The background of this document is currently unknown. Hobasco Lodge was moving and organizing its artifacts when [a] file was found. It was scanned into the Secretary’s computer for archival purposes. This edition of the Seven Rules for Learning Ritual was typeset and formatted by Brother Eric S. Howd of Hobasco Lodge #716, Cayuga-Thompkins District, of the Grand Lodge of the State of New York [and reprinted here with Brother Howd’s permission.
Having spent a few years learning the proper delivery of ritual and striving to find ways to improve my own performance I have sought the advice of many learned brothers regarding their own methodologies and preparations. The wisdom contained in the pages of this tiny pamphlet is immediately apparent to any serious ritualist. I hope you find these rules helpful.
1. Follow the admonition of the Charge of the degree of Entered Apprentice.
During your leisure hours, that you may improve in masonic knowledge, you are to converse with well-informed brethren, who will be always as ready to give as you will be to receive instruction.
Since some of our ritual is in code, learn it correctly the first time through. It is much more difficult to relearn incorrectly memorized material than learning it correctly from the start. It is also more fun to work with another Brother because of the fellowship it promotes. First cardinal rule of learning ritual: Do not work alone!!!
2. Read the piece you are working on in its entirety! Get the gist of what it is that we are trying to teach in the piece. Go over it in your mind. Retell the same message in your own words until you know what the “thought” is behind the ritual piece. Make a brief outline of the piece.* Only when you have a good working knowledge of the meaning of the piece of ritual, should you begin to memorize it. The biggest mistake the beginner makes is to begin the memorization process too soon. What are the “key words” that would remind you of each thought? As you learn the key word or thought, associate those keys as retrieval cues to jog your memory. Second cardinal rule of learning ritual: Know the meaning before beginning to memorize.
* For the esoteric or coded work, make this outline in your mind. The exoteric or monitorial work may be outlined on paper. Look in your monitor for the difference. All the esoteric work has been deleted.
3. Work in short time periods. 15-20 minutes, then take a 2-3 minute break. Do not try to consciously remember what you have worked on. Let it “cook” in your mind for a few minutes. Then go back to the work. Your subconscious mind will do a lot of the work, if you let it. Three time periods would be the most for any one day. Don’t overdo it! Third cardinal rule of learning ritual: Work in short time periods.
4. When you start a new session for the day, never never begin with a recitation from memory. This rule must be followed, with no exceptions! The reason is simple. Since the material is not yet firmly in place in your mind, you are apt to do that first recitation incorrectly. This incorrect recitation will make an impression on your mind. Then you will have to relearn it. You do not want to make more work for yourself. Read the portion of the ritual you want to practice, preferably, out loud. Read it carefully! Then try a recitation. One recitation only! Reread the portion to correct any mistakes. The try another recitation. Keep this alternating process up until you know the piece cold. Fourth cardinal rule of learning ritual: Do not begin a days session with “memory recitation.” Read-recite-read-recite.
5. Some time before the degree, go to the lodge room and practice the piece in the actual place in the room that you will be giving it. If during the degree you will be moving from place to place, then practice reciting your part while moving about. Suit the action to the word. There is no substitution for this important rule. Performing in an unfamiliar place makes it more difficult to do a good job. Practicing in the actual Lodge room will aid and allow your memory to do its best job. Fifth cardinal rule of learning ritual: Practice in the Lodge room in the very place you will be during the degree.
6. Have confidence that you will do a good job. Remember, no one is perfect. Anyone can have a momentary loss of memory. That’s why we have prompters, and while on the subject, have the Master announce that only one person is to prompt. Also, have an agreement with the prompter, that he is to cue you only at your request. You can use a verbal or hand signal. It gives an authoritative impression when you are the one to request a prompt, but don’t overdo it.Sixth cardinal rule of learning ritual: Have confidence but also back yourself up with a well-informed and well-rehearsed prompter.
7. Relax! Always remember the most important rule of doing ritual: have fun! This will be contagious to the new Brother for whose benefit you are giving the work in the first place. Both learning and teaching are best done in a relaxed atmosphere. Seventh cardinal rule of learning ritual: Relax and have fun!
These simple rules are to help you learn and teach the important tenets of our fraternity. Ritual should never be a tortuous process. There is so much value in our teachings that we must never cloak it in the image of difficulty and too much solemnity. Keep in mind our watchwords …
… let there be light!
The author also recommended a reading list for learning about Mnemonics. You might find them helpful. Through the magic of modern technology I have turned these APA style references into hyperlinks to the Amazon.com book.
Buzan, Tony. Make the Most of Your Mind. New York: Fireside, 1984
Buzan, Tony. Use Your Perfect Memory. New Your: Plume, 1991
Lorayne, Harry. How to Develop a Super Power Memory. Hollywood: Frederick Fell Publishers, 1989
Lorayne, Harry and Jerry Lucas. The Memory Book. New York: Ballantine Books, 1975
I found this to be insightful wisdom. Now, what do you think? Do your experiences confirm or discount this advice? Is there something you’d like to add? Perhaps as you sit there thinking you will recall to mind a time in your own life that illustrates this wisdom? Care to share? See the comment link below and tell us all about it. Thanks for reading.