Skip to main content

Sheldrake, Rupert (1942-)

Sheldrake, Rupert (1942-)

British biochemist with specialized experience in plant research who has proposed a bold new theory of formative causation, concerned with the origin and growth of form and characteristics in nature. While not denying the inheritance of characteristics through the gene complex, he has suggested a literal view of what has been termed for convenience "morphogenetic fields" as actual structures independent of time and space. Although Sheldrake's field theory applies primarily to organisms, plants, and animals, it also has important relevance to concepts of parapsychological phenomena, such as telepathy, clairvoyance and reincarnation.

Robert Sheldrake was born June 28, 1942, in Newark Notts, England. He was educated at Clare College, Cambridge University, England, becoming a fellow and director of studies in biochemistry and cell biology. In 1973, he was awarded a Rosenheim Research Fellowship of the Royal Society. Instead of taking a professorship at a university, he decided to study growing plants first hand, and he became a member of the staff of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics in Hyderabad, India. He became a consultant to the institute in 1978.

In 1966, Sheldrake was associated with the Epiphany Philosophers, a group of scientists and philosophers at Cambridge University concerned with exploring interconnections between science, philosophy, and mysticism. This contact stimulated his early ideas on formative causation. Other influences were the theories of Henri Bergson and Hans Driesch.


Berger, Arthur S., and Joyce Berger. The Encyclopedia of Parapsychology and Psychical Research. New York: Paragon House, 1991.

Sheldrake, Rupert. A New Science of Life: the Hypothesis of Formative Causation. London: Blond & Briggs; Los Angeles: J. P. Tarcher, 1981.

. The Presence of the Past. New York: New York Times Books, 1988.

. The Rebirth of Nature: The Greening of Science and God. New York: Bantam, 1990.

. Seven Experiments That Could Change the World: A Do-It-Yourself Guide to Revolutionary Science. n.p.: Riverhead Books,1995.

Sheldrake, Rupert and Matthew Fox. Natural Grace. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1996.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Sheldrake, Rupert (1942-)." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. . 22 Jul. 2019 <>.

"Sheldrake, Rupert (1942-)." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. . (July 22, 2019).

"Sheldrake, Rupert (1942-)." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. . Retrieved July 22, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.