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Dr. Rupert Sheldrake: Morphic Resonance    Part 1   
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Welcome, our noble viewers, to Science and Spirituality. Today, we have the unique opportunity to explore a particular view on how life in the Universe developed with one of the world’s most innovative and progressive biologists, Dr. Rupert Sheldrake of Britain. He is best known for his theory of morphic fields and resonance, which describes the unfolding, emergence, and evolution of the Universe.

Dr. Sheldrake studied biochemistry and other natural sciences at Cambridge University in England and philosophy at Harvard University in the United States, before returning to Cambridge for a PhD in biochemistry. Currently he is the director of the Perrott-Warrick project, which is administered by Trinity College in Cambridge, England. The project’s purpose is to research unexplained human and animal abilities.

He is the author of more than 75 scientific papers and ten books, with some of the most renowned being “A New Science of Life: The Hypothesis of Formative Causation,” “Dogs that Know When Their Owners are Coming Home,” and “Other Unexplained Powers of Animals.” What exactly is meant by the term by “morphic resonance?” Our Supreme Master Television correspondent asked Dr. Sheldrake himself about the concept:

Morphic resonance is a kind of memory principle in nature; anything similar in a self-organizing system will be influenced by anything that’s happened in the past, and anything in the future that happens in a similar system will be influenced by what happens now. So it’s a memory in nature based on similarity, and it applies to atoms, molecules, crystals; living organisms, brains, societies and indeed to planets and galaxies. So it’s a principle of memory and habit in nature.

And animals and plants also?

Oh yes, animals and plants. In fact, Charles Darwin was convinced that animals and plants were essentially habits, and one person who has commented on his work, Francis Huxley, said that he could just as well have called his book “The Origin of Habits” instead of “The Origin of Species.” Because for him, organisms are habits.

To provide further insight into Dr. Sheldrake’s ideas, we now present excerpts from the lecture entitled “Morphic Resonance, Collective Memory and Habits of Nature,” by Dr. Rupert Sheldrake, presented at Goldsmiths College in London, UK, on January 20, 2009.

The idea of morphic resonance has huge numbers of implications and their all rather shocking from the conventional scientific point of view. The first and biggest of them is that the so-called laws of nature may be more like habits; they are not all fixed. They can evolve. One of the implications of this is that all species, including humans, draw on the collective memory. Each individual draws on the collective memory and contributes to it.

Another implication is that ordinary memory works by morphic resonance, they are not stored in your brain. Your brain is more like a receiver that tunes into memories across time. I am hoping to show that these are scientific ideas that lead to a completely new way of looking at nature.

The idea that the laws of nature are fixed is a very old idea. It goes back to ancient Greece. In the 17th century, the founding fathers of modern science Kepler, Galileo, Copernicus, Newton, all believed that that science was in the business of finding out the eternal mathematical laws of nature, which were ideas in the mind of God. They were beyond space and time. They were not material because they were part of the Divine Nature.

In the 18th century and the early 19th century, with the growth of atheism and materialism, the laws of nature remained there like the ghost of the mind of the God of the world machine; changeless mathematical laws which determine everything that happens. There was this idea that history was moving towards a goal and that gives the idea of progress -- progress literally means moving forwards.

These progressivist movements were confined to the human realm until the middle of the 19th century. With Charles Darwin’s, “Origin of Species,” an evolutionary vision in 1859, 150 years ago, was extended to the whole of life. Darwin hardly used the word evolution; he usually used the word progress. And so it was really an extension of the idea of human progress to all of life. But it stopped there. For most physicists, the idea that the whole Universe was progressing seemed absurd.

At that time, physics was in the grip of the Second Law of Thermodynamics as a dominant idea, which said in fact the opposite of progress was happening; the Universe was running down towards a final heat death, when it would freeze up forever.

We will bring you more excerpts of Dr. Sheldrake’s lecture right after these short messages. You are watching Supreme Master Television.

Welcome back to Science and Spirituality. We are exploring morphic fields and resonance, an idea introduced by the British biologist Dr. Rupert Sheldrake. The idea theorizes that nature has a collective memory, which influences subsequent things on the basis of similarity of forms.

If Dr. Sheldrake is correct, this means that the so- called “laws of nature” are not fixed and that our memory is not localized in our brain. We now provide further portions of a lecture entitled “Morphic Resonance, Collective Memory and Habits of Nature,” by Dr. Rupert Sheldrake presented at Goldsmiths College in London, UK, on January 20, 2009. Here, Dr. Sheldrake continues his description of how the ability of the laws of nature to change, has been perceived over time.

So, it really was only in biology that this evolutionary vision got going, until 1966, when it took over physics as well. The Big Bang cosmology tells us that the Universe began very small, less than the size of the head of the pin, very hot and it has been growing, cooling and evolving ever since. Now, all of nature is evolutionary. This vision, originally religious, then secular and social, then biological, is now cosmic. So we have cosmic evolution.

Now, what about the eternal laws of nature in an evolving Universe? Most scientists believe in the eternal laws of nature, not because they have thought about it, but because they haven’t. This is where I think real skepticism comes in. Deep skepticism is to ask questions about things that most people just take for granted. These all share the idea the laws of nature don’t change.

But if the Universe is evolving, why cannot the laws of nature evolve too? As soon as you ask that question, you realize that the very idea of the laws of nature is questionable. If by law we simply mean regularities as discovered by science, then since the Universe has evolved, the regularities in it have evolved too. And so we immediately arrive at the idea of evolving laws of nature.

It makes a huge difference to the way we interpret natural phenomena. For phenomena that have been around for a long time, like most of the things physicists study – hydrogen atoms, for example, the formation of stars, salt crystals – these kinds of things have been around for millions or billions of years. If they have habits, the habits are now so fixed that you wouldn’t notice any change.

They behave as if they are governed by fixed laws. Where the difference shows up is when you look at new phenomena, phenomena that have never happened before in the history of the Universe, and there we should be able to see the habits build up. Now, it so turns out that you can actually study this in chemistry.

What do chemists actually find? They find that new compounds are very hard to crystallize and as time goes on they get easier and easier all around the world. Sometimes there are compounds that aren’t known in a crystalline form at all for years and then once they’ve appeared, they start showing up everywhere. This happened in the drug industry.

It’s happened several times, when what are called allomorphs, different forms of crystals, of drugs, one of them in the AZT AIDS formulation. Suddenly, deviant crystals started showing up in a factory and soon they were everywhere and they couldn’t get the original ones again. Suddenly it was like an infection; they had taken over – another form of the crystal.

If the organizing habit of the crystal gets stronger, as time goes on, even a fully crystallized substance should have a stronger habit. It should be harder to break it up. To break up crystals, what you do is heat them up. They reach a point where the thermal vibration destroys the crystal structure. That is called the melting point. Everybody knows that the melting point of water is 0º Centigrade. If newly crystallized substances become more stable, this theory will predict the melting point should rise.

It took me a long time to pluck up courage to ask a chemist, “Have you ever noticed whether melting points of new compounds go up? To my surprise, he said, “Oh yes, it’s quite a common observation. I’ve often found it myself. It’s quite easy to explain.” He said, “There’s no mystery here, and certainly no morphic resonance.” He said, “What’s going on is simply that when you get better at making a compound, you get purer samples.” Impurities lower the melting point. So, as we get better at making things, they get purer, and so the melting points go up.

But, I decided to try and take it further by looking at historical records. This compound is salicin and these are the melting points in 1932, 1902, 1940 and 1994. Salicin occurs in willow bark. It’s a natural compound; no change in melting point over the 20th century.

Aspirin is a synthetic derivative based on that, first synthesized in the 19th century. In 1914, middle of the 20th century, 1994, it went up in melting point by about 14 0Centigrade. We’re not talking here of fractions of a degree, we’re talking big effects.

Well, this principle of memory in nature is what I call morphic resonance. The idea is that similar things influence subsequent similar things, on the basis of similarity. They tend to make the same kinds of things happen again. So similarity is the principle, and resonance is the movement across time of information about patterns of vibratory activity. So that any pattern of vibratory activity, which all atoms, molecules, crystals, cells, organisms have – they’re all oscillatory or vibratory – resonate with those that have gone before across space and time.

It doesn’t fall off with space and time. It doesn’t involve a transfer of energy but of information. That’s the postulate, right or wrong. That’s what I’m suggesting. And I’m further suggesting that in biological systems and in chemical systems, the pattern of things is organized by what I call morphic fields.

Next week on Science and Spirituality, Dr. Sheldrake will share more evidence on the existence of morphic fields and resonance. Please join us then. Thank you, inquisitive viewers, for your company today on Science and Spirituality. Coming up next is Words of Wisdom, right after Noteworthy News. May you have a wonderful week ahead.
Welcome to Science and Spirituality. On today’s episode, we continue a lecture on the topic of morphic resonance with Dr. Rupert Sheldrake, a British developmental biologist and biochemist.

Currently he is the director of the Perrott-Warrick project, which is administered by Trinity College in Cambridge, England. The project’s purpose is to research unexplained human and animal abilities. He is the author of more than 75 scientific papers and ten books, with some of the most renowned being “A New Science of Life: The Hypothesis of Formative Causation,” “Dogs that Know When Their Owners are Coming Home,” and “Other Unexplained Powers of Animals.”

According to Dr. Sheldrake, every being draws from morphic fields, which he understands as the collective memory of nature. They are like a set of blueprints of all possible forms, which over time add to each other. The morphic fields do not diminish with time and space, because they carry no energy, just information alone.

This theory intersects with many concepts found in spirituality, thus our Supreme Master Television correspondent asked Dr. Sheldrake about this fascinating crossing point.

The kind of science that we have at the moment, a very materialistic science, creates a very sharp barrier against spirituality because it’s really saying that the mind is nothing but the brain and it’s all just inside the head. But with morphic fields and morphic resonance, there are more areas of discourse with spirituality. It means that the ancestors, the people who have gone before, influence us in the present, not just through genes but through morphic resonance.

So it means in one way that there is an influence from the past, and all spiritual traditions accept that there’s an influence from those who have gone before. Also that we can influence those who come afterwards, not just through ordinary cultural transmission, but in a more invisible way. That’s one aspect. Another is that what you do, what you say and what you think can influence other people by morphic resonance. So we’re more responsible for our actions and words and thoughts on this principle than we would otherwise be.

There is no moral filter in morphic resonance, which means that we have to be more careful about what we are thinking if we are concerned about the effect that we have on others.

To provide further insight into Dr. Sheldrake’s ideas, we now present excerpts from the lecture entitled “Morphic Resonance, Collective Memory and Habits of Nature,” by Dr. Rupert Sheldrake, presented at Goldsmiths College in London, UK, on January 20, 2009.

First of all, fields. Fields were first introduced into science by Michael Faraday in London. And the idea was that there are regions of influence in space outside material objects. Here is a magnetic field, you’ve all seen this many times before, but there is a region of influence that extends beyond the material surface. Fields are not made of matter. They extend beyond matter, and indeed in modern physics, matter is now thought to be made of fields, energy bound within fields.

Now, in embryology, a number of embryologists came up with the idea that embryos are shaped by fields. Why is it that the arm and the leg have different shapes when they have the same DNA and the same proteins? It is like buildings with different architectural plans. (They proposed) that there were fields shaping developing organisms called morphogenetic fields. “Morphe” form, “genesis” coming into being. This is a bat embryo, and it is just to remind you of what embryos look like.

And the way that these fields, which I call morphic fields as the general word for them, which includes morphogenetic and other forms of fields, they’re organized in nested hierarchies. The field of the whole bat, like the outer circle, these would be the fields of the organs, like the limbs or the eyes, these are the tissues within and these are the cells within those. All of nature is in fact organized in this nested hierarchy. These could be subatomic particles in atoms, in molecules, in crystals. These could be organisms in a society of organisms, like a flock of birds.

The larger field could represent this larger organized unit. At every level, the whole is more than sum of the parts. And the question is, “What is this mysterious wholeness?” Well, I’m suggesting it’s the morphic fields of each system, which have an inbuilt memory given by morphic resonance. Morphic resonance automatically averages what’s happened before, and to get an idea of how it might work, this is an analogy.

These are average scientists. An average female and an average male scientist at the John Innes Research Institute in Norwich, made by superimposing photographs. They’re composite photos, and what you get is a kind of probability structure of a face.

It’s a probability structure very like the probability structures in quantum physics. Morphogenetic fields where introduced into biology for two reasons. Firstly, to understand what it is that shapes the form of organisms, which is impossible to understand just in terms of genes and gene products, because they don’t have any particular form. Even if you switch on genes in the right place in your arm or your leg, making the right proteins does not give you an arm or a leg. Something else is shaping them. That is one reason.

The other is that fields have an automatic holistic property; you can’t have a part of a field. If you cut a magnet in half, you don’t get one North Pole and one South Pole, you get two smaller magnets each with a complete field. The same applies to behavior, and here we’re getting closer to psychology. This theory says that the organization of the nervous system is also organized by morphic fields, and this should apply to learning.

We will bring you more excerpts of Dr. Sheldrake’s lecture right after these short messages. You are watching Supreme Master Television.

Welcome back to Science and Spirituality. We are exploring morphic fields and resonance, an idea introduced by the British biologist Dr. Rupert Sheldrake. The idea theorizes that nature has a collective memory, which influences subsequent things on the basis of similarity of forms. If Dr. Sheldrake is correct, this means that the so- called “laws of nature” are not fixed and that our memory is not localized in our brain.

We now provide further portions of a lecture entitled “Morphic Resonance, Collective Memory and Habits of Nature,” by Dr. Rupert Sheldrake presented at Goldsmiths College in London, UK, on January 20, 2009. Here, Dr. Sheldrake describes how learning is influenced by morphic fields.

There are a lot of ways in which you can test morphic resonance in the human realm. There are areas of existing data where we can look at the possible effects of morphic resonance, and one is with IQ tests. This is one of the very few areas where the same tests have been done year after year.

I would predict that the average score in IQ tests should be going up year by year, not because people are getting smarter, but because so many people have already done the test, they’re getting easier to do by morphic resonance.

When I first predicted this in the 1980’s, I couldn’t get my hands on IQ test data and I didn’t know how to test this. I was therefore fascinated when it turned out that a psychologist called James Flynn looked at data from Japan and America to start with, and then in many other countries, and found what is now called, “the Flynn effect,” which shows a large increase in average IQ test scores over the twentieth century.

This is from 1918-1989; this is a big effect. It’s been found in many other countries as well. It’s not because people are getting smarter. What’s going on? There’s been a huge debate among psychologists to try and explain this; there are no satisfactory explanations that satisfy everyone, Flynn himself has confessed to be baffled by it. But it’s just what you’d expect on the basis of morphic resonance.

In psychology, Jung among others has proposed that all human beings draw upon a collective memory. And morphic resonance would mean that if the idea didn’t already exist, you’d have to invent it. The greatest collective memory would come from those who are most similar to you in the past, members of your family or people of similar cultural background, because this would apply to the transmission of cultural forms.

Finally, if I ask the question, “Which organism in the past is most similar to you now?” The answer is going to be yourself. You’re more similar to yourself in the past than to anybody else; therefore the most specific morphic resonance working on you from the past would be from your own past. That means that you’ll have a kind of memory system based on morphic resonance that doesn’t depend on storing the memories inside the body. If you get into a similar state to one you’ve been in before, you’ll resonate with yourself from the past by morphic resonance and pick up those memories.

That, I think, is how memory works. Everybody here has been brought up to believe that memories are stored inside the brain, in modified synapses or DNA or RNA or phosphorylated proteins. There’s many, many theories of memory storage. But one of the most interesting facts about memory research is how unsuccessful it’s been.

For more than 100 years, people have tried to find memories in the brain. They’ve tried desperately hard; billions of dollars have been spent on this attempt. Vast numbers of people have spent their careers trying to do it. And of course they’ve found some interesting and important things about memory. But the attempt to find the memory traces has been frustrated over and over again. They’ve proved elusive; they’ve never been able to pin them down.

I’m a skeptic of standard memory theories and I think given that they’ve had such a poor track record in explaining the phenomenon for more than 100 years, it’s worth trying an alternative approach. Now there are some people who’d say “No, we should never try alternative approaches because they must be stored in the brain. Everybody knows they’ve got to be stored in there.” That’s a paradigmatic assumption. That’s just the kind of thing we should be skeptical about. So I’m saying it’s an open question.

Finally, this view of habits of nature, which has so many implications for so many branches of science, doesn’t explain evolution by itself. It explains how things get repeated. Evolution has to be an interplay of habit and creativity, just like our own lives are an interplay of habit and creativity.

If we just had creativity nothing would ever stabilize. If we just had habit nothing new would ever happen. I think morphic resonance helps explain the question of habit; it leaves the source of creativity open.

But it does give a completely different view of the entire evolutionary process, one which is more naturalistic than the conventional scientific theory with these mysterious laws of nature beyond space and time. This is more naturalistic and more radically evolutionary. Whether it’s right or not, time will tell.

We appreciate Dr. Sheldrake’s unique perspectives and innovative thinking, which provides a very fascinating explanation of the evolution of life and the Universe through the idea of morphic resonance. We wish him much success in his further exploration of this area as we enter into a new age of scientific understanding. Thank you for your company today on Science and Spirituality. Coming up next is Words of Wisdom, after Noteworthy News. May you have a blessed week ahead.

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