Morphic fields: Resonance w/Cesco

Fri. January 5, 2007
Categories: Papers

Where does thought arise from?

As I delayed my summer fieldwork project, I kept on believing the thing I wanted to do most would just show up, as had so many other things in my life. The deadline passed and I did not register. I waited while giving the school excuses for my delay. All justifiable reasons, I thought. I had submitted a proposal that was accepted, yet it did not feel right. Instead of starting work, I let myself remain in limbo with a sense of peace. Months went by.

This is what happened as I listened to the Los Angeles-based radio station KPFK one morning after I had settled into a new studio in Topanga. I had the urge (eros) to turn on the radio before work at the time I usually shower. The voice I heard was Malik Rahim talking about the Common Ground Collective in New Orleans. I sensed that I was supposed to go to their website without delay. I scrolled around and found a listing for a job posted there. As I read the description for a scribe that was needed, I knew that all of my skills, desires, and talent filled the need as never before. Pleasure and disbelief flooded me. I sent an email to Francesco. In response, I was grilled like a steak, well-done, just like one of the meaty volunteers that would arrive and go continuously. Francesco asked me to create a website to upload the Post-Katrina Portraits that he had slaved over for the past year since the two weeks after Hurricane Katrina. It was not what I originally wanted to do, although I knew I would say yes. Ideally, it would permit me to do my fieldwork from home and allow me to keep my job at Rocketdyne (necessary to pay for school tuition). I knew this was not just a coincidence because there was a quality of presence other than I am used to, like invisible sparks were coming off me.

When I trace my thought that morning to its source, that place where thought arises, I may have reached what Jung would call the psychoid archetype; at least that is what I believe. It appears the psychoid unconscious is that out of which thought arises. Every thought, feeling, sensation can be traced back as if starting from the end of a garden hose to find the spigot. The psychoid unconscious that Jung introduced in 1946 has three aspects:

1) It refers to a level of, or in, the unconscious which is completely inaccessible to consciousness.

2) This most fundamental level of the unconscious has properties in common with the organic world; the psychological and the physiological worlds may be seen as two sides of a single coin. The psychoid level is neutral in character, being neither wholly psychological nor wholly physiological.

3) When Jung applied the notion of the archetype to the psychoid unconscious, the psychic/organic link was expressed in the form of a mind/body connection. (Samuels, Shorter, Plaut, 2003, p. 12)

The fieldwork that I would do followed in the spirit of what I had already ‘proposed’ to my advisor, at least in concept: working with disaster relief volunteers. New Orleans was the community I had desired but which had eluded my queries months earlier. How this happened is as follows. During the spring quarter Mary Watkins suggested I contact another Pacifica student that had traveled to New Orleans to do some mental health work. The student strongly suggested that I do not use New Orleans as a fieldwork project as she could see no way to really help the survivors in the way I was thinking, that is, letting them tell their stories, because I was an outsider and they would not talk to me. Disappointed, I gave up hope. Until the morning of the radio broadcast when New Orleans seemed to come to me.

I view my experience as synchronistic because the moment of hearing Malik’s voice on the radio I felt something meaningful was occurring, something that I had not consciously created myself. It felt quite purposeful. Aziz (1990) says that “with synchronistic experiences involving ‘absolute knowledge’, archetypal contents are present both within and outside of the individual” (p. 83).

Do synchronicities lead or guide us, or are they random poppings of the universe (to use Dr. Tarnas’ analogy)?

Synchronicity postulates a meaning which is a priori in relation to human consciousness and apparently exists outside man. (Aziz, 1990, p. 83)

Dr. Tarnas indicated that whatever gives us a sense of greater wholeness is a synchronicity, no matter how positive or negative the experience seems. The feeling of wholeness for me is experienced as a connection with people whom I have never met or situations that feel familiar, although I have not been there before. It feels as if life is re-organizing itself around a particular moment. I am wary of the attraction to people and situations that replicate family patterning…synchronicities are not familiar in that sense. The sense is that something out-of-the-ordinary is happening and I am aware that meaning is unfolding.

As I coordinated the development of the website with Francesco, who finally found confidence that a woman in Los Angeles (in other words, in absentia) might be the person he needed, a new development occurred at work. I was given an expense-paid trip to the French Quarter of New Orleans without asking for time off from work, which would allow me to visit the Common Ground Collective. It was just another meaningful coincidence that was traced to the fact that our NASA customer had written into the contract that employees should receive a motivational trip following the recent shuttle disaster and the announcement by President Bush that our program would be ending in 2010. Our visit was for enjoyment and to tour the Marshall Space Flight Ctr. test stand in Mississippi where our Space Shuttle Main Engines are “hotfired.”

All along I had worried I was being disobedient towards policy in my disregard of reiterated administrative rules, but obedient to Psyche as I put Jungian psychology to the test. If I could not trust that analytical psychological ideas being presented to us were actually demonstrable, I was ready to exit the Ph.D. program. And here I arrive at the subject of this essay. From previous experience I felt that something akin to “miracles” was operable in my life, only now it was being called synchronicity. I do not think that miracles come from my imagination since I do not easily visualize outcomes (very poor at this) rather I just recognize the need and wait. This is not magical nor is it an attribute of passionate feeling towards an object of desire, as was described by Albertus Magnus and cited by Jung (Aziz, 1990): “the emotionality of the human soul is the chief cause of all these things … whoever would learn the secret of doing and undoing these things must know that everyone can influence everything magically if he falls into a great excess” (p. 78).

Jung himself disagreed with this, we were told, and he ascribed the numinous charge to an archetype instead of human passion (class notes). Synchronicity is more like an orchestration between nature and humans, where patterns shape events. The image that helps me to understand synchronicity is of a magnet under paper with lead particles on the other side (it seems every child learns this.) When the magnet is moved underneath the paper, the lead particles follow and form patterns on the paper. When it comes to the imagination, who is there to say whether or not the imagination acts like a magnet, for example, as I write these words to fill this page?

The words “image” and “magic” do not share a common etymology. The word “magic” derives from Zoroastrian astrological priests called “magus.” In contrast, the Greek word “magos” was a feminine adjective and could be used as “magikos” or magical art. And then there is the Latin “ars magica” which comes from “imago” which is a physical likeness or representation (as it relates to perception.) (Wikipedia, 2007). And yet images transport us into magical worlds as we experience paintings, photographs, and films.

Albertus Magnus . . . explains this [the relationship between affect and the magical arrangement of events] by postulating a magical faculty in the soul, without considering that the psychic process itself is just as much ‘arranged’ as the coinciding image which anticipates the external psychical process.” (Jung as quoted by Aziz, 1990, p. 78).

For example, unless we are aware of the magnet underneath the paper, it appears the lead particles are moving mysteriously by some unknown intention. Could it be the psychoid archetype is like a magnet creating a morphic field that does not physically cause events in our lives yet patterns the events which appears like “miracles” to us?

Morphic resonance is the influence of previous structures of activity on similar structures of activity organized by morphic fields. Through morphic resonance, formal causal influences pass through or across both space and time, and these influences are assumed not to fall with distance in space or time, but they come only from the past. The greater the degree of similarity, the greater the influence of morphic resonance. In general, morphic units closely resemble themselves in the past and are subject to self-resonance from their own past. (Sheldrake, 1987

Pacifica graduate A. David Hill (1996) wrote his dissertation on Soul’s Body: An Imaginal Re-Viewing of Morphic Fields and Morphic Resonance to which I will refer here since it is good research, even though he is almost silent on the subject of synchronicity. The originator of morphic fields / resonance theory, biologist Rupert Sheldrake, bases his theory on cellular memory to explain genetic replication of organisms. Resonance is based upon shared memory, a non-physical quality that has human social implications and contains formal causal influences unlike synchronicity. The more similarity there is, the more resonance: past actions in the form of social ritual, etc. create a rhythmic pattern of activity which

is not based in the transfer of energy between systems, but on the responsiveness of similar vibratory patterns to each other, its activity and influence is not diminished over time and space . . . if morphic resonance is not an energy contingent process its existence my not depend on physical organisms, that is on the material display of the field itself (Hill, 1996, p. 152).

What helped my resonance with Francesco DiSantis, the portrait story artist? I have never met him face-to-face even to this day! He left it for me to find his self-portrait among the hundreds that he sent me.  I found him without too much effort; it was just that ‘knowing’ thing that annoys him so much. We are not alike in any way imaginable, but he is a huge inspiration for me as well as my dagger of consciousness.  The Common Ground Collective was the link to bring us into an important conversation. And when I was on my way there to New Orleans, he was leaving. Francesco had departed New Orleans for Austin after nearly two months of working remotely together. As soon as the plane landed and the 20 of us were herded to the Royal Senestra Hotel on Bourbon Street, I asked if any other folks riding in the limousine would be interested in accompanying me to the Ninth Ward that night. A new friend, Carlos Abesamos, volunteered and we dropped our bags in our rooms and headed off into the darkness on a wild-ass taxi ride through unfamiliar territory. When I stepped into the house of the Common Ground Collective, I felt at home. The one person I needed to talk with about the website greeted me as the doors were being locked up because several of the neighborhood “kids” were getting rowdy. It was perfect timing.

The portraits that Francesco had drawn, and the stories written on them, were taped to almost every wall near the border of the ceiling. I could finally see the charcoal on the page, the strokes, and the faded, torn edges of individual lives on the page. These post-Katrina portraits had been arriving for months via email, and were heartfelt reflections of surviving the hurricane told to an “embedded” artist who lived among them for over one year, riding a bicycle through the Ninth Ward, drawing whoever would sit and talk. Yes, it is true, survivors would have never opened up to a white girl like me and it was perfect that Francesco was able to do so. I read every one of the 415 stories, some more than once, in the months that followed. And these portraits became the source of my writing about the experiences of the hurricane survivors and the volunteers.

Although Rupert Sheldrake (2005) claims that “the morphic fields of social groups connect together members of the group even when they are many miles apart, and provide channels of communication through which organisms can stay in touch at a distance” I can tell you what that is: email. I feel inadequate to talk about morphic fields (and that is putting it nicely) since I am neither a physicist nor a biologist, so I can only say the idea is intriguing. Maybe it explains psychic patterning, but then again, maybe not.

When thoughts are traced back to the space before their origination, it is possible that we are outside the human psyche and into a non-magical void called the morphic field? The morphic field seems comprised of thoughts; that is what memories are. From the psychoid unconscious (a non-psychological and non-physiological space free of thought or activity) I can grasp the idea that meeting Francesco was “pre-arranged” and the actual events merely followed. I consider this restful space as the source of creativity; the Not-I that I am arising out of. Poetry arises in this way as thoughts crystallize in my mind like condensations from space, without intentionality, while at the same time I am participating in amazement. I watch words form into patterns of meaning while I try not to interfere by thinking. Several times I have had this feeling just moving through the day when everything seemed to happen perfectly moment-by-moment as I silently witnessed it.

I made a mind map when I was 30 years old, drew it on paper, then set it aside to watch my life unfold. Looking back, although I waited as long as 10 or 20 years, each of my desires became realized. There was intentionality behind what you might call “goals” although they were not well-formulated. I managed to forget them and move on. If I had known they would be realized merely by simmering in my unconscious unawares, I would have dreamed of more awesome things. At least I have something in my  experience with which to compare the idea of synchronicity. There was nothing outside of space and time that I am aware helped my goals to manifest; it was the recognition of my own self-programmed choices showing up. This was not the space that Mansfield (2001) calls immortality or another octave of mind. He implies some cosmic mind, not our personal mind:

The individual mind employs categories of space and time in its manifestation of our experience just as the dream mind displays its images in a space and time of its own creation . . . through contact with the higher mind, our ego can get glimpses in synchronicity experiences of information transcending the normal limitations of space and time. (p.201)

The dream mind displays its images in a space and time of its own creation, and from there the information can transcend into the psychoid unconscious? The power of images is great even when set aside for 20 years! And the power of the Post Katrina Portraits must be as great, since we have been moved to do this project like pawns of some other intelligence. I told my fieldwork advisor these portraits are like a beautiful burden whose meaning we have yet to see unfold. And one day I will meet Francesco DiSantis.


Aziz, R. (1990). C.G. Jung’s psychology of religion and synchronicity. NY:SUNY Press.

Hill. A.D. (1996). Soul’s body: an imaginal re-viewing of morphic fields and morphic resonance. Unpublished dissertation, Pacifica Graduate Institute, Carpinteria, CA.

Mansfield, V. (1995). Synchronicity, science, and soul-making. Il:Open Court Publishing.

DiSantis, F. (2006). Post Katrina Portrait. Retrieved 4/10/07 from

Samuels, A., Shorter, B., Plaut, A. (1986). A critical dictionary of Jungian analysis. NY: Routledge.

Sheldrake, R. (1987). Morphic resonance and the collective unconscious II: Society, spirit and ritual. Psychological Perspectives, 18(2), 320-311.

Sheldrake, R. (2005). Morphic fields and morphic resonance: an introduction. Retrieved 4/10/07 from

Tarnas, R. (2007, February). Jungian Psychology II. Unpublished lecture presented at Pacifica Graduate Institute, Carpinteria, CA.

Wikipedia. (2007). Magic. Image. Retrieved 4/10/07 from

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