Wow! That was amazing, how did you do that?! I could never do that; you must have a photographic memory.

These are the comments you usually hear after a brother has done an amazing job delivering a long piece of ritual.

But fear not, you too can have a masonic photographic memory. In fact, one of the lost secrets of masonry is how to develop a photographic memory.

What is a Photographic memory?

Originally photographic memory was a term used to describe extraordinary feats of memory. It was thought a person could look at something once quickly and recall it exactly, like text in a book. Upon investigation they discovered that it was not due to some natural ability but due to people skill at memorization.

They noted three keys to exceptional memory –

  1. Ways to change new information into a more memorable form. (Encoding, mnemonics).
    1. Ex. Breaking long sentences into shorter sentences. Converting words into images.
  2. A system of cues has to be created to locate and recall information. (Loci’s).
    1. Ex. Putting information into groups. Creating stories. Using music.
  3. Practice will allow a person to drastically reduce the time to perform steps 1 and 2. (Art of memory).
    1. Ex. Monday you memorize 10 words, and then Tuesday you memorize 15 words in the same amount of time you memorize 10 words on Monday.

The third key was particular astounding to researchers as they observed how fast people got better at memorizing with practice. Their findings came to be the basis of skilled memory theory, which examined how experts were able to remember so much more information then novices.

Thus A better modern definition of Photographic memory then is:

  1. The skill of quickly memorizing and accurately recalling large amounts of information in a certain domain.

This skill allowed you to speed up the building of a mental database of expert knowledge, and allowed professionals to make correct decisions quicker.

Secret Ingredient: The method of loci

The researchers also revealed another important fact, most memory techniques that people used were domain specific and lacked the ability to be used in other areas. For example, being able to memorize 100 numbers in order did not mean you could memorize pages of poetry. However, there was one group of people who were able to quickly memorize information in various domains.

These were World memory athletes. These people spent time training using various memory techniques for various types of information and situations. They are like golfers. Whereas a baseball player has one bat, and only varies position and power of his swing, the golfer has various clubs for different situations, the memory expert is the same. For him memory was a craft

These athletes when interviewed revealed that they had all mastered and used an ancient Art of Memory called the method of loci.

This is the same art of memory that was discovered in Ancient Greece, popularized by the Romans, utilized by medieval monks.

The Method of Loci, should really be called the Method of Loci & Images, and it aligns perfectly with Skilled Memory Theory. Using the method consists of a few steps –

  1. First you have to decide the things to be remembered into individual chunks or groups. (encoding).
  2. Next you will select or create an imaginary building. This construct should have a number of different places in it marked off, the same number of things to remember. If you have 20 things to remember you need 20 locations. These locations can be in the same room (the chair, desk, computer) or in different places (kitchen, bathroom, living room) it is your choice. (retrieval structure).
  3. The things to be remembered are then converted to images. What kind of images? well that depends on you, but you want to use a detailed, 3-d in color, and familiar image that will remind you of the thing to be remembered. (encoding)
  4. Then you are to visualize each image in one of the previous locations, until you have imagined each image in their own location. We have to make an important note here. When you connect two images together in your mind your brain will memorize them. This is one of the key secrets of the method of loci (encoding)
  5. You test your memory by recalling each location. The images you imagined there should be recalled, as well. (practice)
  6. Lastly you practice remember different things daily, increasing the number. (practice)

This method of developing a photographic memory was codified into Masonic law by William Schaw, when he wrote

“It is ordained by the General Warden, that the Warden of the Lodge of Kilwinning, being the second lodge in Scotland, take trial of the art of memory and science thereof of every fellow of craft and every apprentice according to the area of their vocations; “

Masonic Art of Memory

Constructing imaginary buildings to store and recall information must have been quite natural for our brethren of the time. However somewhere down the line we threw out the baby and kept the bathwater.  What I mean is we kept all the memory tools but forgot how to use them.

For example,

  • our lessons and teachings are encoded into visual symbols, ceremonial actions, and allegories.
  • King Solomon’s temple is an imaginary place we use in conjunction with the real structure of our Lodge rooms, Tracing Boards, and Cyphers to create external and internal retrieval structures.
  • Proving proficiency and conferring ritual provides us with limited practice.

If a mason wants to reclaim his lost superpower then he has to return to his roots, and train his memory in the old ways, while adding modern developments. A mason looking to reclaim his lost art of memory at a minimum must –

  • Learn how to convert things into a more memorable form like images.
  • Master connecting images in his imagination
  • Practice using this method to memorize various masonic concepts.

This method can be combined with the Verbatim memory techniques to use memorizing ritual as a method of training. You will be amazed at how fast you can learn 3000 words, and the effect that what you have learned has on your mental outlook.

We offer a free section of our Builders 101 course that describes using ritual memorization to train your memory and perform better ritual check it out. If you want to take your efforts alittle further consider taking our Builder 101 course.

If you are really interested in developing a superpowerful memory, and getting n edge in both your personal and professional life, consider investing in our premium memory training here.