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Rituals - Seven Doors to Freemasonry

by Norman D. Peterson

There is much greater variation in Masonic ritual than many Brethren are aware of. Much of the diversity of work even includes the working tools and modes of recognition. We know that in some jurisdictions there is a reversal between words of the first two degrees, the use of an additional word in the first degree, and the movement of words among the degrees. Further, we are told that due guards are usually found in the American work.

One reason for the variation in masonic work is the evolution of the degrees in England between the establishment of the first Grand Lodge in 1717 and the amalgamation or union of the rival Antients and Moderns Grand Lodges in 1813. Another reason is the early effort of Continental Masons in Europe to enlarge upon the work and, later, to simplify it.

Kent W. Henderson, in The Masonic World Guide (1984) states "there are in excess of 100 different Craft rituals in use in the regular Masonic world." He classifies these rituals into the seven main categories listed below. England and a number of other jurisdictions have printed rituals. Masonry beyond the first three degrees is separately worked for (5) and (7).


Work used in the United States, Japan, the Philippines and Finland. Mackey's Encyclopedia and Henderson identify THOMAS SMITH WEBB (1771-1819) as the inventor and founder of the basic form of work used in the United States.

This work is uniform within each Grand Lodge, with exceptions primarily in New York City and New Orleans. Pennsylvania is notably the most different from the other Grand Lodges, and describes its work as "Old Antients".


Henderson states "In England alone in excess of fifty (rituals) are in use, but all of these are quite similar in both content and form". The best known works include Emulation, Stability, Logic, Benefactum, Ritis Oxoniensis, and Taylor's West End. The most different is the Bristol work, which resembles the Munster and Scottish Rite symbolic degrees in some regards.

Many Masonic libraries have copies of the Emulation work.


More operative features are retained than in England.*

* Editor's note: A notable difference is the inclusion of the Mark Master degree in the Craft Lodge.


Uniform work is required except in Munster, where the work resembles that of Bristol as mentioned above.


(a) ECOSSAIS or SCOTTISH RITE work1 found primarily in Greece and countries using the Romance languages, also, in New York, New Orleans, California, and Florida.2

(b) MODERN FRENCH RITE, used primarily in Greece, Luxembourg, and France.

(c) RECTIFIED SCOTTISH RITE (Chevaliers Bienfaisants de La Cite Sainte), simplified from Von Hund's Rite of Strict Observance.



(b) FRIEDRICH SCHROEDER'S and IGNAZ AURELIUS FESSLER'S reformulated work and their variants, constructed to restore simplicity to German Masonry. Schroeder's work was a direct translation of an English ritual published in 1762.

(c) GUILD DE GAMLE PLIGTER, used by some lodges in the Grand Lodge of Denmark (as an alternative to the Swedish Rite) and possibly fitting in the Anglo- Continental category.


Worked in some German lodges (GLL), in Sydkorset (Southern Cross) Lodge in Spain, and in all but one of the Scandinavian Grand Lodges.

Latin America uses mainly the Scottish Rite and Rectified Scottish Rite work. A few lodges work what they refer to as the "York" Rite which is usually either Emulation or Webb work. Research now in progress has identified some strong similarity between the Scottish Rite Apprentice degree and the First degree of the Swedish Rite and of two German Grand Lodges. The Grand Lodge zur Sonne (Bluntschi's ritual) and the Grand Lodge of the Three Globes.

Bibliographic References:

Among the few definitive publications on comparative ritualism are the following:

Harry Carr, "Six Hundred Years of Craft Ritual," 1976.

Harry Carr, "The Freemason at Work," 1983.

E.H. Cartwright, "Commentary on the Freemasonic Ritual," 1947, 1973.

J. Walter Hobbs, "Masonic Ritual Described, Compared and Explained," 1923.

August Horneffer, "Der Katechismus der Johannis Freimaurerei," Hamburg, 1950.

Roscoe Pound, "The Causes of Divergence in Ritual."


1 N.D. Peterson, "The Scottish Rite Version of the Three Degrees of the Craft Masonry," Transactions of the American Lodge of Research, New York, Vol. 18, 1989, pp. 160-179.

2 Jorge Soto points out that the Scottish Rite's first three degrees are currently the only or most extensively used system in more than 25 countries and by at least 75 Grand Lodges. ("The Forgotten Three," Haboneh Hahofshi, Vol. LIX, No. 2, 1994, pp. 18-21).

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