Reality and Ritual
By Fred C.
"There just isn't time in the world today for Ritual." A Brother said
recently, "I wish it were different, but we just don't use ritual in our
lives any more. It just doesn't relate to reality."
He then shook my hand, picked up his coat and hat, and left my office. I
glanced out the window as he left, and noticed him putting his hat on as
soon as he left the building. Then he reached the sidewalk, pausing to let a
woman pedestrian pass, waved his hand to hail a cab, and disappeared down
Of course, shaking hands, not wearing a hat inside, giving the right of way
to a woman, hailing a cab by waving, all are rituals. Four acts in less than
a minute - not bad for someone who has no time for ritual in his life!
Ritual in some form is a central part of our lives. In our Order, as
everywhere, ritual is the oldest and most powerful means of teaching. It is
even more than teaching! It is a major source of identification with any
group. Each family has ritual ways, or certain ways to celebrate certain
days. All cultures have rituals. Ritual is a primary way of telling "us"
from "them." Anthropologists inform us that when rituals break down, our
civilization is in trouble. All important moments in our lives are marked by
ritual - birth, coming of age, joining a community of faith, marriage, death
-- they are all marked by rituals.
As Masons, the ritualistic experience binds us into a special community, and
unites us with men who might be very different in income, education, social
status, race, creed, language, occupation, or experience. Yet, however we
may differ; the Ritual experience of becoming a Mason is a bond stronger
than all those differences.
The performance of the Ritual, the conferring of Degrees, is the only real
business of Masonry. All the rest, such as charities, educational programs,
fun and fellowship, are outgrowths of the lessons taught in those Rituals.
If you haven't been to a Degree ritual for some time, make it a point to
visit a lodge and experience it again. If you approach it with an open heart
and mind, you will find new lessons and fresh insights every time. Reality
and Ritual are closely related as the oak and the acorn. They are what we,
as Masons, are all about.