by Len Horridge

Is every experience fully stored?

In mental life nothing which has once been formed can perish.

Sigmund Freud

Interestingly, many believe that the brain (or mind) records everything one experiences; that it is ALL stored away somewhere in the neural network or elsewhere. A large survey of psychologists showed that 84 per cent said that they believe that every experience is stored permanently in the mind.

This runs counter to several respected models of memory, but is based on research.

In the 1930s at the Montreal Institute of Neurology, Canadian neurosurgeon, Wilder Penfield, was probing the temporal lobes of patients plagued by epileptic seizures when he discovered that touching certain parts of the brain caused certain patients to remember previous experiences vividly. This only occurred in 40 out of 520 patients, and critics say that there was no proof that the memories were of actual events and not fabrications or hallucination. Moreover, if the same area was stimulated on a different occasion, a different memory would be elicited, and sometimes the same memories were generated by stimulating different areas. Nor, it must be said, was any attempt made to test the veracity of these apparent memories.

In Penfields’s words, the memories he discovered as he probed the patient’s brains were like flashbacks. In 1974, when he was 83, he completed The Mystery of the Mind, an account for laymen of his investigations of the brain over almost 40 years.

They were electrical activations of the sequential record of consciousness, a record that had been laid down during the patient’s earlier experience. The patient ‘re-lived’ all that he had been aware of in that earlier period of time as in a moving-picture ‘flashback’.

Because I am blessed with an eidetic memory, this is exactly what I experience when I choose to remember something perfectly. I simply allow myself to return to the original experience and it comes back completely refreshed. [Penfield also concluded from his experiments that the brain stores everything its owner has ever experienced in its original form.]

Wilder Graves Penfield, Mystery of the Mind

So from this you could conclude that everything you’ve ever experienced is there in the subconscious. The question isn’t whether you can retain memory; it’s how you can retrieve it.

Holographic model

Following Penfield’s research, it was generally believed that memories were localised in the brain. Karl Pribram hunted for years for the particular engrams or physical spaces in the brain where memories are housed. What he discovered is that memory is non-local. In partnership with Karl Lastly, he discovered when working with rats that no matter how much of the rat’s brain was removed the animal could still perform a variety of tasks. Therefore, long-term memory was not stored in specific locations in the brain after all.

Indiana University biologist Paul Pietsch set out to disprove Pribram’s theories. In a series of over 700 operations on salamanders, however, he discovered that their learned behaviour was not affected by repositioning, reversing or even shuffling the brain. After recovering from the operation, their behaviour returned to normal.

This kind of thinking begins to resonate with some ancient beliefs that consciousness is not a function of the brain, but something that is processed through the brain, yet exists in a domain beyond the material world. In modern terms, this means an energy field around the body and there is now ample evidence that such a field exists.

From all his research, Pribram came up with his theory of the holographic brain. The best book available that explains all the research in this area in laymen’s terms is Michael Talbot’s The Holographic Universe.

As long as I can remember, I have had a flawless eidetic memory (is that a redundant statement?). I was blessed at birth with whatever faculties are necessary in the brain to process incoming information and to retain long term whatever I choose to retain. In contemplating this gift I have done a great deal of research into memory retention, as contemporary science understands it, as well as look into the mechanisms of conscious thought as understood by the ancient wisdom teachings. My conclusion at this point in time is that memory is certainly stored electrochemically in the brain, but as well as in the energy field that surrounds the body. The vehicle for creating and retrieving certain memories is a function of intent and interest.

There are numerous memory courses out there that promise to improve memory by giving certain association tricks and tips. These may work for some kinds of memory retention. I have come to observe that what causes me to have such a perfect memory is that all that I remember is obtained in a moment of interested intent and I am in the present moment with whatever I am experiencing. All eidetic memory consists of is the ability to return to the moment of experience in the mind and everything that was experienced will flood into the present immediately. You don’t have to contrive certain associate events, you just have to return in mind to the experience and all that was involved comes back in total. It is a visual experience because I see everything as it was.

Michael Talbot, The Holographic Universe