Interview with Manuel Torres
Manuel Torres: “A Mason seeks answers about life and the cosmos, but he must understand that he will die without them”
Valencian by birth, he has lived in Barcelona most of his life and now resides in Sitges. In his “civil” life he has practiced law, has been deputy director in Catalonia of the National Telephone Company of Spain and also held a seat in the early years of Spanish Democracy. And at 69 he is one of the candidates for Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Spain.
He has dedicated 35 years of his life to Freemasonry …
In reality it is more. I was initiated in 1979 in France. What happens is that for three years I was a clandestine Mason because, at that time, Freemasonry was still banned in Spain, it was not legalized until 1982. That’s why, when we talk about 35 years, they count since the Grand Lodge of Spain was created, of which I have the honour of being a founder.
Is it the first time that you have stood for the election as Grand Master?
Yes, I have done this at the suggestion of many brethren of different degrees and from all the areas of the Grand Lodge.
Is it because of secrecy that surrounds Freemasonry that myths exist?
In fact, there has been a need throughout history to exercise Freemasonry in an extremely discreet manner because, as advocates of tolerance and free thinking, all regimes that do not accept freedoms have ended up persecuting Freemasons to intended extension. Fortunately, this has changed and in democratic countries we can freely exercise Freemasonry wherever liberty exists. The existence of our organisation is known worldwide, although in Spain Freemasonry itself is still a great mystery. If people knew the truth, we would never suffer such prejudices.
At this point I must ask you what is Freemasonry?
It is an initiation fraternity. According to our rituals it is a peculiar system of morality that is illustrated by symbols and veiled in allegories. I personally believe the world – fundamentally Western world – could learn the meaning to life.
You speak fundamentally about the importance of values …
Yes, the truth is that Freemasonry inculcates and enables a path to perfection at an individual level and as a result of that, also progress and improvement within society and in humanity in general. In our institution we cultivate values of an ethical, aesthetic and humanistic character, with spiritual openness.
What can Freemasonry contribute today?
Well, I believe that Freemasonry is absolutely essential in today’s world because, if today’s society sadly suffers, and especially Spanish society, is the values and ethics of humanism and non-competitive spirituality, which are the values and virtues that our institution advocates.
Can anyone become a Mason?
Yes, easily. You only need to ask your local lodge. You will be interviewed by typically three of its members and then, if successful, your membership will be voted on within the lodge. If the result is positive for the candidate, the initiation ceremony will take place. This process is not instantaneous but could take a few months.
I thought you were going to say “a few years”
No, that was in the old days. Now the processes have been simplified.
And to resign from Freemasory?
Much easier. You only need to express it verbally in any of the meetings or in writing. Your membership would then end immediately.
When I was referring to whether anyone can be a Mason, can men and women be members?
Anyone can be a freemason as long as he is a tolerant person. There are different organizations within Freemasonry, some are exclusively masculine, others are exclusively feminine and there are also mixed ones. The most important and best known Freemasons organisation in the world by tradition, to which I belong, is male only.
You are accused then of being of male chauvinists …
I understand that outside of Freemasonry you have that perception but those who really know us knows that it is not like that. We defend human rights in their fullness and that also includes gender rights.
Why can someone feel attracted to Freemasonry?
I believe that the search for the mysteries of our existence, of life, of the cosmos in general is something that from within us urges us to find answers. To be a Mason you have to be a seeker of truths, but you must also accept the humility of the human condition and the limitations of our own abilities. Therefore, anyone who really wants to seek the truths of life and the cosmos can find their way through the ways of Freemasonry. But that person must understand that his earthly existence, like that of all of us, will end without him having obtained those answers.
You speak in your electoral program of the organisational model, which you consider “extemporaneous to the 21st century” and that it is necessary to adapt?
We are an initiatic order but in turn, under the Spanish State, we are an association. In this last sense this is where the organization must be updated. It is essential to simplify administrative or bureaucratic structures, whose complexity does not make much sense with the new technologies. In addition, this will allow us to dedicate all our energies to our true singularity, as an initiatory order, to practice in its purity that path of perfection of regular Freemasonry.
Is there an interest in obtaining the Declaration of Public Utility?
That would be desirable. That is why this simplification of the bureaucratic or economic aspects of our organisation is necessary before presenting our documented application to the Public Administration to obtain the Public Utility that, on the other hand, is evident. We only need the State to recognise us.
In your electoral program you speak of the need for transparency outside and inside …
Yes, it is fundamental. Our organic structure, which is divided into a lodge, a provincial lodge and a grand lodge, makes communication difficult and prevents some people who work in the lodge from knowing what is happening at higher levels. It is essential to improve our communication channels and, without doubt, the transparency. Without it, there cannot be an administration of equality, rights and obligations.
This transparency applies to other areas such as the economy. Talk, for example, about the contributions to the real estate fund …
That is correct. Among our funds we have the real estate fund and during the last few years a financial saving has been made but it has not been dedicated to the ultimate reason for which this fund was created. Therefore, in our program we advocate that, openly and in a participatory manner, we decide which are the priorities and create an investment plan. If that fund does not reach the destination for which it was created, it does not make sense and it should be cancelled.
Is there also an interest in territorial expansion?
Yes, there are still Spanish provinces that do not have a lodge. I believe that for our institution to achieve recognition, we need a greater presence and be closer to the community. Consequently, I understand that one of the objectives we need to achieve is that there are lodges, not only in the most important cities, but also in each province and any population of reasonable size.
In the program that has been developed there are about 25 points. On what other areas do you propose improvements?
The fundamental purpose of our project is that the future of Spanish Freemasonry must develop its institutional stability, with the participation of all the brethren and all the lodges. To build the future of Spanish Freemasonry amongst all, by all and for all. In addition, the path of freemasonry is always positive. It is the path that our very being leads us towards the glory of the supreme being. And this positive culture must be rooted in our organization.