The Emulation way of working takes its name from the Emulation Lodge of Improvement in London, whose Committee is the custodian of this particular ritual. The Lodge of Improvement meets every Friday at 6.15pm from October to June, at Freemasons' Hall, Great Queen Street, London and demonstrates the ceremonies and "Readings" or "Lectures", according to the Emulation way of working.
This particular Lodge, first convened on October 2, 1823, was specifically formed for Master Masons only, so as to give instruction to those who wished to prepare for Lodge office and succession to the seat of Worshipful Master. The founders were mainly from Burlington and Perseverance Lodges of Instruction (the former founded in 1810, the other in 1817). Both had taught the new ritual approved by Grand Lodge in June 1816, but tended to concentrate on First Degree work and training candidates.
Originally instruction was through so-called masonry "lessons", according to the system of the Grand Stewards' Lodge, whose lessons detail the ceremonies.
From 1830, according to the general practice then developed, the representations of the ceremonies themselves were also introduced. The Emulation Lodge of Improvement has met without interruption since its formation and has always had a reputation for resisting any change in ceremonies, whether voluntary or otherwise, or otherwise unauthorized.
The ritual forms in use in the Grand Lodge of England, as demonstrated by the Lodge of Reconciliation, formed specifically to produce them, were 'approved and validated' by the Grand Lodge in June 1816.
Since 1816 there have been occasional adjustments of a ritual nature, approved by Grand Lodge; the most important are the variations in the formula used in the commitments, permitted by a Grand Lodge resolution in December 1964 and, much more recently, the larger change in the procedure, introduced by the Grand Lodge resolution of June 1986, concerning the formula used in the commitments. Engagements.
The Emulation Lodge of Improvement Committee has always attempted to keep the ritual as close as possible to the form in which it was originally approved by the Grand Lodge and not to glean any unauthorized modifications from the same source. Thus, while there have occasionally been minor adjustments by Grand Lodge authority, random error has never been allowed to go unnoticed, lest it become, over time, an established practice.
The Masonry Lessons associated with the three Degrees of the Order, which describe the ritual and the moral and symbolic meaning; they are in catechetical form - that is, of question and answer - to be performed by two or more Brothers.
The content of the Lessons has had very few changes since the years in which they began to be performed. They describe in detail the ritual of the Degrees and contain a good part of the phrasebook used in the ceremonies, with which there must therefore be a precise correspondence.
The Tracing Tables referred to are the usual ones (present in the Emulation Ritual, to which reference is made), belonging to the Emulation Lodge of Improvement, designed and executed in 1845 by order of him and used by it.
The use of the catechetical form is known in Masonry from the earliest extant documents, although the catechisms that appeared up to at least the end of the eighteenth century were almost all "expositions" of Masonry procedures, rather than coming from a more direct source.
William Preston's system of Lectures, developed from 1772 onwards (but of whose complete text little is known until at least twenty years later) and John Browne's Master Key, published in its entirety in 1801, were the first texts to give us actual authentic information. From that moment on the Lectures still in use became a complete system of instruction in Masonry - not only in the ritual procedures of performing the ceremonies of the Degrees, but in the overall spirit of Masonry itself.
The ceremonies themselves were short and, until the early 19th century, were often performed by a small number of participants, often in a separate room, before the entire Lodge assembled. At that time this complete gathering was usually at table, and the whole Lesson was often given as instruction to the Candidate.
With the merger of the two previous Grand Lodges to form the United Grand Lodge of England in 1813, there were attempts to standardize a system of Lectures. The Lodge of Reconciliation (1813-16) had formulated a new ritual system and it was necessary to insert it into a system of Lectures, to instruct in these new procedures and adapt the symbolism to the new practice.
No system of Lectures has ever received formal approval from Grand Lodge, as did the 1816 new ritual.
At the time of the Union there were at least three systems of Lectures in the London area. At that time the system carried out in the ordinary demonstrations of the 'Public Evenings' of the Lodge of Grand Stewards was generally accepted. It relied heavily on the type of catechism contained in John Browne's Master Key, current use in earlier 'Modern' Lodges, with the new ritual incorporated.
Since 1817 all of this had been laid out in a system of Lectures providing instruction in the new ritual, with seven, five and three sections, respectively in the First, Second and Third Degree Lessons.
The same model in use today.
The Emulation Lodge of Improvement for Master Masons was formed in 1823 and from its inception provided its education by carrying out the Grand Stewards Lodge Lecture system. Since then he has always continued to carry them out although, certainly since 1840, the work of rehearsal ceremonies had become pre-eminent.
When the 'Public Evenings' of the Grand Stewards' Lodge ended in the 1860s, the Emulation Lodge of Improvement became the best known body which regularly performed these Lectures. Some small modifications have been introduced over the years - in fact the Lodge of Grand Stewards had made some revisions at the beginning of the 1860s - but these Lessons are basically the same as performed in 1817 and, except for the necessary corrections to adapt them to the new ritual procedures after the 1813, their content is almost identical to that of the Lectures given in English Masonry in the last years of the eighteenth century.
The natural, but not necessarily exclusive, location for carrying out the Lessons is the meetings of the Lodges of Instruction, so that they are all fully performed at least once in the course of a year. Lessons are divided into sections and one or more sections are performed per meeting. The Lessons are arranged to be controlled by a Preceptor or by a Master of the Lessons, that is by the one who asks the questions; the answers can be given by one or more assistants.
In the Emulation Lodge of Improvement the Lecture Master is always a member of the Committee and occupies either the Seat of the Master, or the seat of the Former Master. It is felt that asking the Lectures questions involves checking the work and this should normally be done by a Former WM.
In the meetings of a Lodge of Instruction the usual solution is for a Kindred to take over the task of assisting in the running of an entire section, providing answers to that section's questions. Whenever possible this assistance work is done by the First Sorv. for the first section and from the Second Sorv. for the next one. When it's not the Survs. to perform this work, the Kindred who performs it stands at the north side of the First Sorv's pedestal.
The Emulation Lodge of Improvement has a set procedure for Lecture work. The WM in the Seggio thus addresses the Brother who will have to give the answers: "Br. ...please assist the Ven.Br. ...to carry out the ...section of the ...Lesson". The Brother who goes to assist can be called by name or by the office he holds; the Past WM is called by name; the section and the Lesson are indicated with the appropriate numbers. The one who goes to assist gets up, remains in his place and replies: "I'll do my best, MV", without giving any greetings; so if he's not a Sorv. who officiates, moves to the north side of the First Sorv's pedestal. If the work is to be done by a Superv., he will stand in his place. Then the assister greets the WM in the Grade in which the Lodge is open and the work proceeds with the Master of Lectures formulating the first question.
At the end of each section there is a Recommendation, usually given by the Lecture Master executed by a kind of "fire". Except for the fire at the end of the last sections of the first and second lessons, this is given by all present, who remain seated (except for the Brother who assists in the execution). Fire is always given loudly, making a certain sound with each shot. For the first six sections of the First Degree Lesson fire is given with the apprentice's left hand and the movement ends each time with a strike on the thigh; for the first four sections of the Second Degree Lesson the sn is similar to the greetings given in this Degree in the Installation ceremony, after the readmission of the Fellow Craft.
For all three sections of the Third Degree Lesson an audible slap of the hands is given in making the Sn Gr. or R. and in tapping the thighs. For the latter sections of Lesson 1 and 2 all are standing, the Brethren having been given the opportunity to stand during the section. In both cases we have the same fire, similar to that given at the table in many parts of the world, with a speed appropriate to the circumstance. After the fire, the Master of Lectures will say to the assistant: "Thank you, Br. ...", that he will greet in the Grade in which the Lodge is open and will take his place again. We then proceed to the next section of Lesson, or to the next work.
The Lessons are held correctly with the Lodge open in the appropriate Grade and must never be held in a lower Grade than that specific to the Lesson.
The content of these Lessons has never received any formal approval from the G.L.U. of England or by the Regular Grand Lodge of Italy.
Like the ritual itself, the Lessons have developed over many years, incorporating over the ages the thoughts and ideas of large numbers of Brothers who have received some general acceptance in the Order. There may be a great deal of thought and material that never resulted in these Lessons, while some of the content now included may also be out of date.
The Emulation Lessons have a certain antiquity and form an interesting exercise in reviving the motifs and illustrations that attracted our predecessors.