Immediate Past Grand Master, Grande Oriente d’Italia;
Honorary Grand Master ad vitam, National Grand Lodge of Romania;
Honorary Director, MASONIC FORUM Magazine
This is, in fact, my last opportunity to share with you all as the Grand Master. Therefore, I hope that my speech spreads a charge of optimism, positivity, dynamism, openness and transparency which, I hope, I have helped to consolidate within our Institution during the years as Grand Master.
I wish that my last consideration embraces all the good that has been done and presents it at least in summary. However, one speech cannot contain everything and words alone cannot convey everything I want. I hope that the memory of facts speaks for what the words cannot say.
We cannot resign ourselves to live passively in a historical reality that strongly requires our contribution that we – and perhaps we are the only ones – can give to Italy. We cannot condemn ourselves to be complicit in a logic of metallic superficiality, or to be unwitting actors thrown into a situation where the only shared value seems to be related to the spread between Italian Treasury Bills and German Bunds, while other forms of spread are growing out of proportion, which are unfortunately far more problematic: differences in culture, well-being, and access to knowledge.
We cannot share, with our inertia, a vision which excludes completely the human dimension that escapes the senses, i.e. the dimension of our esoteric research. We cannot share a world that is not designed by a Great Architect according to a perspective and teleological order, i.e. an end, a project of freedom and happiness to build.
The deep values in our hearts – as well as the idea of the human being, which according to Kant is understood as the end of history and not as its mere instrument, the same values that we insist to keep in our mind – do not allow us to sit back and do nothing. This is asked to us by our history and our past. The contribution given by Freemasonry to the Italian society is, in fact, so deeply rooted in the best parts of the history of our country that our identity is imposing us to act.
Our values must be clear; our contribution must always appear equally transparent. It is of no use to the human assembly, and it would be of very little use even for each of us, if we conceived Masonic life as contained in self-referential circuits, which speak only to themselves.
The world is changing at a speed which was totally unimaginable a few years ago. This “liquid” world – as Zygmunt Baumann used to define it – is radically transforming all “rigid” structures deposited by the sea of the past on the shores of the present. Just look back inside the walls that separate Italy from the Vatican to realize that something is changing. We observe with interest and respect how this Pope is accelerating the time of epoch-making changes within the horizon of systems that are traditionally reluctant to accept the ferment of innovation. His influence is reflected and reverberates far beyond the borders of vestries.
But it’s also up to us! It’s up to us to sail through this liquid reality. It is also up to us to deal with the changing contemporary world, with the claim, which is never betrayed, that we are always contemporary of posterity. Will we be able to carry the work of our lodges through this liquid time? This art, but also a vision of the world, has been entrusted to each of us by Freemasonry.
We can be optimistic. Very optimistic! Because the future of man is first of all built by human hands. The construction of our future will be what we, Freemasons, have built in our freedom, stone by stone. Can we lack confidence in ourselves? Can we possibly not give us hope?
The only time that really belongs to us is, in fact, the future. Giordano Bruno wrote this, and that truth has not been stopped by the prison in Castel Sant’Angelo, because thinking is like an eagle in the wind.
So, we can do one thing, and one only. We must stop complaining of difficulties, stop looking angrily to the obstacles that are in front of us, stop doubting of ourselves. Setting sail and navigating with confidence to the future, whatever it brings, is what our identity as Italians and Freemasons calls us to do.
Fifteen years have passed; fifteen years of difficulty, in which we have tried to disrupt an old way of thinking about Freemasonry, which is not ancient and traditional, but a way of thinking that has completely escaped the showdown in history. A kind of Freemasonry that is incapable of being an ethical Agency, unfit to grasp the ferment from civil society, and inadequate and lacking in conceptual means to compete with the young people and their instances, appeared as a superfluous entity doomed to an unstoppable decline, as if it were a beautiful Egyptian mummy, probably very exotic and perhaps even esoteric, but substantially incapable of opening to the future. The history of Freemasonry, however, is based on the ability to promote research, first individual, spiritual, and knowledge research, to compete with the harshest climate in the light of a continued thinking on the content of things. Then, it is not up to us to give clear answers or supplant the role of political parties, or associations, or churches. We have another task, which is quite different and special, which is to promote dialogue and critical thinking, to defend and spread a model of free and open society, able to pass beyond the veil of Maya, rejecting conformism, also and especially mental conformism. Saying that these have been years of rediscovered Masonic pride perhaps seems too much, but certainly we wanted to give thousands of our brethren the full sense of belonging, which we can be publicly proud of, totally rejecting the image of a petty confraternity devoted to handling metals, made of little men busy in small business, a reject of other social organisations. Freemasonry, indeed, is not a clearing house and a coterie, but a real and ideal Temple where free Men search for shared truths through dialogue.
The road was certainly long and full of difficulties, resistances, and errors. But “Those who do nothing, make no mistakes”! If we had not tried to open windows and doors that had been kept closed for years, to remove cobwebs and open chains and latches, today we would be not only next to no one, but we would have kept or – even worse – attracted only a civil and moral rearguard of our country, while instead a new generation of young or even very young men is looking for opportunities of free exchange, free analysis and discussion in Masonic Temples. They seek – and hopefully find – a more exciting context than the country normally offers.
Was it the spring of Freemasonry? Historians will draw conclusions of our present and our recent past. Surely we have not been sitting on our hands; we have not repeated ancient procedures; we have not settled for second-best. Our institution was previously regarded as unworthy of citizenship, distrusted and kept at a safe distance, whereas it is now, without fear of contradiction, one the liveliest and most transparent and active entities in Italy. The history of Freemasonry thinking and institutions has become again a serious subject of academic debate. Universities organise seminars and conferences on Masonic themes, and books on these topics are included in the catalogues of extremely prestigious publishers; and Masonic thinking is not only found on bulletins of esoteric cliques or in shoddy journalism.
The most important Authorities of national institutions, the representatives of the Italian State, the highest offices of the European Parliament and the European Union have honoured us with their consideration and invited us to participate in meetings of international importance. While it is true that for some of us – less and less, fortunately – a medal or an embellishment is worth more than this, we have turned the corner and put emphasis on other contents and so on very different priorities, opening the way to further, new and unexpected interlocutors.
The journey has been long and certainly remains bitter for so many things that should have been and could have been accomplished, but we are comforted by the fact that the new organisation given to the life of Italian Freemasonry consolidates a renewed image of a transparent protagonist of social life, as a circuit that does not fear dialogue and discussion, as an instrument of civilization and defence of the most important values in the Italian Constitution and the Declaration of Human Rights. This passage must not be taken for granted and has opened up perspectives of enormous responsibility. Being an ethical agency and a moral point of reference charges the Grande Oriente d’Italia with responsibilities it was used to only in the heroic periods when our Nation-State was formed. We have gone back to the glorious days and so, paradoxically, to innovate we had to take up the habits of healthiest and most prestigious tradition. You see: tradition and innovation are often just words. Sometimes, to innovate we keep what was already there. On the contrary, we intended to refer to the best past time, to real splendour, and we jumped into the vortex of modernity. In the future, we will draw the necessary conclusions, but certainly those who arrive – and I extend my affectionate greetings to the new Grand Master, dear Brother Stefano Bisi – find today a healthy environment and a wide and varied social body, which is without a doubt more capable, at least in its main core, to meet the challenges we have undertaken and can no longer avoid. These challenges – we repeat – are all rooted in the ethical dimension of civil commitment. We have been able to open the doors of the Temple to the richness of the content and ethical responsibility, and we were not alone anymore, even if our work is just beginning, and we have to climb many other steps in order to consolidate what has been achieved. But the direction to follow is clear: secularism, transparency, solidarity, spirituality, and freedom of thought and research.
Let me return once again on a theme that I have repeated on several occasions. We worry so much about education and research, cultural heritage, in short about tangible and intangible cultural heritage of which we speak, unfortunately, very little, because we want to see Italy in a perspective of sustainable growth, where economic development does not coincide with unequal wealth of the few over the many, with a collective numbness made of spiritual mortification, which is the prelude to a factory of subjects resigned to decline who are not able to exercise critical thinking skills and self-criticism. A healthy outlook is based instead on a careful construction of values, which helps individuals to rediscover their being citizens and at the same time allows maturing the Nation and European identity with it.
Although Freemasonry of the Grande Oriente d’Italia is a masculine institution, we cannot fail to note the puzzling phenomenon of dramatic increase of violence against women every day. At the same time, we have a duty, as we are men, to emphasize that the action of prevention, education, and maturation should be done especially on boys and men, especially those educated in a western Latin sexual conceit context, who believe they are authorised to exercise their rights of supremacy, sometimes to death. This even more disturbing phenomenon has deep, larger, and bloodier roots in the Third World fundamentalism. Our idea of Freemasonry is also this, i.e. an educational community that looks to the real problems and considers the central role of women as a part of esoteric training, in order to safeguard the dignity and legality against the growing barbaric phenomena to which we are opposed.
As you can see, rooted in apparently ancient forms, anchored to a tradition that has existed for almost three centuries, Freemasons still have their say, because they have rediscovered the sense of an ancient colour that from time to time becomes a new colour of the future.
The tree of our tradition certainly has very strong roots, planted in the ground of a past that I hope I have helped to make known to most people during the years I have been Grand Master. The trunk of our Masonic adventure radiates in the present, here, alive even now in all of us as we are united by an ideal bond of brotherhood.
In a sense, I am leaving the trunk to go back to the roots. But it’s up to you, indeed, all of us together, to ensure that this tree is able to project itself with its youngest leaves in the sky of the future to create space for new light and bring abundant fruits for a society that wants truth and more serene perspectives.