Morphic Fields

When scientists venture beyond the conventional scientific wisdom, they are invariably punished by the priests of the scientific establishment. It is this way with all priesthoods. Heresy is severely dealt with to keep everyone in line, and to keep the priests in their place of supremacy. English biologist Rupert Sheldrake is no exception. Sheldrake’s heresy was to propose a theory that went beyond causation and beyond the materialistic, mechanistic framework of conventional science. For this, he was severely punished.

Sheldrake calls his theory “Morphic Resonance.” His specific interest is in the formation of embryos and all living organisms, including crystals, molecules and the universe itself. His starting point with his work was to ask several questions. What are the forces that shape a developing organism, and where are they located? Something is imposing structure and actively shaping, for instance, a cat embryo into the form of a cat. What is it, and where is it? What is providing the marching instructions for the processes that are forming the protoplasm and cells into a cat?

Sheldrake’s answer was his concept of the “Morphic Field.” He postulated that each kind of natural system has its own kind of field, an invisible region of influence that extends in space and continues in time. The organism is formed by the influences of this morphic field, which carries the collective memory and experience of all the past examples of the species. The morphic fields are localized within and around the systems they organize. They are potential organizing patterns of influence, and can appear again physically in other times and places, wherever and whenever the physical conditions are appropriate. So, a morphic field, invisible and filled with life and potentiality, holds the template of the organism. When activated, it produces a new organism that is modeled on that template, a facsimile of the species. In other words, a cat always produces a cat, and never a dog. The morphic field holds the structuring forces.

Sheldrake’s system rests on a form of memory, held in the invisible Field. He says that memory is inherent in the nature of all things. Natural systems inherit a collective memory from all previous things of their kind, however far away they were and however long ago they existed. In the process that he calls “Morphic Resonance,” the invisible morphic fields carry a cumulative memory of the form and habits of the organism, and make it available to new organisms of the same kind. So, nature is subject to the habit-force. Through repetition the nature of things becomes increasingly habitual. New examples of a species or organism take their form because previous examples took that form. An oak seedling grows into a tree with the characteristic shape, structure and habits of an oak. It does so because it inherits its nature from all previous oaks in the past. This presumes a pattern held in the Field, invisibly, that influences and shapes new oaks irrespective of time and space.

What is being suggested here is acausal—that is, it does not rest on cause and effect. Sheldrake is going far beyond the view that the DNA alone dictates the form created for the new organism. He is attempting to account for the emergence of the pattern itself. He is trying to find its source. He makes a nod toward causation with a concept that he calls “Formative Causation.” This is the storage of memories outside our brains in the unmanifest Field. It is not actually causation, however, because no cause and effect linkage can be ascertained. This is because the process is not material, and cause and effect depends on materiality. The process is unmanifest, or rather, emerging from the unmanifest, simply arising out of the invisible, implicate order. Morphic fields cannot be seen and studied as the source of developing forms. This is what so infuriated the scientific establishment. John Maddox, the editor of the scientific journal “Nature,” wrote: “Sheldrake’s argument is an exercise in pseudo-science.” The truth is that Sheldrake’s argument is an exercise in thinking outside the box of conventional science. It dares to venture beyond the Newtonian/Cartesian, materialistic/mechanistic framework of reality, and looks for truth in layers of reality that are not material. The fact that arguments based on immaterial reality cannot be brought into the laboratory and empirically tested does not render them false, if reality is allowed to have multiple layers, some of them unmanifest and in immaterial form.

David Bohm, the quantum physicist, looked at Sheldrake’s ideas of the morphic field and pronounced them compatible with his own ideas of the implicate and explicate orders. These men are lighting our way into a future where science is not limited to the material layer of reality.

It seems that Sheldrake is actually talking directly and rather beautifully about harmonic patterns of Being. His concept of invisible morphic fields holding the templates for the development of organic forms seems to be on all fours with the idea of form held in a patterned way in Unmanifest Being, emerging from implicate to explicate realms as new examples of species. What Sheldrake calls memory can be understood as harmonic patterns, patterns held in Being that are generative and shape physical manifestation. We’re on the cusp of a new world here.

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