M. W. Bro. Radu _Bălănescu
Grand Master of the National Grand Lodge of Romania
Distinguished and beloved Brethren, the 13th World Conference of Regular Masonic Grand Lodges was marked by an ample program of panel discussions (Workshops), which gave the opportunity to the participants to acknowledge the Masonic realities, challenges and projects from around the world and to involve themselves in the common endeavors that our Craft undertakes for the benefit of Mankind. At the end of the panel discussions, the main goals of these Workshops proved to be effective; by the share of Masonic experience, common interests and prospections, the participants concluded upon the matters of general interest of Universal Regular Freemasonry and have identified the common guidelines for the general interest of Universal Regular Freemasonry.
“Dealing with the Society” has been the main and general theme of the 13th World Conference of Regular Masonic Grand Lodges. What determined the National Grand Lodge of Romania to choose this theme? A brief answer would be: the socio-cultural reference points, the values and intellectual interests of the contemporary society are dramatically and rapidly changing. Meanwhile, the Landmarks, values and Principles of Freemasonry are immovable and inalterable, its rituals too.
The globalization, the communications, the informational “highways” which cross the world from one pole to the other, the stunning succession of economic crises – which tend to take the place of the military crises of the last centuries –, the ample peoples’ circulation in a world in which distances can be travelled faster and faster – all of these remodel the contemporary world with incredibly fast speed and towards a unique scale in human history.
We should be aware of the difficulties that we, as carvers in spirit, are going to be confronted with. The poles of influence of the contemporary world have dramatically changed. Nowadays, the quantity and the diversity of information are considered extremely important. Consequently, the values and non-values have mixed altogether, in an indistinct melange. The human being of the 21st century does not have enough time to cement the achieved knowledge and to judge, define and focus on the personal progress from a qualitative point of view. The mental development is not focused on spirituality or morality, but on multitasking and competitiveness. Subsequently, the ego has grown stronger, in the detriment of the spirit. The focus on individuality in an egocentric manner, not in an introspective process, the dramatic re-conceptualization of social interaction, the shift of the concepts of individuality and intimacy, the cult for the own competitive opinions, and the race against time has generated isolation. Even if they are continuously interconnected through contemporary means of communication, humans have become a multitude of isolated cells that interact only from an operational point of view.
Therefore, “Dealing with the Society” is not an auxiliary work of the Craft. We are convinced that we have solid reasons to consider it a first rank priority, especially under these circumstances. Every Grand Lodge lives its Masonic life under the observance of the Temple, according to required prudence that is necessary to an authentic spiritual evolution. Nonetheless, the Craft has never been indifferent to what is happening beyond the gates of the Temple. e famous Masons we evoke in our international meetings were people who changed and influenced history. Furthermore, great figures like Voltaire, Mozart or Kipling put their prestigious stamp on the cultural patterns of their times.
Freemasonry has a huge potential for satisfying the spiritual needs and interests of the men who are interested in self-developing, especially because it possesses an experience of almost three hundred years in providing a well structured and attractively multilayered system of affiliation and self-improvement, which bears both esoteric and exoteric connotations. Freemasonry can really fulfill the human necessity to belong to a group (the need of affiliation), the need of social and cultural identity, the desire of humans to enrich the value of their lives and routines, the necessity of good, wise and constructive advice and guidance, the interest in achieving knowledge and life experience and the aspiration of spiritual self-improvement, in the most comprehensive meaning of the term.
This is the potential that we have. But what can we do and what should we do in practice? Which is the best method, the best way and the best strategy to interact with the civil society? What can we do and what should we do for the development of the civil society? Should we try to change the society or should we try to change ourselves, so that we could be more useful to the world we live in? These are the questions that the panel discussions tried to answer to.
One of the general conclusions of the Workshops, which is a general conclusion of the entire Regular Freemasonry, is that our ancient and most honorable Craft, implicitly our guiding values and tenets, cannot change and should never change. We can be real useful for the socio-cultural development of the society we live in, without mattering the time we live in, because our universality is not only geographical, but also temporal. We can especially because we have the necessary standards, the essential and unalterable values and this is the profession of every Freemason. This is our inherent and inextricable duty.
Nonetheless, a way to a wider acceptance of Masonic ideas by the contemporary society can be more easily accomplished if the Freemasons address to actual, cultural and social problems, by putting in practice the Masonic teachings and principles. Our interest must not remain unchained in the past of our order or of humanity. We must contribute to the progress of the contemporary man. We must learn from the past and respect our forerunners, but our interests must be related to the present time.
Freemasonry, as an institution, does not express its views on political, social, religious or economic affairs. It is neither a lobby group. This is an unalterable Principle of Regularity. Nevertheless, in their capacity of loyal citizens and not of Freemasons, bearing in mind the values, virtues and teachings of Freemasonry, the members of our Order can and must contribute to the social discussion, to the discourse of values, to questions of the time being and thus to improve the civil society.
The individual Freemason, inspired by the principles of our Craft, must practice the Masonic knowledge in the everyday life and he must be a role model of equilibrium, harmony and tolerance to the entire society. In this way, Freemasonry, understood as a sum of spiritual and moral values, will be a way of life. In this way, Freemasonry will exist and bestow its beneficial effects on mankind as long as the humanity will exist.
Freemasonry deals with the development of the individual and this is our aim: we work in order to offer our members the ethical tools to become better persons. is is the reason why each Grand Lodge has to be focused on the quality of its membership, not on its quantity.
Freemasons have a commitment to the civil society, which is a commitment to our conscience. Our every word and deed must be a reflection of our conscience and of the ethical principles of our Craft.
We have the duty to continue to generate respectable values and to endlessly valorize the principles of Freemasonry in our Lodge Workings, as well as in reflecting the Light that we have received in Lodge into the profane world, in accordance with the rules of Regular Freemasonry and of every particular Grand Lodge. Our workings must be fruitful, they must produce noticeable results. Not only inside the Lodge, but also outside it, in the civil society, where we have the duty to act as role models.
How can we improve the acceptance of our Craft by the public society and how can we enrich the understanding of our role and principles by the public society? In the last ten years, the civil society has become much more interested in the Masonic topics that are focused on ethical and humanistic issues as a positive consequence of the concretization of a strategy of communication of a growing number of Grand Lodges and because of the better and better results of the conferences on Masonic topics that are open to the public. Masonic institutions or Lodges of research that organize public conferences or closed conferences targeted on our relation with the public have a major contribution to the enhancement of our public image, which has lately ameliorated, proportionally with the enhancement of the public relations strategy of many Grand Lodges.
It is perfectly obvious that the electronic communication and information dene the 21st century and that Freemasonry must use to its advantage. World Wide Web has dramatically changed the possibilities of Masonic interactions, but it also generated many detriments – the initiatic intimacy of our rituals has been irremediably lost, the information spread through internet is incontrollable and, because the sensational facts are much more tasted than documented facts and studies, on the web you can find an immense amount of unrealistic and false data about our Order, with a wider circulation than the scientific researches. Nevertheless, we should try to make use of the positive and useful part and transform the potential disadvantages into our practical advantages. Nevertheless, this cannot be done without a good and common strategy of communication with the public. But first of all, we must communicate between us, identify our common goals and interests and work together, united in harmony, as one universal team.
Freemasonry must improve its dialogue with the society and must identify the most correct, adequate and productive means of communication. Freemasonry must build a strong and convincing message based on our fundamental and moral principles – unity, harmony, tolerance, truth, justice, righteousness, fraternal love, altruism, loyalty, patriotism.
If this invaluable principles and incontestable truths can be acknowledged and practiced by the entire humankind, we would live in a better world, without gender antagonism, without socio-cultural conflicts and without racist hostilities.
Therefore, the Freemasons have a duty towards mankind – that of spreading these invaluable principles and incontestable truths, their meaning and their beneficial effects outside the Masonic Temple, within the vast diversity of different, but equal human beings.