Science, Society and the Rising Culture, New York: Simon & Schuster (Flamingo), 1987, Author copyright 1982
The Turning Point, by Fritjof Capra, is a logical follow-up to his Tao of Physics, and equally important. This book was a turning point also in the author’s life. In my personal view, and contrary to what most critics say, it is lesser the Tao of Physics that is the real strike of genius, but the present book because of the extrapolation of the holistic concepts developed in the Tao upon the whole value system of postmodern international culture, thereby suggesting our culture adopting and developing new values.
Only a thinker who is both logically precise, very knowledgeable about science history, and who has a metarational and integrated perception of life and the universe could do such a giant work.
The following quote shows the general direction that Capra took from the time of writing this book, and that will be especially present in his two subsequent books, The Web of Life (1997) and The Hidden Connections (2002). It has been called the systems view; it simply is a sound holistic science paradigm that can be practically applied to all scientific research, and that promises to bring about scientific, social and later political results that are in accordance with human dignity, fostering the expansion of human consciousness and evolution. These solutions will be different from those we had in the past because they will be integrated and sustainable, and this both in the fields of science and culture:
These problems (…) are systemic problems, which means that they are closely interconnected and interdependent. They cannot be understood within the fragmented methodology characteristic to our academic disciplines and government agencies. Such an approach will never solve any of our difficulties but will merely shift them around in the complex web of social and ecological relations. A resolution can be found only if the structure of the web is changed, and this will involve profound transformations of our social institutions, values, and ideas./6
One of the points that show Capra a genius is his mental flexibility. Contrary to many other scientists from the so-called exact scientific disciplines, he has an extraordinarily synthetic thinking ability which makes him sense shifts and developments in society long before they actually happen. Then, following his intuition, he puts his sharp rational mind in the forefront for collecting and arranging the information he needs to elucidate and deploy.
This is in accordance with Einstein’s saying that a problem can never be solved on the level of thought that brought it about int he first place. In fact, it’s only through creative thinking and intuition that we can find new solutions to our old problems, because we then relocate the thinker to a higher level of perspective.
This can be seen in the way Capra puts spotlights on trends and philosophical movements of old, to show the potential they had for forging the reigning worldview, or else for shifting that view and preparing the ground for a paradigm shift. For example, Heraclites was one of those enlightened minds who showed us the volatile path of integrated wisdom, but he was not followed. Instead our science was to slavishly follow Aristotle, and in the East, the same happened when Lao-tzu was shunned by Chinese thinkers for giving the preference to the pedantic, moralistic and hair-splitting Confucius.
One important area where the reigning paradigm is presently shifting is psychology. This is only now really apparent, in 2013, where we can count the books written about what today is called energy psychology, but at the time Capra authored The Turning Point, this was unthinkable. Capra explains why the systems view of life will have a profound impact upon psychology, and the way psychology will be taught at university:
As in the new systems biology, the focus of psychology is now shifting from psychological structures to the underlying processes. The human psyche is seen as a dynamic system involving a variety of functions that systems theorists associate with the phenomenon of self-organization. Following Jung and Reich, many psychologists and psychotherapists have come to think of mental dynamics in terms of a flow of energy, and they also believe that these dynamics reflect an intrinsic intelligence—the equivalent of the systems concept of mentation—that enables the psyche not only to create mental illness but also to heal itself. Moreover, inner growth and self-actualization are seen as essential to the dynamics of the human psyche, in full agreement with the emphasis on self-transcendence in the systems view of life./407
In fact, one of Capra’s friends is Stanislav Grof, and with Grof he discussed many of the topics around psychology/psychiatry he writes about. I got this information not only from the huge footnote section in the present book, but also from his insightful book Uncommon Wisdom (Bantam, 1989), in which he published interviews with leading edge personalities from all walks of life, and that stands as an example for Capra’s extraordinary communication abilities, and which I will review further down.
As I have to limit myself in this review to a few topics from the extraordinarily rich array of scientific disciplines Capra reviews in this book, I shall present, as an example, how he summarizes the alternative cancer therapy approach developed by Dr. O. Carl Simonton and his wife, Stephanie Matthews-Simonton. While I have read their book, Getting Well Again (1978/1992), and reviewed it, I got interested in their cancer research because of the information I received about it in the present book:
The popular image of cancer has been conditioned by the fragmented world view of our culture, the reductionist approach of our science, and technology-oriented practice of medicine. Cancer is seen as a strong and powerful invader / that strikes the body from outside. There seems to be no hope of controlling it, and for most people cancer is synonymous with death. Medical treatment—whether radiation, chemotherapy, surgery, or a combination of these—is drastic, negative, and further injures the body. Physicians are increasingly coming to see cancer as a systemic disorder; a disease that has a localized appearance but has the ability to spread, and that really involves the entire body, the original tumor being merely the tip of the iceberg./388-389
What many physicians and mainstream cancer researchers hide or veil is the fact that the strangeness of the current cancer therapy approach has nothing specific about it, and can be well explained, and criticized, by seeing through its mechanistic and inhuman approach to healing, which is not healing in fact, but medical business. And it’s a worldwide and gigantic business, and all the huge profits go in the hand of a few pharmaceutical multinationals that use a league of uncritical doctors as their brave and brainwashed business consultants.
Needless to add that it’s one of the most ethically questionable businesses in the world as it brings about huge misery, and thousands dying every year as a result of the hypnotic spells of doctor-executioners that play the devil’s agent, people who, what now is clear after twenty years of alternative cancer therapy, would not have needed to die in the first place! This is truly scandalous considering the effectiveness of perennial natural healing techniques. Capra writes in more hopeful terms, when he reports the Simonton approach to cancer therapy. But the fact alone that the Simontons are successful in their approach shows with the best possible evidence that they must be right somehow:
One of the main aims of the Simonton approach is to reverse the popular image of cancer, which does not correspond to the findings of current research. Modern cellular biology has shown that cancer cells are not strong and powerful but, on the contrary, weak and confused. They do not invade, attack, or destroy, but simply overproduce. A cancer begins with a cell that contains incorrect genetic information because it has been damaged by harmful substances or other environmental influences, or simply because the organism will occasionally produce an imperfect cell. The faulty information will prevent the cell from functioning normally, and if this cell reproduces others with the same incorrect genetic makeup, the result will be a tumor composed of a mass of these imperfect cells. Whereas normal cells communicate effectively with their environment to determine their optimal size and rate of reproduction, the communication and self-organization of malignant cells are impaired. As a result they grow larger than healthy cells and reproduce recklessly. Moreover, the normal cohesion between cells may weaken and malignant cells may / break loose from the original mass and travel to other parts of the body to form new tumors—which is known as metastasis. In a healthy organism the immune system will recognize abnormal cells and destroy them, or at least wall them off so they cannot spread. But if for some reason the immune system is not strong enough, the mass of faulty cells will continue to grow. Cancer, then, is not an attack from without but a breakdown within. /389-390
What I may add here is that this ‘popular image of cancer’ is not the result of folk wisdom, or folk delusion, but rather of folk hypnosis. The general public knows intuitively very well that what the official rhetoric says about cancer is not true, but what can they do against the medical establishment? Wilhelm Reich was legally murdered by his fellow colleagues, medical doctors who populate the rings of the FDA, in their effort to ruthlessly discard out any approach and any practitioner that does not fit in their business-driven, medical approach that serves to fill the pockets of multinationals and that doesn’t intent heal anybody. What it does is to keep people sick because it’s on the back of sick people, and not on the back of healthy people that it makes its return of investment.
In fact, the public is brainwashed by a medical propaganda that has no parallel in human history and that has put the image of cancer as the ‘killer disease’ in the minds of all and everybody. It is not the common man’s intuition that has created this standard metaphor of the hopeless and passive patient who is ‘innocently executed’ by a terminal disease. It’s a myth, but it could spread like a virus because of the apathy of most consumer-citizens to see through the veil of consume-friendly messages they receive every day in the media, and it’s the price they pay for their eternal passivity to inquiry themselves—for after all there is enough alternative information to be found today on the Internet, and there are many alternative cancer therapies. Capra continues:
The Simontons and other researchers have developed a psychosomatic model of cancer that shows how psychological and physical states work together in the onset of the disease. Although many details of this process still need to be clarified, it has become clear that the emotional stress has two principal effects. It suppresses the body’s immune system and, at the same time, leads to hormonal imbalances that result in an increased production of abnormal cells. Thus optimal conditions for cancer growth are created. The production of malignant cells is enhanced precisely at a time when the body is least capable of destroying them. As far as the personality configuration is concerned, the individual’s emotional states seem to be the crucial element in the development of cancer. The connection between cancer and emotions has been observed for hundreds of years, and today there is substantial evidence for the significance of specific emotional states. These are the result of a particular life history that seems to be characteristic of cancer patients. Psychological profiles of such patients have been established by a number of researchers, some of whom were even able to predict the incidence of cancer with remarkable accuracy on the basis of these profiles./391