ISSUE 10, July 2004
John Pine: A sociable craftsman
Jumping for Joy: Skydiving for charity
Quarterly Communication: Speeches of: the Grand Master, the Pro Grand Master and, Report of the Board of General Purposes
Supreme Grand Chapter: Address of the First Grand Principal and Report of the Committee of General Purposes
Royal Arch: Cheshire gives a lead
  Walking with the greats: Bath Masonic Hall
Motoring in style: Classic Vehicle Club
Masonic education: A daily advancement and Events for your diary
Travel: Portugal
Library & Museum of Freemasonry
International: A warm welcome in Malta
Masonic ritual: Spoilt for choice
Public relations: Sheffield; Dorset; Chelsea Flower Show; Freemasons' Hall
Letters, Book reviews, Gardening

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Masonic ritual

How did various Masonic
ritual books come about?
Michael Barnes of the
Association of Taylor's Working
gives an insight

Spoilt for choice
Library & Museum of Freemasonry

Peter Gilkes - a prominent teacher of Emulation

With the exception of the Craft and Royal Arch, the governing bodies of all recognised Masonic Orders exercise central control under their jurisdiction over the ritual practiced by the Lodges, councils, conclaves or whatever the unit may be called.
     Because of the way that the Craft developed from very early times, there was considerable diversity of practice from one part of the country to another, and particularly between the Lodges under the two rival Grand Lodges, the Premier and the Ancient Grand Lodges.
     To pave the way for the union of these two Grand Lodges, a Lodge of Promulgation was formed in 1809 under the Premier Grand Lodge (or Moderns) to examine the ritual and make recommendations.
     Following the union in 1813, a Lodge of Reconciliation was established to complete the rationalisation of the ritual into a form acceptable to both parties forming the newly constituted United Grand Lodge.
     Its other main function was to demonstrate the unified ritual. Representatives of Lodges in London and the Provinces were invited to attend special demonstrations organised by the experts from the Lodge of Reconciliation, which completed its work in 1816.
     However, because it was forbidden to print the ritual or even produce written manuscripts, so the communication of the work to the various Lodges relied heavily on the ability, not to mention the memory, of those attending the demonstrations. Their task was then to instruct their own members in the approved practices. In addition to the difficulty of interpretation, doubtless there would also have been the desire to improvise Ė a trait, dare one say, recognised in some present day Preceptors.
     In view of these hazards, it is surprising how much uniformity was achieved. All present rituals are derived from the Lodge of Reconciliation ritual and, apart from a few Lodges in Bristol and the North of England, which retains more of the earlier practices, the degree of variation is quite small.
     Ironically, most of our knowledge of ritual before the union comes from the early anti-Masonic exposure in England and France. The first ritual was probably a simple ceremony of admission, which developed into two degrees and, at about the time when the first Grand Lodge was formed in 1717, into a system of three degrees. These early ceremonies were mainly delivered in catechetical form and were evidently briefer and less well structured than the later ceremonies.
     Early ritual was also Christian in content Ė indeed the Premier Grand Lodge met on St. Johnís Day (24th June). The work of the Lodge of Reconciliation between 1813 and 1816 included demonstrations of the opening and closing ceremonies, the obligations and the perambulations. It was probably also when most of the Christian references were removed (although some remain in the present ritual).
     Since that time, and until recent years, Grand Lodge has kept clear of involvement in ritual and has never officially recognised any particular working. Lodges were then, and are to this day, free to teach and practice whatever ritual they wish, provided the landmarks are not breached.
     Private Lodges of Instruction were already in existence in the 18th century. However, the earliest one still in existence was that founded by the Lodge of Stability in 1817. This was followed by the Emulation Lodge of Improvement in 1823. Soon after this, two very important figures in the development of Craft ritual emerged, namely Peter Gilkes, who joined Emulation in 1825, and George Claret, both of whom had attended the Lodge of Reconciliation on a number of occasions.
     Gilkes was a prominent teacher of Emulation, and two years after his death in 1833 Claret published a book of ritual that included Gilkesí teaching. In 1838 he published another ritual book which included the three degrees questions before Passing and Raising, and the Installation of the Master and officers.
     These books were probably the first regular ritual books to be published. This is somewhat surprising because at this time the printing of ritual was still strictly frowned upon by Grand Lodge, and several later authors were firmly admonished for such transgressions.
     After Claretís death in 1850 his widow continued to sell the book until 1870. Further editions were published, the last in 1873, but it was effectively superseded in 1871 by a book entitled The Perfect Ceremonies, which purported to be the current Emulation teaching. In view of these developments it seems surprising that the earliest known teaching body, Stability, did not publish its ritual until 1902 and the Emulation Lodge of Improvement first published its approved ritual as recently as 1969.
     Towards the latter part of the 19th century, and into the 20th century, an increased number of rituals emerged. Today there are some 40 published rituals and several hundred smaller workings, some unique to particular Lodges. Emulation is the most widely used. Some rituals are practiced within certain Provinces, such as the Oxford Working and the Sussex Working, and many others are popular in particular geographic areas.
     For Taylorís Working, the first edition of the ritual book under its present title M. M. Taylorís Handbook of Craft Freemasonry was published in 1908, the second edition in 1975, the third in 1991 and the fourth in 2000. Prior to 1908 the work was called the Manual of Craft Freemasonry and was first published by M. M. Taylor in 1900, the copyright being held by Henry Hill, who was initiated in St. Marylebone Lodge No.1305 in 1874 and was Master in 1885.