Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Pain-Body (Part Four): Remembering Winter

…every emotional pain that you experience leaves behind a residue of pain.
It merges with past pain and lodges in your mind and body.
This accumulated pain is a negative energy field, and if you look upon it as an invisible entity in its own right, you are getting quite close to the truth…

The pain-body usually has a collective as well as a personal aspect…
The collective one is the pain accumulated in the collective human psyche over thousands of years through disease, torture, war, murder, cruelty, madness…

Eckhart Tolle

My question is, “How is this possible?”
How is it possible to inherit what’s essentially a memory?
That should be impossible.
I should not actually “remember” what happened to my grandmother.
Yet, Tolle says we bear the scars and thus is some sense the memory.

Years ago my brother told me of a study in which mice were put on a zinc deficient diet. Their descendents had depressed immune systems for the next five generations – even when zinc was restored to normal levels.

To Andy, these results not only showed the importance of proper nutrition
but also had implications for all of us today.
Since there has probably never been a time when five generations have all received adequate nutrition, we must all still bear the marks of our ancestors’ deprivation.

Five generations.
That takes us back to great-great grandfathers.
In my case, these are the Bralley and Kearfotts who fought the Civil War.
In my case, when Andy mentioned the nutrition research, I was plagued by "flashback" of wars I hadn’t been alive to see.

So, I liked the idea of trans-generational memory even if it was just nutritional.
But then, it hit me.
“That is Lamarkism. And, That Can’t Be!”
Darwin shot that all to pieces.
“Acquired traits” like memories or nutritional status cannot be inherited,
and pain-bodies should not be possible.

Yes, I know. There is Nurture as well as Nature.
Psychological damage does get passed from one generation to the next.
But, Tolle seems to be describing something physical, something sounding almost genetic.
He is talking Nature.

So let’s lay aside for the moment the psychological impact our parents’ traumas.
Let’s also set aside the possibility that information may be “immaterial” - encoded “in our souls.”
Are there still factors creating an inheritable pain-body?

“Every emotional pain that you experience leaves behind a residue of pain”

I think this is what Tolle’s saying. There is something physical that gets created and inherited.

Which brings me back to, “How can this be?”

Maharishi, called it stress:
an emotional overload that changes our physiology and bodies.
Marahishi said that stress creates a knot. (A knot of what he did not say.)

Now we know that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder affects the hippocampus (seat of memory) and HPA axis (hypothalamus, pituitary, adrenal axis - brain signals breaking out into the entire body).
PTSD also gives you flashbacks as memory replays in waking nightmares.

…But, how…
How could the traumatic memory be passed on to future generations?
How could I know what it was like to be a soldier in a war I never fought?
I could I develop PTSD from a war I was never in? (which is one way of describing my struggles for over twenty years after I awakened in 1975.)

I have mulled these questions over for several decades now.
It was only last month that I came across a journal article on plants entitled:
Remembering winter: toward a molecular understanding of vernalization.

If plants “remember winter” then surely brains are not required.
But, of course! This is exactly the point in the PTSD refrain, “the body remembers.”

The article on plants went something along these lines:
Exposure to the cold of winter is an important cue for flowering in spring.
Flowering is due to cold-mediated modifications of proteins in the chromatin
This process is known as vernalization

which is just the technical way of saying plants recall the cold by modifying the proteins that entwine their DNA.
Memories don’t always require a brain.
And molecular information is not solely stored in the genes (which is the Darwinian position and the geneticist’s and my prejudice).

Information can be stored “epigenetically.”

Remember that word.

Epigenetics makes it possible to inherit acquired traits
(like the depressed immune systems of mice on low zinc diets.)
Epigenetics makes it possible to remember winter
(like a rose covered by the snow.)
Epigenetics can be trans-generational.
Epigenetics puts an end to protests of “Lamarkism!”
Epigenetics explains how “memory” can be inherited.

For Example:
Swedish men born in 1905 who experienced famine just before puberty, had grandsons who went through puberty earlier and had lengthened life spans.
Grandsons of the well fed had shortened life spans and increased diabetes.

For Example:
The World War II food embargo imposed by Germany on Holland caused 30,000 deaths.
The descendents of survivors suffered a range of health problems inlcuding: diabetes, obesity, coronary heart disease, cancer, as well as smaller-than-normal grandchildren.
Our bodies can remember that grandmother nearly starved.

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