A FREEMASON’S LAMENT
by Giuliano Di Bernardo
What meaning has Freemasonry had for my life? If I could go back in time, would I make the same choices again? These questions recur in my mind. What caused them? The collapse of a myth: the United Grand Lodge of England. My life in Freemasonry, at least since I began writing Philosophy of Freemasonry, has been inspired by this Grand Lodge, the mother of all regular Freemasonry in the world, the expression of true and pure Freemasonry. Why am I singing its de profundis? To understand it, it is necessary to take a bird’s-eye view of the milestones of my Masonic life experiences, spanning from the end of World War II to the present day.
The spark of Freemasonry was ignited in my intellect when I was a teenager and, through philosophy, went in search of the truths of life. Like Buridan’s donkey, I had before me a set of possibilities but, unlike this indecisive equine, I waited with trepidation for that “quid” that would reveal to me the path to take. That “something” came to pass, and its messenger was Arnaldo Nannetti, a Tuscan Freemason staying in Penne, the town of ancient origins on the slopes of the Gran Sasso where I had been born and lived. It was the time when I was searching in philosophy for answers to the great questions about the world, life, and man. Philosophy fascinated me but left me unsatisfied because of its abstractness with respect to the practical conduct of man. Arnaldo Nannetti was providential as he transmitted to me, with enthusiasm and deep conviction, the principles, and rituals of Freemasonry. Thus, Freemasonry appeared to me as the link between the abstractness of philosophical speculation and the historical and contingent reality of life. That “quid” that would give meaning to my life had finally arrived and added to my interest in philosophy. My future had already been mapped out. All I would have to do was to walk it.
I took the first step when Nannetti told the Grand Secretary of the Grand Orient of Italy about me and asked him to receive me. It was 1957. I went to Rome and went to the headquarters in Via Giustiniani 5, at 10 a.m. on an autumn day. I was aware that that meeting would be the first link in a chain of events that would shape my life. So, it was.
The Grand Secretary, knowing that I would be moving to Bologna, handed me a letter that I should give to Carlo Manelli, the most shining example of Bolognese Freemasonry. Carlo Manelli (1887-1992), initiated in 1911, after the closure of the Lodges imposed by fascism, maintained relations among Bolognese Freemasons in the underground. With the advent of the Republic and the rebirth of Freemasonry in Italy, he was Grand Secretary to Grand Master Ugo Lenzi and a member of the Supreme Council of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite. He was the founder of several Lodges, including the “Zamboni-De Rolandis,” which was the Lodge to which I belonged until my resignation from the Grand Orient of Italy in 1993. When I went to visit him at his residence, in Via Val d’Aposa in Bologna, he looked at me with curiosity and apostrophized me in Bolognese dialect, “but you are a little boy!” He continued to call me “my little boy” even when I became Grand Master.
After weighing me, he proposed that I join his “Risorgimento-8 Agosto” Lodge and had me fill out an application. He informed me that I would be “shingled” by some brothers, who were supposed to verify whether I was eligible to enter Freemasonry. My “shingling” (tegolatura) lasted about a year, with fortnightly meetings. On the night of May 15, 1961, I was initiated. I had finally fulfilled my life’s dream (for further discussion, you can read My Life in Freemasonry, Amazon 2021).
For a long time, I had been trying to imagine my initiation. How would it unfold? What emotions would it bring me? There is always a gap between imagination and reality. What was the gap that I observed? Mainly, it was about the ritual. The first impression I received from it was that I felt like an affiliate of Giuseppe Mazzini’s “Carboneria.” I did not understand the use of hoods and some of the phrases in the ritual that expressed the conspiracy of the Risorgimento uprisings. I discussed this with Manelli. I was surprised to learn his opinion in this regard. According to him, the ritual had been counterfeited with the introduction of the Bible on which the Mason must swear. In his time the oath was sealed by giving a hammer blow on the anvil. He believed that Freemasonry not only had nothing to do with religion but rather was its secular enemy.
Carlo Manelli, in citing this episode in his Masonic life, referred to the Grand Orient of France, whose conception of Freemasonry both as a society of men and as a philosophical anthropology was shared by the Grand Orient of Italy. What are the characteristics of the Grand Orient of France that were shared by the GOI? As I mentioned in the Lecture on “Freemasonry and Science” [ed. note: forthcoming], the influence exerted by positivism on the GOF’s decision to abolish the formula of the “Great Architect of the Universe” in 1877, in fact a declaration in favor of atheism, had the consequence of leading the United Grand Lodge of England to withdraw its recognition. Since that time the paths of the two Masonic Obediences have permanently parted. The Grand Orient of Italy sided with the Grand Orient of France, although Constantine Nigra, in the short time he was its Grand Master, applied for recognition to the United Grand Lodge of England. At the time of my initiation 62 years ago, people in the GOI lived according to the vision of French Freemasonry. If English Freemasonry had been mentioned, it would have been hastily said that it was a religion.
Relations with the Grand Orient of France began to sour with the election as Grand Master of Giordano Gamberini, who set as one of the ends to be achieved the recognition of the United Grand Lodge of England. Dialogue with the Catholic Church also distanced the GOI from the French Obedience, until the final split in 1972, when, after one hundred and ten years, English Freemasonry granted the GOI its coveted recognition. Giordano Gamberini’s Grand Masterhood (1961-1970) brought about a Copernican revolution within the Grand Orient of Italy, which would give it a unique and irreversible direction. Regarding the recognition of the UGLE, an important role is also played by Licio Gelli, who contributes in his own way. In those years, in fact, he was Grand Secretary of the United Grand Lodge of England H. Penberton, a man of great power and charisma. It is said that when his daughter’s wedding, Gelli had given, as a wedding gift, a Rolls Royce. This fact suggests that Gelli was already playing a privileged role alongside Grand Master Gamberini, who would recommend him to his successor Lino Salvini. Licio Gelli was not born with Salvini but with Gamberini. It is with Salvini, however, that he obtains the greatest power.
The transmutation of the Grand Orient of Italy was a top-down operation that the base had to endure, on this I want to be clear. Only a small part shared it. In the imagination of the brethren, Freemasonry was always that of the Grand Orient of France, which they had known since their initiation and which remained unchanged, even if foreign relations had undergone a profound change. This situation produced the result that the GOI lost its identity, from which emerged debates and controversies that have never subsided. Evidence of this is a condition imposed by the United Grand Lodge of England to grant its recognition: the activation of the so-called Emulation Lodges in the Grand Orient of Italy. These Lodges differ from all others because they adopted the Emulation ritual, which is the only ritual in use in the United Grand Lodge of England. The existence of Emulation Lodges, composed of Masons attending English Lodges, was a way, on the part of the UGLE, to check the regularity of the GOI. For this reason, these brothers were viewed with distrust, as potential spies of the UGLE.
A year after my initiation, I enroll at the Higher Institute of Social Sciences in Trent. In 1967, I am among the first ten graduates of the Faculty of Sociology and begin my academic career as Assistant Professor of Philosophy of Science held by Professor Alberto Pasquinelli. In 1974, I obtain the “Libera docenza” in Methodology of Social Sciences and am conferred the teaching of Philosophy of Science.
After I moved to Trent in 1965, I carried out my Masonic activities by participating in the work of both the Lodge “Risorgimento-8 Agosto” (where I had been initiated) and the Lodges of Trent and Bolzano. I remember those years as the best years of my Masonic life. In the Lodges I found not only men of extreme quality (professionals, businessmen, professors) but also harmony and mutual respect. During the week I would look forward to the meeting where I would find them again. Meetings with brothers from other Lodges to share different experiences of life were frequent. I was happy to be in Freemasonry.
After I obtained my Libera Docenza, in 1974, Carlo Manelli precepted me to join the Lodge of University Professors at the University of Bologna: the “Zamboni-De Rolandis,” which he had founded to give prestige to Italian Freemasonry. According to the mentality of the time, he believed that this purpose would be best achieved by giving this Lodge the status of a “Covered Lodge,” which, specifically, meant the privilege of carrying out its work outside the official seat, to ensure a certain confidentiality.
The move to the “Zamboni-De Rolandis” was for me not only an opportunity to participate in major cultural events, but also a chance to make known the results of my studies on the epistemological foundation of the social sciences. In this context, I would like to point out the “Academy of Sciences of San Marino” and the “Ninth Centenary” of the University of Bologna.
The student uprisings of ’68 were now passing and a wind of novelty was blowing through Italian universities. The exit from a period marked by terrorism gave rise to a sense of euphoria and many cultural initiatives were being undertaken. This was also happening in the “Zamboni-De Rolandis” Lodge.
In the early 1980s Professor Michele La Placa, Professor of Microbiology at the University of Bologna, and Worshipful Master of our Lodge, became president of the “San Marino Academy of Sciences “ and promoted its revitalization. In Florence, on November 10, 1984, it held its first conference on the theme, Knowledge and Ideologies. Man’s place in Nature. My paper was on the subject, “Constitutive and Prescriptive Rules in the Construction of Social Reality.” The “Zamboni-De Rolandis Lodge had become the authoritative center of many cultural initiatives.
In 1985 two events occurred that concerned Fabio Roversi Monaco and me. Fabio Ferrari, elected Rector of the University of Trento, asks me to serve as Pro-Rector. I accept, and Ferrari sends his proposal for my appointment to the Ministry of Education for the necessary authorization. While waiting, Roversi requests an urgent convocation of our Lodge. When we meet, he informs us that he has learned from reliable sources that his membership in the “Zamboni-De Rolandis” will be used against him in the race for the Rectorate of the University of Bologna. Roversi, in fact, was the candidate most likely to succeed. In addition, the “cover” of the Lodge would also be highlighted. We examine the problem and solve it with the decision to release our list to the press, precisely to show that the Lodge is not covered. The next day, all local and national newspapers report the list with our names. With this expedient we had thwarted the attack by anticipating it. Our decision got the desired result and Fabio Roversi Monaco was elected Magnifico Rector of the University of Bologna.
1988 was the year of the Ninth Centenary of the University of Bologna (1088-1988). Rector Roversi, who would be its protagonist, officially opened the Celebrations in the ancient Aula Magna of Palazzo Poggi, headquarters of the University of Bologna. It would be a year in the spotlight for Bologna because of the presence of so many personalities from the fields of culture, science, politics, and spirituality, who were honorary graduates of the Alma Mater. Loggia professors were always present to support the Rector’s initiatives. The Centennial year was, for the “Zamboni-De Rolandis,” a time of shining brotherhood.
But 1988 was also the year when Prosecutor Libero Mancuso of the Bologna Public Prosecutor’s Office put the “Zamboni-De Rolandis” under investigation, accusing it of being a “covered” Lodge in violation of the Spadolini-Anselmi Law on secret societies. The stir was enormous. All of us, members of the Lodge, received the notice of guarantee with the search and seizure warrant. We had to prepare our defense. The criminal trial followed all the ritual stages punctually. A few years later, when I was Grand Master of the Grand Orient of Italy, the investigation reached its conclusion: we were all acquitted because “the fact does not exist.” An attempt had been made, once again, to strike the most authoritative Lodge of the Grand Orient of Italy, to which both the Grand Master and the Magnificent Rector of the University of Bologna belonged.
Even today, many people wonder how this could have happened. The reason is to be found in the ambiguity of the term “coverage.” To understand it correctly, it is necessary to examine it in the diachronic dimension. Today the meaning of “covered Lodge” is as inferred from the 1982 Spadolini-Anselmi Law. But in earlier decades its meaning was different! “Covered” meant a privilege granted to certain Masonic bodies. It was not intended to hide something but to privilege it. The “Zamboni-De Rolandis” was a “covered” Lodge because it had received from the Grand Master the privilege of meeting outside the Masonic House, with the consequence that brothers from other Lodges would not be able to participate in its work, as provided by the General Regulations. The reason for this decision was practical: since the topics covered by the university professors would be of a high level, it would not make sense to have other brothers attend unless they explicitly asked. Having made this exception to the other Lodges, everything was perfectly identical, from the publicity of admission to initiation, to compliance with the General Regulations of the Order. Prosecutor Libero Mancuso put the “Zamboni-De Rolandis” under investigation to see if it was in violation of the Spadolini-Anselmi law. The conclusion that “the fact does not exist” is the clearest evidence that the Lodge was not “covered” according to the meaning given to it after 1982. The Court of Bologna itself testifies to this. As far as I am concerned, when Manelli made me apply for a transfer to the “Zamboni-De Rolandis” and dictated the letter to me, the meaning he gave to the term “covered” was precisely the one prior to the Spadolini-Anselmi Law.
My Masonic life, within the “Zamboni-De Rolandis,” since my transfer in 1974, had been conducted in the conviction that Freemasonry was the center of union for the ethical perfecting of the Mason. In fifteen years, no crack had formed in human relations and relations with other social groups. There was no talk of corruption, infiltration of criminal organizations or brothers involved in crimes. My degree of satisfaction was through the roof. I kept thanking Arnaldo Nannetti who, when I was still a teenager, introduced me to Freemasonry and gave me the opportunity to join.
In the mid-1970s, something happened that caught my attention. At a Lodge meeting, one of our brothers, Renato Pellizzer, who was a full professor of Physics at the University of Siena, informed us that he was leaving the “Zamboni-De Rolandis” because he had been called to carry out a mission whose purpose was to improve the political, economic, and cultural conditions of our country. As he spoke to us, he expressed pride and happiness. Secretly, he told us that he had been co-opted to join the P2 Lodge. A debate ensued from which I learned, for the first time, the existence of Licio Gelli. What was said about him made him appear in my eyes as a giant of the Grand Orient of Italy and made me feel proud to be his brother.
In 1979 I won the competition and was called to the chair of Philosophy of Science and Logic in the Faculty of Sociology at the University of Trento. In just twelve years I had reached the top of academia, in one of the most complex philosophical disciplines. To reach that sphere I had faced all sorts of difficulties and hardships.
I felt like one who has climbed a high mountain and finds himself on its summit contemplating the surrounding landscape, exhausted but happy with the feat he has accomplished.
My research on the epistemological foundation of the social sciences had been recognized as valid and had rewarded me with tenure. The time had come to allow my intellect to deal with other things. And the most important “thing” was precisely Freemasonry.
Up to that time, my Masonic life had unfolded quietly. In Lodge meetings, issues and problems of science, philosophy, politics, and religion were debated to better understand the society in which one lived. On how to understand the meaning and role of Freemasonry everyone agreed. That is why it was never talked about. If everyone knows what Freemasonry is – on the other hand – why talk about it? It was precisely this question that produced in my mind another question, “Is it really true that Freemasons know what Freemasonry is?”
I had activated the method of doubt, which I began to use with myself. What is Freemasonry to me? If I had to explain it to my students, how would I define it? So, I understood that I was ignorant of its meaning. This discovery was surprising. After declaring my ignorance, I questioned those whom I considered masters, but they too manifested the same ignorance. Like Socrates, I continued to ask but the answer was always the same: Freemasonry is …many different, sometimes conflicting things. I understood then that my task would be to give an objective definition of Freemasonry that would be valid for everyone.
To achieve this, I would have had to put on the shoes of a philosopher to research, identify and systematize the thought of Freemasonry. Who is the authoritative source that issues the valid documents for the formation of Masonic thought? It was here, in answering the question, that I came across, for the first time, English Freemasonry: The United Grand Lodge of England. I had heard about it in connection with its recognition of GOI in 1972. I knew it had a religious foundation. Nothing else. For the search for documentary sources, I started with the Grand Orient of France, but found nothing that would serve the purpose. Then I transferred my research to English Freemasonry and carefully studied The Constitutions of Anderson: there a hitherto unknown world opened to me! From the Constitutions I went on to its modern birth on June 24, 17171, its Christian and deistic foundation and everything else. The documentary sources of Masonic thought were to be found in English Freemasonry and consisted of Anderson’s Constitutions, the Act of Union of 1813, the Fundamental Principles for the Recognition of a Grand Lodge of 1929 and the Declaration on Freemasonry and Religion of 1985. Because of these documents, I constructed the philosophical anthropology of Freemasonry, which I expressed in the 1987 volume Philosophy of Freemasonry, which has had updates and translations in major world languages. Thus, I understood why the United Grand Lodge of England was considered the Mother Grand Lodge of the world. As such, it represents the ideal reference of all Freemasonries given in history, which differ from it by a “gap.” When the gap exceeds a certain limit, that Freemasonry is no longer Freemasonry. What happens, however, when English Freemasonry itself is no longer the ideal reference for all other Freemasonries? The following pages will give a conclusive answer.
The reflections so far on the United Grand Lodge of England have not considered the Emulation ritual adopted by it. When I set out to analyze it, I fervently hoped that, unlike that of the Grand Orient of Italy, it was an expression of the Masonic anthropology that English Freemasonry itself had made possible by the issuance of the documents already mentioned. But I was deluding myself. At the end of my analysis of the ritual, I had to admit that “from the frying pan, one had fallen into the fire.” If I had previously found the ritual of the GOI antiquated, I now found the ritual of the United Grand Lodge of England misleading in that its content expressed the religiosity of the Bible. In other words, it was a religious ritual. In fact, many times one invokes the Highest, kneels, addresses prayers to him and asks for his blessing. But hadn’t the United Grand Lodge of England declared that Freemasonry is not a religion? If it is not a religion, why is its ritual religious? Is this not a contradiction? Yes, in fact it is indeed a contradiction, casting ambiguity in its way of being. In any case, what I was interested in was Masonic anthropology and not ritual.
My volume Philosophy of Freemasonry was a resounding success and opened the doors of the Grand Mastership of the Grand Orient of Italy to me. The events that happened during the three years of my Magisterium I recounted in my Masonic autobiography My Life in Freemasonry (Amazon, 2021).
The opportunity to explore aspects of English Freemasonry was given to me by my acquaintance with Marquis Lord Northampton when he came to Rome to represent UGLE in the Spring Grand Lodge in 1991. During the gala dinner, having him by my side, we talked at length and a sincere friendship was born. He was fascinated by the “war” I was waging against the Vatican. He invited me to visit him at his Wynyates Castle in Northampton, which happened in February 1991. Thus began a collaboration that would shape the destiny of Freemasonry in Italy. On my frequent trips I visited Freemason’s Hall (the headquarters of UGLE), and met Michael Higham, the powerful Grand Secretary.
In those years I had established the Dignity Foundation in Lucerne, Switzerland, of which I was the president. Lord Northampton was a member of it and served alongside me as Vice President. With other eminent personalities representing countries and institutions of the highest order, we had built a Center that was to radiate Light on humanity.
When Palmi prosecutor Agostino Cordova began the investigation of Freemasonry and there was a revolt against me to force my resignation, I understood that my project to bring GOI back into the fold of the initiatory tradition had failed. I discussed this with Lord Northampton (Spenny to me), with whom fraternal understanding had been cemented with the Dignity Foundation, and we decided to fight to the bitter end against the profaners of true and pure Freemasonry. What happened is now history. On April 16, 1993, I resigned from the GOI (although they say I was expelled) and founded, with the assiduous cooperation of Lord Northampton, the Regular Grand Lodge of Italy, which immediately (in only eight months) obtained recognition from the United Grand Lodge of England. Recognition by the Grand Lodges of Scotland, Ireland, Israel, and the French National Grand Lodge also followed in short order. The Regular Grand Lodge of Italy had become the “flagship” of English Freemasonry, while its Grand Master was in demand and acclaimed by the world’s leading Freemasons.
In that framework, in which everything was right and perfect, there was discordant note: the Emulation ritual. Since I had founded the GLRI on the model of the UGLE, whose Constitutions and Regulations I had incorporated, for consistency I had had to accept its ritual as well.
The contradiction I had identified between the philosophical anthropology that Freemasonry is not a religion, and the deeply religious Emulation ritual now concerned me as well and put me in an awkward situation. However, if I wanted to introduce true and pure English Freemasonry to Italy, I could not have rejected its ritual. On a subjective level, once again, I found myself working with a ritual that I felt was inadequate to the philosophical anthropology of Freemasonry.
The elective affinities with Lord Northampton were perfect. It took only a few words to agree on things to be done and how to do them. However, in those years, a group of “reformers” began to form in the high ranks of the United Grand Lodge of England, promoted by Lord Northampton himself. The aim was to change the relationship between Grand Master and Grand Secretary, in favor of the former. The model they were inspired by was that of the European Grand Lodges, in which the Grand Master holds decision-making power while the Grand Secretary is given responsibility for administration.
From the very beginning, in English Freemasonry, the Grand Master has had a representative role, especially when he was the King of England. Consequently, it was always the Grand Secretary who governed Freemasonry. It was he, and he alone, who decided on internal affairs and awards. It is true that he was assisted by the “Board of General Purposes,” but ultimately, he made the decisions.
The reformers wanted the Grand Master to have the same powers as the Grand Masters of the European Grand Lodges. To do this, however, they would have had to downsize and weaken the role of the Grand Secretary. At the time was Grand Secretary Michael Higham, a man of great prestige and charisma, a profound connoisseur of Masonic realities around the world. It was he who had recognized the new Grand Lodges in Italy and Greece. A man like him would never have agreed to downsize his role. It was necessary, therefore, to put him in a position to leave. The path followed was to challenge him for errors in some of his decisions. One of these concerned precisely the recognition given to the Regular Grand Lodge of Italy. What was merely an instrument of internal struggle, however, produced consequences abroad as well. The Grand Orient of Italy began to hope that it could regain British recognition.
The climate had changed, and I felt the signs of it in Lord Northampton’s changed attitudes. That relationship of deep and sincere friendship, which had united us in the Swiss “Dignity” Foundation and in the conception and establishment of the Regular Grand Lodge of Italy, was beginning to have cracks and dark areas. Thus, it came to the fall of 2001, when, at our last meeting in Wynyates, he informed me that the United Grand Lodge of England was considering the possibility of re-granting recognition to the Grand Orient of Italy. I realized then that my mission in Freemasonry had come to an end.
My stubborn desire to introduce pure English Freemasonry in Italy despite the Italians, my renunciation of European and American recognition, my refusal to accept the Scottish Rite into the Regular Grand Lodge of Italy, and the founding of the Grand Lodges of Ukraine and Moldova on the English model had proved in the end to be a total failure. I felt the hostility of the United Grand Lodge of England after sacrificing everything and everyone on its altar. Once again, my ideal vision of a human society based on tolerance, respect, and dignity, which I had thought of implementing within Freemasonry, clashed with men who proved incapable of understanding it. Once again, I found myself alone with my disappointment.
My withdrawal, final and irrevocable, from Italian and foreign Freemasonry was not only motivated by disappointment, but also had deep objective reasons concerning the limitations of present-day Freemasonry to understand the challenges coming from global society.
The first limitation is its territorial sovereignty confined to the nation. There are, in fact, only national Grand Lodges. Where there are Confederations (such as that of North America), sovereignty remains exclusive to individual Grand Lodges.
This model was flawless from its origins in the eighteenth century until fifty years ago. Then began the most radical transformation of the world we live in by science and its technological applications. In just a few decades the secrets of the universe and of life were revealed. Theoretical physics discovered the “primordial building block” of matter, while the theory of evolution identified the mechanisms by which nature creates living species. In this way nature was sent to the ceiling and man replaced it. Space flight and the deciphering of the human genome are only a few aspects of the scientific discoveries of our time. From them descend relevant technological applications, which have profoundly changed our daily existence.
At the origins of all this is “globalization.” Many see it as the cause of many of the ills afflicting humanity today and wish for a return to the past. Not so. The more science moves forward with its discoveries, the more globalization becomes a reality. To eliminate globalization, one would have to halt scientific research. Is this possible?
In an increasingly globalized world, traditional Freemasonry, confined to national territory, no longer has any reason to exist. The challenges that global society imposes can no longer be solved within individual states but require a broader vision that calls for international strategies. If Freemasonry wants to be on par with the times and participate in the betterment of humanity, it must become international. I understand the difficulties inherent in such a transformation, but there is no alternative: either Freemasonry renews itself or it dies out.
Traditional Freemasonry is characterized by its lack of universality, even though it says it is inspired by it. To be truly universal, Freemasonry should not exclude anyone. Its history, however, shows the exclusion of important members of society, such as women. It is true that, in past centuries, women were understood as “breeding animals,” but today, with their emancipation, they are protagonists in social affairs. Plato had already understood this when he stated that he saw no difference in man and woman in terms of carrying out social activities. The exclusion of women from Freemasonry today means depriving ourselves of an essential component in the performance of Masonic activities in society. I ask: Is this how one wants to overcome the challenges of science?
There are other important exclusions in Freemasonry. English Freemasonry, for example, declares that the Freemason must have a religious faith. This means that atheists are excluded. For consistency, most scientists who do not believe in a deity should be excluded. On the other hand, some European Freemasonries exclude those who do, however, have a religious faith, thus declaring the opposite of English Freemasonry. There are, finally, other Freemasonries that admit women but are considered irregular. Confusion reigns supreme. To achieve true universality, it is necessary for the various Freemasonries to revise and amend their Constitutions. Is this possible?
The specificity of Freemasonry is given by its esoteric and initiatory foundation. This means that it differs from all other conceptions of life and man precisely because it has chosen and privileged that foundation, as I explained in Philosophy of Freemasonry and the Initiatory Tradition (Marsilio, 2016). If that specific, defining nature of Freemasonry is lacking, Freemasonry is no longer Freemasonry.
Does Freemasonry still have the esoteric foundation? With this question we enter the heart of the problem. The lack of internationality and universality concerns aspects of Freemasonry’s associational life that we can call “profane.” Freemasonry, however, is not only a profane society. The esoteric foundation is its specificity. “Profane” and “esoteric” must be conjugated but giving priority to the latter. I ask: Is the esoteric foundation still a priority in today’s Freemasonry?
Existing Freemasonries today, from a formal point of view, act in accordance with esoteric rules: Freemasons gather in the Temple, wear aprons and jewelry, recite rituals, “initiate,” “pass,” and “elevate” candidates to higher degrees. On the surface, everything looks perfect. But it is not.
The truth is that this is emptied of any authentically esoteric meaning. Rituality, in all its manifestations, is now an expression of unconscious repetitive acts: those who perform them do not know their meaning. Deep contradictions and anomalies are thus born. Consider my election to the Grand Mastership of the Grand Orient of Italy. The “runoff” between Tiberi and myself took place inside the consecrated Temple. In that place, however, all kinds of agreements for the conquest of power were being consummated. Everything was profane. Why then do it in the sacredness of the Temple? Why mix it with ritual? The answer is simple: because none of those present understood the initiatory foundation of Freemasonry. How could they, these, be Freemasons? The truth is that they are not.
After World War II, the rebirth of Freemasonry in Italy was facilitated by Freemasons from the United States, who imported the “democratic” conception of Freemasonry and imposed it. Worse than this, Freemasonry in Italy could not have been reborn. Of the glorious Freemasonry that existed before, from its origins to the advent of fascism, nothing now remains (except sterile rhetoric). It is precisely here that the “counter-initiation” of Freemasonry was born, which, in later years, would be accentuated and make the P2 Lodge possible.
The esoteric foundation, specific to Freemasonry, finds expression in the Ceremonies of Initiation, Passage, and Elevation, which are marked by ritual. Ritual, therefore, is essential in the stages of “perfecting” the Mason. What ritual?
It should immediately be pointed out that there is no single ritual that is valid for all Freemasonries in the world. It can be said that, among the few important Rituals, the one that assumes the greatest importance is the Emulation ritual, in use in the United Grand Lodge of England and the Freemasonries recognized by it. That ritual, however, as I have already explained, was taken from the Bible, of which it has the same religious characteristics. Thus, it is a religious ritual, as the Fathers of the Catholic Church rightly claim.
While holding firm to the Masonic conception of man, going beyond present-day Freemasonry means renewing it according to the philosophical anthropology sofar proposed. This is exactly what I have done with the founding of the “Academy of the Illuminati” and the “Dignity Order.“
The vision of a universal and harmonious human society, which I had unsuccessfully tried to implement in the Grand Orient of Italy and the Regular Grand Lodge of Italy, was still there, waiting to enter human history. But in what guise?
I began to review the different esoteric societies that had been realized in the millennial journey of humanity, to find the historical “dress” to give to my conception of life and man. My attention was drawn to the Order of the Illuminati. The “Illuminati” expressed true universality, as they regarded man for his innate qualities, regardless of gender, skin color, language, religion, and culture. The decision was made I was going to “awaken” the Illuminati, in Italy and around the world. I was legitimized to do so, since I had been Grand Master of a regular Freemasonry that had given me initiatory authority.
What name to give it? The term “Order” puzzled me because of its inflation. After careful analysis, I chose the term “Academy” also to highlight the elitist character of the Illuminati. At present, however, I favor the term “Order,” which I think is more appropriate anyway.
The Order of the Illuminati, in awakening the Illuminati throughout the world, will have to consider the difficulties and limitations that Freemasonry runs into today, at least to avoid them. First, it will have to restore the correct traditional relationship between the initiatory foundation and the profane foundation. If the degeneration of Freemasonry had, as its main consequence, the overthrow of the profane pyramid, the Order of the Illuminati will have to overthrow the overthrown pyramid, putting it back in its proper position. From this it follows that, even in the profane foundation, power will have to descend from the top down.
A common characteristic of the Order of the Illuminati and Freemasonry is the knowledge its adherents must have regarding principles, doctrine, esotericism, symbolism, history, and plans. In Freemasonry, unfortunately, men have been admitted who did not and do not have such knowledge. This is another important reason for its degeneration.
The Illuminati, in all their regenerations, must have common characteristics.
The first characteristic is universality. Illuminati are human beings who have light in their consciousness, regardless of specifications of gender, skin color, religion, language, and culture. It is they, and only they, who will form the “International Order of the Illuminati.” Their area of expertise will be the world. Their projects will concern planet Earth.
The second characteristic is wisdom. The Illuminati are wise because, following the path of initiatory refinement, they have reached the highest levels of human knowledge. They are like the philosophers of Plato’s Republic, who govern the public good with wisdom and justice.
The third characteristic is authority. Knowledge and wisdom give man the authority to govern. Those who exercise such authority must be charismatic and far-sighted, and they must have the Project to lead humanity toward the End that will give it well-being and happiness.
The fourth characteristic is power. The exercise of authority implies the power necessary for the realization of the Project. Only power, wisely exercised, guarantees success to human endeavors.
The fifth characteristic is the Enlightened One. When the process of globalization is accomplished, the problem of governing humanity will arise. A choice will then have to be made between possible forms of government. In particular, the choice will be between the government of the majority (democracy) and the government of the One. In the present, there is a tendency, favored by the West, to extend democracy, believed to be the best form of government, to all regions of the planet. However, there is no shortage of degeneration and negative consequences, which reasonably make one doubt that in the future democracy can rule the world. The alternative is tyranny (or monarchy or dictatorship). Tyranny, however, evokes disastrous world wars that characterized the 20th century due to tyrants such as Hitler and Stalin. With good reason humanity seeks to forget that dark period in its history. One can understand, therefore, the negative reaction to the government of the One. To guide humanity’s future, however, one must rationally, not emotionally, seek the best possible government. The One spoken of here is by no means an emulation of Hitler or Stalin, but an expression of the Community of the Illuminati who will govern the world wisely. It is precisely this Community that will choose from within itself the One who is to rule the world. The One will gather within himself the ultimate in knowledge and wisdom; it is these that will show him the high road to lead humanity to well-being and happiness. The exercise of absolute power will make him the One-god!
With this vision I awakened the Illuminati, first in Italy and then in other countries. The registration of the “Deed of Incorporation” bears the date of July 11, 2002. The first headquarters was in Rome, at number 33 Piazza di Spagna.
The Illuminati awakening has been widely echoed both in Italy and around the world. Even the Vatican took an interest in it. In this regard, I can report that it was proposed to me to welcome among its followers Monsignor Giorgio Eldarov, born in Zorniza (Bulgaria) on February 27, 1926. Eldarov, a man of keen intellect and a profound connoisseur of human nature, had been commissioned by Pope John Paul II to follow the “Bulgarian trail” for his assassination attempt in St. Peter’s Square. Moreover, as a careful scholar, he had uncovered unpublished news about Monsignor Roncalli’s time spent in Bulgaria as Apostolic Nuncio before he became Pope John XXIII. After meeting him personally, I welcomed him to the Illuminati. When the “Accademia degli Illuminati” waslegally formed on July 11, 2002, at the office of notary Giovanni Pocaterra in Rome, Monsignor Eladrov was among the Founding Members.
The Order of the Illuminati, in its centuries-long history, has devised projects for the material and moral betterment of humanity. The implementation of these projects has required the involvement of other human beings who possess direct and concrete knowledge of the innumerable levels that make up society. It is they who have the necessary skills to carry out the projects conceived by the Illuminati. I will call the latter “speculative,” because they devise projects, while “operative” Illuminati will be those who carry them out in society.
To avoid misunderstanding, I have brought together the operative Illuminati into the Order I have named “Dignity,” whose purpose is the defense of human dignity. As is evident here, I have taken up the vision underlying the first “Dignity Foundation” in Switzerland.
Dignity is an international esoteric Order that can be represented as a pyramid at the top of which is the Grand Master. The institutional purpose of the Order is the defense of human dignity, that is, the condition of moral nobility in which man is placed by his innate qualities and his very nature. The notion of “dignity,” therefore, is inherent in man as such and expresses a universal characteristic of him, which is found in all men, regardless of sex, age, skin color, religion, language, and culture. It, therefore, is a constitutive element of man, in the sense that if man loses his dignity, then he is no longer man.
Precisely because dignity is an irrepressible given of man as an expression of his nature, it is found in all conceptions of man, from religious to secular. However, in the world in which we live, dignity is despised and humiliated. Many men and women are forced to live without dignity. It is for this reason that humanity is losing the ideal values that have always sustained it. Even faith in God is fading away, and humanity seems to be getting lost in the mists of materialism and utilitarianism. Since the notion of “dignity” is universal, its scope is unlimited.
An Order that sets out to defend human dignity must choose the areas that are primary to it, considering the historical and contingent conditions in which humanity finds itself. In the world in which we live, the defense of human dignity means, primarily, the defense of ethnic minorities, women, the weak, the persecuted and the marginalized.
After a preparation phase, the “Dignity Order” was founded in Trent on June 6, 2011, with the registration of the “Dignity Association. Order for the Defense of Human Dignity.“
Since Dignity is an international Order, I have established in Austria, in accordance with Austrian law, the “International Association of Dignity,” registered on July 4, 2012, with its registered office in Vienna. Its task is to govern national Orders. Dignity was born in Italy and is spreading to other countries around the world.
With the Order of the Illuminati and Dignity I am moving into the future. My Masonic experience now belongs to the past. If I look back, to take a last look, I see the ruins of one of the noblest societies that, for some centuries, guided the destiny of peoples. As for Italy, I see Grand Masters amending the Constitutions to get themselves re-elected. Others trying, fortunately to no avail, to get elected for life. As in the secular world, they do not want to leave King Solomon’s Throne to keep the “metals,” that is, material privileges. It is they, who are at the top of it, who are leading the counter-initiation in Freemasonry! How sad!
I also see, in all Freemasonries, worthy men who have esoteric knowledge but are bewildered. For them, and only for them, the door of my Orders is always open.
Although I have left the world of Freemasonry, I have remained a keen observer of it, at least of the Grand Orient of Italy and the Regular Grand Lodge of Italy, of which I was Grand Master. One day I received the “Speech” that Lord Northampton, who has since become Pro-Grand Master of UGLE, had given at the Meeting of European Grand Masters held on November 5 and 6, 2007. In it, he had declared his intention to revise the “Principles for the Recognition of a Grand Lodge,” a document issued by the Grand Lodges of England, Ireland, and Scotland in 1929, by modifying the principle of territorial exclusivity, according to which the UGLE could recognize, in the same territory, two or more Masonic Obediences, if they recognized each other. Applied to Italy, this meant that the UGLE could also recognize the GOI, provided there was mutual recognition with the GLRI.
As the well-informed spectator that I was, I quickly understood that the change had imposed itself as necessary to recognize GOI.
For what reason was UGLE willing to do anything to achieve this end? That this was his intention I understood as early as 2001, when I had my last meeting with Lord Northampton at his residence in Wynyates, but his stubbornness in insisting on this path suggested to me reasons beyond GOI.
With the hindsight of twenty years later, I think one reason (perhaps the most important) was the lack of numerical growth of the Regular Grand Lodge of Italy and the lack of recognition by European and American Grand Lodges.
There is only one person responsible for this situation: Giuliano Di Bernardo, who found himself at the center of a perfect storm unleashed by opposing and contradictory forces. My dream of introducing true and pure English Freemasonry to our country had come true. It was not long, however, before problems arose. The Grand Secretary of the National Grand Lodge of France, Yves Trestournel, who had christened the birth of the Regular Grand Lodge of Italy, pointed out to me that the Grand Masters of the European Grand Lodges did not like the radical choice I had made in favor of English Freemasonry. Therefore, if I wanted their recognition as well, I would have to allow the use of their rituals in my Lodges, to demonstrate an equidistance from the United Grand Lodge of England. The message was clear. I was faced with the alternative: have European recognitions on the condition of polluting the English model or give them up. I did not have any doubt. I renounced it. This was because otherwise I would have had to repudiate that model of Freemasonry in which I then believed with absolute certainty. I was aware of the difficulties I would encounter, but I did not care. The path had been laid out and I would follow it to the end, without any hesitation. It is clear from this that relations between the United Grand Lodge of England and the European Grand Lodges were (even then) not good.
A similar situation occurred when it was proposed that I seek recognition from the North American Grand Masters’ Conference. Those recognitions were of little interest to me since U.S. Freemasonry has a completely different outlook from both English and European Freemasonry. In any case, it was a challenge that intrigued me. So, on February 9, 1994, I wrote a letter to Robert Dillard, Secretary of the Recognition Commission. He replied with courteous promptness, inviting me to Dallas. The meeting was constructive. I left him with the conviction that the awards would be given to me.
In United States Freemasonry, nothing happens without the consent of the Sovereign Grand Commander of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite. It was important, therefore, to know Fred Kleinknecht’s orientation as well. I met him in Washington, D.C., in the majestic headquarters of the Scottish Rite. He congratulated me for fighting corruption within Italian Freemasonry and assured me that the awards would be taken away from the Grand Orient of Italy and given to the Regular Grand Lodge of Italy. It seemed done, but it was not.
When I went to the North American Grand Masters Conference in February 1995, I found a strange atmosphere to say the least. I felt that upstream there was a problem to be solved, but I could not figure out what it was. Everything became clear the day before the conference. Recognition would be given to me if I allowed the formation of the Scottish Rite within the Regular Grand Lodge of Italy. The problem was serious. Since the Supreme Council of Italy was still hinged on the Grand Orient of Italy, the withdrawal of recognition from this Obedience would have left the Scottish Rite hanging in the air. The only placement it could have had would have been in the Regular Grand Lodge of Italy. Only if I had allowed it, could I have had the recognition of the Grand Lodges of the United States.
But was I willing to welcome the Scottish Rite into my Grand Lodge? Once again, I was facing the risk of pollution. Welcoming the Scottish Rite of Italy would have meant opening the doors to thousands of Masons in the Grand Orient of Italy who belonged to the Scottish Rite. Up to that point I had chosen the candidates with the utmost care. The decision to accept the Scottish Rite would have thwarted the work done so far. Moreover, Scottish Masons did not like English Freemasonry and its Emulation ritual. So, my answer was no, knowing-at that point-that the recognition would no longer be given to me. A few hours before the meeting of the Recognitions Committee began, the High Priest of the York Rite told me that they would vote in favor of my recognition if I would commit to accept their Rite into the Regular Grand Lodge of Italy. My answer was still negative. The situation was now clear. The recognitions would remain with the Grand Orient of Italy. So, it was. To remain faithful to the English model of Freemasonry, I had lost both the recognitions of the European Grand Lodges and those of the Grand Lodges of the United States.
A similar situation occurred regarding the numerical growth of the GLRI. UGLE, on several occasions, made it clear to me that it expected a faster numerical growth. I could have done so, of course, but on the condition of widening the mesh of the admission criteria. I was reluctant to do so, because I knew that through those meshes applicants who did not meet the requirements had already passed. However, I was willing to consider any possibilities for quantitative growth.
After the founding of the Regular Grand Lodge of Italy, Bruno Castellani, President of the Board of General Purposes, solicited a meeting of mine with Fausto Bruni, Sovereign Grand Commander of the Scottish Rite, who had succeeded Vittorio Colao. This Rite, while counting several adherents, was going through a period of crisis. After the split of the Supreme Council, Cecovini’s Rite had been recognized by the Southern Jurisdiction of the United States and the Grand Orient of Italy. This had allowed its hinging on the Grand Orient of Italy.
Fausto Bruni’s Scottish Rite had not had this possibility. When there is no Order on which to hinge the Rite, it is customary to create an Order within the Rite itself. In that case, the Sovereign is also Grand Master. This was an expedient that, on balance, worked. However, it posed severe limitations especially in international relations. Bruni was looking for a way out of the cramped and difficult situation he was in. The Regular Grand Lodge of Italy also had a problem to solve, which concerned its quantitative growth. The rigid selection criteria for candidates was slowing down its development. The United Grand Lodge of England, on the contrary, was urging it on. I accepted, thus, the proposal to meet Fausto Bruni. The first impression was positive. Bruni and his most trusted associates were sincerely convinced of joining the Regular Grand Lodge of Italy, and they wanted to examine with me the conditions for doing so. There were, however, difficulties that seemed insuperable to me.
Although I had accepted the meeting with Bruni to please Castellani, I began to reflect on it. The difficulties were obvious. Bruni was the head of a Rite. Already in the founding of the Regular Grand Lodge of Italy I had declared that no Rite would ever enter it. To keep this commitment, I had renounced recognition of the Grand Lodges of North America. I knew the Scottish Rite too well not to fear its pollutions. From a human and strategic point of view I saw the proposal favorably, but I could not imagine how to implement it. In the second meeting, I made it clear to Bruni that I would not allow his Rite to hinge on the Regular Grand Lodge of Italy. I thought that, after this statement of mine, everything was over, but it was not. Castellani and Bruni’s lieutenant still wanted to make the deal and proposed compromises that I rejected. Finally, I came up with the solution, proposed it and it was accepted. All the members of the Rite (Bruni included) would join the Regular Grand Lodge of Italy as Masters and come under my obedience. They could have had the Scottish Rite but outside the Regular Grand Lodge of Italy. That way there would have been no interference. My proposal was based on the situation that existed in England, where the Scottish Rite (called Rose Croix) was independent of the United Grand Lodge of England, so the Grand Master did not have to recognize it in order to authorize its Masters to join it.
I informed the United Grand Lodge of England of the agreement reached, which expressed pleasure because it had attempted to bring Bruni’s Obedience into the Grand Orient of Italy (when it recognized it) but had not succeeded.
Based on this understanding, the procedure for the admission of Bruni’s Obedience begins. A solemn ceremony in Cosenza formalizes it and Lodges are formed in different regions of Italy. The unification, however, is short-lived since, despite the “Agreement” signed by Fausto Bruni and me that excluded it, demands begin to be made for the introduction of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite into the GLRI. But just as I had not accepted the GOI’s Scottish Rite, so I did not accept their Rite, refusing to question again the agreements already made. I always acted inspired by the principle of consistency, even if it brought me bitter defeats.
The Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite is an expression of the happiest period of my Masonic life. In 1965, a few years after my elevation to the Master’s Degree in the Lodge “Risorgimento-8 Agosto,” Carlo Manelli, who was then Inspector General of the Rite in Emilia-Romagna and a member of the Supreme Council, brought me into the Scottish Rite. My progression in the Degrees was slow but continuous.
The Scottish Rite of Italy had remained united under the rule of Giovanni Pica (1967-1976), but after Vittorio Colao (1976-1978) was elected as his successor there was a two-factional clash within the Supreme Council. The reason concerned the decision to accept Lino Salvini, Grand Master of the Grand Orient of Italy, into the Supreme Council. On one side was Colao who was against it, and on the other were Manlio Cecovini and Giordano Gamberini who were, on the other hand, in favor. Between May and June 1977, a mutual cross-expulsion, and the formation of two rival Supreme Councils took place: one of Colao and the other of Cecovini (which included Salvini and Gamberini). The Grand Orient of Italy recognized Cecovini’s legitimacy. So did the Supreme Council of the Southern Jurisdiction of the United States in Washington, D.C., which was deemed the “mother of the world” Supreme Council.
After the publication of my book, at the suggestion of Francesco Spina, who in the meantime had succeeded Carlo Manelli as Inspector General of Emilia-Romagna, I was elevated to the 33rd Degree.
When I met Manlio Cecovini I immediately understood that I was facing the Master. His knowledge of Freemasonry, the authority he exuded, his rigor in governing the Rite and his humility made him the ideal reference for my Masonic life.
Manlio often invited me to Trieste where he lived. After a few hours of pleasant and learned conversation, we would end up in a trattoria to enjoy good fish dishes. It was at one of these meetings that he gave me a copy of the “Declaration on Freemasonry and Religion,” issued by the United Grand Lodge of England. He knew that I was writing Philosophy of Freemasonry and called my attention to that document. Back in Trent, I read it carefully, and understood that it would become a cornerstone of my investigation of Masonic thought.
After the book was published in 1987, Manlio proposed that I should carry out the same philosophical investigation of the Scottish Rite as well. I accepted his proposal and procured for myself the volume Morals and Dogma by Albert Pike, considered the “Bible” of the Scottish Rite. I devoted the summer of 1988 to reading this work. Pike had given meaning to the Degrees of the Rite (4th to 33rd) by also drawing on the history of philosophy. However, his quotes were unfounded or meaningless. He talked about philosophy but did not actually know it. Most of the time he was inventing. On the other hand, the official document on which the Scottish Rite was based was his own book. Any philosophical investigation could not have prescinded from it. I concluded that, for lack of well-founded documents, there would be no point in carrying out a philosophical investigation of Scottish Rite thought. I discussed this with Cecovini and he agreed.
After a few meetings, Manlio decided that I should join the Supreme Council, not only to debilitate it, but also to bring it to a higher level of culture. In perspective, I was to be its Sovereign. The General Regulations of the Rite state that the Supreme Council should consist of no more than 33 members with the 33rd Degree. At that time there were seven vacancies. Cecovini proposed my candidacy to the 26 members and asked for their support. Sometime later he informed me that I had been elected a Full Member of the Supreme Council. To celebrate, he invited me to Trieste. During the traditional lunch in a trattoria, he confided to me how events had unfolded. The proposal concerning me had had strong opposition at first because of my young age. In a sense they were right. The age difference between me and the youngest member of the Supreme Council was at least twenty years! Cecovini, however, understood that the real reason for the opposition was another: they would be willing to support me if Manlio accepted their candidates. I remember his comment, “to have you I had to allow the admission of modest people, who will give nothing to the Rite. Paris is worth a Mass.” In this way, at only 49 years old, I entered the Supreme Council of Italy.
Manlio Cecovini, who was a mentor and Master for me, called my attention to two fundamental principles of the Scottish Rite: 1) the Scottish Rite is the university of Freemasonry and 2) the Scottish Rite is the guardian of the Order. The first Principle states that a Mason’s further education does not end with the degree of Master but continues according to ascendancy to the High Degrees. From the perspective of the Scottish Rite, the polishing of the “rough stone” is complete when the Mason reaches the 33rd degree. In this sense, the Scottish Rite is the university of Freemasonry. The second Principle is meant to signify that the Scottish Rite is not indifferent to the Order but is its guardian. This role is carried out by verifying not only the conformity of the resolutions adopted by the Grand Master and the Council with the Constitutions and General Regulations, but also and above all the conditions of harmony and brotherhood that must always exist within the Communion. Relations between the Order and the Scottish Rite are regulated by a Concordat by which the Order recognizes the Rite, allowing the co-option of its Masters into the same. After being recognized by the Order, the Scottish Rite becomes a sovereign and independent body. If it also obtains the recognition of the Supreme Council of the Southern Jurisdiction of the United States in Washington, D.C., then it will become a member of the Federation of Supreme Councils and can enjoy the privilege of being protected and defended from all attacks that might come from both the Masonic and profane worlds.
Once again, the paradox of English Freemasonry appears, but this time it concerns my choices. The decision to introduce in Italy the complete model (even the Emulation ritual) of the United Grand of England meant for me to maintain its purity. I always wanted to be able to tell the English leadership that GLRI had no degenerations of any kind within it. I thought that my choices to keep it pure would be shared and praised. I was deluding myself. Instead of receiving praise, I was being accused of not being able to gain more international recognition and increase the number of affiliates. I understood then that, to continue to have the confidence of British Freemasonry, I would do well to take Yves Trestournel’s advice and obtain the recognitions of European Freemasonry. I would also have done well to admit into the GLRI the Scottish Rite of the GOI and that of Fausto Bruni. I should have done the opposite of what I had done. What would have been the point? Once again, I found myself between a rock and a hard place. I was beginning to realize that I had embarked on a path that would bring me disappointment and defeat. I found myself in the middle of a paradoxical situation: what the philosopher Leibniz would have called a “perplexing case.” The only way out would have been my final and irrevocable withdrawal from Freemasonry. So, it was.
If I had disappointed the expectations of the English Masonic leadership about the quantitative growth of the GLRI, my successor, Dr. Fabio Venzi, did not do what was necessary to give them satisfaction. From what can be seen from GLRI’s Budgets, in the 22 years of its Grand Masterhood about 11,000 profanes entered and about 9,000 Masons left.
In the “Letter” that the Sardinian brothers recently sent to him, they demanded to know the reasons for such abandonments. This question and many others went unanswered, in return resulting in their expulsion for the crime of “lese majesty.”
This is an internal matter for GLRI, which is of little interest to UGLE, which can only see that, between expulsions and resignations, the number of affiliates continues to decline dramatically.
Paradoxically, Fabio Venzi, instead of holding on to his few remaining brothers, expels them, favoring the extinction of the GLRI so longed for by Stefano Bisi, who would thus see the problem of sharing national territory solved. Under these conditions can the GLRI represent the United Grand Lodge of England in our country? To you the simple and trivial answer.
All the events described so far revolve around the concept of “regularity.” I will try to clarify it. The origins of modern Freemasonry date back to June 24, 1717, when four Lodges in London decided to form a Grand Lodge, whose purpose was to control individual Lodges by checking their regularity. Regularity is understood here as conformity to a set of rules. Such rules will be given by Anderson’s Constitutions. With these Constitutions the relationship between the Lodges and the Grand Lodge is regulated. With the expansion of Freemasonry in the countries of the British Empire and Europe comes the need to establish the relationship between the Grand Lodge of London and the other Grand Lodges. In this regard, the requirements that a Grand Lodge must have to gain recognition by English Freemasonry are formulated. In 1929, the United Grand Lodge of England, the Grand Lodge of Scotland and the Grand Lodge of Ireland formally define the requirements that a Grand Lodge must meet to have their recognition, which amounts to a patent of regularity. Among these requirements is that of “territorial exclusivity,” according to which recognition can be given to only one Obedience in each territory.
If we apply these rules to Italian Freemasonry, we find that the holder of English recognition was the Grand Orient of Italy, which had obtained it in 1972, exactly 110 years after Costantino Nigra, Grand Master for a few months, had applied for it. When I founded the Grand Regular Lodge of Italy in 1993, the UGLE, to recognize it, had to take the recognition away from the GOI. In this perspective, the first result was achieved on September 8 of that year, when the UGLE withdrew recognition from the GOI. With this act, Italy had become a Masonically free territory, and I could apply for British recognition. This took place on October 4, 1993. In its Quarterly Communication of December 8, 1993, the United Grand Lodge of England granted its recognition to the Regular Grand Lodge of Italy, thus granting it a license of legitimacy and regularity of the utmost importance. From that moment on, true and pure English Freemasonry was represented in Italy by the Regular Grand Lodge, which joined the ranks of the regular Freemasonries (recognized by the UGLE) of the world.
Freemasonry across the Channel, since its eighteenth-century origins, has regulated relations with all other Freemasonries by rigidly applying the rule of “territorial exclusivity.” This situation was challenged by the “Speech” that Lord Northampton, Pro-Grand Master of UGLE, made at the European Grand Masters’ Meeting on November 5 and 6, 2007. On that occasion he advocated the need to change the rule of territorial exclusivity, replacing it with another one that would allow the UGLE to recognize, in the same territory, two or more Obediences, if they recognize each other.
This was, in my opinion, the beginning of the end of English Freemasonry and Freemasonry in general.
To justify this statement of mine, let us consider the Italian case, which can be both paradigmatic and generalized. When the UGLE took away the recognition from the GOI and gave it to the GLRI it was done in a way that did not give rise to conflict of any kind. The recognition given back to the GOI on March 8 this year, conversely, has triggered a series of negative events that could jeopardize the survival of these two Obediences. Let us try to understand the main reasons for this.
As reflected in the March 8 Quarterly Communication Agenda, the UGLE states, “The Grand Lodge withdrew its recognition of the Grand Orient of Italy in 1993 as in its opinion the Grand Orient no longer satisfied those Basic Principles … The Grand Orient has requested that recognition be restored. The Board has reviewed the situation and has concluded that the Grand Orient now again satisfies the Basic Principles for Grand Lodge Recognition… The Grand Orient accepts the Grand Lodge’ current practice of both Grand Lodges concerned, and has already indicated that, if recognition is restored, it will consent and agree to this Grand Lodge’s continued recognition of the Regular Grand Lodge of Italy. The Regular Grand Lodge of Italy has given a similar consent and agreement in respect of the Grand Orient of Italy.”
This is the “Table of Law,” which sets inescapable conditions for the recognition of the Grand Orient of Italy. The GOI and GLRI are obliged to adhere to it scrupulously, under penalty of sanctions by the UGLE. But since the respective Grand Masters make, on these points, propagandistic statements, I will explain their meaning.
With the first statement, UGLE reiterates that it withdrew recognition in 1993 because the GOI no longer met the Basic Principles. Unlike the UGLE, Stephen Bisi claims that the UGLE acknowledged its 1993 mistake and made amends for it by giving recognition to the GOI again. Nothing could be falser! It is just propaganda to avoid having to admit that the UGLE in ’93 shared Giuliano Di Bernardo’s reasons. Bisi does not realize that by accepting the recognition, he gives Di Bernardo’s reasons. How does he plan to get out of this contradiction? Certainly not the way he did! Claiming that the UGLE at the time was wrong ends up wronging the English and – far more seriously – wrongs the written text, which – as pointed out – attests to an entirely different truth.
The second statement, then, suggests that the GOI requested the restoration of recognition. Here, too, Stephen Bisi is not telling the truth when he claims that the UGLE, on its own initiative, restored recognition.
The third statement, again, shows that the GOI has agreed with the UGLE on the continued recognition of the GLRI. Bisi, therefore, cannot claim that he will not recognize the GLRI, nor can he expect to recognize it and then take away its recognition. Its recognition must be final and continuous. Bisi cannot recognize the GLRI and then ban some of its members (those from ’93) from attending its Lodges. It is as if the UGLE, after recognizing the GOI, banned some of its Masons from attending its Lodges. The recognition of the GLRI is a general measure that applies to all Masons in its obedience. If Bisi did so, he would be chargeable with abuse of his authority, an abuse that would certainly be sanctioned by the UGLE.
Yet, in telematic communications on March 13, 2023, addressed directly to the brother Masters of the Communion, Bisi verbatim stated, “Those who actively participated in the 1993 split have not re-entered since I have been Grand Master. And they will not re-enter… There is no possibility for a member of the so-called Regular Grand Lodge of Italy to participate in the rounds of the lodges of the Grand Orient of Italy, just as brothers of the Grand Orient of Italy are not allowed to participate in rounds of the so-called Regular Grand Lodge of Italy.”
Bisi still has not understood, yet it has been nine years since his election, that the Grand Master has a duty to act within the Regulations and agreements made. Especially if those agreements concern the UGLE, and even if they do not provide for the exclusion from Lodge work of the “brothers of ’93.” On this occasion, too, he decides and acts according to his personal view, which, however, is not the one reflected in the Agenda of the UGLE.
Finally, it appears from the fourth statement that UGLE now believes that the GOI is back to meeting the requirements to get its recognition back. A world opens to be explored on this point….
As I have highlighted in previous pages, the UGLE started thinking about giving recognition back to the GOI in the time when I was still Grand Master. Getting it took many years and the modification of the rule of territorial exclusivity. In the meantime, he had prepared the conditions. Everything seemed ready in 2017, but the investigation of the Anti-Mafia Commission chaired by Hon. Rosy Bindi on the GOI and the GLRI blocked any initiative, postponing the matter to better times.
At the beginning of this year there were rumors and rumors that the new recognition would take place at the March Quarterly Communication. On the part of the GOI and GLRI there was a deafening silence, as if the matter did not concern them. Suddenly the news of the arrest of Mafia chief Matteo Messina Denaro, a fugitive from justice for more than 30 years, explodes with the roar of a cannon. The event itself is a simple police operation that is applauded by all. However, news begins to circulate that the mafia chief’s fugitive status was also aided by a doctor, Dr. Alfonso Tumbarello, a member of the “Valle di Cusa-Giovanni Di Gangi” Lodge No. 1035 in Campobello di Mazara of the Grand Orient of Italy. All hell breaks loose. The mass media rushes to the small town in the Trapani area where the GOI Lodge is located. Tumbarello is soon arrested on charges of “external complicity in mafia association and forgery,” the Re-examination Court validates, and the rest is daily history.
What does this story reveal? First, the infiltration of the Mafia into some Lodges of the Grand Orient of Italy. These infiltrations in the Trapani area have been talked about for about half a century. So, really, nothing new.
When I was elected Grand Master of the GOI in 1990, during one of my visits to the Circumscription of Sicily in Palermo, the most influential Mason on the island, the lawyer Massimo Maggiore, whom I had appointed President of the Central Court, begged me not to accept the invitation to visit the Lodges of Campobello di Mazara, because they were infiltrated by the Mafia. The message had been clear, and I treasured it. Tumbarello’s arrest was for me the confirmation of what I had been told at the time by the Sicilian leadership.
Grand Master Bisi’s reaction was the indefinite suspension of Alfonso Tumbarello, pending final judgment. The measure of suspension may seem to be an act of protection of the accused. In general, it is, but it cannot apply to Freemasonry. Those who would introduce this principle of protection into Freemasonry would show that they do not know that Freemasonry is a system of universal moral principles that every Freemason must take as the reason for his practical conduct! The Mason’s actions must always be inspired by morality. From this it follows that Tumbarello, if he is legally protected, cannot be morally protected. Morally he has violated the principles he has sworn to uphold. This is the central point that Bisi shows he has not understood. Applying the principles of morality Tumbarello should have been expelled, because aiding and abetting Matteo Messina Denaro, one of the world’s most heinous criminals, makes him unworthy of belonging to the most noble and ancient society of men who esteem honor as one of the highest virtues. Bisi has not understood, or does not want to understand, that if he does not expel Tumbarello (and to do so, the Grand Orator must establish Masonic process through the Table of Accusation), he can never expel anyone else whose crimes are not remotely comparable to those of this Mafia chief’s doctor!
But Bisi ignores the moral issue and barricades himself behind the subjective protection of the defendant, who was hauled off to prison on charges of Mafia connections, which leave no room for the slightest doubt. Even putting aside, the moral issue, which Bisi does not seem to understand, is it ever possible that the seriousness of Tumbarello’s position with respect to the law is not itself sufficient grounds for expulsion? Does it not seem that the minimum is at least to prepare against him that Table of Accusation, by the Grand Orator, capable of facilitating his expulsion? There is an article in this regard, under number 187 of the Constitutions of Order, which consists of three paragraphs. Is it possible that no one knows it?
The sanction of indefinite suspension produces the consequence that Tumbarello is still a full member of the GOI (Article 7 of the Order’s Constitution). This Masonically absurd situation raises a question: why was Tumbarello not-if not already expelled-at least sanctioned with a Table of Accusation capable of leading to his permanent removal from the Order? The answer leads us to investigate the “Valle di Cusa-Giovanni Di Gangi” Lodge of which Bisi is an honorary member.
In fact, this Lodge in Campobello di Mazara, in addition to the infiltration of the Mafia, has another peculiarity: Grand Master Stefano Bisi is an honorary member.
In the time when I was Grand Master of the GOI it was not even conceivable that the Grand Master could become an honorary member of a Lodge to his obedience, moreover during his Grand Masterhood, at least for a reason of fairness in relations with other Lodges. Why would the Grand Master favor some Lodges at the expense of others? Thirty years have passed, and it is possible that things have changed. However, when asked about this issue by journalist Pipitone of the Fatto Quotidiano, Stefano Bisi, however, bickered, saying that it is normal for the Grand Master to be an honorary member of Lodges. The answer given to the journalist to me does not add up and is not enough. To me Bisi must tell how many and which Lodges have welcomed him as an honorary member in the last nine years, that is, since he has been Grand Master of the GOI. Otherwise, I would be led to think that he had a very special reason for … being a member of Alfonso Tumbarello’s Lodge.
When the Tumbarello case broke out, the mass media interviewed me for my opinion on the matter. The refrain I repeated was, “Thirty years ago I was advised by the Sicilian leadership not to attend the Lodges of Campobello di Mazara because they were infiltrated by the Mafia; today I learn that one of those Lodges is infiltrated; I conclude by saying that those who came after me in the GOI government did not clean them up.” My statement is composed of a historical fact and a current observation.
What was the reaction of dr. Stefano Bisi? He reported me to the Court of Rome and demanded compensation for material and moral damages. He could not resist the temptation to sue me, and he started a lawsuit that will backfire on him. He did not have the wisdom to follow the adage, “let sleeping dogs lie.” He wanted to wake me up, and he will suffer the consequences.
To defend myself, I will have to attack him. I’ll give him a heads up: the “Arnaldo da Brescia” Lodge No. 959 in Licata. Its Worshipful Master, Vito Lauria, was sentenced last July by the Third Section of the Court of Appeals of Palermo to eight years’ imprisonment for relations with the Mafia (together with Lucio Lutri, former Worshipful Master of “Pensiero e Azione” No. 1498 in Palermo). Even then I could have resumed the 2017 speech and accused the GOI of mafia infiltration, but I preferred silence out of respect for the many honest Sicilian brothers.
Coming back to Lauria, it seems to me that – with the conviction – the protection of the accused invoked by Stefano Bisi is over, or is it not? So, I ask him if he ever received a Table of Accusation from the Grand Orator, because of the obvious anti-Masonic conduct put in place betraying the ideals of the Institution (art. 15 Const. paragraph b), and if he was consequently expelled from the Grand Orient of Italy through the decree of conviction.
That is not my understanding. If I am wrong, I wait to be proven wrong. If he has not yet been expelled, I would ask Grand Master Bisi, “What else needs to happen to expel Vito Lauria?”
Everything suggests that Alfonso Tumbarello will also enjoy the same privileges granted to Vito Lauria. Is it possible that the Grand Master and the Council do not realize that, by doing so, they are fueling doubts about the reasons for their behavior? And what do the brothers of the GOI do? Nothing, as if the matter did not concern them. Their silence and omertà will help to crumble the foundations of their Obedience.
Bisi wanted war and war he will have. He does not even imagine how many authoritative brothers of the GOI support me with words and documents, asking me in these dramatic times to resume the government of the GOI. He does not imagine that the denunciation he has sent me will be the stage on which I will play the leading actor.
The Tumbarello case drew attention to the Grand Orient of Italy, which was put in the spotlight by the media, anti-mafia magistrates, politicians, and intellectuals. Everything that, until then, had been swept under the carpet suddenly became manifest. Thus, it turns out that the government of Bisi and his Council is also under attack for its personal use of Masonic justice. The case of Professor Claudio Bonvecchio, Deputy Grand Master, who was expelled for an infinitely irrelevant reason when compared to that of Tumbarello, who was only suspended, is exemplary of the current situation, which opens to a scenario in which despotic and personal management of power, in violation of the GOI Constitutions, has become the norm.
The entire GOI, from North to South, from East to West, is battered by acts of iniquity. Never has the most powerful Obedience in our country been in such a situation of conflict and anarchy as the one that preceded the recognition of UGLE.
Yet in a situation like this, which would have suggested the utmost caution, the UGLE announces that it will recognize the GOI. Strangely, the GOI and GLRI leadership are silent, a sign that something is disturbing their sleep. While many wonder what reasons could have prompted the UGLE to recognize the GOI, the UGLE goes ahead unperturbed: it announces that recognition will be given back-as it has been in the Quarterly Communication of March 8, 2023, and circulates its Agenda ofwork. The fact is accomplished. The GOI has its recognition back with all the conditions stated in the Agenda.
Returning to the exercise of authority, it would appear, however, that the Grand Master and the GOI Council have violated the Constitutions regarding the recognition of the UGLE. In fact, the current GOI Constitution provides and requires that recognitions be supported by the mutual principle of sovereignty and exclusivity in their respective national territories. This principle cannot be waived by anyone or even by the Grand Master and the Council. Only the Grand Lodge has the authority to decide whether to amend Article 2 of the Order’s Constitution to waive the fundamental and peremptory Principles of sovereignty and territorial exclusivity. If this does not happen, the Grand Master and the Council are in the position of violating the Constitution. In conclusion, it is the Grand Lodge and not the Grand Master and Council that must decide whether to accept English recognition and, consequently, amend the Constitutions. Until then, recognition remains a possibility. The same applies to the Regular Grand Lodge of Italy, which will have to amend the Constitutions to recognize the Grand Orient of Italy.
These considerations arise on the plane of law and concern the conditions for the fulfillment of the Constitutions. The same problems, however, can also be solved on the plane of reality. Let us see how this could be done. Sharing the same territory creates difficulties for both Obediences involved. Stefano Bisi, regardless of his propagandistic statements, knows that his commitments to London must be kept. He will have to recognize the GLRI and amend the Constitutions, unless the GLRI ceases to exist. In that case, all his problems would be solved. It is to achieve this end that he has instructed his affiliates to do everything possible to facilitate the transmigration of the GLRI brethren into the GOI. This is an excellent strategy, but it clashes with the ban on admitting the “conspirators” of ’93. In any case, the operation is under way and is yielding flattering successes! In this he is helped by the fury of Venzi, who continues to expel all opponents. How long will this “buyout” operation take? What would happen, however, if Venzi is forced to retire? It may be that his successor would restore life and vigor to the GLRI, drawing back the thousands of brothers expelled by Venzi and attracting the GOI brothers who can no longer live with Bisi. This hypothesis of revival of the GLRI should be understood by its members and acted upon to bring it about. They should join the Sardinians and force Venzi to retire. Don’t they know that by standing on the riverbank waiting for Venzi’s corpse (in a metaphorical sense) to pass by, they risk GLRI going out like a candle? A regurgitation of pride on their part could save their Grand Lodge.
UGLE’s recognition of the GOI has triggered a Masonic war that will produce nefarious consequences in Italian Freemasonry. This was the first time that the coveted English recognition was not accompanied by jubilation and pride. All the brethren of the newly formed GLRI, when they learned the news of the recognition, burst into songs and hymns, aware of the privilege they had received. This time is different. Not only did the leadership of the GOI and GLRI remain silent, but within the two Obediences ill-feeling and attacks on the leadership began to stir. When there was the announcement of March 8 as the date of recognition, it was spoken of as the occurrence of a fateful event, desired but feared because of the possible grave consequences. Since it occurred, Stefano Bisi has done nothing but justify himself, announcing sanctioning measures against GLRI, which he will never be able to implement, on pain of withdrawing the recognition he just received. Mutual recognitions between the two Obediences have yet to occur, but the controversy is not about to die down.
Adding to the feverishness of this situation is the news, leaked by well-informed sources in the English leadership, that the UGLE is preparing to recognize another Obedience in Italy. In that case, not two but three Obediences would have sovereignty on Italian territory. If relations between GOI and GLRI are already struggling to establish, what situation could possibly arise when another Obedience comes into play? Again, from well-informed English sources, we learn that the UGLE’s plan is to recognize other Obediences on Italian soil, with the aim (hear, hear), of reunifying them all. This is sheer madness!
The only result that would be achieved would be the building in Italy of a Tower of Babel of Freemasonry, where everyone talks, and no one understands. Consider, as an example, the Ceremonies in the Temple with the use of different and conflicting rituals. Already between the GOI ritual and the GLRI’s Emulation ritual there is an abysmal difference. If more are added, the state of chaos will become universal.
On this point, too, UGLE surprises and disappoints me. Is it ever possible for it to close its eyes to the history of Italian Obediences, which, from the postwar period to the present day, have been characterized alternately by schisms and unions? How can it simply think that it succeeds where Freemasonry in the United States has systematically failed? I think it knows but pretends not to know. So, I wonder what the reason is. Why is UGLE, after three hundred years, showing a new face that is not only different from the past but also self-destructive? What is the woodworm that is devouring it?
Several hypotheses have been formulated in this regard. The most likely may be that of “survival.” All the Freemasonries of the world, beginning with that of the United States, have gone into crisis because of their inability to understand the sudden and radical changes taking place in world society. Freemasonry today no longer represents the prestige and way of life that have been one of its highest aspirations for centuries. The “closed” society has become increasingly open. Traditional trades and professions have been replaced by artificial intelligence, which finds application in many human activities, from computers to medicine. The virtual world it creates increases individualism, while making social relations less and less relevant. For new generations, Freemasonry is no longer a center of attraction because their interests are directed elsewhere.
This crisis, which is objective, is unfortunately fostered by the absence of charismatic leaders. Grand Masters are no longer enlightened and far-sighted minds who, inspired by the highest moral values and keeping metal out of the Temple, guide Masonic Communions toward a future of hope, albeit amid uncertainties that are difficult to interpret. Grand Masters should dialogue with the leadership of states to help solve social problems that are becoming more and more serious. These Grand Masters no longer exist. In their place are figures who, not having the Light within, rule in an authoritarian manner, with arrogance and senseless punishments (the expulsions made by Stefano Bisi and Fabio Venzi are clear proof of this). Those who do not make themselves loved for their virtues rule by making themselves feared, exercising fear in the minds of the affiliates.
The United Grand Lodge of England, like all other Freemasonries in the world, is plagued by this social and generational crisis. In its Quarterly Communication Agenda ofMarch 8, it included a table showing the quantitative decrease of Lodges, in England and in the world, over the past ten years in which it has been, roughly, 30 percent. Clearly this figure is an expression of a creeping crisis, tending toward the extinction of the Mother Grand Lodge of the world. Added to these difficulties are the economic ones of keeping the huge and powerful international organization alive: expenses are fixed while income is decreasing. How to stop this degenerative process? By widening the meshes of secular austerity. The UGLE has always been proverbial when it comes to recognition of other Grand Lodges. As I mentioned, the GOI had to wait 110 years to get its recognition, after it was requested by Grand Master Constantine Nigra, one of the most influential diplomats of that time. The Grand Lodge (or Grand Orient) to be recognized was placed under a spotlight that highlighted every aspect of it to see if it met the requirements. If it succeeded in passing through the thick mesh, it received a patent of regularity.
The UGLE realized that if it maintained secular rigor, it would face extinction and thought of coping with the situation by encouraging visits (and eventual membership) to its Lodges by foreign Masons. First among them are the Masons of the Grand Orient of Italy, which, unlike the Grand Lodges of Europe, has an exorbitant number of members (about 23,000). In this perspective, the GLRI is completely irrelevant: as can be seen from the 2021 budget, the number of members is about 2100, from which must be subtracted the 150 Sardinian brothers that Fabio Venzi’s fury expelled and the other expulsions that will follow. How could the GLRI meet the need of the UGLE? It simply cannot. So, the UGLE, turning a blind eye – for the first time in its centuries-long history – to the infiltration of the Mafia and ‘Ndrangheta and the political use of Masonic justice, again recognizes the GOI! Now thousands of Masons of this Obedience will be able to rush to London to join the Lodges of the UGLE and bring in that long-awaited money to meet internal economic needs. What remains of that pure and true English Freemasonry that I idealized and brought as an example to the whole world? Nothing, absolutely nothing.
Therefore, I sing its de Profundis.
With the passage of time, human societies change. Freemasonry also changes. When the decline begins, we cannot stop it. We can, however, explain it. As the above reflections show, for the past three hundred years the Masonic order, in international relations, has been guaranteed by the concept of “regularity.” To better understand Freemasonry, it is necessary to analyze this concept in depth.
Modern Freemasonry was founded in 1717 for the very purpose of regulating Lodges by establishing a set of criteria to which they must conform. Before then, each Lodge had its own set of regulations that applied to its members. Thus, was born the Grand Lodge of London, the first in the history of Freemasonry. To equip itself with such principles and rules it commissioned J. Anderson to write the Masonic Constitutions. It comes, thus, to be established that a Lodge is regular if it conforms to Anderson’s Constitutions. When other Grand Lodges are formed, the criteria for recognizing them are defined, giving them a Regularity License.
Let us ask whether the Regularity License is the only valid means of recognizing a Grand Lodge. Could one speak of “regularity” independently of the “license” and of a Grand Lodge granting it? It is argued in this regard that if the members of a Lodge or Grand Lodge behave in accordance with the Regulations, they have given themselves, then they are regular and do not need any license. There are many who support this idea of “regularity.” I do not consider it valid and will give a justification for it.
Suppose each Lodge or Grand Lodge gives itself its own Regulations, as was the case before 1717. It is inevitable that they will be different since they are inspired by different visions. All would be well if one remained within the same Lodge or Grand Lodge. Problems would arise when one wanted to establish relationships between two or more Grand Lodges. The first thing that would have to be done would be a comparison of the Grand Lodges’ Regulations and Rituals. Since they would differ in certain aspects, it would be necessary to modify them to make them uniform. If this could be done, then two or more Grand Lodges would have the same Regulations and Ritual. Other Grand Lodges, wishing to enter relations with them, would have to modify the Regulations and Rituals to be accepted, and so on. Gradually the exact same situation of the UGLE would be determined. If one wanted to maintain the sovereignty of the Lodge, or Grand Lodge, it would make it difficult, if not impossible, to establish relations with other Lodges, or Grand Lodges. As can be seen, the License of Regularity given by a Grand Lodge to other Grand Lodges is the necessary and sufficient condition to guarantee their relations. The crisis in the Masonic world, which we are observing and experiencing, is not due to the License that the UGLE gives to other Grand Lodges, but to its weakening brought about by the renunciation of the principle of territorial exclusivity.
The UGLE has abdicated its hegemonic role, which it exercised for three centuries, with the result that the Masonic world now finds itself without an enlightened leader. Is there another Masonic authority, like the UGLE, that could aspire to its succession? The first thought goes to the Grand Orient of France, which, since 1877, by renouncing the figure of the Great Architect of the Universe, has definitively distanced itself from English Freemasonry and set itself up as an alternative to it. However, it failed to provide an adequate philosophical anthropology of Freemasonry, like that of English Freemasonry, which would have justified its different way of posing to other Freemasonries. The conclusion is that the weakening of the UGLE affects world Freemasonry by making it increasingly inadequate to interpret the needs of the contemporary world.
What predictions for the future of Freemasonry? The Covid-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war have accelerated the rapid and radical changes taking place in world society. Freemasonry is like a giant with feet of clay, struggling to keep up with change.
As time passes, the gap will become abysmal and Freemasonry will find itself in a museum, bearing witness to a world now dead and buried. Only the advent of enlightened Grand Masters could delay its extinction. Where are they? Around us we find only dwarfs, devoted to infighting to protect personal or group interests, without any ideal momentum. And even the opponents often do not know what to do, having also lost the only possible way: that of morality.
These dwarfs will perpetuate power by generating more dwarfs. From dwarf to dwarf, Freemasonry will die out and vanish like mist in the sun. Never will they allow the advent of the giant, for it would devour them. What to do?
If Freemasonry is plagued by a decadence that no one can stop, then it is necessary to return to man, the Mason, and place him at the center of the Masonic universe. The Mason, understood as a “rough stone,” must be polished according to the principles of philosophical anthropology that I have outlined throughout these Lectures. On his mind, like an unbroken wax tablet, it will be necessary to write, in indelible characters, the ethical principles that he must always follow in his practical conduct as if they were a categorical imperative.
It will be these Freemasons who will resurrect, from the ashes, the phoenix of true and pure Freemasonry. It will be this Freemasonry that will illuminate the future of human society.