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Section 3

3. With this prologue we come to our discussion of Memory.

That the soul, or mind, having taken no imprint, yet achieves perception of what it in no way contains need not surprise us; or rather, surprising though it is, we cannot refuse to believe in this remarkable power.

The Soul is the Reason-Principle of the universe, ultimate among the Intellectual Beings- its own essential Nature is one of the Beings of the Intellectual Realm- but it is the primal Reason-Principle of the entire realm of sense.

Thus it has dealings with both orders- benefited and quickened by the one, but by the other beguiled, falling before resemblances, and so led downwards as under spell. Poised midway, it is aware of both spheres.

Of the Intellectual it is said to have intuition by memory upon approach, for it knows them by a certain natural identity with them; its knowledge is not attained by besetting them, so to speak, but by in a definite degree possessing them; they are its natural vision; they are itself in a more radiant mode, and it rises from its duller pitch to that greater brilliance in a sort of awakening, a progress from its latency to its act.

To the sense-order it stands in a similar nearness and to such things it gives a radiance out of its own store and, as it were, elaborates them to visibility: the power is always ripe and, so to say, in travail towards them, so that, whenever it puts out its strength in the direction of what has once been present in it, it sees that object as present still; and the more intent its effort the more durable is the presence. This is why, it is agreed, children have long memory; the things presented to them are not constantly withdrawn but remain in sight; in their case the attention is limited but not scattered: those whose faculty and mental activity are busied upon a multitude of subjects pass quickly over all, lingering on none.

Now, if memory were a matter of seal-impressions retained, the multiplicity of objects would have no weakening effect on the memory. Further, on the same hypothesis, we would have no need of thinking back to revive remembrance; nor would we be subject to forgetting and recalling; all would lie engraved within.

The very fact that we train ourselves to remember shows that what we get by the process is a strengthening of the mind: just so, exercises for feet and hands enable us to do easily acts which in no sense contained or laid up in those members, but to which they may be fitted by persevering effort.

How else can it be explained that we forget a thing heard once or twice but remember what is often repeated, and that we recall a long time afterwards what at first hearing we failed to hold?

It is no answer to say that the parts present themselves sooner than the entire imprint- why should they too be forgotten?- [there is no question of parts, for] the last hearing, or our effort to remember, brings the thing back to us in a flash.

All these considerations testify to an evocation of that faculty of the soul, or mind, in which remembrance is vested: the mind is strengthened, either generally or to this particular purpose.

Observe these facts: memory follows upon attention; those who have memorized much, by dint of their training in the use of leading indications [suggestive words and the like], reach the point of being easily able to retain without such aid: must we not conclude that the basis of memory is the soul-power brought to full strength?

The lingering imprints of the other explanation would tell of weakness rather than power; for to take imprint easily is to be yielding. An impression is something received passively; the strongest memory, then, would go with the least active nature. But what happens is the very reverse: in no pursuit to technical exercises tend to make a man less the master of his acts and states. It is as with sense-perception; the advantage is not to the weak, the weak eye for example, but to that which has the fullest power towards its exercise. In the old, it is significant, the senses are dulled and so is the memory.

Sensation and memory, then, are not passivity but power.

And, once it is admitted that sensations are not impressions, the memory of a sensation cannot consist in the retention of an impression that was never made.

Yes: but if it is an active power of the mind, a fitness towards its particular purpose, why does it not come at once- and not with delay- to the recollection of its unchanging objects?

Simply because the power needs to be poised and prepared: in this it is only like all the others, which have to be readied for the task to which their power reaches, some operating very swiftly, others only after a certain self-concentration.

Quick memory does not in general go with quick wit: the two do not fall under the same mental faculty; runner and boxer are not often united in one person; the dominant idea differs from man to man.

Yet there could be nothing to prevent men of superior faculty from reading impressions on the mind; why should one thus gifted be incapable of what would be no more than a passive taking and holding?

That memory is a power of the Soul [not a capacity for taking imprint] is established at a stroke by the consideration that the soul is without magnitude.

And- one general reflection- it is not extraordinary that everything concerning soul should proceed in quite other ways than appears to people who either have never enquired, or have hastily adopted delusive analogies from the phenomena of sense, and persist in thinking of perception and remembrance in terms of characters inscribed on plates or tablets; the impossibilities that beset this theory escape those that make the soul incorporeal equally with those to whom it is corporeal.