When you attend different Lodges you see the Ritual performed in ways that are just a little different. Now the "Custodians" (makes me think of janitors) of the work might not agree with me but that is just fine with me. As I have said before. "My blog, my opinion. If you don't like it you can start your own blog or leave a comment.
As I said the Custodians might be laboring under some idea that, because of their work, the ritual is performed the exact same in every Lodge in the state. (OK, I know they don't think that. they are intelligent after all or they would not have memorized the entire ritual - or is that a sign of intelligence?) But for purposes of this post we all know that isn't true.
The degree I see tomorrow night will be different from the last second degree I saw. For one thing, the staircase lecture will be given by a different person. It might not even be the same lecture because it is "monitorial" and there are several versions of the lecture that are given. Even work that is ritualistic is done differently by different people.
In one lodge I attend the 3rd R gives his work so fast that the candidate probably doesn't even feel threatened. Later another character who is supposed to be expressing regret has little emotion in his voice at all. This is just not the best experience that the initiate could have but it is still better for him than showing it to him on a TV would be.
In one lodge I attended the King (Solomon) was really dramatic. You could tell he was upset. In most of them you don't even understand his motivation. It is done differently in each Lodge.
Some years ago the "Virginia Craftsmen" came to Iowa and performed the Third Degree for Iowa at the Consistory Building. They read an "admonition" to the craft about "unnecessary horseplay or talking" during the degree. (Theirs was the most boring Third Degree I have ever seen.) Shortly thereafter Iowa adopted the reading of the admonition before the second section of the Third Degree. I think it was a disservice to the craft. Not because it is a bad thing to admonish against horseplay but because it is interpreted as meaning there should be no drama in the mystery play. And that is what it is. The Masonic Third Degree is a mystery play.
I became involved in theater in High School in Gilbert, Iowa. I participated in two plays of such tremendous literary caliber as "Granddad Steps Out" - (Note it is still being performed occasionally some 50 years after we put it on in high school) - When attending college I became involved in College Players and during my first years of teaching I was a member of the Cedar Rapids Community Theater and later A.C.T.O.R.S. here in Ames. As such, I saw good acting in everything from Comedy to Drama. The mystery play that is the Masonic Ritual should also be "performed" dramatically but if it isn't it won't hurt the experience for the person being initiated. He comes to us not knowing what to expect. Whatever happens to him will impress him.
That does not mean that we should not give him our best - we should - it is what he deserves. Our best is what he paid for. But if it is not performed dramatically he will still have his experience. And he will see it many many times. But he will only "experience" once.
I just don't think you can get that experience by watching a movie or video of the initiation. In addition, the fashions, hair styles, etc. all change. We in Iowa use videos as a part of the education for the candidate. They are frequently criticized because of the pedantic style of talking and the clothing which the "actors" wear. The information is still good. The videos are simply outdated. That would happen with the Initiation videos.
The initiation in a Masonic Lodge needs to be "experienced." It is the obligation which makes a man a Mason. Living up to those obligations is what makes "good men better." But it is the experience of the initiation ceremony - actually participating in the ceremony which fulfills the promise of our fraternity and binds him to us. That binding needs to be the best it can be and I maintain that you can't get that by watching a video.
There is a really good comment below. Click to read one brother's feelings about this, I can't argue with what he says about the York and Scottish Rite except to say that at least in Des Moines you see really good ritual. Thanks to David Dryer and Co.