Sheldrake and the Morphogenetic Field Theory

30-11-2010 21:13

Rupert Sheldrake (1942–) is son of a traditional English family. He studied vegetal physiology and philosophy, at Cambridge and Harvard (12). He, as a researcher membership of the famous Royal Society, developed a scientific project on aging cells. He was also invited-professor in Germany, U.S.A., and Malaysia. He lived some years in India, where he directed a team that researched the evolution of useful tropical plants, and during this period he absorbed knowledge of the Indian philosophy.

His first book, A New Science of Life, was published in 1981. In this book, which fell as a bomb on the scientific world, Sheldrake presented the theoretical foundation for a new and revolutionary vision of morphologic creation – the emergence of the forms in the organic and inorganic world. From the scientific publications, the commentaries and reactions spread out to periodicals, broadcasting and television media. The scientific establishment banished him, burning his book symbolically, and obstructed the access of Sheldrake to the important scientific magazines, such as Nature that blamed Sheldrake’s book as an "annoying treatise” and his theories as "[…] scientific nonsense aberrations.” Nevertheless, at the time, he had his followers, like Arthur Koestler, who classified Sheldrake’s theories as “[…] unbelievably stimulant and defying.” On the other hand, the Sunday Times Magazine, despite of praising Sheldrake’s language as sober and clear, affirmed that he did not display scientific proofs of his theses.

Ten years later, the disputes on Sheldrake’s theories had not lost the heat from the first hours. His new and including work, published in 2001, The Presence of the Past – excited and comes to exciting new controversies.

His main thesis deals with the capacity of learning of the "creation” and the interaction between the Spirit and the Matter. It is a thesis that he recognizes as being difficult to prove definitively. Despite this, it is as unbelievable as it is simple. According to him, beyond the energy fields that we knew by science, such as, gravitational and the electromagnetic fields, the nature possess morphogenetic fields, too. These fields are defined by Sheldrake as "[…] invisible organizers structures capable to form and organize crystals, plants and animals, determining until their behavior.” As biologist, he affirms that these morphogenetic fields contain the sum of the whole history and the entire evolution, as if it was something similar to Carl. G. Jung’s collective unconscious.

Still, according to Sheldrake’s hypothesis, "[…] all that turns out to happen, at a certain moment, it will show its consequence in the future, in similar processes. In the learning process, for example, the fact that something can be learnt by somebody implies in the fact of this determined thing to turn out to be learned by other person, more easily, wherever the person is.” Several experiences were accomplished regarding the learning process and memorization that presented evidence and conclusions in favor of the Sheldrake’s hypothesis.

Sheldrake stretches his concept of morphic resonance to the entire whole universe, when assuming that "[…] similar structures can be in communication in space and time” by means of their morphogenetic fields. Thus, one verifies that "[…] what is in discussion about the "bomb" thrown by Sheldrake is nothing more nothing less than a scientific hypothesis. Such hypothesis, in case that it turns out to be proven, would knock down all the materialistic conception of the universe.” It is this cosmos vision which seems surrealist that intends to place a shovel of whitewash in the scientific materialism.

In his second book, The Presence of the Past, already previously cited, he advances a little more and conjectures on the hypothesis that the nature possesses a memory with cumulative character. In virtue of this, this memory extends itself in each repetition, to such a point we can say, the characteristics of the things come from a habitual process. The habits would not only be able to construct the nature of all the living beings, but also of crystals, atoms, molecules and, at last, of the entire cosmos.

The amazing provocation of this new book, which caused a true "storm", could be expressed in the following form: "[…] our personal habits might be derived from the accumulated influence of our past behavior, with which we keep a communication by resonance. If this turns out to be truth, our last experiences would not have to be stored in a physical form in our neuro-sensorial system. This will be valid when we remember of a song or of something that happened in the last year. It would be feasible that we had access to the past by direct means. Perhaps, our memory has not been engraved in the brain, as we presupposed so naturally.” In this direction, Sheldrake speaks of reasonable suggestions, of possibilities that still are to be proven, in scientific terms.

To prove his hypothesis that the memory does not find itself in the brain, Sheldrake uses the television example, saying that biologists and geneticists, who defend the materialistic memory, act as if they intended to explain the functioning of the television device exclusively by means of mechanical concepts, restricted to the box of the receiving device. Everybody knows that the information that reproduces the images comes from determined circuits, located inside the TV set. However, each television set receives images from a distant and central source, that is, from the television transmitting studios, which emit them by means of their transmission signals, trhrough an invisible field capable to generate the sound and the images. Therefore, still according to Sheldrake,

[…] our brain functions as a television set and the morphogenetic fields transmit information to us in a similar way, by using non-spatial and non-mechanic means. Our brain, then, would be more comparable to the television set than to the transmitted program. In other words, what we remember is not found in our brain, as well as, the reporter is not found inside the TV set.

Therefore, it is not to surprising that Sheldrake has been declared an enemy of science, especially of the materialism, and he had his theory entitled of "Horse of Troy", because he tried to sneakily reintroduce metaphysics in the modern world, after natural science had banished it definitively.”

Perhaps, the most radical and serious question refers to the concepts and natural laws. For scientists, the natural and immutable laws support science, although Sheldrake does not agree with this truth. For Sheldrake, the cosmos is in a constant transformation and evolution, and the concepts and natural laws are considered as non-temporal and immutable, affirming that, what we usually call "natural laws", perhaps, are regarded as habits of creation. This seems to be the core of the question.

They may call Sheldrake as a metaphysical, hermetic or agnostic, but he is, above all, an empiricist. The experiment is decisive, he strive himself to clarify it. Although his hypotheses are picked by intuition, Sheldrake submits himself to the scientific experiment.

The Intelligent Design

The Intelligent Design is a theory proposed by Michael Behe (6, 7), membership and biochemist at Lehigh University, and author of the book entitled Darwin's Black Box – The Free Press, 1996. According to the Intelligent Design, intelligent causes would be responsible for the origin of the universe and of life, in all its diversity. The followers of this theory, among them, William Dembski, author of the book Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science and Theology – Cambridge University Press, 1998, they affirm that, it is a scientific theory offering empirical tests of God’s existence. Behe and Dembski are founders and directors of the Discovery Institute of Seattle, USA, sponsored and supported by Christian foundations. These authors and their followers believe that the nature is an open book that demonstrates the action of the intelligent design in the living systems but, the authors, instead of offering positive indications for their points of view, mainly try to find weaknesses in Darwin’s natural selection theory. However, even that they found strong and successful arguments against the natural selection, this would not become the Intelligent Design more acceptable. They have strongly acted in the United States of America and they already got the teaching of this theory in the science lessons, in some American states, by forcing changes in the state laws, as an alternative to the scientific theory of Darwin’s natural selection.

A great number of opponents, scientists and skeptics, have alleged that ID (Intelligent Design) aims to create arguments that would be used by the Bible creationist followers, of which we have already discussed in Chapter 3 – The Roads of Evolution – when confronting Evolution versus Creationism. This scientists and skeptics have inflexibly rejected the evolution theory, and even though, they have seen it as a very great obstacle to religiosity, as for example, alleged by Professor Johnson, as Professor of Laws at the University of Berkeley.

For Professor Phillip E. Johnson, Darwin’s theory of the natural selection establishes three positions, to know: first, that God does not exist, second, that the natural selection could only have happened according to a randomly way and by chance, and third and last position, whatsoever may have happened, by chance or randomly, it could not have been designed by God. We believe that Mr. Johnson didn’t understand and seems not to understand completely the Darwin’s natural selection theory.

But, we do not go to comment or to refuse the Creationism or Darwin’s theory here, to only evidence that both theories fight a deathly struggle, instead of agreement. All turns around the controversy that exists between religion versus science on the existence or not of God – of the origin of life and duration of the evolution process on the Earth. Religious people and pseudo-scientists disdain of the evolution theory by natural selection, on which Darwin dedicated himself 27 years of his disciplined and careful life to generate his so discussed book, published with the simplified title of The Origin of the Species.

We just comment that any free thinker, scientist or not, will be able to conjecture some hypotheses on the evolution of life on the Earth. For example, God could have created superior intelligent creatures and performed experiences with natural selection in other planets or existential plans of the universe and transferred the result of such experiences to the Earth, or even, any hypothesis that our fertile imagination could dream. What we cannot deny is that the natural selection exists!

Michael Behe, the author of the Intelligent Design theory, argues that "irreducibly complex systems," such as the eye and its components, could not function in case of lacking just one of some of its parts. He affirms that “[…] irreducibly complex systems, cannot evolve in a Darwin’s way" and that, the Intelligent Design must be responsible for these irreducibly complex systems. Currently, this subject comes deserving many discussions by independent scientists and biologists with those linked to Behe´s Intelligent Design. The main biologists´ counter-argument is that a complex and interdependent biological system does not evolve as individual parts, but yes, in its entireness and by means of gradual modifications throughout millenniums of evolution. When Behe is being corralled, he always protects himself in theology, saying (6): "God can make any thing that he wants", or "We are incompetent to judge the intelligence, according to God’s pattern.”

Despite of all this debate or discussion, Darwin himself wrote: "In case that it could be demonstrated that any complex organ exists that cannot have been formed through minor modifications, numerous and successive ones, my theory (of the natural selection) would certainly be refused.” Charles Darwin – The Origin of Species. And that was not yet demonstrated!

The own DNA is a complex macromolecular structure. This complexity grows in the complex cellular organizations, beginning with the simplest to the most complex, gradually, throughout billions of years of evolution, submitted to the natural and immutable laws, from which the physics´ laws are derived. According to Victor J. Stenger (8):

[... ] the probability of the DNA to organize itself by chance is of 1.0 x 1040,000 (10 raised to the power of 40,000) years – according to Fred Hoyle, Evolution from Space [1981]. This is true, but highly deceitful. DNA was not purely organized by chance. It was grouped itself due to a combination of chance with the physics laws. Without the physics laws, as we know them, the life on the Earth, according to what we know it would not have evolved in the short term of six billion of years. It was necessary the nuclear force to link protons and electrons to the nucleus of atoms, electromagnetism to keep together atoms and molecules, and gravity to keep the resultant ingredients of the life imprisoned on the Earth surface.

May these fascinating ideas inspire many physicists to reexamining their points of view aiming to reach the transcendentalism through their studies, and also extending the science scope and placing their clever intelligences to the humanity service.

4. The Invisible World

When we say that the invisible world is much bigger than we think, such affirmation is applicable not only in relation to the diversity presented by the Matter in its diverse forms, inclusive the plasmatic and plasmable, but also, in relation to all types and species of forces, be them physical or purely transcendental, that is, of spiritual nature.

With relation to the matter, it is entirely invisible, when considered in its structural essence, as individual molecules, either formed by the junction of two or more identical atoms (pure substances) or by the combination of different atoms among them to form the more diverse composite substances of the nature. Really, what gives visibility to the matter is its agglomeration in volume and mass superior to the wave length of luminous radiations when in it reflected.

Still as matter, with very little exceptions, all the gases (in which the forces of cohesion are lower than the forces of repulsion), even when agglomerated in great masses, are invisible. Thus, gases such as Hydrogen, Oxygen and Nitrogen, all the noble gases (Helium, Argon, Neon, Xenon, Krypton and Radon), and combined mixtures of gases (as air), gases as carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, etc., all of them, when pure, are completely invisible, under the normal conditions of temperature and pressure. Already the substances in the liquid state (the force of cohesion equals to the force of repulsion) or in the solid state (the force of cohesion higher than the force of repulsion) are all visible. A classic example of a substance that can exist in the three mentioned states is water –it can present itself as much in the solid state (ice or snow), as in liquid (common water) or as steam.

It remains, we can mention, the so-called fourth state of matter, the plasma, which is constituted by ionized gases that exist at very high temperatures. The plasmatic state shows itself in the form of a very great thermal movement, involving positive and negative ions, having properties different of the basic substance of which it came, be it solid, liquid or gaseous. For example, the water above 2000ºC, and at any pressure, changes to its plasmatic state, ceasing all and any possibility of chemical reaction, and at 5000ºC it occurs a total decomposition in its elements – Hydrogen and Oxygen, both in the plasmatic state. We find examples of gases in the plasmatic state in the incandescent atmosphere of the Sun, and stars, in general. As a whole, the plasma is neutral, and it contains an equal amount of negative and positive particles. However, the interaction of these electrical charges gives to the plasma a great variety of properties different of the original gases, and although being neutral, its particles are susceptible to the electromagnetic fields, re-orienting its charges in accordance with the law of physical attraction. The physics of plasma is one of the most advanced branches of the scientific progress. In relation to the visibility, the matter in its fourth state is invisible, or sometimes, visible only in special conditions.

There’s also a new matter – the so-called dark matter, which the physicists suppose to exist in every part of the world, representing about 90% of the universe total mass or even more. This matter interposes in the sidereal and inter-galactic space, without which it would be difficult to explain the gravitational forces that keep the order in the universe and counterbalances its expansion. This is a subject of the highest interest of the physicists of our time.

Finally, there is a type of matter, the so-called cosmic fluid, which physics does not consider or didn’t study yet, but it is intuitive and whose concept is easily admitted by the spiritists and spiritualists persons. We are talking about the plasmable matter by the Intelligent Force, in which the cohesion force between molecules is very weak, becoming it as a kind of subtle matter with very low density. It is treated, evidently, of invisible and non tangible matter, almost imponderable, so tenuous it is. As well as the steam gets dry and becomes invisible (dry steam) or can condense, forming water that with it enters in equilibrium and becomes visible, the cosmic fluid is endowed with the properties of expansibility and condensation, too. We don’t know anything about its singular nature and composition. This type of matter does not possess the properties of the tangible matter, such as it is known by science and, still, it was not submitted to the chemical analysis. A material example, which is similar to the existence of this fluid, it would be the nebula or comet tails. It is visible only, because it was full of cosmic dust. Would it be the dark matter of the scientists the same cosmic fluid of the spiritists and spiritualists?

One admits that the cosmic fluid can exist in two distinct states: at a tenuous or weightlessness state, which can be considered as normal or primitive state, and at a condensation state, in which its materiality becomes perceivable. This is equivalent to say that the cosmic fluid can pass of intangible matter to the state of tangible matter, and in the same way that the invisible steam can be condensed into water, becoming itself visible.

It is easy to understand that each one of these two states (subtle and condensation states) necessarily give place to differentiated phenomena. In the condensation state it would be responsible for the so-called visible world phenomena, while that in its subtle state it would support the invisible world phenomena. The former phenomena, nominated as material phenomena, are subjects of the science field properly said; and the latter, invisible, are qualified of paranormal or spiritual phenomena, because they are linked to the existence of the spirit. It is obvious that the study of one of these states would never be completed without the study of the others, also in order to know how they interact among themselves.

5. Parapsychology and the Inexplicable Phenomena

The word parapsychology appeared for the first time in 1889. Its name is attributed to the German scholarship Max Dessoir, from Stuttgart, and this term came to embrace the study of the inexplicable phenomena – the so-called: occult phenomena, which were not dealt with neither by the classic psychology nor by any existing natural science, with the intention to provide forum of science to it. In accordance with Robert Amadou (9): “Parapsychology doesn´t confuse itself neither with theology nor with a religion, like the Spiritism does; nor with philosophy, like the Occultism does; parapsychology aspires to be recognized as a science.” However, after more than 100 years, only recently, parapsychology was recognized as a science and the majority of the phenomena dealt by it keep without explanation, and very few of these phenomena had been accepted by science. To these phenomena, parapsychology applies, currently, one generic denomination of paranormal phenomena.

Although not being the objective of our work to make one critical essay about parapsychology knowledge, it’s valid to notice that, during the 20th century, three thought schools have survived (9): The first one, among three others, is the conservative French school, represented by Robert Amadou, who has kept the natural versus supernatural dichotomy; the second school, is the Russian thought school, under L. L. Vasiliev´s command, who interested himself for the practical aspects of telepathy; and finally, the American thought school conducted by Joseph Banks Rhine, at the Duke University, aiming to the advancement of this science in the area of the supernatural to reduce it to the natural science. In other words, Rhine intended to give to parapsychology a treatment according to a historical-scientific perspective. There were progress in England (Soal, Price and Watheley Carington), who had developed theories on the mental or psychic survival of the human beings, and in Germany, by Rudolphe Tischner, who studied the same subject that the English researchers did. It is necessary to notice that the Rhine’s thought school reached the most ample results, but since 1965, his research was interrupted under the allegation by the Duke University’s direction that "[…] his researches had not reached practical objectives.” After that, Rhine created his own foundation, denominated Foundation for Research on the Nature of Man.

With the accomplishment of the First International Congress of Parapsychology – Utrecht, in 1953, Robert Thouless and B. P. Wiesner (10) proposed to change the denomination of such paranormal occurrences of PSI phenomena, provoked by the function PSI (from the Greek, psyche, meaning soul). This function was subdivided in two classes. The first one is called function psi-gamma, responsible for the phenomena of subjective nature as the telepathy, clairvoyance, mediumship, pre-cognition and post-cognition, etc, and the second one, called of function psi-kappa, responsible for the phenomena of objective nature, in which it is observed movement, alteration, modification or any other operations on material objects, as the psycho kinesis, ghosts, ectoplasmia, rappings, etc.

Thouless and Wiesner formulated a hypothesis of work concerning the origin of "function PSI.” They admitted the existence of a psychic entity which not only operates in the normal and paranormal cognitive activities, as also it is capable to interact either with external objects and with other brains, as in the case of the brain and the nervous system of the human being, in whose body the “function PSI” insert itself. They gave to this curious entity the name of shin, whose pronunciation corresponds to the twentieth first letter of the Hebrew alphabet. According to them, "shin" would be the cause of all the normal and paranormal psychic functions, meanwhile, as effect, they would have the "function PSI" to designate the paranormal functions as a whole. In that sense, the psi-gamma is the subjective function (ESP, according to Rhine), and psi-kappa is the objective function (PK, according to Rhine). After all, that is as an artifice "[…] to deviating from the old problem of the spirit, in which the religious and metaphysical implications constitute the biggest obstacle for its acceptance by science.” (10)

Nowadays, in general way, we use J. B. Rhine’s nomenclature: ESP, meaning extra-sensorial perception, and in order to signalize the objective phenomena, we use PK as denomination of psycho kinesis.

A great number of phenomena, like premonitory dreams, the cases of near-death experiences, of thought transmission (telepathy), of influences at distance, of extra-sensorial perception, and of some facts that occur at great or small distances were cautiously studied by parapsychology, which already admits the reality of such facts, classifying them as "paranormal phenomena.” But science, although apparently being open to the new facts, keeps rigorous caution regarding to questions that seems to involve problems regarding man spiritual nature.

Would it be “an exterior mind" acting on such objects? That is, would the ESP be a reply to an exterior stimulation, without the aid of the five normal physical senses? Is it valid to imagine, as hypothesis, an "incorporeal mind" capable to directly and mechanically act on material objects, to explain the objective phenomena of the type PK – psycho kinesis? They are questions not yet solved by science.

All phenomena that occur in the invisible world, submitted to the action of the Intelligent Force, are and will continue being inexplicable by science, while it doesn´t have better knowledge of what is the Intelligent Force. For the spiritist and spiritualist beings such phenomena have the generic name of animic phenomena or psychic phenomena, and they are function of the variation of the biopsychic fields of man by the action of the Intelligent Force.

According to this approach, we can classify such phenomena into two types: medianic phenomena and mediumistic phenomena. In the first ones, the Intelligent Force acts on material objects, giving movement to them or, then, materializing of some form the fluids (tenuous and invisible matter to our vision sense). Already in the mediumistic phenomena, the Intelligent Force interacts of some form directly with persons or among persons.

Among the first phenomena, we can cite the psychography, materializations, mediumistic photographs, the rappings, the falling stones on something, appearances or phantoms, etc.

Among the second phenomena we can include the mediumship in its diverse forms and degrees, as the intuitive mediumship or intuition, the smelling, the hearing, the clairvoyance, and the telepathic mediumship. As a mixing or global phenomenon, we find the incorporation mediumship.

The admission of this Intelligent Force would explain, also, the animic phenomena first studied by Mesmer – from there the name of mesmerism to these phenomena, from which the somnambulism is a type, as well as the hypnotism or hypnotic trance, whose knowledge also comes from the mesmerism, originally had as human magnetism or vital force. Mesmer, Charcot and other followers gave the first steps.

6. Spiritualist Vision of the Intelligent Force

In the spiritualist vision, the entire whole universe constitutes itself of Force and Matter, being the latter to form all the substances and bodies, and the former to animate them. But here, the Force concept extends much beyond the concept taught by physics, as shown in Chapter 2 – Force and Matter, which we presented in the first part of this work.

The Intelligent Force is present in the entire whole universe and permeates all and any type of Matter (substance), either inorganic or organic and organized, as well as, all living cells individually and in its whole, in each living being. It is the active agent that, acting on the Matter, which is the passive agent, animates the atomic structure of the Matter and, in the living beings (plants and animals), acts in the inner of the cells, giving life to them. Here, we would need also to extend the life concept to the minerals, as already we advanced when we dealt with the Evolution, in the first part of this book. Thus, according to Luiz de Mattos (2), we would have: "1) in the mineral kingdom – incipient Intelligent Force, as a result of the atomic and molecular vibration in the amorphous matter and in the crystals crystalline forms; 2) in the vegetal kingdom – Intelligent Force and incipient life, stable, without appreciable mobility; and 3) in the animal kingdom – Intelligent Force, full life and intelligence, with mobility."

In man, we have: the Intelligent Force, the plenum life and plenum intelligence, with free will and many attributes of the Force, which, from here on receives the name of spirit.

Still, according to Luiz de Mattos (2), "One should not infer, from there, the inexistence of life in the mineral kingdom or of intelligence in the vegetal kingdom. We just mention the predominance of the pointed basic attributes to facilitate the understanding of the reader, due to the transcendentality of the subject.” In addition, more ahead: "[...] Force and Matter are the beginning and the end, they are units that touch themselves in their extremities, which run parallel and that, in their grandiosity, enclose the infinite and involve the universe.”