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Four rituals are worked in this jurisdiction: British Columbian Canadian Work (Can.), as derived from that compiled by Provincial Grand Master, RW Bro. Simon McGillivray in 1823 and worked in the Grand Lodge of Canada in the Province of Ontario ; British Columbian "Ancient" Work (Anc.), as derived from that of the "Ancient" or "Athol" Lodges, by way of the Americans, Thomas Webb (sometimes called the New York or American Work) and John Barney; Australian Work (Aus.), as adopted in 1906 from the ritual created in 1888 by the Grand Lodge of New South Wales from the rituals of England, Scotland and Ireland; and Emulation Work (Emu.), as derived from that worked by Emulation Lodge of Improvement at Freemason’s Hall, London. Although our "Ancient" Work has on occasion been mistakenly referred to as Scotch or Scottish, it is not related to the Scottish Rite. Lodges chartered before 1954 and using the Canadian Work will have their own unique quality.
Victoria, B.C.,
May 20th, 1950.
To the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge, Officers and Brethren of the Grand Lodge of British Columbia:
Your Rituals Committee presents the following interim report. We begin with a triple text:
"Let all things be done decently and in order."
A famous correspondent;
"All particular Lodges are to observe the same usages as much as possible."
Anderson's Constitutions, 1723, Regulation l1;
"I do not think that anything was ever gained by evading or shirking a troublesome question."
Bro. Albert Pike, Transactions Supreme Council S.J., 1870.
In 1949 Grand Lodge adopted the following resolution on recommendation of the Committee on Education,and Research:
"That the Grand Master be requested to appoint a Special Committee to investigate the matter of ritual and forms of work now in use in this Grand Jurisdiction and to submit a report thereon to Grand Lodge."
We decided first to ascertain three things:
1. What were the leading facts regarding the rituals being followed in the Lodges of the Jurisdiction;
2. How other Jurisdictions, more particularly in Canada, were dealing with the situation;
3. What Grand Lodge had done in the matter of Rituals to be observed by the Lodges.
For the first purpose we drew up and sent out a questionnaire, but owing to unforeseen delays this did not reach the Lodges till February. The questionnaire only covers a part of the extensive field of our Masonic formularies and ritual procedure. 118 Lodges out of 129 have sent in replies. Many of these are reasonably complete and contain much interesting data. We pay a grateful tribute to all those who contributed to the compilation of these replies. Many Lodges have expressed approval of the action of Grand Lodge in facing the problem, or have sent wishes for the success of our labours. Unfortunately some replies are sketchy, vague or contradictory, and correspondence has become necessary. As our report had to be drawn up by the middle of May it has been impossible to collate and digest all the material furnished in time for this Communication. However, some general trends are definitely in evidence, and our personal observations enable us to add to the information submitted.
Before proceeding to details we make a few general observations.
Ritual is only an outward and visible part of Freemasonry, but it is an important part. We believe all will concur that we should strive for a high standard in both the matter and the manner of our beautiful ceremonies. Much ritual is of recent growth. Indeed the word "innovation" could be applied at some period in time to every element in our workings. An outstanding episode in ritual history is the Union of the Grand Lodges of "Ancients" and "Moderns" in England in 1813, followed by adoption of a ritual in 1816, which was a compromise of those previously prevailing. The Canadian, English, and Australian workings in British Columbia stem from the 1813 union. There is no such outstanding event in United States Freemasonry, though some consider the Baltimore Conference in 1843 important. Our earliest Lodge, warranted from England in 1859, practises the English type of ritual. Later other Lodges secured warrants from the Grand Lodge of Scotland, which allowed the use of American-type ritual. For many years the American influence was strong. It is reflected in our constitutional requirement to conduct our business in the M.M. Degree; this practice itself is an innovation dating from about 1840.
The quality of the "work" in many Lodges is of a high order, and great efforts are being made in many an individual Lodge, especially by Past Masters, to ensure continuity in what is considered correct working in that Lodge. But there is also great diversity between the Lodges, even in those of the same type. There are some practices which appear to be contrary to Grand Lodge rulings or edicts, and some which other Jurisdictions would condemn or consider of doubtful validity. In many cases there are palliating circumstances. Some of the difficulties which exist arise from our history, and some are probably due to what may be termed the inertia of Grand Lodge itself, and to the failure of Grand Lodge to express its attitude in plain language.
But at the outset we are not so much concerned with finding excuses and explanations, or with lauding Lodges for the excellence of their work. We believe that our concern should rather be the improving of existing conditions, and to that end we must first deal with facts and point out what may be considered defective or doubtful elements in our work. Even when conditions are good, they may be capable of improvement.
Here are some of our findings.
1. There are four main types of ritual and ceremonial in use in the jurisdiction. The distribution is as follows:
Canadian (or Ontario) type 59Lodges
English 11
New South Wales1
American 58
The first three types have much in common, but also have distinct variations. There are 49 varieties of ritual in the U.S.A., differing slightly from Jurisdiction to Jurisdiction. No Lodge among the 58 Lodges doing American work follows the complete work of any one U.S. Jurisdiction.
To secure a proper sense of proportion attention should also, be given to geographical distribution. This has some influence on the ritual problem. We find 49 Lodges within the 15 mile radius from the Grand Lodge Office in Vancouver with 42% of our total membership. There are 82 Lodges within the 100 mile radius, and 47— with 27% of our membership — in the far-flung outer areas of the jurisdiction. Distances here are great and one Lodge is one thousand miles from Vancouver, For further details see Appendix A.
2. The great majority of the Lodges are not modelling their work exactly on that of the Lodge which is considered by some as the exemplar or pattern Lodge of its type. Whether Grand Lodge ever established the three Lodges concerned as exemplar Lodges will be considered later.
Only seven out of 50 replying say they follow Ashlar Lodge, No. 3; only 21 out of 57 say they follow Cascade, No. 12. And in many cases those that "follow" admit important points of difference. Of the 1l "English" Lodges not one follows Victoria-Columbia, No. 1 precisely.
3. In some Lodges doubts prevail and arguments arise over points of ritual. A Past D.D.G.M. writes in part, "Let us hope that a practical method of ensuring uniformity can be arranged, and so get rid of this endless bickering between Lodge and member as to who is right."
4. Three Grand Lodge rulings or resolutions are not being observed by certain Lodges:
(a) That there be "no change" (presumably from, Ontario practice) in the opening and closing ceremonies in Canadian-work Lodges, 1900 Proceedings, p. 60, report adopted.
This has never been rescinded, so it still seems to be improper in such Lodges to open and close directly in 3rd (or M.M.) Degree, and to shorten or omit any of the six short ceremonies concerned. The record in our Proceedings is not entirely clear, but M.W. Bro. H. H. Watson indicates in "Historical Notes" (a recent Grand Lodge publication), at p. 220, that the resolution did not favour short-cut openings and closings.
(b) That Worshipful Masters-elect be examined and found well skilled by a Board of Installed Masters, before installation, pp. 64, 65, Forms and Ceremonies, and Sec. 257, Const.
Strangely enough this seems to apply only to Lodges doing English or, Ontario work; there is no such requirement in Forms and Ceremonies for American-work Lodges, if they use the installation ceremony "according to the American work."
(c) That the Lodge must be at Labour when conferring Degrees, p. 93, Const., 1901, Ruling, By-law 330, 1912 Code.
A few American-work Lodges are conferring part of the M.M. Degree "at Refreshment" in that Degree.
5. Opening, closing, and changing ceremonies in many Lodges are open to criticism. A wide variation in wording and practice prevails. Some Worshipful Masters seem to think they have powers which they may not possess. A phrase frequently employed is, "By power vested in me as Worshipful Master, I declare a Lodge of (such and such) opened" (or closed, or labour suspended or resumed therein, as the case may be). This is virtually all that is said for certain parts of our ceremonial. When and where does a W.M. receive, power to cancel or shorten a Masonic ceremony? At his installation he swears to permit no deviation from the "established usages and customs,"or "antient customs." Openings and closings are just as much part of our ceremonies as the conferring of Degrees. Such ceremonies were in existence long before 1859. Our Grand Lodge,unlike some others, has not set up any "short forms" or declared the conditions in which they may be used.
A. G. Mackey, who, is considered a high authority by many, says, a Lodge can never be opened at the beginning of a communication, nor finally closed at its termination, except "in due form, P. 14, Manual. English authorities could be cited opposing some of our practices.
6. In Lodges doing American work there is marked difference in the various lectures given. Out of 50 Lodges replying, 34 give the "in emblems" lecture, while 16 do not. Some give no lecture at all in the lst (or E.A.) Degree.
7. Several Lodges doing American work make use of Lester's "Look to the East," a book of no standing in the U.S.A. and roundly condemned by some Freemasons. We have been unable to find out who Lester was, whether he was a Freemason at all, and what jurisdiction practises the working he prints. However, like all "spurious" rituals, the book contains many genuine elements, especially those culled from Monitors.
8. Mackey's and other Manuals and the Washington Monitor are also in partial use in American-work Lodges, though never formally recognized by our Grand Lodge.
9. Canadian-work Lodges make great use of the booklet known as "The Work," and English-work Lodges use "Perfect Ceremonies." While not official they represent fairly closely Ontario and "Emulation" work respectively. The work taught by Emulation Lodge of Improvement in London is the most popular work among Lodges of English Registry, but is not necessarily the most correct in all points. Some 3,000 British Lodges practise it. Many others use work which is almost identical.
The use of books shows what happens when Grand Lodge does not set up effective machinery to secure a reasonable measure of uniformity in whatever types of work it sanctions.
10. In a few Canadian-work Lodges a practice has recently been introduced of conferring the whole of the M.M. Degree on two or even five candidates at the same time. The explanation given is that this saves time and is not an infringement of a Landmark. This may be admitted, and we find that in England and in Scotland two candidates are sometimes put through together. But judging by the tone of our replies, many Lodges think the practice of doubtful propriety.
11. Where there are two or more candidates, there is much difference of practice in taking them singly through parts of the Degree being conferred. Some Lodges always obligate separately in all three Degrees.
In Ontario, since 1906, candidates must be taken singly through a certain part of each Degree, and Worshipful Masters have been suspended for non-compliance.
12. In matters not proper to be written there is diversity. So far as "Canadian" and "English" Lodges are concerned wording is used differing from that accepted elsewhere. At three places in the Obs. where Emulation, Ontario, Manitoba, and Alberta have practically the same wording, embracing 97 words, Cascade Lodge and its followers have 40 differing words.
In Lodges of all types not all the Brethren "come to order" in proper form, and certain actions are performed contrary to practice outside of British Columbia.
13. Faulty grammar, wrong words, bad composition, incongruities, improper emphasis, lack of expression, and incorrect pronunciations are met with from time to time. It is quite obvious that sometimes Brethren do not understand the meaning of the words they are using. Sometimes one hears a direct negative of what is intended.
All of this is not entirely their fault. The language of much of our ritual is clumsy and involved. Polysyllabic and uncommon words are used instead of simple ones, following the pompous and stilted style prevailing around 1800. And not all Freemasons can be expected to know the refinements of perfect grammar. Some of the defects occur in the "textbooks" used, most of which have no official standing in any Grand Lodge. The state of affairs described is due in part to a want of action by Grand Lodge and lack of training by competent instructors.
14. Apart from general resemblance, there is some overlapping between the various types. "American" elements are introduced into "Canadian" Lodges, "Canadian" into "English," "English", into "American," and so on. These may be excellent in themselves and in their proper places, but tend to create duplications and to lengthen the ceremonies. An instance is the addition of an American form of closing to the Canadian form after the Lodge has been closed in due form.
We have had much correspondence with other Jurisdictions and are extremely grateful for the kindness and courtesy shown us by many Grand Secretaries and other officials of Grand Lodge rank.
Every other independent Grand Lodge in Canada has formally recognized the wording and form of a ritual. What is more, these Grand Lodges have standard ritual books, of which we have been sent copies. Manitoba and Alberta each has a Canadian and an American ritual and a book for each type.
Machinery has been set up in most cases, through Boards of Custodians, a Custodian of the Work (in Ontario), District demonstrations, and otherwise, to secure uniformity of working. We are told that substantial uniformity prevails.
No other Canadian Grand Lodge has appointed exemplar Lodges.
Short forms for opening, closing, and changing are not allowed in Ontario, whence our "Canadian" work is derived. Such forms are allowed, under somewhat strict conditions, in the Prairie Provinces, but in no case are the ceremonies so short as those generally or occasionally used in some of our Lodges.
In a few cases non-standard workings are permitted, but they apply only to Lodges existing before the creation of the Grand Lodge concerned.
We have had some very useful assistance from Grand Lodge officials of England, Scotland, Iowa, Washington and New York. The Grand Librarian of Scotland has sent us a long letter on Scotland's practices. His letter, together with the criticisms of our late Grand Historian, M.W. Bro. Robie L. Reid, show that our designation of "Scotch" for the American type of work we practise is incorrect. The spelling we have just used is that of our Preceedings in 1893 and 1922. For copies of letter see Appendix B, and for M.W. Bro. Reid's views see "Hist. Notes," esp. pp. 270 and 345, and 1933 Proc., p. 157.
In the United States, according to our general information, great deference is paid to uniformity of working in the respective jurisdictions. Some jurisdictions, eg., Massachusetts, Ohio, and Washington, possess printed rituals or codes, but the usual practice is to rely on the "mouth-to-ear" process. However, many Monitors, containing large portions of the work, are in regular use, and in Washington the final charge is actually read from a book in open Lodge.
This procedure in the U.S.A. and the practice of other Canadian Grand Lodges vividly illustrate the interpretation put upon a certain obligation in many quarters. The books mentioned do not contain what are considered secrets, and some items are abbreviated or indicated by symbols.
What position has Grand Lodge taken towards the ritual practised in the British Columbia Jurisdiction? We shall first set down the main facts of the record, without comment.
At page 1 of our Forms and Ceremonies, 1942, under the caption "Rituals authorized by the Grand Lodge of British Columbia," we find, "In 1893, the Ritual Committee (appointed in 1892 to report) recommended that no change be made in the work as practised by the then existing Lodges, and that all Lodges hereafter inaugurated be required to select and work one of the three rituals now practised," which are described as the English, Scottish, and Canadian, as practised by Lodges 1, 3, and 12 respectively. The record proceeds, "See G.L. Proceedings, 1893, at page 56. No resolution or regulation has since been passed by Grand Lodge altering or varying this in any way."
At page 56 of 1893 Proceedings we find the Committee's report has no record of its adoption or approval. There is no record of approval elsewhere in those Proceedings, and at page 3 there is a printed certification by the Grand Secretary, under seal, dated 16 days after the Communication, that the transcript of proceedings is "true and faithful." The minutes were "confirmed and adopted as presented" in 1894, without amendment, p. 10, Proc.
In June, 1893, there were 17 Lodges in existence. There were only two Lodges in Vancouver. The highest of the Lodge numbers was 20, including those assigned to three Lodges then under dispensatien. Only 67 persons were present at the Communication.
In 1912 a draft Code was adopted, and Bro. Eli Harrison was instructed to "edit, arrange and annotate" it, p. 104, Proc. This Code was printed, and the 1893 Committee Report appears at p. 103 under "Annotated Regulations" as No. 422, with a final line in italics, "Committee Report Approved, Proceedings 1893, p. 56."
There is no record for 1913 that the Code as printed was approved, but the title-page bears the words, "The Masonic Code of British Columbia being the Constitution, By-laws and Regulations," and this Code was circulated amongst the Lodges.
In 1909, three years before the Code was drawn up, Grand Lodge adopted a Report of a Committee on the Grand Master's Address, which Report included a Recommendation, "that all Lodges endeavour to follow the workings as practised by Victoria-Columbia, No. 1, Ashlar, No. 3, or Cascade, No. 12," pp. 74, 75, Proc. This does not appear in the Code.
We next enter the realm of interpretation, history and opinion.
Where interpretation is concerned Sec. 257 of the Constitution is relevant. This adopts the Book of Forms and Ceremenies "as a rule and guide." The dictum, at p. 89 of the Constitution may also be considered relevant, "sentiments contained in committee reports . . . are of less authority 'than the absolute law . . . and are chiefly valuable as showing the opinion of those who express them."
A historical point is that, when Grand Lodge was formed in 1871, the Canadian type of ritual was not in use in British Columbia, and the discussions at that time only dealt with two types.
The answers to the questionnaire show clearly that most of the Lodges are not "following" Lodges 1, 3 and 12, except so far as there is general resemblance. And according to our information those three Lodges have not followed the recommendation of 1893 that no change be made in their work. This recommendation applied to them as well as the other 14 Lodges then existing. There is evidence that the opinion of many Freemasons has been that the three Lodges concerned occupied a special position, and what is more important, that each of the newer Lodges, now totalling 114, was supposed to follow 1, 3 or 12. Others hold a contrary opinion. This contrary opinion is probably affected by the facts that page 56 of the 1893 Proceedings relied on both 1 in our present Forms and Ceremonies and the 1912 Code, does not say that the report of the 1893 Committee was approved.
The Committee has consulted several persons whose views are entitled to respect, and the consensus of their opinion is that the matter is involved or not free from doubt and that it should be dealt with by Grand Lodge. The Committee makes no specific recommendation at this time on what action should be taken by Grand Lodge on that phase of the rituals situation. Further consideration is desirable. For further details see Appendix C.

Annual Proceedings. Vancouver : Grand Lodge of British Columbia, 1950. pp. 131-146. [appendices are in the source code for this page and require formatting - ed.]


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