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More on Morphogenetic Fields

Experiment 1: In the 1920s Harvard University psychologist William McDougall did experiments for 15 years in which rats learned to escape from a tank. The first generation of rats averaged 200 mistakes before they learned the right way out; the last generation 20 mistakes. McDougall concluded that, contrary to accepted genetic science, such acquired knowledge could be inherited.

Experiment 2: In later efforts to duplicate McDougall's experiments in Australia, similar rats made fewer mistakes right from the start. Later generations of rats did better even when they were not descendents of the earlier rats. This wasn't genetics at work. It was something else. Nobody tested it further.

"Experiment" 3: In the 1920s in Southampton, England, a bird called the blue tit discovered it could tear the tops of milk bottles on doorsteps and drink the cream. Soon this skill showed up in blue tits over a hundred miles away, which is odd in that they seldom fly further than 15 miles. Amateur bird-watchers caught on and traced the expansion of the habit. It spread faster and faster until by 1947 it was universal throughout Britain. In a parallel development, the habit had spread to blue tits in Holland, Sweden and Denmark. German occupation cut off milk deliveries in Holland for eight years -- five years longer than the life of a blue tit. Then, in 1948 the milk started to be delivered. Within months blue tits all over Holland were drinking cream, a habit that had taken decades to take hold before the war. Where did they get this knowledge?

Experiment 4: In the early sixties psychiatrists Dr. Milan Ryzl of Prague and Dr. Vladimir L. Raikov of Moscow hypnotized subjects into believing they were living incarnations of historical personages. Such subjects would develop talents associated with their alter egos. A subject told she was the artist Raphael took only a month to develop drawing skills up to the standard of a good graphic designer.

Experiment 5: In 1983 Sheldrake showed two difficult-to-discern patterns to a group of test subjects to establish a base line for how easily the hidden picture in each could be recognized. Next he showed 2 million viewers of British TV what one of the hidden pictures was. He then tested thousands of people all over the world. By significant percentages, they recognized the image shown on television; the percentage recognizing the control picture didn't change.

Experiment 6: Psychologist Dr. Arden Mahlberg of Madison, Wisconsin, created a variation of Morse Code that should have been no harder to learn than the standard variety. Subjects learned the real code much faster than his invented one, not knowing which was which.

Experiment 7: Gary Schwartz, Yale professor of psychology, selected 24 common 3-letter words in Hebrew and 24 rare ones, all from the Old Testament, all in Hebrew script. For each word, he created a scrambled version (as, in English, one might do by scrambling "dog" to spell "odg"). Then he rearranged all 96 3-letter Hebrew words (half real, half fake) in a random order and showed them, one at a time, to subjects who didn't know Hebrew. The subjects were just told these were Hebrew words and were asked to guess the meaning of the word in English by writing down the first English word that came into their head. After guessing each word, they were asked to estimate, on a zero-to-four scale, how confident they felt in their guess. Professor Schwartz then discounted all subjects who got any guesses rights (since that meant they may have known some Hebrew). Then he analyzed the confidence ratings from subjects who'd gotten every answer wrong. Not only was the confidence significantly higher with the real words than with the false words (regardless of subjects, words, or experiments), but the common words got higher confidence scores than the rarer words. Finally Schwartz repeated the experiment telling the subjects that half the words were real and half were false and asked them to guess which was which; the results of that were purely random. The patterns the subjects had recognized unconsciously, they could not recognize consciously.

What is going on here?

Sheldrake has hypothesized a field of morphic ("pattern-related") resonance in which patterns of knowledge, structure or behavior of a certain kind of thing (whether a salt crystal or a human mind) become increasingly embedded as a "habit," an ingrained pattern of information which influences and is accessible to other members of that category of thing. In commenting on the rat experiments, Sheldrake said: "If rats are taught a new trick in Manchester, then rats of the same breed all over the world should show a tendency to learn the same trick more rapidly, even in the absence of any known type of physical connection or communication. The greater the number of rats that learn it, the easier it should become for their successors."

A minority of biologists have been suggesting the possibility of morphogenetic (form-generating) fields for decades. Sheldrake's unique contribution has been to create a testable hypothesis regarding such fields. Despite the fact that it seems to violate all broadly-accepted principles of science, the experimental evidence is rapidly mounting that, indeed, something of this kind is at work.

Sheldrake has ventured some guesses as to the relationship between morphogenetic fields and our individual memory and intelligence. He suggests that our brains may not contain memories and knowledge, per se, but may be devices for tuning in to relevant sections of the morphogenetic field for human memory, much as a radio tunes into radio waves. Our own personal memories would naturally be more accessible than those of other people or cultures (since, in morphogenetic resonance, like resonates with like), but theoretically the memories of every human (and other entities?) would be available to anyone capable of tuning in.

Sheldrake further wonders if natural laws are the evolving habits of the physical universe. An increasing number of scientists are believing that, ever since the Big Bang, the contents and processes of the universe have been evolving, and are evolving still. Sheldrake notes that it is an act of incredible faith to believe that all the laws governing the universe are so eternal and immutable that they existed prior to any of the contents of the universe. It is much more "natural" to believe that the readily-observable evolution of life, culture and our own selves are merely manifestations of an evolutionary tendency deeply embedded in the very nature of things.

In short: We are all learning. Not just we people -- but we, everything in the universe. And our learning is shared. That's the bottom line of Rupert Sheldrake's work.

We can't get much more co-intelligent than that.

See also

Morphogenetic Fields


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