Recollection, Providence, Memory, and Knowledge

Welcome to our newsletter, dear readers.

Our first library selection this month, “Recollection, Indian and Platonic”, is a chapter by Ananda K. Coomaraswamy on the universality of the doctrines regarding memory, considered from its metaphysical correspondences and with all its human concomitants in theology and the spiritual life. It includes what is perhaps the most concise and profound explanation of Providence in English literature.

There has been clearly established, in the Indian sources, a logical connection of Omniscience, an unbroken Memory of all things, with temporal and spatial omnipresence. Only from this point of view can the notion of a “Providence” be made intelligible, the divine life being uneventful, not in the sense that it knows nothing of what we call events, but inasmuch as all of the events of what are for us past and future times are present to it now, and not in a succession.

• Our second item, “Mythologies of Memory and Forgetting”, by Mircea Eliade, parallels Coomaraswamy’s arguments, with less on the metaphysical aspects and more on the mythical, adding some reflections about the value of history in our times.

The historiographic anamnesis of the Western world is only beginning. At least several generations must pass before its cultural repercussions can be gauged. But we may say that, though on a different plane, this anamnesis continues the religious valorization of memory and forgetfulness.

• And to complete this thematic selection, we present an article by John Carey, “The Heart of Knowing”, a deep reflection on the relations between memory, knowledge, and the mechanical pitfalls of modernity and of every age.

The essential difference, as Blake never tired of saying, is not in what is known but in how it is known. If we do at last come to the place of illumination, we will not need to write down what we find there: as Plato knew, “there is no risk that anyone would forget that, if once he should clasp it with his soul; for it abides in the shortest formulations of all.”