Back to Articles Home
Flash Memory and How It Works
One night last week, just before I fell asleep, I had a “flash”. Sometimes, often before I fall asleep or on waking up an idea reaches me out nowhere and like lightning seems to happen in a fraction of a second. It is this type of idea that I call a “flash”; in other words an idea is flashed in me.
The flashed idea is not my thought or emotion; my thoughts and emotions can only be responses to the flashed idea. I am not the originator of the flash; I do not make it or manufacture it in any way, neither do I make the idea that appears in the flash – they come when they come of their own force independent of what I do.
If I am not very attentive and pay attention when I receive the idea it will disappear just as quickly as it came and I have no means of remembering and recalling it back to my memory. Also in this sense the flashed ideas are not my own ideas.
An idea that reaches me in this way is always very fresh. I would even say that it is alive. One aspect of this aliveness is the connection that the flashed idea has to many other ideas to which it is linked in a mysterious way.
When I can remember the idea and follow the links it has I find that these links are to ideas that are somehow all about the same thing, they all lead towards the source of the idea, or give an idea of the whole, like a flash of lightning can reveal the whole landscape for a short time.
One week in our weekly group we had the task of finding out what is our individual point on the Cross. This point is defined as the place where the influences from above and below cross the horizontal time based direction. The cross point is at the present moment, right now.
I set out to remember the task with the help of a short preparation of sitting silently and memorizing the task in the morning and even during the day, when I remembered it.
What I found out seemed to be fairly clear: the point is exactly where I cannot go on and come to a stop. At these points I need energy from another level, a new approach.
I wrote this up in the following way:
“When I cannot go further and I am stuck in a habit that does not let me go - instead of struggling I let go of the habit and seeing it as it is I can learn (or to die to it) and go on. I am on the Cross only when I remember and can prepare for it with exercises - without this the Cross does not exist; it is not in the past – it exists only in the present”.
I spoke in the group trying to explain what I had found out, but I could not get the message over to the others! Here I was with my discovery and nobody wanted to know anything about it. What was wrong?
Even now reading the short note about my discovery I can see the point and understand what I meant to say. However, it does not look at all interesting; if I did not know what I am talking about I surely could not understand either what I meant.
One of the members of our group also spoke about her discoveries in connection with the point on the Cross. I meant I understood what she said, but she had the same feeling of having not been able to deliver her message in a way that it was understood.
The following day she rang me and we shared our experiences of not having been able to express ourselves to our satisfaction. However, in the evening I had had a flash. It showed me clearly that it is not possible to explain my point by ordinary means: the only way I could do it is to use a story or a parable, or a picture; the words will not do, they are not good enough!
While I was writing this article my friend discovered a passage in J. G. Bennett’s book “The Witness”, which is his autobiography. Bennett writes about a similar “flash”-experience:
“During 1950, I often visited Paris to seek advice and help from Madame de Salzmann. During one of these journeys, I passed through an experience that was the shortest in duration and the deepest in significance of my whole life up to that moment. I cannot fix the exact date, for I kept no record. It has been present with me ever since, and though the memory of it remains unchanged, I have seen more and more wealth of meaning in it as the years have passed.
I was travelling alone to Paris by the Golden Arrow. I had just finished lunch an hour or so beyond Calais, and was drinking coffee. As I put my cup down my attention was drawn to my breathing, and in the brief instant when the flow of breath changed from inspiration to expiration, I became aware of Eternity. This was the first time in my life that I lived through a timeless event: though it is common enough between sleeping and waking to have long and vivid dreams that occupy seconds and seem to last for hours.
This was not at all like a dream - there were no visions, no images, nothing happened, not even a thought. It was a state of pure cognition, a luminous certainty. The central truth was the imperishability of the will. Body perishes; all the functions that depend upon the body turn into dreams and eventually fade away. Even my very self, my own existence and the feeling of "I" that accompanies it, could endure only for a time. But my will was out of time and space, and nothing could destroy it. So long as the will was the prisoner of my functions, that is of my sensations, my thoughts, feelings and desires, it must be involved in their fate. If they perished, it must perish with them. But if my will were free from all these, especially from "being" anything at all, then it would be truly imperishable, immortal and able to create for itself whatever vehicle it might need in order to exist and work. This freedom is the will to do God's Will, and I understood once and forever that this is the secret of everlasting life. All the mysteries of the Christian creed, and not those of Christianity alone, but of all that has been revealed to men through the ages, became one clear consistent truth. All this and infinitely more was revealed to me, age upon age and world upon world, and yet the entire experience did not occupy the time of a single heart-beat.
From that moment, I have been convinced that the consciousness of eternity is possible for man, and that it gives a contact with the reality behind appearances that is incomparably more direct and complete than our ordinary consciousness of events in time and space. The very incommunicability of such an experience is the most convincing evidence that Facts are not everything. No doubt Wittgenstein and his school are right in asserting that all that is Fact can be described clearly and without ambiguity, and that whatever can be said at all can be said clearly.
The factual content of the experience, within the limits of my fleeting memory, could be described in as much detail as you please; but there are literally no words to convey the certainty that in one moment I had left time and space and entered the state of eternal consciousness. It is of the very nature of time that events succeed one another: this is equally true of time as we find it in our everyday sense experience, and of the refined notions of time developed in mathematical physics. All our language is so linked to time that we cannot express a timeless situation, except in temporal terms. But Eternity has no succession, neither before nor after“.
This little big experience seems to be very similar to my “flash”, but there also seems to be a very big difference.
Trying to understand these differences I can see that Bennett does not really talk about will. In fact, I have no idea why he chose the words “eternity” and “will” to describe his experience. In the same way I do not know today why I wrote about “being stuck in a habit” etc.
What I wanted to say instead was: the idea of the Cross, when we apply it to ourselves, shows us clearly all we need to know about Christianity or any other religion. Bennett wrote: “All the mysteries of the Christian creed, and not those of Christianity alone, but of all that has been revealed to men through the ages, became one clear consistent truth”.
The problem with both above statements is that it is impossible to understand them if you have not had an experience similar to the ones talked about.
With understanding one needs to be very careful; here is a little extract from Rumis Fihi Ma Fihi, which was earlier translated into English as "Discourses". The German name "Von Allem und vom Einen" is not only slightly reminiscent of "All and Everything" - it has the same meaning (it is interesting to note how Gurdjieff influenced even Rumi).
"These words mean nothing except to the initiated! Beware! Do not say, “I have understood.” The more you understand and grasp these words, the farther you will be from understanding them. Their meaning comes in not understanding. All your troubles, misfortunes and disappointments arise from such understanding. This understanding is a chain for you. You must escape it to gain anything at all".