I SHALL try to give you a brief account of some of the aspects of memory as they present themselves to me. First of all, you would probably like to understand memory, as it is in the case of the living. What do you do? Your will decides that you shall remember the name of Tom Jones. It makes the effort to concentrate upon that image. What is the exact process? It draws to it a certain very fine essence invisible to the human eye. Scientists might describe that essence as something far subtler than electricity and yet of the same nature. This, if the will be strong enough, can be led to make the necessary imprint again upon what would appear to you, if you had the perception, to be something fluid, something that flows. This fluid penetrates matter, and, with the assistance of the essence I speak of, can become so shaped that it is able to get in touch with the cell in the brain that is ready to respond. The will, with the assistance of these two elements, is able to join as by a thread the image, Tom Jones, to the cell. You have such perverted ideas of space, as long as you are in matter, that you cannot for a moment grasp how millions of little images made in this manner are all in touch with the millions of cells in the brain through these threads. Imagine an immense spider's web about you. All the strands bear memories or thoughts to the brain as the wires transmit telegraphic messages, and can carry to the brain messages, or, rather, the sign of the image that has been created through impress being made on something plastic with the assistance of this essence.
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Your words make it impossible. You have no term, for instance, for this clay that receives the impression. I call it clay, but it is not of the nature of matter. This clay--as I call it for want of a better word--is the substance out of which thought is constructed. Of course, it is not substance as you understand it. Very well, then, this clay receives all the impressions your sight, hearing, and touch convey, but it does not make the connecting thread with the brain cell unless your will makes the conscious effort which is necessary for its construction. You now ask: what is will? Will is the energy that flows to you from the large individual mind without you, added, of course, to the collection of images that are all attached to the physical brain as I have already tried to indicate. The will is influenced by the physical body. The larger mind contains that infinite subtlety of atoms that are not destroyed through the death of that crude machine, the body. Actually, though I call them atoms, they would appear to you to be of a fluid character. I want you to realise, though, that the essential You is something that is composite as long as you are alive. It is an alliance between what is material and what you call immaterial. The body or matter has certain yearnings brought about by the actual nature of its construction. These are not you, but they dominate you, because they can usually command much of what is immaterial and can enter into the directive process that goes on in the cells of the brain. These cells are so highly sensitive that they can and do respond to the stimulus of a being who is motion rather than substance. Think of your will, then, as motion; ever by its active energy coalescing these images--marshalling them--causing the brain, which is the only part at all sensitive to pure motion, to draw upon the threads that are attached to these images when the need for their uprisal in the consciousness is made manifest. I have tried to explain what you cannot possibly conceive so long as you are in matter.
Memory out of the body is a different affair altogether. When we become discarnate beings we are far more detached from the earthly images for the reason that they are no longer bound to us by matter through the medium of the brain cells. The threads, as you must realise, are broken by death. It does not mean that these images of all the impressions ever made on you are destroyed, they still exist, but we, when we choose, can, under certain psychic conditions, draw those images we desire to us by making the effort of the will that places us amongst them. We do not draw them to us as when we are alive, with labour and difficulty, we simply make the necessary effort which places us in the state that makes it possible for us to perceive the images we desire. Now, we are not in that state when we communicate through you. That is our difficulty. We are quite detached from these images, and unless the medium has the psychic power of absorbing the facts demanded from our memory--with our assistance, of course--we cannot provide you with the evidence you require. The ordinary human being does not possess this particular power, which is a kind of overflow of the fluid which takes the shape of your body and is about you, though invisible.
These images are outside the brain. They are outside the body, being connected by threads that are invisible to you because they pass through matter and are not themselves matter. They are amenable to touch certainly, but are not remembered unless a very considerable effort is made to draw in the appropriate thread and its image. Even then there are many images that cannot be drawn within the normal consciousness. I cannot find in the English language words sufficiently exact to make my meaning clear.
Now, memory may be likened to the sea. It is all about you, and as elusive as the water of the ocean. When we are alive we come to it like children with our small buckets
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and fill them with the salt fluid. How little we carry away up the sands. How easily and swiftly we spill it upon the ground. Yet, behind us is that vast area of water booming endlessly upon the shore. The sound of memory is now to me like the sound of the tide, as when in the olden days I listened to it through the summer evenings.
I want you to think of memory as this great sea. It gives of itself to the earth through all the seasons. It is, therefore, all about you as moisture is about you. Even when you are on earth you may draw from this invisible memory almost unknowingly. And, as one country has a damper atmosphere, a heavier rainfall than another, so will one mentality draw to it a greater share of the collective memory than another. It is changed when filtered through the brain of man; it takes upon itself his colour, his personality, and eventually it comes up to his consciousness as original thought, but horribly dull and unoriginal at times. For the average man draws through him mostly the recent memory ejected by many living brains. The thinker has a greater capacity for drawing to him the memories that lie in the depths of human nature, the strong memory, not the superficial one that is tossed off by the brain of man at the moment. What is rapidly cast off does not continue to live for any length of time. It is only the emotional memories, or the memories created by a fine vehemence, that permanently continue.
Man is like a power station, constantly generating the fresh electric fluid of memory, constantly receiving, constantly giving out again. Human beings cling to their individualities; probably it is but fitting that they should do so. But only what is fundamentally themselves, what is the very kernel of their being, survives the continual dissolution. For, my friend, in life we are mentally perpetually dying; in other words, as in every third season the tree casts off its leaves, so do we, as the years go trooping
by, continually cast off our memories. And in so doing we change very considerably. What a stranger the boy Tom Jones of ten years old is to the man Tom Jones whose sixty years have sounded! How shy and self-conscious they would be if they met! How, in many respects, they would dislike each other! But, from far down, there would come some elusive stirring, some strange thrilling, deep calling to deep, if you will; so that these two, the boy aged ten and the man aged sixty, would, despite their superficial differences, be drawn to each other as surely as the magnet draws the iron. They would scarcely know why they thus responded, flew together despite their conscious incongruities. But they would inevitably respond, be thus drawn together. For something deeper than individual memory compels this unity. They share very few concrete memories, they are strangers. But the fine core of things has moved them to be comrades, friends.
In like manner, when men and women journey into this new state of life they meet, perhaps after many years, wives, husbands, sons, daughters who have tarried twenty or thirty years behind them on the earth. If all is well, if they meet again in the world of the departed souls, they will not recognise each other through memory of facts. They will know each other through something that goes far deeper than that memory. Love and hate, caution and impetuosity, all the qualities that lie at the base of a man's or a woman's nature, will cause them to recognise each other, so that there is no need for reference, or for search in the Book of Life. The fundamental knowledge still remains, and the old ties may be renewed, that is, if they belong to the fundamental part of you. But please believe me, since I died I have not remained stationary. I have been changing, evolving, putting on, if you will, like the trees, a fresh coat of leaves, but unchanged within; so that my wife and my children will know me though some of
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my earth memories be buried as the foliage underground when winter comes.
In stating that some of my earth memories are a closed book to me I do not wish to indicate that they are cut off irretrievably from me. They do not, in my present state, assist me, for I am exceedingly occupied on the Fourth plane in forging new impressions out of a fresh set of experiences in form. Be assured I shall, in the intermediate state between the Fourth and Fifth plane of being, review all those earth memories again.
Footnote. The statements concerning discarnate beings contained in these two essays on memory apply to souls when they are living consciously on the Fourth plane. --F. W. H. M.
THE GREAT MEMORY
THE Great Memory is, if you will, the subconscious mind of the whole human race. In our life, as in yours, there is the consciousness, the self known to other discarnate beings who live in the same state as those akin to them fundamentally. But there is also a deeper self, which is the self of the world, imperishable as I believe, containing what was and is, containing also what shall be. For the history of man from the earliest to the latest times is all within what is sometimes called "The Tree of Memory." You may say, "But future events have not yet happened, so how can they have shaped themselves upon the ether?" I tell you they have happened, for they have already been born in the imagination of God. But the future is difficult to read, I mean difficult for men to read, because the memory of the future has not been so deeply impressed upon the invisible timeless substance, in that it has been thought only once and not twice, thought by the Maker of the Universes: therefore, it is very fine and faint, and only its echo is caught by certain mortals who have the inner hearing. Whereas the gross and clumsy subjective thinking of man causes past memories to be, from the point of view of the sensitive, more definitely shaped in the flowing energy.
I want you to understand the significance of this vast memory in the lives of the ever-living, whom you may call "departed souls." These, in pursuing their present existence, can live away from the memory of all past existence, or they can resume a vanished personality by picking up the threads from the Great Memory and sucking
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in from them, as you might suck a sugar cane, the nourishment of a past personality. It is not always perfectly shaped when the discarnate being endeavours to communicate. Sometimes only a little of the past individual's garment of mortality is taken from the great storehouse and, for a brief while, displayed.
Now I would call your attention to an important point in this connection. We, you and I, are each recorded on some page in this Great Memory. We must, as players in a drama, re-learn the old part before we endeavour to speak to our friends on earth, through a medium. As a rule we neglect this task, or we succeed in obtaining only a glimpse of the memory that enshrines our vanished personality. We have vanished and we have not vanished. It is hard to explain this duality. Fundamentally we are the same as we were when a loved wife, mother, or sister bade us "good-bye" in the earth life. We are the same in the sense that we should continue to have a feeling of repulsion for certain things and people we disliked on earth, and the old affections would flame up if we met again those people and things that were dear to us. But if by personality you mean the sum total of our earth memories--our knowledge of Greek and Latin, our knowledge of concrete facts--then we are indeed changed, in that we can, as a rule, only resuscitate the old knowledge by obtaining contact with that part of the Great Memory which is ours. Yet we do retain--apart from it--our old mentality, much of its idiosyncrasies. That part of ourselves that is no longer integral, that has become detached, is the fleeting physical consciousness of that period when we bade the earth farewell; is the aggregation of memory concerning facts in our earth life, concerning certain concrete knowledge memorised by us. Emotional memory remains an integral part of the soul, for it comes from the creative Life.