Annual Communication 2009
” Builders of possible dreams”
Address by Grand Master Gustavo Raffi
AN ANCIENT MASONIC SECRET
In the fascinating ritual of the Chain of Union, explicit reference is made to Freemasons as repositories of an ancient secret: the secret of great love of the Grand Architect of the Universe for men. However, Freemasons are also repositories of another – and not less important – secret, the secret of “being dreamers”. It looks like a minor secret; it even seems like the “secret de Polichinelle”. But this is not the case. Dreaming is not common to all. In fact, many people do not dream. They do not dream because of their anxieties, neuroses, depressions, difficulties, discomforts, pains, sadness, unhappiness, or just the events – which are sometimes unbearable – of daily life. So their nights become dark, heavy, and gloomy. Upon waking up, they feel more tired than when they went to bed: the result is that everything becomes more tiring and – even worse – grey, and hopeless. Not dreaming may be considered as the metaphor of colourless life, with no liveliness, and no breath: just like dreamless nights. It may be the metaphor of life with no ideals, imagination, creativity, or will to do things: for ourselves and the others. In this case, this becomes like a long dark tunnel, where discomfort accumulates to other discomforts, and where solitude dominates and soon becomes egoism. This is egoism of those who are not able to have unselfish feelings. The egoism of those who embrace petty interest, the rule of money, charm of power, or unrestrained narcissism: in a word, what we call “metals”. This is not the life we like! This is not the life we want to live! This is not Freemasons’ life! It matters little, if – looking around – we realize that this is the prevailing life model: the model that mass-media try to give credit to as the only possible one. It matters little if many – in any part of the world and especially in the Western countries – will settle for living a life dominated by consumerism, advertising, and fictitious progress. It matters little if they prefer television – remote-controlled – dreams, where everything is false, artificial, accidental, and distracting. It matters little – also – if many cancel their dignity in insane races towards a power that is just a “fool’s gold”.
THE STRENGTH OF DREAM
Dreaming means “being”. It does not mean “having”. For this reason, dream has been considered – rightly – as the other face (maybe the most real one) of existence: the face we have to look at and shape our existence on. It is not by accident that a great Spanish seventeenth century writer – Calderon de la Barca – said that “life is a dream and dream is a dream of a dream”. Certainly, dreaming – as living – is challenging. In fact, sometimes dreams produce nightmares. We have had many of these nightmares: wars, intolerance, totalitarianisms, religious persecutions, racisms, and – with them – social indifference, egoism, and refusal to consider the others as completely similar to us. If we look at past and recent history, these nightmares have materialized into horror visions troubling us. In these visions, the dungeons of Inquisition overlap with the cells of Nazi lagers, Soviet gulags, and endless places where suffering humanity wonders whether it is dreaming of the hell. They also overlap with degraded suburbs, children dying – everywhere in the world -of hunger and thirst, cries of raped women, silence of those who cannot speak, prohibited freedom, or disregarded human rights. Also in this case, people experiencing these both extreme and dramatically common situations wonder with anguish whether they are in a dreadful dream: a dream from where they implore to come out. A dream they would like to forget. But dreams – important dreams – like nightmares cannot be forgotten: they remain fixed in our mind. From time to time, they come back to memory and we should not erase them. As we should not erase from our mind the dark dreams of the past that many want to reintroduce now – though modified. I would like to mention – among many others – the fundamentalisms bringing bloodshed to the world, and the many forms of obscurantism reintroduced as a response to present difficulties. These dreams want, again, that humanity is fearful, submissive, obedient, and trembling. They want to stir up chaos and hatred, pretending they are in search of their identity: which is something totally different. Freemasons refuse these dreams: these are not their dreams.
These are not the dreams Freemasons like. These are not the dreams Freemasons want to dream of. Freemasons want to dream of a better and fairer world: a world where different ethnic groups, ideas, religions, political ideals can exist together. This is their world; the world they believe in; the world that opened up in front of their eyes when they entered the initiatory chain uniting all those who – in the world – feel as Brethren. What is Initiation other than dreaming with eyes open: a dream taking us into a reality where no common human habits exist and everything “is right and perfect”? A great initiatory character – the magician Prospero in The Tempest by William Shakespeare – says a sentence we cannot avoid thinking about: “We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep”. After all, this is true, and Freemasons know it well. In fact, our life may be compared with a long dream, where we mistake appearance for reality, or – maybe better – reality for appearance, but we do not realize that. This is what we should think about more, before embarking on many useless adventures. However, Prospero – the magician hiding John Dee – does not mean we should oppose reality to dreams. It means we should be able to dream right, so that dreams can become reality, or at least possible. As Bachelard says: “Dreaming with eyes open is not mental vacuity, but the gift of a time knowing the fullness of soul”. If we look carefully, this is the essence of Esotericism. On the day we were initiated, didn’t we accept initiating a long dream? That dream has become our life! That dream seemed (and seems) being against reality, opposing common realities that we abandon – materially and spiritually – upon entering the Temple, and we leave our external habitus outside. We change our “skin”, language, and posture. External rules – as in a dream – have no value and profane hierarchies are cancelled in front of those that should be based on knowledge, wisdom, and thought. Everything – in the Temple – is peace, equilibrium, and harmony: as in dreams, in the most beautiful dreams we remember with joy. That same joy leads us to meeting – after days of tiring work – our Brothers, receiving strength, spiritual food, and pleasure from that. We feel the same joy and pleasure when we progress in our initiation work, whose real reward is not exterior – the famous “plumes” – but interior, based of feeling different and better. Through that profound feeling, we are able to see reality in another way. This way is, once again, the dream: the dream of Freemasonry, a dream with eyes open we would not want to be woken up from. We have been lucky as we have been called to this dream, following an interior voice we can call vocation; but we want to consider – from a more secular perspective – this vocation as a choice: a radical choice. It was a decisive choice. Certainly, some might say that we do not only live on Freemasonry and for Freemasonry. Some – rightly – may also say that we do not only dream and that these dreams do not exist in life. This is not the case. We do not only live in our Temple: this is true. We are in the world, in society, in external reality: surrounded by problems, difficulties, and needs that – too often – clamp us. Sometimes, they make us forget we are dreaming. But if we do not dream, we forget what we are. We persuade ourselves that the dream of Freemasonry stops – when we finish our Works – on the threshold of the Temple. So, sometimes, we live in a double reality: the reality of dream and the reality of profane life, with its banalities, its legal sophisms, its forms, rules, hierarchies, and interests. In this case, we need to remember that the wise magician Prospero said that we are made of the substance of dream, which tells us we have to remain dreamers, at all costs, as in the Temple.
Freemasons cannot abdicate their nature. What does “be always dreamers” mean? Being dreamers refers – if we want to visually express ourselves – to blue skies, green meadows, forests, mountains covered with snow, dawns, and sunsets. These are pictures of peace, harmony, brotherhood, tolerance, willingness, and joy filling our soul, where our values are shaped. These are the values Universal Freemasonry believes in and the Grande Oriente d’Italia practises. Being dreamers means turning these visions into the background of our life and proposing it to the others. This means that we have to concretize these dreams and turn them into reality, in social reality, as the Freemasons have always tried to do. Reneging on this task means failing in the nowhere of good intentions, or in sentimentalism, or even worse in the narcissism of individuals thinking that the luck of being able to dream releases them from any responsibilities and makes them happy. Therefore, our dream – Freemasonry dream – must become real and tangible: in ourselves, the society, and our Craft. Aristotle said that “Hope is the dream of those who are awake”. And he was right. For this reason, commitment, work, courage, project-making, and perseverance are required: as our Rituals say, as our Tradition, the Tradition of the Grande Oriente d’Italia says.
DREAMING OF SOCIETY
It is not a mystery that we are living in a difficult time: we just need to read newspapers and watch television to realise this. The previous reality par excellence – i.e. the association between liberalism and market – is miserably failing in an unprecedented crisis. This crisis is challenging even the consumption life standards we were used to and has now woken us up, abruptly, not from any dream but from the “sleep of reason”. Saying that after this crisis – and we cannot see the end of it yet – the world will be different is saying something obvious and banal. Independently form its outcomes, it is necessary to reconsider the way most of the national Governments have been living up to now: indifferent to reality and forgetful of other people’s dreams. If this does not happen, the consequences may be much more disastrous than a general reduction in the standard of living, as we say. Any economic crisis includes dangerous political, institutional, social, and cultural repercussions. It means losing trust in institutions, politics, people, and the possibility of an equitable progress. There will be the risk that a widespread social unease – together with unemployment and poverty – takes root, exacerbating the existing crisis of identity with the risk of turning it into aggressiveness. Such aggressive attitude will turn inwards, against all individuals who are eccentric in relation to the society (i.e. the diverse, in all their aspects), and outwards against all individuals who – the outsiders to our society – look for a solution to their existence problems (immigrants, etc.). This should be added to the risk of a cultural regression, which may cause doctrine tightening, reactionary forms, and temptations of a dogmatic step back to the past. It may mean plunging back into nightmares the history of the Twentieth century (and not only of the Twentieth century) has given dramatic examples of. Freemasonry cannot remain distant from this hypothetical (and not desirable) scenario. Without acting in the field of politics or religion, Freemasonry must exert the bright power of dream against the darkness of nightmares. Morrison said: “Give me a dream in which to live because the reality is killing me”. Freemasonry must be able to give its contribution of meditation, example, and action to reverse any negative trend line. Each Lodge, every Brother, and the Grande Oriente must be dedicated – with their own tools – to reasserting, publicizing, and testifying their dream of freedom, tolerance, and brotherhood. Being esotericists does not mean hiding the head under the sand. It means working for the progress and wellbeing of humankind. It is, therefore, indispensable to work for solidarity, human rights, culture of dialogue, and intelligent multiculturalism. This means ensuring that our dreams become possible, extending them to the entire society: at a time when the society must have the opportunity to dream and find a remedy for its troubles in dreaming. Our ancient Masters were able – through very modest systems – to turn their spiritual dreams into gigantic architectural works. It is now our turn to do it. The time has come – in a society where apparently nobody is able to dream – for dreamers to speak loud with their secular, loud, and strong voice, which is able to echo when everything is silent. It is not easy. It does not bring to immediate successes. But the Light can shine in the darkest times.
DREAMING IN THE CRAFT
It is not only right to think of the society. We also need to look at ourselves and our dreams, especially after the last elections, which – needless to deny it – were heavy and fought up to the extreme limit of decency. This is perfectly understandable – when there is no useless, vulgar, and unpleasant slander – and can be considered as a signal of vitality in our Craft. However, we should now be able to restart working, with no rancour, acrimony, revenges, or other. Freemasons are dreamers: we are not politicians or pirates. For this reason, the diversity of opinions and ideas is always welcome, if it becomes like a springboard for an extraordinary future: as dreams, our dreams, should be. In facts, if we want – as it was said – that our dreams become bricks for building up the Temple of humanity, the time has come to end useless arguments and start working. The work done in the past is evident to all. Nobody can deny that it has radically changed our Craft, which is now respected and respectable. We now need to finish this work, and heal the wounds caused by many anonymous contributions from some troublemakers internally and, more seriously, externally. We now need to work all together for loyal reconciliation – which is necessary between fair opponents – and to ensure that Freemasonry is effective initiation yeast and a solid reference point for those who – within the society – look at us as bearers of important and unquestionable values. With harmony, equilibrium, and renewed enthusiasm, we should work hard in our Lodges, which are the core of Freemasonry Life, and give value to the Master Degree, which needs to be practiced to the top, as Master Brethren are the pillars of the Grande Oriente. Masters – wisely guided by their Venerable Masters – can give the pace to the many Apprentices who expect their example and style, expect they can dream and refuse an old style Freemasonry model: far from their minds and hearts. On the contrary, we want that future Freemasonry is – in continuity with its eternal principles – a great school of life, freedom, and democracy, where the esoteric experience is an extraordinary added value. This added value should multiply individual abilities, so that each Brother can be a builder of dreams, but not dreams like “Alice in the Wonderland”. On the contrary, they should be real, possible, and touchable dreams, in which inner analysis is combined with solidarity, willingness, and presence in community life. But to do this, we need to improve the organization of the Grande Oriente, and make it more effective and rational. We need to modernize it in its structures and ensure it is more communicative so that our commitment becomes explicit to the public. We also need to strengthen our solidarity works that wonderful Brethren have supported through time with emotional and admirable commitment. A real esoteric cannot but be sympathetic with the poor and needy: not only through material aid but also with a smile. Dreaming means smiling. We should not forget that. Dear Brethren, guests, and friends, this Communication is not meant to be the celebration of victories or defeats. It is not meant to be the triumph of void and trivial rhetoric. This is not the style of Freemasons. This Communication is meant to be a great opportunity for being united and taking energy, enthusiasm, and willingness to keep following our path in the best conditions. On this path, we have always been “Builders of Possible Dreams”. This is what all Brethren desire, this is what we feel when we attend Lodge works. This is what all those who continuously knock at the door of our Temples look for to receive the Light. But the Light is just the splendid metaphor of the dream that humanity wants to turn into reality and Brotherhood of men, Equality with all men, and Freedom for all men. This is the dream of our life as Freemasons. As Paolo Coelho – a great writer who has translated many principles of exotericism into literature – wrote “It is the possibility of making a dream come true that makes life something interesting”. And we want that our life is beautiful, useful, joyful, happy, but also interesting.
Rimini, Palacongressi, 2009 april 3
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