Sheldrake, Rupert – Morphic Resonance

  • the morphic germ/ the morphic unit/ the morphic field/ the morphic resonance.  Rupert Sheldrake, or the Anti-Christ – as was surnamed by his scientific friends and foes, presents a large framework comprising two dimensions: time and space. On the time axis could be found some of his books, like: “A new science of life” (1981) and “The presence of the past” (1988). (The first book is about the chemistry and biology levels; while the second book is about the psychology and sociology levels). And, on the space axis could be found another of his books: “Seven experiments that could change the world” (1995), “Dogs that know when their owners are coming home” (1999) and “The sense of being stared at” (2003). Apart this framework, below I’ll present the book “Morphic resonance. The nature of formative causation” (2009). In fact, this book is a reprint of “A new science of life” (1981) with small corrections and modifications. In the “Introduction” and the first two chapters, Sheldrake offers three possible explanations of everything that is in the world: the mechanistic perspective, the vitalistic perspective and the organicistic perspective. The following four chapters, from chapter 3 to chapter 6, are dedicated to the presentation of the organicistic perspective adopted by Sheldrake. Finally, the last chapters present the applications of the three perspectives on phenomena like regulation, reproduction, regeneration and creation where a clear distinction is drawn between habits/ instincts/ stimuli. It’s worthless to mention the fact that the first appendix is showing some tests to the organicistic perspective, while the second appendix is the place where Rupert Sheldrake meets David Bohm in a dialogue. So, I believe, the four chapters, from 3 to 6, from his work of morphic resonance, are important for the time axis. Keeping in mind the large framework and the general presentation of the book, I invite you to take some time considering the distinction between: the morphic germ/ the morphic unit/ the morphic field/ the morphic resonance. First, the morphic germ is any part of a system being it chemical or biological. Secondly, the morphic unit is the whole composed of all its parts: this whole is more than all its parts, by the way. Thirdly, the whole/ parts duality is concatenated in a morphic field: this field is composed on both actual forms and virtual forms; and it is responsible for at least three phenomena: the reproduction, the regulation and the regeneration of the whole/ parts dualities. This distinction – between morphic germ/ morphic unit/ morphic field – could be found easily in ancient and actual worldview. For instance, the Matrioshka dolls (the stacking dolls, nesting dolls, Russian tea dolls, etc) invented by Vasily Zvyozdochkin and Sergey Malyutin. Or, the Great Chain of Being (the Ladder of Being [scala naturae]) talked about by Platon, Aristotle, Plotinus and Proclus. Or the structural diferential (see: Alfred Korzybski and Alan Hayakawa), the levels of learning and change (of Gregory Bateson), the neurological levels (authored by Robert Dilts), and so on and on. Finally, the morphic resonance is the hypothesis concerning the time dimension. In short, this hypothesis states that “the forms of previous systems influence the forms of subsequent systems”. Restated, the present could be understood based on both the past events and future events (with the mention of the fact that the logical conceivable possibility of the future to explain the present is not described in the book). So, more precisely, according to this hypothesis, a system, be it chemical or biological, is what it is according to: 1) its past forms, 2) its present groups where the system is encapsulated, and 3) its present groups with whom the system is competing. So, be these distinctions as they may be, Rupert Sheldrake, in my words, is saying that the couple “means/ ends” applies for all time axis: in this way, there is the relationship between means and ends, between attractors and echreodes, both in the past and in the future. And this model, by me, is wrong for it considers the time and its understandings, but ignores the time and its explanations. So, a better model would be to consider that in the past the events are ordered according to “explanations” and the relationship between “causes and effects”; while in the future they are ordered according to “understandings”, or the relationship between “means and ends”. However, neither this critique is without flaws: if considered seriously, the same event, according to its position on the flow of time, has a double nature. So, when the time has a double nature, it is both time-as-possibilities and time-as-necessities.

The map:


  • Rupert Sheldrake (1981): “A new science of life. The hypothesis of formative causation”, Blond & Briggs
  • Rupert Sheldrake (1988): “The presence of the past. Morphic resonance and the habits of nature”, Park Street Press
  • Rupert Sheldrake (1995): “Seven experiments that could change the world. A do-it-yourself guide to revolutionary science”, Riverhead Books
  • Rupert Sheldrake (1999): “Dogs that know when their owners are coming home. And other unexplained powers of animals”, Three Rivers Press
  • Rupert Sheldrake (2003): “The sense of being stared at. And other aspects of the extended mind”, Crown Publishers
  • Rupert Sheldrake (2009): “Morphic resonance. The nature of formative causation”, Park Street Press

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