Friday, May 17, 2013

Confusion in the Craft: Necessity in Achieving Ritual Uniformity by Honorable John L. Hairston, J. C. Logan Lodge #53 MWPHGL of WA

Book of Instruction of the MWPHGL of Wa and its Jurisdiction

After attending an EA work at Egyptian Lodge #44 in Tacoma, Wa, I thought hard about an important point identified by a newly initiate EA, as he was given an opportunity to address the Craft. Without fear he stated that he recognized stark differences in the way the degree was worked, by two different Lodges in the SAME Jurisdiction, and it WAS CONFUSING. His statement was innocent, but placed a resounding issue before the Craft. Is this the results we are trying to achieve in the Jurisdiction? Our newly made masons confused as to which is the correct or real way to work?

It was my intent (and still is) to write a piece on the ritual development of the Book of Instruction for the Washington (Prince Hall) Jurisdiction, and saw the young Mason's point as an opportunity to introduce the idea of addressing Ritual Uniformity; its attempts, efforts and history to be achieved in the Prince Hall Jurisdiction of Washington State.

The concept of Ritual uniformity isn't new at all, it has been a constant pursuit in the Craft since its inception. Bro. C. F. W. Dyer, in his Prestorian Lecture for 1973[1] informs:

"There had no doubt been attempts at various times before the Union [1813: author added] to secure uniformity of working, but it seems unlikely that they were particularly successful. In the Grand Lodge under the Duke of Atholl, the Nine Worthies were appointed to secure general uniformity but their employment seemed to die out. In considering control under the premier Grand Lodge, the work of William Preston, after whom this Lecture is named, very quickly commends the attention. His Illustrations of Masonry indicates his intense interest in instruction in Craft Ritual procedures. In the 1790s, after his re-instatement in the Craft by the premier Grand Lodge, it is more than probable that the Ritual procedures which he taught, as well as the system of teaching them, were to some degree of his own devising, By the early 1800s his medium for instruction was a Lodge of Instruction associated with the Lodge of Antiquity and his method was through Lecture in question and answer form."

We find this same rally by the Committee on Jurisprudence, for Ritual procedure and uniformity, at the very onset of the constitution of the Grand Lodge of A. F. and A. M., for the State of Washington and Oregon in the First Annual Communication:

"Our Grand Master's suggestion that we adopt the use of the Ritual now in use by the Illinois Jurisdiction and others not approved. Until such time as we adopt a STANDARD [emphasis mine] work of our own, we should hesitate to use others. Uniformity is desired in the ritualistic ceremonies in this jurisdiction and your Committee views with alarm the adoption of any exposed work whatever. We recommend the adoption of a lecture system based upon the old English method and the Masonic Carpet. We further recommend that the use of Richardson's Monitor in any lodge room or among any of our brethren by strictly forbidden."[2]

MW PGM J. C. Logan made the recommendation based on the fact that all of the Lodges were in use of the Ritual and Work of Illinois[3]. According to the Proceedings of the Second Annual Communication, in 1905, the Committee of Jurisprudence chose the Ecci Oreinti as the standard work for the Jurisdiction:

"After investigation we find that the Ecci Orienti is the most generally accepted Ritual, and used almost entirely throughout the United States and all together in England. It is a work that a Mason need not keep under lock and key for the reason that the profane cannot read its contents."

I want to divert for a moment to educate the Craft of some misconceptions concerning the "Ecci Orienti" and its origins. For many Prince Hall masons, the Ecci Orienti is what is designated, "The Black Book", a small, pocket-sized, hard-covered booklet which contains the Opening and Closing, as well the Work for the Blue Lodge Craft degrees. Ask further concerning, and you will be told that it also called the "Nizzardini" based on the "alleged" author of the Ritual.

 The "Nizzardini" front page
And, they will believe that the Ecci Orienti spoken of in the Report of the Committee on Jurisprudence in 1905 is one and the same "Nizzardini" Ritual they used up to two (2) years ago. But, upon further research we find that the "Nizzardini" was copyrighted in 1951:
The Nizzardini Copyright date and Index

In fact, a search for Anthony Nizzardini on produced an obituary that gives his birth date as September 13, 1913, in New York City[5]. So, how could Anthony Nizzardini, who was born in 1913, be the author of a Ritual adopted by the MW Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Washington in 1905?

If we return to the Report of the Committee on Masonic Jurisprudence (1905), they stated that the Ecci Orienti could not be read by the profane, this means it was a Cipher. The Nizzardini is not a cipher, but there is an Ecci Orienti that predates the "Nizzardini" by 81 years:
The Ecci Orienti of 1870

The Ecci Oreinti was authored by Moses Wolcott Redding and published through his Masonic Supply Company, much like Anthony Nizzardini did. The 1870 Ecci Orienti is a cipher. Both Redding and Nizzardini were living in New York as well as Masons. It is highly probable that the "Nizzardini" Ritual is a revision of the 1870 Ecci Orienti authored by Redding. And, it very much likely that the 1870 Ecci Orienti is the one spoken of in the 1905 Committee on Masonic Jurisprudence report.

Continuing the historical examination of Ritual uniformity, the Committee on Masonic Jurisprudence submitted this report to the Grand Lodge at the Third Annual Communication in 1906[6]:
1906 Committee on Jurisprudence Report, pg. 35
1906 Committee on Jurisprudence Report, pg. 36

It is important to note that the Committee on Masonic Jurisprudence was encouraging the use of NO BOOKS in open lodge; the open ritual in an open Lodge was called, "exposed work", and was adamantly discouraged. Secondly, we still find the Grand Lodge looking for an established "uniform system" of ritual. In 1919 Book of Laws, compiled by then Code Commissioner, PGM E. H. Holmes:

Book of Laws 1919, Washington

We find Article VII Section, declaring as Law:

"Section 1. The Work and lectures of this Grand Lodge adopted in the annual communication, July, 1909, shall be the STANDARD [emphasis mine] work of the jurisdiction, and EVERY LODGE SHALL ADOPT AND PRACTICE THE SAID WORK [my emphasis] and lectures, and NO OTHER. And any lodge violating the provisions of this section without express authority from the Grand Lodge, shall be subject to discipline"[7]

We readily identify the priority that the forefathers of the Grand Lodge placed on the Uniformity of Ritual Work throughout the Jurisdiction. Yet, here in 2013, we have an EA stating that there is an obvious variation of methods and performances of the Ritual in the Jurisdiction; how and when did this diversion from uniformity to dissonance begin?

After reviewing the 1961, 1973, 1977, 1991, and 2004 Codes, we found no direct allusion to Ritual and Work as we did in the 1906 and 1913 Codes. I then began to search the Proceedings after 1913, to see if any references could be made to Ritual and Work, and if there were any Code changes to the Work and Lectures section of the Code. According to the Proceedings in my possession, we find that the diversion from uniformity started early than 1942; In the Proceedings of the 39th Annual Communication we read in the Report of the Grand Lecturer:

1942 Grand Lecturer report by RW W. H. LaBelle, pg. 26

The Grand Lecturer proposed a uniformed and standard Ritual for the Jurisdiction, this was due to what he explained as the jurisdiction not having a "uniform work of their own"[8]. He attempted to craft a uniformed ritual, but due to mistakes, he would have to make corrections. This was done and sent to Past Grand Master C. W. Davis for review. The Committee on Masonic Jurisprudence referred the Report to the next Grand Session.

We pick back up in 1946, to find MW Grand Master Ernest J. Brown, referencing the January 21st-28th (1946) International Conference of Grand Masters, where talks commenced for the printing of a UNIVERSAL RITUAL for Prince Hall Jurisdictions[9]. the Committee on the Grand Master's Address referred the recommendation of the Universal Ritual to the Grand Lecturer, W. V. Scott, who reported that "much work is still needed to be done on this temporary manual of instruction."[10] It was cited that some semblance of Order and uniformity had been attained, and was considering a ciphered work, but felt that it would "disrupt" what had been attained in the way of uniformity. At this time we know from the listing of RW Grand Lecturer's Official Acts, that there were four proposed temporary manuals of instruction that had been handed over to Brother R. N. Bird.

By 1947, improvements had been made to the Manual of Instruction and placed in the hands of the several Worshipful Masters[11]. The 1947 Manual of Instruction contained only the Opening and Closing and no "ritualistic work". According to his Official Acts, 6 to 10 copies were sent to the Subordinate Lodges.

At the 1948 Annual Communication, the following Resolutions was adopted[12]:
1948 Resolutions adopted at the 45th Annual Communication, pg. 14

Thus, there would be a Standard Opening and Closing, and Ralph Lester's Look To the East would cover the Degree work. One would think that this uniformity would uniform the Jurisdiction and preserve the symmetry between the Lodges in Ritual work. Such standardization was to be short-lived, in 1949, the Committee on Resolutions would report the following:

"Be it unanimously resolved that Atlas Lodge No. 21 go on record to dispense with RW W. V. Scott's Temporary Manual of Instruction and Freemason's Guide, and return recognition to Lester's 'Look to the [East]'."[13]

And thus began the reemergence of the break from uniformity. This would continue until 1958, when we find for the first time, a Committee on Work and UNIFORMITY[14]. There was a referral to there Committee a  resolution on the Lester's Ritual (Page 2, Article f).

It be but one year later that the Committee on Work and Uniformity would disappear, and 1962 before the Grand Lecturer would recommend dispensing with Lester's "Look to the East", and adopting the "Nizzardini" (a revised version of the 1870 Ecci Orienti by M. W. Redding)[15]:
1962 Resolution on Ritual Work

Although the Jurisdiction would find a standard ritual, it would not hinder the breach upon uniformity and the steady increase of innovation. It wouldn't be until 2004 that a standardization of Work would again appear in the Jurisdiction with the approval of a Manual of Instruction adopted at the 104th Annual Communication, with this statement on the inside cover:

We now have in the works standard Ritual book of Instruction which includes all Craft degree work as well, and despite the Jurisdictions efforts to establish Ritual Uniformity, in 2013 we find ourselves in a circumstance where innovation has created Confusion in the Craft.

The necessity of Uniformity in Ritual finds significance in the fact that it preserves the Jurisdiction from innovations and complacency. It better enables harmony between Lodges especially during visitation and there is need for visitors to fill places and stations. It would allow us know when there is a "foreigner" among us, and whether his work is of this Jurisdiction. I believe in the right of a Grand Lodge to choose its work, but I am also of the position that all subordinate Lodges under that Grand Lodge should work in ONE ACCORD. The observation of the young EA is a clarion call for the Jurisdiction to return to the UNIFORMITY and Standard of the Code and clear up the variations in our work. Have we not recognize the prophetic revelation in that the VSL says, "out the mouth of Babes (EAs) speaks the Truth", we should also reflect on the fact that the disharmony in the work is a result of compromising and laziness in the work, as well as mirror image of the harmony in the Jurisdiction itself. Let us heed with attentive ears the wise counsel of our young and repair the breach. I mean, what does the Ritual Book instruct us to do when there is Confusion in the Craft?

1. In Search of Ritual Uniformity, A General Examination of the Regulation and Development of Craft Ritual Proceedings after 1813, Prestorian Lecture for 1973 (May 4,  1973) by Bro. C. F. W. Dyer. Section 2, Pre-Union and William Preston.

2. Proceedings of the First Annual Communication of the M.W. Grand Lodge of A. F. & A.M. for the State of Washington and Oregon, 1904, Report of the Committee on Masonic Jurisprudence, pg. 28

3. Proceedings of the First Annual Communication of the M.W. Grand Lodge of A. F. & A.M. for the State of Washington and Oregon, 1904, Grand Master's Address, pg. 13

4. Proceedings of the Second Annual Communication of the M.W. Grand Lodge of A. F. & A.M. for the State of Washington and Oregon, 1905, Report of the Committee on Masonic Jurisprudence, pg. 52-53

5. Anthony Nizzardini obituary on the Pocono Record website:

6. Proceedings of the Third Annual Communication of the M.W. Grand Lodge of A. F. & A.M. for the State of Washington and Oregon, 1906, Report of the Committee on Masonic Jurisprudence, pg. 35-36

7. Book of Laws: Containing the Constitution and By-Laws of the M.W. United Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons, The State of Washington and Jurisdiction, from 1903 A.L. 5903 to 1919 A.L. 5919, Inclusive. Compiled by M. W, E. H. Holmes, Code Commissioner.

8. Proceedings of the Thirty-Ninth Annual Communication of the M.W. United Grand Lodge of  F. & A.M. for the State of Washington and Jurisdiction, 1942, Report of the Grand Lecturer, pg. 25

9. Proceedings of the Annual Communication of the M.W. Prince Hall Grand Lodge of  F. & A.M. for the State of Washington and Jurisdiction, 1946, Grand Master's Address, pg. 5

10. Ibid.  Grand Lecturer's Report, pg. 29-34

11. Proceedings of the Annual Communication of the M.W. Prince Hall Grand Lodge of  F. & A.M. for the State of Washington and Jurisdiction, 1947, Grand Lecturer's Report, pg. 35

12. Proceedings of the 45th Annual Communication of the M.W. Prince Hall Grand Lodge of  F. & A.M. for the State of Washington and Jurisdiction, 1948, Resolutions, pg. 14

13. Proceedings of the 46th Annual Communication of the M.W. Prince Hall Grand Lodge of  F. & A.M. for the State of Washington and Jurisdiction, 1949, Report of the Committee on Resolutions and Recommendations, pg. 38

14. Proceedings of the 55th Annual Communication of the M.W. Prince Hall Grand Lodge of  F. & A.M. for the State of Washington and Jurisdiction, 1958, Report of the Committeee on Work and Uniformity, pg. 46

15. Proceedings of the 59th Annual Communication of the M.W. Prince Hall Grand Lodge of  F. & A.M. for the State of Washington and Jurisdiction, 1962, Resolution on Ritual Work, pg. 74


  1. Well done! Although I do not see the necessarity of uniformity in ritual at all. The Grand Lodge of Scotland never had uniformity in ritual, and it hasn't harmed the craft at all, imho. The Grand Lodge of Switzerland "Alpina" does not have a standart ritual, but freedom of ritual for the lodges. The peculiar system of the United Grand Lodges of Germany brought a rich variety of rituals. In Frankfurt/ Germany, where my mother Lodge resides, the EA can view 8 different Rituals. It is only confusing for the uneducated. But by comparing different Rituals and by discussion and mutual learning, the variety of rituals leads to further enlightenment.

    1. Rolf Keil,

      I would agree, but when there is confusion with one ritual, and all of this under the name of uniformity, it becomes a burden to enlightenment.

      When I wrote this piece, I was a member of the MWPHGL of WA, and I can tell you that uniformity is needed in a jurisdiction that uses only ONE RITUAL.

      There has to be more care taken to LEARN the ritual, and access the wealth and beauty of knowledge being conveyed.

      There is a need to return to MASONIC EDUCATION in some jurisdictions in America.

  2. Great piece Bro John Hairston. I have witnessed times that lodges under the same Grand Lodge where not on one accord and there was definitely confusion in the craft.