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Rupert Sheldrake

the one I’m suggesting, which is that the past is influencing the present through morphic resonance. If future and past influenced it equally, the theory would be virtually untestable, because we don’t know what will happen in the future, so we wouldn’t know what influences we’d be testing for.

If the future influenced things as much as the past, then the experiments I’m suggesting, like rats getting better at learning something all around the world, shouldn’t work. Rats should start off just as good as they continue, because they’ll always be limitless numbers in the future, which would be influencing them. So this is actually a testable possibility.

I think that habits and memories come from the past. This is just common sense. We have memories of the past, and we don’t have memories of the future in the same way. Occasionally some people have pre-cognitive flashes. But we don’t have memories of the future. We may have hopes, plans, desires, inspirations, insights, etc., but they’re not memories in the same sense that memories from the past are memories. We don’t get habits from the future, we get them from the past.

RMN: Could the presence of the future be described as the potential state of the system, the virtual state, as it moves along the pathways or access routes towards it?

RUPERT: Yes, I think so. I think there are two ways of thinking about it. One is there’s a kind of aura around the present stretching out into the future, which is the realm of hopes, fears, possibilities, dreams, imaginings about what can happen. But then there’s a further question, and a more fundamental one, as to whether the whole evolutionary process is being pulled from the future, rather than being pushed from the past. And the idea that it’s all being pulled from the future is a very traditional view, and so is the idea it’s being pushed from the past.

The traditional Judeo-Christian view of history is that history is being pulled from the future, there’s something in the future–which Terence McKenna calls the transcendental object, Teilhard de Chardin calls the omega point, what the Book of Revelation calls the new creation, what metanarians have thought of as the millennium. That some future state of perfection is drawing the whole cosmic evolutionary process towards itself in some mysterious way. And that, therefore, the whole cosmic evolutionary process has a kind of goal or purpose. Well that’s a view which many people subscribe to, and it’s a view that lies at the root of the doctrine of progress, which dominates our whole society.

So this view isn’t just a philosophical view; in a secularized form, it dominates both capitalist and communist societies–the dream of a better future. Most traditional societies haven’t had that dream, they haven’t been motivated by that, they looked to the past for a model of the way things should be, how it used to be in the golden age. They haven’t tried to create a new kind of future golden age. And our society represents an ambitious global attempt to do just that through conquering nature by means of science and technology. The inspirational basis for the destruction of the environment, the development of the tropical forests, etc., is this dream of a future state on earth that progress will lead us towards, where there’s peace, prosperity, and plenty through man’s conquest of nature.

And many of us now think that dream is a kind of chimera, a vision that is utterly destructive in its consequences. But the fact is that it still comes from that same dream of a future pulling things along. I think all forms of western thought are under the influence of this particular attractor, as one could call it. The idea of a future goal attracting things towards it is utterly dominant in almost every area of western thought I know. The New Age communists with their millenarian vision–it’s just part of our culture.

RMN: Yeah, that leads on to the next question I have about how to use the concept of attractors, as expressed in the current research of dynamical systems, in the theory of formative causation.

RUPERT: Well, the idea of attractors, which is developed in modern mathematical dynamics, is a way of modeling the way systems develop, by modeling the end states toward which they tend. This is an attempt to understand systems by understanding where they’re headed to in the future, rather than just where they’ve been pushed from in the past. So, the attractor, as the name implies, pulls the system towards itself. A very simple, easy-to-understand, example is throwing marbles, or round

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