THEOSOPHY, Vol. 17, No. 11, September, 1929
(Pages 498-501; Size: 13K)

SEATS OF MEMORY

SOME STATEMENTS OF H.P.B.

ETERNITY can have neither past nor future, but only the present; as boundless space, in its strictly literal sense, can have neither distant or proximate places. Our conceptions, limited to the narrow area of our experience, attempt to fit if not an end, at least a beginning of time and space; but neither of these exist in reality, for in such case time would not be eternal, nor space boundless. The past no more exists than the future, only our memories survive; and our memories are but the glimpses that we catch of the reflections of this past in the currents of the astral light.

It is on the indestructible tablets of the astral light that is stamped the impression of every thought we think, and every act we perform; and that future events -- effects of long-forgotten causes -- are already delineated. The minutest acts of our lives are imprinted on it, and even our thoughts rest photographed on its eternal tablets. Memory -- the despair of the materialist, the enigma of the psychologist, the sphinx of science -- is to the student of old philosophies merely a name to express that power which man unconsciously exerts, and shares with many of the inferior animals -- to look with inner sight into the astral light, and there behold the images of past sensations and incidents. Often a sensation, a smell, even a casual noise, or a sound, brings instantaneously to our mind long forgotten events, scenes and persons. Something of what was seen, done, or thought by the Ego, impressed itself at that time on the physical brain, but was not brought into conscious, waking memory, owing to some physical condition or obstacle.

Memory is an innate power in thinking beings, and even in animals, of reproducing past impressions by an association of ideas; a faculty depending entirely on the more or less healthy and normal functioning of our physical brain. In the short span of ordinary existence, memory is too weak to register all the events of a lifetime. How frequently do even the most important events lie dormant in our memory until awakened by some association of ideas. No memory of a purely daily-life function, of a physical, egotistical, or of a lower mental nature -- such as, e.g., eating and drinking, enjoying personal sensual pleasures, has aught to do with the "Higher" Mind or EGO. Nor has it any direct dealings on this physical plane with either our brain or our heart -- for these two are the organs of a power higher than the Personality -- but only with our passional organs. Thus it only stands to reason that the memory of such-like events must be first awakened in that organ which was the first to induce the action remembered afterwards. The memories of physical and selfish deeds, on the other hand, together with the mental experiences of a terrestrial nature, can, of necessity, only be correlated with the molecular constitution of various Kamic organs. Memory has no seat, no special organ of its own in the human brain, but has seats in every organ of the body. Nor can the visions or memory of purely terrestrial events be transmitted directly through the mental perceptions of the brain -- the direct recipient of the impressions of the heart. All such recollections have to be first stimulated by and awakened in the organs which were the originators of the various causes that led to the results, or, the direct recipients and participators of the latter. A hungry stomach evokes the vision of a past banquet, because its action is reflected and repeated in the personal mind. But even before the memory of the personal Self radiates the vision from the tablets wherein are stored the experiences of one's daily life -- even to the minutest details -- the memory of the stomach has already evoked the same.

Every organ in our body has its own memory. For if it is endowed with a consciousness "of its own kind," every cell must of necessity have also a memory of its own kind. The whole human body is a vast sounding board, in which each cell bears a long record of impressions connected with its parent organ, and each cell has a memory and a consciousness of its kind. Now the Occultists, who trace every atom in the universe, whether an aggregate or single, to One Unity, or Universal Life; who do not recognize that anything in Nature can be inorganic; who know of no such thing as dead matter -- the Occultists are consistent with their doctrine of Spirit and Soul when speaking of memory in every atom. We know and speak of "life-atoms" -- and of "sleeping atoms" -- because we regard these two forms of energy -- the kinetic and the potential -- as produced by one and the same force or the ONE LIFE, and regard the latter as the source and mover of all. But what is it that furnished energy, and especially memory? The collective aggregation of these atoms forms thus the Anima Mundi of our Solar system, the soul of our little universe, each atom of which is of course a soul, a monad, a little universe endowed with consciousness, hence with memory.

Man is a bundle of obscure, and to himself unconscious perceptions, of indefinite feelings and misunderstood emotions, of ever-forgotten memories and knowledge that becomes on the surface of his plane -- ignorance. Yet, while physical memory in a healthy living man is often obscured, one fact crowding out another weaker one, at the moment of the great change that man calls death -- that which we call "memory" seems to return to us in all its vigour and freshness. At the last moment, the whole life is reflected in our memory and emerges from all the forgotten nooks and corners, picture after picture, one event after the other. The dying brain dislodges memory with a strong, supreme impulse; and memory restores faithfully every impression that has been entrusted to it during the period of the brain's activity. That flash of memory which is traditionally supposed to show a drowning man every long-forgotten scene of his mortal life -- is simply the sudden glimpse which the struggling soul gets into the silent galleries where his history is depicted in imperishable colors. May this not be due simply to the fact that, for a few seconds at least, our two memories (or rather, the highest and the lowest states of consciousness) blend together, thus forming one, and that the dying being finds himself on a plane wherein there is neither past nor future, but all is one present?

The ordinary man has no experience of any state of consciousness other than that to which the physical senses link him. Men dream; they sleep the profound sleep which is too deep for dreams to impress the physical brain. As a rule, our memory registers only the fugitive and distorted impressions which the brain receives at the moment of awakening. During deep sleep, ideation ceases on the physical plane, and memory is in abeyance, because the organ, through which the Ego manifests ideation and memory on the material plane, has temporarily ceased to function.

The soul of the clairvoyant may liberate itself, and perceive things subjectively. And yet, as the sentient principle of the brain is alive and active, these pictures of the past, present, and future will be tinctured with the terrestrial perceptions of the objective world; the physical memory and fancy will be in the way of clear vision. But the seer-adept knows how to suspend the mechanical action of the brain. His visions will be as clear as truth itself, uncolored and undistorted, whereas, the clairvoyant, unable to control the vibrations of the astral waves, will perceive but more or less broken images through the medium of the brain. The seer can never take flickering shadows for realities, for his memory being as completely subjected to his will as the rest of the body, he receives impressions directly from his spirit. Between his subjective and objective selves there are no obstructive mediums. This is the real spiritual seership, in which, according to an expression of Plato, soul is raised above all inferior good. When we reach "that which is supreme, which is simple, pure, and unchangeable, without form, color, or human qualities: the God -- our Nous."


COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:

THE LARGER VISION

Sages, say the ancient Scriptures, grieve neither for the dead, nor for the living. To us, who grieve continually, both for those we have loved and lost, and for ourselves who live on, this is a hard saying -- so hard that it frightens us more than life itself, more than death itself.

Not only do we grieve over life and death, but over all the minor successes and failures which fill the pages of the scripture of our daily writing. The same Sages repeat to our dulled ears and hardened hearts the immemorial injunction to close our minds to pleasures as to pain, to look alike on victory and defeat, on every earthly gain and loss. There is some mystery here, which all our religion and all our science fail to solve. These spectacles of the men of earth do not yield vision beyond the cradle and the grave; they only magnify the things of human life, making our loss the more irreparable, the mystery more impenetrable, the meaning of the Sages more inscrutable.

There is some vital error here. Either the Sages do but mock and cheat us with mirages -- or we but mock and cheat ourselves. Yet in our very alternations, would we but cast a glance, is confirmation strong of all the Sages say. We have but to consider that in the hour of our strength, our triumph, and our glory, the weaknesses, the failures and the follies of other men seem but shadows which they have only to face to overcome -- as we have overcome. And in the depths of our despair and despondency the victories and treasures, the smiling happiness of other men, seem but phantasies, and they but motes dancing in a passing sunbeam -- to fall into our nether darkness as clouds beyond command obscure the sun.

We have but to consider that from these far-off Sages come, as from the distant stars, the music of another world of life and light, whose echoes only, come to us as faith, and hope, and charity. Weave these in the common strand of Brotherhood to all that lives -- behold the larger vision of the Company of the Immortals.


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