The mode of opening and closing Lodge, of conferring the Degrees, of installation, and Other duties, constitute a System of ceremonies which are called the Ritual. Much of this Ritual is esoteric, and, not being permitted to be committed to writing, is communicated only by oral instruction. In each Masonic Jurisdiction it is required, by the superintending authority, that the Ritual shall be the same; but it more or less differs in the different Rites and Jurisdictions But this does not affect the universality of Freemasonry.
The Ritual is only the external and extrinsic form. The doctrine of Freemasonry is everywhere the same. It is the Body which is unchangeable--remaining always and everywhere the same. The Ritual is but the outer garment which covers this Body, which is Subject to continual variation It is right and desirable that the Ritual should be made perfect, and everywhere alike. But if this be impossible, as it is, this at least will console us, that while the ceremonies, or Ritual, have varied at different periods, and still vary in different countries, the science and philosophy, the symbolism and the religion, of Freemasonry continue, and will continue to be the same wherever true Freemasonry is practiced.
Little can be added to the above paragraph lay brother Mackey without perhaps saying too much. The reader must fill in between the lines. But the pages of the Transactions, Quatuor Coronati and particularly the papers by Brother E. L. Hawkins are well worth study. The National Masonic Research Society has in every volume of the Builder had Something of highly suggestive value on the subject, especially the essays by Brothers Silas H. Shepherd (volume 1, page 166); Roscoe Pound (volume 3, page 4); Louis H. Fead, R. J. Meekren, A. L. Cress, Ray V. Denslow, H. L. Haywood, C. C. linnt, Ernest E. Thiemeyer, and others. Brother Lionel Vibert in MiscelZanea Latow Zoruwn, Bath, l gland, has had many noteworthy comments; also brother C. C. Hunt, Iowa Masonic Bulletin (No. 4, 1922, and No. 1, 1923). Brother Melvin M. Johnson, New England Craftsman (April, 1923) has a most cresting commentary on Masonic Ritual in America before l750. An able address by Brother Roscoe Pound on The Causes of Divergence in Ritual was delivered before the Harvard Chapter of the Acacia fraternity during the school year, 1911-2, and was also submitted to the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts (see Proceedings, 1915, page 143; also Builder, November, 1917, page 74). This valuable lecture was based on a critical study of various rituals and of the proceedings of Grand Lodges from the beginning. brother Shepherd, Notes on the Ritual, March 1914, published by the Wisconsin Grand Lodge Committee on Masonic Research, deals with the tradition, the simple ceremonies, the introduction of the work into the United States, Webb's participation, and the development of standards--a study of great importance and merit. Among Causes of divergence, a topic frequently arousing inquiry, Brother Pound mentions these:
Masonry was transplanted to this country (United States) while the ritual was still formative in many respects in England.
There were several foci, and, as it were, several subloci of Masonry in the United States, from each of which was transmitted its own version of what it received.
The schism of ancients and moderns which obtained in England in the last half of the eighteenth century, led to two rituals in this country during the formative period of America Masonry, and later these were fused in varying degrees in different Jurisdictions.
It was not until the end of the eighteenth century in England, and not until the first quarter of the nineteenth century in this country, that literal knowledge of the work was regarded as of paramount importance. Moreover, complete uniformity of work does not obtain in England, where two distinct schools perpetuate the work as taught by ancient Masonic teachers of the first part of the Last century.
New Grand Lodges were formed in this country by the union of lodges chartered from different States, and these unions gave rise to all sorts of combinations. Each Jurisdiction, when it established a Grand Lodge, became independent and preserved its ritual as it had received it or made it over by way of compromise, or worked it out, as a possession of its own.
As to the origin of the Ritual, there are many allusions elsewhere in this work to the Mysteries. The reader will also note various other sources of consequence and upon which he may further pursue research, as in the curious resemblance of certain ceremonies still found in religious observances of such bodies as the Benedictines (see account of ceremonial forms in English Black Monks of Saint Benedict, E. L. Taunton, 1898, Appendix). Also note Brother W. Simpson (Transactions, Quatuor Coronati Lodge. 1889, volume 22, page 17) says:
On the first of January, 1870, I saw in the great basilica of Saint Paul's without the walls at Rome, the ceremony known as the Profession of a Benedictine, that is the phrase meaning the reception of a monk into the Benedictine Order. At one point of the ceremony a black cloth was laid on the floor in front of the altar; on this the noviciate lay down and was covered with a black pall with silver lace on it.
A large candle stood at his head and another at his feet. There the man lay in semblance of death. The Abbot of the Order celebrated Mass, which occupied about half an hour. At the end of this the Deacon of the Mass came near to the prostrate figure, and reading from a book in his hand in Latin some words which were to this effect, " oh, thou that steepest arise to everlasting life." The man rose up and, if I remember right, received the sacrament. He then took his place amongst the Brethren of the Order, kissing each of them as he passed along. The proof that he is supposed to leave one state of existence and become a new individual is supplied by the fact that when I asked his name it was refused to me. I was told that henceforth he would be known as Jacobus--his old name went with the former existence. It is the same with nuns. They all receive a new name and they also go through the semblance of death as a final ceremony of the Order. I have an amount of a ceremony that took place in the Monastery Church of Llanthony Abbey in Wales, of which Father Ignatius is the Superior and in which he took a leading part. A Sister was to receive the Blacks Veil. She entered the church dressed in white, as a bride, to be married to Christ. This Rite was celebrated by cutting off her hair, putting on the robes of a Benedictine Nun, including the Black Veil, and the marriage ring was put on her finger. The newly wedded bride was then led to a bier, covered with a pall and carried out of the church, while the burial service, "I am the resurrection and life," and "earth to earth, ashes to ashes," was uttered and the great bell of the Abbey tolled, while the chant for the dead was solemnly sung. This was in 1882 and on the Octave (Latin, applied to the eighth day of a festival) of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin.
There is at the Island of Caldey, off the Welsh coast, less than three miles from Tenby, a household of Benedictine Monks, who on every Friday during Lent give a Passion Play, lasting about two hours for its rendition, and similar in purpose, though original in arrangement and musical accessories, to the famous one exhibited at Oberammergau in Germany, while markedly unlike all others, and difficult to explain its appeal and power, let it be said that among the special features described for us are these:
Each character is represented by a monk--at other Passion Plays there are male and female actors. The monks are dressed in their habits, voluminous and of milk-white wool, all alike except the young Religious who represents the Christus, who is clad in a girded alb of white linen, reaching to the ground, and long stole, the emblem of priesthood. No character speaks. Thero is no scenery.
The action is not represented on a stage. On the contrary, the stage of the hall, in which the Passion Play is given, is occupied by the audience, who look down into what would (at any other representation) be the auditorium, in which the fourteen actions of the play take place. In place of dialogue there is this-- behind curtains a group of chanters. To one falls throughout the function of recitative. He sings, to a plain, quick, even monotonous chant each scripture as it is called for describing the passage in the Redemption Tragedy which is at the moment being enacted. One chanter gives only the words of Peter, another those of Judas, or Pilate, or Caiaphas, the whole group sing when the multitude speak, and the chant is then harmonized. So of the words used by Christ; they are sung by an unseen singer. The lighting of the fourteen scenes is amazingly skillful and is also another instance of that amazingly perfect restraint.
There is light just enough, barely enough. and yet quite enough. Whence or how it comes does not appear. It is there, with no betrayal of mechanical throwing of it there. In the supreme scene of all it fades, absolutely imperceptibly, to complete darkness, till only the Crucified Himself is visible through the gloom, soundless, motionless, utterly alone. The words chanted are those of the Gospels only, without addition or paraphrase, and they are given in English, except that in certain scenes (as in that of the Entombment), where the characters are, by force of the narrative itself, silent, a few verses of the Stabat Slater (Latin hymn on the seven loves of Mary, so-called from opening words) are chanted to the solemn tones. At certain places, too, the audience, between the risings of the curtain, almost whisper one or other of the sorrowful mysteries of the rosary.
Let the student in seeking ritualistic light read also particularly the Gospels, beginning at Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 23, and John 20, and continuing to the ascension. He will understand according to his ability to receive and little or nothing more need be said by way of instruction here. Ceremonially, textually and permanently the Bible has so large a place in our ritualism that we cannot mine too deeply its contents in our search. Operative, we have advanced to speculative and there is much of the former in our Masonic system. Of this and its possibilities the pamphlet on Ancient Trade Guilds and Companies; Free Masons Guilds, Clement E. Stretton, and the Guild Charges, John Yarker, both of 1909, published by William Tait, Belfast, Ireland, are suggestive and have evoked much controversy over old operative customs still favored by Lodges of the kind working in Great Britain and the United States. There is also a curious comparison of Masonic forms and customs with those of the Jesuits in Les Jesuits Chasss de la MaMonnerie et leur Poignard bris par les Masons, 1788, and in this connection one notes with attention the reference in Loyola ard the Educational System of the Jesuits, Rev. Thomas Hughes, S. J. (chapter iv, page 232), the repeated reference to the Lion's Paw, "The paw shows the lion," "You can tell a lion by his paw," "Ex ungue leonem," etc., in a discourse are somewhat suggestive, but the other work is much more elaborate and detailed. Here we may also in considering any lesson upon immortality mention the search for the body of the slain Osiris which was placed in a coffin and thrown into the sea. Thence it was east up later upon the shores of the Phenicia at the foot of a tamarack tree Here it was discovered through the search by Isis and brought back to Egypt for ceremonious burial. Of the same sort is the allusion in the third book of the Aeneid by Vergil. Here the hero, Aeneas, by means of a message given to him by the uprooting of a plant on the hillside, discovers the grave of a lost prince. A free translation is given as follows of this interesting story by the ancient Roman poet:
Near at hand there chanced to be sloping ground crested by trees and with a myrtle rough with spear like branches. Unto it I came. There I strove to tear from the earth its forest growth of foliage that the altars I might cover with the leafy boughs. But at that I saw a dreadful wonder, marvelous to tell. That tree first torn from the soil as its rooted fibers were wrenched asunder, black blood distilled in drops and gore stained the ground. My limbs shook with cold terror and the chill veins froze with fear.
Again I essayed to tear off one slender branch from another and thus thoroughly search for the hidden cause. From the bark of that one there descended purpled blood. Awaking in my mind many an anxious thought, I reverently beseeched the rural divinities and father Mars who presides over these Thracian territories, to kindly bless the vision and divert the evil of the omen. So a third time I grasped the boughs with greater vigor and on my knees struggled again with the opposing ground. Then I heard a piteous groan from the depths of the hill and unto mine ears there issued forth a voice. "Aeneas, why dost thou strive with an unhappy wretch? Now that I am in my grave spare me. Forbear with guilt to pollute thy pious hands To you Troy brought me forth no stranger. Oh, flee this barbarous land, flee the greedy shore. Polydore am I. Here an iron crop of darts hath me overwhelmed, transfixed, and over me shoots up pointed javelins."
Then indeed, depressed with perplexing fear at heart, was I stunned. On end stood my hair, to my jaws clung my tongue. This Polydore unhappy Priam formerly had sent in secrecy with a great weight of gold to be stored safely with the king of Thrace when Priam began to distrust the arms of Troy and saw the city blocked up by close siege.
The King of Thrace as soon as the power of the Trojans was crushed and gone their fortune, he broke every sacred bond, killed Polydore and by violence took his gold. Cursed greed of gold, to what dost thou not urge the hearts of men! When fear left my bones I reported the warnings of the gods to our chosen leaders and especially to my father, and their opinion asked. All agreed to quit that accursed country, abandon the corrupt associations, and spread our sails to the winds. Thereupon we renewed funeral rites to Polydore. A large hill of earth was heaped for the tomb. A memorial altar was reared to his soul and mournfully bedecked with grey wreaths and gloomy express. Around it the Trojan Patrons stood with hair disheveled according to the custom. We offered the sacrifices to the dead, bowls foaming with warm milk, and goblets of the sacred blood. We gave the soul repose in the grave, and with loud voice addressed to him the last farewell.
There is still another direction of inquiry. This relates to the possible influence of that buoyancy of spirit or exuberance of play that evolves rituals that are usually thought of as Side Degrees. Of these there are many, not a few old of evolution and even associated with the crafts. One of these is the old morality play, the Deposisio Cornuti Typographi, of which there are before us the particulars of the 1621 edition reprinted by William Blades, London, 1885, version credited to a German, John Rist, born 607, died 1667, and is an initiatory ceremony in which such instruments as the compasses had a part. Blades gives several comparisons with other trade and colleges and church customs. Of the latter there are still a number of old Churches well equipped for dramatically presenting the lessons of immortality ad these sepulchers have been employed for the deceit of the Cross about Easter and on that day to e lifted out in memory of the Lord and with rejoicing over the successful climax of the seared
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