The Ritual of the Operative Free Masons – P2

The original paper was written, first, to prove that Speculative Free Masonry was derived from Operative Free Masonry; second, to give some account of the Operative Free Masons, of their Ritual, and of their customs.



By Thomas Carr, M.D., P. M. Honorary Member of the Guild of Operative Free Masons

If anyone doubts the fact that the formation of Speculative Free Masonry was due to and based upon Operative Free Masonry, it is quite easy to convince him of his error if he will only study the first Book of Constitutions.

This first Book of Constitutions is the original one which Anderson had been commissioned to prepare, in the following terms, “You are to order and arrange the ancient Gothic Constitutions upon a new and better system.” It was printed and published by the Authority of the Grand Lodge in 1723.
In spite of many alterations and new additions, and of its complete reversal at the Union in 1813, the present Book of Constitutions still shows unmistakably its operative origin.



Frontispiece – Book of Constitutions 1723
IMAGE LINKED:  wikimedia Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

The Ancient Charge, given on page 1 of the present Book of Constitutions, dated 1909, are almost identical with the Antient Charges given in the first Book of Constitutions published in 1723.

The alterations are very few and unimportant and there are no alterations in Section 5, which is the one I am about to quote to prove the origin of Speculative from Operative Free Masonry. This Section 5 has for title “Of the Management of the Craft in Working” and you will notice the terms used are obviously and solely operative.

Of the Management of the Craft in Working

1. All masons shall work honestly on working days, that they may live creditably on holy days; and the time-appointed by the law of the land, or confirmed by custom, shall be observed.

2. The most expert of the fellow-craftsmen shall be chosen or appointed the master, or overseer of the lord’s work; who is to be called master by those that work under him. The craftsmen are to avoid all ill language, and ta call each other by no disobliging name, but brother or fellow; and to behave themselves courteously within and without the lodge.

3. The master, knowing himself to be able of cunning, shall undertake the lord’s work as reasonably as possible, and truly dispend his goods as if they were his own; nor to give more wages to any brother or apprentice than he really may deserve.

4. Both the master and the masons receiving their wages justly, shall be faithful to the lord, and honestly finish their work, whether task or journey; nor put the work to task that hath been accustomed to journey.

5. None shall discover envy at the prosperity of a brother, nor supplant him, nor put him out of his work, if he be capable to finish the same; for no man can finish another’s work so much to the lord’s profit, unless he be thoroughly acquainted with the designs and draughts of him that began it.

6. When a fellow-craftsman is chosen warden of the work under the master, he shall be true both to master and fellows, shall carefully oversee the work in the master’s absence, to the lord’s profit; and his brethren shall obey him.

7. All masons employed shall meekly receive their wages without murmuring or mutiny, and not desert the master till the work be finished.

8. A younger brother shall be instructed in working, to prevent spoiling the materials for want of judgment and for increasing and continuing of brotherly love.

9. All the tools used in working shall be approved by the grand lodge.

10. No labourer shall be employed in the proper work of masonry; nor shall free-masons work with those that are not free, without an urgent necessity; nor shall they teach labourers and unaccepted masons, as they should teach a brother or fellow.

The Speculative Ritual also gives proof of its derivation from the Operatives

(1) In the presentation of the Working Tools in each of the Three Degrees.
“As we are not all Operative Masons, but rather free and accepted, or speculative.”

(2) Operative Masons are referred to in the Lecture on the First Tracing Board when the Movable Jewels are described, and their uses explained.

(3) Operative Masons are described in the Official Lectures.

Lecture 1, Section 7. Emulation Working.


Q. How many sorts of Masons are there?
A. Two: Free and Accepted, and Operative.

Q. Which of those are you?
A. Free and Accepted.

Q. What do you learn by being a Free and Accepted Mason?
A. Secrecy, Morality, and Good Fellowship.

Q. What do Operative Masons learn?
A. The useful rules of Architecture, to hew, square, and mould stones into the forms required for the purposes of building and to unite them by means of joints level perpendicular, or otherwise; and by the aid of cement iron lead, or copper; which various operations require much practical dexterity and some skill in geometry and mechanics.

On January 6th, 1911, a historical note by W. Bro. John P. Simpson, B.A., P.A.G. Reg., was published by Grand Lodge, in which the author says:

“The Ritual of Freemasonry as far as the First and Second Degrees are concerned is in part no doubt derived from the ceremonies of the early Operative Guilds.”

Bro. Simpson would have been more accurate had he said, is mainly derived from the Operative ceremonies.

I would add so is the Third Degree, and also the Mark.

It would make the present paper too long to discuss this question of the Master Mason’s Degree now but I hope to publish a paper on “The Third Degree” at some future time.

Here it need only be said that the Third Degree was an afterthought as regards Speculative Masonry.

As formulated in 1717 and as laid down in the First Book of Constitutions in 1723, there was no Third Degree; a Mason only became a Master when he became Master of a Lodge.

The antient Charges in the present Book of Constitutions will suffice to make this quite clear; and this paragraph is the same today as it was in the First Book of Constitutions published in 1723. Section 4, paragraph 2.

“No brother can be a warden until he has passed the part of a fellow-craft, nor a master until he has acted as a warden, nor grand warden until he has been master of a Lodge.”

And the present Book of Constitutions has a footnote added to this Section which does not appear in the Book of 1723 but was first added in 1815.

“N. B. In antient times no brother, however skilled in the craft, was called a master-mason until he had been elected into the chair of a lodge.”

The Speculative Third Degree, as has already been stated, is however based on Operative Ritual, as it is an adaptation of the Annual Ceremony of the Operatives on October 2nd when they commemorate the slaying of the Third Master Hiram Abiff, a month before the Dedication of the Temple which they celebrate on October 30th.

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The Ritual of the Operative Free Masons 

By: Thomas Carr, M.D.

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