From a Talk by Robert Crosbie
Theosophy, March, 1920
The general idea with regard to memory is that it depends entirely on the orderly functioning of the physical brain, and that where derangement of that function occurs, there is loss of memory. It is quite true that certain forms of memory depend upon the brain, as in those two particular functions known as remembrance and recollection. In remembrance, we can get the idea, but not all the particulars that have brought about some feeling, event, or circumstance of the past; in recollection, we can collect back from one point all the other points connected with it. But there is a third function of the memory, known as reminiscence, which is not at all dependent upon the brain. It is brought into function oftentimes, not by any present object or occurrence arousing attention in that direction, but as it were, springs direct from the soul itself. It is a direct perception of what was. It comes from something behind the brain—the brain serving merely as a sort of filter, or interceptor, or translator of impressions.
We can understand why remote memories are difficult to recall to our brain perception, when we consider the fact that the brain cells are constantly changing. It is not conceivable that the millions of impressions received during a lifetime could be retained and given out again by those changing cells. All the time during our lives there is a continuity of perception, but we do not re member one-thousandth part of the impressions that we have received in those days or years. Very few events are impressed upon us, or are immediately translatable through the brain, by way of remembrance. Even if we so desired, we could never make any complete history of all those impressions through the faculty of recollection. Yet there is the innate faculty of recalling and recollecting in such a way as to have a consecutive or synthetic grasp of all those impressions through reminiscence, that faculty of memory which applies to the soul—is a peculiarly innate quality of the soul.
To reach into and exercise soul memory, we must first under stand the real nature of man. We must first see that all beings of every grade—not only man, but the beings above man and the beings below man—are of the same essence, the same Spirit, the same Life, and of the same potential powers. The higher beings have brought these potential powers into activity, and differ from the lower orders by reason of a greater degree of development, a greater range of perception and a finer evolution of form. But highest as well as lowest are rays from and one with the Divine Absolute Principle. Each one is the Seer, the Perceiver, who stands in the center of his own universe, through which alone we may know all that may be known of the Highest.
We must recognize the fact that this is a universe of law, with no chance or accident anywhere in it, and that we have arrived at our present position under law—the law of our own being, set in operation by ourselves; that the same law rules in every direction in space and in nature. The races of men that now exist are the result of races of men which preceded them; the planet on which we now live is the result of a planet that preceded it; the solar system of which our planet is a part is the result of a solar system that preceded it. Everything is an exact consequence of that which preceded it—everything is a repetition of that which was. This return of the same action or preceding impression occurs under the true aspect of memory; it is the memory of what we have been through that brings about the repetition.
On the physical plane, the action of true memory is seen in all those stages through which the human form goes from conception to birth—representations, in fact, of the evolution of earlier races. In every act of our existence we are exhibiting true memory, whether we realize it or not. The memory of walking is with us now; the memory of talking is with us now. We may not remember how nor when we learned to talk or to walk, but we have present with us the knowing how to walk and to talk. True memory is just that—the possession of the knowledge of the past. It is memory which connects us physically with the body, through all changes of body, scene and circumstance; without it, we should be living merely from impression to impression; there would be no connection whatever with the past and there would be no sense of self-identity.
Memory exists also in other inner departments of our nature. Living on the physical plane, our ideas connected almost entirely with the “three-dimensional” state of matter, we are no more conscious of those inner planes of being than, when in sleep, we are conscious of the physical plane, being absolutely shut off from the outside world, from the happenings to our friends, to the nation, and to the world at large, which are then of no consequence whatever to us. Yet there is an active life in those inner departments of our nature, and there is a memory of it. The Thinker who uses the brain in the waking state is simply acting on another plane of matter and using another plane of memory. Every plane of consciousness has a memory of its own.
That consciousness never ceases, but is continuously active, is evidenced by the fact that no one has ever experienced sleep. Nor does death come to us any more than sleep. We may be aware that sleep or death is coming for the body, but we know those states only as we see them in others. When we say “I was asleep,” we mean that the body was in the sleeping state, while we passed away altogether from this plane for the time being. Then we passed back again from the inner planes to this, picking up the memory of the waking state where we laid it down, and leaving behind the memory of what passed on the other side. There is no record made in this physical instrument of the inner planes, for the brain has not been trained in that direction, and hence it cannot translate those planes of consciousness, except in some partial recollections such as occur in dreams. Dreams attest that we are alive and active on inner planes; for in them, we think, speak, smell, taste, hear and move, as individuals, and never have any question as to our identity, even though the personality presented should be that of some past incarnation. The dreaming state is very close to the point of waking—the intermediate state between waking and sleep—so that we are able to impress the brain-cells with what has occurred before waking, and remember. But beyond the dreaming stage, which is a very short stage of sleep, there is a Vast extent of human thought and action. We go in and in until we are close to the source of our own being, where the Thinker is at work, where he knows all that he has been before—all his past incarnations—where he sees and knows himself as he is. The memory of all the experiences through which he has been as an individualized being is there in one consecutive whole. That, indeed, was the Paradise of man, when he walked with Deity, when he knew himself as he really was. True memory is the Paradise which all human beings should strive to regain. To recover that whole memory, to make that great knowledge of the past usable, here and now in the brain and in the body, is the true work of ‘salvation. Only when we understand what we really are, shall we be able to take a conscious, active, purposeful part in the evolution of our race. Only when we gain the perception that we are the Eternal Spirit, that Death never touches us at all, that we may have a conscious life in spirit, not in matter—only when we begin to think and act from that basis, can true memory come through to the brain; only then can we know for ourselves, have nothing to ask of anyone, but have everything to give to every other one. That true memory is possible for every living being.
The barrier for every man is not in the memory, but in the false ideas of life according to which he acts. However much the soul remembers, if we are using the brain contrary to the nature of the soul, the brain can not translate its impressions. The Thinker must transfer the memory of the soul to the brain, and he can do so only by thinking and acting along right lines during active waking consciousness, until the brain responds to the ideas and learns to transmit what occurs while the body is inoperative. Then the true memory of the past that is in the soul is our knowledge in the brain.
The Masters are those who have the true memory of every step through which They have gone—the knowledge of all past civilizations, the understanding of all that every human being has to experience, the recognition of all the laws ruling evolution. As custodians of that knowledge, and as our Elder Brothers, They stand ready to help mankind in the only way open to Them—by recording as much of that knowledge as we can assimilate, by directing us to its proper use for the benefit of all other human beings, that all humanity may advance in an orderly way to the true goal. Greater and greater individualization, wider and wider range of perception, are the objects of evolution; but there are two paths by which we may reach the goal. One path leads to an individualization that is selfish, and self-righteous—a state of separateness from all human beings; on the other, there is no cessation of work for humanity. The Elder Brother goes as high as he can, but he stops before he enters the final door that separates him from the rest; he returns and takes up again a body of the race, as Jesus did, that he may help those who know less than He does. So we are never alone. Never will there come a time when those Great Beings will cease from that labor, which is a labor of love. But we are the ones who must determine for ourselves, sooner or later, whether to go on through aeons of suffering and millions of lives of ignorance, or to follow the path. They show, which leads straight to the goal—which involves the power of direct cognition of truth without any mistake whatever, and which includes real memory.