Rereading a little more of Chris Carter's book Science and the Afterlife Experience, I came across a quotation from Geraldine Cummins' The Road to Immortality, which allegedly channels F.W.H. Myers. Myers is talking about "the cruel man" and his immediate fate after death. At first, such a person is in a state of confusion, a kind of mental and existential fog, until he ...
faces up to his own misery, to his vice; and then the great change comes. He is put in touch with a portion of the Great Memory… the Book of Life. He becomes aware of all the emotions aroused in his victims by his acts… No pain, no anguish he has caused has perished. All has been registered, has a kind of existence that makes him sensible of it once he has drifted into touch with the web of memory that clothed his life and the lives of those who came into contact with him on earth.
Two things struck me about this passage. First, it dovetails nicely with near-death experiences in which the person undergoes a life review. Note that "Myers" does not merely say that the cruel man sees the events of his life flash by, but that he experiences the pain that he has caused in others. This subjective involvement in the experiences of the people whom one has affected is a key feature of the life review. And yet the life review was not commonly known before 1975, when Raymond Moody's Life After Life was published. Cummins' book was published originally in 1932.
The other thing that struck me is the way "Myers" phrases things:
He is put in touch with a portion of the Great Memory ... the Book of Life ...
All has been registered, has a kind of existence that makes him sensible of it ...
Drifted into touch with the web of memory that clothed his life and the lives of [others].
What the "Myers" communicator seems to be saying is that the cruel man does not telepathically access the memories of his victims in the sense of probing their minds, but instead accesses something akin to the Akashic Records, a comprehensive database in which all experiences are recorded and preserved. This is the "Great Memory, the Book of Life," in which "all has been registered." This information "has a kind of existence" - presumably not quite the kind of existence that we are familiar with, but some form of existence nevertheless.
The deceased person becomes "sensible of" this information when "he has drifted into touch with the web of memory that clothed his life" - a peculiar and provocative way of phrasing it. It is almost as if "Myers" is saying that there is a matrix or cluster of information ("a web of memory") associated with each particular consciousness (i.e., "that clothed his life"), that this information cluster is part of a vastly larger information database, and that under the right circumstances an individual consciousness can access relevant parts of this information - information pertaining directly to him or to those with whom he has come in contact. Having accessed the information, he can then experience subjectively what the information means, including its emotional content.
Other interpretations are no doubt possible, but this interpretation, at least, would seem to be in line with the idea that information is preserved indefinitely, independent of any particular consciousness, and that the information acquires meaning or "life" only when it is associated with a particular consciousness - somewhat in the same way that a hologram can be constructed out of the raw data of interference patterns only when a focused beam of light is projected through those patterns.
I can't help thinking of a quote from Stephen Hawking, taken from his book A Brief History of Time:
Even if there is only one possible unified theory, it is just a set of rules and equations. What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe? The usual approach of science of constructing a mathematical model cannot answer the questions of why there should be a universe for the model to describe. Why does the universe go to all the bother of existing?
Perhaps it is consciousness (the "I-thought") that breathes fire into the equations (the raw data) and "makes a universe."