According to Sheldrake, author of numerous scientific books and articles, memory does not reside in any geographic region of the cerebrum, but instead in a kind of field surrounding and permeating the brain. Meanwhile, the brain itself acts as a “decoder” for the flux of information produced by the interaction of each person with their environment.

In his paper “Mind, Memory, and Archetype Morphic Resonance and the Collective Unconscious” published in the journal Psychological Perspectives, Sheldrake likens the brain to a TV set—drawing an analogy to explain how the mind and brain interact.

“If I damaged your TV set so that you were unable to receive certain channels, or if I made the TV set aphasic by destroying the part of it concerned with the production of sound so that you could still get the pictures but could not get the sound, this would not prove that the sound or the pictures were stored inside the TV set. However, neurologists have discovered that the brain is not a static entity, but a dynamic synaptic mass in constant flux— all of the chemical and cellular substances interact and change position in a constant way. Unlike a computer disc which has a regular, unchanging format that will predictably pull up the same information recorded even years before, it is difficult to maintain that a memory could be housed and retrieved in the constantly changing cerebrum…..”

I usually open my lectures with the premise that the brain is very similar to other electronic devises such as a television, radio and a computer. And then we discuss how the brain is different from those devices. Sheldrake’s theory is interesting and brings up a premise I had not before considered, and should have.  The computer does everything the same every time like clockwork, but the human brain retrieves differently at different times, places, situations and context.

I hadn’t thought of this as one of the key differences between computers and people but it is indeed one of the variables that makes people “human” and why researchers and engineers in their attempt to make a robot, or a computer chip more human, will find that the variable of emotion and context is not something that can be programmed, at least not authentically. Responding to a surrounding, for a human, is always in the context of individuation- which is vast and not all that predictable as much as behavioral scientists would like it to be.

But conditioned as we are to believe that thinking is contained within our heads, the idea that memory could be influenced or exist outside our brains  or links to a greater collective appears at first to be somewhat confusing; but in the same manner that a photo or a series of words travel from one cell phone to another along an EM wave, and could be lost, or dropped or diverted or spied on,  so too do our thoughts travel and then it doesn’t seem unreasonable at all that our thinking might be  somewhere out there traveling too.