The mechanism behind the aphorism simply implying that if someone wants to be a mason, they need to ask one. Short, simple, and to the point.
The phrase encompasses the admonition that no Mason will (or can) ask someone to join or become one, because then the decision to join is solemn one—a turning point if you will. From existing in the profane world and a desire to enter into the company of like-minded individuals in pursuit of moral excellence, a theme I explore in the book The Apprentice.
2b1ask1 is a mantra familiar to every mason today. But does it work?
So, to join those in pursuit of that moral excellence, you have to ask for admission.
This website, itself, saying of 2b1ask1, that:
This process is as old as the fraternity itself and ensures that the individual seeking the degrees is doing so of his desire and will.
But is that the right interpretation of the 2 be one—ask one mantra? Should it be used in a way to necessitate those interested in the fraternity too, literally, have to ask to be one?
Or, should 2b1ask1 (alternatively written 2be1ask1 or tobeoneaskone) be interpreted as a slogan illuminating the process of how to become a mason, but NOT a barrier of admission necessitating the potential member to know beforehand.
In writing this, I went looking through a grand lodge constitution, but couldn’t find anything that implicitly said that the only way to become a member was to ask someone who already was one. In a more roundabout way, it implied the prospective member need fill out an application and then undergo the requisite investigation. It was in this process that it seemed to me that 2b1ask1 idea found resonance by ensuring the investigation went smoothly and avoided any hiccups causing the applicant apprentice from failing out of the process or receiving a cube in the vote.
So then, is the probation of having to ASK a Freemason to become a Freemason really a tradition from time immemorial?
Or is it a process to ensure the vetting process of admission be a near guarantee of entry—for a variety of reasons, all of which were mostly positive but to a degree (pardon the pun) the most beneficial to all involved on every level.
With that in mind, is the 2b1ask1 mantra working?
To assume someone would know to ask is a leap. The fact of necessitating it requires the asker knows in the first place their task. This would seem to be a barrier to entry without a large marketing campaign behind it telling prospective members “…Hey, you have to ask to join.” Maybe looked at in another way, it should be said: “Call us, we won’t call you.”
What would be the cumulative net value of flipping the script on this? Rather than necessitating a public who might not know anything about the fraternity to have to ask about it, approach it from the other way and work on a referral basis. Almost like an affiliate or feeder pipeline. You refer a friend, and they refer one, and so on… Yes, this would fly in the face of tradition to an extent, but wouldn’t solve the pipeline issue facing American Masonry today?
If people don’t know about something, they can’t join in. Think about this same concept in other terms.
Would you NOT invite people to come to your church? What about joining another social group you may belong to A club outing, a fantasy football league, a seminar on some social or political issue. Certainly, these are not necessarily on par with joining a Masonic lodge, but they still involve group participation with individuals you trust and hold in esteem.
What is it that Freemasonry demands to morally obligate people to have to ask to be part of?
Imagine how different things would be if the onus of asking was on the other foot.
Imagine how different things would be if instead of relying on others to ask to join, the fraternity instead turned outward and asked those it believed in amity with the ideals to join its ranks.
Maybe the idea of requiring outsides to ask has been the root cause all along for the decline in membership.
What do you think?