Don writes interesting and occasionally provocative articles for Devotion News. As Editor I receive many compliments that I am able to pass onto Don. I am also a member of several Masonic discussion groups on the Internet, once of which recently had a discussion on the important role that Past Masters play. All participants in that group read this newsletter and one of Dons articles sparked the discussion. In asking the question "Are Past Masters Friend or Foe?", many respondents (ironically including some Past Masters) said "Foe!" because Past Masters can assume an authoritarian and unbending attitude of pessimism and conservative dominance in the Lodge that stifles creativity - especially from younger members trying to invigorate their Lodge… Here is one of the responses from an experienced Master Mason, a fan of Dons, and in response to one of his recent articles.
"Are Past Masters Friend or Foe?",
I may surprise you by saying (by & large) - Friend !
Past Masters can be a bunch of grumpy old men though :).
Therein perhaps lies the key.
As a group, they can become a pool of negativity and conservatism that keeps us young fellas oppressed to the point where we feel no choice but to give up and stay quiet… often as in frustration, the ignored and browbeaten young (or young at heart) slip out of the back door never to return…
As individuals, Past Masters can be great pools of knowledge and experience.
One of my closest friends in the Lodge is a Past Master. He is over 80, holds Grand Rank, was leader in business and an Officer of some rank in the Military, despite being bloody hard of hearing – he listens. And I listen to him. He is a leader of the best kind – engaging, strong, confident, friendly, charismatic and inclusive. He understands power comes from agreement rather than force, (even if some need some force to agree) Hahahahaha!
My proposer and mentor was another Past Master. I think he did a good job – if only because I am still attending :) He imparted and reinforced the values of the Order, took me on my first visits and talked freemasonry up like a used car sales man with a bargain – but sincerely :)
Almost all I know of freemasonry is produced by Past Masters – either on the internet as strangers, or from direct contact as mentors – even if only for three minutes while they enthusiastically and knowledgably answer a question. Without their answers and generosity of time - I would not know as much as I do about freemasonry - and I know they will be crucial to expanding my knowledge in the future.
Perhaps one of the keys in dealing with Past Masters is to demand their knowledge - and reject any sniping and negativity. Make them feel valued for advice – but try to make them realise it is ONLY ADVICE and not “The Law”.
As advice, it is freely given, and respected, but may be ultimately REJECTED.
Their word is not law. It is only an opinion within the group. However one of the problems with groups is how they can become ruled by a minority with the largest voice and the most authority - which is mistakenly thought to be group consensus.
The inherit power of authority should be that it is Right and Wise– not solely that it enjoys a position of seniority, tradition and experience. Surely one of the things freemasonry should teach is to hold true to certain values and reject conflicting and negative movements in the face of adversity – EVEN if this adversity originates with Past Masters! Also one of the problems in my jurisdiction is Past Masters vastly outnumber those who have not yet held the Chair. Furthermore, the suitability of some men in the chair is poor because of low membership. Weak Masters seem more likely to allow a group of petty men arguing petty ideas about petty things – I have seen many such lodges in my jurisdiction ....... God help them. …
I am yet to occupy the Chair – but am (ludicrously?) confident in my lodge that my PM’s will support rather than sabotage my efforts and my Lodge…
The thing all Past Masters all have in common is when they look at a EA, FC and Master Mason, they all proudly proclaim the same thing “there is the future of freemasonry”… Let's not let them stand in the way of their own keen observation..