If you come here to read about how Freemasonry can help you find a better paid job, or to provide you with a pension plan, then I’m sorry to disappoint; neither of these are true.
However, if you wish to look at a certain aspect of Freemasonry, and the benefits it brings that you may not even realise, then continue reading.
I am talking about learning the ritual. Some seem to learn ritual really easily, while others struggle; but both sets of people are benefiting from this.
I’m not talking about the ‘absorbed wisdom’, where we are (supposed to) learn how to be better people in society, tough if you read the ritual through, and try to understand what the ritual is saying before you commit it to memory, it will make it a little easier to learn, rather than just by rote.
I’m not talking about the benefit during the Lodge meeting, when a smooth ceremony portrays the sentiment properly and that sentiment is conveyed effectively to the candidate and the ‘audience’ (not to mention a timely exit to the bar and festive board – it’s thirsty work reciting out loud!).
I am talking about learning ritual.
There are other things that accomplish similar benefits outside of Freemasonry, but this is something that has been around for centuries.
If we compare the brain to the muscles of the body, it, too, needs regular exercise, and learning something new is an exercise. I said earlier about before committing to memory it can be helpful to understand the ritual; to make sense of the words and phrases. These rituals are not modern, though they are revised regularly, so they contain many words that do not occur in everyday language.
So by stealth you are learning new words.
But also, getting into the practice of learning, just like any kind of training, means that each time you sit down to do a little more, it gets a little easier. Ever wondered how the old boys in their eighties and nineties in the lodges are still able to recite ritual at the drop of a hat? Okay, repetitive memorising will help with that, but also it helps their general mental acuity.
Many people focus on having a healthy body, and yet neglect having a healthy mind.
If you are familiar with Mindfulness, you will know that it teaches one to focus their minds on a particular thought, and by repeatedly (yes, that word again) exercising in this way, one is able to control their thoughts more, and not get distracted. For centuries Freemasons have been focusing on learning the ritual to give a (ideally) seamless recitation during the meeting. Focused in the learning, and focused in the recital of the lines.
Learning all this ritual may seem intimidating; I would suggest planning ahead and learning little bits at a time. But if you are one of those people who insists you have a hard time remembering stuff, I would refer you to Dominic O’Brien; a man who, like you, was in awe of those people who seem to easily remember things. And then he taught himself techniques to remember things, so in his 30s… well, let me quote his website:
In 1994, Dominic was named Brain of the Year by the Brain Trust of Great Britain, and the Grand Master of Memory award was presented to him by Prince Philippe of Liechtenstein.
– taken from Dominic O’Brien’s memory training site, http://peakperformancetraining.org/
There are also books available from Letchworths which show methods for learning ritual specifically.
So if you are a Mason, and keen to maintain your mental health and acuity well into your old age, then I can only exhort you to put in a little time and effort, and reap the rewards; not just for your Lodge, but for yourself.