The World of Rupert Sheldrake, Part II

By Epoch Times Staff
Epoch Times Staff
Epoch Times Staff
April 3, 2008 Updated: July 13, 2008

“We may, of course, simply regard the origin of the universe and the creativity within as it as an impenetrable mystery and leave it at that. If we choose to look further, we find ourselves in the presence of several long-standing traditions of thought about the ultimate creative source,…the One, Brahma, the Void, the Tao, the eternal embrace of Shiva and Shakti, or the Holy Trinity.

In all these traditions, we sooner or later arrive at the limits of conceptual thought, and also at a recognition of these limits. Only faith, contemplation, enlightenment, or the Grace of God can take us beyond them.” — Dr. Rupert Sheldrake, “The Presence Of The Past”

When a scientist working in a laboratory in any part of the world tries to synthesize a new type of crystal, they frequently note how difficult such a task can become. Yet each time one scientist manages to do it, his colleagues around the world seem to complete their own synthesis of the newly composed chemical rather quickly. In fact, the more times the compound in question is crystallized, the easier and faster the procedure becomes on subsequent occasions.

This curious phenomenon, known by scientists around the entire world as the “hypothesis of the migrant bearded chemist,” is one of the more incomprehensible phenomena to modern-day scientists. The name stems from the most rational explanation of this phenomenon:  in the laboratory where the first synthesis took place, particles of the compound get stuck in the beard, clothing, or personal effects of a scientist, who travels to a friend’s laboratory, leaving trace amounts the new compound in the room, bench, or some other nearby place where the foreign particle acts as a reference for the new crystallization.

But this hypothesis poses a dilemma: what happens when the compound is synthesized directly after the first one, when one of these “bearded scientists” does not take it upon himself to travel from one place to another? Another answer, equal in genius to the first, suggests that the crystal particles could travel through the air from one place to another.  In short, this explanation depends on a miraculous occurrence.

Rupert Sheldrake, the controversial doctor of biology at Cambridge, says that neither bearded travelers nor miracles are necessary to explain this process. For Sheldrake, this and many other similar phenomena—which up to now appear incomprehensible to the understanding of conventional biology—can be easily explained once we introduce ourselves to the universe of “morphic fields.”

What are morphic fields? Consider the experiment involving the macaque (a type of monkey) on the Japanese island of Koshima, which aroused the attention of biologists around the world in the late 50’s. In 1952, a group of scientists from the islands were feeding the monkeys sweet potatoes. When they noticed that one of the females named “Imo,” began to adopt the habit of washing her sweet potatoes in the stream, they were surprised to observe how quickly her fellow monkeys learned the trick. In a few years, all the macaques of the island had learned to clean the dirt and sand off the sweet potatoes with water. Later, this phenomenon took a spectacular leap forward when the scientists noted that within six years, the monkeys on the Japanese mainland (which did not have any contact with those on the island) also started to wash their potatoes before eating them.

For Sheldrake, the behavior of the Koshima monkeys and the apparently unconnected phenomenon of simultaneous crystallization production in different laboratories around the world, stem from the same principle. If each happening, action, or creation forms or reinforces a kind of “inherent memory” in the space of the universe, this could alter another given event in a future time involving similar elements. This is to say that, if one monkey’s action of washing potatoes came forth without a pattern or “morphic field” pre-existing in the universe, when the second monkey did it, the action would appear more “instinctive” to the species. Yet if subsequent monkeys decided to try it, the corresponding morphic field of “washing potatoes” would be used once again to reinforce such an act.  In this way, a monkey that was not in physical contact with other monkeys could still connect its behavior with its peers through this universal field. In the same way, a chemical compound that lacked a morphic field at one moment proves much more difficult to crystallize than another whose field has already been established.

In other words, a behavior of any element in the universe—be it animal, vegetable, or (such as its demonstrated with the crystals) mineral, creates a kind of resonant memory capable of being transmitted to elements of the same or similar kind. In effect, the more one element is similar to another (two animals of the same species) the easier it is for the morphic field to be transmitted between the elements. “Each individual both draws upon and contributes to the collective memory of the species. This means that new patterns of behavior can spread more rapidly than would otherwise be possible. For example, if rats of a particular breed learn a new trick in Harvard, then rats of that breed should be able to learn the same trick faster all over the world, say in Edinburgh and Melbourne,” writes Sheldrake in his paper titled “Morphic Fields and Morphic Resonance.”

In effect, experiments illustrating this principle have been revealed on numerous occasions. One example can be seen in Dr. William McDougall’s classic experiment. McDougall was measuring the intelligence of different rodents to solve a maze.  The rats catalogued as “intelligent” mated among themselves, and the “stupid” rats among themselves. The stupid and intelligent lineages were separated and isolated, and the experiments extended for more than 50 years—starting at the University of Harvard and continuing onto Scotland and Australia. The final result was as surprising as it was significant: ten, twenty and successive generations into the future, the rats of both lineages had become faster and faster at solving the maze, without being exposed to the test before. Both the stupid and intelligent ones were able to finish the test some ten times faster than the original rats. Even today, there is no theory other than “morphic fields” that can interpret the results of such phenomena.

Scientists seem hard pressed to explain the strange behavior of the rats, the monkeys of Koshima, or the simultaneous crystallization of new chemical compounds, other than Rupert Sheldrake. Whether one believes it a truth or lie, fantasy or reality, the field of holistic sciences still does not seem to have reached its capacity, in a world where the “scientific method” reigns as master over general thought.