The Responsibilities of the Lodge to the Candidate
By W.Bro. R.H. Barker, Asst. D. of C..
THE RIGHTS, DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE LODGE TOWARDS THE CANDIDATE
My object in choosing this subject for my short lecture is prompted by my observations of the many opportunities which are lost by Lodges in the cultivation of that good fellowship so eagerly sought after by our newly-made brethren and the possibility of disillusionment which may ripen through our neglect, a neglect which will subsequently lead to an inevitable loss of interest in and by whom we have welcomed as a brother in our midst.
In order to confine myself to the subject of my selected title, and only to a limited extension of the time allotted to me, I shall deliberately omit if possible, references to the qualifications of candidates, and thus hope to emphasise to some extent our rights, our duties, and our responsibilities, as I consider they should be expected and practised.
We are entitled to expect that candidates seek our fellowship in, and admittance to our Order, free from the improper solicitations of friends, and prompted only by the most genuine of motives. I am confident that in most cases their preconceived opinions of the institution are favourable, and that each hopes to attain a worthy position in the Craft without detriment to himself or his connections.
Thus assured it is our bounden duty to satisfy ourselves that each prospective candidate is not only qualified in those respects we normally demand but that if admitted he will ultimately fit in as an additional ornament to our well adorned institution. Our failure in this respect can only lead to his disappointment in us, and ours in him. It is therefore our responsibility to assure ourselves that the candidate is fully conversant with our aims and our objects, and appreciates his own duties towards an institution which may confer upon him the great privilege of membership.
In accordance with rule 147 of the Book of Constitutions (N.Z.) every candidate is required to complete a standard declaration prior to his initiation, but the document is usually attached to a book of forms, and signed by proposer, seconder and candidate almost inevitably immediately prior to the ceremony. This declaration, the subject matter of which is largely contained in those three vital questions addressed to him in the W. by the W.M., should be supplied to him, with that important pamphlet issued under the instructions of Grand Lodge on the Aims and Objects of Freemasonry, some time prior to his initiation. I emphasise this point as I consider it essential that the Candidate should become conversant with some of the necessary qualifications and requirements, and by studying them at his leisure, not in the hurry and flurry of the evening of his initiation. The study of the contents of these two papers may have an important bearing on the approach of an applicant for admission and he should be reasonably prepared for the answers to the questions he will be asked.
The study of the various forms of declaration referred to above, relating to various countries, makes very interesting reading, and as time will not permit me to quote them in full, I can only recommend them to your perusal. Preston’s Illustrations, first published in 1772, indicate to us that the laws of Masonry provide for certain essential qualifications in an individual, and these include those clauses provided in our present day declaration. We in the New Zealand Constitution have added clauses which ask the applicant to acknowledge belief in the Supreme Being, to express a sincere wish to be serviceable to his fellow creatures, and to state that he is possessed of sufficient means. It is then of great interest to know that we continue today the practice of those early days, and so closely, of assisting the candidate in his internal preparation.
To what extent our investigations may go, or our, assistance may be rendered in, the internal preparation of the candidate, must rest with our opinions of the candidate, and the customs of the individual Lodge or Constitution, I doubt whether we should countenance the extreme practices of some continental countries, where the candidate is brought to the place of initiation, and inundated with questions, no doubt, many of which he cannot answer without due consideration, and he is left alone locked in a room, sometimes darkened, in silent meditation. Tolstoy's novel, “War and Peace," gives a fine impression of the inquisition the candidate suffered, in the year 1805, prior to his initiation.
Our knowledge that the candidate is now aware of, and can subscribe to, our requirements is one more step towards the anxious consideration we must give to his approach. His mind must be relieved of those deplorable thoughts fostered by those unthinking brethren in relation to "goats" and other similar foolishness, and made the receptive organ for those teachings which most of us learned to cherish. We must be satisfied that he is in a position to derive the greatest satisfaction from our particular Lodge in that he has established friends there who will introduce him personally to many members.
His place of residence should be sufficiently convenient as to assure his regular attendance, and if his motives for joining are not strong they will at least be such that our Masonic Art will ripen them by careful cultivation.
The night of initiation must loom large both to the candidate and the Lodge. To the candidate in that he is about to achieve an ambition, long cherished, to become a member of an institution for which, over those intense enquiry months, we have awakened still more his desire. To the Lodge in that it should realise that it is receiving into its midst one more whose mind is as plastic as wax, and who is ready for the thorough and prompt reception of whatever impression may be applied. It is our duty then to ensure that the effect to be produced on the candidate by the decency, order and reverence in the Lodge Room and its precincts, is not outdone elsewhere by undue levity and impropriety.
He should be escorted to the anteroom of the Lodge quietly by his proposer and seconder and introduced to the officers of the Lodge whom he may not know, and a limited number of other members as considered desirable, in order that these increased acquaintances may help to promote his confidence. These members should offer him kindly words of advice and encouragement, His external preparation may then proceed, but only with the greatest dignity, and perhaps with a few preliminary words of explanation. It might well be that the proposer, or seconder remain with him until his entry into the Lodge room.
I do not favour the practice of relieving the candidate of his initiation fees and subscription on the night of initiation, the haste so often necessary appearing somewhat mercenary. The Book of Constitution provides for payment of certain fees prior to initiation but in my opinion this necessary formality might better be performed with greater dignity, and some detailed explanation, by the Secretary and the sponsors at us place of residence, or business, some day prior to initiation. It could be provided that the proposer may pay fees when the ballot is declared clear.
As first impressions may be the most lasting, let us strive to impress our candidate to the utmost in his initiation ceremony. To this end the Lodge must be careful in the selection of its officers. They must select men able to render a capable performance of our ritual, well versed in their respective duties, and .the Deacons especially able to inspire confidence in the candidate. The Preceptor, well aware of, and appreciating the importance of the occasion, must be satisfied that the officers are well rehearsed. The members should know the ceremony is for them as well as the candidate, and must conduct themselves with the utmost decorum during the progress of the ceremony. The Master should ensure that the "General Business" of the Lodge is conducted with the utmost expedition, in order that the ceremonial work may be commenced with the minimum of delay. The Lodge should remember that a nervous candidate must suffer greater nervousness as time proceeds, and any action taken to reduce that time must add relief to the candidate.
The presentation of the addresses must be descriptive, impressive and dignified. No charge in out ritual is more explanatory of a degree, or of one of the essential objects of the fraternity, than the address in the N.E. - yet this magnificent charge, oftentimes so ably rendered, also becomes an embarrassment to the candidate and the Lodge, when that strange custom, now rarely seen, and frowned upon by our ritual, is practised of making a general collection amongst the members while the candidate is left to himself, a forlorn figure in the open floor, alone with his thoughts, and perhaps with feelings of great confusion. The reasons for preparation should be explained in a way which will illustrate the symbolism of the degree, and the W.T. to draw the distinction between operative and speculative masonry, and the morals contained in our philosophy. Then finally the Ancient Charge should amply demonstrate to the candidate the requirements of our institution in regard to his attitude to God, his neighbour and himself, and to his responsibilities in citizenship, and to the Craft of which he has been made a member.
Yet even though the reproduction of the ritual work has been performed in exemplary manner, that reproduction may lose its effect by the undue haste with which some Lodges carry out their ceremonial work. If it were defined in the Constitutions that refectory proceedings could not commence before 10 p.m., then I am sure that the tempo of the work would always be kept at such a pace that the dignity of the work would be greatly enhanced, the W.M. would not need to apologise to the Candidate for the postponement of the address on the T.B. and the candidate would witness the closing ceremony.
If I have spent much of my limited time on matters dealing with the preparation of the candidate, and the ceremonial work of the First Degree, I have done so deliberately. I think it is our essential duty to impress on our candidate our objects, and when he is satisfied with us, and we with him, we must perform our ceremonial work in a manner, and extend to him a welcome, which will be remembered by him and keep him in Freemasonry. I recall so well the good impression I gained of the fraternity by the general work, and of the welcome extended to me at the close of the Lodge, by not only my former friends, but also by many new acquaintances, now brothers, who greeted my completion of the ceremony. Those congratulatory approaches and general greetings did much to convince me that my original conception of the institution was founded upon solid structure.
The refectory proceedings can do so much more to influence the candidate. The toast list should be such that the speakers selected may add to the instruction of the candidate, who might well be warned of the necessity to reply to one in his honour, if this is customary.
Visiting Masters, aware of an initiation ceremony, should be prepared to add their words of advice and instruction. Items should be selected to provide only the essence of fine entertainment, And finally his sponsors should conduct him home at a dignified hour, leaving behind an atmosphere of friendly brotherhood. The other degrees, each with its own important lessons, must be conducted with the same decorum and with the same necessity to create impression, and even through these essential objects may be gained, that enlightenment of the First Degree so gladly accepted by the candidate must be maintained as a vital necessity to retain his interest. Let us not hasten the completion of the other degrees, but in between we may have time to assimilate our new member, and educate him into the essential fundamentals of our institution.
The duties and responsibilities of the sponsors, and for all other members, are never ending. In between degrees, and should be instructing the candidate in explanation of what has gone before; assisting him in the answers to questions to be directed at him, and in meeting and associating with other members. The matter of seeing that the candidate receives proper instruction is thus not the responsibility of the Master alone. The proposer and seconder must assist. They having sponsored him have accepted a sacred trust. A well informed Mason is a better Mason, and better Masons make better Lodges.
The practice of handing a candidate a copy of the Ritual of the Degree through which he has just passed, though little in evidence, has much to commend it if the volumes are wellexplained. The attendance at Lodge of Instruction to witness appropriate ceremonies, if permissible should not be encouraged.
Having achieved that great ambition of being raised to the lime degree of M.M.. the candidate is informed that he is a full member of the Lodge, a fully fledged Mason. He might well be told of the existence and objects of Lodges of Research, and informed that he may be eligible for membership and advised to join. Frequently, however, he is cast on one side with all other Master Masons to fend for himself. Until this stage he has been an important member - one for whom the Master and Officers have exerted their so called toil - one to whom the Past Masters have delivered their ritual addresses - one who has been the centre of our ceremonial work.
This is the vital stage in his career, and it is our responsibility to see that his interest is retained. On the evening of the Third Degree he is delivered an exhortation describing in retrospect his advance so far. On the completion of that ceremony we should encourage him to stay his progress meantime, and teach him to meditate on what he has passed through.
If we have done our duty by him and assume our responsibilities of the future, only then may we expect him to discharge his duties and responsibilities to us with fervency
Food For Thought
SOURCE: UML Vol 09 No 3 Page 37