Learning Ritual with the Wisdom of Bro Henry Ford

Learning Ritual –

Whether you think you can, or think you can’t - you’re right”*

* Henry Ford 1928.

Article from WBro John Irving, PM Lodge Devotion, Correspondent – Malaysia.



Bloody Hell!” I thought as Brother Andy Mackay said “And you’ll do the First Degree Working tools next month, John.” My second thought followed a quick thumbing of my ritual; “300-odd bloody words. I can’t do that.”

I had had enough bloody hard work memorising two bloody Shakespeare bloody sonnets during my Matric 20 years previously. And the grey cells hadn’t grown any sharper. I was already conscious of the three meetings I had stumbled through my response to “Bro. Inner Guard, What are your duties?” and I had practised that nearly every spare minute of the day.

But an Irving doesn’t say die. So I read it onto a cassette tape and it got stuck into the car radio every time I started the motor. Then I recorded it again with every second line missing. Then I recited it to a blank place at the start of the tape and then compared it to the proper version following. I had a copy set next to my mirror, one in the loo and another one as a bookmark that was a compulsory read before I was allowed my sleeping pill.

By the end of the month I got pretty close to word perfect and, nervous or not as I was, I knew there was a Brother Prompter always in the wings. We got to the fateful night, and I recited it at least 10 times as I was dressing and driving to Gipps Street for a Lodge Devotion meeting.

 We tyled and got into the nights business, which didn’t include a demonstration of the Working Tools of an EA or any other bugger. I never fronted Andy over that, but I suspect he was trying to break my ‘virginity’ in this regard.

 Three months later I was JD, “carrying messages and commands…” and a lot more comfortable with the ritual. Over the next 5 years I absorbed the opening and closing ritual in all three degrees and much more happily contributed charges in each of the degrees and got quite territorial about delivering whatever charges fell to the Chair I was occupying at the time.

 When I hit the Masters’ Chair the basic ritual was a simple matter of reversing what I had heard on the way up and putting the questions that had come to me previously.  Ah but! We had finally got some candidates. The amount of ritual needing to be memorised left the EA’s working tools in the kindergarten.

 So I was learning at least three new charges each month. And it was no sweat. (Of course full marks have to go to the compilers of the ritual. It’s logical and flows with a cadence that brings the next line to mind as you are finishing its predecessor).

 However, I did get a bit peeved at my helpful prompters wading into the “dramatic pauses” I had added into my presentations.

 Sometime along the way I reminisced about the “Working Tools” and the sweat and trauma they had caused me. Why had I found it so hard? And as I mulled this over it opened up a whole new look at Masonry.

 Look at the beginnings of its latest incarnation. What was the intention of its founders? All (free) men are equal. But back then they were all free, but not totally equal in wealth or education.

 So when you shake a Brother’s hand your gloves prevent your delicate surgeon’s hand (and your mental  judgement) being rasped by the manual workers calloused palm. Learning ritual was/is helping the lesser educated not only to become more literate, but giving them self confidence. So, apart from bringing men of good repute together and inculcating and reinforcing good morals, it was/is a training institute.

 Think how you feel inside after delivering a good charge?


P.S. A footnote to the penultimate previous paragraph, I really respected that Devotions WM’s Chair was progressively warmed by a taxi driver, a surgeon, a butcher, a journalist, an army major, a financial guru, an upholsterer and “G” knows who/ what else. They all helped in the levelling process.