Rupert Sheldrake, one of the world’s most innovative biologists and writers, is best known for his theory of morphic fields and morphic resonance, which leads to a vision of a living, developing universe with its own inherent memory. See his official website at:
And his new and interesting video site, Sheldrake TV
Rupert will answer your questions on the GrahamHancock.com messageboards. Please share your questions with Rupert Sheldrake on his thread on the messageboards. Once we've collected the questions, we will send him the best 10, then we'll post them up here with Rupert Sheldrake's answers to them.
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I am an Archaeologist by trade and it was my research into the topic
of Palaeolithic cave art that triggered the following thought
regarding the theory of evolution. I don't know if you are familiar
with David Lewis-Williams Neuropsychological Model, which is he puts
forward as a shamanic explanation for the multitude of symbols and
images we see amongst prehistoric art, however, the important thing is
that it is often criticised for being a 'Blanket Theory', as the
explanation is so comprehensive that no matter what image is displayed
it can fall into one of the categories (Trance stages) associated with
the model. Thus, the theory can explain the creation of any type of
image, as having been the product of a shamanic experience. When in
reality the artist may have had a multitude of other motives for
(Question) - Do you think that it is possible that the established mechanism of evolution (random genetic mutation coupled with natural selection) could be guilty of being a blanket theory? As there is almost no scenario I could envision where this explanation would fail to describe the appearance of 'selected' traits.
Author: Olver X
RUPERT: Neo-Darwinism is often accused of being a blanket theory that is irrefutable. Any trait can be explained by making up a ‘just so’ story about how it got there in the first place and was favoured by natural selection. The philosopher of science Karl Popper called Neo-Darwinism ‘irrefutable’ precisely because it was such a blanket theory. This doesn’t mean that the evidence for evolution is poor. I think it’s very good. Evolution has happened and is still happening. But the evidence that it all happens through random genetic mutations and natural selection is a big assumption and is hotly contested within evolutionary theory as well as outside it.
What is your view on panpsychism? Are there any parallels with morphic fields?
Author: Nesha, and annj1123
RUPERT: I think panpsychism is almost the only reasonable way to account for the material systems, like brains are associated with consciousness. The usual alternatives are much less satisfactory. Dualism says that consciousness is totally different from matter, and is a very unhelpful theory from a scientific point of view. Materialism tries to explain consciousness away and has been an unhelpful model in consciousness studies. Idealism tries to explain matter away, making consciousness primary. Panpsychism seems to me a much more fruitful theory, and I discuss it in my new book THE SCIENCE DELUSION (CA, UK, US), especially in the light of the philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead and the panpsychist tradition in western philosophy.
Do you think psychedelics or other techniques and technologies could
allow us conscious access to these morphic fields? And if so, to what
RUPERT: Morphic fields underlie all habits of thought and we gain access to them everytime we learn something or even do something, because we are all creatures of habit. In relation to psychedelics, I think that there is a morphic resonance between past takers of a given psychedelic and takers in the present precisely because the substance affects their brains and brain activities in similar ways, putting them in resonance with each other. I think this maybe one reason why in Claudio Naranjo’s studies of the effects of ayahuasca on urban people, he found visions of serpents and jaguars which are features of the cultures in which this herbal mixture has been taken for centuries or even millennia. It seems more likely to me that his urban participants were tapping into a kind of collective memory associated with the taking of this drug than that the drug has a molecular effect in the brain which creates jaguar images or serpent images.
In light of advances in molecular biology demonstrating a link from
the forms of Enhanced Reaction Diffusion systems through CAMs on cell
membranes, through messenger molecules into the cell core, do you
still believe morphic fields dictate physical forms in biology?
A supplemental question would be:- If the morphic fields are not needed in developmental biology, does this have implications for the other areas they are used.
Author: Chris Jordan
RUPERT: My own research in developmental biology in the 1970s was about reaction diffusion systems, so this question was my own starting point. In plants there is a reaction diffusion system, on which I was working, whereby the plant hormone auxin sets up patterns in differentiating tissues, for example in tree trunks as they form the new bark and wood cells. The problem is that these patterns can, at best, explain gene activation in different cells, but do not explain how making the right proteins creates cell form. The same problem arises in a more obvious form in single cell organisms like the giant Acetabularia, which is about 5 cms long and has a photosynthetic cap on a long thin stem, with the single nucleus in a little root-like protrusion at the base. All this form and structure develops in a single cell so it cannot be explained in terms of differential gene activation in different cells. Moreover, if a section of stem is cut out, lacking the nucleus, it can still regenerate a new cap showing that this complex morphogenetic process does not depend on the nucleus or on gene activation. I discuss this in THE SCIENCE DELUSION (CA, UK, US). So I certainly think that morphic fields are essential for explaining physical form in biology. People have been trying to explain it in terms of reaction diffusion systems and other chemical systems for more than 50 years and all the main problems are still unsolved.
ID proponents believe that the exceedingly complex inner workings of
cells show evidence of "intelligent design". On the other hand, the
anthropologist Jeremy Narby (who is not an ID proponent) believes that
intelligence/consciouness occurs at the DNA level (as discussed in his
book 'Intelligence in Nature'). Thus, do you think the "Intelligent
Designer" that ID proponents think is God could actually be DNA
itself? Or in other words, could DNA essentially be an intelligent
RUPERT: I don’t think that intelligent design is the right metaphor for living organisms. It takes for granted a machine theory. Machines require designers because they themselves have no design or purpose within them. That’s why we have engineers and machine designers. Organisms do not require designers because they contain their formative principles within themselves. I think organisms organise themselves in accordance with morphogenetic fields, not in accordance with designs and I don’t think DNA contains designs or is an intelligent designer. Organisms themselves are capable of creativity and I think of the creativity in the evolutionary process neither as depending on God as an external designer, nor on blind chance, but on the creative capacity inherent in organisms themselves.
Do you have a hypothesis about, the source/origin/cause of the Morphic fields?
Etienne Guillé, author of “La Language Vibratoire de la Vie” (The Vibrational Language of Life) is the first and perhaps still the only author to explain the origin of the Morphic fields: the superposition of the vibrational energies emanated from 14 constellation: the 12 constellations of the Zodiac, plus the circumpolar constellations of Ursa Major and Draco.
Morphic Fields change, as a function of time, with the Precession of the Equinoxes (PoE). Armed with this knowledge, one can then understand the very high relevance given by ancient civilizations to the PoE.
Many share the view that ancient civilizations placed a high relevance on the PoE, though none had been able to uncover why that was the case. Dr. Sheldrake, could you please comment about the above?
[Edited for brevity. Full text]
RUPERT: New morphic fields arise through a creative process and creativity is the ultimate mystery. I myself think it’s unlikely that it’s all driven by the constellations of the zodiac or related to the precession of the equinoxes. And this would certainly not have much to do with creativity outside the solar system, and yet the entire cosmos is engaged in a creative evolutionary process. For me this is simply an experimental question. Are the correlations with astrological patterns so strong that they can account for the creativity of nature, at least on Earth or in the solar system? At the moment I don’t think the evidence is compelling and I’m sure there are other sources of creativity, even if the solar system, as an organism, has a creative influence on what happens within it.
I'm sure you will already be well aware of the ancient wisdom deriving
from India surrounding the 'Akashic Record(s)'. To what extent, if
any, have you been able to draw any parallels and/or differences
through your extensive work with morphic fields?
Apologies in advance if you have already explored this aspect in your books which I will underake to read in the near future!
RUPERT: Morphic fields are associated with a kind of collective memory, and my hypothesis is that the so-called laws of nature are like habits. I don’t think this memory is stored in a spatial record of any kind, but rather depends on the direct resonance between similar patterns of activity across time. Nevertheless the Indian and the theosophical nation of Akashic records does rightly emphasis the memory in nature, and in that sense is somewhat similar to my own hypothesis.
I've read your books on psychic animals (I have lived with animals all
my live and currently keep 2 dogs and know for a fact that they both
are 'psychic') and the morphic resonance.
I somehow feel that morphic resonance and morphic fields could be the answer also to what I have been investigating for a while now, which is what is usually dubbed 'ghosts', 'spirits' and 'hauntings'.
My results so far made me believe that conscious energy will survive physical demise and can linger at certain locations or even travel.
Do you think that these phenomena can also be explained by morphic resonance, especially what is called residual energy, and that morhic fields could explain why there is more of this energy in certain locations than in others (aka stone-tape-theory)?
RUPERT: I don’t think that memories are stored in stones, as in stone-tape theory. I don’t even think they are stored in brains. I think they depend on resonance with similar events in the past. My own hypothesis for hauntings would be that when somebody is in a particular location, he or she may come into resonance with previous people in that location precisely because they are subject to a very similar sensory stimuli and the memory is because of a kind of previous resonance with the people in that place, rather than it being stored in the stones. This of course works for good memories as well as bad ones and might help to explain why sacred places help some people to enter a positive state of consciousness and sense of connection.
I know that, as a biologist, you are interested in the evolutionary aspect of morphic fields. I also know that this is why you stress the difference between patterns encoded in morphic fields and Plato's unchanging Ideas. Would you agree, though, that when one approaches this from a cultural/architectural/artistic point of view, however, Plato's ideas, like canons of architecture or old Dreamtime traditions and ancient mythologized landscapes, are likely to accumulate richer and richer morphic fields precisely because they don't change? I'm passionately interested in the possibility that it is because such things have such rich fields that the initiate into ancient mysteries, Plato's philosopher/initiate and the walker of the old aboriginal songline alike all experience a liberating and enlightening sense of ascending out of localized time into something more majestic and beautiful and satisfying. In that sense then, it seems to me that Plato's philosophy remains pertinent and intuitive even if not a correct scientific model of evolutionary processes. I am wondering what your take on this might be.
Author: William Glyn-Jones
RUPERT: I agree about the sense of ascending out of localised time into something more majestic, beautiful and satisfying. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that there are platonic forms. It maybe more to do with the frame of consciousness itself. That by which we see or think is not that which is seen or thought, and the capacity for seeing or thinking, the capacity for consciousness itself, is what people seem to access in meditation and altered states of consciousness . They do not necessarily access eternal forms, as in Platonic philosophy. In any case, we know very little about the history of mystical experience. Plato, after all is very recent in the history of humanity, a mere 2,500 years ago, whereas modern humans have existed for at least 100,000 years. There may well have been some evolution in alterned states of consciousness through millennia of proto-shamanism of which we know almost nothing. So I don’t think that the acceptance of mystical experiences is incompatible with an evolutionary approach.
Today’s science is rooted in materialistic dogma(tism). In your
opinion, what needs, or better – what can be done for paradigm shift
RUPERT: I’m glad you asked that question! This is exactly what my new book THE SCIENCE DELUSION is all about.
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