Associations (in VRW)

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Have you ever tried to watch yourself mentally when your attention has not been set on some definite problem for concentration? I suppose most of you are familiar with this, although perhaps only a few have systematically watched it in themselves. You are no doubt aware of the way we think by chance association, when our thought strings disconnected scenes and memories together, when everything that falls within the field of our consciousness, or merely touches it lightly, calls up these chance associations in our thought. The string of thoughts seems to go on uninterruptedly, weaving together fragments of representations of former perceptions, taken from different recordings in our memories. And these recordings turn and unwind while our thinking apparatus deftly weaves its threads of thought continuously from this material. The records of our feelings revolve in the same way-pleasant and unpleasant, joy and sorrow, laughter and irritation, pleasure and pain, sympathy and antipathy. You hear yourself praised and you are pleased; someone reproves you and your mood is spoiled. Something new captures your interest and instantly makes you forget what interested you just as much the moment before. Gradually your interest attaches you to the new thing to such an extent that you sink into it from head to foot; suddenly you do not possess it any more, you have disappeared, you are bound to and dissolved in this thing; in fact it possesses you, it has captivated you, and this infatuation, this capacity for being captivated is, under many different guises, a property of each one of us. This binds us and prevents our being free. By the same token it takes away our strength and our time, leaving us no possibility of being objective and free -two essential qualities for anyone who decides to follow the way of self-knowledge. [VRW p. 45]

It is possible by hypnosis to make all the rolls turn, even to the deepest depths of the mechanism. But it may happen that these rolls begin to unroll by themselves as a result of some visible or hidden shock, and scenes, pictures or faces, apparently long forgotten, suddenly come to the surface. All the internal psychic life of man is nothing but an unfolding, before the mental vision, of these rolls with their records of impressions. All the peculiarities of a man’s world conception and the characteristic features of his individuality depend on the order in which these records come and upon the quality of the rolls existing in him.

Let us suppose that some impression was experienced and recorded in connection with another having nothing in common with the first-for instance, some very bright dance tune has been heard by a man in a moment of intense psychic shock, distress or sorrow. Then this tune will always evoke in him the same negative emotion and correspondingly the feeling of distress will recall to him that bright dance tune. Science calls this associative thinking and feeling; but science does not realize how much man is bound by these associations and how he cannot get away from them. Man’s world-conception is entirely defined by the character and quantity of these associations. [VRW p. 73-74]

For those of you who are already able to remember your aim automatically, but have no strength to do it: Sit for a period of at least one hour alone. Make all your muscles relaxed. Allow your associations to proceed but do not be absorbed by them. Say to them: “If you will let me do as I wish now, I shall later grant you your wishes.” Look on your associations as though they belonged to someone else, to keep yourself from identifying with them. [VRW p. 92]

A man’s sleep is nothing else than interrupted connections between centers. A man’s centers never sleep. Since associations are their life, their movement, they never cease, they never stop. A stoppage of associations means death. The movement of associations never stops for an instant in any center, they flow on even in the deepest sleep. [VRW p. 117]

Knowing the machine, I give orders every moment for associations to change-but I have to do this at every moment. Every moment associations change automatically, one evokes another and so on. If I am acting, I have to direct at every moment. It is impossible to leave it to momentum. And I can direct only if there is someone present who is able to direct. [VRW p. 178]

Associations are a very powerful and important phenomenon for us, but their significance is already forgotten. In ancient times people had special feast days. One day, for instance, was dedicated to certain combinations of sound, another to flowers, or colors, a third to taste, another to the weather, coldness and heat. Then the different sensations were compared.

For example, supposing one day was the feast of sound. One hour there would be one sound, another hour another sound. During this time a special drink was handed around, or at times a special “smoke.” In a word, certain states and feelings were evoked by chemical means with the help of external influences, in order to create certain associations for the future. Later when similar external circumstances were repeated, they evoked the same states.

There was even a special day for mice, snakes and animals we are generally afraid of. People were given a special drink and then made to handle such things as snakes in order to get used to them. This produced such an impression that afterwards a man was not afraid any more. Such customs existed a long time ago in Persia and Armenia. In former times people understood human psychology very well and were guided by it. But the reasons were never explained to the masses; they were given quite a different interpretation, from a different angle. Only the priests knew the meaning of it all. These facts refer to the pre-Christian times when people were ruled by priest-kings. [VRW p. 180]

For example, I wish to remember myself as long as possible. But I have proved to myself that I very quickly forget the task I set myself, because my mind has very few associations connected with it.

I have noticed that other associations engulf the associations connected with self-remembering. Our associations take place in our formatory apparatus owing to shocks which the forma-tory apparatus receives from the centers. Each shock has associations of its own particular character; their strength depends on the material which produces them.

If the thinking center produces associations of self-remembering, incoming associations of another character, which come from other parts and have nothing to do with self-remembering, absorb these desirable associations, since they come from many different places and so are more numerous. [VRW p. 226]


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