Morphic Fields and Morphic Resonance by Rupert Sheldrake, PhD

Morphic fields underlie the organization of proteins, cells, crystals, plants, animals, brains, and minds. They help to explain habits, memories, instincts, telepathy, and the sense of direction. They have an inherent memory and imply that many of the so-called laws of nature are more like habits.

This is, of course, a controversial hypothesis.

The Fields of Morphogenesis

My interest in these new kinds of fields first developed while I was doing research on the development of plants at Cambridge University. To start with, I was concerned only with one particular kind of morphic field, namely morphogenetic fields.

How do plants grow from spores or seeds into the characteristic form of their species? How do the leaves of ferns, oaks, and bamboos take up their shapes? These are questions to do with what biologists call morphogenesis – the coming-into-being of form (Greek: morphe = form; genesis = coming into being) – and one of the great unsolved problems of biology.

The naive approach is simply to say that morphogenesis is genetically programmed. Different species just follow the instructions in their genes. But a few moments’ reflection show that this reply won’t do. All the cells of the body contain the same genes. In your body, the same genetic program is present in your eyes, kidneys, and fingers. If they are all programmed identically, then how do they develop so differently?

Thanks to the great triumphs of molecular biology, we know what genes actually do. Some code for the sequence of amino acids in proteins; others are involved in the control of protein synthesis. They enable organisms to make particular proteins, but these alone cannot account for form. Your arms and your legs are chemically identical: If ground up and analyzed biochemically, they would be indistinguishable. But they have different shapes. Something other than the genes and the proteins they code for is needed to explain their form.

Biologists who study the development of form in plants and animals have long been aware of these problems, and since the 1920s many have adopted the idea that developing organisms are shaped by fields called morphogenetic fields. These are rather like invisible blueprints that underlie the form of the growing organism. They are not designed by an architect, any more than a genetic program is designed by a computer programmer. They are fields: self-organizing regions of influence, analogous to magnetic fields and other recognized fields of nature.

But no one knows what these fields are or how they work. Most biologists assume that they will at some time in the future be explained in terms of regular physics and chemistry. This is no more than an act of faith.

After ten years of research in developmental biology, I came to the conclusion that these fields were not just a way of talking about standard mechanistic processes, but something really new. This was the starting point for my own development of the hypothesis of morphic fields, first proposed in my book A New Science of Life and further developed in The Presence of the Past.

The Hypothesis of Morphic Fields

All self-organizing systems are wholes made up of parts, which are themselves wholes at a lower level, such as atoms in molecules and molecules in crystals. The same is true of organelles in cells, cells in tissues, tissues in organs, organs in organisms, organisms in social groups. At each level, the morphic field gives each whole its characteristic properties and interconnects and coordinates the constituent parts.

The fields responsible for the development and maintenance of bodily form in plants and animals are called morphogenetic fields. In animals, the organization of behavior and mental activity depends on behavioral and mental fields. The organization of societies and cultures depends on social and cultural fields. All these kinds of organizing fields are morphic fields.

Morphic fields are located within and around the systems they organize. Like quantum fields, they work probabilistically. They restrict, or impose order upon, the inherent indeterminism of the systems under their influence. Thus, for example, a protein field organizes the way in which the chain of amino acids (the “primary structure” determined by the genes) coils and folds up to give the characteristic three-dimensional form of the protein, “choosing” from among many possible structures, all equally possible from an energetic point of view. Social fields coordinate the behavior of individuals within social groups, for example, the behavior of fish in schools or birds in flocks.

The mathematician René Thom has created mathematical models of morphogenetic fields in which the endpoints toward which a system develops are defined as attractors. In the branch of mathematics known as dynamics, attractors represent the limits toward which dynamical systems are drawn. They provide a scientific way of thinking about ends, purposes, goals, or intentions. All morphic fields contain attractors.

The most controversial feature of this hypothesis is that the structure of morphic fields depends on what has happened before. They contain a kind of memory. Through repetition, the patterns they organize become increasingly probable, increasingly habitual. The force that these fields exert is the force of habit.

Whatever the explanation of its origin, once a new morphic field – a new pattern of organization – has come into being, its field becomes stronger through repetition. The same pattern becomes more likely to happen again. The more often patterns are repeated, the more probable they become. The fields contain a kind of cumulative memory and become increasingly habitual. Fields evolve in time and form the basis of habits. From this point of view, nature is essentially habitual. Even the so-called laws of nature may be more like habits.

The means by which information or an activity-pattern is transferred from a previous to a subsequent system of the same kind is called morphic resonance. Morphic resonance involves the influence of like upon like, the influence of patterns of activity on subsequent similar patterns of activity, an influence that passes through or across space and time from past to present. These influences do not fall off with distance in space or time. The greater the degree of similarity, the greater the influence of morphic resonance.

Morphic resonance gives an inherent memory in fields at all levels of complexity. Any given morphic system, say, a squirrel, “tunes in” to previous similar systems, in this case previous squirrels of its species. Through this process each individual squirrel draws upon, and in turn contributes to, a collective or pooled memory of its kind. In the human realm, this kind of collective memory corresponds to what the psychologist C. G. Jung called the “collective unconscious.”

Morphic resonance should be detectable in the realms of physics, chemistry, biology, animal behavior, psychology, and the social sciences. But long established systems, such as zinc atoms, quartz crystals, and insulin molecules are governed by such strong morphic fields, with such deep grooves of habit, that little change can be observed. They behave as if they are governed by fixed laws.

By contrast, new systems should show an increasing tendency to come into being the more often they are repeated. They should become increasingly probable; they should happen more easily as time goes on. For example, when a new chemical compound is synthesized by research chemists and crystallized, it may take a long time for the crystal to form for the first time. There is no pre-existing morphic field for the lattice structure. But when the first crystals form, they will make it easier for similar crystals to appear anywhere in the world. The more often the compound is crystallized, the easier it should be to crystallize.

In fact, new compounds do indeed tend to crystallize more easily the more often they are made. Chemists usually explain this effect in terms of crystal “seeds” from the new crystals spreading around the world as invisible dust particles in the air, or chemists learning from others how to do it. But the hypothesis of morphic fields predicts that this should happen anyway under standardized conditions, even if dust particles are filtered out of the air.

Connections with Quantum Physics

Experiments to test for the spatial aspects of morphic fields imply a kind of non-locality that is not presently recognized by institutional science. Nevertheless, it may turn out to be related to the non-locality or non-separability that is an integral part of quantum theory, implying connections or correlations at a distance undreamt of by classical physics. Albert Einstein found the idea of “spooky action at a distance” implied by quantum theory deeply distasteful, but his worst fears have come true.1 Recent experimental evidence shows that these connections lie at the heart of physics.

Several physicists have been intrigued by the possible connections between morphic fields and quantum theory, including John Bell (of Bell’s theorem) and David Bohm, whose theory of the implicate order, based on the non-separability of quantum systems, turned out to be extraordinarily compatible with my own proposals.2 These connections have also been explored by the American quantum physicist Amit Goswami and by the German quantum physicist Hans-Peter Dürr. But it is still not clear exactly how morphic fields might fit in with quantum physics, if only because the implications of quantum theory for complex systems like cells and brains are still obscure.

Experiments on Morphic Fields

The hypothesis of morphic fields is a scientific hypothesis, and as such is subject to experimental testing. There are several possible ways in which it can be, and has been, investigated by experiment. Some of these tests attempt to detect the fields as they link together different parts of a system in space; other tests look for the effects of morphic resonance over time.

The easiest way to test for morphic fields directly is to work with societies of organisms. Individual animals can be separated in such a way that they cannot communicate with each other by normal sensory means. If information still travels between them, this would imply the existence of interconnections of the kind provided by morphic fields. The transfer of information through morphic fields could help provide an explanation for telepathy, which typically takes places between members of groups who share social or emotional bonds.

When I started looking for evidence of fieldlike connections between members of social groups, I found that I was moving into realms very little understood by science. For example, no one knows how societies of termites are coordinated in such a way that these small, blind insects can build complex nests with an intricate internal architecture. No one understands how flocks of birds or schools of fish can change direction so quickly without the individuals bumping into each other. Likewise, no one understands the nature of human social bonds.

One particularly promising area for this kind of research concerns telepathy between people and domesticated animals, as discussed in my book Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home and Other Unexplained Powers of Animals. For example, many dogs and cats seem to know when their owners are coming home, even when they return at non-routine times in unfamiliar vehicles such as taxis and when no one at home knows when they are coming. The animals seem to be responding telepathically to their owners’ intentions.

According to the hypothesis of formative causation, morphic fields extend beyond the brain into the environment, linking us to the objects of our perception, and are capable of affecting them through our intention and attention. This is another aspect of morphic fields that lends itself to experimental testing. Such fields would mean that we can affect things just by looking at them, in ways that cannot be explained in terms of conventional physics. For example, we may be able to affect someone by looking at them from behind, when they have no other way of knowing that we are staring at them.

The sense of being stared at from behind is in fact a common experience. Experiments already indicate that it is a real phenomenon.3 It does not seem to be explicable in terms of chance coincidence, the known senses, or fields currently recognized by physicists.

The unsolved problems of animal navigation, migration, and homing may also depend on invisible fields connecting the animals to their destinations. In effect, these could act like invisible elastic bands linking them to their homes. In the language of dynamics, their home can be regarded as an attractor.4

Morphic Resonance in Biology

The buildup of habits can be observed experimentally only in the case of new patterns of development and behavior. There is already evidence from observations on fruit flies that morphic resonance effects may be occurring in the realm of morphogenesis. When fruit fly eggs were exposed to a chemical (diethyl ether), some of them developed abnormally, turning into flies with four wings instead of two. When this treatment was repeated generation after generation, more and more flies developed four wings, even if their ancestors had never been exposed to the chemical.

There is also much circumstantial evidence that animal behavior can evolve rapidly, as if a collective memory is building up through morphic resonance. In particular, large-scale adaptations have occurred in the behavior of domesticated animals all over the world.

One example concerns cattle guards. Ranchers throughout the American West have found that they can save money on cattle grids by using fake ones instead, consisting of stripes painted across the road. Real cattle guards are made of a series of parallel steel tubes or rails with gaps in between, which make it difficult for cattle to walk across them and even painful to try. However, present-day cattle do not usually even try to cross them, and the illusory grids work just like the real ones. When cattle approach them, they “put on brakes with all four feet,” as one rancher expressed it to me.

Is this because calves learn from older cattle that they should not try to cross? Apparently not. Several ranchers have told me that herds not previously exposed to real cattle grids will avoid the phony ones. Ted Friend of Texas A&M University has tested the response of several hundred head of cattle to painted grids and has found that naive animals avoid them just as much as those previously exposed to real grids. Sheep and horses likewise show an aversion to crossing painted grids. This aversion may well depend on morphic resonance from previous members of the species that have learned to avoid cattle grids the hard way.

There are many such examples. There are also data from laboratory experiments on rats and other animals that such effects occur. The best known involves a series of experiments in which subsequent generations of rats learned how to escape from a water maze. As time went on, rats in laboratories all over the world were able to do this quicker and quicker.

Morphic Resonance in Human Learning

Morphic resonance has many implications for the understanding of human learning, including the acquisition of languages. Through the collective memory on which individuals draw, and to which they contribute, it should in general be easier to learn what others have learned before.

This idea fits well with the observations of linguists such as Noam Chomsky, who propose that language learning by young children takes place so rapidly and creatively that it cannot be explained simply in terms of imitation. The structure of language seems to be inherited in some way. In his book The Language Instinct, Steven Pinker gives many examples to support this idea.

One of the few areas in which detailed quantitative data are available over periods of decades is in the scores of IQ tests. If morphic resonance occurs, average performance in IQ tests should be rising not because people are becoming more intelligent but because IQ tests should be getting easier to do as a result of morphic resonance from the millions who have done them before. This effect is now well known and is called the Flynn Effect, after its discoverer, James Flynn.

Large increases in IQ test scores have occurred in many different countries, including the United States, Japan, Britain, France, Germany, and Holland. Many attempts have been made to explain the Flynn Effect, but none have succeeded. Flynn himself describes it as “baffling.” But morphic resonance could provide a natural explanation.

Implications

The hypothesis of formative causation has far-reaching implications in all branches of science. For example, morphic fields could revolutionize our understanding of cultural inheritance and the influence of our ancestors. Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins has given the name “meme” to “units of cultural transmission,” and such memes can be interpreted as morphic fields. Morphic resonance also sheds new light on many religious practices, including rituals.5 Even scientific paradigms can be seen as morphic fields, stabilized by morphic resonance, with a tendency to become increasingly habitual and unconscious the more often they are repeated.6

But however wide its implications, this hypothesis has a major inherent limitation. It helps explain how patterns of organization are repeated but does not explain how they come into being in the first place. It leaves open the question of evolutionary creativity. Formative causation is compatible with several different theories, ranging from the idea that all novelty is ultimately a matter of chance to explanations in terms of divine creativity.7

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“Morphic Fields and Morphic Resonance” by Rupert Sheldrake, PhD, was published in Quantum Health magazine (Issue #6) and updated from an original article called “Fields of Form” from the December 2004–February 2005 issue of Shift: At the Frontiers of Consciousness (published by IONS and no longer in print). It is reprinted by permission, all rights reserved, © 2010 Quantum Health. Quantum Health is an online-only, interactive magazine that features global coverage of the emerging field of energetic medicine. For a free subscription, go to http://www.quantumhealthmagazine.com.

Endnotes

1. P. Davies and J. Gribbin, The Matter Myth (London: Viking, 1991).

2. D. Bohm and R. Sheldrake, “Morphogenetic Fields and the Implicate Order” in A New Science of Life (United Kingdom: Icon Books, 2009).

3. R. Sheldrake, The Sense of Being Started At and Other Aspects of the Extended Mind (New York: Crown, 2003).

4. R. Sheldrake, T. McKenna, and R. Abraham, chapter 4 in The Evolutionary Mind (Santa Cruz: Trialogue Press, 1998).

5. R. Sheldrake and M. Fox, Natural Grace (New York: Doubleday, 1996).

6. R. Sheldrake, The Presence of the Past: Morphic Resonance and the Habits of Nature (London: Collins, 1988).

7. R. Sheldrake in A New Science of Life (2009); The Presence of the Past (1988); and The Rebirth of Nature (New York: Bantam, 1990).

Rupert Sheldrake, PhD is a biologist and author of more than 80 scientific papers and several books, including a new edition of his seminal book on morphic resonance, A New Science of Life (Icon Books, 2009). A former Research Fellow of the Royal Society, he studied natural sciences at Cambridge University, where he was a Scholar of Clare College, took a double first class honours degree and was awarded the University Botany Prize. He then studied philosophy at Harvard University, where he was a Frank Knox Fellow, before returning to Cambridge, where he took a Ph.D. in biochemistry. He was a Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge University, where he carried out research on the development of plants and the ageing of cells. At Clare College he was also Director of Studies in biochemistry and cell biology. From 1968 to 1969, based in the Botany Department of the University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, he studied rain forest plants. From 1974 to 1985 he worked at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in Hyderabad, India, where he was Principal Plant Physiologist. While in India, he also lived for a year and a half at the ashram of Fr Bede Griffiths in Tamil Nadu, where he wrote his first book, A New Science of Life. He is currently the Director of the Perrott-Warrick Project, funded from Trinity College, Cambridge, and an Academic Director and Visiting Professor at the Graduate Institute in Connecticut. He lives in London with his wife and two sons.

He has appeared in many TV programs in Britain and overseas, and was one of the participants (along with Stephen Jay Gould, Daniel Dennett, Oliver Sacks, Freeman Dyson and Stephen Toulmin) in a TV series called A Glorious Accident, shown on PBS channels throughout the US. He has often taken part in BBC and other radio programmes. He has written for newspapers such as the Guardian, where he had a regular monthly column, The Times, Sunday Telegraph, Daily Mirror, Daily Mail, Sunday Times, Times Educational Supplement, Times Higher Education Supplement, The Times Literary Supplement and the Toronto Globe and Mail, and has contributed to a variety of magazines, including New Scientist, Resurgence, the Ecologist and the Spectator.

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LIFE AFTER LIFE or The Theory of Reincarnation By Eustace Miles

QUESTIONS OFTEN ASKED ABOUT REINCARNATION

1. What proofs have you of Reincarnation?

It appears to be, as we shall see later on, in harmony with and supplementary to scientific laws: for instance, continuous and orderly Evolution; and to have analogies in daily life – in the life of plants, in sleep, and so forth.

It can explain a great deal that Science, Religion, and Philosophy have left unexplained – for example, the birth of a genius from commonplace parents, and the (otherwise undeserved) misery of so many human beings.

It is useful as a theory by which to decide one’s choices. This utility is not a proof in the ordinary sense of the word “proof,” but from the point of view of education, it is the best proof of all, in the same sense that the proof of the pudding is in the eating – and in the results afterwards!

The occasional memories of incidents in plant lives, which are recorded in books about the East (see, for example, Fielding’s The Soul of a People), will be reckoned by some as proofs.
2. If we have lived before, how is it that we do not remember our former lives

There are some, in India and elsewhere, who claim to remember parts of their former lives. But these are isolated cases. It might be a fair explanation to suggest that few people live the sort of life which would naturally encourage the revival of such a memory. Wrapped up in present circumstances, clogged with wrong food and drink, seldom giving up time to calm communion with the higher Self, no wonder that people do not remember.

From another point of view, it might be defended as “a merciful dispensation of Providence” that people do not remember. The memory would not help people much, as they now are, ands it might hinder them much.

Again, we forget the first year of our life, though we do not on that account deny that we lived it, and that it tended to mould us. We do not possess detailed recollections of that year; but we involve the results in our personality. Somewhat similarly, we do not necessarily remember all the names of all the books we have ever read – and all the contents, all the words of all these books, and all the letters, and all the conversations. Most of the externals we have discarded; it is the results that we have kept. Somewhat similarly, we do not remember all the foods we have ever eaten, still less do we retain all the materials; it is the nourishment and other elements that we have extracted.

So, instead of having the memories of past lives, it maybe said that we are the memories of past lives: we have not the myriads of circumstances and items – rather, we are ourselves the sum-total. As one who receives his pass book from a bank finds that he has a certain balance or a certain deficit, and begins with this taken for granted as his starting-point, so do we in each new life. Some day we may discover the key of the safe that holds our old pass-books.

The memories of details may be locked up within us, within our inner self, buried deep, latent till the exact conditions arise which will evolve and evoke these memories; as the wheat-seed lay hidden thousands of years in an Egyptian sarcophagus, and then came to life as wheat because at last it was planted in soil. The memories of details of our present life may be thus locked up within us, to be called forth by some such influence as calls them forth when a man is drowning: he may then see circumstances which he thought he had absolutely forgotten.

That the memories of details in our past lives are not as ready to hand as are the memories of much of our present life, need not surprise us. Science tells us that memories are registered on and in the grey matter of the brain, by the cells and fibres. Under the “brain” we must include also the spinal cord. I, for one, do not believe that this is the only register. But at least it is one register. After death and the dissolution of the body, this grey matter is broken up and distributed afresh. The ego, in its next incarnation, will have a different brain and spinal cord, and different grey matter. It will not have the old register.

3. What would be the use of knowing about our past lives?

The knowledge of our past lives might be to us no less useful than the knowledge of History. Thucydides claimed that an account of the past was valuable as a clue to the future, which would probably resemble the past. On this principle, if we studied our past lives, we could be forewarned and forearmed against our weaknesses.

Not only this – we could find out how we acquired skill in anything in which we now are “naturally” skillful, and so be able to acquire skill, by a similar process, in other things.

We should, see the causes of what we otherwise would look upon as misfortunes or hardships: we should recognize, these as results of our past choices, and as training-grounds for better character.

There would come to us a greater sympathy with others, a greater desire to help, a greater power to help.

Then we should view qualities and aims in truer perspective. We should realize beyond doubt what are first things and what are second-rate things.

We should have many pleasant memories to recall; though the unpleasant ones – since forgetfulness is often much harder than recollection – would be within us as well.

4. How does the theory help? Cui bono?

To this question a partial answer has already been given in Chapter II. He who believes in Reincarnation believes in a just Power – he believes that his circumstances are those that he has earned; in a kind Power – he believes that, his circumstances are most helpful for him and for everyone else; in a wise Power – he believes that the world is managed in an economical and scientific and foresighted fashion.
5. Would not the theory apply, then, to animals and plants, and even minerals?

Yes, It applies equally to them, suggesting for the mind an evolution like that which Wallace and Darwin suggested for the body.

6. Where does free choice begin? How can minerals, or plants, or certain animals, be responsible?

We cannot say where choice begins. It seems as if minerals were the absolute slaves of certain attractions and repulsions which they could not resist; and plants also. But we can hardly study dogs without thinking that they have consciences that they know when they have done wrong – that they have some power of choice.

7. Will any of us become animals again?

This is a question which the theory does not answer. Although some authorities on the subject say that when once the ego has been incarnated in a human being, it cannot ever again be incarnated in an animal, we feel that some animals are on a plane above some human beings. Without dogmatizing, we simply note the possibility that when an ego needed certain physical or mental qualities – say litheness and quickness, or the sense of smell, or patience – that ego might be reincarnated as an animal, if that were the quickest and best way of getting these qualities.

Again, the particles of the body, after dissolution, may come to be particles of animals: naturally, like would be attracted to like. This is one of the meanings of the theory that we – namely, our bodies – may become reincarnated in animals.

8. Do friends meet again? Is it not terrible that we should not recognize our dearest ones?

It is agreed by all who believe in Reincarnation that friends do meet again – and enemies too. It is agreed that the ego meets other egos. But the names, appearances, places, social positions, and so on, may be changed. It is rather the characters that meet.

This may sound cold and comfortless. But we must never forget that on the other hand, in proportion as it would be unpleasant to go on living with our enemies – especially with those whom we have injured. The clinging to old clothes and other familiar things is very human; but there are arguments against old clothes as well as for them!

Though our eyes may not recognize our dearest ones, our hearts do. And the new intercourse, perhaps in a different and much-needed relationship, may eventually help both parties more than a continuance of the old one.

So long as we regard the body as being the whole self and ego, we cannot grasp the theory. Once let us regard the body as to some extent a clothing and a set of instruments, and -suppose we had a friend who was a carpenter – we shall compare his reincarnation in a different body with his visit to us in a different suit of clothes or with a different set of tools.

9. How do you account for hereditary traits and tendencies?

The theory most commonly held by believers in Reincarnation is that the ego, when it is to be born again, to be reincarnated, is attracted to the most appropriate infant-body, while that body is still unborn.

But anyhow the outward form of the body will depend chiefly upon the physical parents. The theory of Reincarnation supposes this.

And we should expect that, for example, the ego that had been a dipsomaniac would be attracted to the infant-body whose parents – or one of whose parents – had a tendency in that direction. So of the money-grubbing, the sensual, the inventive, the athletic, etc.

The theory of Reincarnation supposes the ego ready to live again in this world, and needing a certain probation in view of its past choices, and a certain character training in view of its future excellence. The theory supposes an infant-body not yet possessed by any ego, but having certain traits and tendencies belonging to the parents. The ego is given this body as its house, its clothes, its instruments. The ego’s duty is to make the best of them.

10. Why is a person reincarnated into a certain body? Is there any principle to decide?

The answer to Question 9 will be to some extent the answer to Question 10 also.

Naturally, the ego will be attracted into the most appropriate – or least inappropriate – infant-body, all conditions (physical and hygienic and aesthetic, intellectual, economical, moral, and social) being taken into account. The ego will be attracted to the body which is nearest to the one earned by previous lives; and required by present and future needs of character, etc. One influence will be strict justice, another the strongest desires of the ego.

We should expect, then, that often an ego would be reincarnated in an environment to which past friends and enemies belonged. The ego would be attracted to those whom he had injured or by whom he had been injured, so that justice might be done. The ego would be attracted to those whom he had loved or by whom he had been loved, through desire. The ego would be attracted also by the power of the environment, to develop his character and physique, etc., in view of real progress.

For real progress is the aim of Reincarnation, not the petty spite or vengeance of an unforgiving pagan deity.

The Power forgives us our sins not merely by blotting them out, but by giving us the opportunities of blotting them out for ourselves by “doing better next time.”

11. What are the intervals between death and re-birth?

The theory does not say. The intervals are likely to vary enormously.

The Hindus have legends of immediate re-births – a father, for example, being incarnated in the newly born babe the moment after the father’s death on the scaffold.

Possibly the intervals may become shorter as time goes on. Thus, suppose that Charlemagne was reincarnated as Napoleon, the interval was a long one. Suppose Benjamin Franklin was reincarnated as Cobbett, the interval was a short one. When an infant dies, it is likely that the interval is shorter still.

12. Is the same ego reincarnated sometimes as a male, sometimes as a female?

We look upon the typical man as forming his opinions by logic rather than by intuition, and the typical woman as forming her opinions by intuition rather than by logic. A man and a woman discuss a course of action: the man observes, remembers, and reasons from evidence; the woman decides – she cannot tell how or why – she simply “feels or sees”. To this there are many exceptions.

Those who hold that the ego is reincarnated, either as a male or as a female, but not as now one, now the other, might plead that, in order to get the ideal nature, it is necessary for the reason of man to have so much practice that eventually it becomes intuition; somewhat as Epimetheus, studying the past, became able to predict the future as Prometheus could; that, conversely, it is necessary for the intuition of woman to have so much practice – so much testing of prophecies by facts, and corrections, accordingly – that eventually it is equivalent to and includes logic also; that the best way of arriving at the double faculty – reason and intuitions – is the development of each by specialization.

Those who hold that the ego is reincarnated now as a male, now as a female, point to the people with male bodies who have female minds, and vice versa.

We might apply the same principle to other general differences, between man and woman – for example, the masterful independence of man (largely due to artificial conditions of education) and the slave-like ministry of woman. Eventually man finds that his highest and most real mastery is to serve; woman finds that the best ministry makes her most masterful.

The theory of Reincarnation leaves the question unanswered. It seems as if many must need life in the opposite sex-form to make them well-balanced beings, even if they may have a series of successive lives in the same sex-form first.

13. Will Reincarnation be an unavoidable process for all forever?

In the human being and in the animals many tiny beings – not only bodies but also minds – are fused; as in a nation. It is quite possible, then, that there may be two evolutions.

First of all, one ego – already like a nation made up of groups of individual egos – may give rise to two or more egos, by a process analogous to fission of cells. We cannot help wishing now and then, as we watch some great man or woman, that he or she could be duplicated, and be here as well as there!

The very idea of this is repulsive to many. “I” want to be “I,” and only “I” – that is their apparent desire. Yet what energetic person has not longed for two or three bodies with which to work? – there seems so much to be done in so short a time.

You write a letter with your right hand. It seems to demand your full attention. Soon, however, after practice, you can simultaneously write another letter with your left hand. You have two hemispheres to your brain. Is the development of one person into two so entirely absurd? If some day the two fused into one again, would not the experience that each had gained separately be more valuable than the two would have gained by being always yoked together?

Almost equally unpleasant – if not more unpleasant – to most people would be the idea of becoming one with some other ego.* Yet there are married people who are almost as truly one rather than two; as the man himself is when he is playing and when he is working.

A third possibility is that the ego may be annihilated, perhaps somewhat as a nation can when it is split up into widely separated groups. Where is the Assyrian nation now? Once it was a nation – an ego. A Hindu philosopher has tried to prove that the individual is not a separate entity, apart from the lives of which he is composed, but merely the sum-total of those lives, so that when you take away these lives – as if you took away 1, 3, 4, 7, and 9 – you took away the total, 24, also.

A fourth possibility is the exact reverse – namely, a prolonged life without a break. At present we die. But we make a thousand mistakes daily – in our food and drink and ways of eating and drinking, in our air and breathing, in our positions and movements or sedentariness, in our ways of thinking, and so on. Remedy these mistakes, assert and imagine increasing health, let more vigorous new cells take the place of less vigorous old cells continually, and why not live for centuries? Why not rebuild the body?

A fifth possibility is that of living with-out the heavy physical body.

So Reincarnation is not a law for all for ever without exception.

14. Why did not Jesus Christ believe in it?

We do not find the immortality of the soul set forth as an essential doctrine of Jesus Christ. We do not find the physical evolution – which Spencer, Wallace, and Darwin have gone so far towards proving – thus set forth. We do not find even the most obvious rules of physical health insisted on. Silence or a passing mention is no proof that Jesus Christ disbelieved in this or that view.

When he** was asked whether a certain man or his parents had sinned that he should be born blind, he said that in this case neither cause was the true one. He did not deny heredity, nor did he deny Reincarnation (a man could not have sinned before being born, unless he had sinned in a previous life). Indeed, he said of John the Baptist, “If you will receive it, this is Elias that was to come,” and again, when they asked him how it was that the Scribes said Elias must first come (before the Messiah came), he answered, “Elias has come, and they have done to him what they pleased.” clearly alluding to the murder of John the Baptist.

We might say that the idea of Reincarnation underlies many of the teachings of the New Testament, as we shall see in the chapter called “New Light on Old Texts.” How, for instance, can one accept the idea of original sin by a man who has never had conscious choice before? The idea of sin without choice is, to me at least, inconceivable.

And is not Reincarnation one – not the only – explanation of that phrase, “Ye must be born again”?
footnotes

* The grafting-process suggests a possibility.

** To illustrate how little we observe, it will astonish most readers to be told that in the New Testament, “he,” alluding to Jesus, is spelt with a small h, not a capital H.

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