Feast of the Rite, June 8th, 2024: Remarks by the SGC

Most Worshipful and Most Powerful Sovereign Grand Commanders, Most Powerful Brothers of the Supreme Council of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite for the Italian Masonic Jurisdiction, Most Illustrious and Most Worshipful Grand Master of the Grand Orient of Italy, Most Worshipful Brothers,it is with a great sense of responsibility and pride that I have the honour of celebrating today the Feast of the Scottish Rite, which this year marks 219 years, all dedicated to the arduous and incessant task of building Temples to Virtue, digging dark and deep dungeons to Vice and working for the Good and Progress of Humanity.

The Scottish Rite, however – and this is yet another reason for its greatness – never points out the great Principle meant to guide our actions; it rather provides us with myths, allegories, symbols which we should reflect upon and assimilate.

It must slowly take shape within us, fulfilling itself through an ongoing process, somehow akin to the coagula et solvi of the ancient alchemists, so as to usher into a different level of awareness that allows us to dominate the lower instincts by balancing them adequately with inner action.

Our personality must undergo a constant work of self-criticism, for the sake of removing negative and deteriorating aspects, while strengthening virtues and moral precepts, constantly fighting against the weaknesses underlying human nature.

The fundamental trinomial that we find engraved in our Times, which constitutes the Masonic identity paradigm – namely, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity – is not, however, always adequately declined.

A virtue that is particularly dear to each of us is freedom: for Isaiah Berlin, who devoted much of his life to this topic, it is the absence of constraints, meaning that in the real world the limitations imposed by social living on the actions and will of individuals should be reduced as much as possible.

I recall that we too were told, at initiation, by the 1st Overseer: “for us, Freedom is the power to do or not to do certain acts, depending on the determination of our will. It is the right to do anything that does not stand against moral law and the freedom of others”.

Berlin, like Karl Popper, believes that Freedom is intimately associated with Justice, a subject on which the Scottish brothers are called upon to meditate in several chambers and that I believe is paramount both in secular life and within our institution.

It is not by chance that, in the Temple where the work of the first three degrees is performed, the statue of Minerva stands to the right of the Worshipful Master, so as to emphasise its importance. Similarly, in the Temple where the Supreme Council gathers, there is a reference to Wisdom, which in ancient Rome was represented by the goddess Minerva, together with laws and Justice.

The goddess Minerva (Athena for the Greeks) possesses all the faculties and virtues that every free mason should strive for; indeed, in her, all opposites are duly arranged, so that a particular form of wisdom can emerge, namely, acting at the right time in the most appropriate manner.

Minerva, in fact, is a warrior goddess, but also the goddess of the olive tree, symbol of peace; the goddess of military strategies, but also the goddess of feminine arts such as weaving and embroidery.She is a goddess that blends Hercules and Venus: the masculine and the feminine, the demigod of strength and the goddess of beauty and love.

Not only does Minerva defend the city from external aggression, she also protects the freedom of individual citizens against the aims of those who wish to suppress it by becoming tyrants; she is the goddess who calls on judges to hand a fair verdict, taking into account, when enforcing the law, not just the criminal action but also, and above all, the causes it stems from.

If a citizen of classical Athens had been asked why the Athenians chose, from among all gods, an armed goddess as the protector of their city, he would have replied that Athena, being a woman, loved all citizens equally with maternal love, yet was armed to defend the freedom of the city and its individual citizens.

Aren’t Equality and Freedom, the principles that allow citizens to feel united through a strong bond of brotherhood, despite their diversity, the principles that Freemasonry should cultivate – for the good of mankind – within its Temples and then spread to the secular world?

Take away someone’s Freedom to be different and you’ll get the single-mindedness of the dictator and his acolytes, the creation of a repressive system of suspects and special courts ready to condemn those who have different ideas. All this for preserving Power.

Brothers, we are not such because we share beliefs or, worse, because we subscribe to certain dogmas. Being a brother mason means accepting a Masonic bond that, in terms of concepts and values, entails feelings, harmonious affections, solidarity, tolerance and common building. Each one of us is a simple bearer of polished stone for the construction of the Temple, whose foundations – it is worthwhile remembering – rise from the very darkness of the earth where they are laid. These foundations must necessarily be strong, capable of supporting the progressive rise of the Work towards the sky, in search of the Light.

To adequately achieve this, to build a construction that has the ambition to challenge time and nature, I ask you, dear Brothers, to always bear in mind what the great Dante Alighieri wrote in the 26th Canto of Inferno, the Canto of Ulysses “Consider your origins: you were not made to live as brutes, but to follow virtue and knowledge”. With these words, Ulysses urges his companions to pursue their journey into the unknown, reminding them that God has endowed man with free will and reason, so that he may use them wisely, properly following virtue and knowledge.

The correct use of reason is therefore the task of man as such and only through this may he rise above primordial beings incapable of mastering their instincts and inclined, on the contrary, to perform actions unworthy of human nature.

My dearest Brothers, a touching poem by Bertolt Brecht has often sprung to my mind in moments of uncertainty and bitterness related to the burdensome task of leading the Scottish Rite to which I have been called by my peer Brethren of the Supreme Council, when I felt, ever more pressing within me, the categorical imperative to defend the Rite I have dedicated a good part of my life and energy to, having vowed to protect it from all assaults from the outside and from within. This poem is entitled:

To those who hesitate

You say:

it’s going bad for us. Darkness

grows. Strengths are vanishing.

After working for so many years

we are now facing a situation

that is more troubled than the one

we were facing when we began.

Our enemy stands before us,

stronger than ever.

His strength seems to have grown. He is

apparently invincible.

We have made some mistakes,

that is undeniable.

There’s less and less of us. Our

watchwords are confused. A part of

our words have been

distorted by our enemy, who actually made them


What is wrong now, what is false about what we have said?

Something or everything? Who can we

count on now? Are we survivors, drifting away

in the current? We will we lag behind, no longer

understanding anyone, or no longer being understood by anyone?

Or should we rely on good fortune?

That’s what you ask yourself. Expect

no answer,

other than yours.

And this is what I urge you to do, dear Brothers. To seek the answers to the questions within yourselves, to express your critical sense freely and autonomously, to not just accept what you are told – not even my own words – to refuse to bend your backs to the powerful, to avoid that “the sleep of reason produce monsters” as Francisco Goya reminds us, to consider that the path of honour is the only one worth following to the end, to submit to the scrutiny of your consciences the actions that you are asked to perform, certain as we may be that, in all cases, there is a supreme judge to whom each one of us must eventually account.

And speaking of the Supreme Judge, let me tell you a story that took place almost 300 years ago; it is the story of miller Arnold of Potsdam.

He was basically forced not to pay the rent he owed to the owner of the mill because the water that allowed it to function had been diverted further upstream by a baron, to build a fish farm.

The year was 1770. Summoned to court following his failure to pay the rent, the judge ordered Arnold to pay what was owed. Unable to meet the claim, the miller was forced to auction off the business and sell the mill, which was bought by a front man who soon resold it to the owner of the fish farm – who had ruined Arnold’s life.

It was at this point that Arnold and his wife Rosina began a long legal battle involving various levels of judgement, with facts being examined by judges who were inept or submissive to the will of the powerful, sometimes even corrupt, and who always ruled against the unfortunate couple, who were even condemned to pay the court costs of 3,000 groschen. By that stage, Rosina pronounced the fateful phrase “There has to be a judge in Berlin”.

After several bitter defeats and further disappointments, Rosina finally petitioned the King on 14 December 1779 (…that’s less than ten years after the storming of the Bastille and the start of the French Revolution). The King, having examined the matter himself, decided that the ruling was manifestly unjust and decreed that since justice was administered in the name of the King, his name had been abused. Furthermore, given that, in the words of the King, “an unjust court is more pernicious than a gang of thieves, because you can defend yourself against the latter, not so against the former”, (taken in from the website Justice Together. Justice amid invented truths and partial stories) he had the inept and corrupt judges jailed, sentenced them to at least one year in prison, and granted compensation for damages to the Arnolds, who were compensated with “1,358 thalers, 11 groschen and 1 pfennig”.

The mill, which had been taken by the greedy and dishonest baron, was returned to the couple. Justice had triumphed, albeit after quite some time.

And today, dear Brothers, I feel the duty to remember, so that his grand moral magisterium may be a lesson to all, a martyr of freedom, the Honourable Giacomo Matteotti, whose 100th anniversary of his murder will fall in two days, on 10 June. He was killed for having openly denounced the fraud of the electoral round that had just taken place and for having opposed the arrogance of the liberticidal power that was being established in Italy; the High Court of Justice of the Senate, servant of the political power, set up a farcical trial that ended as we all know.

However – and let this be a warning to tyrants – the return to legality after the war led to the annulment of all sentences passed, so that the trial was re-instituted and those responsible condemned. Here too, Justice had triumphed.

Dearest brothers, Nietzsche claimed that God is dead, indicating that the idea of divinity is no longer the source of any moral code, leading to the refusal to believe in an objective and universal moral law that binds all individuals.If we were only to consider the many events unfolding before our eyes, we would have to agree with him.But I prefer to believe in the message of Francesco Guccini who wrote, in a beautiful song that you all know: “if God dies, it is for three days and then he rises again”; the last stanzas of this song are “In what we believe, god has risen again; In what we want, god has risen; In the world we will make, god has risen”.

In conclusion, dear brothers, the warning that comes to us from the symbolism of the ancient Gods present in our Temples seems clear: in the Masonic esoteric path, as in profane life, the mere use of force, especially when serving our passions – the most deleterious being the lust for power – does not belong to us, it is counter-initiative!

Our virtues, on the contrary, are tolerance, which allows for different ideas and not dogmatism, dialogue and not accusation, judging fairly, without factionalism, respecting the will and choices of our brothers and sisters – including those whose opinions differ from ours – and not clinging to formalities to make our opinion prevail.

The desire for power shall sooner or later lead to certain failure. On the contrary, only by combining strength with love can understanding and tolerance arise and Concord be restored.


Giulio Nigro, 33°