“Cryptomnesia” is a psychological term which describes a forgotten memory that returns without it being recognized as such. Usually based in the worlds of the creative and philosophical arts, the creator formulating a new work believes with all their heart that their creation is something wholly unique, when in fact the origin of their concept stems from something they’ve heard or read a long time ago.
Far from being a form of plagiarism, according to psychiatrist Theodore Flournoy “Cryptomnesia” forms out of “latent memories that come out, sometimes greatly disfigured by a subliminal work of imagination or reasoning, as so often happens in our ordinary dreams.”
Noted Psychiatrist Carl Jung became fascinated by this unconscious oddity. In his thesis “On the Psychology and Pathology of So-Called Occult Phenomena (1902)”, as well as his 1905 article, “Cryptomnesia“, Jung gave several examples of the phenomenon. In Friedrich Nietzsche’s seminal work “Thus Spoke Zarathustra“, for instance, Jung pointed out that the same principles were mentioned by Géza Dukes, Sándor Ferenczi and Wilhelm Stekel, as well as by Sigmund Freud in speaking of the originality of his inventions. Jung went on to state that “An author may be writing steadily to a preconceived plan, working out an argument or developing the line of a story, when he suddenly runs off at a tangent. If you ask him what prompted the digression, he will not be able to tell you. Nonetheless, he is excited by this new material; he genuinely feels that it is entirely fresh and apparently unknown to him before. Yet it can sometimes be proved convincingly that what he has written bears a striking similarity to the work of another author.”
Other examples stem from works by Robert Lewis Stevenson (“Treasure Island”); Lord Byron (in which his work “Manfred” bears a close resemblance to Goethe’s masterwork “Faust”); Helen Keller (“The Frost King”); even musician George Harrison, whose song “My Sweet Lord” is, in fact, the same melody of The Chiffon’s “He’s So Fine” (though he denied even in court that he never intentionally meant to “steal” the chords).
Jung, in his book “Man and His Symbols”, stated the following about Cryptomnesia: “The ability to reach a rich vein of such material [of the unconscious] and to translate it effectively into philosophy, literature, music or scientific discovery is one of the hallmarks of what is commonly called genius.”
So, for this particular blog–a collection of quotes, recollections, poems, photos… Mostly the works of others–this particular psychic anomaly has, for me, a special resonance to warrant the title.