What is a Divan?
According to Webster’s Dictionary, the word has several meanings, but only one of which applies here: “in Oriental countries, a royal council or council room.” Other sources say it originates from Persian, this term refering to a reception chamber, particularly in a palace or residence. It later came to mean ministry or government office. It can also mean anthology of poems placed in alphabetical order. It is pronounced di-van, with emphasis on the second syllable. (Note: if emphasis is placed on the first syllable, it’s meaning can change to “a large, low couch or sofa”)
In the context of the Shrine, the Divan is the “board of directors” or “executive council” of the organization, and serves as the management team for both fraternal and business activities of the Temple.
Each Shrine Temple has it’s own Divan, and the minimum number of Divan members is set by Imperial by-laws at five, with each of these being elected by the Nobility (membership). Therefore, all Shrine Temples have at least five members on the Divan, but some have seven. For most temples that have more than five members on the Divan, the additional positions are usually appointed by the Potentate. Like most Masonic organizations, the Divan is usually a “progressive” line, which means that one new person is appointed or elected to the line each year, the other members of the Divan move “up” one position, and the top man retires from the line and becomes a Past Potentate. In addition, two more elected officers are considered part of the Divan, namely the Recorder (Secretary) and Treasurer. These two officers, however, are not usually part of the “progressive” line, and may serve in the same office for more than one year (if so elected).
Each position in the line has it’s own title, derived from Arabic tradition, and each has it’s own set of defined duties and responsibilities. Potentates (both past and present) are addressed as “Illustrious Sir”, Imperial Potentates (both past and present) and members of the Imperial Divan are addressed as “Imperial Sir”, while all other Shriners are addressed as “Noble”. Assuming an individual is re-appointed and/or re-elected to the Divan each year, in the time it takes to move up from Outer Guard to Potentate, he will have had exposure to and responsibility for every aspect of Khiva’s operation. In order from top to bottom they are:
Potentate — President or CEO of the organization (elected)
Chief Rabban — elected
Assistant Rabban — elected
High Priest and Prophet — elected
Oriental Guide — elected
Treasurer — elected
Recorder — elected