Past and Honorary Grand Master, Grand Lodge of Austria
Grand High Priest of York Rite Austria
Member of Board of International Masonic Affairs
I gladly join the Masonic community in celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Masonic Forum Magazine and I personally congratulate Br. Claudiu Ionescu for having created it and, in particular, for his perseverance and charismatic posture in continuing this very special project for such a long period of time.
It is by no means a foregone conclusion that such a periodical survives for many years, particularly because Masonic communication rarely ever manages to find an accepted middle way between the claim for intellectual depth and the unavoidable danger to drift into banal platitudes. The Masonic community indulges in esoteric, most of the time historic utterance when writing, but thereby fails to fulfill expectations for dealing with challenges of our times, also outside lodge meetings. And Masonry has not succeeded to fulfill the claim for up-to-date communication of a truly global or at least cross border community, at least not in our times.
Masonry as a whole is stuck in the confinements of the borders of the past century and despite understanding the needs of a global policy to improve prospects for all our future it gets lost in esoteric nostalgia of the roots of its organization and of the holy Basic Principles that are continuously being misinterpreted. Masonry has always been political in its claim to select good men to make them better. Since it only happens in a community and with the help of community, it is this by definition a political issue.
20 years ago Masonry in the former Eastern part of Europe had grasped the opportunity to quickly become part of a new European, yet even global movement and to be accepted as equal partner in contributing to a peaceful and brotherly world. In many so-called Eastern countries the new elites could build on a Masonic tradition of pre-communist times and thus Masonry developed vigorously and quickly. The so-called Sinaia Protocole Initiative in the early years of 2000 and later the European Masonic Forum spearheaded the broad endeavour to join the western part of European Masonry to build on a new cross boarder movement for traditional Masonic values in a today’s context.
Many traditional Masonic institutions of Western Europe joined with enthusiasm and vigor in an attempt to finally break 19th century self centered borders for a truly European initiative to strengthen our common values. Masonry in Russia was not only part of it, it took a very strong and supportive role. And even today, Free Masonry Russia continues to assume a very European posture as we read here in this magazine quite recently (GM Andrey Bogdanov No. 58/2020). What a great thought to overcome petty nationalistic power games in today’s perspective-less Europe!
When the proponents of this very modern, cross border initiative finally succeeded to get very positive attention of UGLE for this visionary initiative and when this resulted in a very unique meeting of practically all regular but not all recognized Grand Lodges in London in 2007, it marked at the same time the end of this very ambitious European, maybe even global initiative. Tom Jackson, former Secretary of the Worlds Conference, was always part of it and very supportive, but also unheard. And he gave a very intelligent and true analysis of such shortcomings (Issue 58/2020 of this Magazine). This initiative thus abruptly came to an end, not because UGLE leadership was explicitly against it, but it was merely trampled to death in the petrified, stereotype mechanics of UGLE policy making, probably quite unintentionally. A very tragic Masonic history of modern times.
The reason why such profound masonic initiatives don’t work, is not a consequence of lack of ideas or lack of support of members, it is a consequence of mediocre and ineffective leadership in many secluded obediences. Yes, it is a fact that many traditional Grand Lodges around the world, primarily in the English speaking world, have lost their sense for Masonic tasks in today’ world and they think it suffices to foster ritual tradition and charity, not primarily but only! They neglect that today’s world is abundant of truly Masonic challenges, not only in the USA, everywhere and we not only lack answers but primarily initiative. Yes, we have a true leadership problem (Tom Jackson issue 58/2020) and unwillingness and thus inability to change it.
Even countries that have spearheaded Masonic renovation, like Romania after 2000 are now caught in pseudo democratic mechanics of leadership selection and therefore share the problem of the old Masonic World: the old idea and the old Basic Principles are still strong and valid and leave enough room for engagement in today’s world but our ancestors failed to create mechanisms to provide rules for adequate leadership selection. Whoever continues to believe in the common cause, and I am certainly part of it, should stand up and be part of a change in recognizing the need to listen to rank and file and transform it to policy, and consequently I ask why our leaders are not sensitive to that.
I have been in a High Grade position now for the past years and I do have some hope that the vertical structure there, across country borders – and this holds true for both Scottish and York Rite – could lead to more attention for our global interests and expectations, even if the broad US understanding of international ends at the State borders. But this will only work if those High Grades do not behave as something above or on top of Craft, and that change in posture will also be a major challenge.
I have always sensed such truly global Masonic spirit in Masonic Forum and I will do my best to support it and I wish that it will continue, ad multos annos!