Where Speech is Born

Herein lies the paramount importance of memory as the stepping-stone from sentient to intellectual soul. Memory, as the German word Er-innerung reminds us, internalizes; it makes the outward inward. The sentient soul can already effect this to some extent, inasmuch as it retains for a time inward pictures of the outer world. Else it would be merely sentient body. When there is a car outside the door and a bustle of some sort inside, especially if there is anything like luggage about, my cat displays great uneasiness, and this is clearly because he retains some sort of picture of previous departures resulting in unwelcome solitudes. But I cannot by any stretch of imagination conceive of my cat sitting down and thinking to himself: “Let’s see, what was I doing this time yesterday?” This is memory at a different stage altogether. …. It is this sort of memory that makes possible the birth of speech whether in the evolution of [humanity] or in the growing child. In the Greek mythology, Mnemosyne–Memory–was the mother of the Muses. Both speech and thought can indeed be thought of as begot in the ventricle of memory; for it is there that they are conceived.

From Owen Barfield, “The Ventricle of Memory” in Anthroposophical Quarterly 20.1 (Spring 1975): 10-11.

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