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 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."
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. 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 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:
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:
"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"
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]'."
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. 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):
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:
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: http://www.poconorecord.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20050117/NEWS07/301179982
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