January 11, 2013 8:06 pm

The Inventory: Rupert Sheldrake

‘What happens in the afterlife depends on our fears, memories and hopes’
Rupert Sheldrake©David Levenson/Getty Images

Rupert Sheldrake, 69, has written more than 80 scientific papers and 10 books and is known for his controversial theories, including that of morphic resonance (inherent memory in nature). He was a fellow of Clare College, Cambridge, where he was director of studies in cell biology, and was also a research fellow of the Royal Society.

What was your earliest ambition?

To find out more about animals and plants. I learnt about plants from my father, who was a herbalist and an amateur microscopist.

Public school or state school? University or straight into work?

Worksop College, a public school, followed by Cambridge and Harvard. In those days, boys’ boarding schools were spartan with an emphasis on sports and the cadets, which wasn’t to my taste. I was in my element at Cambridge.

Who was your mentor?

In science, Nevill Willmer, my supervisor in physiology at Cambridge. In philosophy and spirituality, Father Bede Griffiths, a British Benedictine monk.

How physically fit are you?

I walk at least two miles a day.

Ambition or talent: which matters more to success?

Ideally, both. In practice, usually ambition. I think hard work is what gets most people to the top.

Have you ever taken an IQ test?

No.

How politically committed are you?

I strongly believe in the need for political change, mostly in a green direction. I do vote but I don’t think that any political party represents my point of view. The person in public life who most represents what I feel is Prince Charles. He speaks most clearly for the things I think are most important.

Do you consider your carbon footprint?

Yes. I was shocked to find that most of my carbon footprint was from flying; two trips to North America and one to India emitted more carbon than living at home for a whole year.

Do you have more than one home?

One in Hampstead, and a house in Newark on Trent, Nottinghamshire.

What would you like to own that you don’t currently possess?

A research fund.

What’s your biggest extravagance?

Wine.

Kew Gardens©Dreamstime

Happiest: in Kew Gardens

In what place are you happiest?

Walking on Hampstead Heath, or in Kew Gardens or the British countryside.

What ambitions do you still have?

Helping to free up the spirit of inquiry in science.

What drives you on?

Christian faith.

If you had a coat of arms, what would be on it?

Rupert Sheldrake's ideal coat of arms

Willow branches or a willow tree, a river and a bird – a pigeon or a dove.

What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?

Helping to raise two sons.

What has been your greatest disappointment?

The persistence of wars and environmental destruction. I’ve tried to campaign against the destruction of the environment in various ways for many years.

If your 20-year-old self could see you now, what would he think?

“It’s a long journey, but varied, interesting and often happy.”

If you lost everything tomorrow, what would you do?

Try to be happy living simply.

Do you believe in assisted suicide?

Yes, with suitable qualifications; I don’t want people to be bumped off by their children because they’re impatient to inherit.

Do you believe in an afterlife?

Yes. I think it starts like a dream from which we can’t wake up because our physical bodies are dead. What happens depends on our fears, memories, hopes and beliefs.

If you had to rate your satisfaction with your life so far, out of 10, what would you score?

Nine. Not perfect, but pretty good.

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‘The Science Delusion’, by Rupert Sheldrake, is published by Coronet (£8.99)

Work, rest and pray

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