The Dissolution Of Thought In Its Own SubstanceWill you please explain how memory works?
Will you please explain how memory works?
It feels that when a thought arises it triggers my mind to go searching for associations which subsequently arise as new thoughts. If our minds aren’t “real” and have no control over what happens in them, how is it that we “remember” some things but not others? Wouldn’t we have access to all information in the Universe unless this body/mind does have some actual influence that gets in the way (or filters the info so our heads don’t short-circuit)?
Thanks so much,
Julli: Will you please explain how memory works?
Rupert: Let us image that last night we had dinner in a restaurant. Take any moment during dinner and call that moment, not the memory of the moment, but the actual experience, perception A. Perception A is followed by countless other perceptions and eventually, let us say the next morning, an image appears ‘in the mind’ (let us call it image B) that is an approximate representation of Perception A. This is followed by a thought (let us call it thought C) that connects image B to Perception A.
However when Perception A is present image B is non-existent and when image B is present perception A is likewise non-existent. What is the connection between a current experience and a non-existent experience? If you have any difficulty answering this question, simply ask yourself what is the connection between the image of these words (the current experience) and the pink elephant that is sitting under your chair.
Now, let us go back to thought C which imagines a connection between image B and perception A. If we look more closely we find that when thought C is present, neither image B nor perception A are present. Both must already have taken place for thought C to appear.
So, in order to connect these two non-existent experiences together, thought C imagines ‘a vast container’ in which perception A and image B (along with innumerable other non-existent objects and events) are considered to reside, although at the time of thought C, neither A or B are actually experienced.
This ‘vast container’ is called ‘mind.’ This ‘mind’ is imagined with the thought that thinks it. It has no existence other than the thought that thinks it!
Once the idea of mind as a vast container is considered to represent something that actually exists, thought can have a field day! It can populate this imagined container called ‘mind’ with all sorts of imagined experiences such as time, space, memory, objects, people, birth, death, causality etc. etc.
Only one thing is missing in this picture that would account for our current predicament: having created this imaginary world of time, space, causality etc. in thought, we then have to forget that it is all created simply with the thought that thinks it.
So, thought imagines that its very own creation is in fact not its very own creation but rather that it exists independent of its being thought about. At that moment imagination seems to become reality and the direct apperception of reality seems as a result to become lost or veiled.
Imagination and reality change place, as it were. Imagination seems to become reality and reality is, at best, imagined or, worse still, considered non-existent.
This forgetting of the reality of experience is what is known as ‘ignorance.’ It is the ignoring of the direct, immediate and intimate nature of our experience. This ignoring of reality is synonymous with imagining the separate self and world, the subject and object, ‘two things.’
For those of us with children who have persuaded us to start a farm on Farmville, this is not difficult to understand! First we create a farm (the equivalent, in this metaphor, to the container called ‘mind’) and then populate this farm with trees, buildings, animals and flowers. We then plant our crops and go to bed!
And sure enough the next day we find ourselves thinking, “Oh, I must harvest my sun flowers or they will start to wither!”
In other words we pretend to forget that there is no farm and no sun flowers growing on it, in order to enjoy the game. The apparent reality of the farm comes into being at the precise moment we forget that it is only a creation of thought. The game requires our forgetting. As soon as we cease to forget, the game is over.
It is the same here. Once we have forgotten that time, space, entities, objects, causality etc. etc. are imagined, they seem to become very real and we reap the inevitable consequence of this forgetting.
However, having forgotten that all this is simply a creation of thought we find ourselves bemused by it because deep in our hearts resides the knowledge of the reality of our experience.
This bemusement is the experience we know as suffering or unhappiness. It is a conflict between the deep intuition of happiness that resides at the heart of all experience and the beliefs that thought has superimposed upon it.
Having failed to relieve this unhappiness satisfactorily through all the conventional means that are on offer in the realms of the mind, body and world, some of us eventually turn round and question, as you have done, the very construct of mind itself….what is memory, time, space, the separate person, the world etc. etc? All these questions are really the same question and they are all eventually answered by the same answer.
However that ultimate answer is not just one more construct of thought. It is the dissolution of thought in its own substance. So the answer to your question, if we trace it back all the way and refuse to be satisfied with yet another construct of thought, is this living, non-objective, Ever-Presence into which thought dissolves.
We may well still wonder, if time, space and memory are simply constructs of mind, made only of intermittent objects that bear no relation to one another, why there is such consistency to appearances. After all it is this consistency that seems to validate the belief in all these concepts.
The reason is this: What appears to be consistency between objects or thoughts is in fact a pale reflection at the level of mind of the only true consistency there is, which is the consistency or, more accurately, the ever-presence of Consciousness.
In other words even in the appearance of intermittent thoughts, images, sensations and perceptions, which are not in themselves consistent, Presence, as it were, leaves a trace of itself, a hint of its own reality.
The apparent consistency in time or permanence in space does not belong to the realm of thoughts or objects. It belongs to Presence. The Ever-Presence of Consciousness is translated into the language of mind, as continuity in time and permanence in space. They are hints of the Beloved in the realm of the mind.