There is a critical point when a habit, as Dr. Rupert Sheldrake here describes, stabilizes and extends its influence non-locally via morphic resonance through a morphic field. While there is much more to learn about and of considerable value in his theory of morphic resonance than that alone, to me, this aspect is greatly empowering knowledge and why I feel his work is so important. For, “Morphic Resonance” is not just a brilliant hypothesis, its understanding can favorably influence one’s own evolution, and thus contribute to the evolution of all of humankind and beyond.
For example: You know you are doing, thinking, the right thing; that which genuinely serves the self, the family, the community, the nation and thus the whole of humanity (and so on) yet you feel you have no influence or support. Or worse, your social and economic position, your safety even, is imperiled by ignorance, greed or corrupt forces in response to your highest efforts. Regardless, your conduct, even how you spend your time privately, spend your money, the nature and quality of your thoughts, contribute or not to the greater good beyond measure.
The genuinely divinely influenced intention accesses a powerful wave, so to speak – a powerful creative force. And, the more it serves, the more creative force is thus provided. Of course, there have always been seemingly good intentions that have inflicted pain and suffering. Pain and suffering have nothing to do with the Divine. The Divine force is creative, not destructive. Know that there are others, many others, both locally and non-locally, seemingly ordinary and famous people alike, people you know and people you’ve never met, non-physical beings even, who share your higher purpose and intentions and these intentions influence others naturally, peacefully; not through economic or brute force or manmade laws. Thus, they along with you through mutual resonance contribute to the evolution, the salvation even, of all of humanity though the effects are not immediately physiologically perceptible. This Divine force can be thought of as wave-like and infinite in extent and possibilities. Regardless of its transcendent and obscured from the ordinary senses Presence it is nonetheless accessible for it is everywhere.
Alfred Rupert Sheldrake (born 28 June 1942), through his scientific understanding and experience as a biochemist (he’s also a philosopher, parapsychology researcher, public speaker and author of several books) gives us an intelligent, and potentially verifiable, view of this powerfully creative force which he refers to as morphic resonance through morphic fields.
Note: His books are mentioned throughout the piece below and a link to his website along with two excellent talks he has given on “Morphic Resonance” are posted at the bottom of this page. In this piece I have included additional information for the reader unfamiliar with or wanting a review of his theory, and for those with little background in cellular biology.
This written work [below] is derived from Rupert Sheldrake’s own description of his theory of “Morphic Resonance” as it appears on his website:
Morphic Resonance and Morphic Fields
In the hypothesis of formative causation, (the development and maintenance of forms (both biological and behavioral in plants, animals and systems) is discussed in detail in Rupert Sheldrake’s books A New Science of Life and The Presence of the Past . The author proposes that information about the past, memory, is inherent in nature. Most of the so-called laws of nature are more like habits. Current species’ forms are the result of their previous forms and the information about those previous forms are stabilized in a field due to repetition (repeated in subsequent generations and amongst increasing numbers of the same species). How stabilized and repeatable in the future the form will be (its decendents) depends on the frequency of successful repetition in the past and how favorable to those forms is the current environment.
Sheldrake’s interest in evolutionary habits arose when he was engaged in research in developmental biology, and was reinforced by reading Charles Darwin’s, The Origin of Species, for whom the habits of organisms were of central importance.
Morphic Fields in Biology
Over the course of fifteen years of research on plant development, Sheldrake came to the conclusion that for understanding the development of plants, their morphogenesis (the shaping of organisms from seed, or embryo, to adult form – cellular differentiation) genes and gene products [proteins] are not enough. For, morphogenesis also depends on organizing fields. The same arguments apply to the development of animals. Since the 1920s many developmental biologists have proposed that biological organization depends on fields, variously called biological fields, or developmental fields, or positional fields, or morphogenetic fields. These fields can be thought of as invisible, pre-existing, complex holograph-like maps within which matter hierarchically differentiates: from quarks to atoms, then to molecules, to organelles [intracellular organs], to cells, then organs, to whole species [humans, bumble bees, orchids, etc.], then societies of same or similar species, and onward including celestial species [as in planets, stars, galaxies, galaxy clusters], and so on.
All cells come from other cells through cellular division processes: from the initial stem (generic) cells to specialized cells (as in heart, central nervous system [neurons], bone cells, etc.) ultimately differentiating (self-organizing) into a whole and complex organism. In humans, the initial stem cells following fertilization are about 600 in number prior to differentiation. All cells, like all the other hierarchically greater structures, according to Sheldrake, inherit organizing fields, morphic fields of organization. Genes (DNA molecules) do play an essential role but, they do not explain the organizing, the differentiation, processes.
Thanks to molecular biology, we know what genes do. They enable organisms to make particular proteins. Other genes are involved in controlling the process of protein production [called protein synthesis]. Within cells, during early developmental processes, identifiable specific genes are switched on then ultimately, outside the cells nucleus, particular proteins are synthesized through a series of processes involving, for example: RNA transcription (copying, or transcribing, specifically identified genes within the nucleus), then ribosomes and amino acids etc., in the fluidic cytoplasm outside the nucleus. Some of these developmental switch genes, like the Hox genes in fruit flies, worms, fish and mammals, are very similar. In evolutionary terms, Hox genes are highly conserved. A highly conserved gene is a gene that is similar or sometimes identical across species. Therefore switching on genes such as these cannot in itself determine form, otherwise fruit flies would not look different from humans.
Many organisms exist but as free cells, including many yeasts, bacteria and amoebas. Some form complex mineral skeletons, as in diatoms and radiolarians. Below is a modern microscopic image along with an artistic rendering of radiolarians produced in the nineteenth century by Ernst Haeckel.
Images source: [including microtubule and the beaver dam below]: Wikipedia
Just making the right proteins at the right times cannot explain the complex skeletons of such organism’s structures without many other forces, other than genes, coming into play; such as the organizing activity of cellular membranes and microtubules.
Most developmental biologists accept the need for a holistic or integrative conception of living organization. Otherwise biology will go on floundering, even drowning, in oceans of data as yet more genomes are sequenced, genes are cloned, and proteins are characterized.
Sheldrake suggests that morphogenetic fields work by supplying patterns on what would otherwise be but random or indeterminate patterns of activity. For example, they cause microtubules to crystallize in parts of the cell even though the microtubule subunits, from which they are constructed, are present throughout the cell. To elaborate further (for they are fascinating): microtubules are filamentous once having crystalized into long tubular structures that are responsible for various intracellular processes in all eukaryotic cells characteristic of almost all life forms excluding some primitive organisms, like bacteria. Microtubules assemble, disassemble, then reassemble depending upon their various intracellular functions. For example, they are involved in nuclear and cellular division, the organization and maintaining of intracellular structure (forming a skeletal structure referred to as a cytoskeleton), and intracellular transport (acting as tracks on which membrane enclosed vesicles, like little balloons, can transport cellular products such as cellular waste, food, and neurotransmitters (amongst neurons). Microtubules are critical to the existence of all eukaryotic cells which, by the way, are more complex, evolved, than prokaryotic cells due to their internal membrane enclosed organelles (cellular organs) especially the nucleus.
Morphogenetic fields are not fixed forever but evolve, Sheldrake claims. The morphogenetic fields of Afghan hounds and poodles have become different from those of their common ancestors, wolves. How are these fields inherited? Sheldrake proposes that they are transmitted from past members of the species through a kind of non-local resonance, called morphic resonance. Non-local as in information, through resonance, like a wave, travels through space and time and, this transference of information is not detectible, or measurable, as in light, or sound waves, through current means of detection but is nonetheless observable by its effects, as in the case of gravity.
The fields organizing the activity of the central nervous systems [brains and spinal cords] of species are likewise inherited through morphic resonance conveying a collective, instinctive memory (thus their intuitive behavior – like a spider weaving its web). Each individual both draws upon and contributes to the collective memory of the whole of the species. This also means that new patterns of behavior can spread more rapidly than would otherwise be possible (given its increased resonance due to greater species’ participation). For example, if rats of a particular breed learn a new trick at Harvard, then rats of that breed should be able to learn the same trick faster all over the world, say in Edinburgh and Melbourne. There is already evidence from laboratory experiments (discussed in Sheldrake’s book A New Science of Life) that this actually happens.
Sheldrake believes that the field resonance of a brain with its own past states also helps to explain the memories of individual animals and humans. And, that there is no need for all memories to be “stored” inside the brain.
This may help explain the discovery, due to MRI technologies, persons who function normally, and in some cases above average, yet, it is observed that they have no brains. This fact is mentioned twice elsewhere on this MFA site. Here below, is a scan of such a brain compared to a normal one:
Social groups are likewise organized by fields, as in schools of fish and flocks of birds. Human societies have memories that are transmitted through the culture of the group, and are most explicitly communicated through the ritual re-enactment of a founding story or myth, as in the Jewish Passover celebration, the Christian Holy Communion and the American Thanksgiving dinner, through which the past becomes present through a kind of resonance with those who have performed the same rituals before.
I believe that this aspect of Sheldrake’s hypothesis may significantly contribute to the understanding of much of collective human activity; favorable or unfavorable (as in groupthink). – L.T.
Nature Has a Memory
From the point of view of the hypothesis of morphic resonance, there is no need to suppose that all the laws of nature sprang into being fully formed at the moment of the Big Bang, like a kind of cosmic Napoleonic code, or that they exist in a metaphysical realm beyond space-time.
Before the general acceptance of the Big Bang theory in the 1960s, eternal, unchanging, laws seemed to make sense. The universe itself was thought to be eternal and stationary, and evolution was confined to the biological realm. But we now know that we live in a radically evolutionary universe.
If we want to stick to the idea of natural laws, we could say that as nature itself evolves and the laws of nature also evolve, just as human civic laws evolve over time. But then how would natural laws be remembered or enforced? Sheldrake feels that the law metaphor is embarrassingly anthropomorphic whereas habits are less human-centered. Many kinds of organisms have habits, but only humans have laws. The habits of nature depend on non-local [not locally confined] similarity [repetition] reinforcement, thus stability. Through morphic resonance the patterns of activity in self-organizing systems are influenced by same or similar patterns in the past, giving each species and each kind of self-organizing system a collective memory.
I believe that the natural selection of habits will play an essential part in any integrated theory of evolution, including not just biological evolution, but also physical, chemical, cosmic, social, mental and cultural evolution (as discussed in The Presence of the Past). This concept, I feel, is his most important contribution. – L.T.
Habits are subject to natural selection; and the more often they are repeated, the more probable they come into being and stabilize, all other things (as in environmental conditions) being equal. Animals inherit the successful habits of their species as instincts (as in beavers knowing instinctively how to build a dam). We humans inherit bodily, emotional, mental and cultural habits, including the habits of our languages.
Fields of the Mind – Telepathy
Morphic fields underlie our mental activity and our perceptions, and lead to a new theory of vision, as discussed in Sheldrake’s book The Sense of Being Stared At. The existence of these fields is experimentally testable through the sense of being stared at itself. There is already much evidence that this sense really exists. Read about the results of the online staring experiment conducted through Sheldrake’s website.
The morphic fields of social groups connect together members of the group even when they are many miles apart, and provide channels of communication through which organisms can stay in touch at a distance. They help provide an explanation for telepathy. There is now good evidence that many species of animals are telepathic, and telepathy seems to be a normal means of animal communication, as discussed in his book titled Dogs That Know When Their Owners are Coming Home. Telepathy is normal not paranormal, natural not supernatural, and is also common between people, especially people who know each other well.
In the modern world, the commonest kind of human telepathy occurs in connection with telephone calls. More than 80% of the population say they have thought of someone for no apparent reason, who then called; or that they have known who was calling before picking up the phone in a way that seems telepathic. Controlled experiments on telephone telepathy have given repeatable positive results that are highly significant statistically, as summarized in The Sense of Being Stared At and described in detailed technical papers which you can read on Rupert Sheldrake’s website [see link below].
Sheldrake’s Online Telepathy Test
Telepathy also occurs in connection with emails, and anyone who is interested can now test how telepathic they are in the online telepathy test again, on Sheldrake’s website.
The morphic fields of mental activity are not confined to the insides of our heads. They extend far beyond our brain though intention and attention. We are already familiar with the idea of fields extending beyond the material objects in which they are rooted: for example magnetic fields extend beyond the surfaces of magnets; the Earth’s gravitational field extends far beyond the surface of the Earth, keeping the moon in its orbit; and the fields of a cell phone stretch out far beyond the phone itself. Likewise the fields of our minds extend far beyond our brains.
Morphic Fields: A Summary
The hypothesized properties of morphic fields at all levels of complexity can be summarized as follows:
- They are self-organizing wholes as, for example, in cellular differentiation [biology] or the emergence of planetary systems [cosmology].
- They have both a spatial and a temporal [space-time] aspect, and organize spatio-temporal patterns of vibratory or rhythmic activity, or resonance – morphic resonance.
- They attract the systems under their influence towards characteristic forms and patterns of activity, whose coming-into-being they organize and whose integrity, or stability, they maintain. The ends or goals towards which morphic fields attract the systems under their influence are called attractors. The pathways by which systems usually reach these attractors are called chreodes (a probable, or likely pathway).
As an aside, attractors are also an aspect of chaos theory and I have included a link to an excellent, not to be ignored, chaos theory video below.
- They interrelate and co-ordinate the morphic units or holons (hologram units) that lie within them, which in turn are wholes organized by morphic fields. Morphic fields contain other morphic fields within them (as in the morphic field of a molecule within an organelle, within a cell, then an organ, and onward) in a nested hierarchy or holarchy (staying with the hologram concept).
- They are structures of probability, and their organizing activity is probabilistic.
- They contain a built-in memory given by self-resonance with a morphic unit’s own past and by morphic resonance with all previous similar systems. This memory is cumulative. The more often particular patterns of activity are repeated, the more habitual (thus stable) they tend to become.
Along with a link to Sheldrake’s official website below are two links to two videos of Rupert Sheldrake discussing his “Morphic Resonance” hypothesis.
Rupert Sheldrake’s website:
The Sixth Sense:
Rupert Sheldrake: Morphogenesis – A New Science of Life
Also of interest:
The Strange New Science of Chaos Theory (one of the best videos I’ve seen describing chaos theory):