By: Richard "Rugrat" Hoover | MI #235 | Beta Pi Candidate Class
The idea of a ritual is an interesting concept. It's something so secretive, yet something we all know and live in our daily lives as moral human beings. People look to the ritual from either two sides - those who know, and those who don't know.
In this post, I, as an active brother and past chaplain of Sigma Nu Fraternity, hope to discuss those two sides, as well as provide my own insight as to what ritual has done for me personally, in my life.
Those who know
Those who know and understand the ritual are the select few who were chosen by their organizations to learn the true values of the organization. However, those who understand have a great duty and that is to live their values as per the ritual. This sounds like a complex task, however, in reality it is quite simple.
One of the things I'm always telling my new members is that "The ritual is nothing super secret that will give you great power when you learn it. You are already a man of great morals and values - that's why you're here. The ritual is just another way for you to live the values you already have, but now identify them in a new way that is the same for all your brothers. It's a new way of looking at yourself, and the world around you." To live the ritual, simply keep living as any good person would - that is what your ritual asks of you. The interesting thing is that it gives you new insights, thoughts, and ideas to continue living an ethically straight lifestyle. Many times, the ritual will use symbolism and allegory to explain it's concepts and values - these are here to help you remember the timeless lessons and values that have survived for years
Why is it secret? The ritual is not secret because there is anything bad in it. Just as when a family member discloses a secret to you, you are to keep that secret. As brothers disclose the ritual to you, you are to keep it as a brother. We can look at this from the common saying, "Be your brother's keeper [of the ritual]".
The best way to learn and love your ritual, I find, is to teach it. Work with your new members to understand what was asked of them the night of their initiation. Lack of knowledge of the ritual comes from a lack of education, so teach, teach, teach, and learn! Ther more you look over the ritual and teach it to others, the more you will find in it. Ask people what certain lines mean to them - there is no right or wrong answer - the ritual is a personal experience.
The ritual is personal because it is yours to share with your brothers or sisters. That is what brotherhood/sisterhood is. It is something for you to reflect on, live by, and teach to your members. It is personal because only few know it, and you probably have it committed to memory. It is an experience because it is yours for the taking, and living and experiencing. You will truly experience it when you ask yourself "have I lived by my values" after undergoing a challenging situation. To this day, I still hear my big brother in my head saying, "little, was that honorable?"
Those who do not know
To those who don't know they see the ritual as silly, secretive, and funny. They have preconcieved notions of the rites and ceremonies we go through and it is our job to prove them wrong. The way we can change their mind is to live the ritual in our daily lives. Take the lessons, and show them by carrying yourself accordingly as your obligation instructs.
To those who don't know - I challenge you to ask a Greek member about their ritual. While they cannot disclose all information to you, watch as they fade into memories of their ceremonies and share with you the positive experiences of something so intangible, yet powerful.
My ritual experience
My ritual has redefined the way I look at and approach everyday situations. I now look through the eyes of a Knight, seeing everything as a test of the Honor principle and my Knightly vows. I knew nothing of the rites and ceremonies before entering greek life, but have been so positively influenced by them. I now have a new code of ethics in which I can define myself by and is a constant reminder to live by the obligation I took for my organization. My ritual has laid out direct plans for improving and building myself, and gives all the tools to do so. The ritual brings people thirsting for knowledge, acceptance, and improvement out of the darkness and into the light of truth, knowledge, and growth.
My positive experience with the ritual of Sigma Nu has also brought me to to the gate of Freemasonry, who with their own ritual have continued to build me into a better man, and give me more knowledge and principles to govern my daily life. As all rituals are similar and distinctly unique to their own organzations, they all preach morality and kindness in a very special way that we are to take into our hearts and mind and commit to our daily lives. The symbols remind us, the stories move us, and the lessons are lived by us.
I invite you to reflect upon your own ritual and ask what has it done for you, what can you do for it, and are you living as it acts? The ritual evolves as you do and is only as good as you make it to be - make it the best - make it your life.