Memoirs of the Future

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The concept of "memoirs of the future" or "inherent preconceptions" reveals Wilfred Bion's indebtedness to the ideas of Plato and Kant. The very wording of the concept was so appealing to Bion that he employed it as the overarching title for his psychoanalytic autobiography.

The paradox in the wording of the concept, "memoirs of the future," designates the platonic idea of Ideal Forms, preconceptions which inherently accompany us from birthand long before! They are older than the thinkers that think them and can anticipate their rendezvous with their future, external counterparts. Thus, the infant, "hard-wired" with the pre-conception of the idea of the breast, can anticipate and then locate that breast, when found, and thereby confer "conception" upon it as the reward for its success in finding what its pre-conception had already anticipated.

"Memoirs of the future" poetically implies that we are born with an atavistic "memory" of the history of the species, to which the specific pre-conception is a subset. Perhaps a concrete example would help. The human infant is born with a number of immune bodies in its immunological armamentarium which have already been "programmed" to anticipate future antibodies who are, as in the phenomenon of dejà vu, "strangely familiar."

In his triadic autobiography (A Memoir of the Future, 1975, 1977, 1979), Bion proffered a highly original aspect of dialogics in the spirit of Bakhtin. He wrote, for instance, of different, split-off, personified aspects of fetal mental life which appeared to be independent of one another and yet could communicate as if they were separate selves from different time zones of maturationspeaking to another, one from the future and other from the past.

James S. Grotstein

See also: Autobiography; Bion, Wilfred Ruprecht.


Bion, Wilfred (1975). A Memoir of the Future. (Vol. I, The Dream ). Rio de Janeiro: Imago (Reprinted, 1991. London: Karnak).

. (1977). A Memoir of the Future. (Vol. II, The Past Presented ). Rio de Janeiro: Imago (Reprinted, 1991. London: Karnak).

. (1979). A Memoir of the Future. (Vol. III, The Dawn of Oblivion ). Perth: Clunie (Reprinted, 1991. London: Karnak).