R.B. C. H., WM of Lodge Star of the East remarks, somewhere, that because of the expansion of the British Empire during the nineteenth century, Masonic world has been dominated by different versions of the Emulation, Scottish or American York Rite rituals. (here) These rituals are practised, namely, in the British world to emphasise ceremony and memorisation of phrases but not really education or spirituality. Sometimes, the ancient English language, embedded in the rituals, is misunderstood, leading to far too much worldly involvement. Considering this interpretation of ritualism it brings less emphasis on the spiritual development of the individual than its formalism, being the first aspec among the main purposes of the founders of the Craft when they think and structure the Craft.
R.B. C.H. recalls the following observation of the Hon. Lord Northampton, Pro Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England (here) made in a communication presented before the Cornerstone Society:
“Anglo Saxon masonry has strayed from its original purpose and no longer teaches its candidates the fundamental truths which underpin the Craft. That is why I support the initiative to start an Orator scheme to provide well-written papers describing this Masonic journey for delivery in Lodges. Educating our members about the purpose of masonry should be a priority regardless of whether or not they wish to deepen their understanding of it. Much continental masonry, which continues to thrive, and Latin American masonry, which is the fastest growing masonry in the world, insists on the candidates becoming proficient in and having an understanding of any degree they have taken before allowing them to progress further. They have to write papers and answer questions on the ceremony they have experienced before they are allowed to move to the next degree. Do we consider the questions our candidates have to answer before being passed and raised really give ‘proofs of proficiency’ in the former degree? I think not.”
The Hon. Pro-Grand Master of the UGLE really points the finger to some of the issues that distinguish continental freemasonry to British freemasonry.
One should remember that the so-called higher or side degrees (here) of the AASR (here)that run from the fourth to the thirty-third degrees, were developed in France during the 17Th Century and moved to the Americas in the early nineteenth century after the establishment of Lodges under the Modern and Ancient Grand Lodges. The maturity of the AASR degree system and its effectiveness is substantiated by its development in the United States and elsewhere in Europe. Somehow, the British freemasonry has "resisted" to adopt the system of 33 degrees, for matters disputed by the Masons scholars (its autenticy or legitimacy).
The origin of the Craft degrees of the AASR date sometime after 1737, when the Scottish-born writer, Andrew Michael, Chevalier de Ramsay, (here) Grand Orator of the Grand Lodge of France presented his now famous orations. Taking this tradition as granted the AASR ritual is more philosophical, symbolic and retains a much more alchemical essence, (here) requiring, for instance, the candidate to pass through the four basic elements during its initiation: Earth, Air, Water and Fire and submitting him to a process or gradual obligation in his envolvement in the Craft.
The process of Masonic development is also different and probably more demanding. It requires achieving spiritual and a gradual Masonic maturity coming from discipline, self-study, perserverance and presentation of masonic papers (la planche in the French tradition) and not a mere accumulation of time, in each degree, and the memorizing of the sayings in the ritual, in order to allow progress in the scale of degrees of the Blue Lodges. Differently than the Emulation or the York Rites music and harmony has a central role in exercizing the ritual.
Our dearest Grand Master of the Grand Regular Lodge of Portugal, Mário Martin Guia, has remarked, judicously, that the music exposed by the Column of Harmony has the power and the reasoning to strenght the spiritual labouring of the Lodge, making the three Lights work as a team and give the grandeur and the solemny necessary for the progress of the Royal Art.