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Article # 156
The Ritual of Installation Ceremony

Author: R.W.Bro.R.Ratnaswami P.Dy.G.M.    Posted on: Monday, February 7, 2005
General Article | 2 comments  | Post your comment

The Ritual of Installation Ceremony

The Ritual of Installation Ceremony.

[ Paper presented by R.W.Bro.Ratnaswami P.Dy.G.M, at the Seminar on The Relevancy of The Ritual in M.M Degree and in The Installation Ceremony held in Chennai on 6 th February 2005, jointly conducted by Lodges Srinivasagopala (No.190) Om Vigneswara (No218   ) Lodge Chennai (No.317 ), Lodge Millennium (No.327  ) Lodge Engineers (No.340 ) and  Inaugurated by W.Bro.Ashok Mohan W.A.R.G.M and moderated by V.W.Bro.John Reginald G.Chap]


The ceremony of Installation is not confined to Freemasonry alone. Historical evidence shows that ancient Romans installed their kings, priests and even their magistrates. The expression Installation is derived from the Latin word stallum , which means a seat. Installation therefore means placing in the seat. There is another view that the origin is from the Latin word installare meaning to establish in a new role or place, which view postulates, the establishment of the Master Elect in his new role as the ruler in the Craft to open the Lodge and employ and instruct the brethren in Freemasonry and to direct the Lodge.


Ritual teaches us that from time immemorial, it has been an established custom among Freemasons, for each Lodge, once in every year, at a stated period to select from amongst those who are Past Wardens, an experienced craftsman to preside over them in the capacity of Master and that the brother so selected must be presented to a Board of Installed Masters, that he may receive from his predecessor the benefit of Installation. Originally, an experienced and well skilled craftsman was chosen to preside over the meetings, the vestige of which is found in the Installation Ceremony of the Lodges under the United Grand Lodge of England and some other Constitutions, in which the Installation Ceremony commences in the degree of F.C. The ceremony itself was not standardised in ancient times. We have very meagre evidence and data about the ceremony of Installation prior to 1717. In fact, several Grand Lodges did not have any particular ceremony for the Installation of the Master of the Lodge. Bro. Harry Carr has pointed out that the ceremony of Installing Master was not there in Scottish Lodges for a long time. W.Bro.Grant Macleod reports that prior to 1850, Masters were installed in the presence of all the brethren and the P.Ms stood around and whispered a word to the Master Elect.. He asserts that the Ceremony of Installation of the Master was brought from England and introduced in 1872 in Scotland and that prior to that P.Ms of Scottish Lodges had to retire at the time of the inner working, while attending the Installation meetings in the Lodges under the Grand Lodge of England, causing them some embarrassment. The Installation ceremony appears to have been developed in England after 1717.By about 1722, Duke of Wharton, the then Grand Master of the Grand Lodge in England. was constituting New Lodges in which ceremony,  he was installing the Masters of those New Lodges. The first edition of Anderson’s Constitutions mentions about  the ceremony of constituting New Lodges including the Installation of the Master and his Wardens and the same mentions that the Grand Master, “ Shall in due form install them”. Bro. Albert G.Mackey has pointed out that the practice then was, that either the Grand Master or some other P.M authorised by him installed the W.M, who thereafter installed his wardens.


The portion of the ritual referred to above mentions that the Master Elect is to be presented to a Board of I.Ms. The inner working and the Esotery was evolved over some time. As numerous M.Ms are present here, I am confining only to the historical  aspect of the Esotery. The earliest reference to the Esoteric aspect is found in the Three Distinct Knocks, an exposure published in 1760. It is also seen that William Preston in his Illustrations of Masonry published in 1775 has observed that the portion of the ceremony by Installed Masters alone took place in a separate room, which was later developed as the Esotery of the Board of Installed Masters, which we have adopted, when the Grand Lodge of India standardised the ritual for the Installation of Master. It will be useful to refer here that even now several Grand Lodges in U.S permit the Installation of Masters in an open meeting attended by friends and the family members at which meeting obviously there will be neither any Masonic nor  esoteric ceremony in the strict sense.


After the initial address, the Installing Officer draws the attention of the Master Elect to the various qualifications, which are essential in every candidate for the Master’s Chair, which indicate that the candidate should be of good report, true and trusty, exemplary in conduct, courteous in manners, easy of address but firm and steady in principles and be able and willing to undertake the management of the work. He stresses that the Master Elect should be well skilled in the Ancient Charges, Regulations and the Landmarks of the Order. It therefore becomes necessary to understand what the Ancient Charges and the Land Marks are. Both are topics about which separate seminars can be held. I shall however, having regard to the time allotted to me, make a short reference to them.


Prior to the formation of the First Grand Lodge in England in 1717, the various lodges then functioning were following Gothic Constitutions and they had considerable latitude in the ritual work and there was no uniformity. Rituals were not printed and were taught  orally giving rise to variations both in the text and in practice.

 Grand Lodge of England appointed in 1921 James Anderson, “ to digest the Old Gothic Constitutions in a new and better method”. His report was evaluated by a committee of 14 learned brethren, who suggested a few amendments and the Grand Lodge considered the matter and approved the Constitutions prepared by Anderson with a few amendments. The same contained the History of Freemasonry, Ancient Charges and Regulations. The Second Edition was published in 1738.


 Antient Charges & Regulations have nothing to do with the Old Charges, which are the old manuscripts, from which history and practice could be ascertained. Ancient Charges and Regulations however are a set of 15  regulations which appear in the first pages of the Book of Constitutions of the UGLE. Though they are said to be "Summary” they are  not a summary of any other Charges or regulations. Every Master-Elect has to signify his unqualified assent to those charges and promise to support them, before he is obligated as W.M. Grand Lodge of India has adopted the said practice and requirement.


Let us now consider Landmarks. Bro. Lawrence in Masonic Jurisprudence has defined Landmarks as “ certain immovable and unchallengeable principles and doctrines which go right behind law and regulations and which no law or regulation can alter or modify." Bro.William Preston holds that Landmarks are boundaries set up in order to check all innovations.

 John S. Simons has given a comprehensive definition as follows:

"We assume those principles of action to be landmarks, which have existed from time immemorial, whether in the written or unwritten law, which are identified with the form and essence of the society, which the great majority agree, cannot be changed and which every mason is bound to maintain intact under the most solemn and inviolable sanctions"

The most incontestable point is that the landmarks embody the unalterable and inviolate rules of the Masonic organization, theory and esoteric tradition as a set of sacred principles, which can never come under review. This rule of inviolability is the last and crowning landmark in the better-known enumeration, written by Albert Mackey, according to which “the landmarks can never be changed”.

B.E. Jones however has urged in his "Freemason's Guide & Compendium" that although every Freemason has to observe the Landmarks, there is no authoritative definition of what is a Landmark, nor are they named and enumerated in Constitutions of many Grand Lodges. Mackey's list contains 25 Landmarks. Some Grand Lodges have added more Landmarks and some have reduced the number. The following are the principal ones.  


A belief in the existence of God as the Grand Architect of the Universe.

That a "Book of the Law" shall constitute an indispensable part of the furniture of every Lodge.

The modes of Recognition are the most legitimate and unquestioned. They admit of no variation.

No visitor, unknown to the brethren present, or to some one of them as a Mason, can enter a Lodge without first passing an examination according to ancient usage. no visitor, unknown to the brethren present, or to some one of them as a Mason, can enter a Lodge without first passing an examination according to ancient usage.

 The equality of all masons.

The Landmarks can never be changed. Nothing can be subtracted from them-nothing can be added to them.


After the Master Elect assents to the Ancient Charges and Regulations, he takes an obligation as regards his duties as the Master of the Lodge and undertakes not to make or suffer any deviations from the established customs and the Landmarks of the Order and to support the excellent rules and regulations assented to by him.


Thereafter, the I.Ms alone constitute a Board of I.Ms in which Master Elect is installed as the W.M of the lodge. Brethren all are admitted thereafter and after proclamation, W.M is saluted and then the warrant of the Lodge is entrusted to him with an admonition that he must pass it on to his successor pure and unsullied. W.M then appoints and invests his officers.


Three addresses then follow. It would be interesting at this stage to notice about the origin of these Installation addresses. It is seen that Preston’s “Illustrations” First Edition of 1772, contains the “Manner of Constituting a Lodge” and that contains, the Ceremony of Installation. Addresses to the Wardens and Brethren are mentioned therein. Address to the W.M is not found in the first edition and that indicates that address to the W.M was not part of the Installation Ceremony then. Thomas Smith Webb’s “The Freemasons Monitor “of  1797 and 1802 do not also contain Address to the W.M. It is only in the Webb’s Monitor of 1805, the address to the W.M is mentioned for the first time. Claret’s Ritual of 1838 ( I Edition) also contain the said address. The acceptable inference is that the address to W.M was evolved by 1805.


A comparative study of the Ritual of the Installation of the W.M followed by different Grand Lodges is interesting and helps us to understand as to how the evolution took place. In a few Grand Lodges, we find that W.Ts of all the three degrees are explained to the W.M, after he is placed in the Eastern Chair of the Lodge, which is referred to as the Oriental Chair, Chair of K.S and Chair of the Lodge. Some Masonic Scholars feel that such a practice runs counter to and ignores the basic qualification of being an experienced craftsman, well skilled in the Noble science and that explaining the W.Ts to the W.M is analogous to teaching alphabets to a graduate. Our Grand Lodge has rightly omitted that practice.


Some of the Grand Lodges in U.S conduct tests to find out the proficiency of the candidates for the Master’s chair in certain parts of the craft rituals. Experience as a warden, no doubt is of immense help in shaping up a candidate for Master’s chair, but that may not by itself be sufficient. Some amount of training will be very beneficial. In fact most of the institutions like Rotary and Lions impart some guidance and training to the incoming Presidents and Directors and other officers. W.Ms have to perform many duties besides performing the rituals and require many skills. I appeal to the R.W.R.G.M to develop a training programme for the wardens to shape them to be efficient W.Ms. These programmes can be conducted by W.A.R.G.Ms for the wardens in their respective areas twice an year.


I thank the brethren and the Lodges, who have organised this seminar and more particularly W.Bro. Bharat V.Epur, the live wire and the moving spirit behind this seminar.







R.W.Bro.Ratnaswami hardly requires any introduction.He is a masonic scholar held in great esteem. He is the Webmaster of this site.

Click Here To Post Your Comment

richardn wrote on Monday, June 6, 2005:

Subject: WTs presented to new WM

In the ritual of Installation in South Australia and Northern Territory the MM, FC and EA WTs are presented to the new WM, but their significations are not exactly the same as when presented in the earlier degrees. In the Installation ceremony each WT now has a significance suitable for the intruction of "a Ruler in the Craft, and more especially as Master of this Lodge." Thus, one of the EA WTs "serves specially to remind you that, whilst not neglecting the ordinary duties of your station, you should devote a portion of your time to promoting the interests of your Lodge in the intervals between its stated meetings, as well as when you are in the Chair." Another EA WT "points out that, with faithful admonition and kindly advice, you should endeavour to correct the errors and irregularities of your Brethren" while the last "enjoins upon you the necessity of edifying and instructing your Brethren by example and precept, so that they may become perfect stones ..." RN Adelaide

richardn wrote on Tuesday, February 27, 2007:

Subject: Charge to a new Grand Master

The following interesting Charge was delivered at the Installation of the first Grand Master of South Australia in 1884. ============ "... By the immemorial usages and landmarks of Freemasonry you, as Grand Master of Masons, are invested with powers and prerogatives which are well nigh absolute. The entire address has been posed as Article No.235 in the General Section. webmaster

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