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Our future, our universe, and other weighty topics

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Buried Memories of the Distant World: A Science Fiction Story

After the Council started to receive reports of Helena's strange psychiatric practices, the Council demanded that Helena face a board of inquiry concerning her practices.

We have heard that you are engaging in unorthodox techniques that have not been approved,” said the Chairman. “We are told that you have some weird practice in which you claim to retrieve buried memories from the minds of men and women. Please describe your technique so we can judge whether it is sound.”

It all started when some people started to complain about recurring dreams,” said Helena. “I was told by three people that they kept having the same strange dreams again and again. I wondered whether these dreams might be a sign of memories buried deep inside their minds. So I started to use a method to try to extract or elicit memories buried deep in their minds.”

And what was that technique?” asked the Chairman.

It is a technique that I call hypnotic regression,” explained Helena. “I use various techniques to put someone into a state of deep relaxation. Slowly the patient enters into a strange type of consciousness that is neither normal waking consciousness nor sleep, but kind of a strange mental state somewhat in between the two. I have found this is a useful technique for extracting hidden memories buried deep in the mind.”

So what happens when a person enters this state of 'hypnotic regression,' as you call it?” asked the Chairman.

I start asking them questions about what happened long ago, before the earliest memories they could normally remember,” said Helena. “It is really quite amazing, because when I start asking these questions, my patients will tell me very strange stories. They all tell the same type of stories – they are amazingly similar.”

Amazingly similar?” said the Chairman. “So tell me a typical story that one of your patients would tell.”

Typically a patient will describe a kind of 'past life' before the patient's current life,” explained Helena. “But what is very strange is that the patient will say this 'past life' didn't take place on our planet. The patient will say the 'past life' took place on some other planet out in space.”

Past lives on another planet?” said the Chairman. “Obviously these patients are just hallucinating or confabulating, just making things up. Maybe this 'hypnotic regression' state encourages them to fantasize.”

Conceivably,” said Helena. “But what is strange is how often my patients will tell the same weird tale. Here is the story I will hear them tell again and again. They will say that they once lived on a distant planet, and signed up to be something called 'astronauts.' They will say that they boarded some space ship to travel from the distant planet, and that then they were kind of frozen.”

Frozen?” said the Chairman. “Well, that's a silly detail.”

But as the patients tell the story, it doesn't sound quite so silly,” explained Helena. “They explain it like this. They signed up for a mission to travel from one solar system to another. But the distance was so great that the trip took many decades, too long for a human lifetime. So the travelers on the ship – these 'astronauts' – had to be kind of frozen so that they would sleep throughout the long voyage between the stars. The patients tell me it wasn't really freezing, just kind of a lowering of the body temperature much lower than normal.”

So how many people have told you this strange story while under 'hypnotic regression' as you call it?” asked the Chairman.

A total of 12 people,” said Helena.

And what other stories of 'past lives' do they tell?” asked the Chairman.

Pretty much only this story,” said Helena.

That's an astonishing coincidence,” said the Chairman.

But perhaps it's not a coincidence,” said Helena. “I have a theory to explain these stories. It's a very far-out and fantastic theory, but I'd like to explain it.”

Go ahead,” said the Chairman.

My theory goes like this,” said Helena. “Perhaps all of my patients really were born on some other planet. Perhaps on that other planet they built a spaceship designed to travel from one star to another. The planned voyage may have been a voyage lasting many decades, so they may have needed to put the people on the spaceship into almost a kind of deep freeze in which they were unconscious. But maybe that lowering of the body temperature may have caused a loss of memory. So when the people on the spaceship finally reached the distant planet, and somehow woke up, they may have lost all memories of their lives on the planet they were born on. Except that the memories were still buried deep in their minds. And maybe the planet they traveled to is our own planet.”

How did you hatch that crazy idea?” asked the Chairman. “How could such people have got mixed up with people like you or me?”

According to my theory, all of us adults here in the Village are these 'astronauts' from another planet,” explained Helena. “Think about it. You and I are one of 40 adult people living in this Village, and we and our children are the only people on this planet. That raises the question: how did we get here? Do you know how you got here?”

I must have been raised by my parents here on this planet,” said the Chairman. “It's just that I don't remember them, or anything about my youth.”

Exactly,” said Helena, “and none of us remember our parents or anything about our youth. Our parents aren't around. But hasn't it ever occurred to you how unlikely such a coincidence is, that all of our parents would have died when we were young? If the chance of your parents dying when you were young is maybe 1 in 2, then the chance of 40 people all having their parents die when they are young is maybe 1 in 2 to the fortieth power – too unlikely a thing to have happened.”

What are you suggesting?” asked the Chairman.

I am suggesting that all 40 adults in our Village – the entire adult population of this planet – was actually born on another planet,” said Helena. “We bravely signed up to be space voyagers. When we got on the spaceship, they did some kind of temperature-lowering thing – almost a freezing – that caused us to sleep through the long space voyage. Then our ship reached this planet, and we woke up. But the long sleep caused us to lose our memories. So we couldn't remember our home planet. We just got busy building ourselves some shelters, which became the Village we live in now. We still have our memories of our home planet, but those memories are buried deep in our minds. Those memories can only be brought out through hypnotic regression like I use on my patients.”

My, my, that's a fascinating theory,” said the Chairman. He consulted with the other members of the Council. They then announced their decision to Helena.

We have decided that your silly theory is a disruptive superstition that we must ban as a damnable heresy,” said the Chairman. “You are henceforward forbidden from engaging in this practice you call 'hypnotic regression.' And you are forbidden from teaching this crazy theory of yours that we were all born on another planet.”

I submit loyally to the will of the Council,” said Helena sadly.

Before she left, the Chairman had one last question.

Oh, just out of curiosity,” said the Chairman, “did your patients have any name for that distant planet they said they were born on?”

Yes,” said Helena. “They called it planet Earth.”