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