“Freemasonry and the Challenges of the Media. The Manner in which we Communicate. What we Communicate. Adapting to the New Reality of Electronic Media."
Address of M. W. Bro. Radu _Bălănescu
Grand Master of the National Grand Lodge of Romania
Since its pre-speculative and speculative origins, Freemasonry has always implied socialization, interaction between free men of good report and the sharing of realities of various cultures and traditions. Delimited by the ancient precepts and tenets of regular Freemasonry, the result of all these interactions is the rational awareness of the nearest and most similar otherness and, in the end, of the most different one.
I mentioned the term “rational” because the ancient (and perfectly still valid) charges and obligations of Freemasons oblige the members of our Craft to sound judgment, impartiality, tolerance, mannered temper and open-mindedness. I stressed the difference between close and far otherness, because in any social group the acknowledgment of the individual is made in evolving concentric circles of kindredness, whose diameter has the tendency to cover the entire socio-cultural area of influence of the group. Little by little, the closest groups become larger groups and so on, towards the desideratum of universality.
These are general rules that dene the social mental processes and functions of the individual. the same structural scheme was followed by our operative ancestors, nevertheless on the premises of quite different goals, because the achievement of universal knowledge was a complementary aim, situated above the primary necessities, such as travelling for finding a better job and living a better life. This is why “speculative” was an adequate attribute for defining the ones whose work consisted mostly in activities that satisfy or are related to the needs on higher levels in Maslow’s pyramid. In time, low level necessities, such as security, employment and resources were replaced by “speculative”, philosophical interest. The latter ones are indissolubly related with information and self-actualization.
These were also the interests of the ones who put into practice some of the visions and mystical desires of the people who lived hundreds and thousands of years before us – the desires that can be summarized to the idea of being connected to the entire world. This is how the World Wide Web came into being.
In only one decade of global and accessible use, World Wide Web dramatically changed ancient habits, manners, concepts and traditions that had lasted for centuries. With the addition of social media and, on the other hand, of Global System for Mobile Communications, World Wide Web revolutionized the way the human beings interact between one another and react to social inputs. It also affected the factuality of the social group, which became much more “speculative” (in the same meaning of the word that was used above) and much more unrestrained by physical, geographical, social and cultural boundaries.
As we, the Freemasons, are a group within the larger group of humankind, World Wide Web has also dramatically changed the possibilities of Masonic interactions. In few clicks or touches, you can make the virtual tour of a Masonic Temple that is situated on the other side of the planet, you can speak with Brethren who are farer than you have ever travelled, you can browse more Masonic books than you will ever have time to read in your life, and you can even “attend” live an open Installation Ceremony that takes place on the other hemisphere of Earth.
I am far from being a critic of these facts and I know that these speculative realities are far from coming to an end. I am fully aware that the evolution of communication, development of technology and nanotechnology, as well as the dramatic modification of the way we understand physical boundaries and the definition of the individual will make steps towards an even more spectacular global change. Maybe one day we will attend only virtually the Lodge Ritual Meetings. Why not? Do not forget that nowadays we use on global scale some of the devices that were highly imaginative in the science fiction books of the 50’s.
Is it a sin to think like that or is it a sign of progress? This is the deep level question that some of the Masonic scholars ask themselves nowadays. Of course, on the surface level, the reactions are quite different and produced tones of contemporary Masonic literature that would surely intrigue our forerunners, but which are compulsory, because of the necessity of our Craft to adapt to a new era.
Many Grand Lodges realized that it is necessary to write and to adopt rules and regulations that define the limits of what is acceptable and what is not acceptable to happen within the World Wide Web, of what is regular and what is non-regular, of what is still Masonic and of what steps beyond the limits of our Craft. Some of these constitutions, codes of conduct or guidelines for Masonic websites and Masonic conduct in the World Wide Web are quite lengthy because of the multitude of technical details and rules concerning copyright, intellectual property, web editorial control, disclaimers, privacy policies and especially because of the dynamic and incontrollable information that could be spread through the social media web sites.
It might seem hilarious if I say that the aforementioned rules and regulations are as necessary and important as the 1723 Constitutions were in the time of reverend James Anderson. The Book of Constitutions was the product of the awareness of the jurisprudential necessities of a new era of our Craft.
But if we judge well the reality we live in and the possibilities of incredibly fast development of technology and its consequences, the above statement might not seem so hilarious anymore. The world we live in is changing with astonishing speed. The human being is changing, too. The values, interests and desires of the young ones are more and more distant from the ones we were taught to practice. The meaning of intimacy and individuality gets new connotations, among which there are some that might have bewildered the scholars who lived in the previous centuries. Language becomes more and more schematic and minimalist. The socialization has gained new dimensions and most of these new features or attributes are mostly quantitative.
The center of our union, as James Anderson defined it, is inherently constructed on the basis of quality, of the very humanitarian and moral essence of the human being.
Therefore, our preoccupations concerning this topic should be focused on a more profound issue than the procedures for regulating and controlling the new web Masonic reality. They should be focused on the core essence of the Masonic interaction, of the communication between the members of our Craft and of the inner self of our Craft. Furthermore, we must take into account the possibilities of the future technological development of the civil society, without anchoring ourselves in the past or present. Only in this way we could figure out what will be the meaning of our Order and its place in the future society.
With the hope that you will find in this abstract some useful bases for the panel discussions in this workshop, I thank you for your attention and I wish you very productive works.