In the initiation ceremony Masons hear
… a poor candidate… … who has been well
and worthily recommended, regularly proposed
and approved in open Lodge, and now comes
of his own free will and accord, properly
prepared, humbly soliciting to be admitted to
the mysteries and privileges of Freemasonry”
Freemasons use the word “free” in several
ways – Free Mason or Freemason; freeborn,
free and accepted; free will and accord. So
familiar are these words, and so frequently
used, that few questions are ever asked about
“Own free will and accord” is a phrase
that every Freemason knows. It is one of
a number of expressions used in ritual that
is to all intent and purposes universal
throughout the English-speaking Masonic
world. When this phrase is thoughtfully
considered, the immediate questions arise:
—Why is “free will” alone not enough?
—Why “accord” alone is not enough?
—Why does Freemasonry use “free will and
accord” as the necessary phrase by which
an Initiate describes his motive in asking
to become a member?
Reference to a dictionary in use at the time
the ritual was settled in its present form
describes “accord” as “to adjust, unite, to
agree with; a compact; harmony; a union”.
The word “free will” meant
“unconstrained, without care”. Neither of
these explanations is helpful in an attempt to
explain the modern understanding of the
origins and the intentions of the expression.
Modern Masonic usage has put much
more into the words than the early
dictionary explains, or may be intended.
That which is done “of my own accord” is
accomplished with desire. Many acts may be
those of free will, which are accomplished
without desire, even sometimes with
distaste. Thus, faced with the choice of
two evils, man chooses the lesser by his
exercise of free will.
What he does of his own accord is not
influenced by a prospective penalty, but by
a want or desire that includes a hope of some
better state, some happiness – some good to
come from such action.
Dr. Joseph Fort Newton, Baptist
minister and Masonic historian, defined the
difference most happily, in answering the
question “Why both free will and accord?”
Free will denotes liberty of choice, self
determination; lack of restraint, while
‘accord’ implies wholeheartedness, free from
inducement or pressure of any kind.
Now, this is where the problem begins.
Let us return to study the phraseology as
it was originally contained in the ritual, as
it was settled in its present form. Although
the matter was raised as early as 1723 by
Anderson, it was shortly after the union
of the two Grand Lodges that, in 1815, the
new Book of Constitutions proclaimed to the
world forever the non-sectarian character
of Freemasonry in the Charge “Concerning
God and Religion”.
It provided for Freemasons, wherever
dispersed, to choose of their own free will
and accord their own religion.
At the entrance into the Lodge, the
Master asks the candidate: “Are you a free
man and of the full age of 21 years?” In other
words: are you a responsible adult fit to
make sound judgment about becoming
a Freemason or not? Those who desire to
partake of the mysteries and privileges of
our Order must seek them of their own free
will and accord.
In some Constitutions, the candidate’s
plea for entrance into a Masonic Lodge is
first explained by a quotation from the
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye
shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto
you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and
he that seeketh findeth; and to him that
knocketh it shall be opened.
(Matthew 7: 7-8)
Following the candidate’s entrance into the
Lodge, the Master says:
Do you seriously declare on your honour, that,
unbiased by the improper solicitation of friends
against your own inclination, and uninfluenced
by mercenary or other unworthy motive, you freely
and voluntarily offer yourself a candidate of the
mysteries and privileges of Freemasonry?
Such language implies that there is such a
thing as “proper solicitation of friends”.
It is natural to enquire what may be the
distinction between solicitation which
is ‘improper’ and that which is ‘proper’.
Masonic authorities have in the past, and
still do have, differences of opinion on
this matter. It all seems to depend upon
the definition of the word “solicitation”.
But here we have a problem, since the
meaning of the word has changed since the
ritual was settled in its present form. Samuel
Johnson’s 1754 dictionary, published at the
time, defines the word: “solicitation –
importunity, an entreaty.” The word
‘importunity’ was defined as “to tease with
incessant solicitation.” The word ‘entreaty’
meant “to beg earnestly.”
The modern Chamber’s Dictionary uses
less provocative language:
“solicitation: an earnest request; an
invitation.” One can therefore conclude
the “improper solicitation” implies “
with unreasonable force or persuasion.”
If the original definition from 1754 is
accepted, then some authorities will argue
that there can be no such thing as ‘proper
solicitation’. If that is the case, then the
wording in the initiation ceremony that
introduces the candidate as someone who
“now comes of his own free will and accord
humbly soliciting to be admitted to the
mysteries and privileges of Freemasonry”
does not make sense.
We can reasonably conclude that there
is such a thing as ‘proper solicitation’,
something, for example, that might transpire
between father and son. We can – and
should – make responsible representations
to explain to individuals who, by their
membership, would substantially enhance
and enrich the Brotherhood.
May this approach make a favourable
impact on Masons, and may the technique
of proper solicitation be passed on from
generation to generation.
Ray Hollins is the author of A Daily
Advancement in Masonic Knowledge:
100 Short Talks on the Craft.
For further information contact
The Freemason Ltd on 0870 922 0352
‘Of his own free will and accord doesn’t seem to extend to buying a round.’
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