Monday, February 25, 2008

Mouth to Ear

Ritual is the cornerstone of our Fraternity. It is part of what binds us together as Brethren around the world despite race, religion, creed or any other difference which might insurmountably divide us. Though it may be practiced in different ways in different places, it teaches the same underlying lessons. Along with these differences come different methods for transmitting the rituals. Some jurisdictions allow a cipher with the ritual encoded in a fashion such that anyone who has seen it enough times can easily decode what would appear as jibberish to the uninitiated eye. Others only allow the ritual to be passed from mouth to ear. Is one method better than the other? While both methods have their pros and cons,I believe that the former is superior.
In my opinion, Freemasonry is a transformative science. As such, its purpose is to bring about a change in each individual. What "change" can entail is subjective, and different for each Brother, but to effect this change, it is necessary for the individual to experience the ritual and its teachings repeatedly. Obviously, we can only experience the ritual first hand one time, and there are myriad factors that might prevent a Brother from seeing the degrees again. Thus, another way to "experience" the ritual becomes necessary. When we have access to the ritual in printed form, we have a powerful tool that can aid us in this, allowing us to keep fresh in our minds the lessons that are taught to us in each degree. Repeated meditative study of the ritual can lead to great insight into our Craft, and greatly aid in the transformative process. By keeping the printed ritual under lock and key, and only allowing its transmission from mouth to ear, Grand Lodges are usurping every Mason's prerogative to gain a deeper understanding of our Craft, and placing themselves as an obstacle between a Brother and personal transformation. Is this not reminiscent of the tyranny of the Church during the dark ages, keeping the Scriptures away from the masses?
While study of the ritual is certainly not the be all end all of the transformative process, it is certainly an important and useful tool that every Mason should be allowed to use. By denying the Brethren access to the ritual, Grand Lodges are aiding in denying the very purpose of our Craft. In closing, I leave this question, raised by Dion Fortune in The Mystical Qabalah, and very appropriate to the issue at hand: "Is there any good reason why initiates of the present day should put all this knowledge into a secret box and sit upon the lid?" I think not!
So mote it be!