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Rupert Sheldrake

of expansion of the whole universe, such that it cooled down, and virtually created more space for new things to happen. And in the ongoing evolutionary process, there’s a constant destabilization of what’s there through the fact that the universe is not in equilibrium.

This ongoing process in the whole of nature in itself tends to break up old patterns, and prevent things just stopping where they were. You see it in the history of the earth, the ongoing evolutionary process, through the catastrophic changes that have happened to the earth through the impact of asteroids and so on.

The cumulative nature of the evolutionary process, the fact that memory is preserved, means that life grows not just through a random proliferation of new forms, but there’s a kind of cumulative quality. You start with single-celled organisms, and you end with complex multi-cellular ones, like there are today. New species arise usually when new opportunities appear, and the biggest bursts of speciation that we know about in the history of the earth are soon after great cataclysms, like the extinction of the dinosaurs, which create new opportunities, and all sorts of new forms spring up. Thereafter they tend to be fairly stable. So, quite often, the reasons for creativity depend on accidents or disasters that prevent the normal habits being carried out.

RMN: When a system hits an evolutionary dead end, an organism becomes extinct or an object obsolete. What happens to its field? Does it kind of just breakup and merge with other similar fields?

RUPERT: Well, I think in a sense the ghosts of dead species would still be haunting the world, that the fields of the dinosaurs would still be potentially present … if you could tune into them. If a dinosaur egg could be reconstituted, you could get them back again. I think that in the course of evolution these past forms do indeed reappear. They’re known in the biological literature as atavisms, the process by which the forms, or patterns, or behaviors of extinct species reappear in living ones. Like babies being born with tails.

DJB: Or parallel evolution?

RUPERT: Well, parallel evolution would involve a similar process, but what I’m talking about is the influence of extinct species traveling across time and these features reappearing. Parallel evolution would be where you have the features of some species traveling across space, and similar patterns evolving somewhere else like, for example, the evolution of forms among marsupials in Australia that parallel those of placental mammals elsewhere.

DJB: You said before that there could be a sort of collective memory, and you said that was analogous to Jung’s notion of the collective unconscious. Do you think it’s possible then that morphic fields are, or can be, actually conscious?

RUPERT: I don’t think that morphic fields are conscious. I think that some aspects of morphic fields could become conscious in human beings. I think that the underlying patterns of mental activity that are ideas, thoughts, etc., depend on our morphic fields. I think they become conscious in us. But most of the collective unconscious, most of our habits, and most of the habits of nature, I think, are unconscious, and most of nature, I think, works much more like our unconscious minds than like our conscious minds. And after all, 90%, maybe 99%, of our own activity is unconscious. We don’t need to assume that the kind of unconscious memories that we ourselves have are any different from the rest of nature.

We needn’t assume that just because we have some conscious memories, all of the memory of nature must be conscious. In fact, most of our memories are unconscious, as are most of our habits, like the habit of speaking English, for example, the way one speaks, one’s mannerisms, one’s accent, or the habit of driving a car. When you drive a car, you don’t have to be conscious of every muscular movement, or everything you’re doing. Those habits unfold spontaneously. And the more deep-seated biological habits, like the functioning of our bodies, and our heartbeat, and the way our guts our working are completely unconscious to most of us.

DJB: In your book The Presence of the Past you offer the suggestion that memories are not actually stored in the brain, but rather they may be stored in an information field that can be accessed by the brain. If this should prove to be true, do you believe then that human consciousness, our personal memories and sense of self, may survive biological death in some form?

RUPERT: Well, certainly the idea that memories aren’t stored in the brain opens the way for a new debate or new perspective on the question of survival of death. Most people assume memories are stored in the brain, simply because

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