R. W. Bro. O. P. Thomas
Masonry has several different ways of working. This is sometimes confusing to a
visitor, yet the essentials are universally the same. This divergence arises
from many causes or reasons apparent in its development form an Operative Craft
to a Speculative Institution.
Some writers assert the oldest account of Masonic ceremony is that of a ritual
being prepared by Elias Ashmole, a celebrated antiquarian at Oxford in the 17th
century, which was adopted by the Lodges in England This is disputed by others.
What the old ceremony was we do not know, but it is claimed by recognized
authority that it consisted of only one form, and that the designations "Entered
Apprentice," "Fellow Craft" and "Master Mason" were simply the names of the
different classes of workmen, and did not refer to different ceremonies, as
there was but one - that of initiation.
Who divided the old ceremony into three is not known, but that they were extant
in London in 1725 is well established.
The rivalry among the Free Masons in England, 1717 to 1813, was the principal
cause of different ceremonial, and led to non-intercourse between the Lodges.
The Grand Lodge of England and the Grand Lodge of the Ancients had each their
own particular way of working. The Masons in Ireland and Scotland had each their
own methods. They were all active n spreading Free Masonry to the Continent and
the Colonies of America, and naturally there followed divergence in Masonic
In the latter part of the 18th century, and near its close, another addition was
made to Masonic ritualism in America by John Hamer and Thomas Smith Webb. The
former was an English Free Mason who came to America in 1793. Thomas Smith Webb
was a bookbinder, made a Mason in "Rising Sun Lodge," Mew Hampshire, in 1790,
when 19 years of age; initiated December 24th and passed and raised on December
27th. For such procedures, the Lodge lost its Charter.
In 1796, when "Temple Lodge" at Albany, N.Y. was instituted, John Hamer was W.M.,
and Thomas Smith Webb the S.W. These men took the Prestonian Lectures, which had
later come out from England, and, further dramatized them, formulating what they
called the "York Rite", taking the name from the Grand Lodge of the Ancients,
which at that time assumed the title, "Ancient York Rite Masons." This is
generally called by well informed Masons, the "Webb Work." Hughan, writing of
the term, "York Rite" says: "There is no such Rite, and what it was no one
If, by the Term "York Rite" is meant the work of the "Grand Lodge of England,"
organized at York in 1751, then the ceremonies of the Masons under the Grand
Lodge of England at London is York Masonry. Hughan, Sadler and Oliver said that
the work of the Grand Lodge at York was similar to the London Grand Lodge.
The Webb work cannot consistently be called the American work, as rituals of
many of the States differ from each other materially.
At the union of the English Grand Lodges in 1813, the rituals of both were
abolished, and a new ritual formulated called "The Union Degrees". These are not
strictly followed, as in England is the "Oxford Ritual," the "West End Working"
and others. Scotland is different, and Ireland shows a wide divergence from
It is not likely there ever will be a universal manner of working, though it
might well be the same in any one particular jurisdiction of a Grand Lodge.
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