Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Freemason Ritual Techniques
This question must have come to most of you. We have so prized originality, novelty, and individuality that we all have a tendency to despise and even fear ceremonies and rituals.
Repetition is the essence of ritualism; and since nothing can grow staler or more inept sooner than repetition, we find many persons thinking of ritual as meaningless stage play. This being so, let us reflect a little on ritual, what it is, what it does for us, and why we may all, individualistic as we may be, frankly and intelligently uphold it as having a just right to a major place in the functioning of any Masonic Body.
Man's being has been shaped by a Universe that loves repetition and ceremonial; the inspiration to ritualism is everywhere. Night and day everlastingly succeed each other; the four seasons continue their endless circumambulations, like the candidate about the lodge room; the stars move about in their fixed orbits, the tides rise and fall, moons wax and wane, seed-time and harvest come and go, growth is followed by decay, birth is succeeded by death. Early man has taught us that to ritualise is in mans nature, and that no amount of rationalizing will ever eradicate from his soul his penchant for thus expressing his thoughts and his emotions. The enlargement of the individual consciousness into a group consciousness is the secret of the prevalence of ritualistic ceremonies. If we will apply this fact to the use of ritual in our Masonic Bodies we shall be better able to appreciate and to understand its practice there. But, it must not be supposed that a ritual, especially our Masonic Rituals, excludes novelty, and the opportunities for the individual to add to the richness of it all, for there is always room for the member to improve the work by his better rendition of it, by his vocal interpretation, by masterful gestures, by superiority of costume and make-up, and every Masonic Body has opportunities to show its own genius to the full by way of better equipment and furnishings.
Speaking in a Masonic Body resolves itself into two main forms -
(a) Rendering the Ceremonies and ritual, and
(b) Discussion of matters of Business.
Each of these forms requires from the speaker knowledge, skill, tact, and preparation, if he is to be effective and the hearers edified, convinced or impressed. Any single requisite is not enough, they are all needed; and perhaps the first and last most of all.
Nearly every Mason is called upon to speak on occasion but to a larger extent, as elsewhere, to keep silent, for the Motto of the Craft, AUDI, VIDI, TACE (hear, see, and be silent), applies very strongly, and it is most important from many points of view that when his duty is to hear and at the same time to be silent, he should at least hear something which, not in words only, will elevate his thoughts and attract and hold his attention.
The rendering of ritual or ceremony does not present such a varied field for consideration as an ordinary speech because the verbal portions are already in being; the phrases, sentences, addresses and so forth have been composed, correlated, and balanced. But here is the great pitfall, far too often the Ritual is regarded as something to be committed to memory, and fired out in a word-perfect manner without any reference to the actual impression which is made on the Candidate or those in the audience.
Usually Masonic Ritualistic knowledge is garnered from schools of instruction, where no doubt the actual words are committed to memory, and regularly rehearsed. But has there been instruction in the meaning of the actual ceremony in total or of the words, phrases, and so on? You have no doubt been well oriented and trained, but there are many words in the Ritual which are not in the vocabulary of most people. If they are in your vocabulary (they may not be in that of the candidate and others), have you grasped the import, open and concealed, of the whole, or parts, or even words, so that you can discard all self-consciousness, coldness of manner, and unconcern of mind, and enter into the very spirit and life of the ritual, and render it with sincerity and effect which will awaken responsive chords in the hearts of all who hear your effort? Words are instruments of music; an ignorant man uses them for jargon; but when a master touches them they have an unexpected life and soul. It is that life and soul which you will have to bring out of the words you may know so well.
By understanding means to obtain by study, examination, and reflection the real purpose of what you are going to repeat. Go over the ceremony part by part, consider its meaning and the lessons it is intended to teach, then go over the whole, taking care to consider and give the appropriate force to the particular phrases, sentences or words, so as to exhibit an evident sincerity and deep personal conviction of what is the apparent objective of, and a pervading vitality in, what is said; and a delivery which corresponds therewith. This can only be achieved by patience and concentration, and by your own personal effort. In our ritual, there are words used of an archaic and medieval character, and others which like these have a meaning today in common usage which they did not formerly possess.
EXPRESSION AND EMPHASIS
Both of these are needed for the proper rendering of ritual. They can only be acquired in the first place by the use of the knowledge you have gained by study, and in the next place by careful attention and practice; without which the diction, pronunciation and virility of your effort will fail; for the result will be a cold passionless and ineffective travesty of what should be an appealing, forceful, and vivid claim upon the mind and heart of the candidate. Gesture, which in ordinary speech may be, and in many cases is, exceedingly useful, is not so needful in Ritual work, but there are parts where the effect of sentences, charges, and lectures will be largely more apparent by the use of meaningful and germane gesture.
Where you have printed matter available, observe the punctuation; where not, then in effect mentally punctuate your sentences so as to pronounce those intervals which will add to the emphasis or force of the words, as well as to give you the opportunity to breathe properly.
TECHNIQUES OF RITUALISM
KNOWLEDGE: This includes as complete acquaintance as possible with subjects likely to be dealt with - as regards Masonry - its history, in general, the specific Body in particular, ritual, customs and usages, symbolism and secret teaching, the laws and constitutions and an extensive and exact vocabulary understanding of the meaning of the application of words.
INTELLECT: By which we refer to the fluency of ideas, thought, clearness of apprehension and facility of expression derived from the practice of the faculties of imagination, vitality, and observation.
METHOD: The arranging of thought and speech on definite well-ordered lines, for which a good cultivated memory will be found very useful.
EXPRESSION: One wants the power of infusing the charm of ones expression into his delivery of even the highest thoughts when clothed in the most appropriate form of words.
PREPARATION: Under this heading it is well to concentrate on and practice.
Written by Everett J. G. Chapman M.I.P.G.M. California