The Masonic Trowel

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by Dexter Wright

It is interesting to note that there is not one spiritual teaching that does not have an oral - memory - tradition. From Judaism and Christianity, to Buddhism, to the poems of the ancient Greeks, the sagas of the Norsemen, the philosophies of India and Persia - the most cherished "living truths" were handed down from teacher to student through memory work. There is a reason for this.

Each impression we receive is recorded; nothing is "forgotten". Only our ability to retrieve an impression waivers. The ability to retrieve an impression is directly proportional to the amount of attention given to an impression. Psychologists and hypnotists have verified this.

Each impression received during life exists in our minds, and each impression has its influence in fixing our present intellectual and moral condition. Thoughts and opinions held "now" are the result of a succession of experiences long "forgotten". We are what we are today, because of what we thought and felt about the impressions we received yesterday. Our knowledge is entirely dependent upon memory. Anything we know about anything is only what we remember about it.

The ability to remember something is a function of the intensity of the impression. And the intensity of an impression is affected by the amount of attention given the impression. And the amount of attention given is affected by the amount of interest we have in the impression. And interest is a function of the amount of "will" we can generate for the impression.

Attention is "light" of the mind. The thought that has your attention is "in the light" - like a flashlight on an object in a dark room - all other memories are "in darkness". Men of great intellectual ability are noted for their developed power of attention and their ability to direct and focus their attention. Conversely imbeciles are noted for their lack of attention. Perhaps the most important intellectual ability possible for a man is the ability to learn to focus and give attention to matter at hand.

Attention can be divided into two categories: voluntary and involuntary. Involuntary attention is that which is focused with no effort-will.

Voluntary attention is that which is focused by an effort of the will. Animals and undeveloped men have little or no voluntary attention. Conversely developed man shows a high degree of voluntary attention and this is at the crux of free-will and is one of the primary differences between developed man and an animal - there being little difference between an undeveloped man and an animal.

In lower animals an object must be interesting to hold the attention for more than a moment. A developed man is able, by making an effort of will, to direct his attention to an uninteresting object, and hold it there until he has conveyed to his mind the information desired. He is able to turn his attention from an interesting object to one that is dull by the power of his will.

From another angle, the undeveloped man, having little voluntary attention, is at the mercy of outside impressions. They grab his attention and he becomes lost in them. Having no control over his attention, he might worry all day over something and go to bed tired, having accomplished nothing. And since he has no control over his attention and thoughts, he is unable to make moral or ethical decisions, but is carried along by whatever attracts his attention.

Perhaps the greatest tool of Masonry turns out to be it's rituals and degrees, where memory work is emphasized, and serves unnoticed, to separate the moral from the immoral, the ethical from the unethical, preparing us for a higher and greater purpose.

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Last modified: March 22, 2014