From the Secretaries Table (April, 2008)

posted May 2, 2015, 3:56 PM by San Jose Scottish Rite   [ updated May 2, 2015, 3:56 PM ]
The Package, or the Contents?
An article written by M.W. James H. May, PGM of Arizona, published originally in the November 2001 issue of Arizona Masonry provides the basis for this message.
“Is ritual the “foundation of Freemasonry?”  Nope.  No more than a table of contents is a book or than a Lodge is a building.”
The Contents of Masonry is, “a system of morals and ethics.”  Our Package is the ritual and it presents our Contents in very beautiful ways.  It is the process by which we convey to our candidates and repeat to ourselves the moral and ethical values we wish to practice, and further, it reminds us of our duties to God, our neighbor and ourselves.  Properly presented, it is the most beautifully wrapped gift that we can give.  
I have had many discussions relative to our Ritual and even more about the “dumbing down” of our ritual in order that we maintain or improve our membership.
Quoting M.W. May:
“Our ritual has a certain beauty and grace because its language is not that of today.  But it is also not the language of the ancient craftsmen whose accomplishments we celebrate.  It is of far more recent vintage.  It is different from place to place and also over time, having been altered by many individuals past and present.  ………  Further, the ritual has continued to evolve – even up to the present day.  Changes have been made consciously and unconsciously, some approved by Grand Lodges while others just “tiptoed through the back door”.  Most Grand Lodges that now have a written ritual made a transition from an unwritten oral ritual at some earlier point. When they made the decision to write it down for the first time, change was inevitable. Just visualize the debates over exactly WHAT to write down.  Someone’s viewpoint prevailed while another’s did not. That's change.
Is ritual a key element of the Craft? Certainly!  We wouldn’t be the same without it. I wouldn’t look forward to attending Lodge and hearing it time and again if it had no effect on me. It always does, and I’m convinced it helps make me a better person. It’s a gentle reminder of duties and obligations, attitudes and behaviors that make life more positive and enjoyable.”
In conclusion, it is my firm belief that the most beautiful aspect of Masonry is the system itself.  – “The system of morals and ethics under which certain men choose to live their lives.”  
Lastly, it is not the “dumbing down” of our ritual that causes the biggest problems.  It is the performance of the same.  Any attempt to change the package from one beautifully wrapped, to one in a plain brown wrapper, certainly diminishes the effect we intend to deliver.

Respectfully,

Robert D. Rowan, Jr. 
General Secretary