Saturday, July 27, 2019

The Gates of Anamnesis

Essential knowledge comes to us through soul remembering: through reclaiming the knowledge that belonged to us, on the level of mind or spirit, before we came into the body in our present life experience. This has been central to my understanding of everything since I was in my early teens, when I received instruction from an interesting mentor.
    He was one of my invisible companions. He usually appeared at my bedside in the middle of the night, when I was drifting in a twilight state of consciousness in that place between sleep and awake. He presented himself as a radiant young man from the eastern end of the Mediterranean. He came from a Greek community on the coast of the country we now call Syria.
     His name was Philemon. Many years later, I
discovered another Philemon, but this was the first time I had heard this name. This beautiful young man spoke to me in the language of the Platonists. He told me, “Everything important, everything you need to know that matters comes to you by way of anamnesis.”  The brain of my fourteen-year-old self did not previously contain that difficult word anamnesis. You can actually find anamnesis in an English language dictionary. However, it is not exactly household word. It's Greek and Philemon was using it in a very special sense.
     Anamnesis literally means “remembering”, but it's about more than remembering what you put on the grocery list or what you read in that textbook. Anamnesis in the doctrine of the Neoplatonist philosophers anamnesis is about remembering what belongs to us on the level of soul and spirit. Remembering perhaps the reasons we came here in the first place, why we took on embodiment in this life. It is as important as that. To regain such essential knowledge requires the practice of soul remembering.
    I learned later that in another Greek school of philosophy, attributed to Pythagoras, anamnesis is also about remembering your connection with a series of personalities living in other times. These may be reincarnational experiences, but there may be even more going on. Through anamnesis, you come to recognize that you are connected with personalities in other times and other dimensions and you can communicate with each other. When you do that, you bring together the knowledge of many selves. You start to see how your present life story is part of a much larger pattern. You find it possible to draw together lessons and gifts from many members of your multidimensional family.
     Heady stuff for a teenage boy in Canberra, Australia. I could do a little research, and was already reading Plutarch, but I was only able to unfold what all of this was about when I got to university and had access to a real research library. We did not have Google back in those days.
     When I read Jung’s Memories, Dreams, Reflections at seventeen or eighteen, I discovered that Jung had a guide he called Philemon.  Jung’s Philemon looked very different from mine. His portrait is in the Red Book. Jung saw him as an old man with a long beard, bull horns and wings of kingfisher blue.He said that his Philemon taught him "the objective reality of the psyche"; that what we see as subjective or interior phenomenon are also out there. The contents of the psyche are also objective. They are both personal and transpersonal.

Over all the years, anamnesis has remained one of the most important words in my personal vocabulary, and soul remembering is central to my teaching and practice. We came here for a reason. We may or may not love the reason when we remember it, but we are here for a reason and we come here with stories from before this life. We want to remember those stories. We come here with soul kin, with a soul family extended over space and time. We want to remember more about that and start to connect consciously with our soul family. They will know us.  They will know us. They reach to us as we reach for them. As the Irish mystic AE affirmed, Your own will come to you.

Painting by AE (George Russell)

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