Rupert Sheldrake is a biologist who has authored more than 90 scientific papers and 9 books and is the co-author of 6 books. For 9 years running, he has been recognized as one of the “Most spiritually influential living people in the world” by Mind Body Spirit Magazine. He is best known for his theory of Morphic Resonance, which is our current focus. Morphic resonance is a theory that can explain many things, for example:
How does an embryo develop into an adult?
How can instincts be inherited?
How can characteristics which are not genetically transmitted, but rather acquired by parents, be passed on to offspring?
In this paper I will:
- Describe the main aspects of this theory,
- Present a case, and explore the applicability of morphic resonance to gain a greater understanding of it
- Suggest some general implications for homeopathy, both practical and theoretical, posed by the theory.
Morphic means having to do with shape or form. Resonance, of course, has to do with vibrational similarity, something we as homeopaths know very well.
Morphic resonance is a theory of repetition, with the goal of explaining why forms repeat themselves in nature. Sheldrake’s theory says that once a form appears, it’s more likely to appear again. Simply put, it asserts that there’s a collective memory at work in nature. This is similar to Carl Jung’s idea of the collective unconscious.
According to Sheldrake, we shouldn’t speak of “Laws” of nature, but rather of habits that evolve with the universe. What we think of as immutable laws are rather habits that are propelled by morphic resonance with past events and patterns. Furthermore, each species has a collective memory, like the collective unconscious.
We can think of this phenomenon at the individual level as well. What accounts for the continuity of the subjective experience of Self over time? Why is it that I, Doug Brown, feel like the same person that I was yesterday? It is because the vibrational pattern that I resonate with today, of all vibrational patterns in the universe, is most similar to the vibrational pattern I existed as yesterday.
Thus, I tend to do the same things, good, bad, or indifferent, that I did yesterday and the day before. We have all seen, in our practice, this continuity of self and disease in the lives of our patients. Perhaps it’s one of those things that’s too obvious to notice: that we tend to exhibit the same symptoms over time, the same thought loops, the same habits, the same emotional variability and responses to stimuli. All of this can be explained by morphic resonance, a habit of nature. To tweak the title of one of Sheldrake’s books slightly: The Past is Always Present.
Memory is not stored inside our brains, Sheldrake reminds us. A brain is more like a frequency modulator that tunes into fields of consciousness through vibrational and informational resonance.
As you know it’s popular nowadays to speak of our minds and brains as a kind of biological computer, implying that our memories are somehow stored in our brain cells. Yet nobody has ever been able to locate memory in any particular part of the brain. Our brains operate more like filters which receive and a lens which focuses information that becomes the contents of our awareness. In other words, it’s less like a hard drive and more like a radio receiver.
Sheldrake likes to contrast Aristotle with Plato:
Plato was an idealist, not in the sense of seeking after perfection, but rather in postulating that the ultimate reality lay in the realm of ideas. That what we see, hear and feel on this earth are but imperfect replicas of these perfect forms that reside in the realm of eternity. Pythagoras preceded Plato, and claimed that ultimate reality is mathematics! Plato just expanded on Pythagoras’ idea, but enlarged that reality to include not just math, but all forms that exist in only imperfect approximation here on earth.
Aristotle, on the other hand, saw Soul or Essence as a natural organizing principle that existed very much in this natural world. Aristotle would say ‘Every butterfly has a butterfly soul. It’s within the butterfly, not in some other eternal realm.’
In this respect, Sheldrake is more Aristotelian than Platonic. Evolution requires a memory within nature.
We can thus trace the split between materialism and idealism back to ancient Greece, where the atomists, most famously Democritus, claimed that Ultimate reality, the foundational substrate of our perceived world, is little bits of matter. Conventional medicine and much of conventional biology is still based on this fundamental idea, that ultimately, we can only understand who we are by getting to the building blocks of our material body, our DNA, our genes. The process of explaining phenomena by pointing towards these smaller components may be termed ‘materialist reductionism.’
Sheldrake loves to point out that much of science is based on an article of faith: That the so-called “Laws” of nature sprang into existence out of nowhere at the time of the Big Bang, some 14 billion years ago. He goes on to point out that Big Bang Theory is itself evolutionary, in that it explains the existence of the periodic table of the elements, heavier compounds, the formation of stars, galaxies, solar systems and planets from the starting point of this one event. He then asks: If the universe evolves, why can’t the laws of nature evolve? He answers this question by saying that the universe is governed by habits rather than laws.
One of the powerful aspects of Sheldrake’s work is that he proposes experiments in order to provide evidence for his theories. For example, he points to evidence that if chemists make a new chemical compound for the first time, when a morphic resonant pattern has yet to be established, it will take a certain lengthy amount of time. But by the second time of synthesis, it will crystallize more quickly, and even more quickly for subsequent syntheses.
Also, in the realm of chemistry, older materials which have been around for a long time should be harder to break up. On the other hand, a brand-new compound might deteriorate fairly easily or quickly, since the constituent atoms are not accustomed to “hanging out” together. This has been verified by measuring the melting point of various compounds. It increases significantly over time for brand-new compounds, signifying greater stability.
Another example, this time in the realm of biopsychology, is the increase of rates of learning in rats after other rats have been put through the same maze. It seems that the learning by individual rats is shared in a non-local way with other members of the species across time and space.
But let’s return to the idea of the continuity of self, being dependent on morphic resonance:
Who in the past is most similar to you? YOU! We draw more on people who are more similar to us. Our ordinary memory depends on morphic resonance. But how, then do we change, or heal? How might we evolve personally from a set of limiting beliefs or harmful habits? Consciousness has an integrative capacity. We are all such creatures of habit. We resonate with our past selves so strongly, so what hope can we have that we will ever change?
Evolution, change, and healing involves an interplay between awareness, habit, creativity, and the link to a resonant field of information
An abbreviated Case Summary:
Female, 66 y.o. at the initial visit, in 2011. She says:
My problem is a major sinus infection. My lifestyle is hectic. The sinus infections affected a tooth: it was totally inflamed. I subdue it with hydrogen peroxide and salt water. It’s not nice, this and the mucus drainage down the throat. I’m used to being a healthy peppy girl. I have lots of bad breath.
I’m a positive thinker. I don’t have time for this.
I travel, do shows all over the country (sells textiles). I like change, meeting people.
What was your most difficult experience ever?
The death of my father. It was a major loss, void. I was very close to him. Both parents were very upbeat.
Other difficult experiences?
I lost a soulmate 2 yrs ago. He was a healer; a major force in my life. He was always there for me. He was very psychic, spiritual. We connected as good friends. We both wanted intimacy but could feel the psychic block. I began to trust him more. I’m not the type to wait in one spot. I tried not to take advantage of the situation, not to call him too often. He had a lot of people flying in to see him, including Pope John Paul.
I am successful….
My understanding of the case:
She was lively, animated, and displayed attractive behavior. This brought to mind the Animal kingdom. Other animal aspects include inner conflict and survivor consciousness.
There are many pointers towards the realm of the birds: She experiences herself as rising above the negative. She loves to travel and dance. She is very spiritually oriented. She wants to connect with people. She spoke about groundedness vs. spaciness. The loss of the father was the major difficult event in her life. She is very sensitive to caffeine. She picks up on other peoples’ energies very easily.
I initially gave her Cathartes, which at first had a positive effect, but didn’t hold. I then gave her Carcinosinum, which had little effect. The bird qualities seemed to become even more pronounced. I didn’t get the sense of a raptor from the patient, nor did any of the raptor Materia Medica match her state.
What stood out for me was her toughness combined with a free-spirited independence, and the way she somehow made being a merchant a kind of nomadic, socio-spiritual quest. I was also struck by her Stage 10-like sense of confidence and success.
At around that time I read the non-homeopathic book:
Julie Zuckerfoose. The Bluebird Effect: Uncommon Bonds with Common Birds. 2012. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Boston. New York:
I was struck by the similarity of my patient to the impression of the Chickadee given by Zuckerfoose, whose writing discloses a deep empathic connection and understanding of the various birds she writes about. Of the chickadee she writes:
Black-capped Chickadee, Poecile atricapillus
Like tiny corvids. They’re like mini-jays, with much the same appetites, intelligence, boldness, and abilities…not necessarily as nice as they are cute.
Thank God chickadees aren’t the size of hawks. Nobody would go outside.
Hiss, then strike like a snake
Undisputed rulers of their neighborhood
Strength and coordination of feet
As this bird (feather) had never been triturated or made into a remedy, I prepared it noetically* and gave her Q5 to take daily.
There followed radio silence for 3 years. Then, in 2016:
Effect of the remedy? I think the remedy helped. I haven’t experienced tendinitis in a long time.
I’m still in love with my business. I’m happy to be out on the world stage. The more people you throw at me, happier I am. I’m all about change…Out on world stage, dealing with people. People come to me, not only because of what I sell, but because I’m well grounded. I’m happy to be where I am, to travel. Life is very good to me. I work a lot, to tell you the truth. All kind of change…Moving warehouses…moving a lot. Facing everything straightforward…
Retiring? No way. I’m having too much fun. I enjoy what I do, being out in the world. I know I’m a positive influence in world; and world is very negative right now.
It’s a freedom. Being able to go where you want, do what you want. Hearing all people’s ideas, what they believe in, whether you believe or not. Just sharing with people. Even if talking about family. I laugh a lot, which is obviously a healthy thing. People are heavy, have emotional weights on them. Usually when they leave my booth they laugh, lighten up. I tease people. I get people involved with others. People don’t know how to break the ice. I’m an ice-breaker…People have a good experience in my booth. I sense energy from people. I sense vibrations.
After Trump was elected – I was in Germany – I had a panic attack. Almost the inside of me was screaming: What is going to happen to country as a whole? I’m not worried about myself, I’m a survivor. But I love my country. But he’s appealed to white men who had a business or factory job and lost it. People never re-trained. People tend to blame somebody else instead of looking within.
The Canadians are going “You guys are nuts.” Europeans are shaking their heads. I’m hoping for the best; expecting the worst. This man is not God, even though he thinks he is. I’m thinking about all of us, not me. I want all of us to raise up.
I’m normally a night owl. I maybe get 6 hours sleep.
I’m still a peppy number.
Any conflict with anybody?
Not that I can think of. I’m conflicted within, not with anybody. The conflict I’ve been going through is…I have a lot of inventory, am 71 yrs old, am thinking I’m going to end some contacts gracefully. My sister says ‘You can’t die until you sell it all.’ I’ll have to live until I’m 150 years old. I have enough to keep me busy for the rest of my life…
What’s the hardest part? It’s fun! We all love to buy! Until we have to sell, to support our habit. And because they’re such nice people; I know they’ll get over it. They have others to sell to. I don’t want to give it up, but came to this realization this year.
How well-grounded are you these days?
I’m balanced. I think about both sides of issue. I don’t make snap decisions, judgments. I’ll pull back, look within, think about it. I’m able to stand up. I deal with issues with peace and dignity, not a major explosion. Once you act you can’t take it back. So many people come to me, say ‘You are so peaceful! Come into my booth and have a good time! I get hugs from strangers all the time.
How is the burning sensation? Caffeine does it to me. Does it relate to nerves? Energy? So much going on at one time. My mind is zoom, zoom…
I do belly dancing each morning. I’m very agile. I have myself adjusted.
I haven’t gone to a normal Dr. in 30 yrs. I see chiropractors.
Plan: Poecile atricapillus Q6 noetically x 3 weeks
The patient continued to report improvement, and I gradually increased the potency of her remedy, now being made by Aetherea, to Q7.
In July of 2017 she says:
I went a through major car crash and walked away. My friend said you have very powerful forces around you. My van totaled. Who was protecting me?
My glass is always half full. When I’m connecting with people…everybody has an ego. I know who I am. Since I know who I am I don’t have to impress anybody else. Generally, when I’m in conversation I notice the other. Everybody wants to be noticed.
The waitress…I told her “Your hair is gorgeous; did you do your braids yourself?” People like a conversation; they like the fact that it’s not about me….just a nice conversation…the fact that I notice things, notice positive things in life. I don’t get into political conversations, unless somebody wants it. It’s about connecting with normal, common people. Everybody likes a chance to shine. I’m shining by connecting with other people, sharing my products.
Who was in truck to protect me? I was all over the interstate. My rear tire blew out. I started to spin, rolled over 1 ½ times. I was still alive, hanging upside down. Luckily there was nobody close, I would have killed them. When they cut me out I was as calm. I said I was ok. They were in shock. An angel came off the freeway to help me. A psychic told me a former chiropractor was with me in van.
I said to a friend, I really don’t want to have this knee operation. What should I do? Next day another friend who I hadn’t seen in 5 years said ‘My best friend is a joint surgeon. He’s fixed up all kinds of botched-up knee jobs. His philosophy was “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. So I said ‘If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.’ Now I have no pain.
I have no pain walking around. The Dr. just sat there with a blank look on his face. We couldn’t connect. They make money with knee surgeries.
Knee giving any trouble? No, it’s not.
Reflux? Burping/belching? It’s good. I need to cut out black tea with caffeine.
Remedy? Helping a lot. More so than before.
Dream life? So tired I don’t dream. I’m a night owl, basically.
Plan: Poecile atricapillus LM8 Aetherea. Take prn
May 11, 2021:
The socialization in my business in no. 1. (not the money). I’m a healer. But I heal in a different way. Somebody said, “There’s something about your face, we just want to touch you.” I’m such a positive thinker. Nowadays there are so many people with problems, who can’t handle being alone. I love being alone; I can collect my thoughts….I have the best of both worlds. I said to my girlfriend “I am so happy”. I’ve always been a positive person. Even when you go through different things. I know I don’t have as much monetarily as a lot of people, but I have so much within me, so much to give. When I drive down the road I talk to my guides. I have gratitude, I have a ball.
I feel connected to a past life where I was a monk in orient, walked from country to country, talking to people. I’m loving this nomadic lifestyle. Now I’m driving, which is easier on my body. I’m so happy.
Acid reflux? I stopped drinking so much tea, caffeine. I realized I was drinking too much. It doesn’t bother me anymore. I’m eating very healthy. I lost 20 lbs, without trying. I eat a lot of roughage. Fruit, salads, beans, tuna. I’m healthy.
Tendinitis? Oh, no. Did I have tendinitis? I’ve always done stretching exercises every morning. No, no pain.
Discussion: What might Rupert Sheldrake observe about the case?
Initially my conversations with the patient were more symptom-focused. She spoke of her sinus infections, bad breath, burning in her stomach, tendinitis, etc. Yet the overall shape of her consciousness was clear. She was a free-spirited, tough, traveling bird!
As treatment continued, I heard less and less about her symptoms, and more and more about the arc of her journey through life: what motivated her, what challenged her. It appeared to me that the remedy did far more than ameliorate her physical symptoms. It seemed to provide her with an intangible but powerful ground of being which protected, supported, and nourished her. This is most salient in her description of the car accident which left her completely unscathed.
In the most recent conversation with the patient, she expresses her feeling that she is indeed a healer herself. This explicit realization stands in contrast to our initial session, in which she speaks of her loss of an intimate friend. In that conversation the healer was somebody else, someone who attracted even the Pope. I had the sense that she felt in some ways “less than” him, which blocked the further development of intimacy.
This brings us to the question: What is a remedy? How can Morphic Resonance theory help us understand how the remedy supported the patient?
I believe Sheldrake would make the following observations. Living beings such as humans are self-organizing wholes, continuously given opportunities to make choices. Most of the time our actions are guided by habits, which continuously reinforce the morphic field in which we are enfolded. But a remedy with a similar-enough vibration to our own opens up new potentials for self-awareness and links us to an information field rich in possibilities. This brings into play the power of nature’s endless fount of creativity to manifest in a life.
Implications of Morphic Field Theory for Homeopathy
- A remedy is a portal to a field of information which has the ability to give shape to the psyche and soma of an individual.
- The field of information does not depend upon a material substrate to exist. It interpenetrates the substance of the source but does not depend on a specimen of the source to have reality.
- It is likely that there are multiple avenues to access this informational field apart from traditional Hahnemannian trituration and succussion. Evidence for this is abundant; viz. Noetic remedies, radionics remedies, sense provings (Scholten), dream provings.
- The action of a remedy can be described as bringing to bear upon an individual’s tendency to resonate with previous vibrational patterns an informational field which offers an alternative similarity of vibration, one which is more balanced, has more information and perspective, and allows for the individual’s will to creatively embark upon a different life path.
- We can call this remedy a “logotron” (my word, not Sheldrake’s): that is, a unit of evolving consciousness that is the foundational pattern for an experience embodied by a non-human way of being that may also provide a healing resonance with dis-eased individuals.
- Remedy states, or logotrons, may evolve over time, so that the full experience of a remedy like Sulphur may be better differentiated and developed than it was 200 years ago. Logotrons express a consciousness that relates to the field of being at the time of their expression as remedies, and may later incorporate the experiences of patients who resonate with them.
- When we treat a patient homeopathically, we are providing them with a portal to the informational field which has the potential to heal them. Repeating the remedy simply provides additional connection points for the patient. If the remedy is exactly right, we will not risk an aggravation or worsening of symptoms.
- Increasing insight into self and broadening perspective which we often see in patients is the direct result of linking the awareness of the patient to the informational richness of their logotron.
*Noetic refers to consciousness. It is my preferred term for what has been called a “paper” remedy, prepared by asking a glass or bottle of water to take on the consciousness of the remedy indicated by the writing the water is exposed to.
Great description, Doug! Thanks for weaving this together with clarity.
So appreciate your perspective.