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On Rupert Sheldrake’s Morphic Fields

Are we just rats within a maze? Perhaps.
But then perhaps there’s more to rats than what
We know. Take for example rats completing
A water-maze within a lab at Harvard.
At first they’re slow, of course, but soon they change.
A drive to live compels them to escape
At any cost and learn the obstacles
They sense may set them free. And they succeed,
Increasing their completion time tenfold.
When all of this is done, two groups of rats
Of the same breed in Scotland and Australia
Attempt exactly the same water-maze,
But do not start so slow; in fact they’re quick
And pick up where the Harvard rats left off,
Improving further as they go—a trick?
Was there a meeting of the rats to plan
How foreign cousins could defeat the maze?
Unlikely. Yet the knowledge clearly passed
As signals would between antenna arrays…
And then it all seems rather simple if
We first assume all matter is alive,
Antennas just as much as rats in cages.
From this then we will naturally arrive
At how two animals of breed alike
Send signals through the gaps in time and space,
Transporting knowledge over waves unseen
Between hard shores of gender, blood, and race;
The DNA and genes just a machine
Receiving then relaying information
As will a tuning fork send resonance
Creating a vibrating transformation,
But not in any fork with variance
Just in the one that has an equal weight.
And so a fetal egg grows a giraffe
And like their parents, birds can navigate
Vast distances without a single gaffe
And many mysteries that scholars dare
To claim are solved are newly laid out bare—
No preconceptions misplaced everywhere,
Obscuring gleaming truths that burn and scare.

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Poet’s Note: Read more about Sheldrake’s work at sheldrake.org and in Scientific American. Or watch his banned Ted Talk here

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Evan Mantyk teaches literature and history in New York and is President of the Society of Classical Poets.


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21 Responses

  1. Shaun C. Duncan

    It’s been a few years since I read Sheldrake, but he’s a fascinating individual and this is an excellent explanation in verse of his morphic field theory, which is a heady and obscure topic even for prose. Quite a challenge you set for yourself but you’ve managed to pull it off with great skill and economy of language.

    Reply
    • Evan Mantyk

      Thank you, Shaun. I think Sheldrake’s work is an invigorating breath of fresh air in the sciences and academia in general, but could benefit from some repackaging and simplification to make it more understandable. So here is my attempt at it. The only danger I run into is over-simplifying and misrepresenting it. Apparently, I succeeded in not doing this, though perhaps I have somewhat conflated the terms morphic field and morphic resonance. Mr. Sheldrake sent me the below message:

      “Many thanks for your poem about morphic resonance. This is still a small genre! I like your classic style.”

      Reply
  2. Julian D. Woodruff

    Bravo, Evan
    A very interesting and technically assured poem on Sheldrake’s work. The blank verse and scattered interior rhymes at the start are brilliantly apposite.
    An editorial question: do you mean “a group of rats …,” maybe followed by “attempts”?

    Reply
    • Evan Mantyk

      Julian, I set out to write in blank verse but the poem took on a life of its own, creating interior rhymes that I never even intended. The end rhymes also seemed to naturally and systematically emerge over the course of the poem. I don’t think it qualifies as blank verse anymore, though if someone disagrees I’d be interested to hear why. Also, thank you for editing the editor. I should have sent this to you before I published it.

      Reply
  3. Joseph S. Salemi

    It’s utterly horrifying that the short and inoffensive video of Sheldrake’s talk was banned. Has mindless dogmatism taken over completely, even in scientific inquiry?

    Reply
  4. Russel Winick

    Great work, Evan. This is fascinating stuff! Maybe it even explains how rats in multiple states stopped counting votes at exactly the same early morning moment in the 2020 Presidential election!

    Reply
  5. Brian Yapko

    Evan, I very much enjoyed both your poem and Dr. Sheldrake’s Youtube lecture. You poetically interpret his theory with great skill and accuracy and you have raised a subject that is extremely fascinating. That his lecture should have been banned is absurd since it is both logical and compelling. The phenomenon of the rats and crystals and giraffes – and the rest of us – is very credible to me. But, of course, I believe strongly in the existence of the soul.

    But purely from a science standpoint, additional strong evidence in support of Sheldrake’s views can be found in the Physics phenomenon of quantum entanglement (a baffled Einstein referred to this skeptically as “spooky action at a distance.”) Subatomic particles which are entangled and then separated even by the vastness of space will somehow “communicate” information to each other simultaneously regarding their shared physical properties such as position, momentum, spin and polarization. This is particularly important from Sheldrake’s standpoint because the information conveyed between entangled pairs is instantaneous and therefore violates the universal speed limit of the speed of light. Scientists have no physical explanation for how such communication between separated entangled pairs can exist. In my view, perhaps it is time for them to start considering metaphysical explanations. There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in modern science.

    Reply
    • Joseph S. Salemi

      Brian, ever since Kant’s publication of his “Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics,” there has been a ferocious resistance to any explanation of unusual phenomena that is not mechanistic. It has now become a rock-solid and unexamined Golden Calf, an “Idol of the Tribe,” as Francis Bacon called it. Even C.G. Jung’s hypothesis about synchronicity has been subject to savage attack. The most that these scientistic blockheads will say when confronted by a phenomenon that obviously goes beyond all physical explanations is “Well, we haven’t found out the physical mechanism behind it YET.”

      The sheer arrogance is colossal.

      Reply
    • Evan Mantyk

      Indeed, Brian, Mr. Sheldrake has brought up this exact point. It takes a truly revolutionary scientist to put it all together when the different disciplines are walled off from each other. There is a retired Cornell professor, Daryl Bem, who found interesting phenomena in terms of reading the immediate future through innate impulses. He had originally studied physics before psychology: https://news.cornell.edu/stories/2010/12/study-looks-brains-ability-see-future

      Reply
  6. Mike Bryant

    Evan, this accomplished poem has a lot to say. I like the way the blank verse of the exposition slides into the rhyming explanation. I’ve never thought of the universe as “alive” but since it came into existence from the utterances of the living God, it is certainly alive. I think that Brian’s mention of “entanglement” is especially on point. It must be infuriating to many so called “scientists” that poets are so far ahead of them! 🙂
    Your poem puts me in mind of Yeats’, ‘The Second Coming.’
    Rob Crisell’s video is here:
    https://classicalpoets.org/2020/05/31/a-poem-for-the-george-floyd-riots-the-second-coming-by-w-b-yeats/#/
    The video, above, has been classified as “age-restricted” by Youtube. Maybe, Youtube wants the kiddies to have plenty of time for ‘Drag Queen Story Time” at the local library.
    Perhaps it is time to abandon Youtube for a more freedom-friendly platform.

    “Science at its best is an open-minded method of inquiry, not a belief system.” – Rupert Sheldrake

    Reply
    • Evan Mantyk

      Thank you, Mike, for letting me know about the Crisell video. The stupidity is terribly palpable at YouTube and Facebook. This is another reminder that we should be moving toward Truth Social, Rumble, and others. I’ve been using DuckDuckGo as a browser and have been fairly satisfied. By the way, the SCP’s official Truth Social account: https://truthsocial.com/@ClassicalPoets

      Reply
  7. Sally Cook

    Dear Evan –
    I like a poem with some meat to it, and yours is decidedly meaty !
    As you probably know, I am not one to accept conventional explanation. I have had many strange, inexplicable occurrences in my life. Take a look at my poem THE ERRANT CHILD, for instance.
    And growing up in a rural area I can attest to many things the rural people know which more sophisticated folk sneer at which actually exist. Synesthesia too has its place in all this.
    So much more!
    Look at the history of science; how foolish wwe have been.
    Kudos, Evan!

    Reply
    • Evan Mantyk

      Thank you, Sally. It is good to know you are a kindred spirit. One day, we two upstate New Yorkers will have to have tea.

      Reply
  8. C.B Anderson

    Evan, I happen to have a copy of Sheldrake’s A New Science of Life (1981) in front of me, and the proper term is “morphogenetic fields.” I have long been interested in alternative scientific approaches, especially when it comes to organic evolution, and I have a small collection of books on the subject. But what Sheldrake writes and talks about regarding morphogenesis in biological organisms also seems to hold true in the mineral kingdom. Talking with a friend of mine who is a superb organic chemist, I learned that some substances resist crystallization, but that once someone has figured out how to make it happen, it suddenly becomes easy worldwide. This type of interconnectivity is an important feature of the universe that “Science” can’t seem to come to grips with, so it tends to be ignored in the mainstream. I could go on and on, but I think you have already got the idea.

    Reply
    • Evan Mantyk

      Kip, that book was published a year before I was born, so you are ahead of me on this. Sheldrake specifically mentions the crystal phenomena that you mention. I have not looked into it, but I’m sure the skeptics out there have either some flimsy explanation for the crystal phenomena or, more likely, a reactionary canned response that more research is necessary, with the undercurrent that this couldn’t possibly be true. As Dr. Salemi says above “The sheer arrogance is colossal.”

      Reply
  9. Michael Pietrack

    1 Corinthians 3:18-19 came to mind. Thanks for bringing this Interesting topic to the forefront.

    Reply
    • James Sale

      Fascinating poem Evan; a really succinct account of Sheldrake’s ideas – easier than reading the book itself (which I have done)! And I like Michael’s reference to the wisdom of the age – which has rendered the believers in it total fools!

      Reply
    • Evan Mantyk

      Michael, a perfect quote! I shall remember it.

      James, indeed, Sheldrake’s work can be difficult to get through because he is so scientific and erudite. The primary object of my poem was a repackaging, simplification, and stylization for something more accessible to the average Joe.

      Reply
  10. David Watt

    Evan, your poem based on Sheldrake’s theory raises questions that, for me at least, all lead back to the fact that science never will hold all the answers. Thanks for a thought provoking piece.

    Reply
  11. Margaret Coats

    Evan, you did marvelous work explaining an experiment in the blank verse portion of the poem. You may not have planned it, but the progression into rhyme suits the raising of profound interpretive questions as the piece comes to an end. Thank you for helping preserve Sheldrake’s talk and making it available here. The ideas bear some relation to the concept of powers of the soul, as I know them from Catholic psychology. Especially as memory (along with intellect and will) is a power of the soul, it is not lost when the physical power of the brain fades, but preserved in the immortal soul. And even animals have mortal souls, which suggests they have powers to communicate that are somehow beyond their usual bodily means of doing so. Food for scientific thought!

    Reply

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