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more light #60

Past master On The Shell

by Ed Halpaus
Grand Lodge Education Officer
Grand Lodge of A. F. & A. M. of Minnesota

From the South African Freemason, reprinted in the Canadian Craftsmen, April 1893, and then reprinted in St. George’s Banner of St. George’s Lodge #41 Lodge Kelowna British Columbia in 2003)

Past Master on the Shelf

One of the most lamentable spectacles in Freemasonry is the Brother whose designation heads this article. He is to be found in almost every Lodge. Whilst a neophyte in the Order, his Masonic devotion knew no limits. At every meeting, he was sure to be there and when he received the honours of office his enthusiasm seemed to grow with his advancement. He it was who toiled at the Lodge of Instruction, at least when its programme was ritual only, who was always ready to fill the place of an absentee and to rail at him because he was not on hand, and above all, he was prime mover in every proposition to run another higher degree.

But the time came when he was accorded the highest honour that the Lodge has in its power to bestow, and then came the beginning of the end. At his Installation he made great promises, and doubtless meant to fulfil them, but when he had passed through his year of office, with more or less éclat, and had entered on the "otium cum dignitate" of the I.P.M.'s collar, he began to mysteriously talk of "the burden and heat of the day" and of the necessity of "giving a chance to younger hands" and his place at the left of the Master was often vacant, especially at regular meetings when there was no degree on. And when the I.P.M.'s collar had been transferred to other shoulders, the fall from grace came on apace.

Regular as well as working meetings saw a vacant chair on the dais, and the W.M. was often at a loss when he looked for someone to relieve him of a Charge or a Tracing Board, or help him in point of ruling. "Facilis est descensus Arverni", and soon the Wor. Brother is only on hand when an Installation or Ball gives him the opportunity of showing the crowd his dingy apron. He is for all practical Masonic purposes dead as a doornail, and although he pays his dues with commendable regularity, at least when the Treasurer looks him up, the Lodge forgets him as a factor in ns existence.

Such is the story of many a Masonic fossil, literally "on the shelf' and more is the pity of it all. If Masonry is worth anything at all it is worth cultivating to the end of one's active mental life, and he who drops out of it directly has nor acquired the potentiality of being truly useful, has never properly imbibed its sublime teachings. The P.M. on the shelf is a sorry spectacle and a blot on the Masonic escutcheon. Beware of falling into a similar state of dry rot - rather, be ready, honours or no honours, to do your Masonic duty so long as the Great Architect of the Universe gives you strength to put on an apron or frame a sentence of ritual.

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Last modified: March 22, 2014