Saturday, January 21, 2006

Time to re-direct ...

and AlterNet provided the perfect means to do just that.

This morning they're running a fascinating article about biologist Rupert Sheldrake, originally of Australia but now living in London. His was the controversial theory of morphic resonance,

"-- a complicated framework of ideas proposing that nature relies upon its own set of memories, which are transmitted through time and space via "morphic fields". The theory holds that these fields, which operate much like electrical or magnetic fields, shape our entire world. A panda bear is a panda bear because it naturally tunes into morphic fields containing storehouses of information that define and govern panda bears. The same with pigeons, platinum atoms, and the oak trees on Hampstead Heath, not to mention human beings. This theory, if widely accepted, would turn our understanding of the universe inside out -- which is why Sheldrake has so often felt the wrath of orthodox scientists.

For the past 20 years, he has pursued further research on morphic fields even though no university or scientific institute would dare hire him. Much of his empirical explorations focus on unsolved phenomenon such as how pigeons and other animals find their way home from great distances, why people experience feelings in amputated limbs, why some people and animals can sense that someone is staring at them. He believes morphic resonance may offer answers to these questions."

the most memorable was the "100 Monkey's theory" so widely discussed during the period of the Human Potential Movement of the 80's. Sheldrake posited that -- in an experiment conducted in the south pacific involving a tipping point where, when a particular number of monkeys on separated islands were introduced to a process of a kind -- the monkeys on the neighboring island adopted it as well -- without contact of any kind, once a critical number had been reached (i.e. the hundredth monkey).

Sheldrake was one of the "heretic" scientists associated with John Lilly and his dolphin studies and others who were intrigued by Zen and Tibetan Buddhism. There was a coming together of physicists, biologists, Buddhists, psychologists, writers like Isaac Asimov and Fritjof Capra and Loren Eisley -- through astronaut Ed Mitchell's Noetic Institute at Stanford and the Nyingma Institute in Berkeley. It was a world I drifted around the edges of while married to the university and to Bill who was deeply involved in all things esoteric and edgy (in its time).

Reading today's article (more to be found at served as a reminder of a life I tend to forget about in the dailyness of the past 20-30 years. It all feels very far away now -- like a fine film I once watched, with players so much larger than life. It was a period that lasted only ten years of my marriage -- until Bill's death -- and it changed the direction of my life for all time.

That Betty would hardly be squashed by little things like hayfever; not knowing how to deal with a pilot light on the furnace that blew out when she tried to change the filter; finding herself again chained to a child-woman who has returned home needing tending and chauffering and patience (oh the patience!) after being seduced into believing that the time of caretaking was ending ... and that life might finally be all interesting work, art galleries, time to muse, concerts, fine dining, and feeling womanly again. At least a few of yesterday's tears were certainly related to disappointment, a dash of self-pity, and at least a wee bit of guilt at feeling so.

That's what I need; a new infusion of thought by those wonderful daring dreamers -- or today's counterparts -- who knew no limits and who believed in themselves and in all the rest of us as well. Those learned men (and they tended to be all male at that time) saw wonder in everything around them. They were the antithesis of today's scientific leaders who are all bound by the bottom line instead of the upper limits of the universe of the mind.

Today I'll read some Rupert Sheldrake and try to recapture some of that dreamdust.

Photo: Taken in the livingroom of Deacon John Weaver of the Northern California Episcopal Diocese -- listening to a discussion in preparation for the Vallombrosa Conference at Stanford (circa 1976).

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