Rebirth conciousness & Sheldrake's Morphic Resonance

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Rebirth conciousness & Sheldrake's Morphic Resonance

Postby ChangingMan » Thu Dec 03, 2009 10:56 am

Hi friends

I have been reading some of the past threads on Rebirth and (relatedley) Reincarnation - this is an area that has always had an interest for me. My Western Mind feels a compulsion to want to see a scientific basis for this, and I accept that the Buddha himself never spoke directly about Life to Life Rebirth - the inclusion of such Reincarnation based thinking seems to be something that was binded in from other religions when Buddhism merged with these on penetration into the host cultures. Whilst scientifically, the "proofs" of reincarnation seem to be lacking (or at best weakened by circumstantial detail), I have an inherent heart (as opposed to mind) tendency toward these ideas. Recently I came across the concept of Morphic Resonance, a controversial theory developed by Biologist Rupert Sheldrake - see some details here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morphic_resonance. The basis of the theory interests me greatly, and on the face of it looks like a means by which rebirth consciousness might operate : embryo needs consciousness, makes connection through Morphic Fields to consciousness of now dead person, rebirth consciousness exists. (Interestingly such a similar idea could explain the presence of ghosts - as temporal connections to past consciousnesses if it possible that these can exist beyond death)

Furthermore, the idea that even during life our consciousness is not physically "inside" our heads, but perhaps part of a field of resonance that we connect to is a fascinating idea, and in some ways can be tied into Buddhist perspectives on Not-Self. After all if every 7 years, all our cells refresh and replace themselves, where can consciousness permanently abide - body is physically impermanent, but at a literal level, consciousness has permanency, perhaps this is because it is extra-corpular?

Just wonder what people think about this idea (Morphic Resonance), and whether at an intellectual level, there is some basis for thinking that there is a connection between this and Buddhist perspectives on consciousness, and rebirth?

Metta
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Re: Rebirth conciousness & Sheldrake's Morphic Resonance

Postby Ben » Thu Dec 03, 2009 11:37 am

Hi Richard

ChangingMan wrote:I accept that the Buddha himself never spoke directly about Life to Life Rebirth

Actually, he did - quite a few times. That is not to say there are not interpretations of the Buddha's discourses which posit that his teaching on rebirth are exclusively meant to mean 'moment-to-moment rebirth', but i think that's too narrow and renders quite a few of his teachings and some of the doctrine as meaningless. I am digressing...Whether one accepts literal post-mortem rebirth or one doesn't - its almost secondary to the great good task of walking on the path and discovering the reality of mind and body for oneself. And this was advice the Buddha gave to sceptics of rebirth that he encountered.

ChangingMan wrote:body is physically impermanent, but at a literal level, consciousness has permanency, perhaps this is because it is extra-corpular?
Actually, according to Buddhist doctrine, citta is more impermanent (rises and falls more rapidly) than the materiality of the body. According to the Abhidhamma, only a few cittas are 'extra-corpular' as you put it - the arupa jhanas.

Just wonder what people think about this idea (Morphic Resonance), and whether at an intellectual level, there is some basis for thinking that there is a connection between this and Buddhist perspectives on consciousness, and rebirth?

Morphic Resonance is Interesting. If you are interested in current consciousness research, a book I am reading may be of interest to you: The Ego Tunnel: the myth of self and the science of the mind by Thomas Metzinger - I've found it to have parallels to the Buddhadhamma and offers some insightful perspectives.
kind regards

Ben
Learn this from the waters:
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loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725


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Re: Rebirth conciousness & Sheldrake's Morphic Resonance

Postby ChangingMan » Thu Dec 03, 2009 12:22 pm

Ben
Thanks for that - the book you mention does look interesting, and has been duly added to the Amazon WishList.

Thanks for clarifying the point about the Buddha's perspective on Life to Life Rebirth - I suspect this area strays into something that is of some debate, and best left as that was not my intent (covered elsewhere on the Great Rebirth Debate thread). I suppose it doesn't matter anyway, what I was meaning was I have some degree of personal difficulty in accepting this teaching of Buddhism (as possibly compared to The Buddha) as it is not something I can bring Experiential reference to - unlike other Dhammas. In that respect I suppose my view is that I push it out to what I also know, which is a more Western scientific bent to consider empirically instead.

The point about permanency of consciousness, my mistake, I was not clear what I meant - I meant this more in respect of the perception of ego, as being something that has more permanency than bodily factors (speaking empirically here again, not from a Buddhist citta based perspective). IE I meant, science seems to show physically we become a complete new body every seven year cycle, but while that happens, consciousness (ego awareness of self) seems to continue, when physically there is nowhere it could continue as all has changed. I realise I am stretching this point a little, but just to illustrate what I was driving at, essentially being, is there somewhere else that consciousness, or conscious thought (including memory) could exist that could explain how this is not lost when physically we change so much. Morphic resonance seems to offer a possible answer.

Ultimately, I guess my point was: Western mind struggles to accept teaching of Buddhism because I cannot (as Buddha says in Kalama Sutta) know for myself, looks for scientific explanation, stumbles across something that seems to make a lot of sense, from a logical perspective. Can that therefore (help) bridge a gap between Teachings & Mental acceptance?

Metta
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Re: Rebirth conciousness & Sheldrake's Morphic Resonance

Postby Ben » Thu Dec 03, 2009 9:00 pm

ChangingMan wrote:Ben
Thanks for that - the book you mention does look interesting, and has been duly added to the Amazon WishList.

Thanks for clarifying the point about the Buddha's perspective on Life to Life Rebirth - I suspect this area strays into something that is of some debate, and best left as that was not my intent (covered elsewhere on the Great Rebirth Debate thread). I suppose it doesn't matter anyway, what I was meaning was I have some degree of personal difficulty in accepting this teaching of Buddhism (as possibly compared to The Buddha) as it is not something I can bring Experiential reference to - unlike other Dhammas. In that respect I suppose my view is that I push it out to what I also know, which is a more Western scientific bent to consider empirically instead.

I think for the vast majority of 'western' Buddhists, the concept of rebirth is a very common difficulty. The traditional remedy for this as offered by many teachers is 'to put it to the side' and concentrate on practice. In time, experiential wisdom will reveal the true nature of things.
The point about permanency of consciousness, my mistake, I was not clear what I meant - I meant this more in respect of the perception of ego, as being something that has more permanency than bodily factors (speaking empirically here again, not from a Buddhist citta based perspective). IE I meant, science seems to show physically we become a complete new body every seven year cycle, but while that happens, consciousness (ego awareness of self) seems to continue, when physically there is nowhere it could continue as all has changed. I realise I am stretching this point a little, but just to illustrate what I was driving at, essentially being, is there somewhere else that consciousness, or conscious thought (including memory) could exist that could explain how this is not lost when physically we change so much. Morphic resonance seems to offer a possible answer.

A simile my teacher gives regarding the apparent permanence of consciousness is to liken it to the flickering of a flourescent light. The frequency of the flickering is so fast that it cannot be perceived normally and has the appearance of uninterrupted beam. My understanding is that the khandas (aggregates) are continually arising and passing away, it is an evanascence of dhammas. Cittas under normal circumstances require a physical base (rupa). The type of citta determines the type of rupa which is required for the base. As I mentioned earlier, there are a few formless cittas (arupa jhana cittas) which require no physical base for consciousness to arise). Elsewhere on this forum (I'll try and dig it out later) I have transcribed a section from Bhikkhu Bodhi's translation of the Abhidhammattha Sangaha (A comprehensive manual of the Abhidhamma) regarding 'Consciousness and the World' which examines the correspondence of the 31 planes of existence to the 121 cittas within the Abhidhamma.
Ultimately, I guess my point was: Western mind struggles to accept teaching of Buddhism because I cannot (as Buddha says in Kalama Sutta) know for myself, looks for scientific explanation, stumbles across something that seems to make a lot of sense, from a logical perspective. Can that therefore (help) bridge a gap between Teachings & Mental acceptance?

Sure, as I said above - put whatever it is you have difficulty with aside. It doesn't mean to reject it outright but to keep an open mind. 'It could be true, it could not be true, but right now, I don't have the wisdom to know for myself'. In the same way we should approach other explanations such as Sheldrake's 'Morphic Resonance'..
kind regards

Ben
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725


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Re: Rebirth conciousness & Sheldrake's Morphic Resonance

Postby ChangingMan » Thu Dec 03, 2009 11:58 pm

Ben

I hear what you are saying, however, for me, I think that whilst I can experientially see that things arising are not self, and that body is not self, that ego has a degree of permanence to it. Maybe this is because of the stories we tell ourselves, but at least we tell them consistently. And in that, I suppose we are actually agreeing - your comments make sense that consciousness is a like a flickering bulb, and that moment to moment, there is not an actual permanency of the concious mind. However, logically, I see that ego (my sense of self, my name, where I live, who my parents are etc) does continue, so if this can't continue through the "mini-deaths" of the aggregates, maybe, it continues elsewhere - in a morphic field. And if I am able to pick up on a morphic field which contains the essence of my concsiouness whilst alive, then perhaps another being could pick up on that after I am gone. In essence, I am tending to agree with all you ahev said, and still wondering whether something like (and I am not hung up on it, just intrigued by it) morphic resonance actually posits a mechanism by which this could occur.

Don't get me wrong, when I say I have difficulty in accepting the teaching of rebirth in it's Buddhist form, this is not a block, or hindrance for me in the wider sense of my path. I am with you 100% that one should focus on the things that matter now, and in time, perhaps I will have experiential evidence of something. However, in the sort term, I am not meditating, or experiencing formless thoughts 24 hours a day, and at such times as I am not, my Western trained, intellect based mind is interested in other angles to support aspects of my following. Hence the query, it is great to have a community of people who would have the slightest clue of what I was banging on about to raise this point with. I don't personally see an issue with having an active, experiential meditative life, alongside an intellectual, inquisitive mind. I think in the West, the Dhamma usually crashes headlong into "science" (and I use those inverted commas with a knowing sense of wryness!) - Sheldrake is right out there, as much as some of Buddhism is in proposing alternate realities. I value greatly your comments so far. Do you think we are the only ones wanting to talk about this?!

Much metta
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Re: Rebirth conciousness & Sheldrake's Morphic Resonance

Postby Laurens » Fri Dec 04, 2009 12:56 am

ChangingMan wrote: I accept that the Buddha himself never spoke directly about Life to Life Rebirth


You accepted an untruth right there, in the Pali Cannon the Buddha mentions several times about how rebirth occurs post mortem.

Whether or not you yourself accept rebirth is another thing, but it's plainly obvious that the Buddha taught literal post mortem rebirth.
"For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring."

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Re: Rebirth conciousness & Sheldrake's Morphic Resonance

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Dec 04, 2009 1:08 am

Greetings Laurens,

Laurens wrote:
ChangingMan wrote: I accept that the Buddha himself never spoke directly about Life to Life Rebirth


You accepted an untruth right there, in the Pali Cannon the Buddha mentions several times about how rebirth occurs post mortem.


The suttas demonstrate the Buddha discussing post-mortem continuance, but they do not really detail the mechanics behind the process. Those who approach the matter from a scientific perspective generally want to know the mechanics, and will therefore have to turn to the Abhidhamma literature if they want such an explanation.

Metta,
Retro. :)
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Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Rebirth conciousness & Sheldrake's Morphic Resonance

Postby Laurens » Fri Dec 04, 2009 1:25 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Laurens,

Laurens wrote:
ChangingMan wrote: I accept that the Buddha himself never spoke directly about Life to Life Rebirth


You accepted an untruth right there, in the Pali Cannon the Buddha mentions several times about how rebirth occurs post mortem.


The suttas demonstrate the Buddha discussing post-mortem continuance, but they do not really detail the mechanics behind the process. Those who approach the matter from a scientific perspective generally want to know the mechanics, and will therefore have to turn to the Abhidhamma literature if they want such an explanation.

Metta,
Retro. :)


I do apologise, I should have written 'that' instead of 'how' and scrapped 'about' :lol:.
"For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring."

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Re: Rebirth conciousness & Sheldrake's Morphic Resonance

Postby chownah » Fri Dec 04, 2009 2:06 pm

I skimmed the wikipedia article and discovered that Sheldrake proposed his morphic resonance idea as a way to explain why living things have the shapes that they have as he could not find a biological reason which explained it well enough for his liking. This idea was preposed after several years of trying to find a biological reason....this happened in the early 1980's. Since then there have been huge advances in genetic science and the actual cluster of DNA controling the body's shape and size has been discovered for at least some animals and perhaps for most of them...I don't know since I am not current in the scientifice literature....look at this link for more:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homeobox

Also, the above does not bear directly on Sheldrake's idea but just shows that the reason it was put forward was to solve a problem which I guess seems to have been solved or is in the process of being solved by genetic science.

Also, It is not difficult for anyone with a good imagination to think up some new idea about how things MIGHT work but it is an entirely different thing to come up with a new idea which can be shown to have some physical basis and which can actually predict things which are not already known. I don't know if Sheldrake's idea is grounded in much physical reality or not but I saw nothing in the wikipedia artilce which indicates that it is much more than just someone's idea about how things might be.

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