The symbolic game: from the kindergarten to the dressing room!
The expression "symbolic game" is first of all part of the vocabulary of pedagogues.
Jean Piaget (1896-1920) was the first to conceptualize the notion of symbolic thought and to demonstrate its importance in the development of the human being (see Le Langage et la pensée chez l'enfant, Paris, Delachaux and Niestlé, 1923). It is classic to summarize Jean Piaget's contribution by noting that the symbolic function presupposes "the capacity to differentiate a signified, even if absent (object, action, etc.), from a signifier (the word, the symbol)".
Following him, many works have corroborated this approach; Howard Gardner, (Cognitivist psychologist and professor of neurology at Boston Medical School, professor of education at Harvard University). brought a complementary light from the 2000s with his theory of multiple intelligences.
In a schematic way, one could say that these two notions, symbolic thought and multiple intelligences, are indispensable keys to the understanding of the human being in general and of the young child in particular; in a problem of expressing the authenticity of feelings, their use in the practice of symbolic play is an extraordinary source of teaching and understanding of experiences.
In kindergarten, symbolic play enables children to "resolve their internal conflicts in order to adapt harmoniously to the world in which they live". When symbolic play, as practiced by the child, is "interpreted", it allows parents and teachers to better understand and accompany the child!
The child, through symbolic play in which he plays adult roles, projects himself into an "other" world, detaches himself from the affects of his daily life and gradually acquires a responsibility that will be his when socialization and learning allow him to be autonomous.
Now, this symbolic game that we all practiced in kindergarten, we will not leave it anymore and consciously or unconsciously, it will accompany us all our life until the last moments.
This symbolic game, we find it quite naturally in the lodge.
Freemasonry does not always accept that the two terms "play" and "symbolic" can be joined together; symbolism is often presented in Freemasonry as a means to access a sacred spirituality and to add a term to it that implies a distance and a composition can appear as a "desacralization"! But let us know how to overcome a "coquetry" of language!
In the Masonic universe, the initiate also lives the experience of an "other" world; this is a world of virtues where social relations have specific rules with a language using words that project us into a quest for the absolute.
Whether in the blue box with these three main sequences that are the initiation, the passage to the role of companion and the projection in the "skin" of Hiram or in the so-called "higher" workshops where the exercise "explodes" so varied, numerous and in very disparate roles!
The difficulty inherent in the Masonic symbolic game is the absolute necessity to "leave the metals at the door of the temple", that is to say, not to repeat the roles that each one can have in the usual secular world where power and influence relationships predominate. For this, it is necessary to do real intellectual gymnastics and accept to know how to "play" the role of the initiate.
It is not a question of doing theatre or cinema to present a composition, it is a question of preparation and therefore gradually to project oneself into a transformation of our secular life into an insider's life more imbued with philosophical reflection and meditation on the meaning of life than with prosaic feelings.
Isn't the essence of initiation to transform a process of claiming and seeking assets into a relative withdrawal from the world of passion in order to perfect our personal evolution?
This is only possible if one accepts that Masonic dress is an "extra-ordinary" space-time, outside the usual time and its codes. It is an implicit rule of the game but it is essential for the success of the game.
The truth is that, whether in kindergarten or in a lodge, symbolic play is of interest only if it is authentic and allows the subject to make an apparent abstraction of his feelings and problems. The plot offered by the story or the characters of the game are only a pretext to allow the "player" to erase his personality to project himself into a future.
This symbolic game can also make it possible to experiment in the lodge with other forms of interpersonal relationships than those that usually exist in the secular world. Rituals do not really deal with the whole subject, but the praxis of the outfits could very well integrate it, taking care not to confuse the automatic nature of an expression with a real willingness to change habits.
We could say that life in a lodge offers different symbolic games; each lodge (understanding the word "lodge" as the representation of a group at the moment "t"), and within each lodge, each brother or sister, is free to invest in this process consciously and taking care to always keep a capacity for evaluation and analysis.
By carrying out "re-briefings" during agape, committee meetings, or training sessions, we can place the outfits in a better understanding of the interest of these symbolic games. Exchanges and comments on the experiences of each person in the symbolic games of the outfits are privileged moments that can be wonderful moments of sharing!