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