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"Memory is the cabinet of imagination,
the treasury of reason,
the registry of conscience and council chamber of thought"

Edward M. Forster

Creative thought could not exist without memory. Though creativity is usually thought of as a spontaneous original response, the ability to remember one’s past experience and use it as a springboard for new potentials is necessary. Without a clear understanding of what is already known, how could you know that you’d discovered something unknown? This is especially the case in problem solving. Creative artistic inspiration draws more on aesthetic considerations. Yet both are dependent upon the remembrance of known experience as a platform for new creations.

Creative Memory

Short-term memory is housed in the hippocampus. This organ, extending from the midbrain hypothalamus like a horseshoe, is considered the temporary storage unit for short-term memory and a vehicle for long-term memory. Along with the amygdala, the hippocampus also passes on certain memories to the cerebral cortex for long term storage. The amygdala appears to play a large role in the memory of emotional experience. Research indicates that long-term memories are not stored in one specific place, but are stored throughout the brain as associative images. The best research done to date on this has been by Karl Pribram who believes that the brain acts as a holographic instrument able to take bits of information and construct the whole from these fragments of memory.
Creative Memory

Canadian neurosurgeon, Wilder Penfield, was probing the temporal lobes of patients plagued by epileptic seizures when he discovered that touching certain parts of the brain caused the patient to remember vividly previous experiences.

In Penfields’s words the memories he discovered as he probed the patient’s brain were, "They were electrical activation's of the sequential record of consciousness, a record that had been laid down during the patient’s earlier experience. The patient "re-lived" all that he had been aware of in that earlier period of time as in a moving-picture ‘flashback’." Because I am blessed with an eidetic memory, this is exactly what I experience when I choose to remember something perfectly. I simply allow myself to return to the original experience and it comes back completely refreshed. Penfield also concluded with his experiments that the brain stores everything its owner has ever experienced in its original form. Sigmund Freud also believed that, "in mental life nothing which has once been formed can perish." Everything you've ever experienced is there in the subconscious. The question isn't can you retain memory, the question is can you retrieve it.

Karl Pribram hunted for years for the particular engrams or physical spaces in the brain where memories are housed. What he discovered is that memory is non-local. Working with Karl Lashley they discovered working with rats that no matter how much of the rat’s brain was removed the animal could still perform a variety of tasks. Therefore, long term memory was not stored in specific locations in the brain after all. Another scientist who is documenting his own research in this area is Dr. Paul Pietsch. Again, science is beginning to agree with the ancient wisdom teachings that consciousness is not a function of the brain, but something that is processed through the brain, yet exists in a domain beyond the material world.


Pribram, along with Rupert Sheldrake tapped into the understanding that though the brain is the hardware necessary for processing consciousness that manifests as mind, this elusive mind can exist in a non-local presence around the human body. Memory can be electrochemical, but it can also be that etheric substance that science is just gleaning as a very subtle frequency that surrounds the human body and brain. From all his research Pribram came up with his theory of the holographic brain. The best book available that explains all the research in this area in laymen’s terms is Michael Talbot’s The Holographic Universe.

As long as I can remember, I have had a flawless eidetic memory (is that a redundant statement?). I was blessed at birth with whatever faculties are necessary in the brain to process incoming information and to retain long term whatever I choose to retain. In contemplating this gift I have done a great deal of research into memory retention, as contemporary science understands it, as well as look into the mechanisms of conscious thought as understood by the ancient wisdom teachings. My conclusion at this point in time is that memory is certainly stored electrochemically in the brain, but as well as in the energy field that surrounds the body. The vehicle for creating and retrieving certain memories is a function of intent and interest.

There are numerous memory courses out there that promise to improve memory by giving certain association tricks and tips. These may work for some kinds of memory retention. I have come to observe that what causes me to have such a perfect memory is that all that I remember is obtained in a moment of interested intent and I am in the present moment with whatever I am experiencing. All eidetic memory consists of is the ability to return to the moment of experience in the mind and everything that was experienced will flood into the present immediately. You don’t have to contrive certain associate events, you just have to return in mind to the experience and all that was involved comes back in total. It is a visual experience because I see everything as it was.

If you contemplate that concept you realize that if you can learn to be consciously present in each moment, you will be able to recall anything you chose by simply returning to that moment in thought. Perhaps it is the retrieval process we need to focus on not how to retain certain memories. If you consider how much information is impinging your brain at any one moment it is staggering. We must select from the continual onslaught of information and impression bombardment what we chose to integrate with our conscious thought. This is why I feel that focused intent is the key to memory retention and retrieval. Though a good sound and healthy brain is necessary for this to function properly.

What this has to do with creativity is that a truly creative person is never handicapped by losing the wisdom of prior experience. What the truly creative mind does is access that certain idea which has already been offered to consciousness. Then become relaxed, open and free to allow anything new that memory has yet to resolve. All problems are solvable if you are patient and know that the solution lies in your intent to find it and your willingness to be open to it.

Carl Jung introduced the idea of the collective consciousness. The 100th monkey idea has taken this notion one step further by acknowledging scientifically that all experience by any human on the planet is housed in an etheric state of consciousness that all humans have access to. This collective consciousness impinges upon the whole of humanity as it enlarges and all minds are enlightened as a result. The solution to any problem already lies in this collective consciousness (which could be and is presumed to lie in the subconscious portion of the mind). All one needs do is to relax, reach a state of confident calm, and allow the answer to the problem or creative endeavor to impinge upon the mind. That moment of impingement is also know as insight.

I recently came upon a book by Dr. Dharma Singh Khalsa called "Brain Longevity." In it he describes his study and methods of working with many patients who show the problems of aging and memory retention and restoring the memory loss of Alzheimer's patients. The book is excellent because it outlines the different approaches to improving over-all functioning of the brain. The point he makes I found most interesting though was that stress is a large inhibitor to memory retention and overall brain functioning. What he discovered is that cortisol, which is produced by the adrenals under stress, has a very damaging effect on the neurons of the brain and the ability of neurotransmitters to do their job. Just by reducing stress one can create a healthier brain, learn to think with greater clarity, and retain more of what you experience.

What I also found very good was that beyond diet, certain pharmacological substances and meditation to relieve stress, was his use of kundalini yoga as a method of strengthening the brain. Kundalini yoga has been shown in the East to send not only particular substances directly to the brain but to create an overall electrical stimulation of the brain that has a lasting effect on brain functioning. To enhance your own abilities to retain what you experience and want to learn you can go to his web site at Brain Longevity.

In summary, three very important things are necessary to enhancing creative thought utilizing previous experience as stored memory. One is that you need a healthy energized brain; two is that you need to be present with interest for anything you chose to remember later, or use for future creative experience and three, a relaxed state of mind is the greatest vehicle for creative thought. A relaxed mind is simultaneous with a light heart. Both conditions will foster spontaneous creativity and make life a joy in the process.

© J.L. Read, 1998. All Rights Reserved.
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This site is dedicated in loving memory
to its creator, Janet L. Read
1949 — 2000


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