Chief Mason of Russia: ''At times, characters dreaming of world domination come to us''
Andrey Bogdanov about Masonry, women and atheists in Masonry
How to become a Mason and what's the main goal of Freemasons' lodge? Are there many Masons in Russia? What spheres do representatives of this movement come from? Why can't women and atheists be among the Masons? In the interview with Realnoe Vremya, Grand Master of Grand Lodge of Russia Andrey Bogdanov answered these and many other questions.
''Regular Masonic lodges have over 4 million people all over the world''
Mr Bodganov, could you tell our readers how you came to Masonry and about your road to the post of Grand Master of Grand Lodge of Russia?
I knew about Russian Masonry from my close friend in 1999. After long reasoning, I decided to join, though I knew little about Masonry. But I knew my friend well, his principles and outlooks on life. He couldn't have joined a bad organisation. In 2000, I was ordained as a pupil of honourable Harmony No. 1 lodge in the east of Moscow.
In 2001, I became an apprentice and master's degree. Citadel No. 27 honourable lodge in the east of Moscow was installed in 2005, and I was installed its first honourable Master. In 2006, I was chosen Grand Benefactor of GLR (Editor's Note: Grand Lodge of Russia). In 2007, the brothers chose me Grand Master and I still am.
You're a famous political consultant, you also were a candidate for the president of Russia. At the same time, you chair an organisation that doesn't approve discussions of political issues and stays clear of this topic as much as possible. Isn't there any discord for you here?
Masonry doesn't forbid any professional activity that doesn't contradict the country's laws. In my activity, I don't mention Masonry.
Masonry doesn't forbid any professional activity that doesn't contradict the country's laws
Is Masonry active and widely spread in Russia? Do you note any differences between Masonry in Russia and abroad?
Grand Lodge of Russia that I chair belongs to Regular Masonry that dates back to 1717, after creating the first Grand Lodge in England. Regular Masonry compulsorily sticks to loyalty principles of the existing state power and belief in God. Discussions on political and religious issues aren't' allowed in our lodges. And, of course, it is respect for traditions of our fraternity that we call landmarks.
So Regular Masonic lodges have over 4 million people all over the world. Numbers of lodges in the USA, Latin America, Europe are especially big. For instance, about 300,000 people belong to lodges in England, over 2 million – in the USA, tens of thousands of Masons are in Germany, France, Brazil, etc.
The number of brothers in Russia isn't so big, we have more than 1,000 people. But Masonry revived in Russia only 20 years ago, while its uninterrupted history has been lasting for about 300 years in England, France and the USA. If there aren't social upheavals like the October Revolution, the number of Russian brothers will grow rapidly in the future. Working principles are the same around the world. And this is why there aren't big differences between separate national jurisdiction.
Are there many Freemasons among big Russian politicians? We understand you can't name them but still hope for approximate numbers. And what spheres are mainly represented in Russian lodges?
It's a rule of Masonry not to say names of its members excluding those cases when they took the initiative and publicly announced their consecration to the Order of Freemasons. I can only say that Russian Masonry has politicians and businessmen, scientists and policemen, opera theatre singers and militaries, students and pensioners, university professors and priests.
So regular Masonic lodges have over 4 million people all over the world. Numbers of lodges in the USA, Latin America, Europe are especially big
We can't help but ask your opinion about conspiracy theory dedicated to Masons. And have you ever met outsiders who asked to join the lodge just to get 'world domination'?
The term 'Masonic conspiracy' appeared in the second half of the 19 th century. Lampoons started to be actively spread across Europe and Russia in order to accuse some hateful people of all misfortunes. A secret society doesn't mean uncertainty, uncertainty generates suspicion, and suspicion can grow into hatred if using it skillfully.
So did it happen by the early 20 th century. And then the Fascists supported such rubbish to justify their atrocities. When people try to publicly announce such fantasies, we feel pity for those people who become the voice of such inanities due to their misery – mental or spiritual.
Of course, there are cases when characters dreaming of world domination come to us. But we explain them from the beginning that they were barking up the wrong tree and then stop talking to them.
''The presence of women right in the lodge will change the atmosphere in ritual works either willingly or unwillingly''
You've stated many times that Grand Lodge of Russia has never discussed religious and political issues in its work. So what questions do you have on your agenda?
Our order is an educational organisation that strictly respects traditions of the past. And this is why there are few differences in the activity of modern lodges from what was two centuries ago: we still care about the spiritual development of our brothers, deal with charity projects and do our best in participating in culture and education. The main goal of Freemasons is to work hard for spiritual self-improvement in order to become useful for spiritual improvement of citizens of their country. In brief, with slight self-irony, this formula sounds the following way: ''We take good people and make them better.'' Such questions are on agenda of our work.
In one of your interviews, you said women weren't accepted to Masonry due to the historical background – they weren't 'free' during the first years of Masonry's existence. Now the situation has changed – women and men's right became equal. Isn't it time to start accepting women into your ranks?
Regular Masonry is very strict about conservation of traditions, including about impossibility of women's participation in ritual work. It doesn't mean Masons don't respect women. By the way, every newly ordained brother gets a rose on behalf of the lodge that he must give it to a woman he respects the most after his first work. But the presence of women right in the lodge will change the atmosphere in ritual works either willingly or unwillingly when the emotional component that's always present in relations of men and women will dominate over spiritual values that made brothers gather together.
Regular Masonry is very strict about conservation of traditions including in impossibility of participation of women in rituals
Is it true that there is a kind of untraditional Masonry that accepts women into its ranks and freely discusses politics? What is your opinion about this occurrence? Is there this branch of the traditional line in Russia?
As for such a union as Grand Orient and its relative organisations in some countries, they have nothing to do with Regular Masonry. We don't consider them as Masonic and don't comment on them. And how can we comment if such organisations breach the main principles of Masonry, including participation in political activity and have atheistic beliefs?
In an interview to our newspaper, Historian Konstantin Rudenko stated that as historical occurrence Masonry ran its course in the 19th century and Masons should be treated as a fact but historical, which existed, ran its course and ended. What would you say to this?
I've already said the number of Freemasonry in the world in the answer to the first questions. We are millions. And only this fact allows not to agree with Mr Rudenko's curious statement.
How to become a Mason?
To fill in a questionnaire on our site. Wait for a reply. You will be invited for an interview (maybe several interviews). 2-5 masters will meet with you, ask different questions to know you better and closer. Two masters will need to give you a recommendation. After that, you will be invited for a survey blindfold. It's when all lodge will ask you questions. You will be in the lodge with your eyes covered. The survey lasts form 30 minutes to 1,5 hour. Then you will be accompanied to the exit. The lodge will make a decision whether to accept you or not by secret voting. The decision is considered unmade if more than two Grand Masons vote against you (it doesn't depend on the number of the lodge). If the decision is to accept you, you will be invited for consecration in a month.
The main goal of Freemasons is to work hard for spiritual self-improvement in order to become useful for spiritual improvement of citizens of their country
Has the rite of initiation to Masonry changed since the organisation was founded?
Do many Russians ask to join the lodge?
We monthly consider up to 200 questionnaires. From 5 to 15 outsiders reach consecration.
Who don't fit Masonry?
Atheists, women, ignoramuses, non-patriots, uneducated people.
What can one be expelled from the lodge for?
For everything that's not accepted in an enlightened society and, of course, for breaching the law.