While I am no longer an active officer in my Lodge I’m often called upon to help out and fill in when an officer is unable to attend. I find that I enjoy ritual and never pass up the opportunity to present it.
This week I had just such a chance as my Lodge performed the First Degree for a young man starting out on his journey. The work was done well and I believe the candidate received the type of degree that exemplified Freemasonry as it should be and set him on the path only he may follow.
Of course what the candidate didn’t see was the countless hours that everyone spent preparing for the event. There were numerous rehearsals and many a night I’m sure were also spent in silent study of the ritual as everyone tried to commit to memory the lines they would later need to repeat.
Now, I know that many use the “brute force” method of memorization. For those that don’t recall, that’s the type of memorization where you just keep repeating the lines over and over – forcing them into your memory. Unfortunately for many this type of memorization is fleeting, and the work is cleared away so that work can begin anew on the next memorization piece.
A method that isn’t taught as much is visualization. I try to convey this to others when I work on their ritual pieces with them. The trick here is to create a vivid mental picture that you can use to associate the memorization work with. At its very basic level you could keep a mental picture of your Lodge room in your head as you review the ritual. If you’re the Master of your Lodge, you could imagine each other officer responding to you as you go through the opening of your Lodge. If you’re working on a history lesson or charge, maybe you picture where you would be standing or how you would move about the Lodge as you give that particular piece.
While that will work for many, I would suggest you take it a step further and pull a page from those that actually compete in memory competitions, make the memory a lot more vivid. Instead of your Lodge room make it more grand, more colorful, make it outrageous, encompass all your senses but don’t feel you need to limit yourself to your Lodge room.
Take a moment and read through the passage you’re trying to memorize. Does it have a particular theme? Does it cause you to think about a particular place or time? Use those memories to help you anchor in your mind what you are trying to remember. You don’t have to use the same image or location for the entire passage you’re trying to remember either, just work on building the anchors and remembering each piece.
Now that you have all your anchors, build the visual story that walks you through the entirety of the ritual passage. You’re looking to link the visual pieces together, a tour or walk among those memories so that you can recall the ritual.
This technique is often called the Method of loci or memory palace and was practiced by the ancient Greeks and Romans (where have I seen those cultures before . . . ).
Personally, I use a mixture of the techniques. I find that I rely on the “brute force” method to jump start things and then move to the visualization process to help the work take root and stick with me over the long haul.
How do you go about memorization? What techniques do you use?