How books get you thinking…
I recently finished reading a book by Krister Dylan Knapp on William James, which was in itself a fascinating read that highlighted another great in psychical research. What stood out though and perhaps triggered a ‘psi theory’ moment, was James ideas around consciousness being a ‘cosmic reservoir of memories’, something which reminded me of Jung’s ‘collective unconscious’ and also Sheldrake’s ‘morphic resonance’ too.
After all these questions regarding consciousness are pretty much the ‘Hard Questions’ of psychology, let alone psi or the paranormal. In relation to the paranormal though; if spirits do exist, then our comprehension of how consciousness may survive death is fundamental. An understanding which I’m sure James was attempting to obtain in his day.
Of course, in order to understand what part consciousness may play, it could be argued that first we must ask; what is consciousness? The problem goes a little further than that though; as we equally need to determine how or why it occurs in the first place. It’s a problem that finds its way into all sorts of academic areas, such as psychology, physics, philosophy and many more. I’m no expert on consciousness and not going to delve too deeply into the subject for this post. It is after all an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ style rabbit hole.
William James suggests a cosmic reservoir…
James ‘cosmic reservoir of memories’ was to suggest, if I have it right, that our consciousness or collection of memories would join a singular collection, which in turn could be accessed by those with supernormal abilities; such as Mediums. One cosmic location for all memories of all time. This huge collection was so large that pulling information would mean it was often fragmented. Which in turn helped to explain in James time why information provided by Mediums was not exact or often appeared to be missing parts.
Oddly for me it was James explanation of the information being picked up in a fragmented form that sparked the idea for this psi theory post. However there’s still one more piece to this little idea that’s needed before I explain more.
Rupert Sheldrake’s Morphic Resonance theory is; ‘a process whereby self organising systems inherit a memory from previous or similar systems.’ Sheldrake’s theory suggests that memories could be inherited from past members of the species. This concept of memory information being inherited changed some of my perspective regarding the way that Mediums may obtain information. Simply put there were other possibilities beyond just that of spirit communication. Although Sheldrake’s morphic resonance isn’t based on mediumship, it does provide something else, a natural methodology for information transference from generation to generation.
So, James told us that our memories end up in a cosmic reservoir somewhere, Jung told us there was a collective consciousness and Sheldrake gave us morphic resonance; all to possibly explain a probable connection between our memories and/or consciousness. All in pursuit of the source of probable spirit communication or telepathic interaction.
These concepts of our memories becoming a part of one greater collection of memories is one that fascinates me, but also provides many problems. One being the term ‘one’ in itself. We often interpret the notion of our memories residing in one place after we die as being a literal ‘one place’, but this then provides us with yet another question; ‘where is that one place?’
Remaining open minded…
If I’ve learnt anything over the years its to remain open minded and certainly take the time to look at things from different angles. The presumption that all of our memories end up in a single place didn’t work for me too much, so I looked for another understanding of James cosmic reservoir. Luckily for me my interpretation of Sheldrake’s morphic resonance gave me such an understanding.
Rather than there being a single location where all memories or consciousness may reside, it became my understanding that perhaps it was in multiple living minds. Just like networked computers or even the internet, for a wider range, data isn’t stored in one place alone, but over multiple servers worldwide. This would mean that Mediums could possibly be obtaining the information from local and perhaps non-local telepathic interaction. As the information didn’t necessarily come from one source, this could equally help to explain why it could be fragmented too. After all some connections may be better than others. There did remain one last problem though, what about historic information that reached beyond this or recent generations. My initial thoughts on this were simply that the information was known, but subsequently forgotten. However this wasn’t enough to stretch quite far enough to provide a good explanation.
This was where Sheldrake’s morphic resonance came into the mix as it provides a possible method for that historic information being passed beyond the past to modern times. The information becomes inherited throughout our species and then accessible.
The question is now whether or not this possibility can be tested via some kind of experiment. Then to extend the research beyond this, to see if we can expand our understanding more so.
One thing also worth mentioning is that the pursuit of proof that information such as that acquired by Mediums is directly related to the spirits of those that have passed, is based on belief and a possible requirement to know if there is an afterlife. Where this kind of research isn’t bad, we equally need to search for other possibilities and remain open minded. Although James referred to a cosmic reservoir that suggests a single location out there and accessible; the very notion that he realised the information return was fragmented, suggests a possible understanding of a far more complex system at work.
Although I’ve spoken of the memories or consciousness possibly becoming available post-mortem, I don’t think this is entirely the case. I’m more of the understanding that this information is constantly readily available to be accessed. Equally the information or event memories are linked to others you have and that others have too. As we share memories more often than not with others, our memories exist in multiple minds from varying perspectives. Those memories also remind us of other memories too, as such new are linked to old and as we may understand perhaps future ones too. Sometimes we need to marry more than one idea or theory to find a better understanding.
Although I often work with Mediums and in environments associated perhaps with the investigation of the afterlife, often seeking out spirits; I still try my best to remain balanced in my approach. After all as yet we don’t have all the answers, there could certainly be answers in science and there could equally be a more spiritual understanding to be found. Perhaps research of this type will provide a new understanding that combines both spiritual and science.
One thing that is already evident is that the works of Sheldrake and James contribute to a greater understanding of our comprehension of memories and consciousness, which will be without doubt essential to our future understanding within this topic.