Episode 8: Rupert Sheldrake Part 2, Morphic Fields and Dogs Who Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home

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Rupert Sheldrake, one of the world’s most innovative thinkers, has revolutionized modern scientific thinking with his morphic field theory, lucidly and cogently summarized for the layman in this dialogue. Here we also understand morphic fields as they relate to our ordinary everyday life and the key role they play in the contemporary planetary revolution in consciousness. This is the central evolutionary drama of our time: the awakening realization, filling out the essential insight known to indigenous and ancient wisdom cultures, that we exist as part of a living, developing universe with its own inherent memory. And in this dialogue we open to the excitement of how each of us can consciously participate in the ongoing co-creation of this alive universe.

Transcript

Rupert Sheldrake Part 2, Morphic Fields and Dogs Who Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home

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Duncan Campbell: From time immemorial, beginning with indigenous councils and ancient wisdom traditions, through the work of western visionaries such as Plato, Gallileo, and quantum physicist David Bohm, mutually participatory dialogue has been seen as the key to evolving and transforming consciousness, evoking a flow of meaning - a dia (flow) of logos (meaning) - beyond what any one individual can bring through alone. So join us now, as together with you, the active deep listener, we evoke and engage in Living Dialogues.

Duncan Campbell: Welcome once again to Living Dialogues. I'm your host Duncan Campbell and with me for this particular dialogue I'm again truly delighted to have Rupert Sheldrake as my guest. Rupert Sheldrake is known to many of you as the creator of the theory called Morphic Fields. He is also the author, most recently, of The Sense of
Being Stared At and Other Aspects of the Extended Mind and other books including The
Physics of Angels with Matthew Fox, The Presence of the Past, and Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home and Other Unexplained Powers of Animals. He has won numerous awards. He lives in London with his wife Jill Purse and their two sons. So Rupert, again it's a real treat to have you here on Living Dialogues and to join this
field of energy, if you will.

Rupert Sheldrake: Good, thank you.

Duncan Campbell: One of the things I've always been interested in your work is the enormous range of applicability of your theory of morphic fields, and so perhaps we could start this particular dialogue just very briefly continuing on from what we've discussed in dialogue about before describing the difference, let's say, between gravitational fields, electromagnetic fields and morphic fields and why there's been resistance in the scientific community to acknowledge the reality of what you call morphic fields and perhaps we could start with your talking about the etymological origins of why you chose the word morphic fields in the Greek morphogenesis which you are familiar with from your work as a biologist.

Rupert Sheldrake: Yes, I think morphic fields deal with problems, which were sort of expelled from science in the seventeenth century when modern science got going and therefore they fall in a sort of taboo area. Before the seventeenth century in the European
universities, the standard way of thinking about the world was that when things change
there are four causes - this was following Aristotle's system - there's the material
cause of something, the matter it's made of, the energetic cause, that which changes
it, there's the formal cause which is the form of it, and there's the final cause
which is the pathos. He gave the example of the sculptor making a sculpture for a
marketplace. The material is the block of stone. The energetic cause is the chisel
banging on the stone. The formal cause is the form of the sculpture in the sculptors
mind. And the final cause is the pathos, who's making it, who's being commissioned by
the corporation or the town to make it and being paid to do it. So Aristotle and the
Medieval philosophers argued that all living things have these four causes and in the case of a plant or an animal it's the soul that gives it its form and its purpose. So
an oak tree grows the way it does because there's an invisible soul within and around
it - the body is in the soul, not the soul in the body - which shapes the growing
plant. The key point of the mechanistic revolution in the seventeenth century that
founded modern science was the denial of the soul. Human beings, instead of having, as
it was believed before, a plant-like soul that shapes the body within and around the
body, an animal soul that shapes the animal instincts and operation of the senses and
muscles and so on, and a rational soul that's to do with conscious thought, language,
the mind. That was everyone believed before the seventeenth century. After the
seventeenth century, the vegetative soul, the animal soul were denied and we were just
left in human beings with free-floating minds somehow linked to the chemical bodies.
All animals and plants became soulless and so did the air and the whole universe and
just became the chemical. The problem with that system was that although it explained
matter and energy, and that's the basis of physics today, it didn't explain form or
how animals and plants take up their shapes and it didn't explain a lot of things to
do with formative processes in nature. Now, what happened in science is that although
fields were abolished, i mean, although souls were abolished including the souls of
magnets - they used to think that magnets had souls which was how they worked at a
distance on other magnets - what's happened is that fields have come back into science
to do the things that souls used to do. The magnetic field does what the magnetic soul
used to do starting in the 1840s this field revolution occurred. The gravitational
field does what the soul of the universe used to do, hold everything together and kept
the stars and planets in place, in their orbits, and so on. And the idea of the soul
of animals and plants, shaping them, in the 1920s was reformulated in the form of a
morphogenetic field, this term was proposed in the 1920s by several different
developmental biologists. Morphogenesis is the coming into being of form - Morphi, the
form, genesis, coming into being - and this idea of biological fields is something
that I got fascinated by when I was working on morphogenesis, the development of plant
form. I spent ten years working on this at Cambridge. And I came to the conclusion it
must be a field phenomenon. You'll never going to explain it all just by analyzing
genes and the proteins they give rise to. All those do is explain the chemicals within
the living organism. They don't explain how those chemicals take up their form. The
morphogenetic field is like the invisible plan or mold of the organism. You know, when
you build a building, you need the building materials but you also need the plan. It's
no use just dumping bricks and cement and stuff on the building site and timber. The
house needs to have a plan to be build properly and the same is true of an organism.
We understand a lot through molecular biology of how you get the right chemicals but
not how they take up the right form, how they organize themselves and I think that's
what morphogenetic fields do. So these fields are a key part of understanding how
organisms work and indeed how ecosystems, societies and minds work. But this whole
area of this kind of field has not really been part of the sort of mainstream
scientific endeavor. So it's a radical paradigm shift to admit the existence of these
fields, but science has already admitted a variety of other fields. It's already
undergone paradigm shifts in the past. It wouldn't be the end of science to
acknowledge these fields; it would just expand science. The discovery of electromagnetic fields didn't deny Newton's theory of gravitation. It just added on a whole range of new phenomenon that science could talk about and investigate and indeed led to whole new lot of technologies like radio and television and cell phones. So recognizing morphic fields isn't going to deny what science has already discovered and understand. It's going to enlarge the sphere of science and enable us to understand which at present are very difficult to understand or if not impossible. Within the route of military's kind of science we have the mechanistic kind of science we have at present.

Duncan Campbell: And yet this Thomas Kuhn has observed in his work on the evolution of science, science is reluctant to actually follow its own precepts, you know, in theory, in science, if you can demonstrate through a properly formulated experiment the
predictable recurrence of certain events and then you have a sustainable theory to
explain as you have done in your work here with morphic fields it should be accepted
by science, but as Max Planck famously said, "Science advances funeral to funeral,"
and what he meant by that was simply that scientists are also human beings with their
normal emotions and desire for recognition and power and so on and if they have built,
let's say, a particular career or a position of authority within a university based on
a certain science that they are in the lead of and someone comes up with a theory that
in some sense challenges that even if it's only adding to and expanding it, as you
said, it just can be very threatening to people and they then end up refusing to
acknowledge it or keeping it on the margins until they've died and the new younger
scientist can come forth and get recognition for what they may have discovered say
twenty or thirty years prior. So in that particular evolutionary progression things
that deal with we have come to see as outside the material realm are still regarded as
unscientific and one of the explanations from a number of people is that when the
church first was challenged with its dogma about a heliocentric universe when
Copernicus came up with the notion that the sun is actually at the center of the
universe and the Earth is revolving around it, that was completely heretically at the
time and yet it was so born out over the next century and more by the telescope and
Galileo that eventually the church, as some people put it, made a deal with the
modern mind and said you can apply your empirical scientific method to the world of
matter but when it comes to the world of psyche or the soul or spirit, that's our
domain and you can't trespass on that, and so that particular deal cause a certain
split where the empirical method could not be applied to matters of the psyche or the
soul as you're saying. And a colleague of yours at the Institute of Neurotic Sciences,
Ralph Messner, put it this way, he said, "I've been very inspired by William James
whom I regard as a radical empiricist who stood up and said, 'I am going to use the
empirical method in all realms of experience, not just in the realm of matter,'" and
he wrote his famous book The Varieties of Religious Experience. And so there is a
continuum in which you're participating of people who have been pointing out in our
ordinary experiences obvious but which science prefers to not look at because it is
very inconvenient and that is as Peter Russell says, we really don't even understand
consciousness at all. We say in the materialistic science that it's coming from the
brain, it's just a simple matter of reduction to certain events that occur within the
brain, but of course, that's not matching our observable experience and so they just let the conundrum be, and others like yourself and Peter Russell and Ralph Messner are pushing the envelope and saying, yes, we can show through the scientific methodology that's been agreed on that there is an explanation for these other experiences I would say that native cultures and indigenous cultures - pre-modern cultures - have understood for millenia but they didn't express it in our scientific language. So, I think the work you're doing, Rupert, is so valuable because for those of us that have been educated and suffused with this sense of a world view that's based on the old conventional materialistic science. To have a scientific explanation that we say in our own experience and we intuit are real is extremely useful in opening up a whole range of other ways of knowing that our species on the planet has had for millennia but has been very circumscribed and denied to us because of these power struggles between church and academic institutional realms.

Rupert Sheldrake: Quite, well I mean the present equivalent of the church of course is the scientific institution.

Duncan Campbell: Indeed.

For full transcript, please contact Duncan Campbell