Sheldrake's idea of formative causation (greatly simplified) is as follows:
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.
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
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 )
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?
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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."
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"
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
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.
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."
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."