"To preserve the reputation of the Fraternity unsullied must be your constant care."


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Tristan Bourlard's Film, 'Terra Masonica'

I've been remiss about writing about something very important for some time. Back in mid-May, my friend and brother Al McClelland from up in Fort Wayne passed along a DVD that is an incredible feat of documentary filmmaking: Belgian Freemason Tristan Bourlard's Terra Masonica. If you haven't seen it, waste no time and get it. Brother Bourlard is an award-winning director, photographer, author, and creator of scientific and historical documentaries, including the 2007 film, The Scottish Key.

I've considered myself extraordinarily blessed to have been able to visit numerous lodges across the United States, as well as in a handful of foreign countries. I've had Masonic experiences over the last almost 19 years that I've written about and shared, plus numerous others I cannot and will not write or speak of. But the Masonic world is filled with brethren who have traveled much, much farther and wider than I have, and I can't hold a candle to their accomplishments. In the 19th century, Rob Morris famously spent years raising money to fund his Masonic trip to the Holy Land to explore the Biblical origins of fraternity. Then, he spent more than two years writing a book about what he found, and the rest of his life speaking at lodges across the U.S., recounting his adventures. In the modern Masonic world, Pennsylvania's Tom Jackson may be the most well traveled Mason on Earth in his 16 years as the Executive Secretary for the World Conference of Masonic Grand Lodges, hitting all 50 states and Canadian provinces, and an untold number of foreign countries. And I know Oscar Alleyne is doing his best to try to catch up with him eventually. It's very telling that both of these worldly brethren acted as advisors on Terra Masonica, as did Mark Tabbert and many others from around the world.

However, Brother Bourlard has achieved what only a very tiny portion of Masons have ever done themselves. Across two years, he traveled the globe and visited some 80 lodges in at least 14 different jurisdictions with his camera and drone. The result is a beautifully shot, two hour documentary of his epic journey. He visited lodges as far to the north as the tip of Hammerfest, Norway, one of the northernmost towns in the world in the region of Finnmark (St. Joanneslogen Ultima Thule 146), and as far to the south as Cape Horn on Tierra del Fuego, at the tip of South America in Ushuaia, Argentina (1st Vigilant Fin del Mundo Lodge 496). He met Masons on almost every continent (almost) and toured lodges of every size, from the most magnificent like the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania's Philadelphia Masonic Temple, to the most humble surroundings of Mali and India. You will see the Mother Lodge Kilwinning "Number Nuthin'" in Scotland where our Masonic traditions first took the semblance of its modern form; the Prince Hall Masonic Temple in Columbus, Georgia where Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke in 1959 because the area churches were too afraid to host him; lodges in Israel where the seal of their grand lodge contains the square and compass, the Christian cross, the Crescent of Islam, and the Star of David intertwined; a lodge along the Niger River where they keep their location discretely hidden, where it flourishes nevertheless with both Muslim and Catholic members; several lodges throughout India where a Mason can find five books of Sacred Law on their altars; the underground vaults beneath Solomon's Temple deep within the Temple Mount in Jerusalem where Freemasons have met countless times; and much, much more in between.

Bourlard's ambitious goal is to show both the universal spirit and material culture of Freemasonry from all over the world, so as it unspools, overlook whatever gaffes you might detect—or think you detect—in order to soak in the wider message and experience. Members who know only the "regular, recognized" world of Masonry may occasionally chafe over references to women in some French, South American, or Indian lodges, for instance. Or his misunderstanding of Prince Hall related Shriners in New York. And some grand masters may choke over spotlighting the Widows Sons in Georgia (never mind that they raise a million dollars each year for Shriners Hospital in Atlanta). Please get past that which you may find foreign or what you may personally object to and take in what exactly he has accomplished with this outstanding program. Terra Masonica demonstrates the worldwide reach and success of Freemasonry as a philosophy for bringing men of all faiths and walks of life together, and truly making the world a better place by building temples in the hearts of men. If you ever doubted it, or just didn't realize exactly to what extent it is true, these two hours will open your eyes. 

The shame of it is that this film is what the series that was done in England for SkyTV in cooperation with the UGLE should have been for the 300th anniversary of Freemasonry this year. It's that good. This program is well worth acquiring and showing as the Masonic education for your very next lodge meeting, wherever you may be. With luck, it will set off a spark of Masonic wanderlust in you and encourage you to travel far and wide, outside of your lodge, jurisdiction, state, country, and continent. Take advantage of that ability to go almost anywhere on Earth, where you will always find a society of friends and Brothers who can best work and best agree.

Terra Masonica is available in English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese (Brazil), and Dutch. It can be had on DVD or as an On-Demand video download (iTunes).

In the U.S., it is available through the Masonry At The Speed Of Light website for $28.50 + $7.95 domestic shipping. 

For the rest of the world, check out the Terra Masonica website under DVD+VOD heading HERE.

Here's hoping it eventually gets picked up for wider release by a TV network or two around the world, as it is a huge cut above most of the shows done for History, Discovery, AHC, and others.


  1. Bro. Hodapp, I tried to email you about a necessary correction, but my mail app wasn't cooperating, so feel free to delete this comment after you read it:
    In the final paragraph, you listed "Brazilian" and "Portuguese" as two separate languages, whereas the latter is the official language of Brazil, and the former is not a real language. Perhaps there was no comma intended between them?

    1. Thanks. The comma was unintentional. I had copied his website's phrasing, but added the comma by mistake. To clarify what the website was actually saying, I have corrected my post to reflect that Bourlard meant a Brazilian-dialect Portuguese version of the film is available. Thanks for making me rethink it.


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