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mastering the art of learning ritual
by Bro. Graeme J. Beresford
It seems strange to me how the routine of something which we all have to do in Freemasonry doesn't have any guidance given to our Brethren. From our first steps into the Lodge room we see others quoting, from memory, pages and pages of text, some better than others, only to beg the question; "How can they do that?"
Well brother like everything else in the world of knowledge. If you don't know the rules of the game, how do you expect you will ever be able to play?
There has been countless experiments done with memory over the years and many books written as well. I have two books which I believe are useful for general memory, the second will I believe be of best use to fellow Brethren.
This second book is nearly 400 pages long and so I wont be going through it all in depth, just to offer a summary of part.
The core for our purposes is a method they term their MASTER plan. Seems a good idea for Freemasons as you would agree it is an easy word for us to remember.
This word is an acronym for the six steps in remembering. Our purpose is to learn those pages of ritual.
The M is for Motivating your mind. If there is lack of purpose or reason in anything you do then chances are you are setting yourself up for failure right away. Ritual was not invended to confuse and torture us, nor to show how some Brethren are smarter than others, nor was it meant as a showcase for the ridicule of others.
Ritual is a means of teaching moral lessons. By memorising the ritual, you are remembering those lessons and it gives you the basic tools to ponder these lessons for your own life. The analogy of the ritual increases this capacity for learning from the ritual and aims for a deeper understanding of yourself.
This is one of the goals for learning ritual. I believe it is one worth remembering. Other Brethren tell me that after years in Freemasonry that they still learn much from the ritual. The ritual doesn't change much over that period of time, even if some Brethren would disagree with me there, it is the individual who changes and learns more as his knowledge grows. This growth continues for the rest of your life. It never ends.
Other reasons for ritual include helping the Lodge with ceremonial and to take an active part in the proceedings. Taking part and working in this team can be very rewarding and enriching as you work together for a common goal and to make that meeting a success. A meeting with good ritual does leave a good impression for listeners and does get them thinking about the lessons you have learnt yourself.
Personal growth as a ritualist is also very important. You may have your favourite charges under your belt, but then you stagnate by not pressing yourself to take on new challenges.
We are all taken by the path in getting to that chair. It is a goal placed before us and can be a challenge for some and a scary undertaking for others. If you have in your mind a way of a learning the ritual on that path, it will make the challenge more appealing and less scary. Not forgetting that there is always life after the chair.
So you want to learn ritual? What do you learn? If you are a newly made Master Mason you might consider looking at the Inner Guard and Tyler's work. You might also take on a small charge, see your Director of Ceremonies for advice. As a rule for climbing offices you should during your year, learn the ritual of your one up office. Make full use of practise nights to fine tune your current work and Lodge of Instruction for your preparation for the following year.
Yes at first it sounds like a lot to take on, and we still haven't really started the memory process. At this point you should feel a hunger to learn your ritual and to enjoy all that it will give you.
The A is for Acquiring the information. Firstly you have to get the ritual into your mind. The memory has three ways of receiving information;
To get the most out of the acquiring of your ritual, you must do all three. You must read the ritual. Read it by looking at it about 5 times. You will have made a visual impression of the words in your mind. Then listen to the words as you again read the ritual 5 times aloud. Listen to your tone of voice. Look for the patterns of expression as you speak. Then write or type out the ritual by hand. Read and repeat the words in your mind.
Once you have learned your ritual at home, then comes the step most often missed by Brethren. Practising in the Lodge. But be clear that at this stage you are not ready for a Lodge practise night, but rather a Lodge of Instruction. Be clear of your cues in moving to your place to deliver your ritual, where do you stand, how do you stand, how do you trigger your first line? All these questions need to be answered. You should have a place worked out where best to sit. You should know when you should rise and move to your place of delivery. You should know if you need to acknowledge the chair. You should be able to face the Brethren calm and collected. You should have your cue set for the first line and be thinking a few words ahead of yourself as you deliver at a slow, calm and steady pace.
Once you have acknowledged these steps, you can move on.
The S is for Searching out the meaning. Most ritual comes about from events. They may be based on fact and can easily be researched. Others are biblical and may require a depth of interpretation and others are mythical and may only be known within Freemasonry. One should take the time to discover something about the ritual in its deeper meaning and the symbols which it represents. It helps images to come to mind if you know something of the background of the events which took place. Make use of the libraries and Brethren who may be able to share material with you.
The T is for Triggering the memory. When delivering ritual it is important to ensure the sequence is known and kept. Once you move into place and are ready to deliver your first line, you should have it ready to go and be thinking of the next one to deliver. Visualise the text on the page. See the next paragraph coming, feel the tone of your voice as you deliver it. Feel when you are ready for the next line.
The E is for Exhibiting what you know. First look into a mirror and repeat your ritual as you learn. Feel confident that you can achieve your goal. Speak at Lodge of Instruction and experiment freely with how you are going to deliver your work. Then prepare for the practise night already knowing where you should be sitting, knowing what cues there are to rise and move into place. Have that first line in your mind when you rise and when start delivering the first line, have ready the next one to go. Feel relaxed and feel confident as you have done the hard work and this is the reward.
Finally the R is for Review. Take the time to sit quietly and review your ritual. Was it received well? Did you feel that you were comfortable? What could you have done to improve the experience.
Take note of these details and add them into your personal plan for MASTERing the Art of Learning Ritual.
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Last modified: March 22, 2014