posted on May, 28 2004 @ 07:05 PM
Alright, well, before I can go any further, I feel I should define what I mean by "practical" and "theological" virtues. Back when C.S. Lewis was
writing, he felt it was sufficient to say that the "practical" virtues were those held as virtues by the old pagan Romans, while the "theological"
ones were those unique to Christianity. As religious knowledge has grown, I'm not sure that this is appropriate, but I hope it roughly illustrates
what I mean. The "practical" virtues are those that any reasonable person can see are in his or her own self-interest: being kind to your
neighbors, being reasonable in business deals, working hard and well, being a loyal citizen, etc. The theological virtues are those that are
generally unique to religions or other very highly developed forms of philosophy: being kind to your enemies, keeping your word even if it is no
longer in your own best interest, holding your love of God paramount, chivalry, etc.
Now, Freemasonry tries to inculcate both. What does the word inculcate mean? To impress something upon the mind of another by frequent instruction
or repetition. Within my use of this word regarding Masonry, it has a second connotation: to do the above through the use of ritual. To my mind,
there are two ways ritual achieves this task. I) The catechism of ritual (the back-and-forth) impresses certain symbolic ideas on the mind, and when
the mind works on the meaning of these sybolic ideas, it learns truths about virtuous life, love of God, etc. II) when the candidate for a degree
represents someone in that degree, or when a ritual has an element of a "play" in it, the individual "playing" a part begins to attain to the
virtues of the part he is playing. This is dealt with well by C.S. Lewis in various essays, but we see it even today when Christians wear a bracelet
saying "What Would Jesus Do?" Surely, we cannot suppose those Christians are being so arrogant as to claim they are actually Jesus or that they
could successfully become exactly like Jesus. Nonetheless, by "playing at" being ethically like Jesus, those individuals slowly, and by a means
that has been asserted by some to be mystic, start to become "the body of Christ" (this is a Christian idea, and each religion has similar ideas but
phrased differently... for example, a Muslim may find him- or herself surrendering more to God).
In summary, the rituals provide symbols for the candidates and members to think on, which I contend contain profound philosophical and religious
truths, and the rituals also provide the opportunity to "play a part," which also inculcates virtue and feeling.
There are other ways I believe ritual works, but I hope you will forgive me if I say that they are ineffable (I mean here that they are literally
unable to be spoken of correctly, rather than their being wilfully secret). In fact, I would say that the most part of what happens in Lodge that is
important is ineffable. This is not unusual: the entirety of Zen Buddhism is ineffable, for example.
As for what actually happens during the ritual, all I will say is that the rituals in the Craft Lodge deal with (probably fictional) events
surrounding the building of the Temple of Solomon (the first temple dedicated to a monotheistic God, I should note, and also the first temple
dedicated to the same God worshipped by Christians and Muslims); the rituals in the York Rite deal with (probably) fictional events during the
completion of the same temple and the building of Zerubabel's Second Temple (for thos who are unaware, this was the Temple rebuilt after the
Babylonians had destroyed Solomon's Temple); and the rituals in the Scottish Rite deal with too many different topics to be definable as a single
thing (though some, again, deal with the first two Temples). Some would contend that I could reasonably say mor, but I do not feel this is
appropriate myself, for reasons mentioned in an earlier post.