Digital Series #3 – Neuroscience and Freemasonry by Bro. A.G

Masonry is built on  three tenants that have driven our fraternity; brotherly love, relief, and truth. This last principal, truth, allows us to seek wisdom in a world filled with deception and falsehood. We are also reminded to be “free thinking men” where the truth we seek becomes the backstop of our being. We are not to accept just what we are told, but make the effort to confirm for ourselves the “truth and light” of the information we receive. This can be a difficult challenge when it places us in conflict with that which is commonly accepted. But, this also separates us from other groups in that we can and should be those who make inquiry and present the results of independent thought to the appropriate audience.

The pursuit of free thinking is a result of accessing and expanding upon the very foundation of what we refer to as neuroscience. This relative new scientific exploration of how the brain processes and understands information continues to be one of the more significant research efforts underway today. Of these areas, innovation and creativity are closely related and make use of those structures associated with the right side of the human brain, however we have come to understand that there is an integration of various aspects of both hemispheres of the brain involved. The two principals, innovation and creativity, are subtle keys to the application and understanding of truth for the Mason. While we may not intentionally seek to discover a new “truth” hidden in the ritual, the process of closely examining our rituals itself, is the beginning of the process to open new applications and meanings. 

The neuroscience literature sets out the processes involved in the process of “creativity”primarily located in the angular and lingual gyrus regions of the brain. These activities include;preparation, incubation, illumination, and verification. Fostering these capacities requires an understanding of divergent thinking, novelty seeking, and suppression of latent inhibition.(Pillay, 2011) While these are technical terms concerning how we can understands information, they also represent a logical approach to how we can better view our Masonic ritual and traditions. 

Preparation as in an immersion in our rituals and traditions is the first and important step to beginning this process of gaining more “Light in Masonry”. We examine, practice, and study to prepare ourselves for that next step, incubation. Contemplation and meditation on the area(s)of interest is paramount to open the imagination and allow the associations of our prior experience and knowledge to come forward. The connection between the right and left hemispheres of the brain is known as the corpus callosum and is a significant influence in this aspect of imagination. It appears that it is not the number of connections but the quality of those connections between hemispheres of the brain that relate to creativity and imagination. This is also known as divergent thinking, the ability to “see” multiple applications/solutions to a given question. (Pillay, 2011) Illumination is that aspect where we seek truth beyond ourselves. No great and noble undertaking should be made with seeking guidance from our higher power. The evoking of this divine assistance is a key for Masons as we seek to uncover and reveal the practical application of what we are beginning to or desire to understand. This is another key concept. Knowledge outside of application is not wisdom. We should seek to understand and apply what we learn to be betterment of our fraternity and world around us. This leads us to the last aspect, verification. An organized and well thought out presentation should be made to trusted and wise brethren for their analysis and contemplation. We do not work in isolation in any area but draw our strength from our brothers and their wisdom. This is also a protection to both the fraternity and ourselves. While we may believe we have made a significant finding, this must be tested and examined by others capable of examining these findings. The concept of novelty seeking is a concept where the hippocampus, the center of emotion, is active and can lead to mental associations and assumptions that may not truly be present when subjected to a closer study. It is easy to become emotionally invested in a concept or thought to the point where objectivity is lost. Another litmus test is the impact on others, are they benefited by the results? If not then further consideration should be given. 

Consideration should also be given to suppression of latent inhibition. Here we find that there is significant influence and prejudice to not find new or innovative applications. There is a strong tendency to not innovate and utilize the familiar actions and beliefs which must be carefully balanced with need to learn and grow in light. Fear is a powerful emotion that can drive or limit depending on how applied. Balancing these two drives shows the need for careful restraint and driving new thought.

Masons carry a great responsibility to ourselves, our families, and the world, especially in times of confusion and struggle. As we come together in both action and thought we are able to instigate a positive influence on our lives and the world. Let us aspire to this noble calling and seek further light grounded in our traditions and challenged by the process of seeking that lightfor the benefit of all.

References

Pillay, S. S. (2011). Your Brain and Business: The Neuroscience of Great Leaders. Pearson Education.

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