(Published in the Spiritually Speaking column of The Daily Guardian on June 14, 2021)
Have you ever seen something or met someone that looks and feels very familiar although you are 100% sure that you are seeing it or meeting them for the first time? Have you ever painted something purely from imagination but when you look at your creation, it looks profoundly familiar? We have various kinds of memories. Some things we remember mentally. This means that there is a clear reference point in our minds of things that we have very consciously experienced — maybe a person we knew in childhood, a book we read, a place we visited and so on. These memories are very matter of fact and their basic nature is mental. This means that they are very cerebral and logical and may not invoke any kind of feeling or emotion in us.
Then some memories are triggered by some form of energy, the most common being either a visual or sound energy that can instantly trigger not only one but an entire stream of memories that are generally very emotional. They are full of feelings. These are memories like nostalgia for the past and dreams for the future. Sometimes hearing just a particular sequence of music can awaken memories from an entire period of life like school, college, vacations, and so on. Sometimes this particular song or music may not even have any connection to the particular memory or memories it evokes. It is just that a particular energy unlocks something in our minds that we cannot really explain. These could be referred to as emotional or energetic memories as these are the things that trigger these sorts of memories.
Are all our memories from our mind or emotions or things that happened in this current physical life? What about memories that people have from past lives? Some people remember things, people and events from their past lives. There are many cases reported of young children who remember who they were and the people and places from their past lives and some of these children have even visited their past life families.
For the past 20 years, Dr Jim Tucker, now the director of the Division of Perceptual Studies, has focused mainly on cases found in the United States. His book ‘Return to Life’ offers accounts of very strong American cases of young children who remember previous lives. In this book, Dr Tucker writes about the now well-known cases of James Leininger, a young boy who had verifiable past-life memories of being a WWII pilot, and Ryan Hammons, who had verifiable memories of being a Hollywood extra and talent agent.
So are our memories simply confined to our neurons or do they reside in a much vaster, eternal and non-physical web of information? Our minds are not necessarily a construct of our brain. The brain may just be a mechanism through which the eternal mind is stepped down to the level of this physical world and through which the human body is controlled. Kind of like the cockpit of an aeroplane. The cockpit is where a plane is controlled, but it is the pilot who is actually flying the plane. This pilot is not really a part of the cockpit itself but a representative of the intelligent lifeform that designed the aircraft.
Memory has been written about for millennia. In his autobiographical account called ‘Confessions’ written in the 4th century A.D., Saint Augustine talks about the vastness and power of memory as “a spreading limitless room within me”. Memory is the seat of human self-transcendence, despite being that part of the soul where the individual is most deeply his or her individual self. “Who can reach memory’s utmost depth? Yet it is a faculty of my soul and belongs to my nature. I cannot totally grasp all that I am. The mind is not large enough to contain itself.” In both its nonmateriality and in its self-transcendence, human memory is an indwelling analogy of God. Augustine asks, how does man find God? First, he turns to God’s creation, his mighty world. God made them but is not of them.
Having exhausted external possibilities, Augustine turns inwards, to the soul. He goes beyond the vital force which we share with other living things, past consciousness through which they and he possess sense-perception until he reaches a place uniquely human “the fields and vast palaces of memory.” Here Augustine sees that man is truly made in God’s image, for human thought, human memory is purely non-material. The memory of an object displaces no volume. Mental life, like God, is purely spiritual. Indeed the vastness and power of memory is “a spreading limitless room within me,” says Augustine. So while Augustine talks about the mental nature of thought and memory, there is another aspect of memory that is even higher and goes beyond just the pure mental nature into a sphere of higher emotion and feeling. This is the spiritual nature of memory.
As Rumi said, “The soul has been given its own ears to hear things that the mind does not understand.” Have you ever felt a oneness, a connectedness with everything? A lot of people have. Sometimes there is really no logic to this. You meet someone that you consciously know you have never met before, but yet you feel a deep familiarity and liking towards them. You go to a place where you feel like you have been before, yet you know you have not been there. You paint a picture of a place that exists only in your imagination. These are examples of what could be spiritual memories from another life or memories of the other side (where we will return after our physical incarnation is over).
We retain deep-seated memories that we are not consciously aware of. These memories may not immediately be remembered by us. In today’s world dominated by mental processes and information, there is too much noise and mental chatter. To access spiritual memories, switch off the chatter and give more attention to your feelings and emotions. Your feelings are telling you something. Maybe they give hints about your life’s true purpose or about some spiritual task that you need to do. Give more attention to your emotions as emotions are the language of the soul and can only be experienced through the heart.
The most powerful memory which is also the most deeprooted is that memory of oneness and connectedness. It goes right to the creation itself when we were all one and together in the bosom of the creator before we began our eternal adventure. The adventure itself is to go out into the universe over multiple incarnations and learn and grow as souls as we try to return to where we came from – our Source or God. The process of returning is an adventure and memory plays an important part. It is only through memory we can discern the truth. For the truth is already within us, our true spiritual identity is already within us but we have only forgotten. Enlightenment is the process of remembering who we truly are.