In his hypothesis of formative causation, British biologist Rupert Sheldrake has theorized that the forms of self-organizing systems are shaped and governed by invisible fields of morphic resonance. According to his theory, these fields are built up over time to contain the collective memory of like substances and organisms, influencing their structural formation and patterns of activity through resonance. Geese, for example, would share a collective informational field, accrued over the entire period of their existence, which organizes and informs their growth and behavior. A human example of such fields would be Swiss psychologist Carl Jung’s collective unconscious.
The traditional mechanistic view of morphogenesis attempts to explain the formation of organisms in terms of how particles and molecules interact with one another. It also focuses on genes, gene activation and proteins. But that focus, as Sheldrake’s website states, “no more explains the development of form than the study of the delivering of building materials at a building site explains the structure of the house that is built there.” Scientists have not yet been able to explain, for example, how DNA commands the cells of a child to grow only to a certain point and no further.
Put simply, the mechanistic view doesn’t explain what organizes these components into patterns and holds them together, encouraging them to continue assembling into yet higher forms that behave holistically rather than as a mere collection of parts.
Morphic resonance, on the other hand, is able to explain not only how proteins progressively arrange into higher forms—first as cells and eventually as tissues and organisms, but also how organisms are greater than the sum of their parts. This wholeness of living organisms defines them as being much more than mere aggregates of parts. Morphic resonance offers a more holistic view of how form emerges and cooperates with other forms on various levels to support their evolution into higher forms.
Evidence for the Morphic Resonance Theory
Study #1: Sheldrake conducted a study in which a group of English schoolchildren were asked to learn and memorize three different Japanese rhymes: 1) A popular rhyme known by millions of Japanese; 2) a meaningless series of Japanese words arranged to look meaningful; and 3) a brand new Japanese verse created expressly for this study. (Keep in mind, none of these children knew the Japanese language, and neither Sheldrake nor the students knew which rhyme was which.)
Result: The children were able to learn the popular, well-known Japanese rhyme much more quickly than the other two.
Conclusion: The results support Sheldrake’s hypothesis that this rhyme was connected to a well-formed morphic field, developed over a considerable period of time, which subtly enabled these children to learn the rhyme more quickly via resonance. That is to say, over a period of time, a mutual resonance had been established between human organisms and this field, unconsciously supporting them in learning the rhyme. If this interpretation is correct, it would imply that human beings regularly entrain—on a subtle level—to various informational fields that make daily tasks much easier to learn and master through an incredibly refined and as-yet-undetectable form of mutual resonance—between field and organism.
Study #2: Psychologist Arden Mahlberg invented a new form of Morse code, which he taught to a group of subjects. He also taught them the official Morse code.
Result: The group acquired and memorized the official Morse code much more quickly than the newly invented code.
Study #3: Yale professor of psychology Gary Schwartz conducted a study in which he used 24 three-letter words commonly found in the Hebrew Bible, as well as 24 three-letter words found only rarely in the same document. He also created a shuffled version of each of these words. All of these words—in Hebrew—were presented to subjects, who were asked to rate each word in terms of how confident they were that they could guess its meaning.
Result: Students gave higher confidence ratings—nearly twice as high—for the common words than the rare words.
Conclusion: Although these students were unable to accurately guess the meaning of each word, their confidence ratings suggest that the common Hebrew words were indeed tied to highly developed morphic fields, built up over time through extended use. And again, this supports the idea that we regularly entrain to, and enter into resonance with, subtle informational fields on an intuitive level.
Study #4: Sheldrake conducted a study in which the maze-learning errors of rats were plotted over several generations. Every possible variable was painstakingly controlled, including age, aptitude, and many other variables.
Result: The resulting graph indicated that later generations of rats mastered the maze more quickly than their forebears. This result was repeated even when the more sluggish, less proficient were allowed to breed.
Conclusion: This evidence supports the notion that morphic fields accumulate over time, and thereby support the learning and growth of future generations through resonance.
Study #5: German naturalist Gunther Becker created a special termite dwelling using four transparent plastic containers. They were arranged side by side, and termites were placed in each one. This was designed to observe how the termites would go about building their vertical tunnels, which are usually constructed only along the peripheral walls.
Result: The termites in the two middle containers did not engage in any vertical tunnel building at all. Only the termites in the containers on each end of the colony built vertical tunnels, which were erected only along the two outermost walls, exactly as would be seen in a normal termite mound.
Conclusion: This evidence suggests that an existing morphic field—or biofield energy, accrued over the entire existence of the termite species, guided the termites in building their vertical tunnels, even within the confines of a divided mound. The plastic containers did not appear to interfere with the field.
Study #6: Monarch butterflies are known to migrate to Mexico, taking anywhere from four to five generations for the group to complete the journey. This phenomenon in itself supports the hypothesis of a guiding morphic field that supports succeeding generations in making the trip.
Study #7: Dutch biologist A. C. Perdeck forced youngsters of a migratory species to change their paths.
Result: He was able to successfully establish new patterns of migration within a migratory species in a single generation.
Conclusion: A new morphic field was possibly generated, based on the urgency of the forced pattern change, and continued to resonate with enough coherence to support this new migratory pattern among later generations.
In 1922, William Ogburn and Dorothy Thomas discovered 148 scientific discoveries that fit a pattern referred to by science historians as multiples. A multiple is said to occur when a particular scientific discovery is found to have emerged in multiple geographic locations either simultaneously or within the same time period, but independently of each other.
The following are just a few examples of such “multiples”:
- Joule, Colding, Thomson and Helmholz each articulated the law of the conservation of energy independently of one another in 1847.
- There appear to have been at least six different individuals who invented the thermometer.
- Nine individuals each claimed to have invented the telescope.
- Multiple inventors in the U.S. and England developed the typewriter, each unaided by the others.
- Fulton, Jouffroy, Rumsey, Stevens and Symington each claimed exclusive invention of the steamboat.
- Calculus was discovered not only by Leibniz, but by Newton as well.
- Decimal fractions were developed independently by three different mathematicians.
- Carl Wilhelm Scheele discovered oxygen in Sweden 1773, and Joseph Priestly discovered it independently in England a year later.
- Two researchers in France, Charles Cros and Louis Ducos du Hauron, invented color photography independently of one another.
Galileo in Italy, Fabricius in Holland, Harriott in England, and Scheiner in Germany all independently discovered sunspots in 1611.These observations, along with many other studies, discoveries and even spiritual texts not mentioned here, paint the picture of a shared informational field to which we all subtly entrain. This refined and often unconscious or intuitive mutual resonance — between field and organism — appears to help us cognize the world in which we live.
“The great breakthroughs of classical Hebrew, Greek, Chinese and Indian culture occurred almost at the same time [750 to 399 B.C.] . . . among people who were not likely to have been in actual communication.”
~ Ervin Laszlo
This mutual resonance may also play an integral role in the well-documented personality changes that occur in recipients of transplanted organs. According to a study conducted by Dr. Paul Pearsall, “A total sample of 74 transplant recipients (23 of which were heart transplants) . . . showed various degrees of changes that paralleled the personalities of their donors.”
It would appear that the accumulated biofield energy of the donor organ remains resonantly connected to the organ after it has been transplanted into the recipient. Its resonant field may thereafter subtly entrain the personality of the recipient, giving rise to sometimes strange new memories, behaviors, preferences and habits positively correlated with the personality of the donor.
If this is a real phenomenon, at least two important questions arise:
If these fields are built up over time, how do they emerge in the first place?
How do these fields evolve toward higher, more complex fields?
Taking clues from evidence we will further explore later on in this series, the answer to both questions seems to be that a mysterious creative field—referred to sometimes as the quantum field, zero-point field or source field, and to which we will henceforth refer to as the Field—spontaneously gives rise to these morphic fields. Once they are birthed from the Field, they not only guide the structural formation and activity patterns of various substances and organisms; they are also informed by the various behaviors and environmental patterns of these same substances and organisms.
This would seem to indicate that we as humans are not only informed by the Field as a whole, but are also somehow informing the Field through our habitual patterns. If this is the case, it would seem that our responsibility to evolve our consciousness cannot be overstated.
Becker, G. “Communication between Termites by Bio Fields.” Biological Cybernetics 26 (1977): 41-51.
Citro, M. The Basic Code of the Universe: The Science of the Invisible in Physics, Medicine, and Spirituality. Rochester, VT: Park Street Press, 2011.
Gladwell, M. In the Air: Who Says Big Ideas Are Rare?” The New Yorker, May 12, 2008.
Kelly, K., and S. Johnson. “Where Ideas Come From.” Wired, September 27, 2010.
Laszlo, E. “The interconnected universe: Conceptual foundations of transdisciplinary unified theory.” World Scientific, 133-35.
Pearsall, P., G. Schwartz, and L. Russek. “Organ Transplants and Cellular Memories.” Nexus Magazine, April-May 2005, 27-32, 76.
Perdeck, A. C. “Two Types of Orientation in Migrating Starlings and Chaffinches as Revealed by Displacement Experiments.” Ardea 46 (1958): 1-37.
Sheldrake, R. Morphic Resonance: The Nature of Formative Causation. Rochester, VT: Park Street Press, 2009.
Sheldrake, R. The Presence of the Past: Morphic Resonance and the Habits of Nature. New York: Times Books, 1988.
Sheldrake, R. Seven Experiments That Could Change The World. New York: Riverhead Trade, 1995.
Swanson, C. LIFE FORCE, The Scientific Basis: Breakthrough Physics of Energy Medicine, Healing, Chi and Quantum Consciousness. Tucson: Poseidia Press, 2010.
Swanson, C. The Synchronized Universe: New Science of the Paranormal. Tucson: Poseidia Press, 2003.
Tompkins, P., and C. Bird. The Secret Life of Plants. London: Allen Lane, 1974.
Thanks Eric for all that you are.
How might one attach to a new psychic field, say with other humans of financial abundance?
How might I disconnect from a past psychic field of Unification Church members?
In the seventies, there was a kind of field, that like a pebble dropped into a pool encompassed a generation. Peace, love, ”I am he as we are we” but during the eighties that field shifted to a lower resonance and continued to fade into the following decade.
It now seems that another shift is happening-I’ve been waiting. The resonant field today seems to be a slow tide that is moving inward. What I’m learning about subtle energy and experiencing through modern technology is more potent in it’s own way than what I personally felt in the seventies. It would seem that morphic fields in relation to subtle energy is a phenomenon who’s time has come.
All I can say is ”sitting on a corn flake waiting for the van to come”
Very interesting I like, Have you looked at Marko Rodin’s work ? cause If you haven’t take a look.
Hears the link.
I had an awakening once where I saw that somehow all biological life on earth: past, present and future was somehow one evolving organism. Maybe that had something to do with morphic fields.
Does this align with “epigenetics”, 100th monkey phenomena, instinctual vs learned behavior that seems to favor learned behavior as one ascends the evolutionary scale, and other such patterns seen in nature?
Yes, morphic fields do seem likely related to epigenetics. Although the principle on which the “100th money” phenomenon is based appears to be a very real occurrence, the actual story on which the 100th money idea is based has been supposedly debunked. Regardless, the principal has continued to stand the test of time through other scientific studies.
Fascinating read. Has any studies been conducted of the decay of information in the morphic field in regards to a change that resulted a major shift in behaviour for a species? For instance, the global phenomena of colony collapse disorder in bees?
Thanks! I’m not aware of any such studies at this time, nor am I sure how such a thing could be tested. But it’s a great question 🙂
Dear Eric: Thanks so much for this wonderfully researched article on morphic resonance. I teach morphic resonance as part of Archetypal Pattern Analysis, a meta theory on patterns. My application is in the field of therapy, coaching and organizational development. Can I have your permission to use your article in trainings? Thanks so much, Shannon Pernetti, Archetypal Pattern Analyst, Portland, Oregon
Thank you, Shannon! Yes, please feel free to use this article as you wish 🙂