The Past Master


Past District Deputy Grand Master (P.D.D.G.M. #5)

The DDGM’s, the Grand Elected Line and the Grand Master in particular, recognize easily that during certain years they have burdened the mule of some former Worshipful Masters with so many e-mails, messages, and phone calls that it would perhaps have been better for them never to have acceded to the high functions which were theirs. But it’s time to put things in perspective and get to the tasks you have to do now as Past Master. For his missions are indeed of high value for the future of the lodge and its active members. However, you should not rule out any false ambitions. Aren’t vices the reverse of virtues ?

The first false ambition, which is the most obvious of all, is to become Worshipful Master again. Such an individual project, always possible, is to Freemasonry what the will to remain at the head of the State “ad vitam aeternam” is to politics. After all, why not let one or two mandates pass and return to the Mallets ? Doesn’t the Phoenix rise from its ashes ? Of course, such an ambition is made in the name of the higher interest, of the lodge, and never because one has become “addicted” to the three steps that lead to the Orient and to its dais in full light that dominates everything in the lodge. “It is not me who wishes to represent myself. No, not at all! The situation of the lodge demands that I put myself at its disposal, against my will. I do it because I was asked to. This admirable, elusive “one” smells of the people. What Mason worthy of the name could remain insensitive to such a call of duty ? Just yesterday, several brothers called out to me: “You are the only one (yes, the only one !) who can get the lodge back on track.” How could I, who, like them, is a “son of the people” of the Masonic movement, shirk my duty ?

“Ah, this taste for providential men and their sacrifice!”

Without denying that, in the life of a Lodge, it can happen that the downward spiral of its history goes crashing on the jagged rocks of the abyss, a minimum hindsight is required to discern with lucidity that such an exceptional situation is rare. You can be sure that in 99% of the cases, another solution more intelligent than the re-employment of a former Worshipful Master at its head will trace a more profitable path for its future. We would point out that, within the High Grades, without claiming to have knowledge of all possible cases, we have never observed that the President of a lodge becomes again President of it, or even of another of the same degree, except perhaps in the case of a creation of lodge of perfection, chapter, areopagus or consistory. It seems that this idea, in both cases, is perceived as so incongruous that it does not come to mind.

There is indeed a power stake in the function of Worshipful Master. Once a month, the W.M. will be at the center of all the exchanges, and being the guarantor of the direction of the lodge, of its work, of the good observance of the ritual, of its sacredness, of the evolution of the brothers, of the equal attention that he must give to each one, of the influence of the Fraternity within the lodge, of the respect of the opinions in their diversity and their free expression while taking care that they do not offend, etc. Not to mention the work carried out from one Lodge to the next.

However, a Worshipful Master in the pulpit is at the center of a power game without any concrete, material or social stakes. The stake of power in a lodge has no other value than the one given to a symbol. The only risk incurred is that of vanity, and one can, after all, marvel at a cordon… which only has brilliance within the four walls of a Masonic Temple. In other words, the search for having, must or should give way to the happiness of being. This power without power has indeed an irreplaceable virtue.

The Worshipful Master has achieved a sense of gratuity in power, which is achieved by refusing the ambition to become Worshipful Master again. By refusing to wear the hat of the leader again, you deepen the work of detachment by offering your ambition the opportunity to change scale once again. The intention is no longer the good of the lodge in its immediacy, but in its future. Freed from any desire for power within his lodge, the Past Master can reflect in all serenity on the future of the lodge and the composition of officers, including the most important of them, the future Worshipful Master.

So, no return to the future, but the possibility of occupying certain key offices to help the lodge, accompany it in its evolution, guarantee its future ? The two offices that come to mind are those of First and Second Warden, as the teaching and training of Companions and Apprentices are an important issue to train future Masters who will in turn become the future of the lodge. In these conditions, who else is better placed for these missions than a former Worshipful Master ? He has theoretically a great experience of Freemasonry and its objectives, linked to a certain knowledge of symbolism.

Except that…

We have all assisted in a lodge during our many years sitting on the columns, when a brother was being considered to become Second Warden for the first time, a former Worshipful Master explained that it was not a good idea to give him the office. Because he would have much more experience and would be better able to train the apprentices well. The argument seems unassailable. But in retrospect, we think it was a fundamental mistake to go back to offices that were already occupied, unless there was a particularly serious staffing problem. Why ? Precisely to ensure the future of the lodge !

Indeed, pushing the reasoning to the extreme, a former Worshipful Master having a much deeper knowledge than a young Master of symbolism (for the Second and First Warden), the Law and general regulations of the Obedience (for the Orator), an initiation ceremony (for the 1er Deacon or expert), the administration of the lodge (for the Secretary), etc., It would be appropriate to proceed endlessly to a game of musical chairs between former Worshipful Masters who would pass and re-pass, every year, the main offices of the lodge. We would very quickly have to deal with a blocked, fossilized, inward-looking lodge, singularly lacking in openness to its future. Thus, from a reasoning that has all the appearances of logic, we would end up with the opposite of the desired goal: blocking the future of the lodge.

To entrust an office to a Master who has never held it is like a gamble. The same gamble taken when you opened the door of the temple to the laymen who knocked. Although he has no experience of the work, he must prove himself. And if it works, he will then be offered a new office that he knows no more than the previous one. New test, new trial. New success? At this rate, from one risk to another, this man of good will will end up as Worshipful Master. This is all the happiness we wish for him, and for the good of the lodge.

These repeated risks are calculated and have a double purpose. One concerns the Master Mason and the other the Lodge. A Master Mason who would never have to take the oath of any of the offices would deny him access to the part of light that each of them contains. His normal, initiatory destiny is to attend all the offices. This is how every Master is likely to become a Worshipful Master. Every Master should become Worshipful Master in a perfect lodge.

This journey to the four cardinal points of the Lodge, crowns with success a brother animated by the desire of Freemasonry, honest in his approach, whatever his initial intellectual qualities, because the first quality of a Worshipful Master is to know how to gather around him the energies that cross the lodge.

Therefore, to think about the future of a lodge is to know how to step aside, to leave the place free and completely free, without any ulterior motive, to our brothers so that they may rise in their turn, from office to office, as was offered to us in our time.

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