Saturday, September 6, 2008

History of the Installation Ritual

The following paper is an extract from “The History of the Address to the Brethren” by Bro. Mark S. Dwor ,Centennial-King George Lodge No.171 B.C. & Y.Registry. As the Canadian version of this address is not available to us, we have included only that section dealing with the History of the Installation Ritual.

Published in Volume 18 - issue No.4 Septemeber 2008 of the Lectern


The subtext of this whole paper really has to do with what has been called the content of Masonry and I specifically refer those who are interested in this to read The Development of the Content of Masonry During the Eighteenth Century, by F.R.Worts, AQC 78, p.1 (1965) This paper outlines the gradual change from Masonry of the early 1800s to Masonry at the end of that century, by which time the potential of the Craft was beginning to be realized in that it was changing from an ethical philosophy aided by speculative thought and symbolism, to fulfilling the potential to make Masons morally conscious to live righteous lives and to practise every moral and social virtue.


There is a lot of material on this topic and related topics, as I have outlined. However, I would be remiss if I did not identify the two articles that would give the easiest access to the the information: Installation Ceremony by Norman Spencer, ACQ72 (1960), p. 100, and The Freemason at Work by Harry Carr, specifically Question No. 142, "The Evolution of the Installation Ceremony and Ritual" on p.284.

In the history of the New World there is a very clear dividing line, that is, 1492 when Columbus discovered it: everything before his discovery is known as preColumbian history and everything after is known as history. Similarly, the history of Craft Masonry can be divided into two large portions of history: the first being everything before the institution of the Grand Lodge in London in 1717, and everything subsequent to that. At least, from 1717 we have substantial written information and a convenient starting point, but the starting point is merely record keeping, it does not accurately reflect the fact that Masonry was well in existence before 1717.
The institution of the Grand Lodge in 1717, the institution of the Ancient's Grand Lodge in 1751 and the institution of the United Grand Lodge in 1813 are convenient reference points for a codification of the history of Masonry and the rituals that were being used from 1717 onwards. Presumably, there were rituals being used prior to 1717 and many of these have of course found their ways into the post 1717 era. As it turns out, based on the documentation alone, this talk will be focusing on things that have occurred since 1717.

From 1871 up until at least 1950, The Old Regulations of 1721 were published as an appendix to-our Book of Constitutions in this Grand Lodge. If you read the Regulations carefully, you will notice that they were first compiled by Mr. George Payne in 1720, who was at that time the Grand Master, and they were approved by the Grand Lodge in 1721. At that time, the Grand Master was the Duke of Montegue. These general Regulations did not get around to being published until 1723 by Dr. Anderson, and when he published them he saw fit to add a postscript from 1723 itself when the Duke of Wharton was the Grand Master.

It is this postscript that is the basis of the rest of the paper. The postscript deals with the manner of instituting a new Lodge. It was clear to the Brethren of the Grand Lodge very early on in the game that, if they were to exert some control, they had to ensure that every Lodge that was brought into the Grand Lodge or came under its jurisdiction (which at the time really was only ten miles from the centre of London) had to be properly constituted and be put on the Register of the Grand Lodge. To do this, they had to have a specific ceremony of institution of a new Lodge and that is what the appendix is. (LI refer to two separate parts of this ceremony, which in and of itself is only a few paragraphs long.)

After the Grand Master has appointed the candidate to become the Master of the Lodge, the Grand Master has to then say the following words or words like them: No doubting of your capacity and care to preserve the cement of the Lodge..., etc. Then it goes on to say: with some other expressions that are proper and usual on the occasion, but not proper to be written. It is unknown whether or not there really were these proper and usual words in use before 1723 or if there had even been a similar ceremony.

The second quote comes from the next paragraph, where the Grand Master presents the Constitution of the Lodge Book and the Instruments of the Master's Office to the Master, but he does not present them all together, rather he presents them singly and, to quote: After each of them the Grand Master or his Deputy shall rehearse the short and pithy charge that is suitable to the thing presented This use of the word rehearse has its original meaning which can be traced back, for those who are really interested, to before 1300 where it meant to utter or express or repeat - or reiterate. By 1579, it started to mean to recite or go over. Any of these definitions would make sense of the word "rehearse" in this quote.

Thus, we have the beginnings of our present day installation service, specifically the act of installing an officer or the officers of the Lodge, in Open Lodge, with those symbols of the office's authority along with a short charge to the office holder regarding his obligations for his ensuing term. You will also notice, when you read the ceremony carefully, that the majority of the ceremony is taken up with the act of what we would call Installing the Master and the Wardens. That is, the act of testing them, and giving them their powers and having everyone swear their allegiance, first to the Grand Lodge and then to the Master and the Wardens.

It is from this ceremony that our present Act of Installation comes, although not directly. When the Grand Lodge of Ireland was established a few years after the Grand Lodge of England, it took Anderson's 1723 Regulations and Charges and incorporated them into their own work. This work was then brought back into England by the Antients who established their Grand Lodge in 1751. The Antients, who stated that they were adhering to the old system free from innovation, were actually the great innovators.

The Moderns, or at least the bureaucracy at the Grand Lodge, was becoming very slow and sluggish, and the Antients forged ahead by instituting two important forms of democracy in the Lodge: first of all, they elected their officers on a yearly basis and secondly, they instituted an annual ceremony of installation of the officers. This all proved to be very popular and was gradually picked up by the Moderns.

At about the same time Masonry was exploding in England, there was a concurrent explosion of Exposures. These were completely unauthorized books that purported to give Masonic rituals to anyone who wished to buy them. These were very popular books, because Masons couldn't remember all the things they were required to remember as the lectures were too long and cumbersome. In fact of the two most famous Exposures, Three Distinct Knocks was favoured by the Antients while Jachin and Boaz was favoured by the Moderns. Both of these books have installation ceremonies appended.

The first really serious author who would be Masonically recognized was Preston; the first edition of his Illustrations was in 1772. In that book there area variety of services which are almost identical to what is in our current Forms and Ceremonies, such as the Laying of the Masonic Cornerstone, the Masonic Funeral Service, etc. The Installation Service is now beginning to take shape as we would recognize it although there were still some other major issues to be dealt with. In the early nineteenth century, in the process of the two Grand Lodges joining together, the Lodge of Reconciliation was established to agree on a framework for ritual common to and acceptable to all the parties at that time. The compromises that were made are fairly well known but no actual ritual was ever written down. This was done on purpose, and the effect of this is that there area wide variety of rituals being practised in England that have all equal standing and equal import.

However, one big problem still remained in the early 1800s: the question of installation. There were a couple of matters that needed to be resolved to ensure that there was one definitive ceremony that could be accepted by the Grand Lodge and by all the constituent Lodges. One of the issues that had arisen was the practice that only some Lodges had to have the new Master installed by a Board of Installed Masters. Some Lodges, such as in Bristol, had from the late 1700s established a ritual whereby the new Master and the Board of Installed Masters left the Lodge hall and went to an antechamber where the ritual was performed. In other Lodges, everyone but the Installed Masters vacated the Lodge hall and the ritual was performed in the Lodge. One of the reasons for the ritual being done this particular way was because there was a time when to enter the Royal Arch you had to be an Installed Master. There were also ceremonies to circumvent this, known as Passing the Chair, whereby a worthy Brother who was not a Master was, virtually, passed over the chair of the Master and was therefore thought to be entitled to become a member of the Royal Arch.

Another reason for the exclusion of Brethren about the Lodge who were not Installed Masters was to make sure that the secrets required to be given only to a Master, be given only to people who are entitled to have them. This process of giving the secrets to the Master upon his installation has given rise in some commentators' minds that becoming a Master of a Lodge is really the same as a Fourth Degree. There is some debate about this, which you can follow if you wish, but generally it is presently accepted that the distinction between going from one Degree to another Degree is substantially different than from going from Senior Warden to Master of the Lodge. In any event, after the Lodge of Reconciliation was finished there were (and still remain} serious doctrinal splits inside the Craft as to whether or not the Duke of Sussex was leading it in the right direction (that is, the Craft being more inclusive and less exclusive). Some of these doctrinal problems were being politicized over the annual Installation Ceremony which was radically different from one Lodge to another.

So much disquiet was raised that in 1827, the Duke of Sussex, who was still the Grand Master, instituted a special Lodge or Board of Installed Masters which was established for the sole purpose of putting together an acceptable Installation Ceremony. This Board agreed on a definite Installation Ceremony which was presented to the Grand Master, and he also agreed to this ritual. It is this ritual which is the basis for the ritual that we presently use in this jurisdiction. This ritual was agreed upon by the Grand Lodge of Ireland very soon thereafter and accepted as a ritual in the Grand Lodge of Scotland in 1872.

A few years ago, I went to an Installation and when the Brethren about the Lodge were asked to leave. I was with a Brother from Washington State who had never before been to a Canadian Installation. He was amazed that he was excluded from this part of the Installation because he thought that all Installations in Washington State were open, there was no reason for this exclusion to occur, and that it was anti-democratic, etc. I looked into this and discovered that, yes, there are many open Installations in Washington State and, regardless of whether the Installations are open or not, the process of installation, even if it is closed, does not require the Brethren about the Lodge to leave. This is because there is a separate Lodge that is held, district by district, for incoming or new Masters, at which time they are given the secrets and words of Installed Masters and are also taught certain parts of how to be a Master of a Lodge. Therefore, the actual process of separating the Installed Master's information from those Brethren about the Lodge who are not Installed Masters may be different but the end result is accomplished just the same.

Selected Readings
"Anderson's Constitutions as Source Books of Masonic History" by A.R. Hewitt, AQC79 (1966) p. 1 "The Development of Installation at Bristol" by Eric Ward, AQC81 (1959) p.85
"It is not in the power of any man... A Study in Change" by Terence Haunch, AQC85 (1972) "The Lectures of English Craft Freemasonry" by P.R.James, AQC79 (1966) p. 140
"The Old Charges" by Wallace McLeod, AQC99 (1986) p. 120"Open and Closed Installations in the U.S.A." by Alex Horne, AQC83 (1970) p.65
"The Origins of the Installation Addresses" by Terence Haunch, AQC 101 (1988) p.201 "The Vocabularies of the Ceremonies"by Sir Lionel Brett,AQC101(1988) p.1

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