By David Pratt
Reprinted from Sunrise Magazine
June/July and August/September 1992
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,
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" (morphe)
-- 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 --
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
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 in organisms. 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 Rebirth of Nature, p. 107
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
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!
(Sheldrake's "formative causation" refers to his hypothesis of the causation
of form by morphic fields 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.)
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 (A New Science of Life, p. 245). In this sense morphic fields
would be a subtler form of energy-substance, too ethereal to be detectable
by scientific instruments. Sheldrake also suggests that morphic fields may
be very closely connected with quantum matter fields (The Presence of the
Past, p. 120). 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 neurophysiology"
(A New Science of Life, p. 27).
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
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
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"
(The Rebirth of Nature, p. 116).
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
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 akasa. Its lower levels are referred to as the
astral light. An impression
of every thought, deed, and event is imprinted on the akasa, 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,
rejects the idea of morphic resonance being transmitted through a
"morphogenetic aether," saying that
"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"
(The Presence of the Past, p. 112).
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 blind.
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 cultural traditions.
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 power.
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
(Presence of the Past, p. 213).
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
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. The process appears to have
reached its climax thus far in the human kingdom where a self-conscious mind
develops, giving us a greater degree of free will. 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 akasic 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
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 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 constitution. 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
Sheldrake admits that his terminology of morphic fields
could be replaced by
occult terms such as akasa and subtle bodies (The Presence of the Past, p.
307). However, occult philosophy goes much further than anything Sheldrake
would care to admit to, especially as regards such teachings as reimbodiment. 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 paranormal phenomena.
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 intrinsic in nature.
The 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
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
-- The Presence of the Past, p. 12
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.
From a theosophical viewpoint, nonmaterial, free-floating laws, beyond time
and space, matter and energy, could not have any influence on the physical
world, the laws of nature being habits, but the habits of living entities.
As G. de Purucker says:
"This word law is simply an abstraction, an
expression for the action of entities in nature"
(G. de Purucker,
Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy, p. 173).
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 nature forces.
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
-- The Rebirth of Nature, pp. 128-9
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
(b) to a creative agency pervading and
(c) to a creative impetus immanent in nature
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
"What is randomness in one context may reveal itself as simple
orders of necessity in another broader context."
(Science, Order &
Creativity, p. 133.)
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"
(The Rebirth of Nature, p. 194). 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,... It 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. -- The
Rebirth of Nature, p. 194
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 hypothesis (c).
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. -- The Rebirth of Nature, p. 195
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.
Sheldrake, "have replaced
souls as invisible organizing principles"
(The Rebirth of Nature, p. 83).
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.
-- The Presence of the Past,
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 the next?
Theosophy proposes that all entities -- atoms, animals, humans, planets,
suns, and universes -- reimbody, 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 conceivable end. Everything exists because
it has existed before, and no development or achievement is ever lost but
remains imprinted on the astral light or akasa, which acts as a sort of
memory of nature. As H. P. Blavatsky puts it: "the spiritual 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; . . .
-- The Secret Doctrine 1:58, 282
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 Occidental 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;...'"
(The Secret Doctrine
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
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.
-- The Rebirth of Nature, p. 196
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 of 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"
(quoted ibid., 198).
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).
Certainly the divine cannot 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, then, is immanent, omnipresent, and the
root of all things. Since it is greater than any of its individual
expressions, it may also be regarded as transcendent. This pantheism
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
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, 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 self-conscious masters of life.