Friday, December 14, 2007

Rupert Sheldrake and the Physics of Angels—Friday Feature

Back when I was at the bar at Vcon and Boba Fett had staggered off to bed in a drunken stupor, poet extraordinaire, Rhea Rose (e.g., Tesseracts anthologies) joined me and after a few more drinks, we were having a very lively conversation. That’s when the name Rupert Sheldrake came up. Not that this botanist and follower of Goethe should be construed with heavy drinking...however, some of his ideas DO resonate with what some scientists would disregard as science fiction....Let me explain...

In an interview with Rupert Sheldrake, interviewer John David Ebert of Quest Magazine asked the same question that Immanuel Kant asked in 1781: Can there be a science of metaphysics? Kant’s answer was: there can never be science of metaphysics because science, by its very nature, is concerned with a recondite analysis of tangible things within the world of space and time…Metaphysics, on the contrary, is concerned with transcendent intangibles, such as God, the soul, freedom, and immortality. Sheldrake’s answer was quite different. Ebert added that “Metaphysics…has always looked askance at the earthly plane as a place for confirmation of the validity of its ‘truths’.”

And yet, some of our most creative scientists are already trespassing into the territory of metaphysics, which Kant had insisted should remain separate from science.

One of these is Rupert Sheldrake, who is my guest today on my Friday Feature. A British botanist and author, Sheldrake explores the existence of the soul, reincarnation, or the soul of the world. Drawing on the work of French philosopher Henri Bergson to develop the theory of morphic resonance, which makes use of the older notion of morphogenetic fields, Sheldrake’s 1981 controversial book A New Science of Life introduced the concept of morphogenetic fields. For Sheldrake, the laws of the universe appear not to be laws at all, but rather deeply ingrained habits of action, built up over the eons…like ancient riverbeds on the surface of Mars. Sheldrake calls the habitual tendency of nature “morphic resonance”, in which present forms are influenced by past forms. According to Sheldrake, morphic resonance is transmitted through “morphogenetic fields”, which are analogous to electromagnetic fields in that they transmit information, but differ in that they do so without using energy and are therefore not diminished by transmission through time or space.

Take our physical forms, for instance. Sheldrake proposes that the physical forms we take on are not necessarily contained inside our genes, which he suggests may in fact be more analogous to transistors tuned in to the proper frequencies for translating invisible information into visible form. In other words, any form always looks alike because it ‘remembers’ its form through repetition and that any new form having similar characteristics will use the pattern of already existing forms as a guide for its appearance. According to Sheldrake, morphogenetic fields are located invisibly in and around organisms and may account for the regeneration of severed limbs in worms and salamanders, the holographic properties of memory, telepathy, and the increasing ease with which new skills are learned as greater quantities of a population acquire them. In his subsequent books, The Presence of the Past (1988) and The Rebirth of Nature (1991), Sheldrake traced the birth, rise, and inevitable death of the materialistic world view currently under siege by revolutionary concepts and paradigms such as chaos theory, the Gaia hypothesis, cellular symbiosis, and morphic resonance.

I invited Dr. Sheldrake aboard Vinny, my sentient ship, to interroga—er interview him. Being the curious scientist he was and intrigued by my sentient ship (I’ve lured many an unsuspecting scholar aboard this way), Dr. Sheldrake readily agreed. I cheerfully offered him my crystal beam transporter and he gladly complied. Sheldrake, like Karen Mason, that being of light who also rode the beam with uncanny ease in a previous interview, gave me the impression that he was also indulging me to keep me company and he could have easily transported himself aboard Vinny by his own brand of magic. Join me below as this incredible scientist fields (okay, bad pun...) my questions in a lively intellectual dance that explores topics such as reincarnation, creative evolution, and…yes, the place in the universe for country music…


When we arrive aboard my ship, I shakily lead Sheldrake, who shuffles down the corridor with eyes trained from side to side in curiosity. We end up in the aft lounge and we get comfortable in some soft upholstered chairs as Harry, my robot, serves Sheldrake a Traglet wine. Sheldrake sips the dreadful wine as though he likes it and gazes through almost hooded eyes at the magnificent view of Earth. I strike fast with my first question:

SF Girl: Leaning forward, “You’ve suggested that memories may not be stored in the brain so much as it acts as a tuning device and picks up memories like a television tunes in to certain frequencies. So, what are your thoughts on memory and reincarnation?”

RS: Nonplussed by my intensity, he locks eyes with mine and matches my stance with an intense deep stare: “Well…through morphic resonance we may all tune in to a kind of collective memory—”

SF Girl: “A Jungian thing…”

RS: He smiles at me…indulgently, I think: “Memories from many people in the past. It’s theoretically possible that we could tune into the memories of specific people. That might be explained subjectively as a memory of a past life. But this way of thinking about it doesn’t necessarily mean this has to be reincarnation. In fact that you can tune into somebody else’s memories doesn’t prove that you are that person.”

SF Girl: I strike with another challenge, pointing my finger rudely, “You pointed out that the expectations of experimenters may have a great deal to do with the outcome of their experiments, whether intentionally or not. You’ve suggested that experimenters may affect their results through involuntary psychokinesis…”

RS: He calmly takes a sip of his drink and I admire his composure under fire: “Studies…[have shown] that people can influence random number generators…even at a distance…mind over matter.”

SF Girl: Thinking I might finally stump him, I press on, “Along with Matthew Fox, you explore the interface between science and spirituality…crossbreeding these two into cultural hybrids. Don’t you see a mess arising from this fusion? A kind of explosion that cancels both out and leaves only the void of country music…”

RS: Now he is really smiling, in amusement, but more like a man to a pet beagle: “There are many areas of potential intersection. One is cosmological, because when science is talking about creation, it’s getting into a realm that has been very much the preserve of religion for a long time…The evolutionary process must have an inherent creativity, and we know that our universe is creative at all levels, physical, biological, or mental, cultural, and so on. So, what is the source of this creativity? Well, it’s really a metaphysical question and materialist science has no other suggestion than chance, which really means that it’s unintelligible—we can’t think about it…Another is the nature of the soul, the psyche, consciousness, which science until very recently has had almost nothing to say about…I think that as science breaks out of …its straitjacket…and [approaches] a more holistic view of nature, then much more possibility of fruitful interaction occurs between science and the spiritual.”

SF Girl: “So, where do angels fit into all this?” He’s written a book called the Physics of Angels, after all…Fair game, I think.

RS: He gazes at me with knowing deep ocean blue eyes; he’s anticipated me again: “Einstein’s photons of light have remarkable parallels to [St. Thomas] Aquinas’s discussions of the movements of angels [being without mass or body].

SF Girl: I burst out with sudden enlightenment, “Like our modern view of science that particles of light-photons also have neither mass nor body!”

RS: He smiles like a teacher to a bright pupil and I beam; he’s the first guest who hasn’t abandoned me in mid-interview… Or have I simply tapped into a holographic memory...a stable morphic field?…

Recommended Reading:
Campbell, Joseph. 1988. The Inner Reaches of Outer Space. Harper & Row, New York.
Fox, Matthew, and Rupert Sheldrake. 1996. Natural Grace: Dialogues on Creation, Darkness, and the Soul in Spirituality and Science. Doubleday, New York.
Sheldrake, Rupert. 1981. A New Science of Life: The Hypothesis of Formative Causation. Tarcher, Los Angeles.
Sheldrake, Rupert. 1988. The Presence of the Past: Morphic Resonance and the Habits of Nature. Random House, New York.
Sheldrake, Rupert. 1991. The Rebirth of Nature: the Greening of Science and God. Bantam, New York.

Aspects of this interview were respectfully excerpted from an interview conducted by John David Ebert of Quest Magazine. For the complete interview go here.

Nina Munteanu is an ecologist and internationally published author of novels, short stories and essays. She coaches writers and teaches writing at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. For more about Nina’s coaching & workshops visit Visit for more about her writing.


Jean-Luc Picard said...

A fine post full of intelligent theories to consider. Well put together.

Nina Munteanu said...

Thanks, Jean-Luc! It's a whole wondrous area of scientific pursuit and certainly debate. Highly controversial...especially when one brings in the paranormal. Metaphysics and science still grate among most in both camps and seemingly do not wish to mix...but somewhere in that mele, a dance has begun. And it's an interesting one...

suwedenjin said...

Sorry to be a bit late, but I found this just the other day. I hadn't intended to start a blog EXACTLY now, but you convinced me :-)

I ripped off "your" template and the - ahem - not too good google translations, but it's kind of fun.

Now a serious question: Did you really INTERVIEW Rubert Sheldrake or was this also SF :-)? I'm really curious since I have been into a lot of Sheldrake recently.

See you on Mars!


Nina Munteanu said...

You're welcome to the template and stuff, Suwedejin... As for the interview, let's say I used creative licence in my "virtual" interview on my sentient ship by snagging and clipping out real interviews with Sheldrake. So, his answers for real... :)

suwedenjin said...

Thanks for your reply, SF-girl.

Now, I have looked more closely and read the article in Quest Magazine. His one hell of a brave guy, this Rupert!

I've had a quartet of conversations between Sheldrake and Ken Wilber on my computer for several weeks but I am a reading person, not very good at listening on long (phone recorded) tapes ....

"The Inner Life of Atoms and Molecules."is a rather neat title, isn't it??

Talking about the inner life of particles: Have you had time or opportunity to watch the TV-ification of Brian Greene's "An Elegant Universe"? If not, do it! His two books are amazing in terms of explaining science - physics - to us not very familiar with stuff like that. Not that I am totally ignorant - since I read some Quantum Physics Explained (for Dummies) Books in the 80's - but it's such a rapid development in this area, that it's hard to keep up.

Just a note on the translations offered from the neat widget: The good news are that your blog is translated into acceptable Japanese - tonari no gaikokujin - even if it is more like a foreigner coming from another country 国. 外人 (gaijin) also means foreigner, but doesn't put the same emphasis on COUNTRY.

The bad news are that the rest of the translation is more than funny :-) It breaks apart in the end of the headline (金曜日機能) where Friday (金曜日) is correct, but the feature part (機能) is NOT what you had in mind: "function" of a machine or organism! The correct word for (a news, article etc.) feature is most likely 特別記事。("likely" since I don't have access to my dictionary right now). Now you can send your complaint to Google :-)

BTW: I missed an "n" in suwedeNjin when I signed the previous comment. Now when you learned about various "jins" in Japanese you can perhaps guess what SUWEDEN-jin means? No prize, though.


Nina Munteanu said...

Ah... now I get it (I think!) Swedish charity? Do I get the prize? Oh, you said there wasn't one... ah well...

As for Greene's Elegant Universe, I have the book and had begun to read it. Fascinating, isn't it? I agree that Rupert Sheldrake is a courageous fellow...this stuff is risky for a scientist to pursue (reputation-wise) so I give him much credit in following the intuitive side of himself. We definitely need more of that kind of imagination in science. Yes, I love the titles he comes up with...The Physics of Angels... NEAT!...The Inner Life of Atoms and Molecules... hmmm, suggestive of "living" of fractal existence... of interconnectedness and "intelligence" in all things... and harkens back to some of the ancient Eastern teachings and those of our own native First Nations peoples...

suwedenjin said...

Hello again,

Charity?!?! LOL!! Can you see Japanese/Chinese text on your computer? 人 is the two legs of a person = jin. So you got the Sweden part right: a person from Sweden. Looking at your profile I can tell that you are a Kanadajin, i.e. a person from Canada - or Canada-Person if you prefer - and so on. Still no prize :-)

Yes, "The Physics of Angels" is one - ahem - hell of a book title. I read a few pages on and it sure would be nice to have a copy. OTH, I am currently reading a "trialogue" between Sheldrake and two other mind benders. It's called "Chaos, Creativity and Cosmic Consciousness". Very wild and interesting stuff. In case you want to look go to amazon via

Nice that you have the Elegant Book. In case you have three hours to spend looking at the mini series made from the book go to

Greene is not only an inventive physicist, fantastic author but also a great "TV host". Very entertaining with spectacular special effects. Almost like SF! :-)

... of interconnectedness and "intelligence" in all things ...

Yes, I think that's right on the spot. A living and thing universe with life inside life inside life all the way up and down for ever.

suwedenjin said...

"A living and thing universe"

should of course have been

A living and thinking universe

Sloppy Swede!

Nina Munteanu said...

LOL! I got it... :) yes, a living and thinking universe in all aspects of things.... a fractal universe, wondrous and magical because we will never know it all. And we don't need to ... and yet, perhaps on some level we DO "know" it already... in my upcoming book, "Splintered Universe" I dealve in all of this, about --verses in a fractal sort-of parallel existence. You'd like the book.

p.s. when--IF-- I ever get 3 hours to spare, I'll certainly look up the mini-series.

Nina (the Kanada-jin)

suwedenjin said...

... LOL! I got it... :) ...

OK, OK! You've got a mini-prize in your mailbox. Swedish Charity, you know! :-)

I am looking forward to check out your upcoming book, but I guess I should start with your "Darwinism" release, shouldn't I?

Have fun in Columbus! Who's paying for your American tour?? :-)

suwedenjin said...

Good Morning America!

Before I close the shop for today I thought I should re-connect you with the Canadian Mother-Ship so you don't get totally lost in the American Wilderness of USA. I finally dug out an old email from my friend Jean Detheux and found this very interesting interview:

Mad Hatter Interview

Well, it's an interesting interview, but what is REALLY INTERESTING is Jean's animated art. Absolutely unique. We have 'abstract music', abstract painting, but only NATURALISTIC MOVIES/FILMS. Why have all film makers got stuck with imitating 'real life' ONLY? OK, there might be some psychedelic or whatever exceptions, but the rule rules: nothing but people and conventional plots.

Now, take a break from your busy tour and look at Jean's calming and/or exciting videos.

Nina Munteanu said...

Okay.... I will certainly check out the vid. And, yes, do read is, as you might have guessed, about nature's intelligence--and our fractal existence... stuff to ponder. I know the book is selling in some stores in Sweden, online, but you can always get it through too or directly from Dragon Moon Press.