Why our memories are indestructible (and how they might still be destroyed)
So glad I found you! Much of what you write resonates deeply. Most people use computers but couldn’t explain how they work from the level of atoms up to operating systems. I can. What you are saying about memory is largely correct. Yes, computers are mostly machines that move information around. Yes, there are multiple layers of caching on any device. Yes, deleting a file from a physical computer is harder than you’d think. I believe there’s something in quantum information theory that says you can only erase information if you expend energy. As to what goes on in the outer layers, I can only guess. Just as a process on one machine can only guess at the nature of the internet. Of course if the machine reads a description of Wikipedia, then we might think the machine knows. But the machine still has to make a choice: do you trust that source, or not? As to forgetting, I’ll happily remain agnostic on this but I agree it is prudent to conduct oneself as if memories would last forever. As for forgetting: I think the notion of the crucifixion and resurrection make sense here. Do you want to live forever? The price is remembering forever, whatever has happened to you and everything you did. The only way to pay that price is to be so steeped in the idea of forgiveness, so deeply bought into that, that you commit to immediately forgiving anyone who seeks your forgiveness. You also have to commit to seeking forgiveness from anyone you’ve wrong. Those two commitments are thus a precondition for a heaven that actually makes sense. My guess, on that river: it’s available to anyone that wants, but the price is another trip through the mortal realms. You’ll forget all the bad memories but keep the encoded intuitions of the good ones. With each life, you accumulate both good and bad memories. Eventually, you accumulate enough good memories that you are born with an intuition of faith that sticks with you. And then you live many life to pair up each experience of harm you caused others, with an experience of the harm to caused you. At the end of this process you are left with a biparite graph of experiences of sin, where you are on the giving and receiving end. Jesus dying on the cross tends an offer: would you like to live forever with God in heaven? You can, but you must first endure this, voluntarily, out of love.
Wow. One of those pieces on Substack that permanently change the way I look at things.Thanks a lot
Many interesting thoughts here, Mark. Allow me to indulge a rather prolix response.
There is a significant difference between breaking every rule as “antinomies” transcended by the God, and breaking them in terms of a voluntarist deity who is arbitrarily “beyond Good and Evil.” I think you are properly articulating the former, but care is necessary.
If you want to say there is a range of ontological being and various “divinities” located along that spectrum, that is possible. Indeed, traditional wisdoms generally affirm such. However, the radical uniqueness of the God, as opposed to lesser, “relative” divinities is precisely that the God cannot be located along a univocal continuum as a Supreme Being at the apex of a hierarchy. There can be an “analogy of being,” but not any kind of multiplication by infinity that could ever reach the “Cloud of Unknowing.” This is why a metaphysician like Erich Przywara asserts a dynamic rhythm that fluctuates between the known “cataphatic” and the surplus of apophatic “unknown” that is “ever greater” than the achieved clarity of the present known.
Memories as you note are complex. They are also difficult to parse. When folks think of the ego or nominalist individuals, they tend to isolate the individual from the relational context of nature, history, society, etc. But what we encounter is never an atomized individual; my own self-understanding is an action that is always both a function of decision and the accumulated result of prior actions and relations, both my own and those of others. Memory always bears the trace of these past relations, and historical being always bears implicit narratives that operate along many dimensions. The accrued weight of memory is “always already” imbued with an interpretive nexus, so one cannot reduce such simply to “facts.” Without changing the facts, the meaning can transform because “new eyes” provide a wider interpretive lens, what have you. The entire question of identity is ultimately both metaphysical and eschatological. If there is a “destruction” of memory, it may entail a separation of unique beings from penultimate realities that are “maya” only when understood in opposition to perfected ultimate realities.
Dante postulates a double action. Lethe is the renunciation of egoic memory. Memory returns in a new form, where the “possessive” individual is disabused of illusions, and a kind of communal appropriation occurs. The human thing is cosmic, embracing the totality of individual memories as participation in a form of ontological wholeness foreign to our typical biological-mechanical frames of reference. Something like this seems to me necessary, if the person is to have metaphysical meaning. Forms of selective amnesia may or may not properly engage the holistic nature of existence, and beings-in-relation. On the other hand, the “eternal return of horrors" entailed in a permanent record of every moment of cosmic existence appears both cruel and sadistic. Memory of that kind is the requirement of the permanence of evil. Such a reckoning may seem like perduring justice to some, but I think it is akin to brute determinism. The bodhisattva in Buddhist thought is a carrier of compassion who actively seeks to liberate those chained to delusion. In my view, the holiness of the Christian saint is oriented towards the healing and perfecting of the Whole. When soteriology becomes a matter of individual fates, where “the other” can be acceptably written off as separable from our own concern, something essential has been lost. The notion of forgiveness and divine “forgetting” must be more than forensic if it is to evade this destiny.
Mark, I was wondering if you have had the opportunity to delve into Giordano Bruno's Art of Memory, as memory is a topic that piqued my interest.
Bruno held the belief that memory extended beyond mere recollection; he regarded it as a form of art and a skill that could be honed through practice.
It seems that Bruno's perspective resonates with your own understanding, acknowledging that memory is fundamental to intelligence and cannot be completely eradicated.
In the ancient era, philosophers such as Bruno held the belief that memory was a subject of great significance, deserving intensive exploration.
They regarded memory as a mysterious realm that offered countless avenues for investigation, delving into it often leading to seemingly endless discoveries.
Similarly, ancient methodologies like Bruno's approach considered memory to be a vital linkage between an individual's mind and the vast tapestry of knowledge that encompassed the world. This perspective aligns harmoniously with your statement that memory transcends physical limitations and exists beyond the boundaries of local confinement.
Bruno imparted knowledge on memory techniques, such as the utilization of visualization within designated "memory places," with the aim of enhancing one's ability to recall information.
This hands-on approach to reinforcing memory not only captivates individuals but also encourages them to delve deeper into the intricacies of memory itself.
You assert that while physical structures like the brain may contribute to optimizing memory, they do not serve as the fundamental essence or boundaries of memory.
Bruno suggested that by employing strategies like visualizing memory locations, individuals could actively train and enhance their innate memory capabilities, consequently enriching their recollection of past experiences.
Just like you, Bruno delved into the intricate web of connections that exist between memory, consciousness, and the very essence of reality itself.
By delving into the depths of his metaphysical concepts, you may uncover fresh perspectives and angles through which to explore these fascinating subjects.
Great article Mark, this is a topic I ponder quite often. From my experiences this is how I understand the combination of our memories and how they impact our souls. When we incarnate we are not born with the full energy of our souls, or higher self; we are born with a veil over the memories of our previous lives. The reason for this is our higher selves often incarnate multiple lives at the same time, i.e. I'm alive in one timeline, another part of my higher self has incarnated in the 5th century, another in the 12th, etc. This is possible due to the astral plane having no conception of linear time, or time at all; due to this events happening 1000 years ago are happening now in the astral plane. Once we die the egoic self that is me is reintegrated with the higher self along with all of the memories associated with that life. The higher self incorporates these memories into itself, some call this the collective consciousness, and learns from the experiences. What we consider to be horrid memories in the material world are looked at as learning experiences by our higher selves, what else can life be but a way to learn from our experiences?
I think memory preservation might look somewhat different from what we may call a "higher perspective" than from our all-too human ideas. For A. N. Whitehead, for instance, God actively preserves (certain) memories - his God being very different from most theisms, however.
But what makes a memory worth preserving? I would say: it's what the memory has achieved, can achieve, and will achieve in terms of learning & growth. For instance, the direct suffering inflicted on us that we couldn't do anything about might be horrible, but once the physical and mental damage is healed, it can (and will) be forgotten.
On the other hand, our moral failings, the suffering we caused others, *once we realize it*, can haunt us for a very long time, and indeed might be the basis for a hell of our own making even after death. But eventually, we will become free of this pain by having paid for the suffering we caused by our own, voluntary suffering. Hence the memory is transformed multiple times: from an initial careless ignorance to a painful realization and "stuckness" of the memory to a sense of relief and release once you come to terms with it and paid your debt. What remains is not so much a memory, but the emotional-spiritual essence of this entire process. You have earned something, and God preserves what was earned.
It is these growth-essences that are the stuff of eternal life. Many of our trivial memories will fade and die eventually; whole lives of missed chances will fade and die. But every battle won, every essence thus birthed, will persist in eternity. God preserves such things, as indeed he must.
That's a very nice piece Mark. A lot to think about but I can say unreservedly that I like it a lot. I was wondering if you saw more of Levin's xenobot, than we did. I didn't see anything that definitively proved to me that it was 'running the maze'. The reality of a situation is sometimes much simpler than our simplest model. We may be importing too many of our own assumptions, and giving too much credit to Levin's assertions and implications, to see what is really happening.
Regardless of any of that you hit the nail on the head with most of your points. When all of reality conspires to tell us no there remains a Father who reserves the right and power to say yes-the central truth on which all deterministic and impersonal models of the world will break.
'There can be only one' is the notion that the Highlander, through generations and eternal return, was always hunting or fighting his mortal enemy.
It's a metaphor. He fights himself, or his nemesis, his lower nature. This goes all the way back to Mesopotamia and Gilgamesh, and before them, the Bhagavad Gita with Krishna and Arjuna. It's an eternal state: man must fight his ego.
When he wins, he wins eternal life. Which is eternal PEACE. Fun fact, both Zion and Jerusalem mean 'peace'. The church has externalised everything.
(And for the record I don't insist on the Vedic perspective. It's merely one organised collections of truths (of several that I've looked in to) that I hold in great respect.)
So, I do this Bible Study thing. (I know, I'm a Graeco-Roman pagan, also kind of a Buddhist, but I also told you that I go to Church regularly ... I'm a man of many contradictions.) One of the participants, an octogenarian, is very orthodox in her interpretation of Christianity and given her level of lifelong trauma I'm sympathetic to her need to keep the walls strong and high. The group knows I have some Buddhist roots, and I've talked about it from time to time. A few weeks ago, after I mentioned reincarnation, my octogenarian friend displayed visible discomfort. I realized I needed to explain that, from a Buddhist perspective, reincarnation is not seen as a good thing: from that perspective, the world is considered a harsh realm of suffering, maybe even a hell-realm, and thus reincarnation is basically equivalent to being sent to Hell. This was a minor revelation to her, as she had not considered reincarnation from that perspective (why would she have thought much about reincarnation at all, after all). I further explained that this was my own personal reconciliation of the Christian doctrine of salvation/damnation with the concept of a loving God. The loving Father doesn't punish cruelly and "forever", but He might make you do Meatspace over again until you get it right.
Great read thanks Mark!
I started drinking heavily in 1990 until 12 months ago. I did this to hide from what I saw in the world that few others see. I wanted to forget so that, like a child, or a dementia patient, everything is new again.
It didn't work. 12 months ago I stopped drinking after reading a Mark Lewis book " the biology of desire".
I have, fortunately and unfortunately, recovered all memory, including all of my 'subconscious dumps'.
Your article made me wonder about the current aversion to truth. When convenient lies colour our world, what makes people so possessive? Their subconscious dumps' must be fully septic....
The proposition that anyone could find themselves locked into a state of literally endless suffering seems to me to be wholly and obviously incompatible with the proposition that:
"The Self-Authoring Author of Reality loves us as a father loves his children. And as with all fatherly love, it’s the kind which must allow us to fail, so that we might grow stronger and learn to succeed."
Particularly if said Author is in the business of breaking rules, not that such a thing would be inclined to set up rules that might result in such an outcome in the first place.
As some "pagans" are fond of saying, the universe is full of God's, and all of them are subject to the creator.
I'm inclined to believe reincarnation is an option, all of our memories of all our lives are available to us on the other side, while here we only have a residual soul "instinct" about how to proceed.
Thank you, Mark.
‘My thoughts are mine when they become the potential source of income for another entity then there is a problem.’
Of course, if you have the processing power, the emotional tells given away by a person can be very valuable. Especially if biometrics are overlaid to this, including facial recognition.
There is a new responsibility that humans and those with power have, we need to be confident that our self is our own. I ask the the following question because I do not know.
Can AI output information about a persons thoughts to an entity that can use that to either their commercial or strategical advantage?