Brothers I have been pondering the purpose of ritual in our life. Ritual provides guidance and the guard rails to help us navigate life’s changing social norms and practices. In modern times, what is acceptable behavior has shifted from strict conservative mannerisms to whatever is popular on social media. Masonry provides a set of rituals and ceremonies, passed down through the ages, providing continuity in a man’s life. Masonic ritual is a powerful tool that serves to connect men with each other and with something larger than themselves.
The need for ritual is deeply ingrained in human nature. It has been a part of human culture and civilization since the beginning of recorded history. Rituals serve as a means of expressing and reinforcing important values and beliefs, and of creating a sense of community and belonging. They allow individuals to connect with something greater than themselves, whether it be a higher power, nature, or the collective consciousness of their community.
In the context of Masonry, ritual serves several important functions. Firstly, it provides a means of instruction and education. The symbols and allegories used in Masonic rituals are rich in meaning and provide a framework for members to explore and contemplate important philosophical and moral concepts. This allows members to deepen their understanding of themselves and the world around them, and to develop a sense of purpose and direction in life.
Secondly, Masonic rituals serve as a means of connection between members and enhance fraternal bonds. By participating in ritual together, members of a Masonic lodge develop a shared experience that is unique and meaningful. This shared experience fosters a sense of brotherhood and camaraderie that is difficult to replicate in any other context. Members of a Masonic lodge come from diverse backgrounds and walks of life. Despite these social differences, through ritual, they are united in a common purpose with a shared set of values.
In excerpt from an article in the Art of Manliness written by Brett & Kate McKay • January 28, 2014
Stripping rituals from life was supposed to be liberating, but in a time when we are awash in personal freedom, an awful lot of people seem awfully dull and unexceptional. Worn out from having to choose their behavior in every situation with little guidance, and from creating every aspect of their own meaning and identity, people give up and seem passive and defeated, content to let the currents of consumerism carry them along.
Carlin Barton, author of Roman Honor writes of a similar psychological fatigue that occurred as ritual disappeared from ancient Roman culture:
“Because for the cosmopolite, limits, like definitions, had to be chosen, morality and adhesion toparticular traditions and limits required a prodigious act of will. Preserving a sense of being, of identity, thus became a continuous–and ultimately exhausting–assault on the will…For the Romans of the Late Republic and early Empire, too much relied on the will. As in a play by Seneca, there were not enough areas of life where one could submit; there was no psychic rest, no catharsis. It is much easier, as Mary Douglas points out, to maintain a sense of one’s own existence, of the expressiveness of one’s words and actions, in a world with stubborn bonds and traditions than in a world without them, however burdensome those bonds.”
Masonic rituals also serve as a means of personal growth and transformation. The rituals are designed to be transformative experiences that allow members to confront their own limitations and shortcomings as they strive towards self-improvement. By participating in ritual, members are challenged to become better versions of themselves, both morally and spiritually. This process of personal growth and transformation is a lifelong journey, supported and encouraged by the Masonic community.
Finally, Masonic ritual serves as a means of connection with something larger than oneself. The symbols and allegories used in Masonic rituals are often steeped in religious and spiritual tradition. They serve to encourage members to connect with the divine and transcendent. This connection allows members to transcend their own individual concerns and to connect with something that is greater than themselves. This sense of connection with the divine or the transcendent can be a source of comfort, inspiration, and guidance throughout one's life.
My brothers, you owe it to yourself to come to the lodge and sharpen your ritual if you’re an officer or just by observance if you are a general member. For the officers, ritualistic reading and practice will provide you with the spark you need to take on the challenges in your life. Daily ritualistic reading has made a great difference in my life, and I hope it will in yours. For the membership, seeing the footwork and hearing the words over and over again at each degree will also help you ponder the many wonderful gifts of ritual.