Past Master Degree - Why is it in Capitular Masonry?
Graig Huber

Past Master SymbolDid you ever wonder why the Past Master Degree was presented in Capitular Masonry. The reason for its inclusion is to satisfy one of the requirements to receive the Royal Arch Degree. In many jurisdictions, one must have been a Past Master of a lodge before receiving the Royal Arch Degree. This drastically limited the number of candidates available for admission into Chapters. Many Grand Chapters wanted to increase membership of the Chapters under their jurisdiction and did so by allowing worthy brothers to receive the honorary degree of a Past Master. The Indiana Monitor and Royal Arch Mason’s Guide States:

“…I will inform you that when the chapter degrees were separated from the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodges, it was found, as a regulation governing the Royal Arch Degree, that no one could be permitted to take that most sublime degree but a Past Master. In consequence of this, it was soon found that Chapters could not maintain a separate organization, for so few ever reached the Master’s chair, which entitled them the honorary degree of Past Master, and many even of those not being found worthy to receive the Royal Arch Degree; hence, for the want of proper material from which to select their members, Chapters could not maintain a separate organization. Now, as there was no law governing the Past Master’s Degree prohibiting it from being conferred on any worthy brother, prior to his election to the office of Worshipful Master…Grand Chapters thereupon assumed the prerogative and conferred upon their subordinates the constitutional right to confer the honorary degree of Past Master upon all who should apply for and be deemed worthy to receive the Royal Arch Degree.”

Does this mean all Royal Arch Companions are entitled to the privileges of a Past Master of a lodge? The answer is no. One must be mindful that this conferral gives the recipient the title of Virtual Past Master. No brother may be deemed an Actual Past Master, in the State of Indiana, without receiving the degree prior to their installation as Worshipful Master; so in actuality, several Companions of Prather Chapter #157 are both a Virtual Past Master and an Actual Past Paster. Finally, most countries no longer require the Past Master Degree to receive the Royal Arch Degree, but all Grand Chapters in the United States, except one, still have the Past Master Degree as part of Capitular Masonry.