Address of M. W. Bro. Radu _Bălănescu
Grand Master of the National Grand Lodge of Romania
Withal Brotherly Love and Truth, the Masonic altruism, often called Masonic relief, is one of the tenets of a Freemason's profession. The three great tenets of Freemasonry and its four Cardinal Virtues – Temperance, Prudence, Fortitude and Justice – were not created by Freemasonry. These principles are a common denominator of various schools of thought and various spiritual, moral and philosophical systems. Nonetheless, the method and practice of identifying and making use of this common denominator represents indeed a particularity of Freemasonry.
Without being interested in expressing any views on theological and political questions, or state policies, without being interested at all in achieving financial prosperity, and without looking for receiving the thank-worthiness of the profane world for its beneficial social deeds, but, on the contrary, being constantly focused on essential and common spiritual and moral values of humankind, Regular Freemasonry has never expected to get anything in return from the civil society for its charitable acts.
From this point of view, we may say that Freemasonry teaches its members, by means of its rituals and lectures, to practice the real and pure altruism, that implies a giving without the need for getting anything in return. I mention this because in the contemporary philosophy it is generally considered that, if the notion of giving is analyzed profoundly, you get the conclusion that even the most devout or un-materialistic giving comes with a cost or expects a cost in return. Especially in the present era, charity has rather transformed into the trading of a benefit in the name of a benefit, even if the nature of the returned benefit differs from the nature of the given benefit. Nowadays, especially when it is widely broadcasted, charity has been transformed into an act of alms giving or in a means of paying in a different manner for publicity.
On the contrary, Freemasonry has been professing the old and true way of altruism, the one that comes from brotherly love. From the point of view of our teachings, rituals and lectures altruism is the step from the idea of brotherly love towards the brotherly deed, from the ideal concept towards fact.
The moral law of brotherly relief represent some of the foundations on which the character and qualities of every Freemason develop.Masonic altruism must not be conditioned by the other’s appreciation, indebtedness or the prospects of receiving something else in return. Moreover, it must not be limited to helping only the Brethren in desperate need – perpetual support, advice, guidance and friendship are also factual manifestations of the concept of real altruism. Uninterested and unconditioned generosity, open-heartedness, readiness, unselfishness and discretion are the badges of an altruist.
After the comprehension of the concept of altruism comes the question about the ways the Freemasons can involve in the life of community. If the concept is well understood, the practice of altruism in the civil society should be easily and correctly done and without difficulties.
Nevertheless, it should be observed that most of the discussions about practicing Masonic altruism in the profane world refer only to the procedures of Masonic charities. Most of ten, we omit to take into consideration that we should learn how to teach our Brethren to practice real altruism, as well as we omit to consider that our Brother is not only the Freemason, but also the entire Humankind.
One of the roles of our Craft is to build characters – to carve and to mould the character of the men of faith and good morals who want to become better human beings and better citizens. This statement refers to us first, then to the ones who are still in the darkness of the profane world, but who seek admission to our Brotherhood, and, in the end, to all human beings of good report.
Our sacred mission is to bring Light, Truth and Peace to Mankind. One of the examples and teachings we are obliged to offer to the entire humanity is the one of pure altruism. Of course, we should not expect anything in return. We practice virtue not for our glory, but for the glory of Mankind and of the Great Architect of the Universe.