Open Center History Column – Rupert Sheldrake
by Ralph White
The Open Center has had a long association with the pioneering scientist Rupert Sheldrake going almost all the way back to his first book, A New Science of Life. This controversial work provoked the British scientific establishment to such a degree that it was literally suggested as a ‘book for burning.’ Such a statement pointed toward the fact that the contemporary priesthood is less about religion than it is about scientific orthodoxy; more specifically that the rigid tenets of scientific materialism can in no way be seriously questioned. Instead, Rupert Sheldrake proposed that the world is filled with phenomena clearly showing that crude materialism – though strongly prevalent in both the scientific and philosophical groves of Oxbridge – is profoundly disconnected from the true nature of reality.
Rupert had left a scientific career in plant biology at Cambridge to work in India and to spend time at the ashram of Father Bede Griffiths. There he arrived at multiple insights into a deeper order of the world invisible to conventional measurements that he first described as ‘morphic resonance.’ He soon went on to devise innovative experiments that undermined in simple and graphic ways the vary basis of the materialist worldview. Some of these, which appeared in his book, Dogs That Know When Their Owners are Coming Home, simply showed by the timed use of video cameras that dogs often responded immediately to the mere intention of their owner to leave work and return home long before their physical senses could possibly have made them aware of it.
How could this possibly be, the dismissive scientist fumed? If dogs are aware of levels of being beyond that perceptible to our five senses, then the whole foundation of scientific materialism is called into question. Orthodox science has asserted since the 19th Century that consciousness simply arises from the brain and disappears with the death of the physical body. Would any self-respecting scientist seriously question this? Or might there be other ways to explain the nature of spirit and consciousness?
Rupert went on to write Seven Experiments That Could Change The World in which he advocated for regular people, readers of his books, to conduct their own simple and clear experiments that would challenge the basis of conventional scientific thinking. He suggested we research phenomena like our intuitive sense of who is calling when the phone rings or our feeling that someone is looking at us from behind. Unsurprisingly, his work was dismissed by the majority of the scientific establishment, although a few remained open minded.
Since then Rupert Sheldrake has gone on from strength to strength, always elaborating on his central premise that most science is predicated on the belief that the nature of reality is fully understood, with only minor details needing to be filled in. A further book, Science Set Free, developed this theme in a more philosophical context.
His work has generated a lot of public discussion in the media, especially in the UK, as it questions the very foundations of modern science. While there have been some open minds among professional scientists, the majority at present remain skeptical if not hostile. Despite this response, Rupert has maintained unflinching courage and clarity informed by his own deep familiarity with the world’s sacred teachings. And of course, an increasing number of his readers see clearly that his work points toward more subtle levels of being that mainstream science has simply chosen to ignore for centuries.
So the Open Center is delighted that on November 10th he will offer his first workshop in New York since 2012 on Ways to Go Beyond, And Why They Work. He will summarize scientific evidence that shows our minds are much more extensive than our brains and can stretch out to affect people on the other side of the world. He will also offer a talk on Science and Spiritual Practices on Friday, November 9th.
Rupert Sheldrake is a formidably gifted, honest and brave scientist who has been a friend of the Open Center since its inception. He has done as much as anyone in the last quarter century to shatter the rigid assumptions of conventional science and open our experience of the world to the existence of multiple dimensions of being and consciousness. We encourage you to join us for these special events and listen in person to one of the seminal holistic scientists or our time.