Before proceeding any further, we must address two things:
- The acronym “LPR.” Pronounced “leaper,” it stands for Letter Perfect Ritualist. A LPR is a Brother who has mastered the memorization and performance of Masonic ritual. Candidates may have no idea whatever that the ritual they are hearing is being performed from memory due to its surpassing delivery, and perhaps think that they are enjoying an impromptu speech by an accomplished orator.
- It must be said that I hold LPRs in very high regard. Such Masons are a splendid asset to their lodges; indeed, it takes no small measure of talent to memorize expansive tracts of ritual and deliver the same verbatim. Ritual performed with such skill only serves to heighten the hearers’ experience. Ritual performed poorly, suffering from pauses, replete with mispronounced words and more-than-occasional interjections from a prompter is distracting and hard to follow.
|LPRs keep all t’s crossed and i’s dotted in ritual!|
In many lodges, LPRs are touted as successful, accomplished Masons. Newly made Masons, upon learning that the ritual that so captivated them was performed from memory, are rightly impressed by the LPRs proficiencies, and may even seek to emulate them. They do well in this given that The Craft needs Brethren possessed of such skills.
I write this post due to my concern for two groups: those new Brother Masons who might look upon the wonderful skill of the LPRs in their lodge and conclude that joining their ranks is the summit of our profession, and for those LPRs who themselves feel that their considerable ritual performance skills have placed them atop the apex of the mountain of Masonic endeavor. While I write this post to disabuse both groups of these notions, I target it chiefly toward the former cohort.
I am fond of likening the receipt of superbly performed ritual to the receipt by a builder of the choicest building materials. Just as the builder must endeavor to arrange his materials into an edifice, so too must the metaphysical timbers, blocks, etc., put forth in the ritual be fashioned into a spiritual edifice. Permit me a further analogy: the spiritual edifice built solely of the “immaterial materials” of ritual (even if delivered with the exacting precision of the LPR) is like a building that, having a completed exterior, lacks a finished interior. Such a building lacks light fixtures, plumbing fixtures, appliances, flooring, a furnace, and the like, and is therefore uninhabitable; it is merely a husk. To make such a place suitable for living, we must obtain the sundry articles it lacks.
Where shall we go to lay hold of that which will complete our building – to secure those things which shall enrich our construction and make of it a fitting dwelling place? We must look beyond the practical teachings of the ritual for these things. The reader does well to here recall that it has been said that Freemasonry is “a peculiar system of morals, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols.” In that brief definition, we have bottled the answer – we must travel beyond the veil and we must study the symbols.
Indeed, the point-within-a-circle teaches that we ought circumscribe our desires, and never suffer them to move beyond the pale!
Yes, the square of virtue reminds us to square our actions!
Verily, the twenty-four inch gauge offers a valuable, practical lesson in the proportionate use of time!
You will be presented with all of the foregoing in the ritual, and if you are fortunate enough to be the beneficiary of the work of a LPR, you will have cleanly received every word of the lectures. You will know of the circumpunct, the square, the level, and of the gavel; you will know of the beehive and acacia sprig and the All Seeing Eye, and even of King Solomon’s Temple. After a time and with practice, you too may very well become a LPR yourself, and perhaps enrapture scores of new Brothers, their attentions held captive to your piquant orations. Some time later, however, reflecting upon the lot of The Craft’s symbols, you might find what you’ve received concerning them (and what you’ve repeated to others with commendable performances) to be rather obvious and simple, and you may awaken to a day wherein what you’ve known of these symbols, ritualis solus, does not satisfy you. In that moment, the walls of your edifice may seem bare, and common necessities may seem lacking.
You may seek out others in your lodge – perhaps fellow LPRs, perhaps the Worshipful Master – and inquire of the deeper meaning of our symbols. It is with chagrin that I tell you that the odds of receiving a meaningful answer are not in your favor, and you will perhaps be confronted with a stark reality: very often LPRs, held widely to be learned concerning The Craft, cannot offer you more than you can read in your ritual book. And, I’m afraid, you will find that perhaps with equal frequency the senior officers of a lodge – up to and including its Master – can do little more than regurgitate the ritual’s explication or refer you to your Grand Lodge’s reading program.
When struck full-on by this revelation, may you come to realize a signal truth: your improvement in Masonry, i.e., the spiritual alchemy you must undertake to become that which the Ancient Mysteries – and The Craft – contemplates, is roundly dependent on the search you undertake yourself. You must take those first trembling steps toward the East; you must study, and contemplate, and meditate, and put into practice, and discuss. You must remedy your deficient house. Do not fall prey to the absurd notion that your claim upon the title of Master Mason and your ritualistic perfection have transferred to you, through some mysterious osmosis, the knowledge of great Masonic minds. You must, with abandon, dive headlong into the great pool of knowledge that is very readily available; he who merely wets his feet will gain but little. Count yourself learned in your profession when you are intimate with its vital moment, not merely its rudiments.
I enjoin you my friends: beware the letter, for as a Master has taught us – the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life!
Copyright (c) 2012 Anthony Mongelli, Jr. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced in whole or in part without the express written consent of Anthony Mongelli, Jr.