Arguments on reincarnation

IV: Nature of memory

THEOSOPHY, Vol. 33, No. 9, July, 1945
(Pages 349-350; Size: 5K)
(Number 4 of a 14-part series)
Theosophy Magazine site (

MEMORY in man is, from the materialistic point of view, one of the most mysterious things on earth. A man may forget some incident over such a long period of time that there is no particle in his body or brain that has not been replaced over and over. Yet upon a certain stimulus the memory-picture will spring forth as bright and clear as the day when the memory was made.

In fact, the very old live almost entirely in the vivid resurrected memories of the past. In what storehouse are those memories kept, if not in some permanent self that is undamaged by material vicissitudes? Some say impressions are retained in the brain cells; but how retained? They have never said, never described a mechanics of retention. Again, a man may lose all his memory due to a brain injury, for so many years that his brain is all changed; then recover it by another accident. Where was it while his brain was changing? Or a man may, in dying, remember something which his eyes may have seen, but which his conscious self never registered.

F. W. H. Meyers records some remarkable phenomena of this kind. People suffer all kinds of mental and physical diseases due to unconscious memories of things that happened in childhood, as any psychoanalyst knows. Why not just as easily memories from past Lives?

What is the universal process of learning? By painstaking and sometimes painful practice, until the action becomes automatic. Are we to suppose that a conscious action can be gradually changed into a purely mechanical one? Or is the most logical explanation that learning is a process of training a lower form of consciousness in the body by a higher, stronger, and more evolved one? This applies not only to such things as manual skill, music, driving, etc., but to highly mental processes. Some skilled mathematicians add or multiply by looking at the figures and setting down the proper digits automatically. If they allow themselves to think what they should be, they become slow, confused, and inaccurate. One Professor of mathematics was ambidextrous to the extent that he could write either two different equations at the same time, one with each hand, or the right and left halves of an equation.

Is this explainable except on the theory of different levels of evolved consciousness in the human organism, some taking orders from others for the performance of their own particular jobs? And where in any logical universe could the power or skill come from, except through acquirement? Where can the vast differences in the possibilities of acquirement come from except past learning? In what other way could the "organizatory factors" of Prof. Eldridge, his "entelechies," have been evolved, except by experience in other organisms, from the very lowest to the highest, from mineral to man?

To Henry Ford, as to every other reincarnationist, this is the origin of every capacity:

I adopted the theory of reincarnation when I was 26.... When I discovered reincarnation, it was as if I had found a universal plan.... I was no longer a slave to the hands of the clock. There was time enough to plan and to create.... I felt that order and progress were present in the mystery of life.... I would like to communicate to others the calmness that the long view of life gives to us.
Genius is experience. Some seem to think that it is a gift or talent, but it is the fruit of long experience in many lives. Some are older souls than others, and so they know more.

To Thomas Edison -- who was one of the earliest members of the first reincarnationist association in America, the Theosophical Society -- the consciousness of man resided in the brain in the form of a swarm of "entities" which left it at death for another home.