The New Supreme Councils in the A.A.S.R. Chain: 

Issues and Prospects

“From the moment of its creation to this very day, has the A.A.S.R. remained unaltered?” This is the fundamental issue of this conference.  Our basic answer: 

“Yes, the essence of the A.A.S.R. does not change.”

Grand ideas have no beginning and no end, because they are eternal.  So wrote Hermann Hesse in his masterpiece, The Glass Bead Game.  Kant wrote of transcendental things which lie outside and in advance of our cognisance and experience.  Similarly, the essence of the freemasonry, and particularly of the A.A.S.R. (the Ancient & Accepted Scottish Rite), is transcendental, a grand idea with no beginning and no end.  For that reason, its essence can never change.

The question is a different one.

The A.A.S.R. was established in the early 19th century, and the world has changed enormously since then. Paradigms of human thought and behaviour have been altered in geometric progression.  There are many areas in which a person in 1970 was closer to someone in the early 19th century than to someone at the beginning of the 21st century.  We must take this into account.  We cannot remain unchanged, and this applies to us as human beings and as Freemasons.

The true issue is how not to lose the essence of the A.A.S.R. idea during this era of rapid change, how not to lose oneself in the relationship between the changing world and the unchanging essence of ideas.

I would like to emphasise two aspects of change:

First, there is the more long-term perspective of time.  Since the establishment of the A.A.S.R. in the early 19th century, the world has changed substantially, into one with a globalised consumer society. I shall not go into this matter in greater detail, but we must keep this in mind as an essential component of the background for our action.

Second, during the more short-term perspective of time – the last 10 to 15 years – the international chain of brethren of the A.A.S.R. has been rapidly supplemented with new Supreme Councils mostly in the countries of the former communists area, but not only there. Certainly, this refers to societies which have undergone enormously rapid changes of a political, economic and spiritual nature.  In most cases, the traditions of the freemasonry had been interrupted in these lands for half a century or more.

The strength of the entire international A.A.S.R. chain is linked to this expansion.  There are hopes, and there are threats.  I can draw far-reaching conclusions from Latvia’s experience.  I can make guesses about what is happening in other countries, although in this area, I would not wish to draw any categorical conclusions.

The collapse of the totalitarian regimes of Communism offered the A.A.S.R. a chance for development in new territories.  Forced development became quite inevitable.  Brethren in the new lands, quite understandably, wished to attain the highest degrees, as well as nationally sovereign grand lodges and supreme councils, as quickly as possible.  Brethren in the old lands of the A.A.S.R. granted these opportunities.  Sadly, this sometimes led to competition over influence and the desire to be first.

There are parallels between the swift pace of development in the A.A.S.R. and the overheating of an economy.  

Indeed, these processes have occurred more or less simultaneously at the global level.  The rapid attainment of high degrees represented a loan of sorts, a spiritual loan.  In national economies, thoughtless lending led to bankruptcy.  Sadly, the same can be true in the A.A.S.R., as well.  It may suddenly be discovered that the intellectual bank of the highest A.A.S.R. degrees is full of poorly performing lending portfolios.

Partly could be it was the result of fast and hipper fast development in the new countries. But it is problem not only new countries.

The development of the A.A.S.R. in Latvia has been rapid from the perspective of traditional canons, and yet, at the same time, it has been one of the slowest and most cautious approaches among all of the new lands of the A.A.S.R.  We achieved the 33rd-degree Supreme Council fifteen years after the restoration of the knighthood.  The same is true in the other Baltic States – Estonia and Lithuania.  This cautious and slow development has not been without problems.  A situation of having between 30 and 50 members does not ensure the critical mass which is necessary to provide organisational support for the functioning of the system of higher degrees without tensions.  And yet we are tense.  At the same time, we seek to ensure coperation among the Supreme Councils of the three Baltic States.

A few interrelated issues which we should not fail to take into account in our present-day situation:

  • The desire to involve people in lodges and to add as many people as possible, and very quickly, so as to attain and exceed the critical mass. It is conflict between quality and quantity. A lot of freemasons, but just a scrap of freemasonry, just a scrap of spirit.
  • The existence of the various systems and rituals of the knighthood can, in an ideal situation, be seen as a multicultural quality. In practice, however, the existence of diverse systems can, alas, rapidly turn into unhealthy competition, with quality sacrificed on the altar of quantity;
  • We should not pretend that most freemasons of the higher degrees have a clear sense of how their lives as knights are integrated into the rest of their lives.  Often, indeed, these are two completely separated worlds.  The freemasonry is seen as a form of relaxation which helps to gain achievements in other areas of life.  All right, but that really does not have anything to do with the purpose and the grand and unchanging idea of the A.A.S.R. We can not, we must not a spirit of freemasonry to imprison only in the Temple. We must not to lose themselves as freemasons in the everyday life.
When it comes to the unchanging essence of the A.A.S.R., I would like to remind everyone of what Albert Pike, said about the matter.  What is the first thing to which he points when he thinks about the Secret Master of the Lodge of Perfection?

“Duty is the one great law of Masonry.

Inflexible as Fate and Exacting as Necessity,
Rising with us in the morning and
Watching at our pillows at night.
Duty is with us always, imperative as destiny.”

Here we see the highest initial purpose of the A.A.S.R. – responsibility for oneself as a man of honour, a man of good reputation.  Responsibility of one’s family and one’s state.  Responsibility for all of mankind.

There was a time in which the knighthood stood as the true embodiment of accountability in a society.  The origins of the grand idea of the A.A.S.R. are very closely linked to the values of the knighthood.  When the class of knights disappeared, the world yielded before the assumption that a modern society cannot be possessed of adequate values of the knighthood.  That is why we have lost the linkage between the sense of duty that is addressed in the lessons of the Lodge of Perfection and our own lives, between everyday life and global proceedings.

Our problem today is to bring the values of the knighthood which are alive in the temple into our everyday lives. A lack of accountability threatens mankind more than ever today.  An economic crisis, an ecological crisis.  These are preceded by a moral crisis.  The decision-making elite are insufficiently chivalrous.  There is insufficient accountability at the national and the global level.

The unchanging and grand idea of the A.A.S.R. orders us to think and to act so that our surrounding world might become more accountable.  We must set an example in this regard, we must shape the spiritual environment that is around us.

In conclusion, a brief summary  

I would like to emphasise two things the A.A.S.R. should take into account in pursuing its unchanging essence in a rapidly changing world.

Internal development.  The damaging consequences of unhealthy competition and forced development must be identified.  The A.A.S.R. should draft its own initiatives and call upon other systems of the knighthood to engage in dialogue about these matters.

External development.  There must be a more concrete understanding of how our fundamental idea relates to our modern lives.

These problems are related to the influx of new blood into the A.A.S.R.  The movement faces the threat of degeneration if there are no positive and creative solutions.  We hope for the development of new creation.

M:.P:.Bro:. Ilmars Latkovskis, 33˚ 
SGC of SC for Latvia

The speech on Conference of SGC of Europe and associated countriesMay 20, 2009, Athens, Greece