Past Master Preview Lecture

The Past Master Degree in the Capitular Rite has seemed to many a degree belonging not to the Chapter but to the Lodge. There is no direct historical connection between this degree and the remainder of the Chapter degrees.

In Anderson’s Constitutions of 1823, the Master-Elect about to be installed was called the “Candidate.” The Grand Master asks his Deputy if he has examined and found the Candidate Master well skilled in the Noble Science and the Royal Art and duly instructed in our mysteries, etc. The Deputy answers in the affirmative. The Candidate is presented to the Grand Master who installs him with expressions that are proper and usual for the occasion but not proper to be written. These secretes were called “The Secrets of the Chair,” but may not be wholly the same as our Past Master Degree.

History informs us that when Chapters of Royal Arch Masons were under the government of Lodges in which the degree was then always conferred, no one could receive the Royal Arch Degree unless he had presided over a Lodge as Master, nor could a Brother who had never presided over a Lodge be installed as a Master until he had received the Past Master Degree. The manner of installation was referred to above. When the Chapters became independent bodies, the regulation was not abolished because this would have been an innovation in Masonry which could not be tolerated. To void such a step the Degree as we now find it was incorporated into the Royal Arch system.