The Potential Candidate



The Potential Candidate — Should We Solicit?

By R.W. Bro. Lloyd Hussey District Grand Master G.L. of
Newfoundland (S.C.) - 1991 - 9th Annual Conference Grand
and District Grand Lodges A.F.&A.M. Canada

As Freemasons we are charged to preserve the ancient
usages and established customs of our order, sacred and
inviolable. "Sacred" suggests a sanctity to our usages and
customs; "inviolable" indicates, in the strongest terms, that
they cannot be assaulted, changed or amended.

The question that this paper will examine is whether these
usages and customs permit us to solicit potential and worthy
candidates, and, if we are so permitted, under what
parameters must we be governed.

The Constitution and Laws of the Grand Lodge of Ancient,
Free and Accepted Masons of Scotland appear to be silent
on this matter. The Ritual of Scottish Freemasonry, however,
is not so silent and offers some illuminating guidelines.

All candidates join freemasonry and are admitted to its
mysteries and privileges "by the help of God, being free and
of good report". This statement encompasses within itself the
three essential qualifications that must be met before any
man can become a freemason. We are all here "by the help
of God" and are freemasons because we believe in the
existence of a Supreme Being, a Creator. We are all masons
because the tongue of good report was heard in our favour
when our applications for membership were considered by
our mother lodges. But, we are also masons, "being free",
that is, not subject to the orders or mandates of any person
in our decisions to join freemasonry, nor bullied, nor
blackmailed, nor coerced, nor bribed, not browbeaten, nor
badgered into our decisions, but rather, freely, of our own
free will and accord did we make the decision. In considering
the question, therefore, of whether we may solicit
candidates, we must always bear in mind this absolute and
inviolable guideline, that the candidate's decision to seek
membership must be made of his own free will and accord.
This, I would suggest, is the sole parameter by which we
must be governed. If a potential candidate feels in the
slightest way pressured by approaches made to him, then
the brother or brethren who made the approaches will have
acted unlawfully. If, however, the candidate can truly say,
"This is my decision; freely and voluntarily I offer myself as a
candidate," then those who approached him will have
violated nothing.

Each candidate into freemasonry is asked, in accordance
with our Ritual, whether he comes unbiased by improper
solicitations of friends against his own inclinations. An
affirmative answer indicates the freedom of his choice.
"Improper solicitations" would lead to a candidate seeking
membership against his own free will, for the question to the
candidate includes the term " against your own inclinations".
But, note the term "improper solicitations". The very term
suggests that there can be "proper" solicitations. If not, why
use the adjective "improper" at all? Why not ask, "Do you
come unbiased by solicitations of friends?" I have absolute
confidence in the wisdom of our ancient brethren and believe
that when our ritual was first composed each word was
chosen carefully. The word "improper" was included
because, I believe, it was recognized that there could be
proper solicitations.

If my premise is accepted, it is still necessary to ask why we
should solicit potential members and how that solicitation
should be effected to make it "proper".

In 1962 I accepted a teaching position in Sri Lanka, then
known as Ceylon. Within a few days of our arrival in our new
community high amidst the tea estates, my wife and I
became friends with a couple who had children at the
school. The friendship flourished and we spent many
evenings together. Two or three nights a month, the
husband, Ron, would be absent. In time I discovered that he
was attending lodge meetings. My father was a freemason
and I was interested in joining, but I did not know how to do
so. One evening, two years after our arrival in Ceylon, Ron
indicated that he had been at a masonic meeting the night
before and that a mutual acquaintance of ours had joined the
lodge. Feeling bolder than usual I asked, "What's so special
about you masons? What does a person have to do to join?
Why haven't you invited me?" Immediately he asked me if I
was really interested in joining and, when I replied
affirmatively, he put his hand into his pocket, extracted an
application form and gave it to me. He had carried it in his
pocket daily for a year and a half waiting for me to make the
first move! A few months later, twenty-five years ago this
year, I was initiated into freemasonry in my mother lodge,
Dimbula Lodge 298, Irish Constitution, sponsored by my
friend, Very Worshipful Brother Ron Harrison, Honorary
Grand Director of Ceremonies, Grand Lodge of Ireland. But,
if the devil had not been in me that evening and had I not
questioned Brother Harrison as I did, I might never have
become a freemason. His masonic upbringing, as was mine,
and as was that of so many masons, taught that candidates
had to make the first move. We seemed to have the
conviction that if a potential candidate did not approach us
first he was not a worthy candidate. The term "unbiased by
improper solicitations of friends" was interpreted as if the
adjective "improper" was omitted so that no solicitations
could be made or as if "improper" meant "any" solicitations.
How many potentially excellent masons have we lost to the
Craft over the centuries because of this interpretation? Are
we doing freemasonry a service if we persist in this
approach? Since we all join freemasonry because of a
general desire for knowledge and a sincere wish to render
ourselves more extensively serviceable to our fellow beings,
are we not being particularly selfish and elitist if we deprive
others of this most desirable goal? Are we not being
unfeeling and unsympathetic to men whom we consider
worthy of being good masons if we fail to show them how to
become freemasons? The answers to all these questions
indicate the first and most important reason why we should
be prepared to solicit candidates. In short, we owe it to the
Craft and to our fellow beings.

The second reason why we should solicit potential
candidates, or at least be more open in our approaches, is to
educate.

Imagine the following. A certain lodge had not attracted any
new members for many years. The brethren, fearful for the
future of the lodge, decided, after some debate, to approach
a Public Relations firm. A young, eager executive met with
the brethren and received from them as much information as
they could disclose. In due course, the following
advertisement appeared in the local newspaper.

Can You Keep A Secret?
Are you financially secure?
Do you own or would you like to own a tuxedo?
Would you like to mix once a month with distinguished local
citizens?
If you can answer "Yes" to all these questions, then
Lodge X has vacancies for six new members.
NOTE: Membership is not guaranteed. Atheists and women
need not apply.

This story, of course, is fictitious. But, there is no statement
in the advertisement that is blatantly false about
freemasonry. It does sum up how some perceive us. We are
viewed by them as a chauvinistic group of rich, religious
elitists who belong to a secret society. Unfavourable press
reports at different periods of history have not added to our
image. How many potential candidates do we lose because
of the impression they have of the Craft? If we can identify
individuals who might make good masons, then by
approaching them properly we can rectify any false
impressions they might have.

Initiates into freemasonry are asked if they are prompted to
seek the privileges of ancient Freemasonry "from a
favourable opinion, preconceived, of the institution". How
can any potential candidate have a preconceived opinion
that is at all accurate if no-one will speak to him? Why would
he seek membership 'of his own volition if he had no
preconceived opinion? Certainly, many of us joined
freemasonry in this manner, but perhaps we found an
organization that we enjoy more by good fortune than good
judgement. Initiates into lodges under the jurisdiction of the
Grand Lodge of Ireland are not asked if they have a
favourable opinion, preconceived, of the institution. If I had
been asked this question at my initiation, I could not, if I had
been absolutely honest, have answered in the affirmative. I
had no preconceived opinion. I knew nothing bad about
freemasonry, but that does not, of its own, constitute a
favourable opinion. I did not know what freemasonry stood
for, what freemasons believed in, nor what was expected of
me. I had a favourable opinion of the men who I knew were
masons, but they were not the institution. I now know
masons who after joining the Craft, have ceased to be active
members for they have discovered that masonry was not
what they expected and was not for them. They joined
freemasonry with a false preconceived opinion. That should
never have been allowed to happen. Potential candidates,
whether they make the initial move or whether their
membership is solicited, must be given some indication of
what masonry entails, what our philosophy is, what values
we try to live by, and what is expected of a mason. We owe
it to the Craft to ensure that a favourable opinion is
preconceived of the order. We owe it to potential candidates
to educate them, as fully as possible, about freemasonry in
general. Candidates should know what they are joining.

Finally, we must determine how we can properly solicit
potential members. I would suggest that we can do so in two
ways, subliminally and directly.

Traditionally, the only outward visibility, to a community, of
the existence of a masonic lodge has been the lodge
building itself and the annual church parade. We have, for
too long, hidden the light of freemasonry under a bushel.
Yet, we have so much of which to be proud. By our actions,
individually and as an organization, we can help to create a
favourable impression of our Order. By such actions, we can
attract members.

For the last four years, Lodge Mic-Mac has sponsored,
organized and hosted an annual Roast. We have "roasted"
celebrated citizens of the community, three of whom were
not masons. Tickets are sold and are eagerly purchased
since the Masonic Roast has become the social event of the
year. All proceeds are donated to a local charity. Except for
the one year when I was the unfortunate victim of the Roast,
I have had the honour to be the Master of Ceremonies. Each
year, I have introduced the masons present. The first year I
gave a brief synopsis of what freemasonry is, who could
become candidates and how they could apply for
membership. We now have worthy members in our Lodge
who joined because of our visibility through the annual roast.
This is but one example of how we try to become involved in
the community. It is but one example of what can be done by
any lodge. By such subliminal soliciting we have attracted
members. By such actions a favourable opinion has been
received of the excellence of our Order.

Whenever we approach a potential candidate directly, we
must bear in mind that should he eventually seek
membership in a lodge he must do so of his own free will
and accord. Our approach, therefore, must be gentle. If the
approach is clearly rejected at any time then we should not
pursue it. If, however, a spark of interest is shown then we
should offer to discuss masonry, at an appropriate time and
place, so that the potential candidate can be properly
informed. If the interest is maintained, then discussions
should continue, literature could be offered and other
masons introduced. Only when the candidate is ready
should an application form be offered. Let us remember that
we are not salesmen pursuing the hard sell, but freemasons
gauging, on our part, the suitability of the candidate and
permitting him, on his part, to assess whether masonry is for
him.

A person may solicit in many ways. One can solicit by asking
or seeking earnestly, by tempting or enticing. This is not
masonic soliciting. As masons we can only solicit by
enquiring, by offering to share relevant and permissable
information, by praising honestly the virtues of our Order and
by indicating our own faith in the potential of the candidate.
Such gentle soliciting cannot possibly be contrary to the
ancient usages and established customs of our Order for the
final decision will always be the candidate's. If we can enrich
the Craft with worthy men then we can play our part in
securing the future of our great, fraternal organization.