Marley and the Ghost of Christmas Past
Oct 03, 1995 06:20 AM
by Arthur Paul Patterson
Below I have included a part of an article I wrote on the Christmas Carol
that was published in the Dicken's Journal a year ago. It points to the
function of memory as a healer. Perhaps the memories of the past history of
the Theosophical Society can be a healer. That is why history is so
important because it opens up our hearts to what has gone before - making
us contrite about those things we are less than proud of and grateful for
the grace of life in spite of our desire to stamp out our memory. So the
Marly Post inspired me to think of this story once again.
To begin with Scrooge's memory was dead. The legacy of the Ghost of
Christmas Past is the heart-felt transformation of memory. That Scrooge
attempted to repress his recollection of the past, especially the feelings
of his past, is revealed by his reception of the first spectre. The coming
of this first ghost is accompanied by theophany, a light that emanates from
the head of the ghost that Scrooge wants to repress. Men and women prefer
darkness to the light. "Although the light has come into the world,
humanity has shown that they prefer darkness to light because their deeds
were evil." (John 3:19) Scrooge begged that the light of memory be taken
away. The ghost chided him, "What!, exclaimed the Ghost, "would you so soon
but out, with worldly hands, the light I give?" With memory uncapped
Scrooge is taken back to his youth where his pain, loneliness, and joy are
In addition to early friendships, celebrations, and a jilted love affair,
Scrooge meets his inner child, who becomes an emblem of every child. The
ghost of Christmas Past was especially helpful to remind him of his own
misery of being a rejected little boy placed in a boarding home by a Father
who was as calloused as the adult Scrooge. When he allowed the pain of his
own past to have its full impact on his paralysed heart Ebenezer could
begin to see the plight of other maligned children whom he formerly
considered pestering waifs. He began to see the children again. He saw how
he was presently treating them.
Whether this is an account of Dicken's himself or Scrooge is negligible.
Dicken's shared the Carol's loneliness as he worked in the "blacking
factory" (shoe polish) while his father payed of his debt in Marshalsea
prison house. Like Scrooge his only solace was the voracious reading of
books and creating of alternative realities. Imagination was the healer in
his heart. The elder Scrooge show no such interest in fancy. He is coerced
to witness his young heart leap as Ali Baba of the Arabian Nights, Robinson
Crusoe, and others came one Christmas and urged him to hope.
Memory, not moralism, was the motive for Scrooges charitable impulses.
Scrooge responded to the vision, "I wish he muttered, putting his hands in
his pocket, and looking about him, after drying his eyes with his cuff...
There was a boy singing a Christmas carol at my door last night. I would
like to have given him something that's all."
To sponge away the writing on our memory-repressed souls requires that our
callousness be challenged by recollection in league with imagination. The
way the ghost takes Scrooge through his past seems parallel to the Progoff
method of working in the life history log where the steppingstones of our
lives reveal our roads not taken. There is an implication that Scrooges
present insensitivity is the result of stifling the memory of his own early
suffering and his experience with simple human joys. Memory wounds and
heals our frozen hearts.
The words of a holocaust memorial echo the ghost's lesson, "To remember is
the beginning of redemption." Remembering is an act of vulnerability and
courage. Scrooge was a prisoner of his immediate experience. His memory led
him to a new identity in continuity with the better parts of his past. Even
unsightly abuses which he felt as a young boy moved him as an adult to a
new stance as a protector of children like his old self. Stifling our
memories, harding our hearts to the past, engraves judgment on ourselves.
The Carol's conception of conversion involves a tranformation of
consciousness through living simultaneously in the past, present and
future. The actions of gratefully uncapping our memories, joyfully reviving
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