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When Our Memory Fails Us

Sep 26, 1994 04:19 PM
by Eldon B. Tucker

This is by Eldon Tucker.

---- When Our Memory Fails Us

       There was an interesting article on memory in NEWSWEEK,
Sept. 26, 1994, entitled "You Must Remember This."
       Memory is considered both fallible and malleable. Our
memory can fail us. And we can remember events that we've
only heard about, but never experienced.
       A memory is stored in many pieces. The components,
including images, sounds, feelings, are all saved in
association with similar memory pieces. When we recall a
memory, there is a function of consciousness that draws the
pieces of memory together into a cohesive whole. When that
function of consciousness fails us, and pieces are assembled
incorrectly, we can remember things that never happened.
       How do we tell when we've recalled a true memory? There
is no structural difference between the memory of an actual
event and a false memory. What we do is save the source of
the memory. When a memory is recalled, we also recall that
it was from something we read, from a dream, or from an
actual event in our lives. This aspect of labeling memories
enables us to discriminate between physical-plane "reality"
and so-called non-real events.
       The problem is that the frst aspect of a memory to
fail is its origin. When we strongly imagine something
enough, and then forget where the memory came from, we may
have made ourselves a false memory. The term for this
forgetting of the source of memories, and the subsequent
creation of false memories, is "source amnesia."
       Because of source amnesia, it is possible to create
memories from suggestions. A suggestion leaves a trace in
our memories. The memory is tagged as a suggestion and
linked with others. Under stress and over time the fact that
it was only a suggestion fades. We later recall it as a real
memory, perhaps embellished with other newly-associated
contents of our memory.
       The creation of false memories is hastened under severe
emotional stress, which overcomes internal checks on
plausibility. We can see this in our own experience, when
we've had a rift with someone we've known for years. The
anger and feeling of betrayal colors our perception of the
person. If we're not careful, as we think of that person our
anger will bring us to "rewrite history" and see previous
experiences with him in a darker, less kindly light.
       There are a number of implications to this process of
memory in regards to our theosophical studies, and to
various topics we consider. One relates to our
memories of the materials we study in  the theosophical
literature. When we forget the source of an idea, if it is
closely tied to our theosophical thinking, we may create a
false memory of having read it in a book by our favorite
       This source amnesia for the ideas that we read help
explains how opinion is formed. Our opinion draws upon ideas
we've encountered from many sources. We forget the sources,
embracing selected ideas as our own, and formulate our own
personal beliefs.
       We find with Theosophy, though, that there is much more
to the source of our ideas than some previous physical-plane
event, remembered or not. There are other planes of
existence, and other forms of interaction with people than
the outer, physical events of our lives. We can exchange
thoughts directly, without use of the spoken word. We can
pick up thoughts and images from the astral light, either as
impressed on physical objects or directly. (Like going to
the scene of a crime and "picking up" from the objects there
a "memory" of what had happened.) And we can get in touch
with various thought-currents, which act as non-physical
channels of learning.

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