The Master's Book 8

Carl H. Claudy

Chapter 8


A Master's greatest asset is a competent and loyal Secretary. A good officer to his left is a balance wheel, a touch with the past, a compendium of knowledge, a very present help in the time of trouble. Per contra, a lazy, indifferent or incompetent Secretary, or one antagonistic to the Master, is a severe handicap.


It is usual to depend on a good Secretary for much, but it can be overdone. It is not the Secretary, but the Master, whom the Grand Master holds responsible for his Lodge. The Secretary writes the minutes, the Lodge confirms them, but the Master must shoulder the responsibility of seeing that they contain all things proper to be written, nothing not proper to be recorded, are accurate, complete, unbiased.

The Master may not confirm minutes. Nor may he alter, amend, delete or add to them, except as any brother may, by suggestion that something was left out which should have been put in, something put in which had better be unrecorded.

But the Master may refuse to put a motion to confirm improper minutes, and Grand Master or Deputy Grand Master will invariably sustain him if he is right.

Masons are human beings, and therefore not perfect. Occasionally a Secretary stubbornly refuses to record what should be written, or wants improper minutes confirmed. Here the Master can use a Big Stick or the smooth oil of diplomacy, but he must see that his minutes will not draw censure from higher authority.

It is the Master's duty to oversee the Secretary's books, records and receipts. No good Secretary resents this; on the contrary, he knows that the responsibility shared is a responsibility halved.


There are Lodges of which it is said: "Oh, the Secretary is really the Master — he runs it."

If true, it is because too many Masters have been content to slide through their term of office in the easiest way. The Master tells the Secretary: "You suggest the names of the committee on that petition," or "Tell me the best arrangement of the work for the next two or three months. "The Secretary obliges. After a while he does not wait to be asked — petitions are handed to the Master with the committee names already written; a ready-made schedule of work is handed to the Master. In a few years it is really the Secretary, not the Master, who controls the Lodge.

The Master who avoids responsibilities because the Secretary is willing to shoulder them hurts the Lodge, spoils a good Secretary and must leave the East with the feeling that he has done little.

The Master who is Master; who aids his Secretary wherever possible, asks his advice and receives his suggestions, but who makes his own appointments, schedules his own work, conducts his own Lodge as he sees fit, and lives up to all the responsibilities of his office, will increase respect for the Oriental Chair and finish his year knowing he was what he was supposed to be — a leader.

It is sometimes difficult for a new Master, perhaps a young man, to take from the hands of an old and respected Secretary work which generations of predecessors have shifted from their fingers to his. But the Master has always the comfort of knowing that Grand Master (or Deputy) is behind him in "all his laudable undertakings" and that a good Secretary respects a Master who lives up to his job. Here, as elsewhere in Lodge, tact, diplomacy, the soothing oil of flattery and good nature, work wonders. While occasionally it is the Secretary's fault if the relations between his desk and the East are strained, as a general rule it is the Master who must be blamed if he cannot ' get along with" a faithful and tried officer to his immediate left.


The Wardens should be a Master's right hand left hands. Perhaps no ancient usage and custom of the Fraternity is more universal than the government of Lodges by a Master and two Wardens. Mackey lists this requirement as his Tenth Landmark; whether they have adopted Mackey's twenty-five landmarks or not, all Grand Lodges recognize the Wardens as essential in the formation, opening and governing of a Lodge.

Not only are the Wardens essential to every Entered Apprentices', Fellow Crafts' or Master Masons' Lodge, but they have certain inherent powers, duties and responsibilities. Mackey sets these forth substantially as follows:

While a Master may use others than the Wardens in the conferring of the degrees, he cannot deprive the Wardens of their offices, or absolve them of their responsibilities.


The government of a Masonic Lodge is essentially tripartite, although Lodges may be legally opened, set to labor and closed by the Master in the absence of the installed Wardens, the chairs being filled by temporary appointments. The Senior Warden presides in the absence of the Master, and the Junior Warden in the absence of both Master and Senior Warden.

No other brethren in the Lodge have this power, privilege or responsibility. The Warden who presides in the absence of his superior officer may, if he desires, call a Past Master to the chair to preside for him, but no Past Master, in the absence of the Master, may legally congregate the Lodge. That must be done by the Master, the Senior Warden in the absence of the Master, or the Junior Warden in the absence of both.

Mackey further states that while the Senior Warden takes the East by right in the absence of the Master, the Junior Warden does not take the West by right in the absence of the Senior Warden. Each officer is installed with a ceremony which gives him certain duties; a Warden in the East is still a Warden, not a Master. It is the Master's privilege to appoint brethren to stations temporarily unfilled. The Master, when elected and installed, or Senior Warden acting as Master in the real Master's absence, may appoint the Junior Warden to fill an empty West. But the Junior Warden cannot assume the West without such appointment. In the absence of the Master, the Senior Warden, when present, is the only brother who can assume the East and congregate the Lodge.

Thus runs the general law, generally adhered to. Grand Lodges may, and not infrequently do, make local regulations contrary to the Old Constitutions, the Old Charges, even the Landmarks — the fundamental law of Masonry.

If a Grand Lodge rules that in the absence of Master and both Wardens, the oldest Past Master present may congregate, open, and close the Lodge, that law is correct for that Grand Lodge, but it is not in consonance with general Masonic practice.


Wardens are found in all bodies of Masonry, in all Rites, in all countries.

Both its derivation, and its translations give the meaning of the word. It comes from the Saxon weardian, to guard, to watch. In France, the second and third officers are premier and second Surveillant; in Germany, erste and zwite Aufseher; in Spain, primer and segundo Vigilante; in Italy, primo and secondo Sorvegliante, all the words meaning to overlook, to see, to watch, to keep ward, to observe.


The Government of the Craft by a Master and two Wardens cannot be too strongly emphasized. It is not only the right but the duty of the Senior Warden to "assist the Worshipful Master in opening and governing his Lodge." When he uses it to enforce orders, his setting maul or gavel is to be respected; he has a "proper officer" to carry his messages to the Junior Warden or elsewhere; under the Master, he is responsible for the conduct of the Lodge while at labor.

The Junior Warden's duties are less important; he observes the time, and calls the Lodge from labor to refreshment and refreshment to labor in due season at the orders of the Master. It is his duty to see that "none of the Craft convert the purposes of refreshment into intemperance and excess " which doubtless has a bibulous derivation, coming from days when "refreshment" meant wine. If we no longer drink wine at Lodge, we still have reason for this charge upon the Junior Warden, since it is his unpleasant duty, because he supervises the conduct of the Craft at refreshment, to prefer charges against those guilty of Masonic misconduct.


The importance of the Wardens has been set forth at length that no Master plead ignorance of their vital importance in Lodge affairs. The Master who considers his Wardens as only less valuable than himself will leave his Lodge a legacy for which it may thank him for years to come.

In the natural course of events, Wardens become Masters. Failing some unusual upset, some local condition different from the general rule, the Senior Warden succeeds the Master, the Junior Warden attains the East the following year.

What kind of Masters will they make?

The responsibility is not theirs alone, but that of the present occupant of the Oriental Chair. If he is so swelled in the cranium with the dignity of his position that he is unwilling to consult with his Wardens, they will have the less opportunity to become familiar with important Lodge affairs. If the Master takes counsel with his Wardens on every occasion, asks their advice in regard to Lodge policies, sees that they have all possible information of charity, relief, finances, membership, and puts a reasonable amount of outside work on their shoulders, they will arrive in the East with a broad vision of Lodge work and a Master's responsibilities.

The dignity of the office of Master adds to the stature of any man: no man is so important that he can add to the dignity of the office. No man may take from the dignity of the office of Master, although he may abuse it. Therefore no consultation with Wardens, no sharing with them of the problems of the East, can in the slightest take away from the importance, the dignity, the solemnity of the Master's position. The Master who plays a lone hand because he fears that Wardens other than figureheads will detract from his leadership displays a fundamental ignorance of the invulnerability of his position. He who uses his Wardens as they were intended to be used not only has secure props for his administration on either hand, but benefits his Lodge by providing well instructed — educated, if you will — candidates for the East a year, two years hence.


Fortunate the Lodge which has many; poor that body of Masonry in which Past Masters have lost the interest with which they once presided in the East !

The honorable station of Past Master is generally considered as second in importance only to that of the presiding Master. He is a good Master who sees that the brethren in his Lodge understand that "Past Master" is no empty title, but carries with it certain rights and privileges, certain duties and responsibilities.


A Past Master has no inherent right of membership in the Grand Lodge, such as is possessed by the Master of a Lodge. But in many American Jurisdictions, by action of the Grand Lodge, Past Masters are members of the Grand Lodge. In some Jurisdictions they are full voting members; in others they have but a fraction of a vote, all the Past Masters of a Lodge having one vote between them on any Grand Lodge question to be decided by a vote by Lodges. That a Past Master may receive such recognition at the hands of his Grand Lodge must be considered as one of the rights and privileges of a Past Master.

Past Masters are said by Mackey to possess the right to preside over their Lodges, in the absence of the Master, and on the invitation of the Senior Warden, or, in his absence, the Junior Warden.

According to the ancient laws of Masonry, any Master Mason may be called to the Chair by a Master. Here the question is as to who may be called to the Chair by a Warden, who has congregated the Lodge in the absence of the Master. The great Masonic jurist gives unqualified endorsement to the idea that under such circumstances only a Warden, or a Past Master with the consent of the presiding Warden, can preside over a Lodge, and counts this as among the rights of a Past Master. However true this may be in this specific case, the practice and the law in many Jurisdictions give to the Master the right to put any brother in the Chair for the time being, remaining, of course, responsible for the acts of his temporary appointee, and for the acts of his Lodge during such incumbency.


The right to install his successor is inherent in the office of Master; the privilege of delegating that duty to another is within his power. He should not delegate the installing power to any brother who has not himself been installed, in order that the succession of the Oriental Chair be unbroken, from regularly installed Master to Master elect, regularly to be installed. Therefore, in most Jurisdictions, the installation power, which is a right of the Master, may be considered also a privilege of Past Masters.


A very important right of all Past Masters is that of being elected to the office of Master, without again serving as Warden. Perhaps no regulation is more jealously guarded by Grand Lodges than this, which dates in print from 1723 (Old Charges), that no Mason may be elected or installed a Master who has not been regularly elected, installed and served as a Warden. There are exceptions; when a new Lodge is constituted, a brother who has not been elected and installed as Warden may be elected and installed as Master.


Only a Past Master has the right to wear a Past Master's jewel, or a Past Master 's apron. He may possess neither, but he has the right to wear both, and these rights cannot be taken away from him except by Grand Lodge or as part of an act depriving him of other rights, as when he may be suspended, expelled, excluded from the Lodge, or dropped N.P.D. The giving of a Past Master's jewel by the Lodge is a beautiful custom, a recognition of devoted service, but it is not mandatory on a Lodge to present such a jewel if it does not desire to do so. No Lodge, however, would take from a Past Master the right to wear such a jewel if, for instance, he bought it for himself! But a Grand Lodge may rule against either or both.


So much for law and custom. Far beyond these go the spiritual rights and privileges of the Past Master, great or small as the man is small or great. These are valued by the brethren as the Past Master values them; and he must value them by a plumb line, like that which the Lord set "in the midst of my people Israel," erected within himself.

If he has been a hard-working, able, conscientious Master, sincerely desirous of the welfare of his Lodge and its brethren, thinking only of their good, of his opportunities for service, of the humility with which he should assume the East and the dignity and wisdom with which he should preside, the honorable station of Past Master will be honored by its possessor, honored by those who know that he has earned it.

If he has been but a "title hunter," a Master who has "gotten by" with the least effort, his work poor, his presence in the East a brake upon the Lodge, he can hardly look with real pleasure upon his Past Master 's jewel nor can his brethren give him much honor in his station.

One of the unwritten usages of the Fraternity, it is well known to all the Craft that the honors of Masonry are in the wearer, rather than in the conferring. The Past Master who has earned his title by loyal, faithful service will be honored for it all his life, though he wear no apron or jewel to show his rank. He who has failed to earn it may wear the largest and most expensive of jewels, the most be-decorated of Past Master's aprons, and receive from his brethren no recognition beyond that of formality.


There are — whisper it! — Past Masters who come to Lodge only to sit like buzzards, looking for what they may devour, ready to pounce on any act of the present administration, critical and fault finding. David Harum's famous saying "A certain number of fleas is good for a dog; keeps him from broodin' on being a dog," may be applicable; perhaps one or two such Past Masters are good for any Lodge. As a general rule, however, brethren who have served long years in the chairs, presided in the East and stepped forward to join the ranks of Past Masters, have a broad tolerance, a humility, an understanding to add to their experience, which makes them very present helps in times of trouble.

The Master who makes it his first business to pay due honor to his predecessors, who consults with them, uses them, puts them on committees, works them, is reasonably certain of success.


We are a jealous lot, we Past Masters! But our jealousy is not of the Master but for the Lodge we have loved and served. We want to see her succeed, go forward, grow bigger, better, finer, more useful to our brethren. Most of us count no personal sacrifice comparable to the good of the Lodge; most of us will go to great lengths to serve again in any capacity, if by so doing we can help the old lodge another mile forward on what we hope will be always an honorable path to glory.

Therefore, Worshipful Sir, use us, we who have had our little hour in the East. We have experience — make it count for you. We have learned to work — make us work for you. We have understanding of Lodge and membership problems — make it yours. Give us a job to do, a committee membership, a minor appointment; aye, give us the hard and unwanted jobs, and most of us will jump at the chance. And if you are reasonably gentle about it, and treat us with even a modicum of fraternal courtesy- -such as the young should always offer the old ! — some day we will welcome you as Immediate Past Master and make you one of the charmed circle without which no lodge can function at its best !

Continue to Chapter 9