For as long as I can remember, we as humans seem to have a pattern of assuming the intentions on the actions of another. For some (usually those we care deeply about), we make excuses like "they didn't know better." For others, we assume that it was their specific purpose "you knew what you were doing, and you meant to do that." When some show remorse, we say "are you upset with your actions, or are you only upset you were caught." All of these scenarios assume we know the intentions, and desires, of the other person, but how can we truly know?
I've seen studies regarding programming and engineering principles, in an effort to foster intention within Artificial Intelligence. There are studies on optimizing your productive workflow, by being clear on your intentions. However, after some rudimentary research, I haven't been able to find many studies in an attempt to understand the root intention of humans, and why they do the things they do. The studies I have found indicate two primary factors that drive intent…belief systems, and emotions. Let's look at belief systems first.
From the moment we are born, the principles of our parents are injected into us. I don't believe this is a genetic predisposition, but something that is fostered within us as we grow mentally and physically. It starts with the family, and those closest, but as the youth grows, their beliefs are solidified by their teachers, clergy, Scoutmasters, and friends. It's amazing to me to think about the massive amount of data, nearly every second of the day, that drives a person's belief systems. It appears that as we get older, or perhaps depending on the emotions of those around us, those beliefs can solidify and become more and more difficult to change. This raises the importance of attempting to see things, or understand things, as they've never been seen before. I believe it was R.W. Brother Jarzabek that first introduced me to this concept. For that seems to be the best method to enable the melting of that carbonite, and adjust your beliefs as new data is experienced.
Now for emotion. "In the heat of battle" is a term that comes to mind here. I've written before that there are studies that show there are two primary emotions…Love and Fear. The anger and hatred in the world are driven out of Fear, and the compassion and caring of the world are driven out of Love. Try to recollect a period of time when you were in Fear of something…as a friend, as a parent, as a Brother. You may have said something, or done something, that you really didn't WANT to do. Something that goes against your belief systems and what you believe is 'right.' However, the action was taken anyway, and it became a regret. Some can dismiss the regret, while with others that regret festers indefinitely, driving more anxiety and depression, and higher levels of emotion. Those higher levels of emotion alter our intentions, and we continue down the cycle.
As I was writing this paper, I kept thinking about how this plays into Masonry, and how our work within the Lodges helps us grasp this concept of understanding intention. It is no secret that our ritual work consists of acting out plays and scenarios. We insert ourselves into the lives of another person, to try to understand their intentions, and what drives them to specific actions. I believe this is one of the reasons why the part of the ruffian in the third degree is by far one of my favorites to play. The breadth of emotions experienced for those small parts in the overall process extends from desire, to anger, fear, and ultimately regret. What influences the ruffians to seek that which they are not entitled to? What data from their lives drives those beliefs, ultimately resulting in acting out of fear?
Robert Edward Jackson is a Past Master and Secretary of Montgomery Lodge located in Milford, MA. His Masonic lineage includes his Father (Robert Maitland), Grandfather (Maitland Garrecht), and Great Grandfather (Edward Henry Jackson), a founding member of Scarsdale Lodge #1094 in Scarsdale, NY. When not studying ritual, he's busy being a father to his three kids, a husband, Boy Scout Leader, and a network engineer to pay for it all. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org