Not only do the graduation ceremonies of universities have interesting ritual qualities, but the matriculation ceremonies do also. The commentor Jonovitch on the Times and Seasons blog also made a reference to one of the opening scenes from the movie Mona Lisa Smile. This scene is from a 1953 matriculation ceremony, or a type of induction or initiation, of Wellesley College, a conservative women’s private liberal arts college in Massachusetts.
I’ve seen this movie at least twice, but this scene did not strike me as it did when I viewed it this last time in the context of the temple. The ritual qualities are salient:
- The students gather outside the door, while those of higher orders, their professors, gather within
- One student knocks 3-4 times with a gavel on the door to announce her presence
- The head officiator asks who is there
- The student outside responds that she represents every woman, a vicarious voice for all
- The officiator asks what is sought
- The student gives a correct answer, she seeks to awaken the spirit (the Egyptian breath of life) and dedicate her life to knowledge, knowledge that can only be found within the institution of higher knowledge
- The officiator allows the student to enter, noting that all others who seek to follow the same path may also enter
I am not as familiar with the ancient traditions of matriculation ceremonies as I have been with their graduation counterparts, and I haven’t been able to find much information about them. Can anyone tell me a good source to learn more about matriculation tradition and history?
It is interesting to me that the order of things seems backwards when compared with their partners from antiquity, such as in the Christian and Greek mysteries. Typically the final rites are those which allow those who have passed the tests, and who have endured the arduous journeys, to enter into the presence of the teleoi, or those who have been made perfect (Nibley, The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri, 465). The matriculation ceremony is just the opposite; the initiate begins with such an entrance.
It is actually quite astounding how many times and how well the temple ceremonies (ancient and modern) are portrayed in movies. The three movies that show it best are The Matrix Reloaded, The Lady in the Water and Sucker Punch (in that order).
The Matrix scene is where Neo goes to see the Oracle but is first tested by Seraph. There are amazing symbols from beginning to end which underline that the writers/directors knew what they were doing (I can enumerate it all if interested)
The Lady in the Water has a scene where the “prophet” type is in the holy of holies (shower) and others remain without but seek wisdom. The positions and separations are accentuated by the camera angles and direction. And in one of the final scenes, the group prays over The Lady in a tight group to heal her.
Finally, of all the movies, this one is more an allegory of the temple story. It is not as precise in its detail, but the whole film is a great portrayal of the path to paradise and how wencan only arrive with love and sacrifice. The final scene shows the protagonist being confronted by two policemen who are preventing her from escaping on a bus. She is vouched for by the bus driver and is allowed to get in the bus to “paradise”.
The Oxford Commencement as the Oldest Degree Ceremonies Extant: A Reprise – Temple Study - LDS Temples, Mormon Temples, Study Blog
[…] The matriculation ceremonies at some universities also offer some peculiarities, as seen in this clip with Julia Roberts in the […]
Mike, can I take you up on that offer? Please elaborate in as much detail as you want on the symbolism in that Seraph/Oracle scene (heck, and in the other scenes you mentioned). Thanks!
As one who was initiated in the girls Order of the Rainbow’s, the stepping stone to Eastern Star, (the order for boys is de Molay after a Knights Templar member and stepping stone to Masonry), these organizations also do what the matriculation ceremony does. The initiate is allowed in without knowledge but after being allowed in the initiate is then instructed in knowledge of how the order works, why, and what is expected.
I do not know if Oddfellows and Rebekahs do what Masons and Eastern Star do.