Excerpt from The Covenant Within
They continued slowly down the beach as Sinclair absorbed the sights and sounds of the night and the sea. After they had gone a bit farther she stopped and looked around them, checking the landmarks in the soft glow of the moonlight. “My father says this is the spot where Earl Einar killed the Danish Viking named Thorir Tree-Beard. He even has a replica of the sword that Einar used.
“Is something wrong?”
“It’s nothing,” he said with not too much sincerity.
He stared out across the waters of the bay, then back at her. “I feel I’ve been here before. It’s the same feeling I had when I entered your house this evening. I know it sounds silly.”
She didn’t seem surprised but for a moment she said nothing. Her eyes probed his as if searching for something that lay behind them: something deep within his soul. “Jack, I…”
Before she could finish, he blurted out, “I know. I know. Déjà vu. It happens to everyone.”
She shook her head. “No. Not to everyone. To some it happens more often than to others.”
“Did it happen to Thomas?”
She flashed an uncomfortable look at him. “Yes.”
“Does it have anything to do with the research Thomas and you were doing?”
Finally, the heart of the matter.
His question seemed to trouble her. “Come. I’ll tell you on the way back.” As they walked back along the beach together, she began to speak in guarded tones. “Your brother and I were working in an emerging, and still controversial, area of biology called epigenetics, and in particular, we were interested in genetic memory.”
“What is that?”
“It’s a type of memory that is not acquired through experience or conditioning, but rather is inherited in our genes; like that which tells a newborn doe to hide from a wolf even if it’s mother died while birthing it; or that which teaches a chick hatched in an incubator to fear a hawk.”
“You mean instinct?”
“Like that but much more complicated. We believe there is an inherent genetic recollection of the memories and experiences of our ancestors buried deep within our DNA that influences our behavior. The Swiss psychiatrist, Dr. Carl Jung, proposed these were memories common to everyone, which he called the collective unconscious. However, epigenetics proposes that our genes can be affected by our experiences?essentially by switching certain genes on or off?which creates heritable effects, or genetic memories, that are unique to each person.”
“Memories of what?”
“Everything our ancestors saw and did?”
She nodded. “At least everything significant enough for their brains to have stored it in long term memory. These memories of great consequence are then locked in our genes and it is from this unconscious memory bank that our conscious mind draws a specific memory of a time and place, which we interpret as having been there before.”
“So you mean when we experience déjà vu, we are actually recalling something our ancestors experienced?”
“In some instances, yes. We also think this is the reason that some people are convinced they have been reincarnated. In a sense they have been, because they are reliving via these memories tiny snippets of the past lives of their ancestors.”
Sinclair was intrigued. “And these are passed down to us through our genes?”
“Yes, in the DNA helix to be more specific. Since the 1960s we’ve known that it only takes a tiny percentage of our DNA to build the human body in all its precision and complexity. But up until relatively recently, we’ve had no idea what the rest was used for. Now there is a growing body of evidence that the genetic code contains a vast memory bank of our ancestral past that can affect far more than simply our physical being. For example, it may play a critical role in our disposition to certain diseases such as cancer; or affect our behavior, our attitudes, and the way we live our lives; while also providing a library of events from the lives of our ancestors.”
“And this is what Thomas and you were researching?”
He thought about it for a moment then asked, “Why? For what purpose?” “Beyond the desire to push the boundaries of our understanding of the human brain—and thereby enhance medical science—we were seeking to find a way to unlock these genetic memories, which would allow us to look back in time. To see what our ancestors saw, feel what they felt, and share their experiences.”
The idea startled Sinclair. “As in time travel?”
“In effect, yes.”
“Jesus!” He stopped dead in his tracks. She did too.
Her expression tightened. “In theory, they could lead us back to our Lord, Jesus Christ, or even earlier. They might take us all the way back to the very beginning of man on earth.” A sudden gust of wind off the water made her shudder. There was a stirring in the long grasses off to their right. She looked around, as if worried that someone else might be near. She grasped his arm and said, “We should go.”