CLAUDIU IONESCU, 33
Sovereign Grand Commander of the Supreme Council of AASR of Romania
To begin with, Most Puissant and Illustrious Sovereign Grand Commander, please tell us what your Masonic Creed is.
You need to believe in something, in someone… The masonic creed is revealed for each of us in the symbolic lodge, starting from the master mason degree. We do not respect arithmetic in Freemasonry – the 4th degree from a perfection rite has no greater importance than the 3rd degree conferred by a symbolic lodge. Conversely, neither the 3rd degree is more important than the 4th degree from a perfection rite, because the initiatic steps are a reality.
I remember a joke: when the production of a new automobile had begun in Romania, it was said that, out of Romanian bumptiousness, “all four seats will be in the front”. But at the same time, there was only one man behind the wheel. You see, in the AASR in Romania, not every seat is a front one, but everyone knows that, in time and with active participation, they can get to sit in the front. The rite promotes the elite and promotes its elite. The Sovereign Grand Commander of the Supreme Council of the 33rd and Last Degree of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Romania assumes the leadership, administration, justice, diplomacy and masonic policy of the Rite.
After almost 50 years of absence from social life when Freemasonry was banned in Romania, Freemasonry has acquired a hyper-occult, dark, even somber image for many. It is even considered by some to be a secret, parastatal organization, without borders, involved in the organization and leadership of the world from the shadows for its own benefit. Thus, some saw the Scottish Rite as an opportunity to enter into a party that is perpetually in power, which, with immediate effect, could make you at least a cabinet minister. Others have entertained and sold, quite literally, this illusion. We part ways with them. They will no longer be able to do this. Do you remember that announcement we used to hear in train stations: „people accompanying travelers are asked to get off the train”? We have started making this announcement with regards our Rite.
We say that Masonry takes a good man and makes him better. But there is no unit of measurement for our goodness. There is no machine to quantify something so subjective: how good we were when we entered Freemasonry and how good we have become after a given time: a month, a year, ten years, a life time… I sometimes use a parable that’s sprung from a fact of life: some years back, the wife of a friend of mine became a bigot. She would quickly come from the school where she was a teacher, put the scarf on her head and go to church. She stayed there, as people say, „until God forgot about her”. She did this daily, neglecting, however, her child, her husband, her home, which, deprived of her presence in the family, went haywire. I asked her, in this context, „what does the God you worship teach you”? She answered: what do you mean that God I worship? I said: the one with whom you communicate for so long and so often. She answered that God taught her to be better. Stop: begin with your family, I replied. Be better to your child, to your husband, to your home. You cannot just be better in words, in the air, like radio waves in the ether! You have to be concretely good in everyday life through deeds. After we’re gone, maybe our names will not endure as we sometimes have the pride to believe, but our good deeds can.
I believe that being a mason means not only to attend, mechanically, the lodge meetings. After attending a few, you begin to observe that in the first minute someone knocks with a gavel, that another one passes with a candle, yet another one asks what time it is and that the answer does not have to do with the clock. This happens five, six, ten times. This is how you learn what happens during a ritual by heart and that is no bad thing. But when you get to tell yourself, basing your claims on this alone, “Oh, Lord, how do much I know about Freemasonry?” that can be bad. Then you also come home after the lodge meeting demanding that the entire family walks on tiptoe because “dad is tired after leading the destiny of mankind for yet another evening”! Without our becoming aware, without any ill intentions, we can in fact merely become professionals mechanically as participants in lodge meetings instead of becoming better human beings. Therefore, we do not improve. We simply become mere professional participants in masonic meetings, and that is not enough. The ritual is the way in which we communicate among ourselves and it transmits to us, subtly, that the masonic meeting must be lived by each participant within himself, in the silent self. And the Silence…, the Silence is what unites us. Listen, every now and then, to the silence… Listening to the silence in the temple, this is our force…
A few months back, the sole owner of the film recordings of the National Sessions at the Odeon, a former mason, out of a desire to harm us, to separate the profane world from us, posted a part of these recordings on the internet. Some panicked, because they may have been recognized this way as members of the Rite and… they suggested to me that it would be good to start legal procedures against Youtube, to have the films removed. Things however turned around in our favor: in fact, the world saw actors, known and esteemed, uttering profoundly moral texts which are universally valid and full of Christian values. The world could see, in fact, the cleanliness of our practices, in contrast with certain aberrant preconceptions. My answer to the „shy” hypocrites was: if you are ashamed of us, stay home! Anyway, although the intention of these recordings was to bear witness across time about the people of our days, we have decided for now to stop recording the seesions at Odeon.
Let us talk about the deeds that you wish would endure.
Last year, in October, I was saying, as an echo of the wishes of our AASR brethren, that in almost 25 years since the Rekindling of the Lights, “The Rite has not painted a Lodge Temple, has not renovated a hospital room, has not awarded a scholarship to a deserving child, did not take care of an old lady in need ”. I wanted that we, all of us, change this state of affairs. And we began. The Supreme Council is developing the Ritual Bodies of the Scottish Rite (The Perfection Lodges, the Rosicrucian Chapters and the Kadosh Councils) so that they will get to have the capacity to organize authentic masonic meetings which should not be centering on mechanical practice of the rituals but on the moral and spiritual development of members that make up the lodge so they could contribute, as elitists, to the development of the communities in which they live, because the ritual tells us that “a freemason’s work never ceases”.
I will mention now only a few of the projects announced by the Supreme Council in December 2015. The first, already finalized, consists in the renovation of a room in the surgical ward at Elias Hospital in Bucharest, as part of a project of medical support for the members of the Scottish Rite and their families (parents, wives, children and grand-children). We have organized a symposium with brethren, members of the Rite who are doctors, so that they come to an agreement on the formula for a “virtual hospital”, until the AASR in Romania has its own form of medical unit.
The second project consists of supporting deserving children who find themselves in delicate family situations (parents with very low incomes or who are abroad to work). This includes the organization of tutoring circles hosted either by masons or non-masons (retired teachers) desiring to augment their incomes. The Scottish Rite will support this project financially and by participation – all over the country. This is addressed to students in the eighth and twelfth grades respectively therefore before the examinations for entrance into high-school and college. We have all had at least once in our lives the benefit of support. Whoever says he made it all on his own is either deceiving himself or is being dishonest.
We have initiated a program, “Help for winter”, to support the families of our Scottish Rite brethren who have passed to the Eternal Orient, as well as brethren in need, to pay their heating bills during the winter months.
It is our responsibility to invest in the future of Romania. We have decided, as symbolic value, to financially support the path to success of a very talented gymnast who is today only eight years old. She is a special child, who, subsequently, at her first two participations in national contests took just about every gold medal awarded. As members of the Rite, we are just as proud of little Roberta Radu’s achievements as her parents. It is a good omen for the future of our projects, a sign that we are on the right path!
You have made two official visits, to London and Frankfurt. Recently, you received the Sovereign Grand Commanders of Greece, Turkey an Cyprus as guests. What is Romania’s current situation in a foreign context, within the Scottish Rite?
We are a legitimate part of the universal masonic chain and are recognized as such. I underline: we are recognized by the entire masonic world. Only the SC of Italy suspended (not withdrawn) the recognition of our Supreme Council , without any masonic explanation. But I am confident in the wisdom of the new Supreme Council of Italy that they will reconsider their decision. Not for a single moment was there an issue regarding the withdrawal of our recognition. It was only an attempted intoxication! On the contrary, we have now reached the point where we offer recognition to others on their request (a.e. Cyprus). The great powers of the Scottish Rite in Europe observed us for a while, listened and then assumed us. We have had discussions which clarified things, putting an end to any foreign “interested” speculations fed by some individuals involved in the Russian lobby with the support of two-three villains from our own side, regarding the realities of the AASR in Romania, the relations between the Rite and the NGLR etc. We have fought with all available masonic “weapons” to defeat the effects of the sustained, inimical „individuals” from the Russian lobby and we have succeeded.
Between 7 and 9 October 2016, Romania will host the Conference of the Sovereign Grand Commanders of Europe and Associated Countries. It is fair to say that we have received, in this daring action, the full, dedicated and extremely efficient support of the Grand Master of the NGLR, Radu Bălănescu. He has proved himself to be an important actor in the big league of masonic diplomacy, and has showed how important it is for Romania to be well represented at the very top of Universal Masonry. Kudos! The theme we have suggested for this conference is: “Masonry and vanity. The challenges of the 21st century for the Scottish Rite in the maintenance of Regularity in Universal Freemasonry”.
You have thus suggested my next question: What is Masonry confronting nowadays on the universal plain? What battles does it have to undergo?
Certainly, Freemasonry is based on beautiful, generous ideas. However, as in any type of organization, they are applied by people. The success, the difference, the truth and the lie depend on the vocation to do good or not. Of course, vanity has accompanied mankind for ever. Destructive and hollow pride has perverted many beautiful ideas as time has passed. There is always someone who doesn’t feel boss enough and has tried to break our unity, create a new wing, so that someone calls him “boss”! Nevertheless, you need to believe in something, in someone. We, masons from all over the world have kept gathering, from the beginning of time, around the same moral, beautiful, generous ideas. These ideas cannot die. We, as people, do have a beginning and an end. This is why I love to say that while some have watches, the Scottish Rite has time. This was my reply to the Sovereign Grand Commander of Russia, in Frankfurt, when he tried to take our right to host the Conference: You have a watch, I have time!
The AASR of Romania does not sell degrees, but it lends us the dignity of being members. Surely, we are organized in a hierarchy and there is a legitimate desire to ascend the steps of knowledge, validated by passing through the hierarchy. It is not merely the desire to obtain a higher degree. The AASR promotes its own elites.
I believe that within the Scottish Rite there are two moments of special emotional charge: entrance into the Scottish Rite at the 4th degree and “exit” from the Rite upon the reception of the 33rd degree. Because some, at least up to now, have considered it this way – obtaining the 33rd degree meant their exit from the life of the Rite. I have used this word – exit – for those who consider that, once they have obtained the 33rd degree, there is nothing left to do. False! That is actually the point where the work should begin. The metaphoric “34th degree”, unwritten, only exists in the wake of our deeds. If we did not define what we feel, what brings us together, we would never know how to cross the street. But does a mason cross the street any differently than anyone else? Yes, because he has respect for the rules, for social norms. What we do in the lodge is part of the training for what we do in our profane lives. Our meetings are to us what to others is going to the gym; that is where we accumulate so as to be “nice in the city”. This is what I propose to the Scottish Rite – to accumulate and develop those qualities that serve us in our profane lives, so that we really become models, in everyday life. To be a mason in the Scottish Rite should become a way of life. I wish I could witness the following scene in which a man tells his neighbor (who is a Scottish Rite mason): “Sir, I noticed how you behave, how you take care of your family, your house and your career. Is this because you are a Scottish Rite mason? I would like that for my own child”. I think it’s possible. You need to believe in something, in someone…
Do you think the world today needs masonry as it did in the past?
Yes, I believe so passionately. There is no past or future masonry. There is, as the centuries stand witness, only… Masonry. Everything that comes from Tradition cannot forget or deny its own past, its roots. Unfortunately however, people no longer feel they need the past. They are always chasing the future, neglecting their own present. But peopledo need the basic principles of Masonry, of moral cleanliness. You know the saying, when someone does not know his past he cannot master his present or prepare his future. The interest in the beautiful part of Freemasonry, in the clean part, has not diminished. Perhaps it’s only that the number of those who cannot penetrate its meanings has grown… have you ever considered this?
Why does Freemasonry no longer influence the world as it did in the 19th and 20th centuries?
Who says that it does not? You need to believe in something, in someone… I’ll give you the example of a moment I shared with a very good friend of mine when we were both students – he was a passionate and extremely talented student of Architecture. At the beginning of the ’80s, a directive was issued by which the professionalization of architects could practically be annihilated: it only left them to choose which, among a few standardized projects, would be built. Creativity was killed. He dreamed of a pyramidal building with the tip pointing downwards (a propos of pyramids, one of our own symbols). I told him not to stop, to keep preparing at the highest level, because the time would come when such constructions could be made and then it would find him prepared. We therefore have to undergo our “training” as masons daily, ready for the moment when society will need us more than it does now, despite the fact that each mason can influence the world right now in his immediate proximity. There have been such moments in history before. Life is… complex. At the same time, we can also positively influence society because there are masons everywhere.
Are you the adept of a masonry with a national or an international tendency?
For about twelve years, I had a cooking magazine and I learned one thing: there is not one beef stroganoff in Bucharest and another in Berlin. It is the same. It has the same recipe. Masonry is universal! Of course, you can serve your country as a mason, everyone in this world does that. Our oaths as members of the AASR, taken under the flag of the country, begin with: “I pledge allegiance to my country, Romania”. The masonic oath for the country is no less important than the oaths for the country of other organizations and structures legally constituted. But the devotion and sacrifice of the mason for his country can sometimes be greater. The entire modern history of Romania has proved this. We move forward.
We have returned to the heraldary of the beginnings, the insignia of 1881. We have changed the melody that accompanies the bringing of the flag into the temple because the piece played previously (also by Ciprian Porumbescu) became the official anthem of Albania in 1912. I cannot bring the flag of my own country to the anthem of another, whichever it may be, smaller or larger… We have therefore changed to “Three colors”, also composed by Ciprian Porumbescu, in 1881, the year of the founding of the Scottish Rite in Romania. We only play two stanzas , the first and the last, with the original lyrics by Andrei Mureșanu (who wrote the lyrics of the Romanian national anthem): “Three colors do I know in this world, / that I treasure dearly , / there are colors of old fame , / recalling a brave people . // And, when, brethren I will pass / away from you and I will die, / on my grave you lay down / our proud three-color flag”. Is there anything unclear about this message…?
What message would you like to transmit to the masons of the Scottish Rite in Romania, as well as to those abroad?
To those in Romania the message is: “Let’s get to work”, and for those abroad, it is: “Here, we do our job”.
Finally, please offer us a brief Curriculum Vitae, both profane and masonic.
I was born on September 29, 1958, in Fălticeni, in Suceava county. I went to school in Suceava, where I stayed until I was 18 years old. Then, in 1981, I was admitted to the “I.L Caragiale” Institute of Theater and Film with a mark of 9.09 and graduated with 9.49. After finishing college, I was accepted at the National Theater in Bucharest which was a great honor. Then, after winning a contest, I moved to the Nottara Theater where, later, I served (following another contest) as artistic director. I appeared in 15 movies. In 1985, I received the Best Actor Award of the Association of Movie-makers – the Romanian Oscar – for the leading role in a film directed by Andrei Blaier. I had a career in television and had the chance to be part of the first team of what is nowadays called ProTv.
In my capacity as director of theater at the end of the ’90s, I intervened for the reconciliation of a conflict, a gesture which transformed me into a… defendant. It was humiliating and difficult. I won the lawsuit in court, but I lost my love for that world. I entered a new one. You know that the world of business is a little like France: everyone has heard of it, but few who are not French have actually lived there. For about twenty years now, I’ve changed the day when I receive my wage into the day I pay others.
I had to reinvent myself. I did this out of necessity, out of desperation. I had to undo myself, like a radio, I put all the pieces on the table, made myself whole again, but in the process some of the pieces were left outside. There was a time when I asked myself how in God’s name I could even function without them, but then a period came when I asked myself how I functioned for so long with them. It’s been a long time since I stopped asking myself anything on this matter. I have known and lived through despair, hope, love, success, pride, defeat, disease, humiliation, treason and again, love. I didn’t always know what to do with them. This saved me. I met extraordinary people, both good and bad, from whom I could certainly have learned a great deal. I am not yet sure whether I learned anything or not.
I have a daughter who holds a Master degree from the National University of Theatrical Arts, from whence she graduated last year, following graduation at the Faculty of Law at the University of Bucharest. Obviously, I support her on her path. Catinca Maria is, however, talented in both domains, so that is rather confusing…
For the last five years, I have been part of the development of the “Majoritas” project as co-founder, alongside Lucian Despoiu. This is an online political marketing enterprise . We work, discreetly, exclusively abroad. We have five presidents, eight prime-ministers and 20 parties in our portfolio. So far, we have entered 15 major campaigns with 14 victories. In the presidential elections in Indonesia, for example, our candidate won with 53,88% of the vote, which means he had the support of 70,997,833 citizens. We lost in only one country, Brazil (the presidential elections), but evidence has just surfaced that in fact the vote was rigged, damaging our candidate, so… we’re moving forward!
“Majoritas” is an immense satisfaction. It is like love at a mature age, a dream. I have a problem with this term, “dream”, because to dream presupposs sleep, and “Majoritas” does not let us sleep, if for no other reason than because we have offices in Washington, Rio de Janeiro, San Salvador, Manila, Tokyo, and Accre (Ghana)…
In 1981, Freemasonry came to my attention for the first time, in the secretive conditions then prevalent. In 2015, I received, alongside some of those with whom I was initiated, the Diploma for more than 20 years of masonic activity. I am member of only one perfection rite – the Scottish Rite, which this year will celebrate 135 years since its founding in Romania. I received the 33rd degree on June 6th, 2005. On September 25th, 2015, I was elected Sovereign Grand Commander of the AASR (the vote was unanimous, editor’s note).
We’re moving forward!