Masonic filmmaker Tristan Bourlard and his groundbreaking global film, Terra Masonica, interviews on Phoenixmasonry Live! Special appearance by The Prince Hall Think Tank co-host, Dave Gillarm, who is featured on the film.
Brother Tristan Bourlard
I have often wanted to see Freemasonry in foreign lands, to travel and enjoy the Craft around the world. Unfortunately, I do not have a budget that will accommodate my desires.
Yet I have just made this wonderful world-wide excursion through Freemasonry from the comfort of my home, thanks to Tristan Bourlard’s movie, Terra Masonica.
I traveled near and far. Here in the United States I was able to visit the oldest Lodge in America. Have you heard of St. John’s Cemetery in Pennsylvania that has been reclaimed from the jungle? That is a story in itself.
Starting in the Mother Lodge Number Nothing in Scotland I toured the U.S.A., South America, the South Pole, the North Pole, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, the Ukraine and India. I was actually able to be at the installation of a new Worshipful Master of the Mother Lodge of Scotland and to see the joy of the whole community expressed at this event.
These travels showered me with the history and MEMORIES of Freemasonry here and abroad. There was, in Phoenixmasonry’s Live Interview, the appearance of special guest Brother Dave Gillarm from Mt. Pisgah Lodge No 53, Columbus, Georgia, The Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Georgia. He recounted having Bourlard live with him while filming Georgia. The Memory came when Bourlard filmed a woman, over 100 years old, who was present at Martin Luther’s King’s speech given at Gillarm’s Lodge in 1958.
Masonic Memories continued when Bourlard filmed in Jerusalem and we saw shots of King Solomon’s Temple from a different angle. The there was the persecution of Freemasonry in Spain under Franco exposed. We learned about Estela Lodge No 1, Antonina Village in Brazil that purchased slaves in order to set them free.
The chance to experience Fin Del Mundo, The End of The World Lodge in Antarctica and Hele Bjorn, the Lodge at the North Pole, Grand Lodge of Norway was a once in a lifetime visit.
Terra Masonica shows us places where practicing Freemasonry is still difficult. In Mali, Africa and in the Ukraine we visited places where Masonic Meetings were held in secret locations or met under armed security.
Above all we learn about the Universality of Freemasonry. Bourlard recounts that one of his purposes in making this movie was to break down the barriers that exist in Freemasonry and to bring Brothers together. Realizing that there is a big Masonic World outside your Lodge is a step in that direction. The roofless, walless Masonic Temple in the wilds of Parana Brazil was built by a Mason who was tired of all the bickering and who wanted a place for Freemasons of any Jurisdiction to meet. In India we witnessed Freemasonry dedicated to educating young people and teaching them how to interact with people of different cultures and beliefs.
Bourlard reports to us that while many parts of the World, such as North America, are lamenting a marked decrease in Masonic membership, Freemasonry is doing well in France and Germany and growing by leaps and bounds in Brazil and India. He predicted that the Grand Lodge of India would be the largest Grand Lodge in the world in just a few years.
Many stories have been left behind in this brief account of this Masonic journey across the Globe. One thing is for sure. While we look at Globalization taking place in civil, political, religious, economic and entertainment undertakings, we should not overlook the fact that Globalization is taking place in Freemasonry also. And Terra Masonica is just the movie to educate you and thrill you on this subject.
You may view Terra Masonic on ITunes. Soon it will be available for purchase on Amazon. Right now you can buy it here: http://www.matsol.info/
We last visited Patrick Craddock in June of 2013 with an article on Freemason Information that you can see HERE. Since that time Craddock has increased his product line.
While he may not make all his accessories personally they are his design. Everything on Craddock’s Site for sale has been personally designed by him and for him. They cannot be found elsewhere.
“Throughout the early 1990’s to 2009, Patrick produced aprons in the evenings and on weekends as a sideline business. From a hobby born of necessity, The Craftsman’s Apron has become the foremost purveyor of quality Masonic regalia in North America. Today our aprons are worn in twenty-seven States and two foreign countries. In addition to our aprons we have increased our product line to include custom ties, Lodge banners, cuff links, t-shirts, officer jewels and collars.”
Of course, Craddock’s mainstay is still his handcrafted, hand painted aprons. A large portion of the aprons Craddock makes are custom designs special ordered. Whether you want to design your own apron or just give Craddock some of your favorite Masonic symbols and let him work with them to make a one of a kind creation, you will be hard pressed to find anybody else in the United States that can do that for you.
Craddock also delivers lectures, most often a power point presentation of the Evolution of the Masonic Apron in the United States. He travels to many Jurisdictions to their Grand Session and he is available to speak anywhere upon request.
Phoenixmasonry Live Interviews Dr. Bro. David Harrison
Genesis of Freemasonryby Dr. David Harrison explores the way in which Freemasonry developed in England during the late 17th Century and all of the 18th Century. The book takes us through The Three Transitional Periods of English Freemasonry. Firstly, the transformation from Operative to Speculative during the 17th and early 18th Centuries. Secondly, the foundation of the London Grand Lodge in 1717 and the subsequent modernization of the ritual. Thirdly, the schisms and rebellions within Freemasonry, which forced the society to rebuild and reconcile in 1813.
Yes, the founding of the Grand Lodge of England in 1717 is discussed. But even more revealing, we learn some fascinating history of the players involved and their philosophical pursuits.
Prominent in the discussion is Elias Ashmole, the first recorded English Speculative Freemason to enter into an unknown Lodge in Warrington, Lancashire, in 1646. Warrington is Dr. David Harrison’s Lodge.
Other interesting players in this formation of English Freemasonry and its development are Dr. John Theophilus DeSaguliers, Dr. John Anderson, Sir Christopher Wren, John Dee, Sir Robert Moray, Francis Bacon, Inigo Jones, Isaac Newton, Alexander Pope, Thomas Paine, Jonathan Swift, William Preston and many others. Of all of these perhaps Dr. John Anderson and his “Book of Constitutions,” and Dr. John Theophilus DeSaguliers who wrote and inserted the Third Degree into Masonic ritual, stand out the most.
Weaved into all the personalities of this era of English Masonic development was the philosophical schools of thought that influenced Freemasonry and the schools of study that linked onto the Craft.
So we learn about Kabbalism, Rosicrucianism, Hermeticism and Druid culture. The schools of the Occult figured prominently into the development of
Dr. John Theophilus Desaguliers
English Freemasonry – astrology, numerology, magic, alchemy, necromancy to name a few. Balancing this was the influence of science and Natural Philosophy.
Then there was the almost worship of architecture and the fascination with the dimensions of King Solomon’s Temple. This gave rise to the cult of Palladian Architecture and the attempt to make St. Paul’s Cathedral a representation of Solomon’s Temple. Dr. Harrison also provides his reader with a deep discussion of Masonic symbolism and how symbols changed over time. Featured prominently in all the philosophical, architectural, political, occult and religious discussions and influence on Freemasonry was The Royal Society. Many early influential Freemasons were also members of the Royal Society.
Although Lodges were prohibited from engaging in politics, still the machinations of everyday life played into the story of Freemasonry. Thus we see how the political interaction of Royalists, Parliamentarians, Jacobites, Whigs, and Tories influenced who had the upper hand in decision making within the Craft.
Not to be forgotten is the book’s treatment of the ever changing world of Freemasonry. So we learn of the battle between the Antients and the Moderns, The York Grand Lodge and The Wigan Grand Lodge. The coming together, the reconciliation of English Freemasonry in 1813 which resulted in the United Grand Lodge of England culminates the story.
Genesis of Freemasonry is a book that came out of Dr. Harrison’s Ph.D. thesis. Consequently, this work is free of legends, theories, hypothesizes, speculation, suppositions, conjecture and other non-evidentiary thinking. As Sgt. Friday used to say on Dragnet, “Give me the facts, nothing but the facts.”
Here we have a book that is well done, very complete and that covers most everything you ever wanted to know about the who, what and where of the rise of English Freemasonry. It is by far the best factual rendition of how English Freemasonry bloomed and became everybody’s Mother Lodge. Do not miss adding this to your Masonic Library.
Brother John “Coach” Nagy recently sat down with Phoenixmasonry Live and talked about his Masonic mission of informing members of the Craft about its history, origins and how to learn more about the Society to which they belong. It was a session where even greater Light was transmitted to all the Brethren.
Each and every time I talk with Coach Nagy I never fail to learn something new. His research is thorough and far reaching into History, Religion, Masonry, Archaeology, Semantics and Etymology. He has a unique ability to bring all these fields of study together into one coherent whole, thus enabling him to relate to his readers the meaning of the symbolism, origin, sources, and meaning of our great Fraternity.
His book “The Craft Unmasked” is a seminal work that breaks new ground in the understanding of the origins of Freemasonry. That book has been reviewed on Freemason Information and can be viewed HERE.
The Beehive has always admired multi-talented Masons who are experts in many different fields. We can learn so much from such people. And if you follow Coach Nagy he will be your Socrates, asking you one question after another until you “learn how to learn.”
I hope you will enjoy the video above and that it will offer you new insight into Masonry.
Building Janus is another catechism primer from Coach John Nagy. Building Janus is where the Master Mason builds insight. Nagy tells us that, “in Roman Mythology, Janus is the god of Bourne, Passages and the rising and setting Sum. In general, he was the patron of all beginnings, concrete and abstract.”
What does the Third Degree do for Masons? Well, Nagy tells us that it directs Masons into “learning how to learn.” He says that it “assists them in recognizing things that most ordinary thinkers would not.” “Men are prepared to see things that unprepared men cannot.”
Nagy speaks about the Bourne, the passage, and how Masonic study opens doors. “Masters (Master Masons) perceive Doors unseen by others, “he says. He goes on to say, “Masters open Doors locked to others. Masters Pass through Doors impassable by others.”
But to make this journey, to travel in foreign lands, to experience new ideas, a Master Mason must prepare himself for travel. “Improperly prepared Masons venturing into such lands are likened to individual hands making effort to clap against nothing.”
Nagy explains to us the eight foreign lands a Mason is introduced to. To make these journeys a Master Mason needs to “pay attention to the ritual and do the Work required of him.”…for those who are Properly Prepared and who possess suitable proficiency, Traveling never ends.”
From there Nagy tells us, “The working Tool that is my favorite is the one that exists within a truly Raised Mason. That Working Tool is his Ordered brain.” Nagy speaks strongly here about bringing men to Order from Chaos. He tells us of the benefits of the three degrees:
“Masons trained by Entered Apprentice Work are less likely to strike out personally at other people when it is pointed out that the quality of their work lacks Integrity.”
“Masons trained by Fellow Craft Work are less likely to accept the illogical, irrational and unsound premises and conclusions that lesser trained people offer up as credible.”
“Fully trained Masons recognize specific Patterns that denote others who have been brought to Order from Chaos. They also recognize those people who are still in Chaos.”
Coach Nagy is a very spiritual man. He shows us that in his Ordering Catechism.
John “Coach” Nagy
“The second task is understanding how both the internal and the external worlds interrelate. The foundation of this understanding is also laid by doing the Work spoken of in the first two degrees.”
“How do Masons benefit from this knowledge? They accurately perceive the interconnections of both worlds and between both worlds.”
“The third task is to apply these understanding Metaphorically toward worlds conceived by imagination that lie beyond those known by humankind’s physical experience. Such ability allows Masons to obtain and communicate deep and profound truths with others who are likeminded.”
Now that is most profound.
But, “Ritual provides to Masons only the barest of bones. What is received by one’s efforts is only the beginning of Mastery.”
More Work is required, says Nagy. What follows in the book is explanations of The Widow’s Son and The Master’s Word.
Nagy tells us, “The more I explore the Allusions offered by Masonry, the more expansive and interconnected I find my world.”
A most interesting chapter is the one on the symbolism of the Lion in Masonry. And again Nagy urges his reader to pause and meditate on the meaning of such symbolism.
“Masons pausing to Perpend what is before them have an advantage over those Masons that don’t. It takes a certain amount of discipline to remove oneself from the game and reflect upon its different aspects. Insight into any game often depends upon Perpending elements not considered by those who do not take the time to pause.”
The history of the symbolism of the Lion in society through the ages is most interesting and reflects on why Masonry has included it in its ritual.
Nagy points out, “During the Greek and Roman period, the Lion was the Symbol of the fallen hero. It also was often used as a guardian figurine for Gates, Temples, and Buildings. In Christian art, the Lion represents the Redeemer. The Lion is also Emblematic of the Gospel writer Saint Mark the Evangelist. The Lion symbol was also used in medieval heraldry and is still currently used on seals, flags, shields and banners and is also depicted on the flag of Jerusalem.”
The fallen hero, eh? Now refer to the Legend of Hiram Abiff! How do we raise the fallen hero?
Nagy goes on to further catalog the use of the Lion during the Lion period in the 1700’s. “During this time, British artisans and craftsmen took to carving Lions’ masks on the knees of cabriole legs and the arms of chairs and settees, and Lion’s paws on furniture feet. This was the same period when the ‘Lion’ was carved into the foot of the Third Degree.”
But Nagy isn’t through with the lion. He points out the popularity of Sphinxes in ancient Egypt. “In ancient Egypt, Sphinxes were placed at the entrances of Temples to guard the mysteries, by warning those who penetrate within, that they should conceal the knowledge of these mysteries from the uninitiated.”
This Lion symbolism goes a long way to explain the meaning of the strong grip of a Master Mason.
Nagy concludes his book with a chapter on Speculative Masonry and why the term Speculative may be a misnomer.
I have to say that this is my favorite Building book by Coach Nagy so far. This is where the Master Mason gets down to the nitty-gritty. This is where our request for some meat is answered.
Nagy reminds us that Masonic Ritual is just a road map. It is up to us to take the road map and explore all the ramifications and applications that can broaden our world and truly make us better persons. This is where true Mastery begins.
Once again Coach Nagy advises us to think, to contemplate, to explore and ask questions and seek answers. Building Janus is the GPS to new discoveries. But we, as Master Masons, must learn how to learn and do the Work necessary to obtain the prize – those deep and profound truths that enable us to travel to foreign and uncharted venues. This is the real secret or mystery of Masonry, and Building Janus is the book for every Master Mason to take on his journey.
You can order your copy of Building Janus at the link below:
There is a Past Master in Boerne, Texas who is a master craftsman. He is probably the only one you will find that designs and creates Masonic knives, knives of many different sizes and styles. His name is Jim McBeth and he is McBeth Knives.
His house is in a sparsely populated area called “The Hill Country” in Texas, an area steeped in American Cowboy, Native American and Mexican heritage. McBeth’s office reflects that heritage with western art and sculpture everywhere. And on the wall is his membership in The Former Texas Ranger Foundation for the support he has given that organization.
The Former Texas Ranger Foundation
But it’s not the office where knives are made. McBeth has transformed his garage into a large workshop with many heavy pieces of machinery that he uses to craft his knives. It is a labor of love for McBeth. He insists that only the finest, high-grade materials be used for his knives.
He makes his own knife pins making sure that there is a design inside them. He uses pins” with “Mosaic” patterns when possible. The material used for these pins include rods of Brass, Copper, Stainless Steel and Aluminum. McBeth often arranges the various sizes of these rods in patterns to create a ‘mosaic’ for each particular knife.
McBeth only works with the highest quality steel knife blanks, ordering only high grade 440c stainless steel “blanks”. Damascus patterns include Ladder, Raindrop, Twist, Herringbone just to name a few. The “blanks” that he uses are made from multiple bars of 1095 Carbon steel and multiple bars of high Nickel 15N20 steel creating between 175 and 250 layers in whatever pattern the “maker” decided.
The handles are crafted from various types of exotic woods. Some of these “Exotics” include Cocobolo
Scottish Rite Knife
Rosewood, Zebrawood, Canarywood, Red Heart, Bocote, Leopardwood, Amboyna, Rosewood Burl, just to name a few. You can have a Masonic Emblem embedded in the Handle.
McBeth takes scrupulous steps, as you can see in the video, in the sanding and buffing process. Each knife must meet his high standard of appearance, quality, and use.
And let’s not forget about the sheath. A High-quality leather sheath, hand-crafted and hand-tooled by
Damascus Steel Masonic Knives
professional leather workers here in the U.S., comes with each knife and a Concho of your choice, Masonic or otherwise, is added if you wish.
A McBeth knife is one of a kind. You won’t find anything like it in stores or flea markets. It makes a wonderful display item as well as a working tool. Many McBeth knives are purchased for gifts and if you need a further custom touch to a gift, McBeth will take that additional step needed to see that your gift is extra special. In a request for a gift for Past Grand Master Jerry Martin of the Grand Lodge of Texas, he made a special carrying case which uniquely displayed the gifted knife and sheath.
Grand Master Gift
To contact McBeth knives or place an order you merely need to go to http://www.mcbethknives.com/
Once again we visit the great Masonic artist Ryan J. Flynn. There is little that you can write anymore that does justice to what this Brother is doing with and for art. You have to see it to believe it. So Phoenixmasonry Live’s December 2016 program SHOWS you what words cannot do justice to. And as he shows us his creations, his description of how he does it will truly amaze you.
“Freemasonry is not a brand name; it is not Nike, it is not Starbucks. Freemasonry is an ideal, an organization of men who, when gathered together, strive for the absolute best in all of us, and they settle for nothing less. I fervently believe that Masonic works of art should strive to meet the same ideal.”
“I pledge that you will never see me settle for average, plain or quick. I will never brand something with a square and compass and call it “Masonic.” To call something “Masonic” means that it is a direct representation of the Craft, and thus should be educational, symbolic and meaningful; something that I strive to do in all my work. Of course, having a shirt embroidered with my lodge is something I would love to wear, but this, although adorned with our symbols, is merely Masonic in name and not substance.”
“Substance is what drives good art, and it is what drives me to create works that truly honors the Craft that I so love dearly.”
Phoenixmasonry hopes that this video will be a permanent part of your library and that you will carry Flynn’s message of appreciation of Masonic art to your Brethren.
Recently, the Bee Hive attended a third degree ritual aboard the The Blue Ghost, an Essex class aircraft carrier out of Corpus Christi Bay in Texas. The event was hosted by Oso Naval Lodge No. 1282at the Museum on the Bay on Saturday, September 10th, 2016.
Master Mason’s Degree
Known as “The Blue Ghost,” the Lexington is one of 24 Essex class aircraft carriers built during World War II for the United States Navy. The ship, the fifth US Navy ship to bear the name, is named in honor of the Revolutionary War Battle of Lexington. She was originally to have been named Cabot, but she was renamed while under construction to commemorate USS Lexington (CV-2), lost in the Battle of the Coral Sea in May 1942.
The Lexington was commissioned in February 1943, and served in several campaigns in the Pacific Theater of Operations, receiving the Presidential Unit Citation and 11 battle stars for World War II service. Like many of her sister ships, Lexington was decommissioned shortly after the end of the war, but was modernized and reactivated in the early 1950’s, being reclassified as an attack carrier (CVA), and then an antisubmarine carrier (CVS). In her second career, she operated both in the Atlantic/Mediterranean and the Pacific, but spent most of her time, nearly 30 years, on the east coast as a training carrier (CVT).
She was decommissioned in 1991, remaining active longer than any other Essex-class ship, and was donated for use as a museum ship here in Corpus Christi. Lexington was designated a national Historic landmark in 2003. Though her surviving sister ships, Yorktown, Intrepid and Hornet carry lower hull numbers, Lexington was laid down and commissioned earlier, making Lexington the oldest remaining aircraft carrier in the world.
I head up Route 358 from North Padre Island to the Crosstown Expressway and then onto Route 181 in Corpus Christi, Texas. As I cross the bay on a high arching bridge, there she is, The Blue Ghost in all her magnificence. Coming off the bridge I wind my way around to ground level and park a block away. I walk towards my destination. A double sized golf cart waits for me at the bottom of the ramp. Soon I am on my way up the long ramp that will take me on board the retired aircraft carrier, the USS Lexington, The Blue Ghost. I am here to witness a Third Degree on the Lexington by a very special Degree Team.
I think back to the meaning of Lexington to me. Lexington seems to end up following me or I it wherever I go.
I was born and raised in Lexington, Massachusetts the birthplace of the American Revolution. It was this Lexington for whom the USS Lexington was named. It was here on April 19, 1775 that Paul Revere rode into Lexington with other riders and proclaimed, “The British are coming, the British are coming.” I went to church 100 feet from the Lexington Green where the first battle of the American Revolution was fought on that day. My mother was secretary of the church. She also worked weekends at the Buckman Tavern beside the Green as a historical story teller to visitors. The Buckman Tavern is where The Lexington Minute Men gathered on that early morning of April 19, 1775. I would become Master Councilor of Battle Green DeMoaly also just off the Green. Much later I would return to Lexington’s Simon Robinson Lodge as Master of Paul Revere Lodge with the Paul Revere Colonial Degree Team to exemplify the Third Degree and participate in a Tri Table Lodge.
The Degree Team
This night I would witness the Third Degree by a team of Masons from the Grand Lodge of Texas AF & AM drawn from all over Southeastern Texas who were Grand Lodge award winning Ritualists.The host Lodge was Oso Naval Lodge No 1282. Grand Master, MW Wendell P. Miller was in the East for the Second Section of the Degree. District Instructor PM Mike King was the producer of the degree and sat in the West for the Second Section.
For the reenactment of the Legend of Hiram Abiff, the players were all dressed in ancient costumes. Upon the giant wall behind the South was a huge video screen which the Grand Lodge used in conjunction with the Lecture and the Charge. In addition to these two, there was also an Apron and a Bible presentation.
The degree was flawless and very well done. Long pieces of ritual were recited from memory without mistakes and with great flourish. At its conclusion, the Grand Master was presented with a few gifts as mementos of the occasion among which was a very decorative flag.
After the Degree, we gathered to greet new friends and touch base with old ones. Most of the Brothers present were not familiar to me which gave me a good opportunity to make new friends. Many pictures were taken including me with the Grand Master.
MW Wendell P. Miller & PM Frederic L. Milliken
Grand Master Presented A Flag
What was most impressive to me was the fact that you don’t often see a Grand Master performing degrees at the local level. Grand Masters are too involved with Administration and Ceremonial functions to actually do ritual in a Degree. And few remember their ritual from long ago. Not this one, MW Wendell P. Miller did not miss a word of a lengthy ritual part.
All too soon it was time to say goodbye. Hugs all around and back out into the night and onto the deck of the Blue Ghost we went. From that vantage, there was a beautiful view of Corpus Christi all lit up in the night. We took the same cart back down the ramp and dispersed.
As I left the Blue Ghost late at night, I turned back and snapped a couple of pictures that really gave meaning to the Lexington’s nickname. Once again, I had celebrated Freemasonry in fine style!
Phoenixmasonry is thrilled to have had the opportunity to interview the multi-talented artist, Ari Roussimoff. His Masonic themed paintings are phenomenal, as are his painted Masonic Aprons through which he hopes to revive an interest in the largely lost art form. It is our hope that Masons and non-Masons alike will take an interest in his work, if they haven’t done so already, as it is well worth the time!
Ari Roussimoff’s art has been shown in places such as The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Nicholas Roerich Museum, and the Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library and Museum. Ari’s paintings are colorful, daring, culturally rich, spiritually rounded, geometrically stunning, and a clear reflection of a profound character.
Elena Llamas, Director of Public Relations for Phoenixmasonry (EL): Thank you, Ari, for this interview. Please tell us about your background.
Ari Roussimoff (AR): Thank you, Elena, for inviting me. I have been impressed for years with the Phoenixmasonry site and what it is doing to promote the culture and history of Freemasonry. As to my background, I am one of those people who cannot be pinned down to one specific place. My family and ancestors have lived in Russia, Ukraine, Poland and even Moldavia among other countries. Although I was born in Germany, the Russian and other East European cultures have always been close to my heart, as much of my artwork reflects this.
Literature, music and art were on the daily menu in my home. Over the years I have been privileged to live and work in both Europe and America.
EL: Where do you feel most at home?
AR: For the most part, I am at home inside my head and also in my heart. But certain places are quite special to me.
In Europe, Zürich, Switzerland where Mother Nature is at its finest, Amsterdam, Holland with its great collections of Old Master paintings. Any place Rembrandt lived is great.
In the United States, Miami Beach, Florida with its vivid, tropical color is fabulous. I painted its festive carnivals, cafes and crowds. Sometimes I’d even add a little nod to Freemasonry.
For example, in my panoramic Beach Café painting, I included a merry group of Shriners crossing the street while nearby stands a bearded lady holding her little son’s hand.
Another favorite place is Southern California. When based in San Diego, I’d visit Hollywood and fantasize about the great historic film world of days gone by.
A painting I did of Hollywood Boulevard features many of the classic movie stars congregating in front of the old Masonic Temple (now a television studio where they film the Jimmy Kimmel show).
Featured in the very front of my picture is silent movie legend Harold Lloyd wearing his Imperial Potentate’s Al Malaikah Shriner Fez. There are other masons in there as well: Harpo Marx, Clark Gable, John Wayne and Oliver Hardy.
EL: When and how did you first become interested in art?
AR: My father was a writer. So I grew up in a cultural European household. The first artist that spoke to me was Van Gogh. I discovered him at age seven when watching a television documentary devoted to his life and work. Van Gogh became an early passion.
Since then, I’ve collected many books on him and have hunted down his paintings in museums throughout the world.
At fourteen I discovered Rembrandt. My second passion in art. By the way, I started drawing at age three and did my first oil at seven.
[I] also started to exhibit as a child. Luckily, I had parents who supported my love of art.
EL: How wonderful! Did any current or artist in particular inspire or influence your work?
AR: As an artist, you become a sponge of sorts, soaking up influences from many sources. My breath is taken away by the Old Masters. Rembrandt, Leonardo da Vinci, Rubens, the list is endless. Leonardo was the ultimate artistic genius. Each of his paintings are hypnotic.
Some of my other loves include Byzantine art, Russian and other folk arts, Van Gogh and numerous of the moderns. Too many to mention.
“This photograph of me was taken around 1990. Salvador Dali once said that an artist should look like his work. Sounds fine to me. In this photo, I am holding a 19th century Italian Paper Mache Commedia dell’arte mask. The coat I am wearing was once worn by the great Russian Opera singer Feodor Chaliapin. He wore the coat while performing as Ivan the Terrible in Rimsky-Korsakov’s Opera, “The Maid of Pskov” in Paris. I cherish this coat with its unique theatrical history.” – Ari Roussimoff
EL: And as a teenager, you were invited to lunch with Salvador Dali and his wife Gala. What was that like?
AR: At the age of fourteen I was being managed by Theodore Karr, a representative of the Shorewood Art publishing company, a noted publisher of lithographs by some of the greatest artists in Europe.
A meeting was arranged for me to meet the great master Dail for lunch at a restaurant in the Hotel St. Regis in New York, where he lived for half the year. Our small group consisted of Dali, his wife Gala, Mr. Karr, my father and myself. Naturally I was very nervous when introduced to Dali. My knees were trembling. Surprisingly, Dali’s personality was completely different from the “crazed” image he promoted. Handsomely dressed in a three piece suit, holding a beautiful cane, Dali was polite, soft spoken and to me, he seemed a bit sad.
Then there was Gala. There was a quiet, but hostile dynamic going on between Dali and his wife. Dali’s command of English was far better than how he presented himself during filmed interviews. Oddly enough, he talked mostly about movies. He liked Hitchcock and John Wayne films. Early on Dali had collaborated with the Spanish surrealist filmmaker Luis Buñuel on two avant garde movies and in later years he worked for Alfred Hitchcock in designing a scene for “Spellbound.” Dali told us he hoped to yet do another film. Toward the conclusion of our lunch, Dali pulled out a portfolio from which he gifted me a signed artist’s proof lithograph. A man in the restaurant had recognized Dali and approached our table to ask for an autograph. Immediately, Dali turned into the eccentric madman he usually portrayed. He propped himself up, soldier like. His eyes bulged and his voice became amplified, with his language having changed into the familiar chaotic Dalinian jargon of English-French-Spanish. He graciously complied and gave the man an autograph. Upon the man’s retreat back to his table, Gala shot up off her chair and berated her husband loudly in French. Customers in the restaurant were glaring. Quite embarrassing! After we left the place, Mr. Karr attempted to explain that Gala’s rant, saying that she resented Dali drawing attention to himself, creating a spectacle. That pretty much describes my encounter with Salvador Dali.
EL: That’s an amazing story! Thank you for sharing it with us, tell us about your relationship with Masonry.
AR: I have always appreciated the great achievements of humanity while also being very much aware of the shortcomings. There isn’t a thing about the human condition that cannot be found in the Bible. Since much of my way of thinking is of biblical origin, I understood that humanity was given the ability by God to rise up to advance itself and achieve wonders to benefit one’s self and mankind.
Art played a significant role in leading me toward Freemasonry. I never felt Art was limited to esthetics. For me it became an expression of the soul. Art is a universal language. French, German, Spanish, Greek, Russian, Polish or African. Any genuine work of art transcends its ethnic origins, and translates into a universal language that speaks to all.
Walking through the streets of Los Angeles, New York and through Europe, my eye often fixated on old buildings that incorporated mystical looking designs. Often I wondered if these were Masonic decorations. My curiosity about Freemasonry started taking form.
I began to read up on the subject and absorb the philosophy and the rich culture accompanying it. What struck me early on is that some of the iconography I had known from early Christian art, such as the All Seeing Eye of God was an important essential component of Freemasonry, as is the Holy Bible. Then I was surprised to recognize similarities between Masonic symbolism and some of the mystical imagery that had been appearing in my own pictures for years.
Fascinated with the moral philosophies of Freemasonry, I was awed by the abundance of illustrious members, the great philosophers, leaders, authors, artists, musicians, philanthropists, scientists, inventors, poets, physicians. Mozart, Goethe, Voltaire, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Booker T. Washington, Kaiser Wilhelm I, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Pushkin, Oscar Wilde, Mark Twain. In my triptych that currently hangs in the Livingston Library there is a tribute to quite a few illustrious individuals who have been Masons.
Just a matter of note, in comparison to music, literature and entertainment, there were relatively few artists who were Masons.
There were numerous fine engravers. The most important sculptors and painters included Bartholdi, Hogarth, Mucha, Grant Wood, the great German expressionist Lovis Corinth (who did illustrations of lodge ceremony) and the Cubist master Juan Gris (he served as Master of his Lodge in Paris).
My keen interest eventually led me to the point where I wanted to do a film on Freemasonry. With that project in mind, I visited the wonderful Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library & Museum of the Grand Lodge of New York in Manhattan. Their collection of materials is awesome. And everything was generously put at my disposal for study. This was in 2002. Although this particular film project has not as yet materialized, this was my road to joining. It has been an ever inspiring journey.
EL: Your work is a very skilled and inspiring contribution to the smaller body of Freemasonic art. Currently, you have art on display inside the Grand Lodge of New York building. Is there anything you would like to share about the exhibition?
AR: Yes, my paintings called Hiram’s Apron and King Solomon’s Vision, which have become widely known, were the first to be exhibited at the Livingston Masonic Library & Museum.
Currently, the museum is displaying my triptych titled Parable Of Light and Dark which consists of three paintings, which tell a symbolic story about Freemasonry through the past, present and an eye toward possibilities for the future. The first piece is called Foundations. It depicts the beginnings of Freemasonry, starting with Hiram and the building of the Holy Temple. The composition then moves upwards to Medieval times with Knighthoods and Cathedrals paving the way towards modern times.
At the very top in Foundations, I depict art and culture with portraits of Mozart, Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, Pushkin and Voltaire.
The middle painting is called Eclipse. The idea behind ‘Eclipse’ is that within any darkness, there is a light of inspiration that can, if recognized for the possibilities it offers, lead one to a positive path.
The last painting in this group is called Rebirth. Hiram and King Solomon appear at the bottom amidst the ruins of a city. The King, like Noah years before him, sends a dove out into the future. Inspired by Masonic fundamentals, the future is represented by builders constructing a new and improved civilization.
EL: Profound symbolism. It is nice that you always include your thoughts on each painting on your website and social media. Tell us about your painted Masonic Aprons. What inspired you to make them, what do you hope to accomplish through them?
AR: Painted aprons are a lost art within Freemasonry.
During the 18th and early 19th centuries, many Masonic aprons were beautifully hand painted and also embroidered. Some were folksy in style, others elaborate. Eventually came the standardization of aprons and the painted ones were relegated to the pages of history.
For my part, I wish to bring this lost Masonic tradition up into the here and now and also hopefully into the future.
My painted aprons are never imitations. They are highly symbolic, as I instill in them the classic ideals and virtues of Freemasonry. But I do this as a modern artist, with the voice coming from my soul.
Being signed artworks, it is not necessary for my aprons to be worn. They can be displayed on a wall. I am happy to say that my painted Masonic aprons are in fine collections throughout the world. And I very much love making them.
EL: Your aprons are incredible! You also do special Masonic portraits where you combine painting with photography. Tell us about that.
These are pictures I do on commission. I integrate portrait photography with my painting. Likenesses can sometimes be tricky and problematic. Even a great master like Rembrandt had occasional problems in this department.
The story goes that a man commissioned Rembrandt to do a portrait of his wife (or daughter). Upon seeing the final painting, the man was displeased because he did not see a likeness and demanded his money back. Ha. Ha. Can you imagine?!!
What I do can be called mixed-media portraits. No one will ever complain about a lack of likeness. The process consists of first, the client gives me a favorite photograph of themselves or whoever they wish me to create a portrait for.
Next, I have the photo enlarged and transferred onto a canvas of the desired measurements.
The last step is for me to paint a complete composition surrounding the photo, which I do not alter. The painted elements will reflect elements in that person’s life or imagination.
Voila! Never an issue regarding likenesses. A Lodge commissioned me to do one of the retiring Grand Master of California. It was gifted him during a special presentation ceremony. And I did one as my personal gift for the retiring Grand Secretary of New York, a wonderful man.
By the way, these pictures are also made for non-masons. I’ve created them for weddings, anniversaries, births, people’s parents. Anything someone might like to have.
EL: I read that, for you, art is a spiritual experience. Would you share with us something about the process of bringing forth such wonderful images? Spiritually speaking, what is it that you experience?
AR: For me the act of painting is like praying.
It originates in my heart and my soul.
Spirituality in art is not limited to the confines of one or another religion. It is at the very core of all life.
Painting, like prayer, is a spiritual experience. Magical in many ways. And I am certain that being a painter is what God intended for me to be.
Otherwise I’d be doing other things. Too many people depend only on the limitations of their eyesight. They’re not able to touch base with the soul. Hence the four eyes in some of my paintings.
EL: I love your four eyes theme!
AR: In this self-portrait, the two pairs of eyes have a mystical meaning.
It is my belief that one should try to develop two sets of eyes.
One set represents our innermost self: the heart, passions and spirituality. This is the soul. The other set are those of the mind: logic and intellect. All four eyes together can give one excellent vision.
In art, it isn’t required that an artwork depict a religious subject in order to be spiritual. That special spirit is very much embedded within any true work of art. Spirituality can be felt in florals, landscapes, portraits, figurative or abstract compositions and whatever. Same holds true for music, literature and all other arts.
EL: On your website, linked here at the end of this interview, in addition to Masonic subjects, your art is presented in three other categories: Old Russia, Jewish life, Phantasmagoria.
AR: These are among the subjects I have painted throughout my life.
Art has been my lifelong passion. It is easiest to categorize works by subjects. There is also a general section called “Newest Works” featuring a cross section of paintings and also an interview. We are preparing to update the site. There are lots of new additions and improvements coming!
EL: I can’t wait to see what you’ll do next! You are also an award-winning director of motion pictures and have created sets for Broadway shows. You have done costume design, performance art, and have hosted a three-part television music program on MTV.
AR: All the arts are related. Being primarily visually oriented and a lover of classic movies, it had long been a desire to also express myself in film.
My first feature was a surrealist horror film featuring a cast of underground stars, even several Andy Warhol superstars. Federico Fellini, the brilliant Italian filmmaker, saw a rough edit of some of the early footage of bikers, and his admiration brought us further funding.
My best movie was the documentary Freaks Uncensored: A Human Sideshow which took years of research and dealt with the history of physical human anomalies throughout the ages. My significant other of many years Vivian Forlander wrote the screenplay and I directed it. It opened at the Anthology Film Archives in New York, to standing room only crowds and has been released on both VHS and DVD.
As for MTV, I hosted a special three-episode Russian style spoof of the MTV hits countdown. It was called MTV-ski and I was the Russian V-J, all dressed up in fur hat and rubaschka, peasant blouse. My old performance group went under the name “The Trans-Siberian Cossacks”, We performed in theaters, discos and art galleries.
As for the stage, I was chosen by impresario Ralph Mercado to create sets and paint a mural for an Eastern European show he was importing from Argentina.
“LIVE APPEARANCE AT NYC’S LIMELIGHT DISCO (1991)
Here I am on stage in 1991 with my old performance troupe “The Trans-Siberian Cossacks”. We are doing a live multi-media show at the Limelight Club in New York City. While our group lovingly exhibited Russian style, the name cossack was used metaphorically for individualism and inspired rebelliousness against status-quo trends (the initial meaning of cossack was rebel). We performed our uniquely circus-like shows in theaters, art galleries and discos. Venues ranged from the Limelight to Howard Guttenplan’s Millennium Film Workshop. This was a great way to incorporate elements of theater, painting, music and film. Cast members would often be interchangeable (based on locations). Performers included: Big Bob Bear, Clayton Patterson, Valerie Caris, Taylor Mead, The Magnificent Lori “W”, Vivi-Vixen and Brooks Rogers. In this photo at the Limelight, Clayton Patterson is the man holding the flag and the Queen of house music herself, Screamin’ Rachel is doing her wild thing in the far right, under the big screen (where we presented excerpts from one of my films).
It has been quite a few years now since I have retired “The Trans-Siberian Cossacks” (although occasionally, I get an urge to resurrect them). Even nowadays when giving a talk on my paintings, I like incorporating various elements. It makes for a more stimulating and also fun presentation.”
EL: In a way, the group has been resurrected in your work. Ari, what else would you like to mention that I didn’t ask?
AR: Just this week, I completed a Masonic composition which I call Pyramid Of Light.
Currently I am putting finishing touches to a painted apron. There are a multitude of paintings stored inside me, each competing against the others to make its way out and onto canvas first. And I haven’t a clue which one it will be. Freemasonry, with its great teachings of morality and positive energy, provide me with tremendous inspiration. I hope to do many paintings in that direction.
EL: The readers and I are hoping too, Ari, I am sure.
EL: Let’s end this interview with some of your amazing paintings. Thank you very much for letting us pick your brain. We would love to check-in with you periodically to let our readers know what you are up to.
Brother John “Corky” Wheeler Daut passed away July 11, 2016 at the age of 88. In his earlier years he was Superintendent of the Department of Solid Waste for Houston, Texas. Later he was to open his own business, Daut’s Repair Service, repairing small engines and sharpening saws. Towards the end of his life he operated Pine Island Pen Works specializing in the manufacture and sale of wooden writing pens.
But he is best known for “The Small Town Texas Masons E-Magazine”that he published every month. It was a prodigious undertaking that included Masonic articles from all over the world. From Masonic News to esoteric studies to writings from the Old Masters and everything in between, the magazine covered the thought and the going-ons of Freemasonry. He wrote the last edition just weeks before his death. He also published a newsletter-magazine for his own Lodge, Waller Lodge of Pine Island Texas where he touted, “We Are The Largest, ‘Small Town Texas Lodge’ Web Site, On The Internet, Over 100 Pages of Masonic Information and Education.”
He was raised to a Master Mason in the Cedar Bayou Lodge #321 at the age of 64. Later he joined Humble Lodge #79 but demitted from both when he moved to Pine Island Texas. There he joined Waller Lodge #808 and became its Master in 2005. Along the way he affiliated with Hempsted Lodge #749 and became its Secretary.
Brother Daut’s enthusiasm for the Craft and his outreach to Masons all over the world from a small Texas community makes his accomplishments all the more laudable. He showed the world what can be done when your heart is in the right place and you possess and display the peace and harmony that Masonry teaches you.
“Well done, thou good and faithful servant! Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord!”