Remembering the Experiences of the Ego
The Path, June, 1890
To many it seems puzzling that we do not remember the experiences of the Higher Self in sleep. But as long as we ask “Why does not the lower self remember these experiences,” we shall never have an answer. There is a contradiction in the question, because the lower self, never having had the experiences it is required to remember, could not at any time recollect them.
When sleep comes on, the engine and instrument of the lower personality is stopped, and can do nothing but what may be called automatic acts. The brain is not in use, and hence no consciousness exists for it until the waking moment returns. The ego, when thus released from the physical chains, from from its hard daily task of living with and working through the bodily organs, proceeds to enjoy the experiences of the plane of existence which is peculiarly its own.
On that plane it uses a method and processes of thought, and perceives the ideas appropriate to it through organs different from those of the body. All that it sees and hears (if we may use those terms) appears reversed from our plane. The language, so to say, is a foreign one even to the inner language used when awake. So, upon reassuming life in the body, all that it has to tell its lower companion must be spoken in a strange tongue, and for the body that is an obstruction to comprehension. We hear the words, but only now and then obtain flashes of their meaning. It is something like the English-speaking person who knows a few foreign words entering a foreign town and there being only able to grasp those few terms as he hears them among the multitude of other words and sentences which he does not understand.
What we have to do, then, is to learn the language of the Ego, so that we shall not fail to make a proper translation to ourselves. For at all times the language of the plane through which the Ego nightly floats is a foreign one to the brain we use, and has to be always translated for use by the brain. If the interpretation is incorrect, the experience of the Ego will never be made complete to the lower man.
But it may be asked if there is an actual language for the Ego, having its sound and corresponding signs. Evidently not; for, if there were, there would have been made a record of it during all those countless years that sincere students have been studying themselves. It is not a language in the ordinary sense. It is more nearly described as a communication of ideas and experience by means of pictures. So with it a sound may be pictured as a color or a figure, and an odor as a vibrating line; an historical event may be not only shown as a picture, but also as a light or a shadow, or as a sickening smell or delightful incense; the vast mineral world may not only exhibit its planes and angles and colors, but also its vibrations and lights. Or, again, the ego may have reduced its perceptions of size and distance for its own purposes, and, having the mental capacity for the time of the ant, it may report to the bodily organs a small hole as an abyss, or the grass of the field as a gigantic forest. These are adduced by way of example, and are not to be taken as hard and fast lines of description.
Upon awakening, a great hindrance is found in our own daily life and terms of speech and thought to the right translation of these experiences, and the only way in which we can use them with full benefit is by making ourselves porous, so to speak, to the influences from the higher self, and by living and thinking in such a manner as will be most likely to bring about the aim of the soul.
This leads us unerringly to virtue and knowledge, for the vices and the passions eternally becloud our perception of the meaning of what the Ego tries to tell us. It is for this reason that the sages inculcate virtue. Is it not plain that, if the vicious could accomplish the translation of the Ego’s language, they would have done it long ago, and is it not known to us all that only among the virtuous can the Sages be found?