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Spiritual concepts

Memory and emotion

What we Learn and thus the content of Memory is highly influenced by the strength of Emotion that was attached to the Perceptions on which the Memory was based.

The greater the Intensity of Emotion  - see also Emotion examples – the greater likelihood that it will become a major part of our Memory.  There is a very good reason for this.  If any perception is based on great pleasure, we will want to repeat it.  If it is based on great pain, we will want to avoid it.  We have only so much Memory available to us and only so much capacity for recall, as such it makes sense to go for the Perceptions that hit us hardest.

But this can also be highly dangerous, because we tend to believe and commit to memory the information relayed to us by those who fill their communications with huge amounts of emotion

Many political, and religious belief systems on which people have based almost their entire mental models have been based on the communications of a few very emotional men.  Not men who were right, but men who were capable of provoking intense emotion in their listeners. 

George Fox was one of the founders of the Quaker religion, and as William James says “no one can pretend for a moment that in point of spiritual .. capacity, Fox’s mind was unsound… yet from the point of view of his nervous constitution, Fox was a psychopath or detraque of the deepest dye, his journal abounds in entries of this sort”…………

George Fox – quoted in The Varieties of Religious Experience – William James

It was winter, but the word of the Lord was like fire in me.  So I put off my shoes, and left them with the shepherds; and the poor shepherds trembled and were astonished.  Then I walked on about a mile, and as soon as I was within the city, the word of the Lord came to me again, saying cry ‘Wo to the bloody city of Lichfield!’  So I went up and down the streets, crying with a loud voice Wo to the bloody city of Lichfield!  It being market day, I went into the market place and to and fro in the several parts of it, and made stands, crying as before Wo to the bloody city of Lichfield!  And no one laid hands on me. 

And of course, no one would because this was Britain and the British are on the whole a tolerant lot and they would be thinking ‘oh crikey another loony on the loose’.  And most British people are pretty tolerant of the harmless mentally ill.

But the emotion  - my goodness,  - they wouldn’t have forgotten what he said because of the emotion attached to it.

And here we come against yet another real danger of mental models and the way they are formed.  If an idea is explained with sufficient conviction, accompanied by frequent repetition of a simple phrase or idea and considerable emotion by people of power and charisma, even the most damning and dangerous ideas can catch on.  Hitler, Mao Tse Tung, Stalin, and so on were all able to persuade people to believe, through rhetoric and emotion, in ideas that caused misery to millions.  And we should not exclude religious ideas in this analysis; religious ideas have caused great misery too.

Conviction and repetition are key components, but what appears to be one of the greatest deciding factors is the power of emotion with which the idea is delivered.

Observations

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