The act of remembering is a natural image of spiritual experience and is very much part of actual spiritual experience. Deep memory arises from searching our feelings and their meaning. This is an inner need that is one with an intense desire to understand the cause of things. It leads to knowing ourself and God much better. It is a reciprocal process between us and God; on our part it requires desire, and adjusting our attitude to sincerity and humility so that we can receive from God. Painful feelings, (and joyful) compel us to interpret their cause, and as we remember them with sincerity God provides compassion and wisdom like a parent watching over us, and this brings healing and relief to our soul.
When I wrote my first book on the cult people who were part of the experience and read the book found it remarkable how I remembered so many details and long dialogues. In short it was by the process I described above. It starts by searching deep painful feelings and then the cause of the feelings opens up and leads to visual, auditory and verbal memories.
To improve our psychological health it’s important to observe our inner thinking pattern for this can be very revealing. There are useful Memories, and there are those that are not useful, or are destructive. Memories of the past can act like a burden in our life consuming our vital energy with negative emotions. These can be reframed and released, but we have to be intentional about doing it and making the change. The memories have energy around them that resist change, but we can change them like wiping streaks off a windshield that obscures our view. If we make the effort and wipe them off we feel a strong sense of satisfaction and self agency. Stuck emotions from trauma insulate and protect the memories, and they are attached to compensation strategies that we repeat as patterns and sometimes negative behaviors. This is why we have to intentionally observe our thought patterns, explore their cause and change them to what we desire from our core self that is connected to God. The thoughts and exiled self behind the pattern try to convince us they can’t be changed; but if we see them we can change the way we think, live, work and process them. Once we experience changing them we can become more fluid in changing them the next time. I actually practice wiping them away as if I were cleaning a window that has a smudge with a cloth. The Bible speaks of this with these words: “Casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).
This is just a sketch of how it works. To actually do this for most people requires therapy. I practice a therapy called ‘Yoga Therapy’, which is not about physical yoga but about bringing exiled parts of the self back into relationship with the core from which love and wisdom from God is fluid. Nevertheless, simply beginning by observing the pattern of our thoughts is very motivating, and gives one a chance to reject the negative thoughts and reframe them toward a healthy way.
Another important aspect of memory that can have a negative effect is the external accumulation of knowledge. For myself I study the Bible not to be an egghead but for the need to heal and grow (which is more of an internal accumulation). I have come to to see that accumulating knowledge is not good for my soul and spirit; it is much better for understanding to flow in the spirit. I think this is part of what Jesus means when he says: “…do not worry beforehand, or premeditate what you will speak. But whatever is given you in that hour, speak that; for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit” (Mark 13: 11). The memory is meant to be fluid. It is ideal that there is a fluid interaction between the natural and spiritual memory so that knowledge and inspiration comes up in the moment as we need it. The mere accumulation of knowledge becomes a callosity in the mind and soul, especially when attached to pride. The understanding of things is not meant to be hoarded but shared. The desire to give and share from love and humility is the elixir that lets memory flow in the moment. Love elevates perception because contained in it is all the wisdom to manifest its purpose. Those who love to accumulate knowledge and take pride in a great breadth of knowledge can create a callosity in their mind that is a block to the spiritual and possibly to heaven. Swedenborg writes:
“The nature of the memories is sometimes presented to view in the other life. The exterior memory is thus presented to view as a callosity; the interior memory as a medullary substance such as is in the human brain. From this circumstance it is possible to know of what quality the spirits (persons) are. With those who in the life of the body have fostered the memory alone, and so have not cultivated their rational, the callosity appears hard, and striated within. With those who have filled the memory with falsities, it appears as if made of hair and shaggy, and this from the disorderly mass of things. With those who have fostered the memory for the sake of the love of self and of the world, it appears conglutinated and indurated. With those who have desired to penetrate into Divine arcana by things scientific, and especially by things philosophical, and who would not believe until persuaded by means of these things, it appears dark, and of such a nature as to absorb the rays of light, and turn them into darkness. With those who have been deceitful and hypocrites, it appears as if bony and of ebony, reflecting the rays of light. But with those who have been in the good of love and the truth of faith, such a callosity does not appear; because their interior memory transmits the rays of light into the exterior memory, in the objects or ideas of which – as in their basis or as in their ground – the rays are terminated, and find there delightful receptacles. For the exterior memory is the ultimate of order, in which spiritual and heavenly things are softly terminated and reside when there are goods and truths therein” (Arcana Celestia, 2494).
It is very enlightening to see that in heaven we have a capacity to remember the past, but mostly the past is completely released and let go of. This is not from any kind of denial, but the heavenly mind has been vastated of evil things – traumas, and attachments to negative strategies that formerly served a purpose. Because these have been released the memories are out of mind. And the mind is free to be filled with excitement and love in the moment; it moves into a wondrous life where the past is simply not useful. Swedenborg describes how this takes place:
“Man enjoys a twofold memory, the natural and the spiritual, and in the spiritual world natural memory gradually perishes. The memory which man properly calls the memory, is the natural memory, because it is of the natural mind, and is the memory of particulars, or of material ideas which correspond to words; this memory perishes when man dies. His soul retains the faculty of reasoning and of understanding from a certain spiritual memory, or the memory of ideas rational or immaterial, as they are called. It is his memory that causes a man after death to know no otherwise than that he is still in the life of the body. But because this memory is born from the natural memory it is replete with fallacies, and it still disturbs, obscures, and, if left to itself, perverts truths; wherefore this memory also successively vanishes, insomuch that even the rational born therefrom perishes. But this memory is nevertheless retained for some time, and is imbued with the cognitions of truth, even until it can be obliterated. At length the true man remains, which is the part remaining together with new abilities acquired, which is the good soil in which heavenly seed is sown. From this there arises a new man, that is, a heavenly paradise within man, with all heavenly felicity, peace and innocence” (Spiritual Diary, 1747, Dec. 15).
The most important element in remembering has to do with innocence stored in the soul. In the Bible this is called remains. (I have written about remains extensively in another post where you can read more about it). Remains are the loves from childhood that are stored in the soul. These are the first loves for parents and playmates, they are the pure enthusiasm of play that we experienced with innocence, and that formed a bond in our heat. Remains develop in our heart before we had a conscience aware of good and evil. It is for this reason that the innocence of childhood is an external innocence and only become internal when we incorporate with intelligence and our adult conscience from our own free will. The only way to receive God is by approaching Him with humility which requires feeling (internally remembering) the innocence from remains in our soul. To remember these feelings and to incorporate them into our adult consciousness forms a bond, a bond that remains because it forms the very quality of our soul. This union of innocence and intelligence is the essence of spiritual growth and developing an internal relationship with God.
Seeing all this one can understand how important it is to begin now to identify negative memories and take the emotional charge off of them. This is the beginning of the process of vastation. In the spiritual world we will go through vastation in order to prepare for heaven; it is necessary for almost everyone in order to enter heaven. Evils must be removed from us to be in the light of heaven and the society of angels. And for those that refuse to and can’t there is hell. The reason they can’t is that they have learned to delight in hate and evil things, and this love is the primary bond in their soul, which is not with God.
The angels that help new spirits undergo vastation are under the guidance of the Lord, and are master spiritual/psychologists, so to speak. The angels see and do what is necessary to have the evil removed if at all possible. When I think of the spiritual world and death now, vastation is the thing that makes me most anxious; what is it that is going to have to be removed from me? How can I help prepare for it now? Swedenborg writes that for sum this process is severe, difficult and painful, and for others it is not very difficult.
The Bible speaks of all this in this way: ““I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; And I will not remember your sins.”” (Isaiah 43:25)
CS Lewis writes: If we find ourself with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.