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The Builder

Graphic courtesy of Stephen McKim
Graphic Courtesy of
Stephen McKim

The Builder was published by the National Masonic Research Society from 1915 - 1930. It stands, nearly a century later, as one of the greatest Masonic publications.

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The Builder February 1915


By Bro. R. Baldwin

P. Prov. G.W. Grand Lodge of New Zealand

[This brief Quarterly Address deals so admirably with a matter so important that it is here reproduced, lest in our zeal for numbers we forget what should always be kept in mind; and thereby bring injury to the Order. A better statement of it could hardly be made.--The Editor]

WORSHIPFUL BRETHREN AND BRETHREN-- The subject which I have chosen for the brief address this evening is that important question of "Soliciting." I am well aware that brethren of high rank are of the opinion that a distinction should be drawn between soliciting and suggestion. This I have no doubt is drawn from reading a small work written by Brother J.S. Lawrence, and distributed by the Provincial Grand Master to the Secretaries of Lodges in the Provincial District of Canterbury, in which the writer states as follows:

"A candidate states at the outset that he has not been subject to the improper solicitation of his friends. Now, it is a well-worn dictum, frequently quoted even by those who are not of us, that no man must be asked to become a Mason. This is a counsel of perfection. The reference to improper solicitation certainly infers a solicitation that is not improper. A solicitation that puts pressure on an unwilling man; that suggested the extension of a business connection; that represented the Order as a benefit society, or as a convivial club, would obviously be improper and need not be referred to.

"But, is it wrong for some experienced brother to suggest to a friend, who is in every way eligible, that his admission to the Order might open up for him an increased or even a new sphere of usefulness; that the avenues of knowledge would be increased; that the friendship he already enjoyed with many Masons would be infinitely more enjoyable, strengthened by the Masonic tie? The applicant has talked of the Order with his Masonic friends, and with whom originated the conversation that has led to the application it is not worth while enquiring. Moreover, might not a distinction be drawn between a solicitation and a suggestion?"

Personally, I consider it dangerous to suggest, because a brother is experienced, that he should be allowed to suggest or solicit his friends to become members of the Order.

Some time ago a well known and expert brother wrote a leaflet which was printed and distributed by the United Board of Enquiry, and in some cases read in Lodges in this district, in which he states: "The desire for membership should in every case emanate from the candidate and never by suggestion from a Mason. The candidate is called upon to declare that he has not been influenced by solicitation. It therefore behooves us to be extremely careful that no man shall ever be placed in the position of having to give a false answer to the first question put to him in a Masonic Lodge." Another well-known writer says: "Freemasonry requires that every applicant should seek the Craft voluntarily, entirely of his own will and accord." Therefore, if there is one tenet of Freemasonry that is known alike by the initiated and the profane, it is that of opposition to soliciting for members. No one should be solicited to become a Freemason. This is a part of the great unwritten law that must not be. Free will and voluntary action on the part of the applicant for the degrees is absolutely necessary. Were this not so the very application itself would bear on its face a falsehood, and the signature thereto would attest a lie. This is as it should be. The object is so pre-eminently a factor in Freemasonry; so much is Freemasonry concerned with the personality; its responsibilities are so individualized, that, although as a whole it is an organization in which the parts are bound together by the most solemn and impressive ties, the work it does is accomplished more through the personal factors of energy and character than combined effort. The unsolicited applicant is taught through signs and symbols, and voluntarily obligates himself to do or not to do certain things.

All this concerns him personally. As he profits by the teachings he becomes a character builder. If he becomes really a Freemason, and not merely a member of the fraternity (for, mark you, there is a vast difference between the two), it is his individuality that works for good. As he lets his light shine, so does he reflect credit upon the institution.

The one absorbs what the other teaches. Then the taught in turn becomes the teacher. Advancement in Freemasonry should be along the same lines as those which led to the acceptance of the applicant.

"What!" do you exclaim. "Should the Freemason become a solicitor for honours ?" Not at all. He came to Freemasonry unsolicited, and Freemasonry received him; he solicited, Freemasonry investigated and, accepting, taught him to become a Freemason. As Freemasonry does not solicit, neither should he as a Freemason solicit, for Freemasonry is but the aggregation of Freemasons. But does Freemasonry never solicit? Yes; Freemasonry solicits of her votaries that they shall be good men and true, and conform their lives upon the moral principles symbolized by the plumb, the level, and the square. She asks that they apportion their time as she has taught them, by the gauge. She solicits that they shall spread the cement of brotherly love, and, with the Great Light in Freemasonry as their guide, build such a spiritual temple as shall make them worthy of all honour.

Once a Freemason, soliciting should forever cease, as no Freemason should solicit a profane, neither should he solicit preferment and honours. By living such a life as would make him worthy of these he will be solicited.

Freemasonry delights to honour her worthy ones. She solicits their services and honours worthy perform.

- Source: The Builder February 1915

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