Initiation, Memorization, and Superior Intelligence

Discussion in 'Masonic Blogs' started by My Freemasonry, Apr 10, 2016.

  1. [​IMG]
    Younger folks may never have read the classic science fiction work by Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451, or seen the film made of it in 1966 by François Truffaut. It is a dystopian novel about a future society that engages, in part, in burning books (the title itself refers to the temperature at which paper burns). At the end of the story, a small community of dissenters is discovered who who have all dedicated their lives to memorizing the entire texts of books, and each one then recites theirs to a student to learn the same. Thus, civilization is preserved and passed on to the next generation.

    Our predecessors who transformed Freemasonry into the modern fraternity we experience now had a distinct method to their madness. Secrecy was intended as a symbol of our honor, of keeping our word over something as trivial as a password or handshake. But, it goes hand in hand with our method (at least until recently) of teaching our ritual to each other.

    While I have often facetiously asked in my speeches, "Who would voluntarily join a memorization club?", I do not in any way discount the vital importance of our traditions of passing our ritual from mouth to ear. Unfortunately, too many jurisdictions have given up in recent years and issued printed rituals that aren't even in cipher form anymore, but are fully printed out. Sadly, this is another loss of a foundation stone that is vital to the very essence of Freemasonry's initiatic experience. The relationship between student and mentor is one of the strongest bonds we can experience, and by printing out rituals, we break that chain and encourage the solitary study of our ceremonies in isolation. We give up these practices at our peril, and society itself is suffering from this kind of withdrawal from the wider community.

    And here is why...

    Brother Angel Millar is the author of The Crescent and the Compass: Islam, Freemasonry, Esotericism and Revolution in the Modern Age (2015), Freemasonry: Foundation of the Western Esoteric Tradition (2014), and Freemasonry: A History (2005). He has penned a thoughtful essay on the notion that initiation and memorization is actually the foundation of greater intelligence. It appears on the Phalanx website.

    From Initiation: The Foundation of Superior Intelligence:

    "...[A]ncient tribes passed on their knowledge and understanding through “oral traditions,” since they had not — until a certain point in time — discovered writing. Even after they had, memorization remained important. Even today, in the religion of Islam, for example, memorizing the entire Qur’an is still considered a great achievement, and someone who manages this is given the honorific Hafiz (male) or Hafiza(female), meaning “one who memorizes” or “guardian.”
    Likewise, secret initiatory schools in the West sometimes continued to pass on their knowledge orally. Notably, according to myth, Odin discovered the runes (which served as both letters and occult symbols) after sacrificing an eye to the well of Mimir (“The Rememberer”).
    Orators in the ancient world would mentally construct a “memory theater” to help them recall their speeches. The device remained substantially in use until at least the seventeenth century. The technique was to construct a building in the imagination, placing in it various objects that reminded the orator of certain things he wanted to recall. Then, when giving his speech, he would imagine walking through the building, to be prompted by the imaginary objects.
    Somewhat similar to the memory theater, the esoteric society of Freemasonry, which emerged from the stonemasons’ guild in London in 1717, adopted the symbolism of architecture and spatial arrangements (among other things) for its ritual, giving, for example, the East, Northeast corner, etc., symbolic meanings related to the ontology of Masonic initiation and proceedings.
    Even today, memorization remains important to the fraternity, playing a role in even the most basic procedures of the Lodge. New initiates are sometimes required to answer questions about Freemasonry, repeating specific answers from memory. And, more advanced, one lecture given during the second degree ritual — the “Middle Chamber” lecture — lasts about eight minutes, and is — or at least should be — recited from memory. (Notably, the lecture includes references to architecture, as well as to the seven liberal arts, which long formed the basis of education in the West.)

    Take a few moments and read the entire article HERE.

    The memorization technique Millar refers to is called the Method of Loci, or Memory Palace. A very brief description of how to practice the technique can be read HERE.

    Continue reading...
    Derek Harvey likes this.
  2. pointwithinacircle2

    pointwithinacircle2 Rapscallion Premium Member

    My father was standing there in his suit getting ready to leave the house. I said "Daddy, what is Freemasonry?". He replied "Freemasonry is work". I was only nine, but I remember.

    Today we are told that Freemasonry is merely a fraternity, a place for men to hang out together. But this ignores the the psychological impact that Freemasonry was designed to have. It was designed to "Make Good Men Better". In order to do this you have to work at it.

    I was raised in the era of "Easy Masonry". I wasn't asked to memorize much. I wasn't even asked to memorize my obligation, it was read to me and I was only required to say "I agree". Then one night I heard it. The WM asked the SW "What makes you a Mason"? His reply,"My Obligation". I found myself wondering "If my obligation makes me a Mason, and I don't know one word of my Obligation, how do I know if a am a Mason?" I went home determined to learn my obligation. It was the first Masonic thing I ever memorized. My father told me that as part of their examinations both he and my grandfather had been required to repeat their obligation before the Lodge. So I requested from the WM that I be allowed to repeat my Obligation before the Lodge. Giving my Obligation before the alter during open Lodge was a powerful and meaningful experience for me.

    Perhaps Freemasonry was designed to be more than a place to hang out. Perhaps it was intended to offer good men the type of transformative experiences that turn them into better men.
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2016
  3. Classical

    Classical Premium Member

    Memorization unlocks parts of your brain you never knew existed. Then, that starts to unlock your emotions, memories and many different parts of your "inner man". In this corrupted age, with so many shallow pursuits of empty entertainment, memorizing our lessons is a powerful antidote and antiseptic. I would not be exaggerating to say that I am a MUCH better man as I learn the memory work of Freemasonry.
  4. coachn

    coachn Coach John S. Nagy Premium Member

  5. Bloke

    Bloke Premium Member

    I did not like the OP because I see ritual books are very useful tools. I can tell you, some of our great ritualists would not have the time to learn at their current pace if it was mouth to ear, and it means when we get together (as I did on Sunday for a few hours) we are putting our effort into discussing and understanding ritual we have already memorised - or discussing the meaning of something we are memorizing so we can make sure we convey it properly.... I understand the romantism of ear to mouth - but love the practicality of a book, esp when you get PMs "confused" as to the correct words...

    But memory.. I am a big supporter in memorising (ritual is not allowed to be read here)....

    I never understood why teachers at school made us learn poems by heart when we could just read them... until I was a mason and only then understood that in learning ritual by heart you internalize it... and can join the dots between points by mental reference to the lines you know.
  6. Bloke

    Bloke Premium Member

  7. streeter

    streeter Registered User

    great post! - more please....
  8. JamestheJust

    JamestheJust Registered User

    If I am struggling to remember the words, I have little attention for the inner work that I should be performing.
  9. Bloke

    Bloke Premium Member

    Are you saying memorizing work should be put aside for "inner work" or one needs to work harder to memorize so you can get to "inaner work" ?

    I (currently) see Freemasonry primarily as a philosophy. To apply it, you need to have a good grasp of the masonic ritual and memorising it is the way to do that AND internalize it. Then you can move on imho...
    Bill Lins likes this.
  10. JamestheJust

    JamestheJust Registered User

    In my view it is only after the memorization is well accomplished that there is much attention available for performing the inner work implicit in the ritual.
  11. Bloke

    Bloke Premium Member

    Thanks James..... I tend to agree. I see some MMs do it without memorising, but its generally essential.
  12. Akiles

    Akiles Registered User

    Dear brethren,

    In my lodge, it is an obligation to memorise all the answers and the obligation of each grade, not only the MM obligation. I did it in Spanish, because it is my mother tongue....but there are some brethren who do it in English, (and they are Spanish speakers as, that's hard...).

    But you know what?, at the end, I didn't need to memorise anything, because I discovered that every word is there for a special purpose, and if you understand it, then you only have to think....

    Additionally, the three main lights must to know how to open, and how to close the crafts in every single grade (blue grades)....

    Anyway, I think both things are important, to memorise your rite, and to have it in a all of you know, there are a lot of different rites, and everyone has it special "twist", and if, for example, I go to another lodge that does it business in a different rite, I will appreciate the book....or if you want to compare different rites, because you want to do some investigation, it is very useful to have a book...

    Sorry for my English.
  13. Classical

    Classical Premium Member

    Your English is great!

    I also found that when memorized, the pattern becomes clear.....
    Bill Lins, Bloke and Akiles like this.
  14. dlacaille

    dlacaille Premium Member

    It's like the movie Karate Kid, just like it. Daniel doesn't understand why he's performing the same movements all day long until Miyagi shows him why. Then it connects. Same with memorization. I've had quite a few "aha!" moments thanks to memorization of the ritual and the obligation. When you see the inner meaning of something (vs the exoteric) and then replay everything back in that context (thanks to memory) things start to fall into place.

    Sent from my iPhone using My Freemasonry Pro
    Bloke likes this.

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