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General description

According to Mme. Blavatsky, memories are not stored in the brain, but in the "astral light". The latter is an aspect of the Akasha that records everything that takes place on Earth:

Nothing that takes place, no manifestation however rapid or weak, can ever be lost from the Skandhic record of a man’s life. Not the smallest sensation, the most trifling action, impulse, thought, impression, or deed, can fade or go out from, or in the Universe. We may think it unregistered by our memory unperceived by our consciousness, yet it will still be recorded on the tablets of the astral light.[1]

Thus, the faculty of memory is related to the ability of consciousness to read into the person's record of the astral light:

Memory — the despair of the materialist, the enigma of the psychologist, the sphinx of science — is to the student of old philosophies merely a name to express that power which man unconsciously exerts, and shares with many of the inferior animals — to look with inner sight into the astral light, and there behold the images of past sensations and incidents. Instead of searching the cerebral ganglia for “micrographs of the living and the dead, of scenes that we have visited, of incidents in which we have borne a part,” they went to the vast repository where the records of every man’s life as well as every pulsation of the visible cosmos are stored up for all Eternity![2]

The records of past events, of every minutest action, and of passing thoughts, in fact, are really impressed on the imperishable waves of the ASTRAL LIGHT, around us and everywhere, not in the brain alone; and these mental pictures, images, and sounds, pass from these waves via the consciousness of the personal Ego or Mind (the lower Manas) whose grosser essence is astral, into the “cerebral reflectors,” so to say, of our brain, whence they are delivered by the psychic to the sensuous consciousness. This at every moment of the day, and even during sleep.[3]

According to C. W. Leabeater

C. W. Leadbeater, relating the phenomena of Psychometry to that of memory wrote:

It seems as though there were a sort of magnetic attachment or affinity between any particle of matter and the record which contains its history - an affinity which enables it to act as a kind of conductor between that record and the faculties of anyone who can read it.

. . .

The scenes through which we pass in the course of our life seem to act in the same manner upon the cells of our brain as did the history of Stonehenge upon that particle of stone; they establish a connection with those cells by means of which our mind is put en rapport with that particular portion of the records, and so we "remember" what we have seen.[4]

Memory of higher states

The memory of higher states of consciousness reached during meditation, depends to a large extent on the degree of purity of the vehicles of consciousness of the mystic, especially that of the physical body:

If the Upâdhi be not perfectly pure, it cannot preserve recollections coming from a higher state.... The Sthûla Sharîra is the upâdhi for all the principles acting on the physical plane.[5]

For one less perfect it will end only in a partial, indistinct remembrance; while the beginner has to face in the first period of his psychic experiences a mere confusion, followed by a rapid and finally complete oblivion of the mysteries seen during this super-hypnotic condition. The degree of recollection, when one returns to his waking state and physical senses, depends on his spiritual and psychic purification, the greatest enemy of spiritual memory being man’s physical brain, the organ of his sensuous nature.[6]

The purity of the physical body depends, first, on the kind of food, drinks, and other substances that may be consumed. In her book The Key to Theosophy (Section 13), Blavatsky advised a vegetarian diet and abstinence from alcohol and intoxicating drugs. Secondly, the quality of the thoughts and emotions that the aspirant normally entertains also affect the purity of the body.

Memory in the dying

The near-death review that people experience is also said to be related to the astral light:

That flash of memory which is traditionally supposed to show a drowning man every long-forgotten scene of his mortal life — as the landscape is revealed to the traveller by intermittent flashes of lightning — is simply the sudden glimpse which the struggling soul gets into the silent galleries where his history is depicted in imperishable colors.[7]

See also

Online resources

Articles and pamphlets


  1. Vicente Hao Chin, Jr., The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett in chronological sequence No. 130 (Quezon City: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 415.
  2. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled vol. I, (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1972), 178-179.
  3. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. XII (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1988), 407.
  4. Charles Webster Leadbeater, Clairvoyance, (Adyar, Madras: The Theosophical Publishing House, 1986), 139.
  5. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. XII (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1980), 692.
  6. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. XIV (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1995), 52.
  7. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled vol. I, (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1972), 179.