2017 was a special year for Freemasonry, due to the fact that this secret brotherhood, the most sought after and admired worldwide, celebrated its 300th anniversary of establishment. Many events have been assigned to this order of good men in good standing, whereas their role in the Enlightenment and Illumination is deemed to be crucial. Their rituals and symbols remain mysterious to the public, even though this brotherhood now counts 6.5 million brothers worldwide.
WHO ARE THE FREEMASONS?
Masonic lodges are thought to have their roots with the stonemasons of the middle-ages, whom have built the large cathedrals and castles of the time. In order to arrange the safekeeping of the secrets of their craft, they developed signs of recognition to make them known to one another, also to ensure that the knowledge is kept within their circles. This period is known as the period of “Operative Freemasons”.
Today, the Freemasons are not engaged in construction. They strive to represent an ethical-philosophical movement, who engages in the improvement of the society through allegory and symbols – beginning from the improvement of the individual.
THE FIRST GRAND LODGE
Even though it took care to preserve old traditions and initial rituals, modern Freemasonry maintains a symbolic character and as such it is deemed “speculative Freemasonry”. As a genesis of its activity, it recognizes the date of June 24th 1717, when four London lodges met for a joint dinner at the “Goose and Gridiron” tavern at St. Paul Churchyard – thereby forming the first Grand Lodge in the world, which today is known as the “United Grand Lodge of England”.
The significance of this accomplishment is manifold for Freemasonry, but what is most important it is the fact that this act paved the way for the worldwide structured organization of Freemasons. This laid the basis for the first cosmopolitan civic organization, whom as of now, with its 300 year history; is possibly the only assemblage whom has found the formula for self-sustainability.
It is a widely accepted fact by the historians that Freemasonry is the key manifestation of the Illuminist period, often considered one of the main success factors of that era. The illuministic slogan – ‘Liberty – Equality – Brotherhood”, which from the mouth of politicians sounds as demagogy, in Masonic Lodges – is a centuries’ long lived practice.
It is considered that Freemasonry has created a suitable space for debate and exchange of ideas, specifically with its Lodge based structure system. This debate tradition its thought to have laid the groundwork for positivist scientific discipline, as opposed to the sophist dispute style debate – whose presence we often witness in the profane academia.
This positivist nature of debate of Freemasons, in its essence- is likely to have been inherited from their many scientist brothers, whereas the academia adopted this method later – obtaining it amongst the live practice in Masonic Lodges.
Even the civil society of today, is deemed to have gained its present form by the influence of Masonic Lodges.
MASONRY IN ALBANIAN REGIONS
Freemasonry in our lands is believed to have started in the time of National Enlightenment. Even though, to date there are no sufficient studies to determine its role in our national Enlightenment – the fact that many personalities that were involved in the enlightenment and Masonry, lets us understand that their role was in fact highly impactful.
The Romanian researcher, Adrian Majuru, in his book “The Albanian Bucharest” – “Bukureshti Shqiptar”, supports the theory that the Albanian National Enlightenment, had started to gain in quality, organization level and seriousness by also upping its strives for independence as a result of the organizing of Albanian patriots in Masonic Lodges.
According to Majuru, the first known Albanian Lodge was named “The First Brotherhood”, established in 1875 in Zagazik, (Egypt), under the leadership of Korca native, Nikolla Naço. Like many other Albanians, Naço had chosen Egypt as a suitable place to exercise his patriotic activities, since this country was at the time ran by the Albanian dynasty of Mehmet Ali Pasha
By 1877, in Bucharest, another Albanian Masonic Lodge had started its activity – also established by Naço – named “The Light”, where many Albanian patriots were members and along with their Romanian brothers, endeavored for the creation of the preconditions of the establishment if the Albanian state.
Lately, undisputed evidence has been uncovered that even the creator of the Albanian state, Ismail Qemali – was a Freemason, initiated in one of the Italian Lodges of the time, which it is believed to have assisted in the process of independence of Albania.
Certain facts are in existence that shows Vaso Pasha and Nikollë Ivanaj belonging to the Masonic brotherhood. The latter established the “Masonic Triangle of Durrës” on April 14th 1914, named “Shqypnija” (Albania). The Masonic triangle of Durres, in 1914 numbered 20 members, among whom were: Doctor Kotta, Anastasio Thoqi, Rauf Fico and Mazar Beu. The Masonic triangle of Vlora was also very active and included other patriots such as: Abdullah Ibrahimi, Pertaf Voshtina, Qazim Kokoshi dhe Rexhep Efendiu.
There are indications that a large portion of the National Enlightenment movement were Freemasons, such as Faik Konica and Naim Frashëri and later some ministers of the Ismail Qemali government, but sufficient proof has yet to be presented for these claims.
RENOWNED PERSONALITIES OF FREEMASONRY
Freemasonry was forbidden in communist Albania, as well as in Albanian regions in ex-Yugoslavia. The First and Regular Lodges in Albania were created in 2011. The Grand Lodge of Albania was established in October 2011, which is now recognized by the most important Grand Lodges of the world, including recognition by the Grand Lodge of England
In Kosova, the first regular Masonic lodge was founded in June 2014, with assistance of the Grand Lodge of Albania, and has been named “Dardania”
Freemasonry has given the world many important personalities among whom are: Voltaire, Mozart, George Washington, Simon Bolivar, Winston Churchill, Goethe, Lessing etc. The latter, states that Freemasonry is not something arbitrary, even un-necessary, rather, it is something crucial, based in the human being and civic society.
It remains to be seen as to how the further development of Freemasonry in Albanian lands, will be able to fulfill its stated purpose of making good men – better.