last updated January 15th, 2008 and is permanently morphing...
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"The idea is that there is a kind of memory in nature. Each kind of thing has a collective memory. So, take a squirrel living in New York now. That squirrel is being influenced by all past squirrels.
And how that influence moves across time, the collective squirrel-memory both for form and for instincts, is given by the process I call morphic resonance. It's a theory of collective memory throughout nature. What the memory is expressed through are the morphic fields, the fields within and around each organism. The memory processes are due to morphic resonance."
Basically, morphic fields are fields of habit, and they've been set up through habits of thought, through habits of activity, and through habits of speech. Most of our culture is habitual, I mean most of our personal life, and most of our cultural life is habitual. We don't invent the English language. We inherit the whole English language with all its habits, its turns of phrase, its usage of words, its structure, its grammar.
Occasionally people invent new words, but basically, once we've assimilated it, it happens automatically. I don't have to think when I'm speaking, reaching for the next word. It just happens, and the same is true about physical skills, like riding a bicycle, or swimming, or skiing if you can ski, these kinds of things. So I think the more often these things happen the easier they become for people to learn. Things like learning language have happened over- well, we don't know how long human language has been around, at least 50,000 years, so there's a tremendously well-established morphic field for language-speaking. Each particular language has its own field which is usually established over centuries at least.
The whole idea of morphic resonance is evolutionary, but morphic resonance only gives the repetitions. It doesn't give the creativity. So evolution must involve an interplay of creativity and repetition.
Creativity gives new forms, new patterns, new ideas, new art forms. And we don't know where creativity comes from. Is it inspired from above? Welling up from below? Picked up from the air? What? Creativity is a mystery wherever you encounter it, in the human realm, or in the realm of biological evolution, or of cosmic evolution.
We know creativity happens. And then what happens is a kind of Darwinian natural selection. Not every good idea survives. Not every new form of art is repeated. Not every new potential instinct is successful. Only the successful ones get repeated. By natural selection and then through repetition they become probable, more habitual.
Morphic fields organize self-organizing systems, things that organize themselves, like snowflakes, or molecules, or ecosystems, or animals, or plants, or societies, like flocks of birds.
In the entire process of cosmic evolution you see a spiritual process as well as a material process. You can't separate the two.
I think a lot of harm was done in the West by splitting apart science and religion in the 17th century. Science became very limited in its focus to mechanical, material things, and religion became very introverted; it became very concerned just with the human spirit and with morality and so forth, and so religion signed over the whole of the natural world including the cosmos to science and science signed over to religion human ethical questions and left this terribly limited domain as the sphere of religion.
In most traditional cultures, these are not separated in that way. For an American Indian looking at the sky, he's not looking at just a material collection of bodies moving in accordance with inanimate laws. The sky is a living being, the abode of the spirit.
The earth is a living mother; it's not just a collection of rocks with physical forces at work in them.
If you look at any traditional world view there isn't a separation between nature and spirit, and religion and science. The two go together. It's a much more holistic and integrated view of the world, and I think that, as science emerges from this narrow, mechanistic phase that it's been in and we move to a broader vision, a new kind of connection between the realms of science and spirituality becomes possible.
It must make a difference if someone is absolutely intensely involved with an idea and dwells on it with huge intensity ... If somebody in solitude works away in an extremely intense way it may indeed set up a morphic field. In fact, we know that something like that does seem to happen, because it's very common in art, in fashion design, in science and technology for different people to have similar inventions.
The mechanistic theory of nature is a theory of nature, and one that I think is wrong, or at least too limited. It's not an eternal truth. Even the constants of nature, as I've shown in my book, Seven Experiments That Could Change the World, the so-called absolute constants, like the speed of light, when you look at the actual data, don't appear to be constant at all.
I see spirit as the principle of change, of movement,
of inspiration. In the physical world, spirit takes the form of what we
call energy. The essence of spirit is to move, to flow,
to change. So spirit moves through all living forms and its images
are the wind, flames of the fire, light and the flight of birds. These
are all moving images. and precisely because it's always moving and can
take so many forms, it is so hard to define.
S: "The soul was eliminated from science through the mechanistic revolution in the seventeenth century. Before that, everyone in Europe and America and everywhere else believed that plants had souls. It was the official doctrine of the medieval church. The very word "animal" comes from the Latin word "anima" which means "soul."
"The elimination of souls from nature in the seventeenth century was succeeded in the nineteenth century by the introduction of fields--electrical and magnetic fields first, and then later gravitational fields, then quantum fields, and in biology, morphogenic fields. My own ideas are based on generalizing this field concept in biology to what I call "morphic" fields, which I think are the invisible patterns that underlie the growth of living organisms; the invisible patterns organizing the activity of nervous systems, underlying instincts in animals.
"And they are the invisible connections that link together members of social groups. For example, a flock of birds can all turn together at practically the same time. I think this is because there is a field of the whole flock; they're all within a larger system, part of a larger whole. The morphic field of the flock is what links and coordinates them. They're turning far too fast to do it just by watching their neighbors or by responding to ordinary sensory information.
"I think their movements are coordinated in the
same way as the movements of iron filings around a magnet. When you move
the whole magnet, the whole pattern of the filings changes because they're
all responding to the field of which they are a part. This is as true for
birds in a flock as it is for human members of social groups."
Terence McKenna: That sounds right. It's something like that. If what you're trying to get at is do I think morphogenetic fields are a good thing, or do they exist, yes I think some kind of theory like that is clearly becoming necessary, and that the next great step to be taken in the intellectual conquest of nature, if you will, is a theory about how out of the class of possible things, some things actually happen.
_Critique_ Magazine: Do you think it cold be related to the phenomena of spirits?
Terence McKenna: Spirits are the presence of the
past, specifically expressed. When you go to ruins like Angkor Wat,
or Tikal, the presence is there. You have to be pretty dull to not
see how it was, where the market stalls were, the people and their animals,
and the trade goods,. It's quite weird. We're only conventionally
bound in thepresent by our linguistic assumptions, but if we can still
our linguistic machinery, the mind spreads out into time and behaves in
very unconventional ways.
- Howard Rheingold - _Tools For Thought_
I keep thinking about something you said.
Something I said?
Yeah. About how you often feel like you're observing your life from the perspective of an old woman about to die. Remember that?
Yeah. I still feel that way sometimes. Like I'm looking back on my life, and my waking life is her memories.
Exactly. I heard that Tim Leary said as he was dying that he was looking forward to the moment when his body was dead but his brain was still alive. You know they say that there's still six to twelve minutes of brain activity after everything else is shutdown. And one second of dream consciousness, well, that's infinitely longer than a waking second, you know what I'm saying?
Oh yeah, definitely. For example I wake up and it is 10:12, and then I go back to sleep and have those long, intricate, beautiful dreams that seem to last for hours, and then I wake up and it's 10:13.
Yeah, exactly. So in 6-12 minutes of brain activity, that could be your whole life. I mean, you are that woman looking back over everything.
Okay. So what if I am. Then what would you be in all that?
Whatever I am right now. I mean, maybe I only exist in your mind, but I'm still just as real as anything else.
Yeah. I've been thinking also about something you said.
Just about reincarnation and where all the new souls come from over time. Everybody always says they are the reincarnation of Cleopatra or Alexander the Great. I always want to tell them they were probably some dumbfuck like everybody else. I mean, it's impossible. Think about it. The world population has doubled in the past 40 years, right? So if you really believe in that ego thing of one eternal soul, then you have only 50% chance of your soul being over 40, and for it to be over 150 years old, then it's only one out of six.
Right, so what are you saying? That reincarnation doesn't exist, or that we're all young souls, or half of us are first round humans?
No, no, what I'm trying to say is that somehow I believe reincarnation is just a poetic expression of what collective memory really is. There was this article by this bio-chemist I read not long ago, and he was talking about how when a member of our species is born, it has a billion years of memory to draw on. And this is where we inherit our instincts.
I like that. It's like there's this whole telepathic thing going on that we're all a part of, whether we're conscious of it or not. That would explain why there are all these seemingly spontaneous worldwide innovative leaps in science and the arts, you know, like the same results popping up everywhere independent of each other. Some guy on a computer figures something out, and then almost simultaneously a bunch of other people all over the world figure out the same thing. They did this study where they isolated a group of people over time, you know, and monitored their abilities at crossword puzzles in relation to the general population, and they secretly gave them a day-old crossword, one that had already been answered by thousands of other people, and their scores went up dramatically. Like 20%. So it's like once the answers are out there, people can pick up on them. Like we're all telepathically sharing our experiences.
- film _Waking Life_ directed by Richard Linklater