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This seems to be a fairly fundamental question but it makes you wonder how many other Companions don’t really know the answer or take a long time before they know. The Exaltation Ceremony is beautiful but it is complex, it is full of hidden meaning and can be difficult to grasp at first.
However, the whole Ceremony has a very basic structure around which the story unfolds. Understanding the structure is the first step to understanding the story that we enact and later on the hidden meaning it contains.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, let’s understand the structure of the Ceremony as STEP 1
The Ceremony is really in three parts
The Opening and Closing are pretty self explanatory let’s look at the other two parts separately
The Exaltation : The Sojourners go out to prove the Candidate is a Master Mason and then they bring him in, blindfolded and guide around the Chapter, to show he is prepared, rather like Deacons in a Craft Ceremony. They enter for the first time
The new Exaltee eventually takes his Obligation and is restored to light and what a revelation, one that we all remember vividly throughout the rest of our Masonic career
The Sojourners then go out and get ready to re enact the Ceremony by way of explanation rather like a play in a theatre.
The Drama: The Sojourners and Candidate re enter the Chapter, this time not blindfolded. They enter for the second time
They tell us, who they are, where they are from and what they want – to help rebuild the Temple. They are asked to prove themselves but eventually they are commissioned to do the ground work for the foundations of the Temple and given the tools of labour, pick, shovel and crow. They cheerfully go off to conduct their labours and leave the Chapter room.
Whilst they are outside they make a discovery of importance and come back in to tell us their story. They enter for the third time.
The Drama continues the explanation of the Exaltation, the Sojourners are rewarded for their efforts and take their seats in the Chapter and the play concludes.
The Sojourners go out and come back in three times in the whole Ceremony, once in the Exaltation and twice during the Drama as the Exaltation is explained.
With this understanding firmly in mind it should be a lot easier to get to know the full story that unfolds in the Ceremony and then go on to understand the allegory, hidden meaning that is so powerfully presented. However Companions are right to ask the fundamental questions like this because without understanding the basics of the Ceremony the full meaning will remained locked away, out of our reach.