Ritual and Working Generally
An Address given by RWBro Jim Logan, PGW, Senior Warden, to the Hawke’s Bay Research Lodge No 305 on
Monday 6th February 2012.
According to our ritual, our secrets are not communicated indiscriminately, but are conferred according to merit and ability.
It would appear that whatever the merit or ability of the candidate, the secrets are conferred.
Is there any other meaning in these words? It does appear that this portion of ritual is supposed to mean just exactly what it says and the fact that, in many cases, due regard is not paid to it is unfortunately true, and this is to be deplored. Doubtless, Masters are anxious to spare the feelings of a candidate and save him from embarrassment.
The tests that a candidate has to face for degrees after initiation are: -
- The preliminary examination prior to the degree being conferred.
- The interrogations by the Wardens during the perambulations.
In the first of these there should be no prompting unless it is obvious that the candidate is nervous and is not doing himself justice. If it is clear that the candidate just does not know even this little part of the ritual, a Master should be brave enough to suggest to him that it would be desirable for him to stand down for a period of time. This might perhaps be a little hard on a candidate for what may be someone else’s fault, but, if his share is not done, he should not be “nursed”.
To see their candidate penalised in this way may easily be a salutary lesson to proposers and seconders who may perhaps have been remiss in their duty. One example of this kind would have a telling effect on officers and brethren, particularly on sponsors, whose duty does not end with the initiation of their friend. Lodges should insist that the preliminary questions should be known.
A further point is the advisability of not rushing a candidate through his degrees. Let him absorb the teachings of one before he takes the next. If possible he should see another working of the ceremony he has just passed through.
RWBro Greg Goding, in his lecture, states that it takes up to two years for a candidate to be Initiated, Passed and Raised to the third degree in his lodge. But one must remember that the candidate is fully involved in his lodge over that period. In my opinion one should pick a lodge, which does good ritual work, when taking a candidate to witness another degree that he has recently taken.
What really does this tell us?
- That we are probably not vetting our candidate properly.
- We are not giving our candidates sufficient information prior to initiation
- That our proposers and seconders are not doing justice to their candidate
- That the mentoring system is not working in most of our lodges
Do the proposer and or the seconder need to be the mentor? In my opinion, “No”! We should be appointing a skilled brother to that position, thus avoiding the problem of the candidate being uninformed and not knowing what is required of him.
Are the present-day brethren as impressive ritualists as those of previous generations? The answer to this question must be a matter of opinion, but it was asked by a brother when speaking of the death of a Past Master of his lodge who was an impressive ritualist of the older generation. The immediate answer was a qualified agreement; we can only do our best, and if we impress younger brethren, that is what matters.
When we were young masons ourselves we were naturally impressed by the splendid ritual work of many of our seniors. Most brethren would have little difficulty in compiling a list of outstanding ritualists of an earlier day. When we become Past Masters ourselves we try to emulate those who so impressed us in our younger days. We can only hope that in our turn we impress our juniors.
There is no doubt whatever that there are in our lodges today brethren just as able and impressive in their ritual work as those whom we admired. The style of speech and ritual delivery has chang4ed over the years and we are less inclined to “declaim” than some of our earlier brethren. The greater interest in dramatic work some years ago no doubt influenced their style of delivery.
The impressiveness of a ritualist depends partly on natural gifts and inclinations and partly on training. A brother who has a deep resonant voice has an immediate advantage over the average lodge officer. However we all have to make do with lesser gifts with which we have been endowed and must rely on training and advice from others to a greater extent. Although not necessarily good ritualists ourselves we can, by application and careful study of others, whom we recognize as masters in this field, improve ourselves vastly.
The following simple guide has been found by some brethren to produce satisfactory results: -
- Learn the ritual thoroughly. Revise every charge from the ritual every time before delivering it in lodge. This is most important.
- Deliver the charge personally to the candidate rather than as a display of oratory.
- Speak slowly, and although bearing point “2” above in mind, make sure that every one in the lodge room can hear.
- While the style of speech in recent years has become less colourful and dramatic than it used to be, at all times avoid the modern tendency to “ sloppy” speech.
Brethren are inclined to speak far too fast, even to omit syllables from the middle and ends of words (or even whole words) and place emphasis on the wrong word or syllable. Any good dictionary will give you the correct pronunciation of a word, while understanding of the meaning of a passage will indicate where the stress in a sentence should come.
By and large I think we have just as impressive ritualists as we had years ago but the style of delivery has changed in line with that of current general speech. No doubt we do not now have the orators we used to have; but our modern ritualists appear more natural and perhaps sound more sincere. Although this does not mean that the older brethren were not, in fact, completely sincere. This is all to the good, as it is desirable that we impress the candidates that we are speaking to rather than giving an elocutionary performance of a piece of ritual.
From a personal observation, over the last fifty-four years, there has been very good delivery of ritual, especially when individual charges are been presented, probably not as many per lodge as there were but nevertheless some very good ritualists over that time. I do not see that the style of speech has changed in that period of time and, for sure, the wording in the ritual is the same. Perhaps when they refer to previous generations they are referring to the previous century. What I have noted however is that the working of the three degrees has slipped quite dramatically over the last several years, especially those parts that take place at the pedestals. It is obvious to everybody in the lodge room, including the candidate, when somebody is reading his lines. Eye contact is lost.
In conclusion, the delivery of several good charges does not necessarily imply a good ceremony, however, one in which individual charges and good work associated with the perambulations is included, does make it right. We all know when we have done it right and from personal experience this good feeling carries through to the refectory.
Brethren seeking further help and guidance on this matter of learning and delivery of ritual are referred to the following two papers published in the Transactions of the Masters’ and Past Masters’ Lodge No 130 (Christchurch).
Chambers, A R “The Learning and Delivery of Ritual” 1961
Lester, J R “Correct Speech - with special reference to delivery of ritual” 1954