(Morphic Resonance and The Habits of Nature)

Rupert Sheldrake



Morphic resonance is the name given to the “field” pattern of organizing intention which translates the ‘word’ or creative thought from the spiritual into matter. (Also known as the “Hypothesis of Formative Causation”) The pattern is that of the species (morphism) when the species is engaged in the procreative act. It is as though the species, in its natural urge to perpetuate itself at the time of the procreative act of its members renews itself on two levels –

1.    the material aspect via substance vehicles for genetic renewal; and

2.    the vibrating frequency or organizing “field” which will be the intentional force.


The “field” of unique vibrating frequency for that species oversees the cell division as the initial cell divides and replicates itself for such length of time as is necessary for there to be sufficient cellular material (all cells as yet being identical) and then the “field” starts building the body vehicle, its future organic image or earthly home. The “field” directs and differentiates masses of cells to become brain cells, or organ cells, or bone, etc - all differentiated out of the basic building material supply; in the case of animals the period from conception to the time of birth is spent in completing the physical home of the “field” or spirit, the spirit using as its pattern the form of its morphic procreators.


According to the Hypothesis of Morphic Resonance, the development of forms in living creatures is governed by a morphogenetic field – a kind of biological field that can - by a process called morphic resonance - be ‘tuned in’ to by other members of the same species and so influence their development. In the case of humans, the human DNA molecule becomes a receiver for the human signal, and this signal contains not only the necessary genetic information needed for the creation and maintenance of the material body but also contains a record of all accumulated human knowledge and experience.


This hypothesis can explain memory. If organisms enter into morphic resonance with previous organisms of the same species on the basis of similarity, then there is a very interesting consequence, for the thing that an organism resembles most closely in the past is itself… We normally ‘tune in’ to our own memories – but it is conceivable that the process of morphic resonance may allow us to tune into the memories of other people. Our own thoughts and memories may be adding to the collective memory of mankind, and persist to influence future members of the human race.


When a crystal crystallizes, the form it takes depends on the way similar crystals were formed in the past. In the realm of animal behavior, if rats are trained to do something in San Francisco, for example, then rats of that breed all over the world consequently are able to do the same activity more easily through an invisible influence. This hypothesis also suggests that in human learning we all benefit from what other people have previously learned through a kind of collective memory. This is an idea very like that of Jung’s collective unconscious. Memory and experience of the individual are never lost, but remain recorded somewhere in the morphic field.


Sheldrake received his PhD in biochemistry from Cambridge University, and taught biology and botany there for many years. His hypothesis follows the ‘Vitalist’ philosophy, wherein life itself is not seen as something that has emerged from dead matter – but that all nature is alive. Sheldrake notes that – in spite of all the successes of genetics, molecular biology and nuerophysiology - biologists have still not managed to explain the development of embryos or the inheritance of instincts in mechanistic terms; and he points out that DNA is but a ‘protein parts list’ for the body; the formative instructions themselves are not implicit in the DNA.


((This hypothesis would suggest:

1.    a certain meaning behind the process of miscarriage – a creative plan gone awry or abandoned by the “field”, and

2.    definite ramifications as to the abortion issue.))

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Summary of the Hypothesis of Formative Causation:

The hypothetical properties of the fields of morphic resonance at all complexity levels -

1.       Are self-organizing wholes.

2.       Have both a spatial and a temporal aspect, and organize spatio-temporal patterns of vibratory or frequency activity.

3.       Attract the systems under their influence towards characteristic forms and patterns of activity, whose coming into being they organize and whose integrity they maintain. The ends or goals towards which morphic fields attract the systems under their influence are called ATTRACTORS.

4.       Interrelate and co-ordinate the morphic units or ‘holons’ that lie within them, which in turn are wholes organized by morphic fields.  Morphic fields contain other morphic fields within themselves in a nested hierarchy, or holarchy.

5.       Are structures of probability, and their organizing activity is probabilistic.

6.       Contain a built-in memory given by self-resonance with a morphic unit’s own past and by morphic resonance with all previous similar systems. This memory is cumulative – the more often particular patterns of activity are repeated, the more habitual they tend to become.                                                               

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 [Reviewer’s conjectures:  In the reincarnation belief, spirits await the opportunity to again do their evolutionary work on the material plane – there they have the ‘substance’ with which to test themselves, overcome deficiencies and grow. What would be the process by which they go from the “green light” permission to again invest in material, to cross that bridge between the spirit entity state towards becoming the seed (cell) – from spirit to the first particle of material substance? One can believe in spiritual entity on the one side, and we all can see the carnal state, yet how does the one become the other? It is as though there is no actual transformation of the one to the other, because we feel not only our bodies but also the existence of our spirit, so the process must, rather than ‘transformation’, be – the investment of the spirit into the body which it makes for itself – a fusing of two into one – the bond being so strong as to last until death of the body.


Gurdjieff said that not only do bodies die, but that the essence or spirit must also die (over a longer time), if the spirit doesn’t take on another body. As though it’s okay for the spirit to take a holiday from it’s evolution work, but if it doesn’t thereafter continue, then in time it loses its power to not only make its new vehicle but even the power to “be” in spirit. What determines how long one can ‘fly’ as spirit? Perhaps it’s how well one does one’s job while in the body state – what does one learn, really learn? what experiences of value does one access through one’s free will with humble attitude so that one is fully open to what is going on around one and thereby can learn the most in the best way? do we take advantage of the gift of wisdom that our morphic field provides us?


It would seem that if one’s life had been relatively worthless, it would be a relatively short time of rest afforded one before having to get back to work. If, on the other hand, one had stored up a lot of spiritual treasure, one could sustain oneself in ‘flight’ for a longer period.]




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