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
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.
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