Is memory truly lost after death?

I am intrigued. What happens to human memory on rebirth? This is an issue only for those of us who believe (for good reason) in reincarnation. In this context, I remember a fellow-blogger on WordPress who offered to prove that reincarnation does not happen; but he was no different from those (like Prof. Dawkins, an eminent scientist) who believe that that they can prove the negative; that is, that something is not there.

Within my system of beliefs – initially acquired through childhood, added to by learning, and enhanced by experience (eg. my exposure to the spirit of my uncle) – after death, those who are followers of the ‘forest religions’ of Asia will go Home (for R&R – rest and recreation), while Christians should go to Heaven, right? I have no idea where the others go, or if they go anywhere at all.

My experience with the spirit of my uncle is clear. After Earthly death, the soul which defines him – which is really (and at all times) him – retains its memories. No physical brain is needed. This contradicts the claim (that is all that is) by certain scientists (without any evidence of any kind) that the human mind needs a brain. How would they know that?

My view is that my mind (with its memories) may be ‘located’ within my brain while I am alive. However, as evidenced by some heart-transplant recipients, some memories (as well as some personality traits) are transferred from the donor to the recipient of the donated heart. That is, are some memories actually ‘stored’ in the heart? (Dear, oh, dear! How little we know about ourselves.)

It is, of course, known that injuries to the brain may result in an apparently impaired memory. That would suggest that, while the injured person is alive, the neural pathways in the brain which facilitate access to the stored memories may be blocked. However, the blockage may not be permanent. When I had a heart attack, I lost my memory for some faces. Yet, this memory returned over the years. In the meantime, I searched my mind. Who then am ‘I’? Am ‘I’ separate from my mind and my brain?

There can be no scientific answer for such questions. Why? Because the scientific method is based upon a mechanical materialist paradigm. This requires verifiability based on repeatability of observations and experiences of causal connections to provide that ‘proof’ which we normally seek. In the realm of the ethereal, when what is perceived may need to overcome Maya (that is, the perception may not be ‘real’ in either the Platonic or Hindu sense), the scientific method cannot provide any reliable explanations, or even display causal connections. How can it? What would the movements of (material) particles display in the ‘cloud-land’ of the ethereal?

Take the example of ‘punctuated equilibrium,’ intended to explain the appearance of new fully-coherent species, rather than accept a more probable explanation – that about 71 generations or 1,500 years after a major cosmic catastrophe, natural selection could (would?) produce viable genetically-mutated survivors.

Leaving aside the issue of a reliable path to an understanding of reality, if (since?) souls or spirits in the ‘Hereafter’ (Home or Heaven) continue to possess their Earth minds and memories (as my uncle obviously did), what happens to these when they are re-born into a new Earth body with its own brain? Obviously, some of it is transferred to the new human – but perhaps only in some cases. I refer to the proven past-life memories of some young children all over the world, as identified by academic researchers of renown. (No amount of scepticism can deny their research methods and findings.)

Is the rest deeply buried within the new person? Would this explain some strange intimations I have had throughout my life (confirmed late in life under auto-hypnosis) of geographical areas I have never seen in this life (There was no National Geographic magazine where I grew up and matured). Under stress, I have felt certain ‘instincts’ – relatable to cultures not my own – to achieving justice.

To ponder is to wonder!

Avoiding any malicious spirits and others of like mind

When I grew up in under-developed British Malaya, where poverty was prevalent, one would be silly not to tie down any good which could be stolen. In fact, my family locked all the windows, even those which had bars across them, before we went to bed. Robbery was rife. Lesson 1: One did not put oneself at risk anywhere and at any time.

My father also taught us that, should anyone spit at us as we walked past, we should keep moving – and not to turn the other cheek. Behind the subtlety of that advice was a sound dictum: avoid being targeted by the malicious ignorant (Lesson 2).

Yet, all this year, I have been targeted and harassed by a neighbour. My stress was so great that I broke out in shingles, a very painful affliction. Since then, he had crossed an unfenced boundary, removed 2 trees and a shrub just inside my property, and put up a fence which has encroached onto my property. Not a criminal offence, said the police! You can take them to court, said a lawyer. Any award by the court may not cover your costs, advised an official of the court.

I have been peed upon from a great height; and that happened even as I sought to avoid confrontation. I now follow this advice from Confucius: When the typhoon blows, it is better to bend with the wind (Lesson 3).

In order to avoid the risk of becoming a target in the jungle of social media, I do not participate in any forum which allows the malicious and the silly free rein (Lesson 4). I am grateful that WordPress protects me; it has blocked more than 3,200 ‘scam’ comments, covering my 720 odd posts to date. Since I do not proselytise about any topic, and admit freely that my beliefs are all tentative, I expect reasoned and respectable dialogues, rather than intemperate attacks.

Therefore, in relation to spirits who might seek to be malicious, denying them access by keeping one’s metaphorical doors locked is the only way to live securely and in peace. There then remains this question – is there any evidence that any spirits have behaved with malice? Why would they?

Advanced concepts found in Hindu writings

I offer the following extracts from ‘Advanced concepts in Hinduism’ from the Internet. It is incredible that, way back in time, unknown people in Asia had speculated successfully, or had been told by extra-terrestrials, about matters we consider scientific; and that modern discoveries confirm some of these speculations. The following is an extract from the same site as the material below on the Vedas.

“Advanced Scientific Concepts in Hindu Literature:
Sphericity of Earth, Earth as Flat at poles, Sun the center of the Solar System, Atoms, Universal Time Scale, The Expanding Egg, Concept of Trinity, Hundred thousandths of a second, Airplanes, Description of Tides, Botany and Biology, Electricity and others.”

The material below offers a commentary on the Vedas, ancient writings.
“The Vedas have guided Indian civilization for thousands of years. They are the pillars of Hinduism. ‘Veda is the source of all Dharma’ declares Manusmirti (2.6.) There is no major religion on the planet, which has not been influenced by the Vedas. The creation stories of all major religions are based on Vedas. Though all other religions have forgotten their Vedic root or have been forgotten, there is one religion, Hinduism, that has kept the flame of the Vedic wisdom burning continuously. Vedas which means ‘knowledge’ contain a good deal of scientific knowledge that was lost over millennia, which needs to be recovered. The Vedic sages had discovered the subtle nature of reality, and had coded it in the form of the Vedas.”

“According to Raja Ram Mohan Roy, author of Vedic Physics, “The knowledge contained in the Vedas is very abstruse, and is well beyond the comprehension of ordinary human beings. Therefore Vedic sages coded the knowledge in a simple form in which it could be understood by everyone. The Rig Veda itself testifies that it has a hidden meaning in verse 4.3.16. Sage Bharata in his Natyasastra 2.23 refers to the sages who knew the hidden meaning of the Vedas. This coding of knowledge proved to be very successful in disseminating the knowledge to common folks. This would also explain why extraordinary steps were taken to preserve the Vedas, and the honor given to the Vedas by Hindus, even though its meaning is little understood today. “On the eve of the “Mahabharata War” our ancestors believed that their knowledge was in danger of being lost. They could have written it down, but writings could be destroyed. Therefore, it was memorized and passed on orally. Today, the Avesta, religious scripture of ancient Iranians, only a fraction of it is available. Alexander captured Iran in 326 B.C. and after a bloody war, destroyed each copy of the Avesta available.”

“As in modern physics, Hindu cosmology envisaged the universe as having a cyclical nature. The end of each kalpa brought about by Shiva’s dance is also the beginning of the next. Rebirth follows destruction.”

Author Dick Teresi says “Indian cosmologists, the first to estimate the age of the earth at more than 4 billion years. They came closest to modern ideas of atomism, quantum physics, and other current theories. India developed very early, enduring atomist theories of matter. Possibly Greek atomistic thought was influenced by India, via the Persian civilization.”

Apart from the reference to Alexander (who allegedly wondered whether he had been sired by a god), it is fascinating that advanced understanding was available to us so far back in history. Surely it does not matter whether the relevant information was home-grown (by whom or where), or given to us by extra-terrestrials.

Creation as presented by Hinduism

What is set out below is fascinating. It goes back a very long way in history. It is another view worth looking at, in the light of the many explanations offered by other religions, and by modern cosmologists.

I offer this as one who wants to understand, not pretending that I, or others, will ever know how it all came about. Since I am a Hindu only in this life, and feeling that I have been a Jew and a Muslim (and whatever else) in earlier lives, I do not seek to proselytise. As Sgt. Schultz said (in ‘Hogan’s Heroes’), I know nothing!

Summary of creation hymn from RigVeda
nasadiya sukta – Rig Veda 10:129

Then there was neither existence nor non-existence.
There was no space(air?) nor sky beyond.
What covered everything? Where? In whose protection?
Was there water, deep and bottomless?

There was neither death nor immortality then,
There was no sign of night or day.
That One breathed all by self without any outside support,
Other than that there was nothing else beyond.

There was darkness all wrapped around by darkness,
and all was water then.
The life force which was covered with void arose through
the power of heat(Tapas).

Then arose desire (Love?) which was the primal seed of mind,
Seers searching for knowledge in their heart
found existence in non-existence.

A ray of light energy cut across the dark and gloomy abyss.
Was it beneath? Was it above? who can answer this?
There were bearers of seed and mighty forces,
Pushed from below and forward move above.

Who really knows? Who can confidently declare it?
From which was it born? Who gave raise to this creation?
Even the Gods came subsequent to creation,
Then who can reveal from whence it arose?

That out of which creation arose,
whether it formed by itself or it did not,
He who oversees it from the highest heaven,
only he knows or maybe He does not.

(The above was copied from the internet.)

A commentary on an ancient civilisation

According to John Major Jenkins, a leading independent researcher of ancient cosmology:
“Our understanding of the true age of the ancient Vedic civilization has undergone a well-documented revolution. Feuerstein, Frawley, and Kak have shown conclusively (In Search of the Cradle of Civilization) that the long-accepted age of the Vedic culture—erroneously dated by scholars parading a series of assumptions and unscientific arguments to roughly 1500 BC is much too recent. Evidence comes from geological, archaeological, and literary sources as well as the astronomical references within Vedic literature.

The corrected dating to eras far prior to 1500 BC was made possible by recognizing that precessional eras are encoded in Vedic mythology, and were recorded by ancient Vedic astronomers. As a result, the Indus Valley civilization appears to be a possible cradle of civilization, dated conservatively to 7000 BC.

Western India may thus be a true source of the civilizing impulse that fed Anatolia in Turkey, with its complex Goddess-worshipping city-states of Çatal Hüyük and Hacilar. However, there are layers upon layers of even older astronomical references, and legends persist that the true “cradle” might be found further to the north, in Tibet or nearby Central Asia.

The work of these three writers shows that biases and assumptions within scholarly discourse can prevent an accurate modeling of history and an underestimation of the accomplishments of ancient cultures. The analogous situation in modern Egyptology and Mesoamerican studies also requires that well-documented new theories — often exhaustively argued, interdisciplinary, and oriented toward a progressive synthesis of new data — should be appraised fairly and without bias.

Next to the Australian aborigines, the Vedic civilization is perhaps the oldest continuous living tradition in the world. Its extremely ancient doctrines and insights into human spirituality are unsurpassed. We might expect that its cosmology and science of time has been as misunderstood as its true antiquity. In looking closely at Vedic doctrines of time, spiritual growth, calendars, and astronomy, we will see that a central core idea is that of our periodic alignment to the Galactic Center. And, according to these ancient Vedic beliefs, the galactic alignment we are currently experiencing heralds our shift from a millennia-long descent of deepening spiritual darkness to a new era of light and ascending consciousness. ”

(What is brought out in this article (taken from the Internet) is that astronomical references can be verified when one has an open mind. Yet, European colonialism apparently produced writers claiming that the ‘back peoples’ of Egypt, Mesopotamia and India could not have taught ‘white’ Europeans anything. Presumably, ‘Greeks’ provided all the learning and Judaism provided the necessary religious perspective to Europe long before anyone else became civilised!)

Culture as a weapon

At its simplest level, culture represents the ways we do things in life, underpinned by certain beliefs and values. It produces good conduct, which is essentially uniform across the globe. Yet, it is the weapon of choice in inter-tribal contests reflecting a cult of difference-with-superiority. Who benefits?

Any divergence from instinctively shared rules about good conduct may have derived initially from isolation, and a fear of ‘the other.’ When a number of extended families, each linked by their particular set of genes, evolved pragmatically, or even by necessity, over time into a tribe, they would have been linked by language, and agreement about how to do certain things.

These could range from actions and practices related to tribal harmony, external security, long-term viability (such as outlawing incest), and governance; as well as activities of a creative nature – painting, sculpture, song and dance, and all manner of crafts. Either following the establishment of ritualistic procedures, or associated with that, there may have arisen some philosophical considerations, or simply attempted explanations, about nature and the place of these people within it (including the conservation of necessary natural resources).

There may also have arisen to influence self-selected shamans (or other priesthoods), or individuals seeking authority to rule through a claimed descent from an imputed god in an assumed over-world. A belief system would then have arisen which articulated these distinguishing attributes of the tribe into a coherent whole. Tribal, that is, cultural differences may thus, over time, reflect accidents of development, the need to ensure viability, and the display of power by priests or rulers.

A major issue is whether the cultural differences which have developed over time and across the globe are so different as to warrant or justify inter-tribal separation or even conflict.

In the absence of conflict over resources, differences in the ways people speak or dress, the way they relate to one another, or the ways they cook and eat their foods, do not seem to be important, although certain food taboos may not be shared. How people relate to others not of their kind is, however, strategically affected, not so much by how they pray, but to what (or whom) they pray. Praying to the same god has not led to a unity of minds. Presumably, all the religious people of mankind accept that there is only a sole creator of all that is, named God.

Dogma divides. For what benefit? For the exercise of power, through a cult of difference and implied superiority. Cultural differences based on divergent religious dogma are then emphasised to justify separation and, if necessary, conflict.

Prof. Huntington’s thesis about probable future conflict being between civilisations may yet bear fruit. Wars between religion-derived cultures have already begun.

A sharing of culture

Culture, at its simplest level, is little more than the ways we do things in life, and the underlying beliefs and values which support these ways. Yet, it is a complex of behaviours, with origins, influences, and impacts which are manifold and inter-linked.

Each human baby is born with a unique genetic structure and potential. That may not be all. Hindu philosophy says that, at birth, the baby inherits a soul. The soul is believed to be an ongoing entity, being reincarnated (ie. reborn) again and again, acquiring increasing knowledge and, hopefully, some cosmic merit. Each new-born baby will, according to this philosophy, carry traces of its past lives, thus affecting its responses to events and experiences in the future.

Even without any input from an imputed soul-entity, the baby will certainly bring into the world of human existence an inheritance of a shared capacity and potential for responding to stimuli of all kinds during its life. This innate ability reflects the evolution of the human brain over a long period of time, and seems to be structured and located as neural circuits linking components of the modern brain. This generalised human ability should have no regard for the trivial surface differences which can separate human beings – such as skin colour, facial features, speech, and so on.

We are so much alike that babies everywhere, like sparrows and chickens or kittens and pups, make the same sounds, and respond alike, instinctively, to comparable stimuli all over the world. Inherited genetic differences, including some personality traits from grandparents, will of course serve to distinguish one child from another – sometimes significantly. Such differences, however, can be seen to be generalised over all human populations,
whether Chinese, Maori, European, and so on. For example, an aggressive personality is the same in diverse cultures.

Each culture seeks uniform behaviour from its constituent members. That part of the acculturation process which is involved with the upbringing of its youth to ensure correct to acceptable behaviour, both inside and outside each family and tribe, will produce similar behaviour globally. For, good conduct is, by and large, uniform across cultures; it has to be, has it not, having regard to the shared evolutionary process?

What then of ghosts?

I did write a short, short story about ghosts. They were shown to be malevolent only in the last paragraph. Refer ‘A galaxy of ghosts’ in ‘Pithy Perspectives: a smorgasbord of short, short stories’ (Amazon Kindle ebook at $US 2.99). It is pure fiction. I made up the participants in my imagined events – that is what fiction is all about – defeating reality.

However, a relative of mine told me of the following experience. For a few months, driving along a particular road in Malaysia, he would see a young woman standing by the verge of the road. It was always the same spot. Looking back, she would not be there. That happened in either direction. His various passengers and he reached the conclusion that she was the spirit of the woman killed at the spot; and that she could not yet leave the location of her tragedy (she would have left a few loved ones behind). Similar stories abound – about spirits not willing to leave the site of a tragedy.

One can also read about occurrences – in diverse parts of the world – involving noises made by allegedly unhappy spirits in otherwise occupied homes. Some people claim to have seen such ghosts. True or false? Is it possible that some spirits refuse to go where they are intended to go, or (unbelievably) are unable to?

Then, there is a most pertinent question – have people really seen ghosts? In pre-war Malaya, there were frequent stories of Malays (only Malays) running amok (that is, as if possessed) in their kampongs. They were often reported as carrying ‘parangs,’ a deadly cutting weapon, shorter than a sword. There were also reports of Malays seeing ‘hantus’ (ghosts). Strangely, such occurrences do not seem to have occurred in recent times. Other ethnic communities were not reported to have had comparable experiences. Why only the Malays? I recall them as a nice people, whose children spoke with a soft almost-musical voice.

When life is terribly harsh, and deep fear about survival prevails, could that explain such behaviour and fear? The human imagination is, as one knows, a wondrous facility, capable of conjuring up all manner of scenarios. Is the border between reality (as we know it) and imagined perceptions clearly drawn?

Are all spirits benign?

This issue arose in response to an earlier post that, were residents of the spirit world to offer us guidance, we might accept (after a careful consideration of all the issues) with gratitude. My response is as follows.

What we refer to as a spirit is only the soul of a former resident of Earth, then in human form. That is, a spirit is a disembodied entity believed (in mainly Asian cultures) to participate in a repetitive process of rebirth on Earth. Where would spirits be located between Earthly lives? Who knows? Possibly in another dimension close by.

There can be no purpose in speculating about other planets offering life between Earthly lives (which?) or about other solar systems (unreal!) participating in this alleged process.

When dealing with a belief, there is no point in embellishing it. I instance the recent speculation by some cosmologists about possible multiple universes in existence, as well as a claim by some believers in spiritualism; both categories of these believers suggest that there are, or may be, a number of each of us out there in space! Think about all the copies of Hitler who must have been out there crating hell for other copies of Earth-bound humans.

My second point is that our spirits seem to remain as human as they were on Earth, except perhaps for advanced souls. These may qualify to be described as higher beings.

My next point is that most of us are not touched, or keep away from, fellow humans who are likely to behave maliciously. When confronted by a spirit who is malicious or just intrusive, a woman who described herself as a priestess in a spiritualist group demonstrated that one can just say ‘Go away’! Since spirits cannot unilaterally communicate with us, one should treat any unusual and disturbing activity suspected to involve a denizen of the spirit realm as we would respond to any trouble-maker in our vicinity. Why not indeed! They would just be misguided former humans irrationally displaying negative human attitudes but lacking an Earth body.

Mischievous (ie. fun-loving) spirits may be another matter. I once had an egg insisting on rolling across a level bench-top in my kitchen towards the floor. I just smiled, and put it where it could not possibly roll. And that was that.

A few feminist quotations

Remember, Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in high heels. ~Faith Whittlesey

I wish someone would have told me that, just because I’m a girl, I don’t have to get married. ~Marlo Thomas

Women are the only oppressed group in our society that lives in intimate association with their oppressors. ~Evelyn Cunningham

Nobody will ever win the Battle of the Sexes. There’s just too much fraternizing with the enemy. ~Henry Kissinger

The thing women have yet to learn is nobody gives you power. You just take it. ~Roseanne Barr

Feminism is the radical notion that women are people. ~Cheris Kramarae and Paula Treichler

I, with a deeper instinct, choose a man who compels my strength, who makes enormous demands on me, who does not doubt my courage or my toughness, who does not believe me naïve or innocent, who has the courage to treat me like a woman. ~Anaïs Nin

(From the internet: ‘Quotations: Feminism.’ I was once viewed as a feminist because I had, as national president, introduced women into Australian Rostrum (an organisation akin to Toastmasters of the USA). However, when I was interviewed as a candidate for a senior position in the Prime Minister’s Department in Australia involving women’s affairs, I was viewed by some feminists of the other gender as ‘not one of us.’)