Breakthrough to Memory

An excerpt from my book Eye Of Dreams

“I dreamt I am walking along a cobbled road going slightly down–hill. I know as I dream that I am in Italy. I do not feel a stranger in this land, and am learning the language.” Ron.

Ron describes his exploration and insights into the dream by saying:

This was a very short dream and I didn’t think it had any real significance, but I was regularly exploring my dreams, and it interested me because I couldn’t understand what it referred to in showing me learning the language. I had never learned Italian and was not doing so.

When I relaxed and allowed the free flow of my associations and feelings, the first part of the dream was easy. My father was born in England of two Italian parents. So being in Italy, a country I had never visited myself, I could immediately feel and understand as referring to my family on my father’s side and the influences that has left in the way I think and live.

But I felt myself falling deeper into the dream. It was something I had learned to do. I not only kept the question ticking over quietly of what does the dream indicate, but at the same time I relaxed control of my thoughts, my body and emotions. This is like being half asleep in a state where the body can twitch spontaneously, and perhaps I can even hear myself making slight vocal sounds, and yet I am wide–awake watching what arises. Because of this state a flow of memories began to arise about my father, and I realised something I had only been partially aware of before.

My father had taken over the family shop when his father had died. The shop was in London, just over a mile away from the old Covent Garden fruit and vegetable market. Most days my father walked, pushing a barrow, and in later years drove to the market to buy produce for the shop. I often went with him, helping carry and load, and perhaps push the barrow. In my youth I wasn’t aware of it, but now in my flowing memories I realised that my father was very distant or cautious in his dealings with the market salesmen and porters. A distinct and overall realisation arose out of the many memories and impressions; it was that my father was expressing a particular type of caution in all his dealings with other people. I saw this as keeping who he was secret – keeping his head down.

As I saw this in my father it hit me with great power that this attitude had passed to me, and although I expressed it in a different way, I had inherited it with equal strength. Why? And, how?

The perception that was taking place was not like my normal thinking. It comprehensively gathered memories and put them together in a way that made patterns and themes stand out. So as the process of insight was taking place I saw just how the urge to keep my head down, not stand out in the crowd, not get involved with people, had influenced my actions. For a start I had never voted in my life. This was because I could never identify with groups pushing for power. I had avoided everyday social activity, although relationships with individuals were not threatening.

Now I started seeing how this attitude had passed to me so strongly. My thought, as I witnessed the flow of memories, was that perhaps such information was genetic, because my father had never talked to me much at all. He had certainly never urged me to keep out of the limelight – to keep my head down, and until now I hadn’t been aware that he had been doing it himself, so it wasn’t simply conscious emulation. I can only say that I ‘saw’ how it had happened. What I mean is that through the still flowing memory and feelings it was as if I could actually look into the heart of things and see how they worked. The insight I achieved was that we as humans, like other mammals, in our earliest years particularly, still learn like most mammals do, and that is not verbal at all. A massive amount of information is absorbed from our parents without any effort or awareness.

What Ron realised is that just as a fox cub ‘learns’ how to hunt from its parents, so we absorb the deeply etched survival strategies of our parents simply by being around them. If genes come into it anywhere, they perhaps create the reflex response that instinctively draws in the survival tactics that perhaps even our parents themselves have never really been aware they live by. In doing this the higher animals learn what cannot be passed on as instinct, what is not ‘hard wired’ into them. This holds in it a tremendous advantage because ‘hard wiring’ takes a long time. Through this faster method we learn what to be afraid of, what to eat, how to hunt, because the lessons learned by pain through many generations are exhibited in our parents behaviour in dealing with events. The experiments with apes in Japan, where Imo the macaque ape learned the ability to wash sweet potatoes to remove sand grains, show how this was passed on from this one female to the whole group, and then to subsequent young macaques, and illustrates how survival information is passed on non verbally for generations. An important aspect of this is that whatever of such information is held in the present generation, it is an accumulation of skills and responses learned over many generations, and is the fundamental survival strategies of that particular family or group line. [i]

Ron goes on to say:

The degree of this was staggering to me. It led me to wonder just where my father had got the information from, and although this was obvious from my own perception of where I had received the messages from, the resulting experience profoundly moved and impressed me. It taught me things about myself I don’t think I could have learned in any other way. A floodgate of impressions rushed into my awareness at such a pace I can only record the main ones.

Suddenly my mind let the power of the messages my father had carried and passed to me speak, as if they were alive. I experienced what appeared to be a direct connection with my far ancestors. This may sound strange, but my father had, as it were, handed me a recording. He and I had been impressed with the cover and it had led us to live in a particular way. But now I had put the recording on the player and the ancient originators expressed their own message.

Obviously this is only an analogy to convey the experience, but in some way the message played out in me from centuries back. From it I learned that my forebears had lived in Italy during a period of great religious and political tension. The pressures to conform had been enormous. Not only were my ancestors told to believe in a particular sort of God, but also to accept leadership from people they had no respect for. If they did not live this belief and submit to it they were killed or rejected by the community they had been born into. In their own words I heard them saying to me something like ‘The worst was they did not kill us, but they cut our vine at the roots. They burnt our land and they killed our children. If you want your sons to live, teach them not to hold their head up, but to keep their eyes on the ground.’

And out of that trauma the message had been passed to me many generations later. It was survival. I was still living it, but perhaps it was time to reappraise.

I Am an Ancient Thing

Ron’s description helps us look at what is a common experience, and in a different way, an established observation in biology. It is common knowledge that animals learn through example. It is common knowledge that traits pass on through generations. What is added here is the powerful way such behaviour can pass on in humans. It shows how we communicate behaviour to our children without any conscious intention. Looking through the eye of dreams we see here a psychological or psychic [ii] realm that extends beyond the mere transmission of behaviour. It includes or leads to meaning, to understanding ones roots. This may seem mysterious or unfeasible if one has not actually experienced the way the dream process puts apparently abstract experience into imagery leading to insight. [iii] If one has witnessed this process at work, what Ron speaks of does not seem remarkable.

Looking through the eye of Ron’s dream there is a suggestion that aspects of Ron’s personality did not begin with his birth. Parts of his personality preceded his birth, being carried and passed on by his father. This module or facet of Ron’s character had been formed hundreds of years previously. It had been part of the lives of his forebears, and had been carried forward into his life. It did not pass on to Ron through any genetic material. It entered him through absorption of the behaviour of his parent. So it is saying that just as the genes we receive are ancient and passed to us, this survival information is also ancient and passed on. It influences who we are as profoundly as any genes.

Of course, Ron is only seeing his connection with his father. There would also be packages of behaviour and information handed to him by his mother. [iv] So not only can one have a ‘gene pool’ from which our being is formed, there is also a ‘behavioural pool’ acting as a similar resource. This does not so much shape the body, but certainly gives form to the character and responses. In fact unlike the genetic passage where a set of genes in the mother is united with a set from the father, the behavioural pool may have several ‘sets’ or packages which can be triggered by different environmental circumstances. My experience suggests that the behavioural packages from the mother and father certainly do not splice as do the genes.

The behaviour Ron observed in himself, in his father and grandfather, although according to Ron’s insight it arose at a particular period in history, it obviously rested upon traits already existing in the family from an even more ancient past. So the trauma of persecution may have modified existing traits rather than set in place entirely new ones.

Because of pre–existing traits, another family might have responded quite differently to being subjugated. They might have pushed for dominance rather than anonymity. They may have aggressively opposed, sought opportunity to join the ranks of power, or actively supported as a subordinate.

This is supposition based on insufficient evidence; but if the basic idea of the passage of behaviour is correct, it shows human nature as having several dimensions to what forms who they know themselves to be. These are almost like different streams from the past meeting in the person, and in some way passing on into the future, perhaps separated again. For instance we have the stream arising from the body and its genetic material; we have the stream arising from cultural language with all its massive inbuilt data; we have the behavioural pool that we inherit, again with massive innate information. When we begin to look at what it is to be human from this perspective we see we are multi dimensional creatures, existing in the flow of huge streams of influence. And these streams themselves mingle in different ways creating a variety of experiences and further dimensions.

Coming back to Ron though, there is certainly a transitory and short lived aspect to him, in that his unique body and many of his personality traits will only exist during his physical life. But facets of Ron have existed for millions of years – in the genetic stream for instance. And even in his highly ephemeral personality itself, there are parts that have had a long life before Ron woke to his personal existence. For instance the language he was brought into existence by and the behavioural influences he absorbed.

This makes nonsense of the myth that we only have eternal life through procreation. It also suggests that if Ron identifies with the aspects of himself that are short lived, such as the transitory aspects of his body, his less permanent personality traits, his changing likes and dislikes, then he faces death. All that he thinks of as himself will perish. In this sense he cannot survive bodily death.

In fact it seems as if Western society faces the issue of death in a much more catastrophic way than other cultures. The reason for this is that many older cultures see the personality as transitory anyway, and identify more fully with the family ancestors and the longer lasting aspects of life.

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[i] See

[ii] I am using the word psychic here to mean something relating to the psyche, the mind and emotions of the human being.

[iii] W.V. Caldwell, writing about the way Van Rhijn has defined the levels of consciousness says there are four stages:

The deeply unconscious physiological process, such as cell generation and digestion. Problems which cannot move more fully into consciousness and so are held at this level, become psychosomatic pains or illness. This becomes clearer if we consider human life in relationship with other life forms. A plant for instance might have some sort of bacterial illness, but would not be able to bring that to awareness. In a sense many things which occur to us, although they are very real and definite, never become a part of our conscious life, but always remain in the `plant’ level. If they are to move from ‘deeply unconscious physiological process’ to becoming known consciously, there are stages such events go through.

As the physiological or psychobiological process moves nearer consciousness, its next level of expression is postural or gestural. Thus we may express our deepest hidden feelings in an unconscious body posture or movement. Not only our feelings express in this way, but also our physical tone or health shows in our postures gestures and movements. Even the plant droops if it needs water.

Next, when something moves from the gestural to the next stage of expression it becomes a dream or a symbol, which although it may not be understood, is now entering the arena of awareness. This is a very important stage, and is perhaps the earliest level of ‘thinking’ known to animals and humans. This is a half way stage which depicts the deeply unconscious event as images or feeling tones.

At this stage, what had been deeply unconscious, then symbolised, now becomes known enough to be verbalised or thought about and analysed. If one had attempted to verbalise something in level two it would have been so far outside of consciousness as to defy description. Also, when looking at these levels or stages, they suggest that the dream process is a means by which deeper stages can be portrayed to awareness in order to make them known. Therefore, by working with the dream process, we can tap deeper levels of awareness and make them known.

[iv] Because there is the possibility of unfolding the passed traits of behaviour into personal insight, I use the word information.

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