This post is dedicated to Sivananda Reddy.
It is striking that many mystical systems contain elaborate and central theories of memory in which the importance or the very existence of early childhood memories is denied and displaced backwards to prenatal events, or forward, to the present and future. Perhaps negated depression is the central unspoken element of mystic states of elation. The primary literature on mysticism is replete with alluring descriptions of states of mind characterized by depersonalization, derealization and deja vu -- descriptions devoid of genuine emotional content, and offering instead bland and repetitive reassurances. The impression is that of a panicked attempt to conjure up contentment through a magic, counterphobic gesture. The result is an alien state of mind, anxious and disturbing because these derealizations, etc., are screens behind which lie painful, unconscious memories. The mystic is seeking not future illumination, but protection from past dangers. Where can a traumatized small child find protection except in the arms of the one powerful enough to have originally inflicted the haunting pain? Thus the mystic, like all traumatized persons, is trapped in a compulsion to repeat, a component of which is an attempt at magical undoing.
A person who has been severely hurt emotionally early in life can reenact in manifold disguise the original traumas; but he cannot remember with full force of feeling. The screening process through the break in affective connections is evident here. Note that specific unhappy childhood memories which turn out to be false are false only in content, not in feeling. They produce a particular hurt in the hope of screening a deeper, more momentous and pervasive misery. Unpleasurable memories remain reverberating somewhere in the body and emotions.
The condition of emotional stillness, a dire symptom in human terms, is universally praised in many Indian and Western mystical texts and pursued by means of exercises and meditations. We can hypothesize that the various forms of emotional undernourishment, far more common than physical undernourishment, leave behind an insatiable craving, the search for mystical experiences, as if only the ecstatic stillness of trance-states could fill the void of a happiness never experienced. But this search is a symptom, always an unhappy substitution. Depression, rage and aggression are the obverse of the ecstasy and the inevitable hidden accompaniments of such journeys into a sad past. The apparent reliving of a lost past in terms of grasping at the illusion of ecstasy can only represent a falsification of memory for the purpose of defense. And the dry, brittle memories of an emotionally arid childhood are as fearsome as those of more openly violent abuse. The hunger that such childhood misery and emptiness leave behind often becomes "bound" in a phantom memory. Feelings of nostalgia for a lost past comprise a denial of childhood misery.