Sacred Places: The Presence of the Past

  • Rupert Sheldrake


Memories are linked to particular places in countless animal species, and many animals inherit memories of places that are transmitted culturally, like roosting places for flocks of birds and migratory destinations. Some destinations are inherited without cultural transmission, as in the case of cuckoos. Early human societies were migratory as a part of their hunter-gatherer lifestyle moving between significant places in the landscape with their own stories. After the beginning of agriculture and settled living, pilgrimage may have been a survival from this traditional pattern of movement. Sacred places took on their significance through the experiences that happened there and the stories that were told about them. Some were and still are natural, like mountain tops and springs; others are human-made like temples, churches and shrines. The abolition of pilgrimage in the Protestant Reformation left a deep unsatisfied need, leading to the rise of tourism as a kind of secularized or frustrated pilgrimage. There may be a direct connection with the experiences of those who have been in sacred places in the past, transmitted by the process of morphic resonance, which links together similar self-organizing systems across time, from the past to the present. This hypothesis is summarized.


Morphic resonance Sacred places Cultural transmission Pilgrimage 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rupert Sheldrake
    • 1
  1. 1.Schumacher CollegeTotnesUK

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