All knowledge is memory.
Rather, and even more disturbing, all knowing what one experiences is memory. Sorry to say, but it has to be. Why? Because the river of experienced reality is too swift. As soon as the man stuck on the bank reaches out to grasp what passes by, it’s already gone. Even managing a small handful of reality is a slippery business.
Which is to say there is a great difference and much that happens between smelling a rose and knowing you’re smelling a rose. And the devil is in the details.
First, you must perceive. You must see. For how can you experience something you don’t perceive? To experience a tree falling in a forest you must first hear it with your ears or see it with your eyes. To smell the rose you must first of all have a nose. It is the same with real life, what Christ calls the kingdom of heaven. To experience it you must first have an apparatus to perceive it. This is the soul of man. The gemstone. The rejected cornerstone. That broken stone which temples of itself; is a temple in itself. That small, hidden stone in the rubble that births the temple upon it, from it, and because of it. The self-organizing principle calls to the soul of man from under a heap like a magnet to iron, “Temple!”
But a great and marvelous and tragic thing happens after perception of reality: Cognition, or thinking, or consciousness. Reality is realized just as insects are fossilized. Through a process, reality is made real.
Experienced reality speaks as it passes by. We perceive its voice. Then the sound becomes an echo. With cognition, the original experience bounces around our brain from parietal lobe to frontal lobe and back again and all around. It reflects on itself. Momentary experience “makes an impression” on the clay of our mind as a foot leaves a print on sand—sometimes deeper, sometimes shallower—depending on the softness of the clay and the heaviness of the experience. But—and here is the great danger—the footprints are not the foot that made it and the echo is not the voice. Both the imprint of reality’s foot and the echo of her voice fade as we wander deeper through our forest. We become more and more lost, walking closer and closer to a trap.
In the story of Narcissus and Echo, Narcissus represents the ego and Echo represents reality:
Reality, once a small, pure and bright voice, becomes only an echo. Narcissus can’t see or hear her anymore—she is too small with too small a voice. He ignores her too long, though she seeks, follows, and loves him. Because he spurned her love, Narcissus was fated to be trapped by an image reflected on the surface of a lake. It is essential to understand he was trapped forever precisely because he didn’t know the reflected image was himself. Unbeknownst to him all reality had become selfish—just as all colors under a rose colored glass are reddish—and it was a beautiful, inescapable red to him.
Reality became only a reflection. And a reflection of a reflection. For Narcissus, there was no difference and no reality outside himself in the labyrinthine hall of mirrors found at the water’s edge. There was only "I" and he was mesmerized and blinded by the trick. He crossed the energy beams upon himself and slowly burned, wasting away at the water’s edge.
This parallels the journey from perception into memory: Each experience travels from parietal cortex (the land of perception, or initial conscious awareness of experience--the homunculus) to frontal cortex (thinking about the experience) to pre-frontal cortex (thinking about and manipulating thinking about experience) and back again.
But which comes first? We forget. Which is transcendent? Which is outside of you and which is the reality you made? Where is the origin of the sound before the echo?
Where is the voice?
Because that is the only thing that is truly separate—the rest is an echo chamber. The voice is the only thing that is truly holy. Therefore, if it is the only thing that is truly separate from you, then it is the only thing you can truly seek to unify with. It is the only thing that can reveal your location in existence—your coordinates. It draws a map from the fading echo of “Where I think I am” to the origin of where you actually are.
It is the voice of Moses’ bush—all else was Moses’ wilderness. It is Job’s lone redeemer—all else is Job’s dust.