When the York Rite candidate has “passed the chair” in the York Rite Degree of Past Master, he experiences a brief ceremony whereby he undergoes the mysteries of a Past Master, and is then termed a Virtual Past Master. [If he has previously served as Worshipful Master in a Blue Lodge, he is generally referred to as a Past WM or as “Worshipful.” He is then an ACTUAL past master. (Albeit his time as WM is “history” and is recognized as a past WM, he has not actually received the CHAPTER Degree of Past Master). When a master mason receives the York Rite Degree of Past Master, he is recognized as a Virtual Past Master. As such, this degree confers no official rank. Once the candidate has “passed the chair”, he is entitled to continue on to receive the degrees thru Royal Arch.
Originally, the Royal Arch degree was conferred under the government of Symbolic Lodges (Blue Lodge) where the Royal Arch degree was always conferred. It was then a regulation that no one could receive the Royal Arch degree unless he had presided in the Blue Lodge as the actual Worshipful Master of a Lodge. With some exceptions, very few MMs of the symbolic lodge could receive the Past Master’s Degree without due petition and follow-up dispensation from the Blue Lodge Grand Master. When control of the Royal Arch degree was taken from the Symbolic Lodges and moved to a the CHAPTER body, the regulation requiring a special dispensation was no longer required from the Blue Lodge Grand Master.
For background purposes, York Rite of Freemasonry consists of four bodies:
a) BLUE LODGE (3 degrees–EA; FC; MM);
b) CHAPTER (4 degrees–Mark Master; Past Master; Most Excellent Master; and Royal Arch);
c) COUNCIL (3 degrees–Royal Master; Select Master; and Super Excellent Master);
d.) COMMANDERY: (3 Orders–Knights Templar: consisting of Illustrious Order of the Red Cross; Order of Malta; and Order of the Temple).
The next opportunity you have as a Companion in York Rite, be especially alert to listen closely and observe the “grip of a PAST MASTER” (as invested by the Right Worshipful Master in the CHAPTER degree). This will be an “eye opener” for both companion sideliners and candidates. An additional factor to recognize: A WM (or Past WM) of the Blue Lodge is still NOT in possession of the “LOST WORD” until he has become a holder of the Royal Arch Degree.
by Samuel A. Tish, KYCH