Nature Loves to Hide: Quantum Physics and Reality, a Western Perspective

Nature Loves to Hide: Quantum Physics and Reality, a Western Perspective

By Shimon Malin
New York: Oxford University Press, 2001. Hardback, xvi + 288 pages.

Science has always been an integral part of the Theosophical Society. It is part of the Second Object and finds support in the Mahatmas Letters: "Modern science is our best ally." A quick perusal of our past literature and lectures shows that, as a Society, we have always shown an interest in modern science.

In 1975 Fritjof Capra changed the public face of panicle physics by publishing a perennial best seller entitled The Tao of PhysicsOn November 5, 1977, the Society brought Capra to its national center, "Olcott," for a weekend seminar. That was also the beginning of the Theosophical Research. Institute (TRI), which continued for a time.

What made Capra's book so compelling was his pointing out the parallels between Eastern mystical thought and some of the new concepts in quantum and relativity theory. Eventually, he concludes that particle physics and Eastern mysticism converged. After Capra's book, a number of others extended the subject, one of the better ones being Gary Zukav's work, The Dancing Wu Li Masters.

Once the initial excitement of Capra's book had passed, the scientific community, with a collective yawn, seemed to revert to business as usual and moved on to other interesting subjects like black holes and string theory. As coeditor of the TRI Journal, I found this somewhat frustrating since we were unable to convince orthodox scientist to continue this line of study.

The only other book that generated some excitement was Amit Goswani’s work, The Self-Aware Universe: How Consciousness Creates the Material WorldIt had a provocative tide but was unconvincing to most of my scientific friends who read it. The Theosophical Society has published another of Goswani's books, The Visionary Window: A Quantum Physicist’s Guide to EnlightenmentHere the tide presents an even bigger challenge, and I'm afraid the scientific community has still avoided this whole area.

Now comes Shimon Malin's new book, which just may have a chance of being read and taken seriously in the orthodox scientific community. Why is this? The book is more difficult- to read than those mentioned above. It makes you think, even in its lighter passages. It covers a wide range of authors, including Plato, Plotinus, Bohr, Schrodinger, Whitehead, and Heisenberg. And yet there is something about this book that most scientists will accept. After some thought, I have decided I know what that is.

While editor of the TRI Journal, I found that many orthodox scientists did not like to involve themselves with the vocabulary of the East". As soon as words like "karma," "Oneness," "Vishnu," and so on entered the discourse, interest waned. What did Malin do to avoid this? Look at his subtitle- his book is a "Western Perspective." He has used Western vocabulary, and his explanations are clear and simple, even though the topics are quite difficult. The few places he felt the need to include mathematical arguments, he has relegated them to appendices. Even there, they are presented with humor and clarity.

I noticed on the book's jacket that Ravi Ravindra had given a positive review of its content and message. Since Ravindra was the Professor and Chair of Comparative Religion, Professor of International Development Studies, and Adjunct Professor of Physics at Dalhousie University, he has the credentials to evaluate the hook. However, Ravindra is also a long-time and influential member of the Theosophical Society. He has given many talks and conducted many workshops for the Society. I was not surprised when I got to page 227 to find Malin mentioning his "good friend from Nova Scotia, the physicist and philosopher, Ravi Ravindra."

Malin's book repeats much of the same material that Capra and Zukav covered, but does so without Eastern vocabulary and hence the need for a reader unfamiliar with Eastern religions to learn a new background. Instead, Malin relies solely on philosophers and scientists of the West to convey his arguments. Whenever he needs to slip into the subjective, he uses two fictional characters, Peter and Julie, to convey his message. In some ways they are the right brain and left brain of text.

An important part of Malin's effort is to introduce what he calls the Subject of Cognizance. Without this, we have a dead image of a living universe. Simply put, "all scientific evidence is based on human experiences; the human mind is the ultimate measuring apparatus. Yet the nature of the Subject of Cognizance is never raised as a scientific issue."


January/February 2003