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9/6/10 6:25 PM
Rupert Sheldrake: A Theosophical Appraisal
Part 1: Morphic Fields and the Memory of Nature
Most biologists take it for granted that living organisms are nothing but complex machines, governed only by the known laws of physics and chemistry. I myself used to share this point of view. But over a period of several years I came to see that such an assumption is difficult to justify. For when so little is actually understood, there is an open possibility that at least some of the phenomena of life depend on laws or factors as yet unrecognized by the physical sciences.  With these words biologist Rupert Sheldrake introduced his first book, A New Science of Life: The Hypothesis of Formative Causation, published in 1981. It met with a mixed response: while welcomed as 'challenging and stimulating' by some, the journal Nature dismissed it as an 'infuriating tract . . . the best candidate for burning there has been for many years'. Sheldrake developed his ideas further in The Presence of the Past: Morphic Resonance and the Habits of Nature (1988) and The Rebirth of Nature: The Greening of Science and God (1991). His basic argument is that natural systems, or morphic units, at all levels of complexity - atoms, molecules, crystals, cells, tissues, organs, organisms, and societies of organisms -- are animated, organized, and coordinated by morphic fields, which contain an inherent memory. Natural systems inherit this collective memory from all previous things of their kind by a process called morphic resonance, with the result that patterns of development and behavior become increasingly habitual through repetition. Sheldrake suggests that there is a continuous spectrum of morphic fields, including morphogenetic fields, behavioral fields, mental fields, and social and cultural fields. Morphogenesis -- literally, the 'coming into being' (genesis) of 'form' (morphê) -- is something of a mystery. How do complex living organisms arise from much simpler structures such as seeds or eggs? How does an acorn manage to grow into an oak tree, or a fertilized human egg into an adult human being? A striking characteristic of living organisms is the capacity to regenerate, ranging from the healing of wounds to the replacement of lost limbs or tails. Organisms are clearly more than just complex machines: no machine has ever been known to grow spontaneously from a machine egg or to regenerate after damage! Unlike machines, organisms are more than the sum of their parts; there is something within them that is holistic and purposive, directing their development toward certain goals.
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for example. why newly synthesized chemical compounds crystallize more readily all over the world the more often they are made. The fields themselves therefore evolve. it does not specify the way the proteins are arranged in cells. etc. in the form of genetic programs. and organs in organisms. The inherent memory of these fields explains. Each morphic unit has its own characteristic morphogenetic field. Developmental biologists acknowledge this.info/sheld. the fields of cells contain those of molecules.  The fact that all the cells of an organism have the same genetic code yet somehow behave differently and form tissues and organs of different structures clearly indicates that some formative influence other than DNA must be shaping the developing organs and limbs. tissues in organs. According to Sheldrake. They are localized within and around the systems they organize. The genetic code in the DNA molecules determines the sequence of amino acids in proteins. and the right systems by which protein synthesis is controlled. The concept of morphogenetic fields has been widely adopted in developmental biology. genetic programs are supposed to have been thrown together by chance! In recent years a number of leading developmental biologists have suggested that the misleading concept of genetic programs be abandoned in favor of terms such as 'internal representation' or 'internal description'. The role of genes is vastly overrated by mechanistic biologists.Sheldrake: an appraisal 9/6/10 6:25 PM Although modern mechanistic biology grew up in opposition to vitalism -. As Sheldrake remarks: Given the right genes and hence the right proteins. which contain those of atoms. This is rather like delivering the right materials to a building site at the right times and expecting a house to grow spontaneously. Exactly what these representations and descriptions are supposed to be has still to be explained. but whereas computer programs are designed by intelligent beings. they are a new kind of field so far unknown to physics. Genetic programs are sometimes likened to computer programs. and contain a kind of collective memory on which each member of the species draws and to which it in turn contributes. and they are often conceived of in conventional physical and chemical terms. it is worth examining exactly what a morphic field is supposed to be. For example. the organism is somehow supposed to assemble itself automatically. but the nature of these fields has remained obscure. Sheldrake describes them as 'fields of information'. saying that they are neither a type of matter nor of energy and are detectable only by http://davidpratt.htm Page 2 of 12 . nested in that of a higher-level morphic unit which helps to coordinate the arrangement of its parts.the doctrine that living organisms are organized by nonmaterial vital factors -. Before considering other types of morphic fields. According to Sheldrake. the development and maintenance of the bodies of organisms are guided by morphogenetic fields.it has introduced purposive organizing principles of its own. but their mechanistic explanations peter out into vague statements about 'complex spatio-temporal patterns of physico-chemical interaction not yet fully understood'. cells in tissues.
since morphic fields can propagate across space and time and do not fade out noticeably over distance .Sheldrake: an appraisal 9/6/10 6:25 PM their effects on material systems. takes place within and through mental fields. However.htm Page 3 of 12 . and with them a collective memory.info/sheld. Instinctive behavior. conscious and unconscious. that would imply that they were pure nothingness. biochemistry. too ethereal to be detectable by scientific instruments. the universal quantum field forms the substratum of the physical world and is pulsating with energy and vitality. the kind of causation brought about by known physical fields such as gravity and electromagnetism.'  It is true that damage to specific areas of the brain can impair memory in certain ways. habitual and instinctive behavior is organized by behavioral fields. It is possible for habits acquired by some animals to facilitate the acquisition of the same habits by other similar animals. As Sheldrake remarks. Sheldrake suggests that the reason for the recurrent failure to find memory-traces in brains is very simple: they do not exist there. Sheldrake does in fact concede that morphic fields may have a subtle energy. if morphic fields were completely nonmaterial. genetics and neurophysiology' . other rats elsewhere seem to be able to learn it more easily. but this does not prove that the relevant http://davidpratt. it amounts to the resurrection of the concept of an ether. This explains how after rats have learned a new trick in one place. a medium of subtle matter pervading all of space. Experiments have shown that memory is both everywhere and nowhere in particular. Attempts to locate memory-traces within the brain have so far proved unsuccessful. It is all the more remarkable given that Sheldrake criticizes other forms of dualism. 'An enormous gulf of ignorance lies between all these phenomena and the established facts of molecular biology. The dualism Sheldrake introduces with his distinction between energetic and non-energetic causation is rather unsatisfactory. but not in any 'normal' (physical) sense of the term. *The reason Sheldrake uses the term 'formative causation' to refer to his hypothesis of the causation of form by morphic fields is precisely to distinguish it from 'energetic causation'. He goes on: 'A search inside your TV set for traces of the programs you watched last week would be doomed to failure for the same reason: The set tunes in to TV transmissions but does not store them. Sheldrake also suggests that morphic fields may be very closely connected with quantum matter fields . According to science. even in the absence of any known means of connection or communication. Memory poses a thorny problem for materialists. The building up of an animal's own habits also depends on morphic resonance. How could purposive instinctive behavior such as the building of webs by spiders or the migrations of swallows ever be explained in terms of DNA and protein synthesis? According to Sheldrake. and the idea that the material world is governed by nonmaterial 'laws' of nature. learning. and it is hard to see how fields of nothingness could possibly have any effect on the material world!* In a discussion with David Bohm. Formative causation is said to impose a spatial order on changes brought about by energetic causation. and memory also defy explanation in mechanistic terms. such as the idea of a nonmaterial mind acting on a material body (Cartesian dualism). while mental activity. Instincts are the behavioral habits of the species and depend on the inheritance of behavioral fields. from previous members of the species by morphic resonance. In this sense morphic fields would be a subtler form of energy-substance.
and herds or packs of animals. Likewise. rejects the idea of morphic resonance being transmitted through a 'morphogenetic aether'. Sheldrake. exhibit a complex division of labor. According to Sheldrake. This would throw light on such things as crowd behavior. and reproduce themselves. wasps. working from both sides of the breach that has been made. and meeting up perfectly in the middle. He says that individual memory is due to the fact that organisms resonate most strongly with their own past. can speedily repair damage to their mounds.info/sheld. This would also help to explain the behavior of shoals of fish. morphic resonance involves the transfer of information but not of energy. Studies have shown that termites. But it is hard to see why such a hazy notion is more satisfactory than that of nonphysical energies being transmitted through an etheric medium. and as potentially present everywhere' . damage to parts of a TV circuitry can lead to loss or distortion of the picture but this does not prove that the pictures were stored inside the damaged components. but that organisms are also influenced by morphic resonance from others of their kind through a sort of pooled memory. Likewise. flocks of birds. Memories. panics. Social organization is also impossible to understand in reductionist and mechanistic terms. Sheldrake suggests that such colonies are organized by social fields. including human societies. Social morphic fields can be thought of as coordinating all patterns of social behavior. which govern the inheritance and transmission of cultural traditions. even though the insects are blind. ants. then. for example. and cults. Sheldrake suggests that memories are associated with morphic fields and that remembering depends on morphic resonance with these fields. however. Such societies have often been compared to organisms at a higher level of organization. They can build large elaborate nests. which therefore forms a sort of memory of nature.Sheldrake: an appraisal 9/6/10 6:25 PM memories were stored in the damaged tissues. within and around the physical body there is a series of subtler 'bodies' composed of these more ethereal states of matter. against the present. as it were. Social fields are closely allied with cultural fields. saying that 'a more satisfactory approach may be to think of the past as pressed up. In theosophical terms. rebuilding tunnels and arches.htm Page 4 of 12 . But it is difficult to see how the one can take place without the other. embracing all the individuals within them. Sheldrake's hypothesis of morphic fields and morphic resonance is of course anathema http://davidpratt. these vibrations being transmitted through the astral light. the physical world is interpenetrated by a series of increasingly ethereal worlds or planes. and event is imprinted on the âkâsha. and we gain access to these records by vibrational synchrony. though the type of energy involved may well be supraphysical. Its lower levels are referred to as the astral light. deed. whose coordination has so far also defied explanation. similar to the concept of the collective unconscious put forward by Jung and other depth psychologists. or superorganisms. are impressed on the etheric substance of supraphysical planes. composed of energy-substances beyond our range of perception. fashions. Societies of termites. sometimes called the âkâsha. and bees can contain thousands or even millions of individual insects. An impression of every thought. crazes.
Life after life we therefore build habits of thought. and endure for a time period immeasurably longer than do the lower vehicles. and the only one normally visible to us. and the divine soul. and habits of the lower mind. which is relatively permanent and therefore explains how physical shapes preserve their identities and characteristic forms despite the constant turnover of their physical constituents. These four lower bodies are associated with the human personality -. This is reminiscent of the theosophical idea that humans are composed of several interpenetrating and interacting bodies. and live and function on the inner planes. feeling. cell. After death.with the desires. or vehicles of consciousness. whose shape and structure are organized by a hierarchy of morphogenetic fields. one for each pattern of behavior. one for every atom. and intuitions. the degree of individualization increases. molecule. aspirations. thoughts. and behavior into the http://davidpratt. the spiritual soul. which consist of energies and substances of different grades.Sheldrake: an appraisal 9/6/10 6:25 PM to mechanistic biologists.htm Page 5 of 12 . or as a higher level of our being which interacts with the lower fields and serves as the creative ground through which new fields arise . such as fields unknown to physics. self-regulatory properties. and self-organizing patterns of information -expressions which are descriptive but have little explanatory power. After death they disintegrate into their constituent physical or astral atoms at different rates on their different planes. and our mental activity by mental fields. emergent organizing principles. Working through the human physical and model bodies are two closely related vehicles of consciousness composed of still finer substances. emotions. which may be called the animal soul and the lower human soul. The lowest body. one for each thought or idea. In the human kingdom a selfconscious mind develops. Our habitual activities are organized by behavioral fields. is the physical body. whose advocates recognize the holistic properties of living organisms and the need for some sort of organizing principles. Instead they use vague terms such as complex self-organizing systems. It is built up around an astral model body. Sheldrake also suggests that our conscious self may be regarded either as the subjective aspect of the morphic fields that organize the brain. There are also three higher souls. According to Sheldrake. but generally avoid proposing that there are new kinds of causal entities in nature. then. It also goes further than many forms of systems theory. souls. These higher vehicles are the source of our nobler feelings. As we move up the ladder of life from the mineral kingdom through the plant and animal kingdoms to the human kingdom. the reincarnating ego is said to enter a dreamlike state of rest until the time comes for it to return to earth. as the higher vehicles become more able to express themselves through the more sophisticated physical forms. composed of more refined âkâshic substances: the higher human soul or reincarnating ego.info/sheld. bringing with it free will and moral responsibility. it draws back to itself many of the same life-atoms which had formerly composed its lower vehicles and which therefore bear the karmic impress of previous lives. human beings consist of a physical body. As it reawakens and redescends towards the material realms. Every living entity has a model body. and organ up to the body as a whole.
Sheldrake admits that his terminology of morphic fields could be replaced by occult terms such as âkâsha and subtle bodies . and paranormal phenomena.info/sheld. However. R. The vital and electric impulses and energies moving within and between the different levels of our constitution are more likely to repeat past pathways and vibrational forms. 14. The formation of habits can be understood in terms of nature's fundamental tendency to follow the line of least resistance and to repeat itself. mind. 3. 9. 2. For instance.htm Page 6 of 12 . 213. especially as regards such teachings as reembodiment. the planets move in regular orbits around the sun. 8.. p. 7. 1987. Bantam Books. the higher helping to animate and coordinate the lower.. The Presence of the Past. Whatever the limitations of his ideas. apple seeds always grow into apple trees rather than some other kind of tree. the powers of mind and consciousness. Sheldrake. theosophy proposes the existence of bodies within bodies and worlds within worlds. 112. A New Science of Life. References: 1. R. Ibid. associated with particular patterns of thought and behavior. 307. 116. comprising a whole spectrum of energy-substances. p. A New Science of Life. 1991. p. Ibid. 1989. Instead of a physical world organized by a nebulous nonmaterial realm of 'fields'. however. p. The Presence of the Past. occult philosophy goes much further than anything Sheldrake would care to admit to. than they are to follow or assume new ones -. 4. water always boils at 100°C at sea level. and plays a role similar to what Sheldrake calls the morphic field of Gaia.unless forced to do so by our will. The astral light may be considered to be the astral body of the earth.Sheldrake: an appraisal 9/6/10 6:25 PM different levels of our constitution. 5. 6. 120. 27. Paladin. According to Sheldrake we are also influenced by social and cultural fields contained within the overall field of the earth. p. p. p. In theosophy we are said to contribute thoughts and ideas to the pooled memory of the astral light and attract from it those ideas and thoughts with which we resonate most strongly. 107. Part 2: Creativity and the Habits of Nature The operations of nature are characterized by order and harmony. Sheldrake has dealt a significant blow to materialistic science with his forceful arguments exposing the inadequacy of physical factors alone to account for the phenomena of life. The Rebirth of Nature. The Rebirth of Nature. 245. p. These ideas account for the regularity and harmony of nature. Sheldrake. and in support of the idea that memory is innate in nature. p. Vintage. and http://davidpratt. A New Science of Life. and evolution.
sun. too. which contain a built-in memory. But it is strange that he rejects the idea that nonmaterial laws could act upon the material world. crystal. dismisses the idea that nonmaterial. In other words. . . free-floating laws. nor lie beyond their power. Nothing can be hidden from them.info/sheld. etc. it still accepts the existence of immutable laws. the physical world is organized and coordinated by morphic fields.this http://davidpratt. Within and behind the material world there are worlds or planes composed of finer grades of matter. . more ethereal form of energy-substance. could not have any influence on the physical world. and past patterns of activity influence those in the present by morphic resonance. In a world where regularity and order did not prevail. beyond time and space.. If morphic fields are anything. Strictly speaking. these laws were designed by God and exist in His mind. Indeed. they must surely be a nonphysical. They are omnipresent. How these laws can exist independent of the evolving universe and at the same time act upon it is something of a mystery.Sheldrake: an appraisal 9/6/10 6:25 PM electrons always carry the same electric charge. As G. a possibility which Sheldrake does not altogether rule out (see Part 1). The spiritual entities on higher planes do not govern the lower worlds -. an expression for the action of entities in nature' . even in the absence of God. and self-subsistent.htm Page 7 of 12 . but they are not themselves material nor do they move. Although materialist science rejects the idea of God. These regularities are generally attributed to laws of nature. which works through elemental nature-forces. As Rupert Sheldrake says: They govern matter and motion. all inhabited by appropriate entities at varying stages of evolutionary development. protein. A very different point of view is that the regularities of nature are more like universal habits which have grown up within the evolving universe and that a kind of memory is inherent in nature. but goes further in saying that these habits are the habits of living entities. the creation of the first atom. According to Sheldrake's hypothesis of formative causation. Theosophy. they still share many of his traditional attributes. involved the spontaneous appearance of the relevant laws and rules. but then proposes that nonmaterial morphic fields in some way can. According to Christian theology. there are no mechanically acting laws of nature. immutable. matter and energy. which are considered to be eternal and transcendent. The higher entities collectively make up the 'mind' of nature. new laws come into being as nature evolves and thereafter apply universally.  A variation on the theme of nonmaterial laws is that rather than being eternal. and to have existed in some sense before the birth of the physical universe. universal. It would also agree with Sheldrake that the laws of nature are habits. Sheldrake states that morphic fields are neither a form of matter nor of energy. de Purucker says: 'This word law is simply an abstraction. for there are no lawgivers. everything would be completely unpredictable and life as we know it could not exist.
including Pythagoras. Peat remark: 'What is randomness in one context may reveal itself as simple orders of necessity in another broader context' .Sheldrake: an appraisal 9/6/10 6:25 PM is a relic of the theological idea of divine intervention. stars. It could be ascribed (a) to blind and purposeless chance. and the incredible diversity of life-forms that we find on earth managed to evolve? Sheldrake suggests three different ways of viewing the creativity of nature. composing universal nature. He says that a decision between these alternatives can be made only on metaphysical grounds and on the basis of intuition. All these planes interpenetrate. The systems behave as if they were governed by eternal laws because the habits are so well established. and necessity . From a theosophical viewpoint. each divisible into ten subplanes. creativity descends into the physical world of space and time from a higher. physical plane can be perceived by our physical senses. was regarded as the 'perfect number' underlying the structure of the universe by many ancient philosophers. Bohm and science writer F. As physicist D.info/sheld. All the planes interact and evolve. chance is merely a word that conceals our ignorance. [I]t is rooted in the ongoing processes of nature. or (c) to a creative impetus immanent in nature. though the higher planes are relatively more enduring than the lower.  This could also apply to the effectively invariable mathematical principles governing the structure of the hierarchies of worlds and planes.D. and growth are normally regulated by our automatic will. and biological systems have been established for millions. But at the same time it occurs within the framework of higher systems of order. A hierarchy of worlds may be said to consist of ten planes or spheres. so the physical world is the body of higher worlds and the regularities of nature are the instinctual effects on this plane of the wills and energies of the entities dwelling on inner planes. the first hypothesis is unacceptable since chance does not play any role in nature. (b) to a creative agency pervading and transcending nature. How have galaxies.htm Page 8 of 12 . causal. the beating of the heart. The third hypothesis states that creativity depends on chance. . Ten. conflict. for instance. chemical. and biologists study are running in such deep grooves of habit that they are effectively changeless. http://davidpratt. According to the second hypothesis. new species arise within ecosystems. but because they are composed of energy-substances vibrating at different rates. For example. respiration. Hence most of the systems that physicists. planets. Just as bodily processes such as digestion. While theosophy accepts that there are superior. transcendent level that is mindlike. it questions Sheldrake's assumption that such realms would have to be completely changeless and 'beyond time altogether' . visible and invisible. . only the lowest. chemists. Sheldrake writes: The habits of most kinds of physical. even billions of years. mindlike planes behind the physical world.
creative jump and thereafter guide the development of subsequent similar systems and become increasingly habitual through repetition. Sheldrake does not recognize the existence of superior. at every level of organization. the creative agency -or rather agencies -. new morphic fields may arise within and from higher-level fields.info/sheld. Virtually all religious and mystical traditions teach that our physical body is merely the lowest level of our constitution. crystal. the solar system within the galaxy. its organizing field disappears from that place. he argues that morphic fields never completely vanish when the species or entity they organize dies: When any particular organized system ceases to exist. which would include higher planes and subplanes. In fact. and is closely associated with 'higher systems of order'. Fields play a fundamental role in modern science: matter is said to consist of energy organized by fields. Although clearly an exaggeration. creativity is rooted in the processes of nature. 'have replaced souls as invisible organizing principles' . causal worlds. a snowflake melts. These new patterns of organization arise through a spontaneous. the galaxy within the growing cosmos. and considers the possibility that this universal field could be connected with previous universes. since the world soul is something far higher and more spiritual than the fields known to physics. there is nothing in his theory that rules them out.' says Sheldrake.  Again.referred to in hypothesis (b) dwell in these higher spheres and are the source of the creative impetus referred to in hypothesis (c). the behavioral and mental morphic fields postulated by Sheldrake may be regarded as higher-level fields and bear some resemblance to what in theosophic thought are called the animal soul and human soul. or plant. through the creative activity of higher-level fields. while blind chance has no part to play in the theosophic scheme.Sheldrake: an appraisal 9/6/10 6:25 PM new ecosystems within Gaia. an animal dies. Creativity occurs not just upward from the bottom. Interestingly. Although Sheldrake does not explicitly consider the possibility of survival and reincarnation. and can appear again physically in http://davidpratt. But what exactly is the relationship between this realm and the physical world? A new morphic field is said to come into being with the first appearance of a new system. with new forms arising from less complex systems by spontaneous jumps. 'Fields. as when an atom splits. whether it be a molecule. it also proceeds downward from the top. galaxy.  Sheldrake suggests that all morphic fields may ultimately be derived from the primal field of the universe. Gaia within the solar system. He even goes so far as to liken the universal field of gravity to the Neoplatonic conception of the world soul.htm Page 9 of 12 . But in another sense. morphic fields do not disappear: they are potential organizing patterns of influence. However. and that there is a higher part of us that survives physical death. though he does recognize the existence of a nonmaterial realm of morphic fields of various types.
even the countless forms. eternally IS . . was. They are all informed by spiritual monads which use the different forms offered by the various kingdoms of nature to gain evolutionary experience. which acts as a sort of memory of nature. "Nothing is created."'  However. As H. Taking this idea a step further. in the Eternity. suns.  In other words.that was not in the universe already . will exist as reflections. which are finite and perishable only in their objective.P.. . when the cycle of evolution on a particular planet comes to an end. but is only transformed. and. or throwing back. can suddenly reappear.' i. Nothing can manifest itself in this universe -.e. nor that of any animal. But the idea of something being created out of literal nothingness is an illogical fantasy: 'the Occult teaching says. not in their ideal Form. when they pass away.atoms. plant or stone has ever been created. objectivising into its present materiality. and will be. Neither the form of man.from a globe down to a vague. rapid thought -. All things are therefore constantly building on the achievements of the past. the existence of evolutionary plans and prototypes by no means implies that everything is rigidly predetermined. atavism.' Everything that is. Our brain-minds tend to find this idea rather daunting and prefer to impose at least an absolute beginning before which nothing existed and at which moment the universe came into being out of nothing. even those extinct for millions of years. When they do so they contain within themselves a memory of their previous physical existences. and provide the prototypes and blueprint for the new cycle of evolution. and it is only on this plane of ours that it commenced 'becoming. Therefore our human forms have existed in the Eternity as astral or ethereal prototypes .htm Page 10 of 12 . or expanding from within outwards.. for although the higher http://davidpratt. and no development or achievement is ever lost but remains imprinted on the astral light or âkâsha. we follow in the footsteps of what has gone before. humans. all evolutionary forms and pathways remain imprinted as 'reflections' on the higher planes. . There are also many examples from the fossil record that suggest that particular evolutionary pathways are repeated: organisms with features almost identical to previous species appear again and again.  This would explain how the characteristics of ancestral species. these memories or seeds of life will be reawakened and reactivated. is it not conceivable that the same individualized higher-level 'fields' could manifest repeatedly in physical form and provide a thread of continuity between one life or embodiment and the next? Theosophy proposes that all entities -.e. Everything exists because it has existed before. from the most sublimated and supersensuous essence into its grossest appearance. and universes -.Sheldrake: an appraisal 9/6/10 6:25 PM other times and places.info/sheld. When the next period of activity dawns. animals. Evolution is without conceivable beginning and without conceivable end. wherever and whenever the physical conditions are appropriate. manifestation and dissolution. Blavatsky puts it: 'the spiritual prototypes of all things exist in the immaterial world before those things become materialised on Earth. . There was never a time when nothing was. a phenomenon known as reversion. They existed as Ideas.reembody. planets. pass through cyclic periods of activity and rest. i.
since he defines pantheism as the view that divinity is immanent in all things. Paul put forward a similar pantheistic idea. Divinity is in all things in such a way that all things are in divinity. saying that Deity is that in which 'we live. in a never-ending.  He points out that instead of the theistic notion that God is remote and separate from nature. and must therefore be infinitude itself. for there is no god so high that there is none higher. Everything in our hierarchy of worlds derives from the same divine source and is destined in the fullness of time to return to it. and the plan itself is modified by each cycle of evolution. there to rest for untold aeons before issuing forth again on an evolutionary pilgrimage as part of even higher worlds. The divine can certainly not be anything less than our grandest conception. Since it is greater than any of its individual expressions. for otherwise there would be no room left for the universe! Divinity is the universe -. And the aggregate of the most advanced beings in any system of worlds may be regarded as divinity for that hierarchy. ever-ascending spiral of progress in which there are always new and vaster fields of experience in which to become selfconscious masters of life. God could also be considered as immanent in nature.Sheldrake: an appraisal 9/6/10 6:25 PM levels of reality help to coordinate the lower. and have our being' (Acts 17:28). but not transcendent. Divinity is therefore immanent. and move.not just the physical universe but all the endless hierarchies of worlds and planes which infill and in fact compose the boundless All. But this is not far removed from views of nature with God. Evolution is a fundamental habit of nature and proceeds in cyclic periods of activity and rest.' St. Theosophy is therefore pantheistic in that it recognizes a universal life infilling and inspiriting everything without exception. But this is not God in the traditional sense. contained in all. Sheldrake writes: a view of nature without God must include a creative unitary principle that includes the entire cosmos and unites the polarities and dualities found throughout the natural realm. containing everything. meaning beings who are relatively perfected in relation to ourselves. References: http://davidpratt.htm Page 11 of 12 . Sheldrake calls this panentheism. and the root of all things.info/sheld. On the subject of God. But this is a rather arbitrary definition. the lower levels retain a degree of autonomy and creative freedom. But if divinity is infinite. He quotes fifteenth-century mystic Nicholas of Cusa: 'Divinity is the enfolding and unfolding of everything that is. Infinitude is composed of an infinite number of world-systems. it may also be regarded as transcendent. and within any particular hierarchy of worlds all the entities that have passed beyond the human stage may be termed spiritual beings or gods. and yet at the same time as the unity that transcends nature. omnipresent. it cannot be outside nature.
. November 1997.. pp. 6. Ibid. 83.P. 282. TUP. Bohm and F. 9. The Presence of the Past. 1989. June/July & Aug/Sept 1992. The Rebirth of Nature. Homepage http://davidpratt. 2nd ed.Sheldrake: an appraisal 9/6/10 6:25 PM 1. Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy. Order & Creativity. 1989. Sheldrake. 1:58. Vintage. Peat. 8. The Rebirth of Nature. 5.info/sheld. de Purucker.D. p. Routledge. 11. p. 1:570. Blavatsky. p. Science. 1979. Sheldrake.. p. Original articles published in Sunrise. Ibid. Bantam Books. The Rebirth of Nature. 173. The Presence of the Past. Ibid. D. 128-9.. 4. R. 2. H. R. G. 10.htm Page 12 of 12 . xviii . 196. 195. TUP. p. 1991. 1977 (1888). p. pp. Ibid. 12. 7. p. 194.xix. The Secret Doctrine. 3. 12. 133.
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