The sound of the Master’s gavel resonated throughout the Lodge room brought to attention the assembled Brethren. Shortly thereafter, the gavel again sounded, penetrating the silence as the commanding voice of the presiding officer thundered throughout the tiled room which separated this august assembly from the profane world. The meeting started in a magnanimous atmosphere of solemnity and grandeur. There were several participants, namely the officers, who played a certain routine role which is by no means routine, while attentive ears hung on every word, with eyes fixed on every movement under the canopy of this sublime setting.
In his Knight of the Sun Lecture of the Scottish Rite's Eighteenth Degree, for instance, Albert Pike speaks of this role of Ritual uplifting us on an esoteric level -- for example, in exploring the world of the mystical Kabbalah: "The Allusion of the Ritual, here, is obviously to the four Worlds of the Kabbalah. The ten Sephiroth of the world Briah proceed from Malakoth, the last of the ten Emanations of the world Aziluth; the ten Sephiroth of the world Yezirah, from Malakoth of Brian; and the ten of the world Asiah, from Malakoth of Yezirah. . . . The Active and Passive Symbols are the Male and Female." (Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma)
While Ritual effectively transmits sublime absorption of the Tree of Knowledge and consequently its emanations, there is also a practical side to Ritual in making one an effective leader. Ritual gives us the courage and confidence for public speaking. It gives us, by way of tradition passed down, the example and authority to enact decisions in the realm of ethics. This courage, confidence, and moral authority makes a degree team an ideal conduit to transmit Masonic knowledge to the newly initiated candidate.
Indeed, the impression on the mind of an Entered Apprentice Mason depends on the actors of the ritualistic script. The candidate, ideally, should have the impression that nothing came out of the book, but rather, out of the mind and heart of the actor. In my view, a brother who reads the script may spoil, to use an analogy, the nutrition that the initiate is being fed, bite by bite, course after course. Another degradation of the theatrical ritual are those promptings that contaminate -- taking our analogy even farther -- the intended menu which is expected to be genuine and fresh to the taste of the learner hungry for knowledge.
Accordingly, the ritualistic work, in most cases, makes a difference on the future of ambitious brethren desirous to learn, because it determines the level of membership skills we will have in our jurisdiction. This should be more especially impressed upon the mind of those Brethren who come forth to assume a leadership role. As our motto states that “no man should assume to a position for which is not fully prepared,” so should those of us who find the time to serve the fraternity make sure that they are properly equipped with knowledge and light.
A great actor is one who animates his role and lives each bit of its parts with all of its ingredients and then spices it with the special peculiarities of his own soul. Reciting a Ritual for the sake of recitation only is boring and useless, regardless of how well the actor may know it. A parrot-style recitation may become annoying and fails ultimately its intended esoteric message. Worse than that, a message read from a book, cell phone, iPad, or notebook is an inappropriate way to articulate philosophical allegories: this reduces them rather to a meaningless rattling of annoying words. Blame should not be placed on the candidate if during those sessions of the lecture, Degree conferral, or charge anything is not properly transmitted. The purpose of it all, most especially for the Entered Apprentice Mason, should be to excite the curiosity of the candidate to discover the secrets of our Royal Art.
Many Brethren in the craft may be wondering how to address these issues and how to find a solution to what we may sometimes regard as an impasse. The best answer I can provide is: Read the Ritual! Read it once, read it twice, read it over and over and meditate upon it. You may find within its words the solution or answer to your question. In closing, my brethren, let us roll up our sleeves and labor with unanimity and concord, that we may distinguish ourselves in the Lodge, in the family, and in the world. Thus, will we be leaders par excellence, with the stamp of the supernal truth of Masonic Ritual upon our souls.