Solicitation A Solution?

by Ronald C. Radatz, MPS

I  just finished reading an article by Brother  Laurence  E.  Kynett  relating the benefits of solicitation or  recruitment  of candidates. I agree that it could be a definite means of building our  membership  someday, but only in the  future  after  certain other steps have been developed.

I  have  been in a variety of lodges and  find,  after  much research, that there is an inherent problem within, at least  the “American Masonic Lodge.” The problem has been stated on numerous occasions and deserves to be stated again. We are putting the man into Masonry and not putting Masonry into the man. Until this  is done,  no  amount  of  solicitation,  social  events,  “charity”, conferences, or what have you, will build our fraternity to  what it could be.

Since coming to Germany about two years ago I have learned a few  things about their system that would be of great benefit  to us.  First, a proposed candidate attends certain functions  of  a lodge  for  approximately  one  year  and  is  observed  by   the constituents before being considered for the degrees. Then, if he is  accepted, the ritual is read to him. I am told the  reasoning for this is the insurance that all candidates receive exactly the same indoctrination. (I have also found, after 8 years here, that the  Germans are absolutely meticulous with explanations.)  After one  has  received a degree he must wait approximately  one  year before  advancement. In addition, he must write an essay on  what he  has  previously learned. This must be done for  each  degree.  Therefore,  the prospective candidate must wait a total of  three years  before becoming a Master Mason. Then, after attaining  all of this, his dues are at least, and in most cases more, double or triple of what our most expensive lodges require.

The surprise about all of this is that most German lodges do not  have financial problems. They also do not have  difficulties in  attendance, retention of membership, or ritual work. Now  the question  arises:  What  is  it that they  do  to  produce  these results?

The  main  difference between the German,  or  any  European lodge for that matter, is that Freemasonry is not just handed out for a small fee and some memorization, which quickly  evaporates.  How many brethren do you know that have come into out lodges  and are still active one or two years later? Why? Because they aren’t given what they are looking for - and that is Freemasonry.

The  majority  of  brothers I have  become  acquainted  with either don’t know anything about Masonry or won’t tell you any of the “secrets.” What I have learned I have searched for. in  about three  years I have acquired approximately 120 volumes and  asked questions  with everyone I meet. The important fact of  acquiring those volumes is not the acquisition itself by the actual reading of each one as well. Without that act of perseverance there would have been no accomplishment. Freemasonry isn’t and can’t be, just handed out.

I  have  listened to Masters of lodges request some  of  the most  ridiculous  anecdotes  to  try,  in  vain,  to  raise   the membership numbers. The fraternity’s problem is not quantity  but quality.  Until that is raised there will be no actual  progress.  The  “modern” Soviet Army is a perfect example. If they  had  the quality  in  their quantity the rest of the world as we  know  it would be Communist within a very short time.

So how do we get this quality if we can’t recruit it when it is  recognized?  First  of  all there  are  ways  of  making  the fraternity known without waving flags and having a marching band.  By  each individual actually putting Masonry into his  life  each day  will  show the profane world what we are. In  all  walks  of life, we all are constantly asked questions that can have answers with bits of our fraternity involved. Haven’t you ever gone to  a sports event and talked about if for some time after? Haven’t you done something that was emotionally uplifting and related it  for weeks on end? Why can’t we do the same thing with our Craft?  The main  reason  is  that  there is very  little  done  that  is  so uplifting.  But  let’s just suppose for a minute  that  that  had happened  - last night when you went to lodge. You don’t have  to expose  the ritual or any of the “secrete.” “When I was at  lodge last night” is usually enough to evoke the question “What lodge?” or  “Are  you a Mason?” Isn’t that an excellent  opportunity?  If that doesn’t evoke “How can I be one?” or “Why haven’t you  asked me to join?”, then maybe they aren’t interested in what you have!

But  maybe you haven’t gotten a chance to answer a  question or carry on a conversation about that special event. Another  way to  approach the subject is simply by letting him know  that  you are  a  Mason  and that if he has any further  questions  on  the subject  you would be happy to answer them for him.  Solicitation to the point of “asking” someone to join the fraternity has  been forbidden,  and for good reason, down through the centuries.  PGM Dwight  L. Smith defined the rule in his “Why This  Confusion  in the Temple?” produced by the Masonic Service Association.  Asking someone  to join would obviously violate our obligation  of  “own free will and accord!”

We can never hope to achieve members by asking them. And, we can  never hope to retain our Freemasonry by just giving it  away as  an  inducement for membership. What we must do is  let  those around us know that we are Freemasons by the normal things we do.  Let  them see Freemasonry in action, as a functional part of  our lives.  Then, and only then, will it not be necessary for  us  to show  our diamond rings and watch fobs as our only obvious  signs that  we  are  Masons. There will always be  the  guys  who  want friends  to  join  the  club  and ask  them  to  do  so,  whether authorized or not. There will always be some who slip through  an examination by the skin of their teeth and drop out later.  There will always be those who are not up to the intelligence standards of  others.  But  there  should  always  be  that  majority  that maintains  the  standards  of the  Craft.  When  those  standards decline it is factual that the fraternity does likewise.

We   cannot   ever  even  consider  the   idea   of   direct solicitation. It is nothing more than a positive direction in the certain  destruction  of our Order. We can, on  the  other  hand, demonstrate  our Masonry on a daily basis before our society  and make them want what we have found. But we can’t do that until  we find  it ourselves. That is the education of putting  Freemasonry into the man and not the opposite.