One of the biggest non science works of physics books in my view. On a par, or even better, than Tao of Physics, and even better than the Quantum Society/Self. As you have so not guessed it, this is the 40th anniversary of the famous book – one even physicists recommend! The Dancing Wu Li Masters was released on 28th March 1979 to great acclaim. The first publishers were William Morrow and there was more to the whole shebang than the one Big Week at Big Sur. There’s been many reprints and editions in the forty years however it seems the last printing was in 2009.
The book was written by one who isn’t a scientist or physicist by the way and this is Gary Zukav. In Dancing Wu Li Masters (my edition if not yours) on a page all on its own its says ‘Gary Zukav was educated at Harvard. He now lives in San Francisco, California. He is not a physicist.’ Exactly!
Whether one was supposed to read the book’s title as Dancing Woolly Masters is another part of the story and its been said in many a jest when people have been discussing the book – but its not an aspect of this seminal work I shall be looking at this time round. This post is by the way about Zukav’s fantastic book – but also a whole pile of other things directly related or perhaps not so directly related to the book – and the general direction of what it means to be a Wu Li master.
Zukav is a guru of sorts, a bit like M. Scott Peck and others, who have extolled quite different ways of looking at life and featured a number of times on Oprah. Zukav by the way has the most guest appearances on her show and Oprah herself has a copy of Zukav’s other work, The Seat of the Soul. As opposed to M. Scott Peck’s The Road Less Travelled, Zukav’s work should probably be subtitled ‘The Road That Should Be More Travelled.’
Gary Zukav with Oprah on her show. She has a copy of his The Seat of the Soul. Video here. Its actually a very nice video to watch, full of Gary’s insightful thoughts.
The title of the book comes from the notion that Wu Li means physics (or patterns of organic energy) and those two words arose during a week’s residency in Big Sur during 1976 where both A1 Chung-liang Huang, a T’ai Chi master, and David Finkelstein were in attendance. The topics soon turned to towards the eastern concepts of physics and it was A1 Huang who informed Zukav and Finkelstein the Chinese for physics was Wu Li.
In fact in his book Zukav is ultimately telling us a Wu Li master is one who dances with physics (or if you prefer the nature of world itself because the world is entirely of physics – such as particles, uncertainty, spin, dimension, order, chaos, and the rest of it, whilst a physicist is simply one who has been instructed to certain things therefore they are not people who actually discover new things but sort of turn the wheels as expected and discover rather fixed concepts that are construed as new.
This is important. As someone with a disability who has met an enormous range of people of all denominations and political belief, I find practically everyone of these are mechanical, no matter how much their niceness they are robots, they are not individuals. What is interesting is no matter how, or what kind of thing they believe they all come up with something interesting and that is the desire to discriminate against me, sometimes very violently, and its even those who advocate great equality. As a socialist I even find most socialists not even socialist but following a robotic creed where they think in a certain way, thinking themselves superior (just like capitalists) and the rest of it. They exploit/hate my disability. And that is why, as a socialist I must reject that doctrine just as I do capitalism (and those towards the extremes on the left or the right.)
That is why society is in a mess. For people like me its just far too limited in concept and scope and quality of mind/insight. People have been doing this sort of stuff for centuries (Socrates, Rousseau, Leibnitz and others) trying to show others how they can improve/elevate their state of consciousness (we can go into stuff like Maslow’s self actualising persons which is a bit like what Zukav espouses in his other books or others, such as Roger Waters are espousing, eg, the authentic self, but I think it misses the essence of what we are discussing here.)
The rate of improvement in society is extremely slow. The Bishop of London once said that it takes a hundred years for a new idea or new belief to really take hold. That is true but there’s also a problem in that reasoning because when people do finally believe something its pretty hard for them to shake off their beliefs.
Holding up my copy of Dancing Wu Li Masters for the camera!
For my university thesis I even wrote on a very difficult subject – how quantum physics and mysticism could be traced back much further in time than the 19th and 20th Centuries. Some of you will say ‘aha that was Leibniz!’ His monadology for example. Yes it was but there was far more than just him. The thesis flew in the face of several of my lecturers but at least they were impressed by my efforts and I managed to get a 2:1 🙂
The big mistake (for me at least) is that so many lead their thoughts into conclusions. We can accept new ideas but in my view these should only be stepping stones and not a final sort of anything – and if there is anything suspect about this or any other ideas or motives then they should be rejected out of hand immediately because they will be exactly what one doesn’t want. And by that I mean we need to learn from history properly – not keep forgetting what history had showed us in the first place.
This is why relativity excites me and stuff beyond this – such as Heisenberg, Feynmann, Randall, Greene, even the famous and most likeable Brian Cox. Even string theory has its appeal. The way Lisa Randal explains gravity in her book Warped Passages is just so fascinating (this is string theory by the way and explains how gravity’s weakness is strong at certain points etc) and one can sort of see how society’s malignant influences work – don’t forget its all to do with quantum physics too but most would rather see things in a classical sense even though its particles zapping around in near Planck limits at billions of miles per hour that holds each and every one of our bodies together!
To me, this Wu Li stuff is miles better than anything else. A political party conference is just dead even though everyone is cheering all the speakers on and hoping for a ‘new revolution in politics.’ Most in Government are just fake, vain, robotic beings. We might as well all be brains in a vat or dutiful processors in a Chinese Room with no proper sense of reality or far worse flying a plane through clouds and then entering a huge stadium with all manner of symbolism and little else – because everyone there is marching, flying flags, banners and are simply clones who believe in one singular, limiting, ideology.
Searle’s Chinese Room. Source: Ohio State University
Its also better than the very fake and vain lives many have and even that increasingly insidious act of cutting other lives short with the flash of a blade or the pull of a trigger or the drop of a bomb or a forced indoctrination into a particular institution – or by express control from the police, armies, parliaments, or other types of stultification exercised by retrograde humans, where a certain philosophy and a certain mind is exercised over others and certain powers and conquests can be exercised – some of the many infinitely backwards aspects in what some of us like to describe as ‘modern society.’ No doubt some of you will have somewhat experienced the rather nefarious forms of some of this crap in the shit show we call Brexit.
Society is not in any sense even remotely modern for me. I mean I do have my views of policing and knife crime and contrively elected people shouting their mouths off in the chambers of Parliament and many other matters but if I write these down – those with a pestilence for such necessary and desired backward times will be hot on my heels calling me ‘fuckwit’ (a certain Met officer) or ‘fuck you, fuck you’ dozens of times over in emails (a certain magazine editor) as has actually been done to me (and its some famous people too) …. its sad such specimens of human beings are around to collapse the wave function in a certain way whether we like it or not. I use that term in the same sense as in physics but also in my own way to describe how people act, and its this process which in fact prevents many becoming truly enlightened.
So what this means is most people who are knowledgeable or expert – it doesn’t matter what they do/believe in/practice – they are simply a technician as Zukav says – they are robotic, they are not in any sense any sort of Wu Li master.
What is the whole point then of reading The Dancing Wu Li Masters? Well if one wants to be enlightened then Zukav’s book is a good starting point. If you’ve read enough physics then you’ll know the universe isn’t what its made out to be, but on the other hand Dancing Wu Li Masters is a sort of refresher course without the complexities. I mean once you understand things like wave-particle duality or uncertainty, you don’t need an expressively technical way of having these described once again, your mind will easily connect the dots once again and one will remember why its important to have an open mind even though they have connected these dots up.
And if one wants to take this sort of enhanced congizance further then there’s Seat of the Soul – or Maslow or Fromm or many others, like Parfitt’s Reasons and Persons, Berger and Luckmann’s Social Construction of Reality, or even Robot & Meaning – if you can find one – I do have my copy of this very little known book which predates Wu Li by a few years.
We have so many holes in our brains and so many blind spots in our congizance, that I’m not interested in falling hook line and sinker for the usual crap and not even interested in the act of setting up an institution or particular line of thought to which everyone will happily subscribe for an inordinate and insensible amount of time.
That is going right off the point however this is of course in a large essence what Zukav is trying to show. That our concepts are very limited. He doesn’t even number the chapters in his book for a start. I mean, what’s the point? Every chapter is actually numbered as one. Its not to say that numbers are boring but they are misleading. Very misleading. Anyone postulating a particular point is very often someone who misleads. Their stuff is click bait (or conversation bait if you like.) Ulterior objectives. Outposts in other people’s minds. And this is the whole point. The idea of this new age/quantum physics/philosophy stuff is not to be bamboozled by the usual crap but go well beyond it – far in excess of present cognizance limits – in fact become a potential Wu Li master.
The reviews on the back of the book. Note the price – this was, yes, in 1984!
What is actually happening when chapters are numbered (as opposed to the endless Chapter ones in the book) is that people can refer exactly to certain sections or certain ranges of reference. In the case of my book if I wanted to allude to a certain page or reference it was simply a case of having to flick the pages until I thought I was about at the particular chapter where the reference would appear and then work a little bit forward or backwards through a number of pages to find that reference. The only other way was to refer to the page numbers themselves.
My only big regret is perhaps that Zukav did not number his pages all as zero or one! That would have been brilliant. Maybe there could have been some other procedure to find exactly the page you wanted – such as throwing the book across the room and observing the exact page it had landed on lol! (Though that’s more into the Zen/Buddhist way of thinking than Zukav thinking and at this point I should really be alluding to Alan Watts or the Tao.)
This is Chapter four (although its written as Chapter one as are the rest in the book.)
Definitive references are a plus but they are also a bugbear because the mind can become obsessive and repetitive with such detail (and walls and boundaries and wars formulate very easily from this) and for me that is just so extremely boring that people would seek destruction as a means of solving problems (exactly the same as it is having to write in this language, English, whatever, because again its limited and its not giving me enough tools with which to undertake this particular task properly – without any recourse to collapsing into definitive categories or ascribed conclusions and the rest of it – and its back to the Chinese Room!)
So it falls that society does not give people enough tools with which to progress. The biggest hurdle to this is that society has ways and means that are in fact the crappiest and most shitty tools ever seen!
I must admit that I too rely on definitive references (although in the end I just throw these papers or books across the room and use the landed pages as a starting point of reference lol.)
Actually no matter what the book was, or its subject matter, most of my books have their own indexes. In the days I was a bookworm I used to read through books carefully and note every little detail for referring to at a later date. Some of my books ended up with two or three pages of these indexes. Mine for Dancing Wu Li Masters thankfully came to just one page:
My own index for Dancing Wu Li Masters – written about 35 years ago.
Albert Einstein was one person who didnt like the new physics. That is true, this was during the days of the EPR experiments. Albert was a man with great insight and exceedingly unique ways of thinking out problems. A rare genius and I have many books on Einstein and his work and life that inspire me, and in many ways he could be said to be a Wu Li master.
The only small problem there was he thought relativity – despite its quite relativistic concepts (clocks running faster or slower depending on where one is and the rest of it) was at least a fixed and considerably immutable notion of how the universe worked because there was a limit to it all (the famous ‘C.’) And thus the reason ‘god’ does not play with dice.
The poor guy soon discovered his favourite subject was nothing but. During the EPR experiments he found problems with something called ‘spooky action at a distance,’ that sort of thing. He could see that particles seemed to act in a way that denoted they were communicating at speeds faster than light.
Zukav’s spot on! Obviously Einstein himself couldn’t keep up on how things changed!
Einstein didnt like this. He said light doesnt go faster than 186,000 miles per second – and that therefore must be the maximum speed in the whole universe. There are many problems with that concept but let’s not enter into these for now. The EPR experiments were showing somehow things did work at speeds in excess of that maximum limit. (There are some plausible answers being offered for this instance now but still a little tenacious.) Albert wanted a finalised notion of science and a total theory of everything – and he wasn’t getting that.
But let’s face it no-one has ever devised an exact and concise theory of anything let’s be honest about that. For a start on a most simplistic level even the most perfect things soon suffer from something we know as entropy. Or in terms of radiation its called half life (otherwise a special form of decay…) In terms of my own blog (and others too and many websites, media sites, You Tube too no doubt) we all suffer from something called link-rot… as well as the usual human failings such as making mistakes, getting a Dark Star scenario, or simply getting ill and even becoming deceased…
What we can see is anything is invariably due to self destruct, fail in an amazingly instantaneous moment (‘just like that’) or simply go rotten, decompose, give up, run out of space etc. In my view therefore its wrong to hold fixed ideas and believe that everything is immutable and that nothing changes. Yes ‘nothing changes’ but that is because we don’t change our preconceptions enough to see that there have been changes and things are not the same as they were. And when we find out its all been a big mistake armies collate on both sides of the border and the bombs drop and humans posture for supremacy and…. well you know what I mean!
Where I and Zukav perhaps differ is the spiritualism aspect. Spiritualism is important but in my view its not the end all to everything. For me there is nothingness (which to many means different things depending on how far one want’s to expand the scope of understanding this concept) and nothingness doesn’t have an answer therefore spiritualism isn’t a thing in my view except in a very temporal and extremely limited sense.
A perhaps more popular cover of the famous book.
When I read Dancing Wu Li Masters for the first time in the 1980s I was very impressed by Zukav’s way of describing matters at hand, however when it came to his other later works I somewhat took a step back as these were more focused on spiritualism. Although his books are a pleasure to read and there is nothing wrong with the subject of spiritualism (I have loads on that subject too) its just the risk of collapsing into a certain frame of mind, sort of going beyond the Schwarzschild radius – in other words a point from where there is plausibly little chance of any return to one’s previous existence or current state of mind or expanding one’s horizons in a new and completely different way.
If anyone has been following my blog in any way or any form, perhaps they will have seen the ‘About’ pages on the blog – it will be noticed I have always written these in a sort of Wu Li Masters/Eastern mysticism/quantum physics sense.
Enough of the lecturing! Except none of it was lecturing. It was just thoughts and ideas that I wrote about and none of it I expect anyone to believe – not even for one second.
If anyone would like to read The Dancing Wu Li Masters, then they will do their best to head for the number of web pages that can be found via Google giving links to full PDF copies of the book.
This does not necessarily have to be done today or tomorrow – one can always read the news, do a bit of blogging, indulge in a bit of click baiting on Londonist, view a few newly released You Tubes, go for a walk in the park, get crushed in the manic rush hour on London’s underground – or at worst read the Standard on the latest lies and shit coming out of Crossrail’s expensively contrived theatrics…
There are several sources on the internet that have full and free PDF copies of The Dancing Wu Li Masters but if anyone is worried about legitimacy, go for the versions found at the Internet Archive. The only difference is this doesn’t have the nice front cover that features on the book, but then what does one expect? Its the reading and the learning that does it – not the front cover!