Sheldrake's idea of formative causation (greatly simplified) is as follows:
Morphogenetic fields are basically non-physical blueprints that give birth to forms. "They carry information only, not energy, and are available throughout time and space without any loss of intensity after they have been created. They are created by the patterns of physical forms (including such things as crystals as well as biological systems). They help guide the formation of later similar systems. And finally, a newly forming system "tunes into" a previous system by having within it a "seed" that resonates with a similar seed in the earlier form.
"Thus, from this perspective, the DNA in the genes of a living system (like and oak tree) does not carry all the information needed to shape that system, but it can act as a "tuning seed" that tunes in the morphogenetic fields of previous systems of the same type. Morphogenetic fields are thus the repositories of what might be described as genetic habits.
"In addition, these same concepts can be used to explain some of the mysteries about human memory. In effect, our brains are not so much libraries as they are sending and receiving stations that leave a continuous trail of experience imprinted in morphogenetic fields and then "recall" previous experiences by tuning in to that trail....[thus] using morphogenetic fields as the carrier of memory implies no absolute separation between minds. Further, it suggests that our identity is dual, like an electron that is both a particle and a wave. We have aspects that are unique and totally individual, yet at the same time much of our thought and behavior is shaped by, and participates in, and helps create transpersonal morphogenetic fields....We are thus both individuals and expressions of/creators of a group mind - like the Jungian collective unconscious, but more extensive, and in come aspects more changeable. Because our brains contain levels (mammalian, reptilian, etc.) that connect us to other species, that group mind includes all life. We may even find, as we explore the possibilities of consciousness associated with what we know think of as non-living matter, that we are linked in consciousness to all creation. We would thus be linked to the stars not only through the chemicals in our bodies, but through our minds as well. Accepting the idea of morphogenetic fields also opens the door to the scientific investigation of the idea that consciousness and mental processes can function without physical support. This would allow the existence of non-physical beings (gods, angels, life after death, etc.) - a subject of prime interest to most religious and spiritual traditions." (Robert Gilman, excerpted from http://www.context.org/ICLIB/IC12/Sheldrak.htm )
Critique_ Magazine: Rupert Sheldrake has recently refined the theory of the morphogenetic field - a nonmaterial organizing collective memory field that affects all biological systems. This field can be envisioned as a hyperspatial information reservoir that brims and spills over into a much larger region of influence when critical mass is reached - a point referred to as morphic resonance. Do you think this morphic resonance could be regarded as a possible explanation for the phenomena of spirits and other metaphysical entities, and can the method of evoking beings from the spirit world be simply a case of cracking the morphic code?
Terence McKenna: That sounds right. It's something like that. If what you're trying to get at is do I think morphogenetic fields are a good thing, or do they exist, yes I think some kind of theory like that is clearly becoming necessary, and that the next great step to be taken in the intellectual conquest of nature, if you will, is a theory about how out of the class of possible things, some things actually happen.
Critique_ Magazine: Do you think it cold be related to the phenomena of spirits?
McKenna: Spirits are the presence of the past, specifically expressed.
When you go to ruins like Angkor Wat, or
Sheldrake on Morphogenetic Fields
idea is that there is a kind of memory in nature. Each kind of thing
has a collective memory. So, take a squirrel living in
"Basically, morphic fields are fields of habit, and they've been set up through habits of thought, through habits of activity, and through habits of speech. M ost of our culture is habitual, I mean, most of our personal life, and most of our cultural life is habitual.
"The whole idea of morphic resonance is evolutionary, but morphic resonance only gives the repetitions. It doesn't give the creativity. So evolution must involve an interplay of creativity and repetition. Creativity gives new forms, new patterns, new ideas, new art forms. And we don't know where creativity comes from. Is it inspired from above? Welling up from below? Picked up from the air? What? Creativity is a mystery wherever you encounter it, in the human realm, or in the realm of biological evolution, or of cosmic evolution.
"Morphic fields organize self-organizing systems, things that organize themselves, like snowflakes, or molecules, or ecosystems, or animals, or plants, or societies, like flocks of birds."
"It must make a difference if someone is absolutely intensely involved with an idea and dwells on it with huge intensity ... If somebody in solitude works away in an extremely intense way it may indeed set up a morphic field. In fact, we know that something like that does seem to happen, because it's very common in art, in fashion design, in science and technology for different people to have similar inventions"
"The mechanistic theory of nature is a theory of nature, and one that I think is wrong, or at least too limited. It's not an eternal truth. Even the constants of nature, as I've shown in my book, Seven Experiments That Could Change the World, the so-called absolute constants, like the speed of light, when you look at the actual data, don't appear to be constant at all."
soul was eliminated from science through the mechanistic revolution
in the seventeenth century. Before that, everyone in
"The elimination of souls from nature in the seventeenth century was succeeded in the nineteenth century by the introduction of fields--electrical and magnetic fields first, and then later gravitational fields, then quantum fields, and in biology, morphogenic fields. My own ideas are based on generalizing this field concept in biology to what I call "morphic" fields, which I think are the invisible patterns that underlie the growth of living organisms; the invisible patterns organizing the activity of nervous systems, underlying instincts in animals.
"And they are the invisible connections that link together members of social groups. For example, a flock of birds can all turn together at practically the same time. I think this is because there is a field of the whole flock; they're all within a larger system, part of a larger whole. The morphic field of the flock is what links and coordinates them. They're turning far too fast to do it just by watching their neighbors or by responding to ordinary sensory information."
"I think their movements are coordinated in the same way as the movements of iron filings around a magnet. When you move the whole magnet, the whole pattern of the filings changes because they're all responding to the field of which they are a part. This is as true for birds in a flock as it is for human members of social groups."