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Can Morphic Fields Help Explain Telepathy and the Sense of Being Stared At?

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  • Institute of Noetic Sciences

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-- Mindfield Bulletin, (2019), Volume 11 Issue 1, 26-33 -- The morphic field hypothesis proposes that minds are systems of fields that are located inside brains but also extend far beyond them, just as the fields of magnets are both within magnets and extend invisibly beyond them. Morphic fields contain attractors (goals) and chreodes (habitual pathways towards those goals) that guide a system toward its end state. They effect all self-organizing systems, and systems within systems, in a nested hierarchy or holarchy of morphic units. Morphic fields of social groups may help to coordinate flocks of birds and schools of fish, which can rapidly change direction without individuals colliding. In this paper I discuss the sense of being stared at and telepathy as natural consequences of the hypothesis of morphic fields. Although this hypothesis could perhaps account for clairvoyance, psychokinesis, and precognition, it only does so through chains of additional hypotheses, whereas possible explanations for the sense of being stared at and telepathy emerge naturally and directly from this hypothesis. I also differentiate this hypothesis from other explanatory models of psi and discuss its application to non-psi phenomena, like protein folding, inheritance, collective memory, learning, and navigation in animals.
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Mindfield
Volume 11 Issue 1 2019
Can
Morphic Fields
Help Explain
Telepathy
and the Sense of
Being Stared At?
sia) could well be a result of this
process, mediated by perceptual
elds, which are kinds of morphic
elds.
Morphic elds are elds within
and around systems in which the
whole is greater than the sum of
the parts, including molecules,
cells, organs, organisms, and so-
cieties of organisms. They contain
an inherent memory, given by a
process called morphic resonance,
namely the inuence of similar
patterns of activity in self-orga-
nizing systems on subsequent
similar systems across time and
space. This hypothesis predicts,
for example, that each species
has a kind of collective memory.
If rats ran a new trick in London,
for example rats all over the world
should be able to learn the same
trick quicker. There is already
evidence that this happens (Shel-
drake, 2009).
In the light of morphic elds,
telepathy can be understood as
Introduction
The morphic eld hy-
pothesis proposes that
minds are systems of
elds that are located
inside brains but also extend far
beyond them, just as the elds of
magnets are both within magnets
and extend invisibly beyond them,
and as the electromagnetic elds
of mobile telephones are both
within them and extend beyond
them.
Minds are extended beyond
brains in every act of perception,
and the elds of visual perception
link the looker to the object that
is looked at. Hence something can
be aected by looking at it. In an-
imals, human and non-human, the
sense of being stared (scopesthe-
| by RUPERT SHELDRAKE, PhD
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an interaction between members
of social groups within the mor-
phic eld of the group as a whole,
which interconnects the individual
animals (Sheldrake, 2013).
Morphic elds associated with
specic intentions could perhaps
help in understanding psychokinet-
ic phenomena and remote viewing.
But this hypothesis does not pro-
vide any immediate explanation for
precognition or presentiment.
Intellectual history and ancestry
From the 1964 to 1974, I did re-
search on developmental biology
at Cambridge—in particular on
the development of plants. I also
worked on plants growing under
eld conditions at an International
Agricultural Research Institute
in India from 1974 to 1985. But
neither my own work nor other
research in developmental biology
gave an adequate explanation of
the development of form. Chemical
signals, gene activation, and other
molecular processes seemed inad-
equate. Something more was need-
ed and I was drawn to the long
established concept of morphoge-
netic elds, or form-shaping elds,
rst proposed in the 1920s. These
elds shape the form of developing
cells, tissues, organs and organ-
isms. They are within and around
the system they are shaping.
Although this concept is widely
used by developmental biologists,
no one knows what morphogenetic
elds are. Most researchers treat
them as a descriptive convenience,
placeholders for fully mechanistic
explanations that have not yet
been discovered. I nd it more
fruitful to think of them as real
elds, of a similar degree of reality
to magnetic elds, with their own
particular properties. These include
memories from previous systems
that shape the elds themselves.
This memory is given by morphic
resonance, a connection from
past to present systems across
space and time on the basis of
similarity (Sheldrake, 2009). These
elds work by drawing developing
systems towards attractors, as
described mathematically by the
French mathematician René Thom
(Thom, 1975).
This hypothesis has many impli-
cations for the understanding of
biological processes like protein
folding, inheritance, collective
memory, learning, and memory
itself, which on this hypothesis de-
pends on morphic resonance rather
than on material traces stored
within brains (Sheldrake, 2012).
My interest in psi phenomena
arose in the 1980s when I realized
that this hypothesis implies that
scopesthesia and telepathy should
be widespread in the animal king-
dom. They are biological phenome-
na, natural, not supernatural, nor-
mal, not paranormal, and probably
common to many animal species.
Basic premises
and postulates
The basic postulates of the hy-
pothesis of formative causation,
the overall name for the hypothe-
sis of morphic elds and morphic
resonance, are as follows:
1. Self-organizing systems,
including molecules, cells,
tissues, organs, organisms,
societies and minds are made
up of nested hierarchies (hol-
archies) of holons or morphic
units (Figure 1). At each level
the whole is more than the
sum of the parts, and these
parts themselves are wholes
made up of parts.
Figure 1. A nested hierarchy or holar-
chy of morphic units, each organized
by a morphic eld. These could be sub-
atomic particles in atoms, molecules,
and crystals. Or they could be cells,
tissues, organs, organisms, and soci-
eties of organisms.
Can Morphic Fields Help Explain Telepathy
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Can Morphic Fields Help Explain Telepathy
and the Sense of Being Stared At?
2. The wholeness of each level
depends on an organizing
eld, called a morphic eld.
This eld is within and around
the system it organizes and is
a vibratory pattern of activity
that interacts with electro-
magnetic and quantum elds
of the system. The generic
name morphic eld includes
a. Morphogenetic elds that
shape the development of
plants and animals.
b. Perceptual and behavior-
al elds that organize the
perceptions, movements,
instincts and learned behav-
ior of animals.
c. Social elds that link
together and coordinate the
behavior of social groups
such as termite colonies,
schools of sh, ocks of
birds, packs or herds of ani-
mals, and human societies.
d. Mental elds that underlie
mental activities and shape
the habits of minds.
3. Morphic elds contain at-
tractors (goals) and chreodes
(habitual pathways towards
those goals) that guide a
system toward its end state
while maintaining its integrity,
stabilizing it against disrup-
tions.
4. Morphic fields are shaped by
morphic resonance from all
similar past systems, and
thus contain a cumulative,
collective memory. Mor-
phic resonance depends on
similarity and is not atten-
uated by distance in space
or time. Morphic fields are
local, within and around the
systems they organize, but
morphic resonance is non-lo-
cal.
5. Morphic resonance involves a
transfer of form, or in-form-
ation, rather than a transfer of
energy.
6. Morphic elds are elds of
probability, like quantum
elds, and they work by im-
posing patterns on otherwise
random events in the systems
under their inuence.
7. All self-organizing systems
are inuenced by self-reso-
nance from their own past,
which plays an essential role
in maintaining a holon’s iden-
tity, continuity and memory
(Sheldrake, 2009).
This hypothesis leaves open the
question of how morphic reso-
nance actually works. There are
several suggestions. One is that
the transfer of information occurs
through the “implicate order,”
as proposed by the quantum
physicist David Bohm (Sheldrake
2009, Appendix B). The impli-
cate or enfolded order gives rise
to the world we can observe, the
explicate order, in which things
are located in space and time. In
the implicate order, according to
Bohm, “everything is enfolded into
everything” (Bohm, 1980).
Or resonance may pass through
the quantum vacuum eld, also
known as the zero-point energy
eld, which mediates all quantum
and electromagnetic processes
(Laszlo, 2007).
Or similar systems might be
connected through hidden ex-
tra dimensions (there are ve in
string theory and six in M-theory)
(Carr, 2008). It’s also possible
that morphic resonance depends
on new kinds of physics as yet
unthought-of.
As applied to the sense of being
stared at (scopesthesia), morphic
eld hypothesis implies that the ef-
fects on the subject being stared at
depend more on the focusing of at-
tention and intention than on dis-
tance. For example, this sense may
work just as well over a distance of
hundreds of feet as over a few feet
if the process of watching is aided
by telescopic lenses. It may also
work through indirect means, as in
television or closed circuit televi-
sion (CCTV), although more weakly
than through direct vision, which
establishes a more direct connec-
tion (Sheldrake, 2013).
In relation to telepathy, this
hypothesis suggests that telep-
athy will occur primarily between
bonded members of social groups
rather than between strangers
(Sheldrake, 2013).
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The sense of being stared at and
telepathy are natural consequenc-
es of the hypothesis of morphic
elds. Although this hypothesis
could perhaps account for clair-
voyance, psychokinesis, and pre-
cognition, it only does so through
chains of additional hypotheses,
whereas possible explanations for
the sense of being stared at and
telepathy emerge naturally and
directly from this hypothesis.
Applications
This hypothesis predicts that
animals might be able to detect
through their own perceptual elds
when the perceptual elds of other
animals are brought to bear upon
them, even if they cannot see, hear,
or smell the animal watching them.
This eld sensitivity may not be
consciously perceived and may be
part of a background unconscious
awareness.
In the course of evolution, a
greater awareness of being ob-
served may have been of adaptive
value, especially to a prey animal
sensing when it is being watched
by a potential predator. This
ability could have become wide-
spread within the animal kingdom.
It could also be expected to be
widespread among human beings,
and indeed surveys show that over
90% of the population, including
children and even people in indus-
trial countries, have reported the
experience of being watched from
behind or of watching other people
who then turn around. There is
now good empirical evidence that
people can indeed tell, at levels
very signicantly above chance,
when they are being stared at
from behind. This ability can also
be detected through CCTV through
physiological changes in galvanic
skin response, which are uncon-
scious (Sheldrake, 2005).
The morphic eld approach
to telepathy predicts that it is
widespread among animals and
may enable members of social
groups to communicate at a dis-
tance. Animals such as pet dogs,
cats and parrots that bond with
humans will pick up their owners’
intentions telepathically, including
their intentions to return home.
There is now good evidence that
dogs know when their owners
are coming home even when they
are miles away, when they return
at randomly selected times, and
when they travel in unfamiliar
vehicles. The pets seem to detect
their owners’ intentions telepathi-
cally. This hypothesis also pre-
dicts that these eects will occur
only between animals and people
with whom they are strongly
bonded, in agreement with the
facts (Sheldrake, 2011).
The same principles apply to
humans. Telepathy would be
expected to occur most eectively
between people who are strongly
bonded emotionally, like mothers
and babies, twins, parents and
children, lovers, spouses, and best
friends. This indeed seems to be
the case, both in spontaneous cas-
es of telepathy and in experimental
investigations (Sheldrake, 2013).
Other examples of
documents, sup-
portive evidence
There is now much evidence for the
sense of being stared at and for
telepathy in animals and people, as
summarized in my books Dogs That
Know When Their Owners Are Com-
ing Home, And Other Unexplained
Powers of Animals (second edition,
2011) and The Sense Of Being
Stared At, And Other Unexplained
Telepathy would be
expected to occur
most effectively
between people who
are strongly bonded
emotionally, like
mothers and babies,
twins, parents and
children, lovers,
spouses, and best
friends.
Can Morphic Fields Help Explain Telepathy
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Powers Of Human Minds (second
edition, 2013).
A p p l i ca t i o n t o
non-parapsycho-
logical phenomena
and mainstream
d o m a i n s
The hypothesis of morphic elds
was primarily developed in
relation to chemistry, biology,
psychology and social organiza-
tion. It is primarily about “normal”
non-psi phenomena.
Another application of this
hypothesis is a new approach to
animal navigation. I discuss the
question of how animals navigate
remains largely unsolved in my
book Seven Experiments That
Could Change The World (Shel-
drake, 2002). The most detailed
experiments are on homing
pigeons. Pigeons can nd their
home from hundreds of miles
away from unfamiliar places. Rac-
ing pigeons can return from 600
miles away in about 10 hours, an
average speed of 60 mph. They do
not search at random; they know
where to go. Attempts to explain
this phenomenon in terms of a sun
compass, memorizing the outward
journey, inertial navigation, and
the sense of smell have all failed.
Some researchers speculate that
a magnetic sense could explain
navigation, and some migrating
animals do indeed seem able to
detect the earth’s magnetic eld.
Although a compass sense may
help an animal stay on course, it
cannot possibly explain navigation
itself. Imagine that you parachute
into an unknown place and are
given a compass. You would im-
mediately know where north was,
but this would not tell you where
home was. A compass sense could
help you if you knew where home
was by some other means, but
would not help if you did not have
a map or some other source of
directional information.
My own hypothesis is that
pigeons are linked to their homes
by morphic elds, built up through
familiarity with their home and
surrounding area. The pigeons,
when taken away from home,
remain connected with it through
these elds, which give a sense
of direction. A crude mechanical
analogy is to think of the pigeons
as joined to their home by a kind
of invisible elastic band. Through
this eld connection, they feel
a pull toward their destination.
Attempts to explain navigation
without this sense might illumi-
nate some details of the animals’
sensory processes, but there is
no explanation for the sense of
direction itself.
Thus morphic elds might help
to solve the mystery of animal
navigation. One way of testing
this hypothesis is to use a mobile
pigeon lo, in which the home is
moved from the pigeons rather
than the pigeons from the home.
I have conducted several exper-
iments with mobile pigeon los
that have yielded very promising
results. In the most recent test,
a pigeon lo was mounted on a
ship belonging to the Royal Dutch
Navy and moved 6,000 miles from
Holland to the Caribbean and back
again. Pigeons were able to nd
their home on the moving ship
from substantial distances—in
one case from 300 miles away
over the Atlantic Ocean (Shel-
drake, 2002, Appendix).
F u t u r e r e s e a rc h
and applications
1. Experimental tests of
scopesthesia in non-human
animals. For example, if
prey animals, e.g., mice, are
placed in a cage and lmed
continuously, do they behave
dierently when they are
being watched by a cat behind
a one-way mirror, compared
with when the cat is prevent-
ed from watching them by
interposing a barrier between
the cat and the mirror? Ex-
periments of this type would
open up the possibility of an
extended natural history of
scopesthesia both through
laboratory experiments and
observations of wild animals.
Such experiments would not
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necessarily conrm the details
of the morphic eld/extended
mind hypothesis, but they
would ground the phenome-
non more rmly in biology and
natural history, whatever the
preferred explanation.
2. Experiments on animal telep-
athy could help to normalize
telepathy as a biological
phenomenon within social
groups. For example, do wolf
cubs, when lmed by a min-
iature camera in their den,
show signs of anticipation
before their parents return
from a hunting trip with food?
Is the behavior of wild animals
analogous to dogs that know
when their owners are coming
home?
3. Morphic elds of social groups
may help to coordinate ocks
of birds and schools of sh,
which can rapidly change di-
rection without the individuals
bumping into each other. These
eld-like phenomena occur
when the individuals are very
close to each other, but exper-
iments on separating schools
of sh or ocks of birds into
subgroups could reveal wheth-
er this coordination to some
extent remains at a distance.
Similar experiments could
be carried out with ant and
termite colonies, which may
also be coordinated by morphic
elds (Sheldrake, 2002, Chap-
ter 3). These phenomena may
dier in degree, but not in kind,
from telepathy at a distance.
4. In the Appendix to the third
edition of my book A New
Science of Life (called Mor-
phic Resonance in the United
States) I suggest ten new
tests for morphic resonance in
the realms of physics, chem-
istry, biology, psychology, and
analogue computing (Shel-
drake 2009). If any of these
tests support the hypothesis
of morphic resonance they
would indirectly support the
morphic eld hypothesis of psi
phenomena.
5. Further experiments with
homing pigeons are needed
to nd out whether pigeons
can indeed nd a home that
moves, taking further the pre-
liminary experiments from my
own research with the Royal
Dutch Navy. Such experiments
would be best carried out at
sea. Support for the morphic
eld hypothesis of animal
navigation would indirectly
support the morphic eld hy-
pothesis of psi phenomena.
6. The evolutionary and biologi-
cal basis of telepathy is prob-
ably rooted in the communi-
cation of needs or alarms at a
distance. Telepathic commu-
nication between babies and
their mothers seems to occur
quite commonly (Sheldrake,
2013), and further research on
mother-baby telepathy could
help ground human telepathy
in a biological and evolution-
ary context. Similar research
on telepathy between lactat-
ing mammals of other species
and their babies would widen
this topic and deepen our
biological understanding.
Differentiating
from other models
of psi
Several models of psi start from
physics, in particular quantum
physics, whereas the morphic
eld model starts from a holis-
tic approach to nature that does
not seek to explain everything
in terms of smaller systems,
and ultimately in terms of the
smallest of all systems, namely
Several models
of psi start
from physics, in
particular quantum
physics, whereas
the morphic field
model starts from a
holistic approach to
nature [...]
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Can Morphic Fields Help Explain Telepathy
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quantum processes. The morphic
eld approach also diers radical-
ly from the generalized quantum
theory model, which is based on
non-local correlations rather than
causal connections (Walach et al.,
2014). The sense of being stared
at arises as a response to being
stared at: staring is a cause, and
detecting it is an eect. Likewise,
telepathy is causal: a distressed
baby causes its mother’s tele-
pathic response.
Nevertheless, the approach to
telepathy in terms of morphic
elds is similar to Dean Radin’s
hypothesis of entangled minds,
taking quantum entanglement or
non-locality as a model that can
be applied at systems at much
higher levels of complexity (Radin,
2006). In common with the entan-
gled minds model, the morphic
eld hypothesis predicts that
organisms that have been part of
the same social system from the
past, part of a bonded group, will
remain connected at a distance.
This hypothesis also predicts that
the connections will not fall o
with distance, in agreement with
many observations on telepathy.
The morphic eld hypothesis
also diers from “one mind” ap-
proaches that treat psi phenom-
ena as aspects of an ultimately
unifying mind underlying all things
(Dossey, 2014). The morphic eld
approach does not necessarily de-
pend on a kind of ultimate mind at
a higher level, but rather on elds
of connection between animals
and what they are watching, and
also connections between mem-
bers of social groups.
This hypothesis also diers
from physics-based approaches
designed to account for precogni-
tion and presentiment in terms of
causal inuences “backward” in
time. The morphic eld hypothesis
has little to say about precogni-
tion and presentiment. Morphic
elds may be complementary to
time-reversal hypotheses.
The morphic eld model diers
from James Carpenter’s rst-
sight model of psi in its emphasis.
The rst sight model deals with
unconscious mental processing
that is scanning inputs, includ-
ing psi inputs, which are at rst
preconscious (Carpenter, 2012).
It is a psychological model rath-
er than a model of the extended
mind or of social elds. But these
two approaches seem compatible.
Morphic elds and the extended
mind would inuence rst sight.
Further reading
My book A New Science of Life
(third edition 2009, called Morphic
Resonance in the US) outlines the
hypothesis of formative causation
through morphic elds and mor-
phic resonance, reviews evidence
from 25 years of research, and
proposes ten new tests for morphic
resonance. The fullest statement
of the hypothesis of formative
causation and its application to
collective memory, individual mem-
ory and cultural inheritance is in
my book The Presence of the Past:
Morphic Resonance and the Habits
of Nature (second edition, 2012).
Research on telepathy in ani-
mals, as well as animal premoni-
tions and the sense of direction
is summarized in my book Dogs
That Know When Their Owners Are
Coming Home, and Other Unex-
plained Powers of Animals (second
edition, 2011).
The extended mind hypothesis
and a discussion of human telepa-
thy is summarized in my book The
Sense of Being Stared At and Oth-
er Unexplained Aspects of Human
Minds (second edition, 2013).
The empirical evidence for
scopesthesia and its theoretical
implications were the subject of
a special issue of the Journal of
Consciousness Studies (Vol. 12,
No. 6, 2005) in which I wrote two
target articles and a response to
14 other articles and comments
by other researchers, including
skeptics.
I have also published many
experimental papers on the sense
of being stared at and on animal
and human telepathy and which
are all available online through my
website:
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Papers on stare detection: https://
www.sheldrake.org/research/
sense-of-being-stared-at
Papers on telepathy in non-human
animals: https://www.sheldrake.
org/research/animal-powers
Papers on telepathy in humans:
https://www.sheldrake.org/re-
search/telepathy
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Acknowledgements
I am grateful to the Watson Fam-
ily Foundation and the Institute
of Noetic Sciences, Petaluma, CA,
and to the Planet Heritage Foun-
dation and the Gaia Foundation,
London, for nancial support.
The morphic field
model differs from
James Carpenter’s
first-sight model of
psi in its emphasis.
The first sight
model deals with
unconscious mental
processing that is
scanning inputs,
including psi inputs,
which are at first
preconscious
Can Morphic Fields Help Explain Telepathy
and the Sense of Being Stared At?
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Scientific facts are constituted as consensus about observable phenomena against the background of an accepted, or at least plausible, theory. Empirical data without a theoretical framework are at best curiosities and anomalies, at worst they are neglected. The problem of parapsychological research since its inception with the foundation of the Society of Psychical Research in 1882 was that no sound theoretical basis existed. On the contrary, the proponents of the SPR often indulged in a theoretical model that ran contrary to the perceived materialism of mainstream science, and many tried to use the data of parapsychological research to bolster the case of "mind over matter," yet without producing a good model of how such effects could be conceptualized. In general, parapsychological (PSI) research has been rather devoid of theorizing and, if anything, assumed a tacit signal theoretical, local-causal model of some sort of subtle energy that would be vindicated, once enough empirical data were amassed. History, and data, proved this stance wrong. We will present a theoretical approach that challenges this local-causal, signal-theoretical approach by proposing that parapsychological phenomena are instances of a larger class of phenomena that are examples of nonlocal correlations. These are predicted by Generalized Quantum Theory (GQT) and can be expected to occur, whenever global descriptions of a system are complementary to or incompatible with local descriptions of elements of such a system. We will analyze the standard paradigms of PSI-research along those lines and describe how they can be reconceptualized as instances of such generalized nonlocal correlations. A direct consequence of this conceptual framework is that misrepresentations of these phenomena as local causes, as is done in direct experimentation, is bound to fail long-term. Strategies to escape this problem are discussed.
Article
Full-text available
Most people have had the experience of turning round feeling that someone is looking at them from behind, and finding that this is the case. Most people have also had the converse experience. They can sometimes make people turn around by staring at them. In surveys in Europe and North America, between 70% and 97% of the people questioned said they had had personal experiences of these kinds (Braud et al., 1990; Sheldrake, 1994; Cottrell et al., 1996).
Book
In this newly updated edition, Sheldrake shares years of research into telepathy, the power of staring, remote viewing, precognition, and animal premonitions. Drawing on more than 5,000 case histories, 4,000 questionnaire responses, and the results of experiments on staring, thought transference, phone telepathy, and other phenomena carried out with more than 20,000 people as well as reports and data from dozens of independent research teams, Sheldrake shows that these unexplained human abilities — such as the sense of being stared at — are not paranormal but normal, part of our biological nature. He reveals that telepathy depends on social bonds and traces its evolution from the connections between members of animal groups such as flocks, schools, and packs. Sheldrake shows that our minds and intentions extend beyond our brains into our surroundings with invisible connections that link us to each other, to the world around us, and even to the future.
Book
_ Revised and expanded in 2012 _ Challenging the fundamental assumptions of modern science, this ground-breaking radical hypothesis suggests that nature itself has memory. The question of morphogenesis - how things take their shape - remains one of the great mysteries of science. What makes a rabbit rabbit-shaped? How do newts regenerate limbs? Why are molecules shaped the way they are? Why do societies arrange themselves in certain predictable patterns? According to Sheldrake's hypothesis of formative causation, these questions remain unanswered in part because convention is hobbled by the reductionist assumption that finding the answers to such questions is largely a matter of figuring out the machinery of nature, of getting to the bottom of an ultimately mechanical universe. But, Sheldrake suggests that nature is not a machine and that each kind of system - from crystals to birds to societies - is shaped not by universal laws that embrace and direct all systems but by a unique "morphic field" containing a collective or pooled memory. So organisms no only share genetic material with others of their species, but are also shaped by a "field" specific to that species.
First Sight: ESP and Parapsychology in Everyday Life
  • J Carpenter
Carpenter, J. (2012). First Sight: ESP and Parapsychology in Everyday Life. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
Worlds apart? Can psychical research bridge the gap between matter and minds?
  • B Carr
Carr, B. (2008). Worlds apart? Can psychical research bridge the gap between matter and minds?, Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 59, 1-96.
One Mind: How Our Individual Mind Is Part of a Greater Consciousness and Why It Matters
  • L Dossey
Dossey, L. (2014). One Mind: How Our Individual Mind Is Part of a Greater Consciousness and Why It Matters. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House Reprint.