Remembering and Beholding
By Dennis Klocek
You are shopping in the grocery store and run across an old friend. You both start to talk about mutual friends and they mention old Ted what’s his name. You draw a blank, then say that his name wasn’t Ted but Fred. Your friend says you are right but that his name was neither Fred nor Ted but maybe Ed. You are sure that it is none of these but you cannot remember the other person’s name. You might even say that you can remember his face but not his name. You agree to change the subject when neither of you can remember. Suddenly, in the middle of another topic, one of you remembers the correct name and you both laugh. This everyday occurrence points to a critical faculty in the development of higher consciousness, the development of the capacity to behold inner pictures instead of remembering them.
In everyday life we are trained by our early schooling to remember large amounts of abstract information. The effort it takes to learn our ABC’s involves tremendous outlays of will forces. Once they are learned however it is not necessary to exert our will in order to read the letters in this sentence. We forget the will it took to recognize the letters initially and simply remember the abstract knowledge which we learned. This type of learning serves us well in the remainder of out formal schooling and indeed throughout life. It does however dim a capacity which is equally present in us as a schoolchild and that is the capacity to imagine in a creative way.
Very young children imagine things as a result of being stimulated by the sense impressions of the environment. The content of the sense impressions dictates the content of the consciousness of the average preschool child. At seven years of age this shifts and our learning is more geared to the forming of inner pictures in which we remember abstract information about sense impressions. We learn to remember the results of learning and forget about the process of the learning. With this forgetting of the process and the focus on the outcome of the learning the capacity to hold an inner picture that is independent of sensory input or abstract informational logic sequences atrophies.
Children can easily live in their inner pictures; adults frequently cannot even form an inner picture except to remember a name or a detail on a map or some similar remembrance. This failure to be able to maintain an active contact with an inner picture has profound consequences for the development of the inner life. As an experiment take, a reproduction of a drawing that you like and from which you get a feeling of calm and stability. Pick an element of the picture and then try to reproduce the image inwardly. Try to watch what happens to the image as you try to hold on to it mentally. See if you can get in touch with the feeling of having the image not respond so readily to your will. How does it feel that the more you try to concentrate on the image the more it seems to wiggle around inside your head? Next make a list of the elements in the picture and write them down. Now try to remember the list you just made. Try to get in touch with how it feels to remember a list of things you just saw. Most people find it much easier to remember the list than to form an inner image.
The strengthened memory function is what an alchemist would call a salt formation. When we form a memory it is as if a little crystal of salt is formed out of the potential of the thing we are trying to remember. When we remember the specific thing as an element on a list we limit our memory to only the things that were on the list. This is the function of this type of memory. The problem with this type of memory is that when it is not functioning correctly we have no recourse to anything to make it function properly. In the initial example in the grocery store, we only remember when we are not trying to remember. This is because by shifting to another topic the mind gets access to a larger more pictorial level of memory in which our will is participating all of the time. This larger, more pictorial level of memory is known as higher beholding. The term comes from the poet Goethe. In higher beholding the mind gets access to what Goethe would call the archetype. For him what is manifest in the world is a revelation of an ideal archetypal movement or idea. It is much more living than the idea which we remember because the archetype consists of the totality of the ideas surrounding a particular thing. Goethe would call this the “becoming” of the thing.
Let’s return to our picture again and look for its “becoming”. Take the same image but this time try to follow the lines of the image as if you were drawing them with your eyes. Rather than looking at the drawing try to look with it. Imagine that your eyes are gliding along with the pencil or pen or brush of the artist. Then inwardly imagine that you are gliding along in the same manner in your inner picturing. You should have the feeling that somehow you are more connected to the image than when you are simply remembering a list of the details. Actually the feeling of looking with is a lot like the feeling of remembering the details. We feel secure that we are connected to the image in the same way that we feel connected to the list. The difference is that when we are gliding along with the becoming of the image we can shift our perspective and participate with the tonal motions or the symbolic motions or the color motions and never lose contact with the inner image. We can even notice that the inner image can dissolve in our inner eye but if we wait in patient silence it will come back again all by itself. This is the source of the curious ability to remember something by forgetting it that we saw in the first example. Learning to look “with” something rather than “at” it is the first step in higher beholding. A more advanced level is known as conscious forgetting. More about that next time.
Dennis Klocek, MFA, is co-founder of the Coros Institute, an internationally renowned lecturer, and teacher. He is the author of nine books, including the newly released Colors of the Soul; Esoteric Physiology and also Sacred Agriculture: The Alchemy of Biodynamics. He regularly shares his alchemical, spiritual, and scientific insights at dennisklocek.com.
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