theoretical foundation for the diagnosis and treatment of illness. /157
  • ‘So what is illness in the Chinese view?’, I asked her. ‘Illness is an imbalance which occurs when the ch’i does not circulate properly. This is another important concept in Chinese natural philosophy, as you know. The word means literally ‘vapor’ and was used in ancient China to describe the vital breath, or energy, animating the cosmos. The flow and fluctuation of ch’i keep a person alive, and there are definite pathways of ch’i, the well-known meridians, along which lie the acupuncture points.’ /157
  • Throughout my conversations with Margaret Lock I had the strong feeling that the philosophy underlying East Asian medicine is very much in agreement with the new paradigm that is now emerging from modern Western science. Moreover, it was evident to me that many of its characteristics should be important aspects of our new holistic medicine as well — for example, the view of health as a process of dynamic balance, the attention given to the continual interplay between the human organism and its natural environment, and the importance of preventive medicine. /169
  • It was clear to me that in such a holistic approach to health and healing the concept of health itself would have to be much more subtle than in the biomedical model, where health is defined as the absence of disease and disease is seen as a malfunctioning of biological mechanisms. The holistic concept would picture health as reflecting the state of the whole organism, mind and body, and would also see it in relation to the organism’s environment. I also realized that the new concept of health should be a dynamic concept, seeing health as a process of dynamic balance and acknowledging, somehow, the healing forces inherent in living organisms. /172
  • The basic philosophy of the Simonton approach affirms that the development of cancer involves a number of interdependent psychological and biological processes, that these processes can be recognized and understood, and that the sequence of events which leads to illness can be reversed to lead the organism back to the healthy state. To do so, the Simontons help their patients to become aware of the wider context of their illness, identify the major stresses in their lives, and develop a positive attitude about the effectiveness of the treatment and the potency of the body’s defenses. /175
  • When I asked her to elaborate her point, Henderson contended that there is no single cause of inflation, but that several major sources can be identified, all of which involve variables that have been excluded from current economic models. The first source, she pointed out, has to do with the fact — still ignored by most economists — that wealth is based on natural resources and energy. As the resource base declines, raw materials and energy must be extracted from ever more degraded and inaccessible reservoirs, and thus more and more capital is needed for the extraction process. Consequently, the inevitable decline of natural resources is accompanied by an unremitting climb of the price of resources and energy, which becomes one of the main driving forces of inflation. /254

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