Neil Mach

Author – Fantasy Realism

Collective memory is the bigger and more powerful brother of folk memory and it helps explain faith and belief and a host of glorious mythologies, but collective memory (as a shared set of memories) can also help safeguard & nurture a species whose members can instantaneously & reflectively connect and synchronise with each other. We might describe this type of intuitive collective memory as morphic resonance.

To determine what morphic resonance looks like, we first have to define communication: communication is sharing information. I impart this information to you in the (hope) that you will pass it on. This is how communication works. If you do not convey this message, it may be because: 1) you forgot to do so 2) you are neutral to my message 3) my message is not beneficial enough to bother with, or 4) my message is so helpful that it must be selfishly suppressed, otherwise, your opponents could gain an advantage.

In biological terms, however, the explanation for communication is sharper: it describes how the fitness of one organism is promptly and precisely transmitted to another organism. Biological communication within a collective is done for reasons of fitness. Information transfer (from sender and receiver) is ultra-fast and subliminal (below the threshold of conscious perception). Thus, a female songbird will instantaneously and unconsciously know when a male songbird is fit for procreation (and vice versa). A quick glance at his feathers should do it!

It is good to know that in biology, organisms are not forgetful, lazy, selfish, or lethargic. They communicate their physical state with no selfish motive. A good way to understand biological communication is to think of a yawn. Although associated with tiredness, a yawn is really a reflex action designed to gain more oxygen, while expelling unwanted carbon dioxide. One person in the room yawns, as do many others. Why? Because if one member of the collective needs more oxygen (and less carbon dioxide), it is expected that everyone will need the same to remain fit. Did you decide to yawn? No, the information transfer was performed smoothly, transparently, intuitively, and subconsciously.

To further examine this type of subconscious communication, we must recognise that many organisms “choose” sexual partners based on a “fitness” to reproduce (we even say a guy or girl we fancy is “fit”). This selection for reproduction suits Darwin’s theory “survival of the fittest”. But how is subconscious sexual communication done? In humans it might be accomplished by wearing the “right” clothes or just “looking good” (visual communication) or smelling “right” (olfactory communication) or moving “right” or sounding okay (auditory communication) or perhaps even feeling and tasting “right”. But we know though, don’t we, that emotions play a special role in subconscious sexual communication, and doubtless a very important role too! Emotions, feelings and desires cannot be detected, right? Yet we intuitively “know” when a boy or girl is “right” or “wrong” for us. Subconscious communication is hard to pin down, yet we all use it! Is it to do with pheromones?

What is pheromonal communication?

We know that bees and ants secrete or excrete chemical triggers that precipitate a social response in other members of the same species. Pheromones drive this chemical exchange. Pheromones are chemicals that can act like hormones, but outside the body. Hormones are signalling molecules (part of our “hard-wired” communication network.) For example, all bees in a hive may release a trigger that tells others to form a swarm (to protect the queen or move to a safer location.) Sometimes (for example, in termite societies) such chemical triggers prepare the collective to fight (or escape danger) or follow a new route to food. While research continues into human pheromone exchange, it seems likely we humans also secrete chemical triggers that we subconsciously detect in each other, and scientists now agree we are endowed with the right equipment to “pick up” pheromonal chemical triggers (we have vomeronasal organs.)

Do we plug-into intuitive collective memories… using an invisible grid?

But how about this for a thought: it’s not just actions and reactions that might become motivated by subconscious communication: it’s our memories too! Although we “store” most memories in our brain (we use our brain like a computer’s hard drive), perhaps not all of our memories are kept on this “device.” Do we plug-into intuitive collective memories, popular memories if you will, using an invisible grid? Is that a morphic resonance grid?

Does morphic resonance allow us to connect to vital memories that are not only immaterial, not locked away per se, but coexist in a hazy cloud of consciousness? Are our actions and motivations shaped by the experiences and collective memories of other organisms within our group, via unseen connections with this invisible grid?

  • Morphic = belonging to the form or shape
  • Resonance = the frequency of a dynamic system, taken from the Latin word resonantia, meaning echo

Therefore, if morphic resonance is to be something that’s real and useful to us, we must be able to harness it, and we ought to be able to act and respond to “unseen” stimuli that can only be transferred via imperceptible, inconspicuous, and (as yet) unobservable communication frequencies. Do we?

Why are we afraid of ghosts even though we never ever encounter such things? Could it be our connection to intuitive collective memories stored in a cloud of consciousness? Why do snakes scare us (even if there aren’t any around)? Could it be our connection to the intuitive memories stored in our cloud of consciousness? Why do some holy places arouse spiritual or religious emotions in us? Could it be our connection to intuitive collective memories stored in our cloud of consciousness? Why do we “feel” spirits present within inanimate objects (a genie’s lamp or a communion wafer, perhaps)? Could it be our connection to intuitive collective memories stored in our cloud of consciousness? Why do we think aliens travel in flying saucers? Could it be our connection to intuitive collective memories stored in our cloud of consciousness? Why do we think dragons breathe fire? Could it be our connection to intuitive collective memories stored in our cloud of consciousness?

When the English parapsychologist Rupert Sheldrake (shown above) hypothesised that natural systems inherit a collective memory of all previous things of their kind (in 1981), it seemed like an implausible mind trip and was rejected as pseudoscientific mumbo-jumbo. But Sheldrake  might have been onto something. New science teaches us that plants and fungi communicate with each other through mycorrhizal networks and these networks transfer signals between plants, at the speed of light, and these signals are delivered so that they influence the behaviour of the larger plant community as if they are hooked to a giant “network” of sharing and understanding.

This sounds puzzlingly scientific, but it’s not. It’s easy for us to understand Sheldrake’s hypothesis, because here in 2021, post Covid, we all know people, possibly close friends, and perhaps even family members, whose behaviour has been prompted by invisible connections that have been established, seemingly unwittingly, within a gigantic, subtle and intangible “network” (in our case, the mycorrhizal network is Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!)

A good example of how plants and fungi use their mycorrhizal “net” is by passing data that will help other organisms within their collective to become more resistant to drought, defend against pathogens, or even launch an attack on an enemy. In this way, all organisms within a group can “build” a pooled memory of useful information, and of insights and approaches to threats.

Plants also employ a communications system that biologists call “allelopathy” which is like our use of pheromones. Plants use chemical triggers to help, support, or advise other organisms within the “group” and to prepare each other for reproduction and growth.

To some observers, both mycorrhizal communication and allelopathy seem to be magic. They seem to be “telepathy.” But they’re not. There is nothing supernatural about these talents. They are natural behaviours, though they seem mysterious and magical.

And, don’t forget, morphic resonance is not just telepathy, it is not purely vicarious transmission of information from one organism to another without using “normal” sensory channels or physical interactions, it goes beyond that: it is an innate capacity for the organism to access “hive memories” that all members collectively share and access at the speed of light. This exchange is presumably instinctive and we access the memories when it is necessary to protect our species from pests and predators. Is this why we seldom connect to our ‘net’ of morphic resonance? Is it because, these days, we rarely need such information? Or, if and when we do need to use the information stored collectively on the net (when encountering ghosts, aliens, or metaphysical beings, for instance) is this why the experience seems so extraordinary?

So how might you use morphic resonance in your fantasy fiction? Perhaps you devised a race, conceivably an evil race of creatures (orcs or dark warriors, or Sith) or you devised virtuous creatures (Jedi Knights, eleven warriors, angels) ask yourself this: how do they access their web, their morphic resonance? Their energy fields? Is it through meditation? Is it through the use of narcotics? Is it through rigorous training? Is it through some advanced technology?

Or perhaps the race of creatures in your fantasy creation is “always” tied to their hive memory, like the Borg in the Star Trek franchise or the “children” as envisioned by English fantasy author John Wyndham in his novel The Midwich Cuckoos (above.) If this is the case, how do those people disconnect from the net? How can a member of the collective distance himself from those pesky subliminal suggestions? Is this how (and why) they use meditation and narcotic substances? Do they struggle to free themselves from morphic resonance?

Let me know how you will use morphic resonance in your story…

Words: @neilmach September 2021 ©

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Neil Mach is the author of “So You Want to Write Fantasy?” and host of the Myth & Magic fantasy writer’s podcast.

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