The goddess of memory, mother of the Muses.
The Greek poet and
mythographer Hesiod said that Mnemosyne was no minor deity, but one of
the wisest of the Titans, the offspring of Ouranos (heaven) and Gaia
(earth). It was her function to
remind the soul of its higher estate and noble powers of reason,
proportion and harmony. She was not merely
the goddess of recalling the shadows of past events, but the patron of
recapturing our other modes of being; of remembering whence we came,
and where we may return.
Plato inherited many of the Pythagorean concepts of life and death. In _The Republic_ he retells the myth of Er the Pamphylian, describing the soul's journey through the scorching plain of Lethe where it encamps for a time by the River of Forgetfulness. It was necessary before incarnating that all should drink a certain measure of the water; but those who were 'not preserved by wisdom" drank more than the measure and forgot all. Rodney Collin says that a more esoteric Orphic legend describes two streams from which the dead may drink - Lethe and Mnemosyne; Oblivion and Memory. Only those initiated into the mysteries know of the existence of the second stream, and were allowed to escape the cycle of incarnation and dwell with the immortals.
The ancients understood that the art of developing memory is directly related to establishing a permanent principle of consciousness to survive the potential disintegration of individuality that accompanies death. Consciousness creates memory; presence, awareness and attention build the vehicle of divinity, the soul.
William Shakespeare said "Purpose is the slave to memory." For sleeping man, Mnemosyne is the most important of the gods; the principle of conscious re-integration. She provides the connection between man and the miraculous. With our feeble consciousness, we can barely remember details of events occurring within the last 24 hours, for there is rarely any awareness or governing intelligence. However, when we are present, there is more of our being receiving impression, as each of our separate functions - intellectual, emotional and physical receive the information intended for them.
We are present; we have re-membered ourselves.
- Anthony Craig
Mnemosyne--the goddess of
memory--and her sister Lesmosyne, who presides over forgetting, once
occupied high places in Western cosmology. Appropriately, Mnemosyne was
in Greek legend the mother of the muses, the source from which all human
culture--art, history, science--springs. Without memory, the imaginative
reshaping or re-membering of experience would be impossible, for which
reason Giambattista Vico wrote in his discussion of "Poetic Wisdom,"
is nothing but the springing up again of reminiscences, and ingenuity or
invention is nothing but the working over of what is remembered. . . .
With reason, then, did the theological poets call Memory the mother of
the Muses; that is, of the arts of humanity.