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morphogenetic fields and the collapse of the old paradigms of earth - part 1
Morphogenetic Fields and the Collapse of the Old Paradigms of Earth - Part 1
By Peter Farley

Some Necessary Defining:

Morphogenesis (from the Greek morphê shape and genesis creation, literally, "beginning of the shape"), is the biological process that causes an organism to develop its shape. It is one of three fundamental aspects of developmental biology along with the control of cell growth and cellular differentiation.

The process controls the organized spatial distribution of cells during the embryonic development of an organism. Morphogenesis can take place also in a mature organism, in cell culture or inside tumor cell masses. Morphogenesis also describes the development of unicellular life forms that do not have an embryonic stage in their life cycle, or describes the evolution of a body structure within a taxonomic group.

Morphogenetic responses may be induced in organisms by hormones, by environmental chemicals ranging from substances produced by other organisms to toxic chemicals or radionuclides released as pollutants, and other plants, or by mechanical stresses induced by spatial patterning of the cells.

To simplify this, a morphogenetic field is what gives shape to a set of cells or an energy field that differentiates that set of cells or energy from every other set of cells or energy groups surrounding it. What makes you and not part of the person next to you, where is the dividing line? And is that field constant, or like the particles of Light that can also be part of a wave of Light, can one person also be a part of the whole as described in Native American terms by the expression, “We are all One/brothers”?

MORPHIC FIELDS are fields within and around a self-organizing system that organizes its characteristic structure and pattern of activity. According to the hypothesis of formative causation, morphic fields contain an inherent memory transmitted by previous similar systems by morphic resonance and tend to become increasingly habitual. Morphic fields include morphogenetic, behavioral, social, cultural, and mental fields. The greater the degree of similarity, the greater the influence of morphic resonance. In general, systems most closely resemble themselves in the past and are subject to self-resonance from their own past states.

MORPHIC RESONANCE is the influence of previous structures on subsequent similar structures of activity organized by morphic fields. According to the hypothesis of formative causation, morphic resonance involves the transmission of formative influences through or across time and space without a decrease due to distance or lapse of time.

MORPHOGENESIS - The coming into being of form.

MORPHOGENETIC FIELDS - Fields that play a causal role in morphogenesis. This term, first proposed in the 1920s, is now widely used by developmental biologists. According to the hypothesis of formative causation, these fields contain an inherent memory, transmitted from similar past organisms by the process of morphic resonance. (From Trialogues at the Edge of the West by Ralph Abraham, Terence McKenna, and Rupert Sheldrake in Terence McKenna Land
The Deoxyribonucleic Hyperdimension)

by Ken Wilber Excerpted from The Collected Works of Ken Wilber: Volume 4

Perhaps the most persistent problem in developmental biology concerns morphogenesis, or the coming into being of form, because the actual form of an organism—its pattern, its shape, its spatiotemporal order—cannot be predicted or even accounted for in terms of its constituent material parts. To give the simplest example: a protein is a long chain of molecules that, based on the properties of the molecules themselves, could easily fold into any number of energetically equivalent forms, and yet, in living systems, they are always found folded in only one way. That is, one form is always selected from numerous equivalent possibilities, and yet, on the basis of mass and energy considerations, no one form should be preferable to any other. The same puzzle is found, a fortiori, in larger and more complex organic systems. No known physical laws can account for the form these systems take. So what does account for it?

Aside from the mechanistic approach, which purports to explain the problem by ignoring it, there have been three major attempts to account for morphogenesis. One is the vitalist approach, pioneered at the turn of the century by Driesch (1914). This theory, influenced in part by Aristotelean ideas, maintains that each organic system possesses a characteristic vital force that, as entelechy, guides and shapes the form of the organism. This theory, admirable as a first attempt, suffered mostly from its vagueness, and consequently was replaced in the 1920s by various forms of organismic theory, influenced largely by the works of Whitehead, Smuts, and the Gestalt psychologists. “Vital force” was replaced by the more sophisticated and precise concept of the “morphogenetic field,” which is said to guide the actual form or pattern of the organism’ material and energetic components, much as a magnetic field will guide and shape iron filings placed within it. Thus, as is well known, if on removes a section of a growing embryo, the embryo will regenerate the section. It does so, according to this theory, because the morphogenetic field of the embryo drives it to replenish, not merely its lost matter, but its lost form. That is, the embryo has, in addition to its material-energetic laws (governed by the standard laws of physics), a holistic drive to reform the whole (a drive to “closure” governed by the morphogenetic field, which itself is not governed or explained by physical laws).

The theory of morphogenetic fields was pioneered by Waddington (1975) largely under the (then unacknowledged) influence of Whitehead. But Waddington wavered on the exact nature of the morphogenetic field; in fact, he hinted that it could probably be explained on the mere basis of physico-chemical properties. Rene Thorn (1975), in his famous catastrophe theory, took up Waddington’s ideas and gave them a powerful and impressive reformulation in terms of topographical mathematics. Despite the undeniable contribution of Thorn, however, his theory attempts only to describe morphogenesis, not explain it, and thus the how and the why of these fields remained untouched.

Goodwin (1979), on the other hand (and this is the third of the major approaches), takes the Platonic view that these fields are actually archetypal and timeless forms that are forever or transcendentally given but only become actualized in the course of historical development or evolution. This at least gives a possible explanation of the existence and purpose of these fields, but it has the awkward side-effect of implying that, since all forms are timelessly given, there is no actual creativity or genuine novelty anywhere in the universe. It seems, in fact, a subtle form -of determinism.

Enter Rupert Sheldrake (1981) and his theory of formative causation. Sheldrake accepts wholeheartedly the theory of morphogenetic fields, but unlike Waddington and Thorn, he wishes to explain these fields (not just describe them), and unlike Goodwin, he believes that these fields themselves can develop. They are not timelessly given but rather are themselves effected and molded by past morphogenetic fields. The idea, simply, is that once a particular form comes into existence, it will have a causal effect on all subsequent, similar forms; and thus the more a particular form has been replicated, the more likely it will be replblted in the future. This causal influence of one form on another Sheldrake 1’l\lIs “formative causation” (similar to Aristotle’s formal causation), and the actual means of this causation Sheldrake calls “morphic resonance.”