Cornerstone Blog ~ Forgetting Your Lines

Posted by Michael R. Poll on Mar 6th 2024

Cornerstone Blog ~ Forgetting Your Lines

Forgetting Your Lines 

by Michael R. Poll

I’d like to write a few words that deal with what is really a fact of life for anyone who takes part in any Masonic degree. It is when things go wrong because of you, and you completely mess up your part of a degree. Now, we all know, or should know, that rehearsals are indispensable for all degree work. No one should accept, or be given, any office in lodge if they do not have the time or the ability to properly perform the work necessary for the office. But let’s deal only with the conscientious officer who does spend the time necessary to learn his work only to fall victim to going completely blank during a degree. And let’s be honest. This happens to everyone who performs ritual over any amount of time.

No matter how well you know the work, or how diligently you study and rehearse, there will be times when you completely draw a blank and have no idea what you are to say next. You may have been thrown off by someone sneezing, or some side conversation, or even seeing someone on the sidelines that you didn’t expect to see in lodge. Anything can distract you and cause you to forget your lines.

How you handle yourself if and when you do draw a blank will be the difference between a good ritualist and someone only capable of memorizing a collection of words. The foundation of a good ritualist is knowing the work. You cannot get around the need to be proficient. But one of the dangers of memorizing the work for a degree, and doing well in a degree, is the degree that follows.

Let me explain.

If you ask someone what they had for dinner on Wednesday two weeks ago, most people will not be able to tell you. We don’t keep information like that readily available in our memory because it’s not useful or necessary. We remember things that we believe are necessary to remember.

In school, we all studied for tests on a variety of subjects. Many times, we had little interest in a particular subject, but we needed to remember certain things to pass a test to get out of the class. We remembered what we needed to remember for the test. When we graduated or were no longer in that class, we often forgot most all that we had learned for any of the tests for that subject. It was no longer necessary to keep that information in our memory. If we are not careful, the same thing can happen with ritual work.

If we memorize the ritual, learn it well, and then do well in our performance, it is possible that we will assume that we permanently know this work. If we then fail to review it enough for the next degree, we could end up having a poor degree with many errors.

So, when the inevitable does happen (no matter if due to not rehearsing enough or some unforeseen event) and you do draw a blank and forget what you are to say next, how you handle it will determine your skill as a ritualist. The absolute most important thing is to stay calm. Remember, the candidate not only has no idea what you will say next, but he has no idea that any mistake was made unless it is made clear to him. If you fall apart, stumble around, or lose it completely, he will certainly know that something is wrong, and the degree could be ruined for him.

Take a beat. Take a moment to stop, calm yourself and gather your wits. Many times, what you forgot will come right back to you, and you can move on with no real disturbance to the degree. How you act will determine in a large part how well what you say is received by the candidate.

There is no getting around the fact that we need to learn the work. There is also no getting around the fact that no matter how well we know the ritual, there will be times when our memory fails us. When this happens, we need to stop, collect ourselves and remain calm. Do not focus on the fact that something was forgotten. That will only upset you more and compound the problem. Clear your mind and relax.

If that does not bring the next lines back to you, then calmly look to someone for help. A prompter experienced in the work should be in every lodge. He should be the one responsible for giving lines when needed (not everyone on the sidelines yelling out corrections). Look to him and once the next lines are given, move on.

Staying relaxed and calm is the best way to help with your memory and keep the atmosphere of the degree beneficial to the candidate.

(first published in “A Masonic Evolution: The New World of Freemasonry” Copyright © 2019-2022 by Michael R. Poll)

#AASR #blue lodge #esoteric #masonic #masonic education