Memory: How to Develop, Train and Use It

So, we see that the cultivation of the memory is far more than the cultivation and development of a single mental faculty–it is the cultivation and development of our entire mental being–the development of our _selves_.

To many persons the words memory, recollection, and remembrance, have the same meaning, but there is a great difference in the exact shade of meaning of each term. The student of this book should make the distinction between the terms, for by so doing he will be better able to grasp the various points of advice and instruction herein given. Let us examine these terms.

Locke in his celebrated work, the “Essay Concerning Human Understanding” has clearly stated the difference between the meaning of these several terms. He says: “Memory is the power to revive again in our minds those ideas which after imprinting, have disappeared, or have been laid aside out of sight–when an idea again recurs without the operation of the like object on the external sensory, it is _remembrance_; if it be sought after by the mind, and with pain and endeavor found, and brought again into view, it is _recollection_.” Fuller says, commenting on this: “Memory is the power of reproducing in the mind former impressions, or percepts. Remembrance and Recollection are the exercise of that power, the former being involuntary or spontaneous, the latter volitional. We remember because we cannot help it but we recollect only through positive effort. The act of remembering, taken by itself, is involuntary. In other words, when the mind remembers without having tried to remember, it acts spontaneously. Thus it may be said, in the narrow, contrasted senses of the two terms, that we remember by chance, but recollect by intention, and if the endeavor be successful that which is reproduced becomes, by the very effort to bring it forth, more firmly intrenched in the mind than ever.”

But the New Psychology makes a little different distinction from that of Locke, as given above. It uses the word memory not only in his sense of “The power to revive, etc.,” but also in the sense of the activities of the mind which tend to receive and store away the various impressions of the senses, and the ideas conceived by the mind, to the end that they may be reproduced voluntarily, or involuntarily, thereafter. The distinction between remembrance and recollection, as made by Locke, is adopted as correct by The New Psychology.

It has long been recognized that the memory, in all of its phases, is capable of development, culture, training and guidance through intelligent exercise. Like any other faculty of mind, or physical part, muscle or limb, it may be improved and strengthened. But until recent years, the entire efforts of these memory-developers were directed to the strengthening of that phase of the memory known as “recollection,” which, you will remember, Locke defined as an idea or impression “sought after by the mind, and with pain and endeavor found, and brought again into view.” The New Psychology goes much further than this. While pointing out the most improved and scientific methods for “re-collecting” the impressions and ideas of the memory, it also instructs the student in the use of the proper methods whereby the memory may be stored with clear and distinct impressions which will, thereafter, flow naturally and involuntarily into the field of consciousness when the mind is thinking upon the associated subject or line of thought; and which may also be “re-collected” by a voluntary effort with far less expenditure of energy than under the old methods and systems.

You will see this idea carried out in detail, as we progress with the various stages of the subject, in this work. You will see that the first thing to do is _to find something to remember_; then to impress that thing clearly and distinctly upon the receptive tablets of the memory; then to exercise the remembrance in the direction of bringing out the stored-away facts of the memory; then to acquire the scientific methods of recollecting special items of memory that may be necessary at some special time. This is the natural method in memory cultivation, as opposed to the artificial systems that you will find mentioned in another chapter. It is not only development of the memory, but also development of the mind itself in several of its regions and phases of activity. It is not merely a method of recollecting, but also a method of correct seeing, thinking and remembering. This method recognizes the truth of the verse of the poet, Pope, who said: “Remembrance and reflection how allied! What thin partitions sense from thought divide!”

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