Common Ground: The Kinship of Metaphysicians
A syncretic approach to esoteric teachings - the golden threads that connect Pagans, Yogis, Rosicrucians and Masons.
The Problem with Memories
The subject of memory has become something of a bugbear with me. I remember a lot of things from my childhood which are now impossible to confirm…and this makes me wonder whether my memories are real. I believe they are, but I have no proof. The few people still alive who were around then have their own recollections, which deal with different events from my own.
The reason it's become important for me to verify memories is that, five years into our marriage, my wife spontaneously retrieved a wonderful memory that had been suppressed till then - something that happened, she said, when we had been married for only one month.
We were staying overnight in my Dad's apartment in New York City. Ravyn went to the bathroom in the middle of the night and, upon coming out, encountered my mother standing in the hallway. The two of them sat down on the floor in their nighties and had a wonderful long talk, like two priestesses sharing women's secrets by moonlight. Mom told her how much she loved me, and asked Ravyn to take good care of me. They were both attractive, slender, flexible women; Ravyn was 36, Mom was 59.
The thing, though, is that my wife never knew my Mom - because my mother died seven months before Ravyn and I met. To complicate matters, Ravyn didn't "remember" this incident until five years after the fact - after she had been hospitalized for depression and hearing voices, and had gone through a week of electro-convulsive shock therapy.
In recent years, she has somehow developed two separate repositories for short-term memories. Some days she can recall certain events easily, while on other days she has no recollection of them whatsoever - but she remembers other events. All of her memories are real, mind you; she is not delusional. Her brain is just selective as to when it remembers which ones.
True believers will say that the shock treatments jogged Ravyn's brain to release the repressed memory of meeting my mother, the same way in which UFO abductees remember under hypnosis their experiences in flying saucers. But a skeptic will say it never happened, it was a symptom of her illness. The ECT confused separate associations and put them together in her mind to form one creative - but delusional - story.
Ravyn felt like she knew my Mom - actress Barbara Britton - because Mom was the Revlon girl on TV. Ravyn credits my mother with teaching her how to take care of her nails! But, in the flesh, the two of them never had the chance to meet.
It sure sounds like Mom, though, to sit down on the floor in her night gown and have an informal, comfortable chat with a new family member; I can see her doing it so clearly! I also know that she loved me as only a mother can love her first born child, and was worried that I was floundering about and had lost my sense of purpose. She would have been delighted that Ravyn had come into my life to save me. She would have loved her immediately, just as I did.
It makes sense that Mom's spirit might have stayed for some months around my grieving father and the home she loved, where she spent her last painful days. As she was only 59, there is a high likelihood that she died with unfinished business - the resolution of my life's direction being only one of several concerns. It comforts me profoundly to hear that Ravyn saw her restored to health. Pancreatic cancer had shrunk her body to an agonized skeleton.
So, I believe that my mother's spirit communicated with my wife, in exactly the way Ravyn described it to me. But these gifts are always vouchsafed in forms that can be questioned, with some element that allows for doubt and demands a leap of faith. If only Ravyn had told me about it the next morning, as soon as we woke up! Why did five years have to go by, before she could recall it?
Research has shown that memory is easily manipulated. A recent example is the way well-meaning therapists unintentionally encouraged their patients to create "memories" of childhood sexual abuse. It seems that many of those cases may not have happened at all, but were invented by the patients in unconscious response to their therapists' cues. So I am left with the only factual statement I can make: I believe what I want to believe.
It has been suggested that spirits do indeed visit us – but more in a rush of feeling and intuitional presence, to which our minds may add structure later on. As we try to give a coherent description of what we experienced, we may need to flesh-out some information to complete the picture. Supplying a familiar sort of interaction enables the experience to make sense.
It is much more common to have discussions with deceased loved ones in dreams. Perhaps the electrical stimulus to Ravyn's brain resurrected a buried dream memory, and made it seem like a waking experience. Which would still make it a welcome and wonderful communication! Just not so unique, for its physical aspect.
But I believe it really happened. Ravyn's description rings true; it would have been totally in character for my creative, quirky, spontaneous Mom to have done and said everything that my wife remembers.
As with the Delphic Oracle, who also inhabited a reality apart from the mundane, when one Goddess-touched Priestess conveys a message from another, a wise man should set aside his intellectual chauvinism and pay respectful attention.
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