Are you ready? During a recent business trip, I found myself watching Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One based on the 2011 novel of the same name. The film, set in middle of the 21st century, focuses and takes place primarily in a virtual universe where everyone is connected nearly 24-7 and can become whomever (or whatever) they want to.
This universe, called the OASIS, allows everyday citizens to live out their wildest fantasies, recreate their favorite cinematic memories, drive their dream cars, and roam freely without constraint from their “normal” lives.
So, what does this have to do with Freemasonry in its current state? After leaving a Masonic function and sharing the spirit of the Craft (and a few German hefeweizens) with a Brother, the topic of conversation swung to the foundation of our Fraternity: the ritual and ceremony.
The rituals of Freemasonry, in the Craft Lodge, York Rite, Scottish Rite, and appendant/concordant bodies all rely on its members to have an understanding of drama and an ability to portray the ceremonies to men who don’t have a little black book to follow along. Ritual, as a concept, seems to be the pillar any good Lodge, but what does this ritual look like in the next decades of the 21st century?
But what would this look like in a Masonic Lodge? Imagine walking into your Lodge room, putting on your collar, apron, breast jewel … and a virtual reality headset. The business of the night, a Master Mason degree. The candidate is prepared according to our ancient traditions, with one smaller variation, the same VR headset every brother has. As he enters the Lodge room, instead of the back of a hoodwink, he sees a desert scene. He doesn’t hear the sounds of chairs creaking or jewels dangling, but the sounds of the workmen with their operative tools… he would no longer be in a Lodge room, but in the clay grounds of the Temple of King Solomon!
The drama that unfolds during the ceremony features all the physical aspects of our ritual but is overlaid with physical and mental aids that take the candidate’s senses away from the comfort of a building or room he knows and replaces his imagination with a scene indistinguishable from reality. Now, transpose that idea to every Masonic ritual you’ve experienced: Royal Arch, Scottish Rite, Knights Templar, etc etc.
In the future, Brothers could gather at Naval Lodge Hall and be transported to the gates of the 4th degree Secret Masters, Babylon as Companions of the Royal Arch, or be knighted by Jacques de Molay, himself!
A fantastic, in the most literal definition of the word, experience that would be bring entertainment and immersiveness to all aspects of the degree, leaving a deeper and more lasting impression on the candidate and hopefully retaining them as active members….at least that would be the goal.
Will this innovation on the Craft ever be in place? Potentially.
Is it the silver bullet to bad ritual performance? Maybe.
Does it teach us something about modern Freemasonry? Yes.
We, as members of an organization steeped in history, owe it to ourselves to be the standard bearers not only of historic patrons, but to our own generation! Nothing separates any member of a constituent Lodge from being heralded as prolific a writer, ritualist or Brother as Albert Pike, or Albert G. Mackey -- NOTHING.
So are you Ready Brother Mason? It is your time to leave your mark on our Fraternity.