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In the Ancient Mysteries scenic representations were employed to illustrate the doctrines of the resurrection, which it was their object to inculcate. Thus the allegory of the initiation has more deeply impressed, by being brought vividly to the sight as well as to the mind of the aspirant. Thus, too, in the religious mysteries of the Middle Ages, the moral lessons of Scripture were dramatized for the benefit of the people who beheld them.
The Christian virtues and graces often assumed the form of personages in these religious plays, and fortitude, prudence, temperance, and justice appeared before the spectators as living and acting beings, inculcating by their actions and by the plot of the drama those lessons which would not have been so well received or so thoroughly understood, if given merely in a didactic form.
The advantage of these scenic representations, consecrated by antiquity and tested by long experience, is well exemplified in the ritual of the Third Degree of Freemasonry, where the dramatization of the great legend gives to the initiation a singular force and beauty. It is surprising therefore, that the English system never adopted, or if adopted, speedily discarded, the drama of the Third Degree, but gives only in the form of a narrative what the American system more wisely and more usefully presents by living action. Throughout the United States, in every State excepting Pennsylvania, the initiation into the Third Degree constitutes a scenic representation. The latter State preserves the didactic method of the English system. The ceremonies on the Continent of Europe pursue the same scenic form of initiation, and in Doctor Mackey's opinion it is therefore most probable that this was the ancient usage, and that the present English arrangement of this feature is of comparatively recent date (see Ritual).
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