New Age consciousness manifested itself in the 20th century in the books of a special breed of writers like Fritjof  Capra, a scientist and Gary Zukav a Harvard intellectual. These two pioneers in this genre presented to the public their perceptions of the striking parallels between the new and evolving paradigms in physics and ancient wisdom contained particularly in eastern mysticism. Their books became bestsellers with several reprints. The titles were also chosen to underline the close affinity between mysticism and science. Capra’s ‘Tao of Physics‘ employed the Chinese word Tao which signifies cosmic purpose, unity and interdependence of all phenomena. Zukav in his book ‘Dancing Wu Li Masters‘ again employs a Chinese term which means patterns of energy or physics while Masters can be interpreted as teachers of Wu Li namely scientists.

Capra in his book traces the philosophy of eastern mysticism in Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism and Zen and then proceeds to show that there are amazing parallels in their basic ideas with the concepts of modern physics. The growing scientific certainty of an integrated and interdependent cosmos whose only reality was the reality of a dynamic whole rather than the parts was the very premise on which eastern mysticism was founded. The observations and findings of Quantum physics supported this view, overturning the certainties of the Newtonian mechanistic world model of a solid, predictable, unchanging and deterministic universe.

fritjof kapra

Fritjof Kapra

Kapra speaks then of a basic change in world view and relates our present day problems to a ‘crises of perception’. He underlines that the new holistic world view is responsible for the rising eminence of ecological awareness, environmental issues and Green politics. He holds that mystical thought provides a relevant philosophical background to the theories of contemporary science; a conception of the world in which scientific discoveries can be in perfect harmony with spiritual aims and religious beliefs. He concludes that modern physics goes beyond technology, becoming a path with a heart, a way to spiritual knowledge and self-realization. Capra quotes Ashvaghosh the great Buddhist philosopher of the first century AD :

‘When the mind is disturbed, the multiplicity of things is produced but when the mind is quieted, the multiplicity of things disappears’

He quotes another Buddhist scholar Nagarjuna ( Buddhist scholar 150 – 250 AD):

‘Things derive their being and nature by mutual dependence and are nothing in themselves’.

Then he juxtaposes two quotes of scientists as comparison:

‘An elementary particle is not an independently existing entity. It is in essence a set of relationships that reach outwards to other things.’ – H.P.Stapp

‘The world thus appears as a complicated tissue of events in which connections of different kinds alternate or overcome or combine and thereby determine the texture of the whole.’ – W. Heisenberg

In this emergent world view, mass is merely a form of energy;  subatomic particles are not made of any material substance but are merely patterns of dynamic energy;  electrons are linked by ‘non-local’ connection;  physical vacuum, or void, contains the potentiality for all forms of a particle world;  forms are not independent physical entities but merely ‘transient manifestations of a perfect state of the field at the place, a material particle is merely indicative of a huge energy field concentrated in a very small space, an energy knot;  physical things and phenomenon are transient manifestations of an underlying fundamental reality.  Thus Capra holds that we have to see sub-atomic particles as dynamic patterns – their spatial aspect makes them appear as objects but their time aspect as process. Thus the changed perception of science is that every structure we observe is a manifestation of an underlying process and the process, not the object, is primary. An atomic particle can never be said to exist at a certain place, nor can it be said not to exist there. Being a probability pattern it therefore has a strange kind of physical reality between existence and non-existence.

He then quotes Oppenheimer ( American renowned physicist)

‘If we ask for instance whether the position of the electron remains the same, we must say no; if we ask whether the electron’s position changes with time, we must say no; if we ask whether the electron is at rest, we must say no; if we ask whether it is in motion, we must say no’.

This he compares  with what the Isa Upanishad has to say from antiquity:

It moves, it moves not,

its is far, and it is near,

it is within all this,

and it is outside of all this.

He quotes Ashvaghosh again:

‘Suchness is neither that which is existence, nor that which is non-existence, nor that which is at once existence and non-existence, nor that which is not at once existence and non-existence.’

Capra concludes by saying that  reality lies beyond opposite concepts both for the physicist and the mystic who have to adopt a special way of thinking where the mind is not fixed in the rigid framework of classic logic but have to keep moving and changing the viewpoints.  Adi Shankaracharya the great Indian exponent of Advait or non-dualism in the 9th century AD  was a shining example of this perception as I have sought to show in my earlier  post (see pages also).

Gary Zukav

Gary Zukav

Zukav’s book is meant more for the lay person who wishes  to understand the mysteries of Quantum Physics,  though it is interspersed with parallels with eastern mysticism, like the title.  He won the American Booker Award for it. Later he went on to write what I believe is the New Age’s most significant work inspired by rare  mystical insight and inspiration ”The Seat of the Soul‘, which became my bible for researching the subject of the soul – something which I felt was so authentic that there was not a word in the book with which I felt disagreement. But we shall leave a review of that book for another post.

The dynamic dance of  the subatomic reality of particles, where the very basis of matter begins to transform into energy is what we find when we reach down into our microcosm and find that our essence is insubstantial, immaterial and relative, a fluid, imperceptible unpredictable and dynamic region of the play of virtually incomprehensible forces. Here one is reminded of the Hindu concept of Maya or illusion. This is not to say that the world is an illusion but our way of looking at it  is an illusion. When in seeing the parts we fail to see the whole, then the viewing is an illusion.

We are told that our reality is so interconnected with the microcosm and the macrocosm that were even an infinitesimal part of one or the other to suddenly disappear, so would we (Mach’s principle). We exist because the farthest reaches of the universe exist and the stars exist because we do. The essence then is the underlying process, the process of which we are a manifestation. We are not our ego system. We are part of a process.

In my view egocentricity is then the product of prejudice. The prejudice which presumes that the solidity of our environment is the absolute reality; the prejudice which claims that we are separate from all else; the prejudice which holds that being at the pinnacle of an evolutionary scale entitles us alone to survive; the prejudice which entitles cerebral intelligence alone to be endowed by feelings and sensitivities, that animals are therefore not worthy of  the same consideration because they are lacking in sensitivity; the prejudice that pain only of an intelligent being is worthy of note; the prejudice that life forms devoid of a nervous system cannot feel discomfort of equal intensity to nervous pain, nor  that the experience of the  joy and ecstasy of flowering   in plants can be equal to the joy and ecstasy of human sexuality; the prejudice that does not see the whole for the part, the wood for the trees.

The new paradigm shift of science aligning with the wisdom of  mystics and seers thus finally pronounces the beginning of a New Age suggesting that  man must shed his prejudices and  examine the possibility of reform which could lead to a  new metamorphosis of the expansion of consciousness.