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Montana Freemason  August 2015                         Volume 91 Number 2

                   Is	Ritual	Fundamental	To	Freemasonry?

                   Arturo de Hoyos

   For many of us, Freemasonry would not be            confidence to respond to life’s challenges with
Freemasonry without its ritual.                        heroic virtue, or it represents a cautionary tale - a
                                                       warning of the consequences of vice.
Why do I believe ritual is important? To begin, let’s
recall what Joseph Campbell said:                         There are other benefits, of course. In Freemasonry,
                                                       the mere participation in ritual affords members
  “The function of ritual, as I understand it, is to   a connection with the past, through that invisible
  give form to human life, not in the way of a mere    ‘mystic tie’ which binds us, by common words
  surface arrangement, but in depth.”                  and symbolic actions, to our Masonic ancestors. It
                                                       also binds us to each by a shared experience which
   As I’ve explained in - Morals and Dogma:            separates us from those who have not participated.
Annotated Edition - (p. 60): “Modern man is no         It is well known that shared experiences can form
longer subject to the same environmental factors or    powerful bonds between people, and can forge
limitations as our ancestors. Our insulation from the  friendships and trust which can last a lifetime.
reality of nature unfortunately creates the illusion   Freemasonry’s rituals have the additional benefit of
that we are separate from our natural environment,     teaching us through symbolic instruction, as Pike
rather than participants in the pageant of natural     says in the 30th Degree:
existence. We no longer gaze at the stars each night
with wonder, and we do not see their movements as        “We do not mistake the symbol for the thing
great cosmic shows as did our ancestors. We have         symbolized. But thoughts may be expressed
severed ourselves from our natural home making           as well by symbols and acts as by words,
us, like Moses, ‘strangers in a strange land’ (Exodus    which indeed are themselves only symbols,
2:22). Participation in Freemasonry seeks to restore     not so expressive often as a sign, a figure or a
a part of the lost cultural heritage by preserving a     ceremonial.”
body of vast ritual symbolism, and restoring to us     Take due notice thereof and govern yourselves
the tools with which our ancestors measured and        accordingly.
interpreted the world. Using the Compasses we
learn that all truth may be circumscribed into one                                                                        Page 5
great whole. We thus gain insight into the wonder
of the human experience, while the rituals create a
mythical environment in which we may experience
the _participation mystique_, when our fixation
on our position in time and space is blurred or

   In order words, ritual pushes the conscious mind
into the background, and brings the unconscious
to the foreground. This shift in perception gives a
wondrous vitality to archetypes, which may allow us
to process information in new and/or different ways.
Thus, ritual can facilitate insight, and its actions
and symbolism ‘communicate’ directly, without the
need for words. Like good art and music, ritual does
not necessarily have to be verbally explained to be
meaningful, although some lectures touch upon its
fundamental symbolism.

   Ritual can commemorate and even define
milestones in one’s life, and may present a sense
of order and structure which facilitates centering.
And, at the most basic level, the ritual drama can be
viewed as a morality play, which may inspire one’s
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