FREEMASON RITUAL TECHNIQUES
For Masons Everywhere
Copied from pamphlet issued by the Education Committee
General Grand Council
Everett J. G. Chapman
Re-written for use by the
Grand Council of Cryptic Masons
State of Missouri
Freemason Ritual Techniques
TO GO THROUGH THE SAME PERFORMANCE OVER AND OVER, TO SAY THE SAME
WORDS IN THE SAME WAY, AND NOT EVEN TO KNOW THE MEANING OF THESE
ACTIONS AND THESE WORDS, IS THAT NOT RATHER CHILDISH?
This question, I take it, must have come to most of you. We Americans have so prized
originality, novelty, and individuality that we all have a tendency to despise and even fear
Repetition is the essence of ritualism; and since nothing can grow staler or more inept sooner
than repetition, we find many persons thinking of ritual as meaningless stage play. This being so,
let us reflect a little on ritual, what it is, what it does for us, and why we may all, individualistic
as we may be, frankly and intelligently uphold it as having a just right to a major place in the
functionings of any Masonic Body.
Man's being has been shaped by a Universe that loves repetition and ceremonial; the inspiration to
ritualism is everywhere. Night and day everlastingly succeed each other; the four seasons
continue their endless circumambulations, like the candidate about the lodge room; the stars
move about in their fixed orbits, the tides rise and fall, moons wax and wane, seed-time and
harvest come and go, growth is followed by decay, birth is succeeded by death. Early man in his
rude ritualisms has taught us that to ritualize is in mans nature, and that no amount of
rationalizing will ever eradicate from his soul his penchant for thus expressing his thoughts and
his emotions. The enlargement of the individual consciousness into a group consciousness, that,
my brethren, is the secret of the prevalence of ritualistic ceremonies. If we will apply this fact to
the use of ritual in our Masonic Bodies we shall be better able to appreciate and to understand its
practice there. But, it must not be supposed that a ritual, especially our Masonic Rituals, excludes
novelty, and the opportunities for the individual to add to the richness of it all, for there is always
room for the member of a degree cast to improve the work by his better rendition of it, by his
vocal interpretation, by masterful gestures, by superiority of costume and make-up, and every
York Rite Body has opportunities to show its own genius to the full by way of better equipment
and furnishings; moreover, for those who are able to give a good account of themselves orally
there is plenty of opportunity.
REPETITION OF OUR RITUAL DOES NOT ANY MORE DESTROY INDIVIDUALITY
THAN DOES THE CONSTANT OR INTERMITTENT REPETITION OF MAKING LOVE
TO YOUR WIFE.
Speaking in a Masonic Body resolves itself into two main forms - (a) Rendering the Ceremonies
and ritual; and (b) Discussion of matters of Business. Each of these forms requires from the
speaker knowledge, skill, tact, and preparation, if he is to be effective and the hearers edified,
convinced or impressed. Any single requisite is not enough, they are all needed; and perhaps the
first and last most of all.
Nearly every Mason is called upon to speak on occasion but to a larger extent he has in York
Rite, as elsewhere, to keep silent, for the Motto of the Craft, AUDI, VIDI, TACE (hear, see, and
be silent), applies very strongly, and it is most important from many points of view that when his
duty is to hear and at the same time to be silent, he should at least hear something which, NOT
IN WORDS ONLY, will elevate his thoughts and attract and hold his attention.
IT IS TO THE ACCOMPLISHMENT OF THIS END THAT THIS PRESENTATION IS
The rendering of ritual or ceremony does not present such a varied field for consideration as an
ordinary speech because the verbal portions are already in being; the phrases, sentences,
addresses and so forth have been composed, correlated, and balanced. But here is the great
pitfall, far too often the Ritual is regarded as something to be committed to memory, and fired
out in a word-perfect manner without any reference to the actual impression which is made on
the Candidate or those in the audience.
OH! YOU SAY YOU DONT RENDER IT LIKE THAT; VERY WELL! BUT ARE YOU
SURE YOU COULD NOT DO IT BETTER THAN YOU HAVE DONE? SEE IF YOU CAN
SAY THAT AFTER YOU HAVE LISTENED TO THIS ENUMERATION OF SPECIFICS.
Usually Masonic Ritualistic knowledge is garnered from schools of instruction, where no doubt
the actual words are committed to memory, and regularly rehearsed. So far, so good. But has
there been instruction in the meaning of the actual ceremony in total or of the words, phrases,
and so on? You have no doubt been well oriented and trained, but there are many words in the
Ritual which are not in the vocabulary of most people. If they are in your vocabulary (they may
not be in that of the candidate and others), have you grasped the import, open and concealed, of
the whole, or parts, or even words, so that you can discard all self-consciousness, coldness of
manner, and unconcern of mind, and enter into the very spirit and life of the ritual, and render it
with sincerity and effect which will awaken responsive chords in the hearts of all who hear your
effort? If you cannot do this your knowledge is incomplete, and you have much to learn, for, as it
has been well said, words are instruments of music; an ignorant man uses them for jargon; but
when a master touches them they have an unexpected life and soul. It is that life and soul which
you will have to bring out of the words you may know so well. How can you best do it?
By understanding I mean that is to obtain by study, examination, and reflection the real purpose
of what you are going to repeat. Go over the ceremony part by part, consider its meaning and the
lessons it is intended to teach, then go over the whole, taking care to consider and give the
appropriate force to the particular phrases, sentences or words, so as to exhibit an evident
sincerity and deep personal conviction of what is the apparent objective of, and a pervading
vitality in, what is said; and a delivery which corresponds therewith. This can only be achieved
by patience and concentration, and by your own personal effort. It sounds like a large order, but
you can fill it if your are really imbued with the desire to do your best and to make that best
Remember what you have to perform is good, and therefore nothing short of your best efforts
will suffice. Remember also, that in our ritual, there are words used of an archaic and medieval
character, and others which like these have a meaning today in common usage which they did
not formerly possess, which points up to a need for careful:
EXPRESSION AND EMPHASIS:
Both of these are needed for the proper rendering of ritual. They can only be acquired in the first
place by the use of the knowledge you have gained by study, and in the next place by careful
attention and practice; without which the diction, pronunciation and virility of your effort will
fail; for the result will be a cold passionless and ineffective travesty of what should be an
appealing, forceful, and vivid claim upon the mind and heart of the candidate. There are many
examples which will present themselves to your mind on study and reflection and by
comparison, which can be rendered effective by practice. Try one or two at a time, especially if
you are learning Ritual, or even if you do it well, and the result will be very encouraging and
someday lead to further progress. Gesture, which in ordinary speech may be, and in many cases
is, exceedingly useful, is not so needful in Ritual work, but there are parts where the effect of
sentences, charges, and lectures will be largely more apparent by the use of meaningful and
germane gesture. Closely associated with gesture is Attitude which counts for a great deal, and a
careless posture has a disturbing effect on the hearers. I have a vivid recollection of a presiding
officer who lolled back in his chair, extending one foot encased in a white sneaker, which he
apparently contemplated with satisfaction, without once glancing at the Candidate to whom his
remarks were addressed, the result being that the Candidate was looking about and inattentive. I
have another recollection of a Worshipful Master, while not ritualistically letter perfect, yet with
easy grace, graceful posture and conversational mode, gave effect to his words by looking straight
to the eyes of the Candidate, and by the use of voice variety and meaningful gesture, held the
Candidates rapt attention. In any case try rehearsing before a large mirror to see in which of these
two classes you find yourself.
I come now to two most important points for consideration; both under the heading of Audibility.
Some rooms are well proportioned and possess acoustic properties of a high order, others are so
constructed as to militate against the voice being heard at the other end of the room. Notice these
things before you begin. Remember that a loud, shouting style is not needed, neither is a
conversational tone given with the head down. When not addressing the Candidate, remember to
direct your voice to someone at the end of the room. Clearness of utterance, the finishing of
words, not cutting or clipping the ends off, and a delivery which does not, by being too fast, make
words trip over each other - will all be found very material in the effect to be produced. Allied to
these is the phrasing, or division of sentences. One can often tell the effect of the effort to
memorize by the jerky way in which words are delivered. Where you have printed matter
available, observe the punctuation; where not, then in effect mentally punctuate your sentences
so as to pronounce those intervals which will add to the emphasis or force of the words, as well
as to give you the opportunity to breathe properly.
I know of no School of Instruction, save workshops like this, where the requirements I have
mentioned are to be learned or practiced. While you may pick up a point or two from this
session, remember you must teach yourself, unless you have a Masonic friend of like intention
who will work with you and strive to attain the same degree of proficiency. But I am sure that
with care, and with concentration much can be done. It is only necessary to add that such
essentials as voice variety, voice production and control, delivery, diction, eye contact and
effective pause will be extremely useful, if put into effect, as an aid to you becoming better
TECHNIQUES OF RITUALISM
CHIEF POINTS TO BE INVESTIGATED, OR RESULTS TO BE AIMED AT:
1. KNOWLEDGE: This includes as complete acquaintance as possible with subjects likely
to be dealt with - as regards Masonry - its history, in general, the specific Body in particular,
ritual, customs and usages, symbolism and secret teaching, the laws and constitutions and an
extensive and exact vocabulary understanding of the meaning of the application of words.
2. INTELLECT: By which I refer to the fluency of ideas, thought, clearness of
apprehension and facility of expression derived from the practice of the faculties of imagination,
vitality, and observation.
3. METHOD: The arranging of thought and speech on definite well-ordered lines, for which
a good cultivated memory will be found very useful.
4. EXPRESSION: One wants the power of infusing the charm of ones expression into his
delivery of even the highest thoughts when clothed in the most appropriate form of words. This
is gained by careful attention to the modulation and intonation of the voice, action of the hands
and body, and the visual portrayal of feeling and emotion in the eyes and face.
5. PREPARATION: Under this heading it is well to concentrate on and practice some of the
ELOCUTION: Any speaker who has acquired the power of speaking well, must
also have some knowledge of the principles of elocution. Some points may be helpful:
- BREATHING CONTROL: Few people know how best to produce the
voice, or control breathing. The lungs should be well inflated, and the bases of the lungs
expanded. Inhaling air through the nostrils without noise, and expiration of breath by mouth
quietly and regularly, will be found of great use and enable tonal volume.
- VOICE PRODUCTION: A closed or partially closed mouth in speaking results in
poor and imperfect utterance and resonance. Muscular ease is important.
- VOCAL POWER: Remember the strength of the voice depends on the proper
support given by well-controlled breath; and the large quantity of air in the lungs.
One last point I would like to put before you, and that is to try and elevate the tone and language
of your everyday and ordinary conversation, especially in regard to its substance, subject and
The art of polite conversation is nearly dead, as you will realize if you listen to the modern
youth, yes! and some of the older people. It need not be so among Masons, who have a great
mission in life, the elevation and formation of character. If you really want Freemasonry to do
this for you, and for others, it will be assisted by conversation of a considered and appropriate
Remember! it will do more than this, it will help you to speak well and clearly, and to clothe
your thoughts and your ideas in language which will enable you to shine in Lodge and in the
Finally, it is well to remember this:
You never get a second chance to make a good
For an indepth study on Freemason Ritual I highly recommend Duncan's Masonic Ritual and Monitor.
If you have the Amazon Kindle try the Kindle edition of Duncan's Ritual of Freemasonry.