Morphic Fields and Social Change

New systems should show an increasing tendency to come into being the more often they are repeated. They should become increasingly probable; they should happen more easily as time goes on. For example, when a new chemical compound is synthesized by research chemists and crystallized, it may take a long time for the crystal to form for the first time. There is no pre-existing morphic field for the lattice structure. But when the first crystals form, they will make it easier for similar crystals to appear anywhere in the world. The more often the compound is crystallized, the easier it should be to crystallize.

(Rupert Sheldrake)

Just to be clear I am a beginner in the area of studying Sheldrake’s morphic fields concept, so forgive any misunderstandings on my part, but I find it very interesting as an idea. And reading over some of his work I thought about his hypothesis of ”Attractors” which is based on  an idea of René Thom’s, the mathematician. The idea is

The mathematician René Thom has created mathematical models of morphogenetic fields in which the endpoints toward which a system develops are defined as attractors. In the branch of mathematics known as dynamics, attractors represent the limits toward which dynamical systems are drawn. They provide a scientific way of thinking about ends, purposes, goals, or intentions. All morphic fields contain attractors. (Sheldrake)

Morphogenetics, simply put, is the theory behind why our cells, despite having identical DNA, develop differently, thus our leg looks different than our arm, though composed of basically the same matter, and an oak leaf looks different than a maple leaf. Sheldrake was studying this as a young man and began to expand on existing theories.

Sheldrake has developed a theory of the morphic fields, or a sort of subtle resonance that influences the behaviour of everything from atoms, to cells, to schools of fish, to human beings, to cultures and civilisations. It is a sort of ”habitual” pattern making tendency, a reliance on ”memory”, that makes things stay the way they generally have been, unless some ”attractor” counteracts the pattern and sets up a new habit.

This is the part that got me thinking. A lot of major social change and upheaval has come about as the result of often one particular limited being or event. Thus for example Rosa Parkes could be said to have functioned as an ”attractor”, or Gandhi, or Stalin, or Hordur Torfason who protested outside the parliament in Iceland and spurred a radically different approach to the economic collapse than that experienced elsewhere. Similarly, events like a volcanic eruption can cause the Dark Ages, plague, famine, societal horrors etc. See also cargo cults, the Moonies, facebook culture and so on; the list is endless. These all sprang from an initial and sometimes relatively small but apparently resonant force which could be called an attractor.

The morphic field could function as a cosmic mind, a global collective unconscious. It requires the function of an attractor to change its course; maybe this does not  even have to be as persuasive as a tipping point. It could be ~ and i’m just plucking examples here ~ the appearance of alien life forms, a massive geological event, or just one persons sufficiently attractive idea, that would be what is required to initiate a sweeping change in habitual patterns of behaviour via the morphic field, which akin to the hundred monkey theory then begins to spread like wildfire and leave us evolved in a way we cannot at this present moment foresee.

It was Richard Dawkins who coined the term ”memes”, those little sound bites of cultural communication that ”infect’ the hive mind within such a short period of time (via our new external nervous system ~ the net…he did not say that, I’m just adding it.) Sheldrake notes how relatively sudden adaptations  are made to livestock behaviours all around the world; one example he uses is that cattle tend not to cross grid lines painted on the earth as a substitute for real iron grids. This occurs not only in animals who have had contact with older animals who have come a cropper with the metal grids. but also in livestock that had no association at all. There are m,any examples of this.

I like the application of Sheldrake’s theories to spiritual resonance; for example that we can send prayer and healing energy and love through long distances, but it has so many vaster possibilities. That one day we might all wake up and feel a new sense of calm surety and confidence as to what we aught to do immediately to engender peace in our time; to clean up the ecology, to revolutionise the social and economic paradigms so that we are looking after each of our fellow beings with dignity, to become  spiritually tolerant, enlightened and open, and so on. That possibility of deep global change is a good reason for us all to continue our spiritual practices and our seeking for it is by repetition that the morphic field seems to learn new habits and move towards an alternative attractor. Sheldrake himself maintains that societal paradigms are hard to change because the force of habit and memory is so strong, but if his theory is correct paradigms are mutable nonetheless!! We just have to invest persistently in different, more beneficial habits.

The means by which information or an activity-pattern is transferred from a previous to a subsequent system of the same kind is called morphic resonance. Morphic resonance involves the influence of like upon like, the influence of patterns of activity on subsequent similar patterns of activity, an influence that passes through or across space and time from past to present. These influences do not fall off with distance in space or time.The greater the degree of similarity, the greater the influence of morphic resonance. (Sheldrake)



Generally just Being. Nothing in particular, no claims to fame. I like gardening and the sea, nature, art in all forms from poetry to films and everything in between, and being in the company of my family.

Posted in The Shrine of Eris, Uncategorized

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