Morphic Resonance and Morphic Fields
- The concept of morphic resonance has much in common with the Akashic Record; or quantum physicist David Bohm’s implicate order; or, as Joseph Campbell once suggested, the Hindu concept of maya — the field of space-time that gives birth to the forms of the world.
- Excerpt from Morphic Resonance & Morphic Fields: Collective Memory & the Habits of Nature. Rupert Sheldrake writes:
- “The word morphic comes from the Greek morphe, meaning form. Morphic fields organise the form, structure and patterned interactions of systems under their influence – including those of animals, plants, cells, proteins, crystals, brains and minds. They are physical in the sense that they are part of nature, though they are not yet mentioned in physics books.
- “All self-organising systems are wholes made up of parts which are in turn lower-level wholes themselves – such as organelles in cells, cells in tissues, tissues in organs, organs in organisms, organisms in social groups. At each level, the morphic field gives each whole its characteristic properties, and coordinates the constituent parts.
- “The fields responsible for the development and maintenance of bodily form in plants and animals are called morphogenetic fields.
- “The existence of these fields was first proposed in the 1920s and this concept is widely used within biology. But the nature of these fields has remained obscure.
- “I suggest they are part of a larger family of fields called morphic fields. Other kinds of morphic fields include behavioural and mental fields that organise animal behaviour and mental activity, and social and cultural fields that organise societies and cultures. All of these organising fields are different kinds of morphic field.
- “Morphic fields are located within and around the systems they organise. Like quantum fields, they work probabilistically. They restrict, or impose order upon, the inherent indeterminism of the systems under their influence.
- “For example, of the many direction in which a fish could swim or a bird fly, the social fields of the school or flock restrict the behaviour of the individuals within them so they move in coordination with each other rather than at random.
- “The most controversial feature of this hypothesis is that the structure of morphic fields depends on what has happened before. Morphic fields contain a kind of memory. Through repetition, the patterns they organise become increasingly probable, increasingly habitual. The force these fields exert is the force of habit.
- “Whatever the explanation of its origin, once a new morphic field, a new pattern of organisation, has come into being, the field becomes stronger through repetition. The more often patterns are repeated, the more probable they become.
- “The fields contain a kind of cumulative memory and become increasingly habitual. All nature is essentially habitual. Even what we view as the fixed “laws of nature” may be more like habits, ingrained over long periods of time.
- “The means by which information or an activity-pattern is transferred from a previous to a subsequent system of the same kind is called morphic resonance. Any given morphic system, say a squirrel, “tunes in” to previous similar systems, in this case previous squirrels of its species. Morphic resonance thus involves the influence of like upon like, the influence of patterns of activity on subsequent similar patterns of activity, an influence that passes through or across space and time from past to present. These influences do not to fall off with distance in space or time. The greater the degree of similarity of the systems involved, the greater the influence of morphic resonance.
- “Morphic resonance gives an inherent memory in fields at all levels of complexity. In the case of squirrels, each individual squirrel draws upon, and in turn contributes to, a collective or pooled memory of its kind. In the human realm, this kind of collective memory corresponds to what the psychologist C.G. Jung called the collective unconscious.”
Morphic Fields and the Implicate Order
- Excerpt from Morphic Fields and the Implicate Order: A Dialogue with David Bohm and Rupert Sheldrake.
- David Bohm was an eminent quantum physicist. As a young man he worked closely with Albert Einstein at Princeton University. With Yakir Aharonov he discovered the Aharonov-Bohm effect. He was later Professor of Theoretical Physics at Birkbeck College, London University, and was the author of several books, including Causality and Chance in Modern Physics and Wholeness and the Implicate Order.
- Bohm: But from the point of view of the implicate order, I think you would have to say that this formative field is a whole set of potentialities, and that in each moment there’s a selection of which potential is going to be realized, depending to some extent on the past history, and to some extent on creativity.
- Sheldrake: But this set of potentialities is a limited set, because things do tend towards a particular endpoint. I mean cat embryos grow into cats, not dogs. So there may be variation about the exact course they can follow, but there is an overall goal or endpoint.
- Bohm: But there would be all sorts of contingencies that determine the actual cat.
- Sheldrake: Exactly. Contingencies of all kinds, environmental influences, possibly genuinely chance fluctuations. But nevertheless the endpoint of the chreode would define the general area in which it’s going to end up.
- Bohm: In terms of the totality beyond time, the totality in which all is implicate, what unfolds or comes into being in any present moment is simply a projection of the whole. That is, some aspect of the whole is unfolded into that moment and that moment is just that aspect. Likewise, the next moment is simply another aspect of the whole. And the interesting point is that each moment resembles its predecessors but also differs from them. I explain this using the technical terms ‘injection’ and ‘projection’. Each moment is a projection of the whole, as we said. But that moment is then injected or introjected back into the whole. The next moment would then involve, in part, a re-projection of that injection, and so on in-definitely.
Each moment will therefore contain a projection of the re-injection of the previous moments, which is a kind of memory; so that would result in a general replication of past forms, which seems similar to what you’re talking about.
- Sheldrake: So this re-injection into the whole from the past would mean there is a causal relation
ship between what happens in one moment and what subsequently happens?
- Bohm: Yes, that is the causal relation. When abstracted from the implicate order, there seems to be at least a tendency, not necessarily an exact causal relationship, for a certain content in the past to be followed by a related content in the future.
- Sheldrake: Yes. So if something happens in one place at one time what happens there is then re-injected into the whole.
- Bohm: But it has been somewhat changed; it is not re-injected exactly, because it was previously projected.
- Sheldrake: Yes, it is somewhat changed, but it is fed back into the whole. That can have an influence which, since it is mediated by the whole, can be felt somewhere else. It doesn’t have to be local.
- Bohm: Right, it could be anywhere.
- Sheldrake: Well that does sound very similar to the concept of morphic resonance, where things that happen in the past, even if they’re separated from each other in space and time, can influence similar things in the present, over, through, or across — however one cares to put it — space and time. There’s this non-local connection. This seems to me to be very important because it would mean that these fields have causal (but non-local) connections with things that have happened before. They wouldn’t be somehow inexplicable manifestations of an eternal, timeless set of archetypes. Morphogenetic fields, which give repetitions of habitual forms and patterns, would be derived from previous fields (what you call ‘cosmic memory’). The more often a particular form or field happened, the more likely it would be to happen again, which is what I am trying to express with this idea of morphic resonance and automatic averaging of previous forms.
- Bohm: If we extended quantum mechanics through the implicate order, we would bring in just that question of how past moments have an effect on the present (i.e., via injection and re-projection). At present, physics says the next moment is entirely independent, but with some probability of being such and such. There’s no room in it for the sort of thing you’re talking about, of having a certain accumulated effect of the past; but the implicate order extension of quantum mechanics would have that possibility. And further, suppose somehow I were to combine the implicate order extension of quantum mechanics [which would account for the accumulated effects of the past] with this quantum potential [which would account for these effects being non-local in nature], then I think I would get things very like what you are talking about.
- Sheldrake: Yes, that would be very exciting! Of all the ways I’ve come across I think that’s the most promising way of being able to mesh together these sort of ideas. I haven’t come across any other way which seems to show such possible connections.
- Bohm: If we can bring in time, and say that each moment has a certain field of potentials (represented by the Schrödinger equation) and also an actuality, which is more restricted (represented by the particle itself); and then say that the next moment has its potential and its actuality, and we must have some connection between the actually of the previous moments and the potentials of the next — that would be introjection, not of the wave function of the past, but of the actuality of the past into that field from which the present is going to be projected. That would do exactly the sort of thing you’re talking about. Because then you could build up a series of actualities introjected which would narrow down the field potential more and more, and these would form the basis of subsequent projections. That would account for the influence of the past on the present.
- Sheldrake: Yes, yes.
In the Presence of the Past
- Excerpts from In the Presence of the Past: Interview with Rupert Sheldrake.
- INTERVIEWER RMN: Could you give a specific example of, and describe the morphogenetic process in terms of, the development of a well-established species, like a potato, for example?
- RS: Well, the idea is that each species, each member of a species draws on the collective memory of the species, and tunes in to past members of the species, and in turn contributes to the further development of the species. So in the case of a potato, you’d have a whole background resonance from past species of potatoes, most of which grow wild in the Andes. And then in that particular case, because it’s a cultivated plant, there’s been a development of a whole lot of varieties of potatoes, which are cultivated, and as it so happens potatoes are propagated vegetatively, so they’re clones.
- So each clone of potatoes, each variety, each member of the clone will resonate with all previous members of the clone, and that resonance is against a background of resonance with other members of the potato species, and then that’s related to related potato species, wild ones that still grow in the Andes. So, there’s a whole kind of background resonance, but what’s most important is the resonance from the most similar ones, which is the past members of that variety. And this is what makes the potatoes of that variety develop the way they do, following the habits of their kind.
- Usually these things are ascribed to genes. Most people assume that inheritance depends on chemical genes and DNA, and say there’s no problem, it’s all just programmed in the DNA. What I’m saying is that that view of biological development is inadequate. The DNA is the same in all the cells of the potato, in the shoots, in the roots, in the leaves, and the flowers. The DNA is exactly the same, yet these organs develop differently. So something more than DNA must be giving rise to the form of the potato, and that is what I call the morphic field, the organizing field.
- An example of how you’d test the theory would depend on looking at some change in the species that hadn’t happened before, a new phenomenon, and seeing how it spreads through the species. So, for example, if you train rats to learn a new trick in one place, then rats of that breed should learn it more quickly everywhere in the world, just because the first ones have learned it. The more that learn it, the easier it should get.
- INTERVIEWER DJB: What are morphic fields made of, and how is it that they can exist everywhere all at once? Do they work on a principle similar to Bell’s Theorem?
- RS: Well, you could ask the question, what are any fields made of? You know, what is the electromagnetic field made of, or what is the gravitational field made of? Nobody knows, even in the case of the known fields of physics. It was thought in the nineteenth century that they were made of ether. But then Einstein showed that the concept of the ether was superfluous; he said the electromagnetic field isn’t made out of ether, it’s made out of itself. It just is. The magnetic field around a magnet, for example, is not made of air, and it’s not made of matter. When you scatter iron fillings, you can reveal this field, but it’s not made of anything except the field. And then if you say, well maybe all fields have some common substance, or common property, then that’s the quest for a unified field theory.
- Then if you say, “Well, what is it that all fields are made of?” the only answer that can be given is space-time, or space and time. The substance of fields is space; fields are modifications of space or of the vacuum. And according to Einstein’s general theory of relativity, the gravitational field, the structure of space-time in the whole universe, is not in space and time; it is space-time. There’s no space and time other than the structure of fields. So fields are patterns of space-time. And so the morphic field, like other fields, will be structures in space and time. They have their own kind of ontological status, the same kind of status as electromagnetic and gravitational fields.
- INTERVIEWER DJB: Wait. But those are localized aren’t they? I mean, you sprinkle iron fillings about a magnet, and you can see the field around it. How is it that a morphic field can exist everywhere all at once?
- RS: It doesn’t. The morphic fields are localized. They’re in and around the system they organize. So the morphic field of you is in and around your body. The morphic field around a tomato plant is in and around that plant. What I’m suggesting is that morphic fields in different tomato plants resonate with each other across space and time. I’m not suggesting that the field itself is delocalized over the whole of space and time. It’s suggesting that one field influences another field through space and time. Now, the medium of transmission is obscure. I call it morphic resonance, this process of resonating. What this is replacing in conventional physics is the so-called “laws of nature,” which are believed to be present in all places, and at all times.
- INTERVIEWER RMN: That leads on to the next question I have about how to use the concept of attractors, as expressed in the current research of dynamical systems, in the theory of formative causation.
- RS: Well, the idea of attractors, which is developed in modern mathematical dynamics, is a way of modeling the way systems develop, by modeling the end states toward which they tend. This is an attempt to understand systems by understanding where they’re headed to in the future, rather than just where they’ve been pushed from in the past. So, the attractor, as the name implies, pulls the system towards itself. A very simple, easy-to-understand, example is throwing marbles, or round balls into a pudding basin. The balls will roll round and round, and they’ll finally come to rest at the bottom of the basin. The bottom of the basin is the attractor, in what mathematicians call the basin of attraction.
- The basin is, in fact, their principal metaphor. So the ball rolls down to the bottom. It doesn’t matter where you throw it in, or at what speed you throw it in, or by what route it takes–what this model does is tell you where it’s going to end up. This kind of mathematical modeling is extremely appropriate, I think, to the understanding of biological morphogenesis, or the formation of crystals or molecules, or the formation of galaxies, or the formation of ideas, or human behavior, or the behavior of entire societies. Because all of them seem to have this kind of tendency to move towards attractors, which we think of consciously as goals and purposes. But, throughout the natural world these attractors exist, I think, largely unconsciously. The oak tree is the attractor of the acorn. So the growing oak seedling is drawn towards its formal attractor, its morphic attractor, which is the mature oak tree.
- INTERVIEWER RMN: So, it is like the future in some sense.
- RS: It’s like the future pulling, but it’s not the future. It’s a hard concept to grasp, because what we think of as the future pulling is not necessary what will happen in the future. You can cut the acorn down before it ever reaches the oak tree. So, it’s not as if its future as oak tree is pulling it. It’s some kind of potentiality to reach an end state, which is inherent in its nature. The attractor in traditional language is the entelechy, in Aristotle’s language, and in the language of the medieval scholastics. Entelechy is the aspect of the soul, which is the end which draws everything towards it.
- So all people would have their own entelechy, which would be like their own destiny or purpose. Each organism, like an acorn, would have the entelechy of an oak tree, which means this end state — entelechy means the end which is within it — it has its own end, purpose, or goal. And that’s what draws it. But that end, purpose, or goal is somehow not necessarily in the future. It is in a sense in the future. In another sense it’s not the actual future of that system, although it becomes so.
- INTERVIEWER RMN: Perhaps the most compelling implication of your hypothesis is that nature is not governed by eternally fixed laws but more by habits that are able to evolve as conditions change. In what ways do you think the human experience of reality could be affected as a result of this awareness?
- RS: Well, I think first of all the idea of habits developing along with nature gives us a much more evolutionary sense of nature herself. I think that nature – the entire cosmos, the natural world we live in – is in some sense alive, and that it’s more like a developing organism, with developing habits, than like a fixed machine governed by fixed laws, which is the old image of the cosmos, the old world view.
- Second, I think the notion of natural habits enables us to see how there’s a kind of presence of the past in the world around us. The past isn’t just something that happens and is gone. It’s something which is continually influencing the present, and is in some sense present in the present.
- Thirdly, it [the notion of natural habits] gives us a completely different understanding of ourselves, our own memories, our own collective memories, and the influence of our ancestors, and the past of our society. And it also gives an important new insight into the importance of rituals, and forms through which we connect ourselves with the past, forms in which past members of our society become present through ritual activity. I think it also enables us to understand how new patterns of activity can spread far more quickly than would be possible under standard mechanistic theories, or even under standard psychological theories. Because if many people start doing, thinking, or practicing something, it’ll make it easier for others to do the same thing.
- INTERVIEWER RMN: And the way different discoveries are found simultaneously.
- RS: Yes. I mean, that’s another aspect. It will also mean things that some people do will resonate with others, as in independent discoveries, parallel cultural development, etc.
Stephen Gaskin on Energy and Attention
- “Within each one of us is a spark of God. Some people call it inborn intelligence: a capacity to look out and see something. That capacity is so strong that if you look at someone and you see something in them that you like, you don’t have to say anything, or give them a bouquet or write them a poem or send them a card. If you just see something in them that you like, that thing will become stronger and it will come out at you; and they will do it more for you.”
“Everybody needs attention — it’s a human requirement, just like oxygen and water. The need for it begins as soon as we’re born, and if we don’t get it in a fair way, we’ll learn outlaw habits of getting it. People will do outrageous things to get attention, because it is life force and energy. The reason to be discriminating about what you give your attention to, is to give real help to a person. That’s how we all be each other’s teachers: what we dig in each other, we reinforce.”
- “Paying attention to what we choose to pay it to is probably the greatest freedom we have.”
- “Attention is energy. What you put your attention on, you get more of. Each one of us is a fountain of energy, a valve through which universal life energy is metered into the world, and we can each point our self at whatever we want to. We add life force to our surroundings — to everything we pay attention to. If you put your attention on the best, highest, finest, most beautiful thing that you can, that will be amplified.”
- “We all control what happens in the future by what we pay attention to in the present. If you perceive it to be improving and a groove, it improves and is a groove.”
- “If you see that something should be a way, assume it’s going to be that way.”
- “If you but know it, in your highest and your finest and your most honest places in your own heart, God is speaking to you. Even now. All the time, in your highest and finest places.”
- “…Rather than figuring it out, and saying, “Is this right?” or “Where would this be in the light of contemporary philosophy?” — that first flash is your best bet. I try to trust myself and trust myself until I can just move on that first flash.”
- “If we all moved together in our interaction on that first flash, we would be incredibly fast and smart. If every time you asked a question, the next thing that came back was the answer instead of “Huh?” or if they just said, “I don’t know,” and let you clear the circuit to do the next thing — if we just all answered honestly and correctly the first time, it would be so easy, so incredibly fast and smart — we would just be fabulous.”
- “You have to learn to trust your mind — don’t try to force it and push it in various ways. The more you trust it and the more you let it run on its automatic pilot, the faster and smarter and heavier it gets. It lets you out when you trust it. It’s a good one — trust it.
- “Any time something is hard for you to do, bring yourself to bear; pay attention to it. Concentrate yourself. Come on to it with all your energy focused. That’s all karate and breaking bricks is — is having all your attention focused when you hit. You can break bricks if your attention is focused. If your attention is not focused and the swing is the same, you might break your hand.”
- “One of the reasons for the spiritual practice of non-attachment—trying not to be personally attached about your thing, or pain or whatever happens to you — is so that you school yourself so that nothing can happen to you from the outside that can make you lose your energy, because as long as you have your energy on, you can do it.”
- “There isn’t really supposed to be an intermediary between you and God; although some religions teach the necessity of an intermediary. Some religions think of Jesus as a gateman to Heaven — who you have to get straight with before you can go in — instead of being the spiritual vibration itself, which if you are in contact with, you automatically become in contact with Heaven — and if you’re in good enough shape to touch it, it will touch you back.”
- “You have to be sure you’re not pretending to don’t be confident so that nobody will think you’re on a trip. Some people go around pretending that they don’t know where it’s at so that nobody will think they’re on a trip, when they do sometimes really know where it’s at. But they don’t really know where it’s at because they pretend not to. If you’re doing a good thing, swing on; get heavy.”
- “God is not separate from the Universe. God is only One. The Universe itself is God’s mind; and the flow of everything is God’s thoughts. And praying to us really means to try to be an intelligent synapse in God’s mind, a synapse that is not going to trigger for violence, no matter what. Love, connect. And we affect the mind of God by being free will synapses.”