The idea of a process whereby the forms of previous systems influence the morphogenesis of subsequent similar systems is difficult to express in terms of existing concepts. The only way to proceed is by means of analogy.
The physical analogy which seems most appropriate is that of resonance. Energetic resonance occurs when a system is acted on by an alternating force which coincides with its natural frequency of vibration. Examples include the sympathetic vibration of stretched strings in response to appropriate sound waves; the tuning of radio sets to the frequency of radio waves given out by transmitters; the absorption of light waves of particular frequencies by atoms and molecules, resulting in their characteristic absorption spectra; and the response of electrons and atomic nuclei in the presence of magnetic fields to electromagnetic radiation in Electronic Spin Resonance and Nuclear Magnetic Resonance. Common to all these types of resonance is the principle of selectivity: out of a mixture of vibrations, however complicated, the systems respond only to those of particular frequencies.
A ‘resonant effect of form upon form across space and time would resemble energetic resonance in its selectivity, but it could not be accounted for in terms of any of the known types of resonance, nor would it involve a transmission of energy. In order to distinguish it from energetic resonance, this process will be called morphic resonance.
Morphic resonance is analogous to energetic resonance in a further respect: it takes place between vibrating systems. Atoms, molecules, crystals, organelles, cells, tissues, organs and organisms are all made up of parts in ceaseless oscillation, and all have their own characteristic patterns of vibration and internal rhythm; the morphic units are dynamic, not static. But whereas energetic resonance depends only on the specificity of response to particular frequencies, to ‘one-dimensional stimuli,” morphic resonance depends on three-dimensional patterns of vibration. What is being suggested here is that by morphic resonance the form of a system, including its characteristic internal structure and vibrational frequencies, becomes present to a subsequent system with a similar form; the spatio-temporal pattern of the former superimposes itself on the latter.
Morphic resonance takes place through morphogenetic fields and indeed gives rise to their characteristic structures. Not only does a specific morphogenetic field influence the form of a system (as discussed in the previous chapter), but also the form of this system influences the morphogenetic field and through it becomes present to subsequent similar systems.