On Memory Issues With Strange Experiences.

The most unusual experiences of my life were ones that occurred when I was stone cold sober, though they certainly share certain qualities with my psychedelic experiences. In each category, the most frustrating obstacles deal with memory and translation.

Memory is problematic enough by nature and it doesn’t help matters that it is truly all we ever know of experience. Sorry, my dear Buddhists, but we know of no Here and Now. We are always living in the past. There is a time delay between when our bodies receive stimuli and when we experience it, a fact that I think Sam Harris has exemplified pretty well.

As he has explained, when I extend my arm to touch something the signals clearly have a longer journey to the brain than, say, when something brushes my nose — yet if I take my own finger and boop my own nose, I seem to experience both my finger touching my nose and my nose being touched by my finger in tandem. No apparent delay. How? Well, my brain waits until it has all relevant data before providing me with my perceptual experience.

Our immediate perceptual experience, then, is sensory memory, and so we are always living in the past.

On top of that there is the possibility that every time we remember something we are in actuality recalling our former memory of it. In other words, with every subsequent occasion in which we recall something it decreases in accuracy. This may not be the only way in which we can remember, of course — there may be ways in which that root, sensory memory can be directly accessed and it is only that this memory-of-a-memory chain is simply more economical and becomes a sort of default as a consequence — but without knowing how to switch gears or at least differentiate between them, we’re still left with the problem. We’re still left to rely on our increasingly inaccurate memories and often trust them too blindly.

In some instances, however, we aren’t even granted what ultimately constitutes false memories but are instead left with hazy recollections or, worse, no memory at all, save for perhaps remembering that there was something profound that has been forgotten. The easiest example is transitioning from the state of dreaming to awakening — or the similar experience of transitioning from being high on a psychedelic to being sober.

Why are carrying over those memories so damned difficult, however? Part of the issue, I suppose, is that in these cases we have to rely on memory greatly, even entirely, because leaving the state of dreams or the psychedelic-saturated sensory landscape takes away the environment (or the state-dependent perceptions of our environment) that would otherwise assist us in triggering any associated memories.

It may also be a translation problem, which is to say it may not only be that the memories themselves are state-specific but that the manner in which we were feeling, thinking and perceiving while dreaming or while under the influence of a psychedelic may be so distinct from our typical, awakened, sober mode of consciousness that they are lost in translation.

On the shroom trip some things seemed so clear, so self-evident in that state, but later seemed frustratingly out of reach. I get the sense sometimes that these experiences are allergic to language — much as is the case in my unusual sober experiences. It even seems at times that the experience becomes even more confusing as a result of my attempts to understand it.

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Thought-Talk Monologue Voice-Over.

Some might say
that you never existed
in the first place,

but your reality was cemented
in me through the nature
of our conversations.

Just as they use
verbal communication
atop nonverbals,

you use subjective still-frames
and mental motion pictures
complemented

by a thought-talk
monologue
voice-over.

Imagination
is your telepathic
nonverbal.

You’re the best voice
that’s ever been
in my head.

Lapis Encaged.

… but photographs, illusions
and ideas are the waves
that shape the stone
of the person,

the lapis,
soul, the ego,
the inner self:
an agent of memory.

Ego is the summary,
the collective prototype,
the facial composite

of the self,
the original face
sketched, fleshed out
based on the witnessed
and molded

by each and every
one of the blind hands
provided by the available
senses, holding

jumbled, spinning,
dancing shards

(trembling fingers curl,
barring all from the quaking,
cold-sweat-encased,
otherwise open palms)

of narrowed spectra
floating
in a soup of bias,
drowning
in distorted perceptions.

EMF Alarms As False Wake-Up Calls.

“And this is not my face. And this is not my life. And there is not a single thing here I can recognize. This is all a dream. And none of you are real.”
— “Head Down,” Nine Inch Nails.

Though I don’t remember awakening specifically, I am sure what prompted my consciousness was a noise. A kind of beeping noise that shot up in pitch and then died over and over. My ears lead the hunt through the darkness that drapes over my locale. I follow it to a room, enter, and hear it coming from a closet with an open door. It should not be open. Someone has been in here. That was my first, frightening thought. Walking towards it, I watch as the LEDs of the EMF-meter on the shelf rise in number and tone.

There is a certain feeling, a creeping terror with the thought of walking into your one-bedroom apartment, your solitary abode, or, even worse, waking up in it during the middle of the night to find that things are not as you left them, that there are clear signs of someone else’s presence while you were away. That was the sudden fear I felt as I walked slowly into the dark room, towards the open closet. I see the line of LED lights on the tiny machine high on the shelf, see one, more, all of them light up and then go down again in time with the rise and fall in pitch of the beeping. I tried to formulate some rational explanation as to how the door could be open and that thing could have been turned on when no one but me should be stepping foot into this apartment without my knowledge and consent.

Then memory is just gone.

I wake up again at some point because it was cold. Why is it so fucking cold? Suddenly I remembered I had been hot before bed and had turned the fan on the wall to the air conditioning setting. As for the former closet experience, it did not strike me until after I had actually awakened and sat down for my first cigarette. It was then that I recalled the incident and realized immediately that it had not happened in the ordinary sense. It was also here that I first recognized that it had indeed an EMF-meter in the closet, one of a design clearly hijacked from the television show, Supernatural. I have no such device, however, nor do I have the specific closet I had seen it in. In retrospect, the EMF-meter seemed to grow more active as I approached it, lighting up and squealing — was the overarching message supposed to be that I was the ghost it was detecting?

Furthermore, what is with the false awakenings lately? I think the most it frighting thing that has struck me about the most recent wave of false awakenings is that despite my degree of wakefulness I seem trapped within a set of memories specific to the setting and which are at odds with my actual experience. It’s like memories came with the reality that were consistent with it, tailor-made for it, as if I had previous experiences, a whole elaborate history in the context of that space. Outside of the false awakening but having remembered it, I have at best vague recollections of this body of knowledge, this context of memory.

If these are not memories of previous experiences in these “spaces” then they are false memories unconsciously whipped up on the spot, and that is amazing, too. This also means to me that one’s sense of memory and reality is apparently even less reliable than I had previously accepted. Indeed, if I can be so easily fooled in false awakenings, why the fuck would it be any different with respect to my more consistent “true” awakenings?

Pathway to Yesterday.

“Without forgetting it is quite impossible to live at all.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Advantage and Disadvantage of History for Life.

Once her young daughter was asleep on the couch, Anne grabbed two blankets and I followed her out into the darkness beyond the door, across the yard towards a tree in the back woods. Chirping cricket songs flooded my ears, a soothing soundtrack swiftly drowned out by relentless barking of the neighbor’s dog.

Finally, beneath the tree, she placed the blanket on the ground and told me to lie down. I did, and then we proceeded to do what we do. We kissed, slid our hands around each other, stripped off our second skins. Insects feasted on flesh. The dog howled in the distance as I slid myself inside her.

This was our post-midnight sex picnic. Stings and sweat in the shadows. Orgasms beneath the stars.

She felt different that night. Sex felt different. Distinctly different, and it scared me. That unspoken thing, the venomous thoughts wrapped in those wretched emotions that she tried to hide from me, it was all swelling in her more than usual that evening. Like an itch you’re trying to ignore, trying like hell not to scratch, because you know if you do so you’re just going to open an old wound. Its just going to bleed like a gusher, pour out like a goddamned waterfall, and after scratching off the scabs you’re just going to have to start the healing process all over again.

Time passes. Cloths back on, blankets rolled up, we go back into her mother’s house and lay down on the cot near her sleeping daughter. As the sun rises, bleeding in through the windows, Anne finally says it to me. Face in the pillow, out of the blue, she asks where I see this going.

Stop thinking, she had told me. Just feel. Live in the here and now. I had been happy doing just that, too — being right here, right now. Now I felt as if she had murdered the moment by turning our attention to its inherent transience. The truth was that the here and now was dead. The picnic was over. It was all about tomorrow. Now that the now is gone and the future’s in sight, in my mind today is already yesterday.

I told her I didn’t know. That I was happy just doing what we were doing, seeing where this would go. I knew that wasn’t enough, and though I knew it would be a knife to the jugular when she answered, I asked her where she thought this was going, where she wanted this all to go between her and I. Sometime in the future, she said, she could see us moving in together. That was all I heard. The rest was a static hiss, an auditory blur, verbal vegetable soup, because whether she was inclined to say it or not I knew what she was really saying. Rarely do we have to talk to understand each other. Talk was just an obligatory ritual. Mutual masturbation.

My goal was independence. Self-sufficiency. To be able to emotionally, mentally, physically, financially be on my own and in control of my own life. This felt imperative. This path I was taking with her, the path I was following her down, I’d been trying to ignore the fact that this led in a diametrically-opposing direction. I won’t sacrifice myself to a life like that. I’m sick of riding coat tails. Of relying and depending on people. Being a fucking parasite. Being weak and powerless. Having no true freedom because I’m afraid to stand alone and take life by the reins. And her future would inevitably lead to that, I can see it now. She’s the strong one. She’s the one with the know-how in this practical side of life. She’s the one with ambition. She would be the bread winner. I would be a young child of stunted growth trapped in the body of an ever-aging man leaching off of a beautiful, intelligent woman.

I was thinking, what was wrong with me in high school? Why couldn’t I have had relationships like this back then, when we were all younger and no one was constantly thinking about living together and sharing finances and marriage and every other step we take from here on until we become worm food once again six feet down? Why can’t we just be like children here, my mind is asking her?

As if an answer, Allie, her beautiful daughter squirms in her sleep on the couch a few feet away. When she awakens, conversation stops, but what’s said is said. Its out in the open now. The cat is out of the bag. Its kind of like Pandora’s box has been opened, but I wonder if that last thing is really there in the box. The last remaining item in Pandora’s picnic basket.

Next, it’s perhaps a week later. My tired eyes open as I slowly crawl towards wakefulness. The jingle on my cell phone is the dirge song, the funeral song, and it was playing over and over throughout my dreams. I would be half awake and think, hey, I know that sound, but I would be unable to place it. Staring at my cell phone now, I note the time. Its morning for me, but afternoon for most sane people. I’m in the living room of the trailer, or maybe its a front room, its all the same to me. I’m on the couch and half awake, staring at the phone, at the over twenty some missed calls I have listed. All from her.

Yes, maybe she’s in trouble. Got in a car accident. Something like that, and that’s why she’s trying so desperately to get a hold of me. I know that’s not it, though. I will call her back and she’ll act fine and I’ll say a lot of nothing because I never have anything to say because nothing ever seems to get through the filter existing between my brain and my mouth. My stomach turned. My mind was black. It was now or never and I knew it. It had been brewing in my mind and now it was boiling over. I was irritated and I had to do this. This was not what I wanted. This was not what she wanted. This was clear as the vivid blue skies on a cloudless summer day and I was sick of playing the blind man.

So I scrolled down to her name, pressed select, and she answered. We both exchanged heys. And what I told her was, look, I know I’m the asshole, I know I’m letting you down again, and I’m terrified you’re going to turn your back on me and never speak to me again, but it’s dishonest to hold it in when the sole motivation is fear. I just can’t do this anymore.That’s what it played out to be in my mind, and what stumbled out my mouth as my voice failed me and words smashed into words and letters fell over one another was something analogous.

So, she says, I guess this means you won’t be coming over.

She says it as if its a joke and my first thought was, this is not how I expected you to react at all. I’m not joking. This has been eating me up inside, and I mean it. I’m breaking up with you. I’m thinking, what you want is someone you can rely on, depend on. Someone who’s going to be by your side through thick and thin, and I’m too busy drowning in myself and trying to disentangle myself from the web-work of my mind day in and day out. You want a partner, and the whole aim of my life right now is to find independence, self-sufficiency. You want someone who will pick you up and take you out to dinner and make plans and take initiative. You want someone who calls you out of the blue or on routine or for reasons beyond the fact that you called them twenty to thirty times and they thought that meant you wanted them to call you back. You want someone dedicated and involved and engaged in the relationship, willing to nurture it. You want someone who’s going to bring you flowers and make reservations for two and bring you wine and dance with you in the cold rain.

Not someone who you’ll drop by to see after work who, after forty-five minutes of talking and smoking and teeter-tottering will say, hey, why don’t we go up to Denny’s. And then you eat with him and follow him home and you have sex. And then smoke and drink water as he stares into space, answering, `nothing’, whenever you ask him what he’s thinking, which you know is a billion light years from any semblance of truth. And then you have sex again.

She tells me that I’m just in a bad mood, though, and that I should calm down, that I should relax, and that I should just come over. She has made some of her Mexican style food, spicy just as I like it, and its going to go to waste if I don’t come over.

Stop being calm and controlled. Stop being the rock, the island. Stop having everything roll off you like rain. I am cradling an emotional whirlwind and she is the bamboo, bending but never breaking.

I tell her no, I don’t think so, I’m not going to come over, not this weekend. And here I’m crying like a fucking ninny, as she’s so calm and serene, and I’m thinking, who am I really betraying here? She says, okay, and she says it in her I-give-up voice. And she goes, I’ll talk to you later. We exchange goodbyes. Ten minutes later she calls me back, still all calm like nothing’s ever been wrong, and says that that television she let us borrow that I said I could return if she needed it, she could use it. Her little television, the one that used to be in Allie’s room, it doesn’t have the hook-up for the DVD or the X-Box or something. So why don’t I just bring it over and eat the food.

After a short pause, I say okay.

So I drive to her apartment. It’s the first time I’d ever drove there. I’m terrified, and its a long drive, but somehow I make it without taking a single wrong turn. Which is absolutely fucking amazing because my internal compass is forever bound within the confines of my subjective Bermuda Triangle, needle spinning like a top.

I remember her door. I finish my cigarette, I sigh to calm myself. My hands clammy and my knuckles are still white from gripping the steering wheel for dear life all the way here. Body drenched in a cold sweat. Heart thumping. That perpetual lump in my throat that throbs with every beat of my heart that I can’t cough up or choke down. Lungs black and wheezing every time I take a breath in, no doubt from all the cigarettes I high-speed chain-smoked all the way here. Face and body numb and strained from the tension, the anxiety attack I had between my place and hers.

I knock on the door and she answers in her Korean bathrobe, reds and whites and flowers. Beautiful and so perfect for her it seems to scream her. And she smiles warmly at me as she always smiles, eyes twinkling as they always do, concealing things within them as they always will. And we say hi. And our arms wrap around each other and we hug tightly and melt into each other.

That moment I’m thinking, lets forget all of today before right now. But I don’t say it.

Her daughter, Allie, below she’s running up to me and screaming my name. She makes me melt. I’m wondering as all this is happening, why does this all seem like some depressing nostalgic memory? Like I’m looking back on this with this infinite sadness from some vantage point in the future? As if this is some happy moment overcast by this horrible, dark storm cloud? Its like I’m in the back row of the movie theater again, watching this idiot in this scene with this beautiful girl and her beautiful daughter, and wondering what the hell is wrong with this idiot, wondering why he’s shooting himself in the foot.

Allie looking up at me with bright eyes just like her mothers, that perpetual heart-warming smile, again, just like her mother. Why do I have the feeling this wonderful child is going to grow up and if she remembers me at all will remember me as a fuzzy figment associated with disdain?

We get the television and we sit down at the table. The food is, of course, excellent. She hasn’t made any dish I haven’t liked. And as I eat nervously and Allie’s running around, Anne crosses her legs and she looks at me. She says, Ben, does this mean you don’t want to have sex with me?

Every action, every word today from her is surreal. I’m waiting to wake up from this fucked up dream to the sound of my little blue cell phone playing the dirge song any moment now.

And I don’t know what I said exactly, I cannot even imagine how I responded, but it was basically the truth: no, no, no, in no way does this mean I don’t want to have sex with you. Its gotten to the point now that I can’t imagine not having sex with you. I’m around you, I breathe sex. And I feel guilty about sex. And I feel guilty about wanting it. And sometimes I don’t want to want it.

I don’t know why, but everything is deja-vu again.

If only feelings were enough to prove things. If only emotions didn’t have a habit of betraying me, leading me off the edge of a cliff right after I spent all that time climbing back up the fucking mountain. But I can’t trust my emotions. I can’t trust myself. So I can’t trust my feeling of trust in myself, and I therefore can’t trust my feelings of trust in anyone or anything else.

Just like I want not to want, all my feelings are compound, dualistic, frayed, dichotomous. Every thought or emotion has his evil twin of equal intensity.

No, I think, as a matter of fact I want to have sex right now.

And when we did have sex, she told me to stop thinking about it, to stop worrying. Trying to alleviate my guilt. This was her choice, to let me have this, not mine. There is nothing wrong with this. Sex is a recreational activity, she always said. She doesn’t know if we could be around each other and not have sex, she tells me, and I had been wondering the same thing. Worried about the same thing. So this is the solution. I want you in my life and I’m willing to take what I can get, she said, or implied enough for me to imagine her saying. And so it seems she wants this. And I feel I need this. So we keep on doing this.

Sometimes it was as if that day had never happened at all. We weren’t really broken up. What it ended up feeling like was that I was getting all the benefits of a relationship but none of the obligations. I knew that’s how I was going to feel, and I knew that was going to compound guilt, and for good reason. This made me a total asshole. Every weekend, or every other weekend we saw each other. Hung out, got a bite to eat, had sex. And I’m thinking that this cannot be making her happy. But I kept doing it, because all motivations are fundamentally selfish. Welcome to human nature.

One weekend, she came online and tried to talk me into coming to her place. I was in a funk, as it is all too often, and I didn’t want to leave. The outside world was dark and cold and threatening. I wanted to be by myself, to create. She was doing well on luring me there with sex, but I fought with myself.

Then she tells me to go online, to stay on the phone. She puts up her webcam. My computer is shit, so the video was choppy. Buffering. Her fingers were in her, out if her, segue lost in cyberspace.

There are many firsts with her. I lost my virginity to her back in 1999, and she’s taken my virginity in many other experiences since. That day she took another.

I could see her, but she couldn’t see me. I could hear her, but she couldn’t hear me. As she played with herself in front of the camera, I played with myself, listening to her from the phone I placed beside me.

I think the distance began to increase here. Erecting walls, building boundaries. Hiding behind a monitor. Watching as a detached observer, just playing with myself.

It was more than just a metaphor. And it was only the first step back, the first step away.

So finally I check her online journal. There are a few entries, and I hadn’t realized she’d been posting any at all. I hadn’t checked it in awhile. So she writes that she’d just recently gotten her divorce. Its official. She writes how she’s back on the market. Then about her second date with this one guy. She had written how she could potentially play both sides of the fence, be with him and be with me.

As I’m reading it I’m feeling hurt and angry and at the same time thinking, what the hell right do I have to feel hurt and angry? I don’t own her, she’s no possession. We’re not married. She’s not even my girlfriend, for fuck’s sake. I broke up with her, after all. Still, she never once mentioned this. Why hadn’t she told me? She should have told me. Because she’s not playing both sides of the fence. No way. Why, I don’t know, but damn it, its just not happening this way.

So I write a few poems to sort shit out, as poetry is a good way for me to do that for some reason, and then I email her. I tell her that if she’s having sex with him, that’s fine, that’s her prerogative. If she wants something more substantial, I understand. But I don’t want to have sex with her if she’s having sex with him. I don’t want to write this as I’m writing it but I’m writing it, I don’t want to send it as I’m pressing the send button, but I’m sending it. I’m thinking of writing back and saying, okay, never mind, play both sides of the fence but don’t ever mention he exists, make sure we never meet, and let’s pretend I just don’t know. I don’t do it, because that’s stupid and I know it.

She writes back and explains it fairly well. And what I get from it is that she loves me, she gets the impression I don’t love her back, she’s sick of pretending otherwise and she needs to find a suitable replacement and move on. And this guy, if not an end, is a good start.

I understand her position. I just don’t get my own reaction to all this.

So we write to each other over instant messenger and talk to each other over the phone. And we were supposed to see each other just before my birthday, but I called it off. Couldn’t see her, as this is all just too fucked up and I’m too much of a wuss to handle it. I don’t think I’ve heard from her since. A few days later I go to check her online journal, and its gone. Erased. Her poetry, save for one poem, vanished from an online forum.

For a time we would speak to each other on the phone, then that fizzed out. A few years later, she friends me on a popular social networking site. Perhaps a year passes before I send her an email to ask how she’s doing.

She informs me that she only friended me because she wanted me to look at the pictures on her page and agonize over what could have been, that she has no desire to make contact with me and has now decided to sever this final tie with me. Her and her boyfriend are going to buy a house within the year. She’s going to marry him. She can only go forward, she says, and refuses to live in the past. And I am the past. I am yesterday, like I was before all this happened between us again. I remembered all too clearly the last time this happened, too. I remembered the years of anger, and I tell her that she’s not going to make me angry at her. That she should do what she needs to.

She did.

Still, she fascinates me; she always shall. Sometimes it seems as if the girl is pure will, always overcoming herself, refusing to live with regret or provide excuses. Qualities I always found enviable. Where she refuses to hold on to things, where she embraces forgetting, I struggle to let go.

I strive to remember.

Attack of the Flashback Bitchslaps.

My mind has a masochistic bent, which I first realized when I was younger. I would develop a mood, emotions, thoughts that effected me just as they would had they been spawned by some experience in the exterior environment, but they were all reactions to imagined scenarios — shit that had never happened at all. These might be potential future scenarios or entirely fictitious. In any case, it struck me that those around me would be unable to piece together what I was thinking or feeling or why as it was so far removed from anything going on in the immediate environment.

Nowadays that still happens, but more frequent — and disturbingly autonomous — are intense, intrusive memories I have come to call flashback bitch-slaps. They pounce on consciousness like a predator when my mind is idle, as when I’m sweeping, mopping, taking a shower, a piss or trying to sleep. They come in the form of brief, intense flashbacks that burst into consciousness from out of nowhere, usually regarding circumstances or interactions with people that I have had throughout the day, slightly less often something more recent or something that happened long, long, ridiculously long ago.

As an immediate reaction I find myself reconsidering how the other person in the flashback reacted to me. Maybe he or she took what I said this way, or might have thought or felt that way regarding my actions, words, or even tone of voice. Almost invariably these are negative assessments; I feel certain that I made them feel angry, depressed, awkward, used, pushed to the side or violated and I feel intense guilt, shame, or self-loathing as a consequence.

Unable to distract myself from the flashback or my intense emotional reactions to it by mean of another thought, I find myself compulsively damning myself aloud, though usually under my breath, hissing that I am stupid or an asshole. In tandem with the verbal part of the compulsion I also often make some irrelevant movement, typically jerking the head or bugging out my eyes, as a distraction.

It’s like I bury the thought, try and “talk over” the feeling of embarrassment and shame by means of blaring loud anger and hate towards myself.

There are potential solutions I’m exploring now that I have come to identify this issue — for instance, there are the techniques of mindfulness meditation. When the flashbacks come you merely let them and respond without craving or aversion. It feels weird just letting them play out. Just watching. Observing. It takes some effort and I don’t always feel “right” about it, but when I manage, it’s very liberating at the same time.

The Karma We Have Become.

No matter how far back you believe your personality development extends, the fact of the matter remains: all that we typically consider ourselves to be amounts to memory.

We are the sum of our previous choices. Our personalities are our karma. The ego is the cumulative result of a chain of actions we enacted. We may not have the episodic recall, but we embody the implicit memory. We are history, in this sense quite literally. We are habits of mind and body forged through our previous experience, however hidden or otherwise unavailable that previous experience might be for semantic breakdown or episodic display.

The question is: do we need to remember — episodically, semantically — before we can overcome the karma we have become?

Eternal I Blind.

If you suffer from amnesia, you are still you, stripped though you are of all episodic memory access. At TEDxHKUST, in his lecture
Human Hacking: Neuroscience and Magic, the magician Stuart Palm told of the effects just following his brain surgery. Among other effects, he had no peripheral vision in one eye and was unable to read. He realized that there were three levels of self: the body, the mind, and that part inside of him that knew he could read despite the fact that he seemed incapable of doing so.

His perspective resonates with the one that seems suggested in mindfulness meditation. He is talking about what has been called the Knower or Witness: the awareness apart from consciousness, or the mind. The awareness that elects to identify itself with consciousness and the body and are as a consequence at the mercy of its rules and laws. Yet when access to consciousness is limited, as in Palm’s case, that spotlight awareness remains. The eternal “I” forever lingers behind the mental scenes, behind the masques we don and illusions we invest in. He calls it the soul.

Interestingly, it has again led back to that fundamental, central component of awareness.

It also makes me reevaluate a paranormal idea I had. Witnesses who report seeing ghosts, be they of the living or the dead, report them appearing in three main forms: the apparition, the ambiguous form and the orb. Those who report out-of-body experiences, be those experiences of a veridical, reciprocal or mutual nature, also report taking on one of three forms which seem to describe the first-person experience of the dead or living ghosts observed by witnesses.

Some cursory study of the reports shows a high likelihood that the apparitional and ambiguous forms are essentially one and the same. Over the course of life, the naturally ambiguous form became conditioned into this apparitional doppelgänger and this rests as its usual default when engaging with the environment, though turning ambiguous during periods of observance and mental reverie and rumination. Some OB experiencers have also disciplined this body to take on different forms and even alternate means of perception. In any case, it seems to me that both the apparitional and ambiguous states are different forms of the same, single, ultimately malleable subtle body.

This subtle body is memory. It is working memory bound in implicit memory. It is highly sensitive and grants swift response to both conscious and unconscious impulses. Bound up with the corporeal body during physical life, it is everything we typically identify as self.

My curiosity was the orb, which from the vantage point of the OB experiencer gave off the sense of being a point of awareness floating in space, entirely void of form. Was it another form of the subtle body, or was it another body, a true casual body — pure awareness, manifested form of the Witness and Knower of the Known, the prime candidate for the source of one’s true and stable individual identity. The Eternal I behind it all that cultural influence pushes us to call the soul.

The mind is a window, a sketch pad, a diary — but is it a mirror? We become absorbed in our minds through identification, but what is the scale of the error? I have assumed that it is one part “more than this,” one part “other than this,” but might the truth be none of it — that I am absolutely none of this at all?

If this is the case, what am I? If the mind and its ego does not reflect this identifying spotlight of awareness, is it at fault, am I? Could it instead be blameless? Might I just be awareness — might true reflection be futile as there is nothing there to reflect at all? Or are we there, but cannot see ourselves save through the reflection we are denied and the lie we embrace in its absence?

Explicit Personal Prehistory.

If we all have lived previous lifetimes, there is, of course, the question as to why most fail to remember anything of their prehistory. Where is the explicit memory — the autobiographical memory that weaves together the episodic and semantic?

Amnesia would seem to make sense as a survival strategy. For some eleven to fourteen years, after all, the human infant (optimally) develops in the “second womb” of the home, where biological and social needs can be met through the phantom umbilical cord of the caretaker (maternal/paternal) bond. Considering that the developing body-brain is instinctually aimed at biological and psychological survival and growth within the present physical and social spheres, recalling previous existences or even the major portion of one’s present life would serve to hinder more than help, and may even constitute a direct threat to proper development as a biological organism. 

As a consequence the amnesic process develops, operating in a fashion akin to the mechanism that allows us to hone in on the person across the table and the conversation we’re having with her and screen out other conversations and chatter in the crowded restaurant. Similarly, our brains focus on our immediate needs and screen out all that is irrelevant to that end during periods of neurological pruning, where frequently-accessed associations are solidified while the neglected are snipped away. This mechanism kicks in several times throughout our development. According to Joseph Chilton Pearce, after the scissor-happy session at age eleven, some eighty percent of the neural mass we had at the point of vaginal exit has been relegated to the neurological trash-bin for lack of use.
There are those that seem to retain such memories, however, at least for a time.

Cases of the Reincarnation Type, or CORT, have been amassed by the Division of Perceptual Studies at the University of Virginia’s School of Medicine. It was originally headed by the late Dr. Ian Stevenson, with the torch passed to Dr. Jim Tucker upon his 2002 retirement. Rather than regression hypnosis, they rely on unprompted reports of young children on the lives they left behind when they left their last vessel of flesh.

 Analysis of these cases reveals that these children begin speaking about their previous life as soon as they can speak, with the average age standing at 35 months. With further development of communication skills, more details emerge. Some children seem to retain memories regardless as to their state of mind. Others only seem capable of doing so in a relaxed state, amnesia apparently setting in once they snap out of it. 
 
In many cases, the children’s stories match the life of the deceased individual they claim to be with incredible accuracy, and far before being introduced to the family of the dead.
 
Most stop speaking of their memories altogether at an average of 72 months, though others manage to hold onto their memories longer, perhaps all the way to adulthood. The more convincing cases of past lives recalled later in life, with or without hypnosis, however, seem to imply that explicit memories are somehow stored unconsciously and are potentially retrievable. 
 
Why is it that some remember whereas most, it would seem, do not? In his work 20 Cases of Reincarnation, Stevenson divided the some 40% of the cases in which the individual died of natural death into four groups: those who died within a day or so of presumed health; those who died under twelve years of age, those with unfinished business as well as those who had what he referred to as “continuing business,” as they were in the middle of pursuing an ambition when they died.
 
If the abruptness of their deaths is seen as the fuel behind their capacity to recollect, as implied given the themes among natural death cases, additional emotional charge would clearly be delivered when it was violence that ushered in the aforementioned abruptness, as it appears to be in the remaining 61% of Stevenson’s case files. 
 
All their cases, then, appear to involve an abrupt expiration which would likely leave one feeling as if they died “in medias res,” lives incomplete. This suggests that to one degree or another they may be stuck in the “denial” phase of DABADA, unable to accept their own premature deaths and to adapt to their current lives in any healthy and productive manner. 
 
Despite remembering previous lives, despite the fact that the median time between death and rebirth in the cases on file is 15-16 months and rarely exceeds three years, the majority of children who recall former lives evidently draw a blank with respect to this intermission betwixt incarnations. This is not just for their lack of mentioning it, either, as some of the children behave as if they were living their former life one moment and then suddenly woke up in an infant’s body. 
 
This appears similar to how our consciousness operates in terms of dreams. We may remember a dream immediately upon awakening, but it slowly fades from our grasp the longer we are awake — though leaving in its departure our capacity to recall events of the previous day. 
 
Just as some individuals possess varying degrees of dream recall, however, there are those that do indeed recall experiences of the intra-life interim. Tucker teamed up with Poonam Sharma to publish a paper dealing with 276 such cases out of 1200 cases transcribed into their database entitled “Cases of the Reincarnation Type With Memories from the Intermission.” It referred to these cases in shorthand as CORT-I and provided three characteristic stages found in CORT-I, though not every stage makes an appearance in every case: the transitional, stable and return stages. They also and organized them into four subcategories: funeral memories, subsequent worldly disembodied experiences, otherworldly experiences and memories of rebirth. 
 
They also show that subjects in CORT-I cases are more likely to remember their former names as well as the names of others from that life, make more accurate statements regarding that life, bear behavioral correspondences with the former individual as well as birthmarks or defects corresponding with their death wounds and, to top it all off, the location of rebirth is closer to the former death site than the average CORT case.
 
Their conclusion was that CORT-I only differed from CORT in that the subject had a particularly good memory. It is clear this is the case not only with respect to explicit memory but also includes the implicit, as well as the perhaps-synonymous morphological memory.

Skull Orgy.

We experience what we typically regard as three distinctly separate spheres: the sensory, the memory, and the imagination. The sensory is considered objective, memory considered the subjective record of the objective, and imagination as the sole product of the subjective.
 
In fact, however, all coexist within the same subjective space where they have a threesome relationship that far exceeds the occasional cross-contamination. Imagination draws off sensory experience and memory, sensory experience is influenced by imagination and memory, memory is influenced by imagination and sensory experience and all are experienced subjectively. 
 
It’s up to you to sort out the orgy, mosh-pit fuck-fest in your head.