As I practiced the self-witnessing discipline for more than three decades I’m able to say various things about it that may be useful to others (see Note 20 at end). My most amazing discovery was the existence of “sudden memory” by which I’m referring to the stream of thought that is our actual mental life in the natural mind. This stream of thought is the outward form of our affections (see Note 19 at end). The quality of our affections is the result of which spiritual societies we are in contact as the sequence of thoughts proceeds. Through self-witnessing practice I was striving to “tune in” to the stream while I was carrying out my tasks all day long. This is not like meditation or deep reflection which occurs when we stop our tasks and sit doing nothing, thus disengaged from the surrounding pace.
The stream of thinking accompanies every act and is a characteristic of human life. I was able to tune in and listen to some extent, I suppose, for the stream goes fast and if you try to catch it, it begins to tumble and roll like an avalanche. It’s as if the conscious filter can hold only so much of it and the rest spills and dissipates as more keeps coming.
What I found amazing is that the instant I tried to reflect on what I snatched form the stream, it would be gone. I could not remember what it was. It’s quite unsettling. How do I get hold of it or some of it long enough so I can examine in greater detail? You may be familiar with this experience when, upon awakening, you are still affectively filled the sphere of your vivid dream, but the instant you try to reflect on what it is so you can put it in words, it remains unavailable to the conscious mind, staying just out of its reach—like the “tip-of-the-tongue” phenomenon researched in psycholinguistics when I was in graduate school in the 1960s. We were taught that there are two types of memory: short term and long term. The first lasts for several seconds—like the phone number we look up and then dial. If we wait more than a few seconds to dial we have to look it up again. We move things from short term to long term memory by repetition and rehearsal with the motive to recall it later. Sudden memory seems to work for a second or two.
I discovered that I can make myself think in words or sentences as I carry out my tasks. This is somewhat like giving a “blow by blow” description to an imaginary tape recorder of what one is thinking. It seems to slow the stream down for awhile, enough so that my short term memory retains more of it and I’m able to get a fix on what the topic is and its direction. In short term memory we can be aware and evaluative, and put anything we want into long term memory by mentally rehearsing or making a physical record of it. In this way the mental discipline pays off because it gives access to our normal everyday affections.
Slowly I began to exert rational and religious control over my interior dialog, my daydreams, and my emotional reactions to things moment by moment all day long. Also, my attitudes and interests. I would stop myself from continuing a line of thinking: “Stop it. Why are you wasting time thinking these useless things?” Or: “That’s not a nice thing to think.” Or: “How low can I get to be so fascinated by that sort of thing?” Etc. This gave me greater conscious control over my mental life allowing me to clean out the mental pollution that reigned in it from birth and culture. It is not possible for humans to do anything without the accompanying thinking stream. By controlling this, we control a portion of our natural mind. Control of the lower natural mind (corporeal and sensual) by the higher natural mind (natural-rational) is necessary for regeneration. To the extent that we do this, to that extent the Lord can open our interior-natural mind (DLW 248).
This is the genuine human or celestial mind. It is where our life in heaven is. It is where the Lord’s Proprium dwells. The highest angels have a direct perception of how this Proprium comes into them by influx, followed by their as-of-self acting from it spontaneously and as if from self in full liberty (AC 47, 233, 1712, 2877, 5664, 10299; NJHD 148; DP 102; CL 82; SE 5958; LJ 299; AE 864). This process is inhibited and destroyed when we do not remove the mental pollution by our own daily efforts, as-of-self but looking to the Lord for strength.
The celestial regions have walls and guards (xx) that keep out mental pollution (strangers and evil spirits) from entering that lofty region or level of consciousness. Therefore we need to erect such walls and establish guards in our mind to prevent unholy things from entering and lodging in our mind. Our culture of entertainment and social cynicism specialize in manufacturing large quantities of polluted ideas, pictures, and situations. Without vigilance exercised every hour of our waking time our mind gets inundated by pollutants, poisons, viruses, and all sorts of unpleasant, sleazy, scortatory, and idiotic suggestions. The mind is weighted down by them, even sinking into the corporeal.
Woe to those who make this their abode for in the afterlife they are captured and tortured by those who have these same things in them. And the omnipotence of a loving God cannot deliver them from this miserable lot for to remove them from it would leave nothing behind for any life by them (AC 5854). Best therefore that we be diligent and sincere in our efforts at self-witnessing while there is still time and opportunity.
Have you listened in on yourself lately? We cannot trust the reputation or opinion we have of ourselves, for this is subjective, biased, and self-serving. The check mark we place on rating scales are inflated or deflated in accordance with our vanities: How good am I? How often do I get mad? Am I ever unkind or gross? What kind of mistakes do I make? How happy are the people around me with my conduct? Etc. To answer objectively and accurately we must witness our life.
When I first discovered sudden memory I was so delighted and felt powerful for the first time (see Note 19 at end). I really had found something that is universal yet unknown. A secret of understanding. I immediately felt superior. I was brave in situations I had been timid. Etc. Until at last I thought I was a god. I used the concept of avatar I read about and applied to myself. So this is what it means to be an avatar. I am it. Etc. I started making discoveries and this was proof that I was a god—see Note 3 for list of discoveries. But the Writings saved me.
You have to snatch things from sudden memory into short term memory, and from there you can write it down or dictate it as a record. You have to put it into sentences, what you get to see. The sphere of sudden memory is not linguistic but thought-representations, like spirits think. It’s faster since they think faster than us. Material brain slows it down. We need this slow down to train our conscious awareness, which starts slow cause based on sensory input in natural min d. This is not like a spirit thinks (HH 239). Which means at any moment we’re but a few hours away from speaking in this thought-language and thinking faster and more powerfully, yet totally spontaneously. We enjoy being a spirit, especially at the beginning while we’re still a little in both worlds and sense the contrast keenly.
I snatched from sudden memory sphere the sentence “It’s the purpose.” I kept making myself repeat the sentence with the intentionality of “How is this?” And it kept not coming to me so I kept repeating it for a whole minute or longer as I went about cleaning up the kitchen and having a loose dialog with my wife who was opening amazon.com boxes and reading me the e Ta of C from each. I told myself I must try to think about it again later. So here I am. What was it all about? I know it was deep, it was enlightening. In sudden memory I am more consciously at the level of how the interior-natural mind thinks in the brain of the spirit-body, not how the natural-rational mind thinks in the brain of my physical body. Knowing this is pretty good. How many people know this, or can believe it when they hear it? Only those who are willing to think in dualisms. And further, they must be dualisms that are not adulterated or modified by consulting the natural mind. They must be dualisms from the Writings because it is our only source for genuine spiritual dualities. All dualities are unique permanent distinctions that never cease to eternity (DLW 226). (see Volume 1)
Back to “It’s the purpose.” I was thinking about what makes our life moments spiritual? And I perceived in the sphere of sudden memory that everything is interrelated so that one has an effect on all and all has an effect on one—which is the sphere of heaven (HH 49). What makes something I do heavenly is the region or sphere of heaven—when I’m in it and when I’m not. In which case I am in the infernal spheres, to a smaller or greater distance depending on …here it comes…the purpose that animates or motivates each and every micro-act I perform. If my purpose or goal-intentionality is in the heavenly sphere, my act is spiritual. If not, my act is natural. Some natural intentionalities are motivated by mild infernal affections that the Lord is able to bend into the shape of fibers that can contain the heavenly sphere. But other more grave forms of infernal affections refuse to be re-shaped in that way, and thus we remain in them.
And still further, my purpose has to fit the Lord’s purpose. Does it? How? Etc.
So I understood. It’s the purpose that makes my discipline spiritual and religious. Didn’t I already know this? Yes, it’s all over the Writings and I’ve been reading them daily for years. And yet the heavenly secret enclosed in the idea I take up from the literal remains a secret to the natural consciousness. As a secret it can only work generally in my character, from a distance, less effectively. But when the interior of the literal in our memory is opened, the secret enters into conscious awareness through sudden memory. Then we see clearly, but until then only in obscurity like the sight in a thick fog whereby we bump into tress and fall into ditches. This is how our natural mind works, before it is turned around towards the spiritual mind.
The spiritual mind is in rational and good order, but the inherited natural mind and the natural mind instructed by sensory input alone, is not a rational mind but the opposite. To itself the unregenerate natural mind appears logical and supremely rational:
With many in the world this does not take place, because they love the first degree of their life, called the natural, and have no desire to withdraw from it and become spiritual. The natural degree of life regarded in itself loves only self and the world, for it clings to the bodily senses and these occupy a prominent place in the world; but the spiritual degree of life regarded in itself loves the Lord and heaven, and also itself and the world, but God and heaven as higher, principal and ruling, and itself and the world as lower, instrumental and serving. (DP 324:10)
I noticed things in sudden memory that show how angels are at work in the unfolding of our moment to moment biography. Their thought and intention descends by correspondence into the sphere of sudden memory. I snatch something, it’s a flash, it’s a warning, and my thought becomes conscious of “Careful, easy, keep your finger away.” Or: “The Lord wants me to be forthcoming and compassionate. I must overcome this reluctance.” The connectivity between what the angels think and what I think is specific but correspondential. The thoughts I become conscious of must feel like my own characteristic or recognizable thoughts. It would destroy a person’s sanity to experience that one’s thoughts come from another source (xx). Mystical voyeurism, shamanism, and voodoo spirit possession rituals relate to non-normal states that in prior dispensations were normal, but are no longer allowed by the Lord on this planet (HH 249; EU 155).
Direct communication with spirits and angels used to be routine with the people of the most ancient Church prior to the evolutionary splitting of the human brain into two hemispheres (xx). And it has been revealed that this type of communication may be routine on certain other planets:
The preacher who was with me had no belief at all in the existence of planets other than our own, because in the world he had thought that the Lord was born solely on this planet and that without the Lord there was no salvation. He was therefore brought into a state like the one spirits enter when they appear on their planet as people – the one described above – and was then sent to that planet, not only to see it but also to talk to the inhabitants there. When this had been done, communication from there was granted to me as well in order that I might in a similar way behold those inhabitants and also some things on that planet. Spirits and angels can talk to people, whatever language they speak, because their thought passes into the ideas in people’s minds and so into the words they speak. (AC 10752)
Notice the sentence, “He was therefore brought into a state like the one spirits enter when they appear on their planet as people – the one described above – and was then sent to that planet, not only to see it but also to talk to the inhabitants there.” It is said here that earthlings can talk to spirits, but note that the preacher, who was from our earth, was taken to “that planet” thus, not to this earth. There is no evidence that the Lord ever allows people on this earth to have a conscious dialog exchange with spirits. Dr. Ian Thompson (see Acknowledgment and Note 12 at end), while reviewing a draft of this book, commented in an email exchange:
It is clear that verbal communication with spirits is possible according to the general laws of order, but that these may be overruled by the consideration of specific groups of people, such as those on our earth.
However, it appears that the ‘abnormal’ people on our earth can still arrive at mental states in which communication is possible. These are generally not rational states – so they do not learn anything of genuine truth – but are altered or upset states of consciousness – such as with the mentally ill (schizophrenia), or with those who particularly desire and cultivate them.
The manner of interaction with spirits in these altered states is not different in principle from our normal influx from the spiritual world: In particular, inputs from e.g. hellish spirits with novel contents are indeed flowing into what you call ‘sudden memory’, and have to be fought against in exactly the usual way as above.
What is different about influx in altered/schizophrenic states are in particular three features:
the source is attributed to specific spirits. These spirits are those associated spirits that Swedenborg describes, with (normally) inactive memory of their own. They are self-motivated, but rely on the person in the world for memory and sensory input: they talk on the basis of these memory and sensations. Hence they are very suggestible to ideas about what they own life is, and will readily agree to being called e.g. Napoleon.
2) into sensory mind:
influx is not only into thoughts (as usual), but also into the sensory mind. This gives visual and auditory (etc) hallucinations. (Note: not into the brain or into bodily organs, but into the sensorimotor mind).
3) more forceful/harder to resist:
the influx in these states is more obviously persistent, hellish and harder to resist. The Lord now ensures that resistance is not futile, so these people end up with really dramatic temptations almost every minute of their lives! This is quantitatively different from our normal temptations, but is essentially the same process.
Actually, it is not clear whether the hellish influx in these states is harder to resist than ‘normal’, because we do not really know how hard it is for ‘normal hellish people’ to resist their temptations. Quite difficult, I should think, if they have no truths to fight with.
None of the above is permitted with those who are on the way of rational reformation and regeneration, as they are too similar to miracles. (June 20, 2002)
Dr. Thompson suggests here the idea that spirits may inflow into sudden memory. We can think of sudden memory as an intermediary zone between the conscious and the subconscious. The affections of spirits are brought into connection with the sensuous content of sudden memory. The spirits are not specifically aware that this stream of sensuous consciousness issues from the earthling with whom they are coupled at any one moment. It may even be that several individuals contribute to the content from their own sudden memory, somewhat like what you would get if you read random paragraphs from several books in alternating sequence. It would not be easy for you to figure out the plot of any of the books! Similarly with the spirits who are kept in rapid alternating contact with the sudden memory of several earthlings. They would not be able to figure out with whom they are!
No doubt the laws of Providence govern the degree of conscious awareness between spirits and the individual into which they inflow. However, there is a rational trap here we must look at and avoid. It has to do with the idea we are forming about the “communication.” One model, which is the trap, is to think of the exchange as a dialog with spirits to take place in the same direct sensuous way it took place with Swedenborg. This is the way it is reported in the abnormal syndrome of “hearing voices” or “seeing beings” reported by psychotics, schizophrenics, or by those who have hallucinations. These abnormal reports may be like the NDE reports–something imaginative or creative one makes up to give meaning in an ultimate and natural thinking about it (see Chapter 4, Section 5). Thus, there may not be a conscious dialog; only an imagined one. Remember that what is happening is influx by correspondences, not face to face dialog such as Swedenborg had (along with the influx).
The other model, therefore, is that conscious dialog is not allowed ever on this earth at the present time. Under what conditions it would be allowed, I do not know. The most ancients prior to the split-brain evolution, did have dialog, though mostly in dreams rather than in the awake state (AC 597). In the episode quoted just above (AC 10752), the preacher got enthused about an earthling woman and grabbed her by the hand, which she withdrew when she realized he was a spirit.
While the preacher was with those who were clothed, there appeared a woman of a very beautiful countenance, clothed in a simple garment, a tunic that hung behind in a becoming way, and was also drawn over the arms; she also wore a beautiful head covering in the form of a garland of flowers. Upon seeing this virgin, the preacher was very much delighted, and spoke to her, and also took hold of her hand; but as she perceived that he was a spirit, and was not from that earth, she betook herself away from him. (AC 10754)
How is this possible on a physical earth? Perhaps in the sense that during these encounters, the spiritual eyes of the earthling is opened, like the shepherds who saw the Angels at the Annunciation (xx). If the spirits are seen, they are also heard and sensed in touch. But the seeing and sensing is not of the physical body but the spiritual body, though the earthling person may not know this–as in the OT scenes when Angels visited certain individuals: