“Freemasonry is a beautiful system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated with symbols.” This what is explained to the candidate just prior to taking their oath or obligation. In fact, I have heard several brothers use this phase when explaining Freemasonry to a non-Masons.
The original authors of the ritual are not known, we do know, through the ancient charges, that portions of our ritual have been around for hundreds, if not thousands of years. During the 1700s and into the 1800s several brothers made alterations to enhance the ritual, the most notable among them were William Preston and Thomas Smith Webb. William Preston, who resided in England, is credited with writing the foundation to the three lectures, which after years of work presented the first of the three to the Grand Lodge in England in 1772. He published several books including “Illustrations of Masonry”, and “Private Lectures of Masonry in Twelve Courses”. Thomas Smith Webb is said to have “Americanized” the ritual and published several editions of the Monitor with various titles. He taught this system of ritual to various Brothers several of whom traveled through the then U.S. teaching it.
We as an origination spend quite of bit time with regards to our ritual. The individual Brother in the officer line will spend hours of their time learning and memorizing it on their own and then be out several nights a month rehearsing it with their Brothers. We attend a District Lodge of Instruction on a monthly basis to learn and enhance our knowledge of the ritual, and then once a year we are required to demonstrate our proficiency of the ritual at a Grand Lodge of Instruction. So why do we spend so much time learning the ritual that man like Preston and Webb spent years developing and teaching to other Brothers? Refer back to the first line of this message, and ask yourself how do we teach these lessons of morality, tell the tales of allegory or illustrate the symbols. It is through our ritual. That is why our ritual is so important.
See you in lodge.
Daniel E. O’Brien
P.S. Have a great summer, Brothers!