Is there any aspect of human existence that is untouched by memory?
Doesn’t the answer to this question depend on whether (or not) there can genuinely be a state of awareness (or attention or perception) in which memory is absent?
Gross memory might be absent from such a state, the brain/mind is not actively (consciously) drawing upon memory for judgement, evaluation, division. But subtle memory seems to be embedded and interwoven in the very ‘essence’ of the body-mind organism.
Yes. Memory is embedded in the organism. You might say that the organism is itself memory that has taken semi-permanent form (the evolution of the bodily organs, the instincts, the capacity of the senses to perceive their objects, etc).
So memory is matter (whether subtle or gross).
But the question you were asking is, is this all that there is (in human existence)?
And the answer to this question depends on whether or not there can be a state of attention which is not based on memory, and is not itself simply matter!
If the organism is memory made flesh, this state would have to be independent of it.
Looking at this question for myself, I see that there is no real consideration of the question - just a forcing of it to fit a point of view. So complicated indeed!
You know, this is interesting. In the Zoom dialogue the other evening someone brought up a question related to the Future of Humanity discussions that Krishnamurti had with David Bohm in 1983. There they discuss the topic you have raised explicitly.
You must read this!
In the first discussion, they touch on it briefly:
DB: Now that brings in the question of the nature of thought. You see is thought nothing but a movement in the nervous system, in the brain? Would you say that?
K: Yes… We have often discussed this, whether there is anything beyond thought. Not something holy, sacred - I am not talking of that. I am talking: is there an activity which is not touched by thought? We are saying there is. And that activity is the highest form of intelligence. (Dialogue 1, Brockwood Park, 1983)
The implication here is that what K is calling intelligence is not a movement in the nervous system or the brain (i.e. it is independent of the brain). But they do not go into this in detail in the first conversation.
However, they then continue this particular thread of the discussion in their following dialogue (which took place about a week later).
I have edited the extract so as to highlight the specific area we are exploring.
K: Shouldn’t we first distinguish between the brain and the mind?
DB: Well that distinction has been made, and it is not clear. Now of course there are several views. One that the mind is just a function of the brain - that is the materialists’ view. There is another view which says mind and brain are two different things.
K: Yes, I think they are two different things…
DB: The brain is an activity in time, as a physical, chemical, complex process.
K: I think the mind is separate from the brain.
DB: What does separate mean? Are they in contact?
K: Separate in the sense that the brain is conditioned and the mind is not.
DB: Let’s say the mind has a certain independence of the brain. Even if the brain is conditioned…
K: …the other is not…
DB: What is the nature of the mind? Is the mind located inside the body, or is it in the brain?
K: No, it is nothing to do with the body or the brain…
DB: Now is insight of the mind? Is it of the nature of mind? An activity of mind?
DB: Therefore you are saying that mind can act in the matter of the brain.
K: Yes… For instance, take any crisis, or problem… Now to approach the problem, or to have perception of it without any past memories and thoughts interfering or projecting…
DB: That implies that perception also is of the mind…
K: Yes, that’s right.
DB: Are you saying that the brain is a kind of instrument of the mind?
K: An instrument of the mind when the brain is not self-centred…
DB: Is intelligence from the mind?
K: Yes, intelligence is the mind.
DB: Is the mind.
K: We must go into something else. Because compassion is related to intelligence, there is no intelligence without compassion. And compassion can only be, when there is love which is completely free from all remembrances, personal jealousies, and so on.
DB: Is all that compassion, love, also of the mind?
K: Of the mind…
DB: Yes, I understand that we have here two things which can be somewhat independent. There is the brain and the mind, though they make contact. Then we say that intelligence and compassion come from beyond the brain. Now I would like to go into the question of how they are making contact.
K: Contact can only exist between the mind and the brain when the brain is quiet… You are asking whether the mind can be perceived by the brain.
DB: Or at least the brain somehow be aware… an awareness, a sense.
K: We are saying, yes; through meditation… In attention, thought has no place…
DB: Is this undirected attention mind?
K: Attention is of the mind.
DB: Well, it contacts the brain, doesn’t it?
K: Yes. As long as the brain is silent, the other has contact.
DB: That is, this true attention has contact with the brain, when the brain is silent…
K: There can be perception only when it is not tinged by thought. When there is no interference from the movement of thought, there is perception, which is direct insight into a problem, or into human complexities.
DB: Now this perception originates in the mind?
K: Does the perception originate in the mind? Yes. When the brain is quiet.
K: But we use the words perception and intelligence, now how are they related, or what is their difference?
K: The difference between perception and intelligence?
DB: So we can say intelligence is perception.
K: Yes, that’s right…
DB: Of course this is a radical notion from the point of view of traditional ideas in science, because, if we accept that mind is different from matter, then people would find it hard to say that mind would actually,…
K: Would you put it that mind is pure energy?
DB: Well, we could put it that way, but matter is energy too.
K: But matter is limited; thought is limited.
DB: But we are saying that the pure energy of mind is able to reach into the limited energy of matter?
K: Yes, that’s right. And change the limitation. (Dialogue 2, Brockwood Park, 1983)
So the brain is matter, thought is matter, memory is matter - and matter is limited.
But mind is pure energy (not the energy of matter); and also insight, intelligence, attention, perception, love, compassion - and it is not limited.
Wow a little?!
Oh? - why do you say this Emile?
Perhaps - if I can say this without sounding critical - perhaps you could respond to Rick’s question with your own actual response, rather than judging someone else’s?
The response I had to Rick’s question was my own natural response.
What was your response?
I felt the impossibility of this:
That memory is all we know and have access to. Which is not to presume that that is all there is.
Apologies, that was not my intention. A misunderstanding perhaps?
Ah, maybe. Apologies for misunderstanding what you wrote.
I’m still not clear though what your original objection was (if you were objecting)?
The text of mine you replied to was
(in reply to Rick’s question about whether there is any aspect of human existence that is untouched by memory).
I didn’t intend this to be taken as a counter-question, but rather an exploration into Rick’s question. Because, for me, Rick’s question implies - or has it implicit in it - an assumption about our own capacity for perceiving this untouched thing.
If formulated, this counter-question (which I didn’t intend as a counter-question) might be articulated as:
Can there be a state of awareness/attention/perception that is free from memory/thought?
You then said
Now, when you wrote “looking at this question for myself”, were you referring to Rick’s question? or to my counter-question?
This still isn’t clear to me.
When you wrote just now that
was this supposed to explain your previous comment?
I’m not being critical, I’m just trying to get clear what the misunderstanding is.
I hate it when simple misunderstandings are permitted time to cause confusion!
I feel misunderstandings should be cleared up immediately - because while misunderstandings are trivial, when they are not cleared up, they create a wholly false and unnecessary feeling of separation.
I will try to formulate what I think you are saying, and then hopefully you can tell me if I have understood you correctly or not.
So was your initial objection an objection to the idea or belief or assertion (which you may have been imputing to me) that
‘there is such a thing as an awareness/attention/perception?’
Can I say that, for myself, I am not being dogmatic about this possibility. I was raising it as a question (for myself and for Rick), and shared what I understand to be Krishnamurti’s view on the subject (just so that his response is out there, which is interesting for its own sake).
But I genuinely do not know if there is an awareness/attention/perception/intelligence etc sans thought and memory.
That is why it is a question for me - a question that I feel stands behind, or underlies, Ricks’ original question of whether there is anything not touched by memory.
Is that more clear? Does this make sense to you? Did I understand you correctly? Do you understand me now?
I agreed with this statement.
Is this why you said (referring to a quotation from K)
Didn’t think of it as an objection. Just an observation of what was going on in my own mind. (I am using mind in the conventional sense of the word, not in the sense K used it in the passage you quoted above)
Again not an objection. More of a consideration. Not to you, per se. I was actually 'imputing it" to myself rather. Of the seemingly inevitability of my having a point of view, positive or negative, with regard to questions as to what lies beyond memory. So memory is being used to explore a place of no-memory. Which makes no sense.
This phrasing better addresses the conundrum. But nonetheless the central issue persists. How do we consider whether there is something beyond memory without using memory?
Same here. The point I was trying to make (poorly, it now appears in hindsight), is that that is as far as we can go. Any attempt to proceed further would have to resort to memory.
What I also observe though is that my memory still keeps reaching so I am beginning to suspect my ‘not knowing’ is not ‘genuine’.
Ah, I get it now. Sorry for not reading between the lines!
how can we know about a state that is free from memory, so long as we are not ourselves free from memory?
So - you are suggesting - don’t we first of all have to see that we are operating purely from memory? (if that is what we are doing).
Or, to put it differently,
Is the awareness that we currently have (or ‘are’) itself dominated by memory?
This puts the issue of memory as a question, rather than as an assertion (the assertion being: You are memory and nothing more - which would have to be the outcome of a genuine perception to express assertively, if you see what I mean).
For the brain to see, realize, awaken to the fact that I am “memory and nothing more”, is to perceive it, to be beyond memory.
Yes, that question does strike me as a starting place and one that is considerably less theoretical. Still a difficult one, but one that presumably lies within the purview of the intellect/thought/feeling/memory.
Seems to me K’s main focus was to urge us to see for ourselves the limit of thought, which includes its scope, its nature, where and how it manifests. What happens after that - whether it be awareness/attention/intelligence - is beyond our "control’. (Though confusingly he also talks about ‘freedom being there in the beginning’.)
Yes. That is how I understand it.
To be able to say, without error, that “I am only memory and nothing more”, would be of the nature of a perception without memory.
So I cannot assert that I am memory and nothing more.
I can only ask, as a question, “Is there - in the awareness or existence that ‘I’ am - anything other than memory; or is there only memory?”
That way, I make the question of memory available to perception - which is the only way of answering it.
Or, if I can put it a little more ‘positively’ (if this is acceptable to you):
K’s main focus was to ask us whether or not we are capable of having a perception - a direct insight - into the nature of thought and memory.
He often spoke of the need for an “instrument” other than thought, which is why I put it this way.
And by “other instrument” I take him to have meant awareness or perception of some kind (not necessarily absolute attention, or something ‘beyond the brain’).
Yes, quite thrilling. For me similar to the thrill of brahman. Also similar: Not knowing whether it is true or wishful thinking. Advaita says the truth of brahman is revealed in the scriptures authored by Ishvara, the equivalent (more or less) of God. Krishnamurti says the truth is known/realized by him, his body-mind, the Jiddu vessel. (He didn’t use those words, but the gist is imo right.)
What’s a truth-hungry skeptic to do?