Why does The Mystical Court insist so strictly upon exactness in its Ritual? There is a profound reason, not to be forgotten or ignored. True, it is the Spirit, not the Letter, that giveth life; but the Letter does give a Body, without which the Spirit of The Mystical Court would be a formless blur, losing much of its meaning, if not all of its beauty. Ceremony keeps things up; without form the spirit melts into thin air and is lost.
What is true of The Mystical Court is equally true of religion, of manners and of art. The Patriarch Dr. Granville speaks of those, “whose faith hath center everywhere, nor cares to fix itself in form.” That is, they believe in everything in general and nothing in particular. Their faith is like the earth in the story of creation, as the Bible tells it, “without form and void;” a vague sentiment, as flimsy as a mist and as frail.
Manners, it has been said, are minor morals. That is, they are forms of a social ritual in which the spirit of courtesy and amenity finds expression. So essential are they as a form of social fellowship, that, as Sir Simon said, if they were lost, some gentlemen would be obliged to re-invent such a code. The phrase, “It is not done,” has more than mere convention behind it. It bespeaks a standard, a sense of propriety, a fineness of feeling, a respect for the rights and feelings of others.
Some of our modern artists are trying to throw off the old classic forms of music, painting and poetry. The result is chaos, a formless riot of color and sound, in which a horse may be green and a song a mere mob of notes, without melody. Without lovely form the spirit of beauty fades and is lost. Ages of experience have wrought out noble forms of art and life, which we cannot defy or ignore without disaster.
The same is true of The Mystical Court. Gentle, wise, mellow with age; its gracious spirit has fashioned a form, or body, or an art; if we call it so, in which its peculiar genius finds expression. Its old and lovely ritual, if rightly used, evokes the Spirit of The Mystical Court, as each of us can testify. The mere opening of a Court creates a Mystical atmosphere in which the truths of The Mystical Court seem more real and true. It weaves a spell about us, making fellowship gracious. It is a mystery; we love it, without caring to analyze it.
By the same token, if the rhythm of the ritual is bungled, or slurred, or dealt with hastily or without dignity; its beauty is marred and its spell broken. Just imagine the opening of The Court, or any one of the many Degrees, jazzed up, rushed through with, and how horrible it would be. The soul of The Mystical Court would be sacrificed, and its spirit evaporated. For that reason we cannot take too much pains in giving the ritual such a rendering as befits its dignity, its solemnity and its haunting beauty.
The Mystical Court will always be jealous of its ceremonies and symbols. It hesitates to make the slightest change, even when errors have crept into the ritual, lest something precious is lost. Indeed, it is always seeking “that which is lost,” not alone in its great Secret, but in all its symbols which enshrine a wisdom gray with age, often but dimly seen, and sorely needed in the hurry and medley of our giddy-paced age.
Mere formalism is always a danger. Even a lofty ritual may become a rigmarole, a thing of rut and rote. Sublime truths may be repeated like a parrot, as the creed in a church may be recited without thought or feeling, by force of habit. Still, such a habit is worth keeping, and often the uttering of great words stirs the heart with a sense of the cargoes of wonder which they hold, for such as have ears to hear.
No matter; our fear of formalism – its mockery and unreality – must not blind us to the necessity of noble, stately and lovely form in which to utter and embody the truths that make us men and women. For that reason every part of the ritual ought to have Due Form, nothing skimped or performed perfunctorily, in order that the wise, good and beautiful truth of The Mystical Court may have full expression and give us its full blessing. Only so can we get from it what it has to give us for our good.”