By Lynn Brunet
The artist Francis Bacon (1909-1992) and the author Samuel Beckett (1906-1989) either show of their paintings a feeling of foreboding and confinement in bleak, ritualistic areas. This booklet identifies many similarities among the areas and actions they evoke and the initiatory practices of fraternal orders and mystery societies that have been a vital part of the social panorama of the eire skilled by means of either males in the course of childhood.
Many of those Irish societies modelled their ritual buildings and symbolism at the Masonic Order. Freemasons use the time period ‘spurious Freemasonry’ to designate these rituals no longer sanctioned by means of the Grand resort. The Masonic writer Albert Mackey argues that the spurious varieties have been these derived from many of the cult practices of the classical global and describes those initiatory practices as ‘a process critical and hard trials’. This examining of Bacon’s and Beckett’s paintings attracts on theories of trauma to indicate that there is a worrying hyperlink among Bacon’s stark imagery, Beckett’s vague performances and the unofficial use of Masonic rites.
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Extra resources for 'A Course of Severe and Arduous Trials': Bacon, Beckett and Spurious Freemasonry in Early Twentieth-Century Ireland (Reimagining Ireland)
Bacon’s painting captures the visual impression of a scenario that reflects the wording found in Masonic initiations. Bacon’s preoccupation with the image of the nanny being shot in the face in The Battleship Potemkin could be a response to such an initiatory trial. A traumatic encounter such as this may well have been lost to Francis Bacon, Royal Arch Rites and the ‘Passing of the Veils’ 23 consciousness but the sensations associated with it, what Bacon describes as the patterns of his nervous system, appear to have surfaced in his images.
As the contemporary Masonic author, J. A. 29 Bacon depicts arrows in many of his paintings: crimson arrows appear in A Piece of Wasteland, 1982, a response Bacon made to T. S. Eliot’s famous poem, and in Diptych: Study from the Human Body – From a Drawing by Ingres, 1982–4, as well as in other images. A number of cut-out arrows were found in the rubble of his studio. 30 While these higher degrees claimed to have religious significance the initiations were not always an expression of Christian values.
53 This sense of inversion of the Christian symbol and its incorporation into the form of a sacrificed bull in Bacon’s painting captures the parody of Christianity to be found in military cults such as Mithraism. Given Bacon’s comment that his crucifixion paintings were partly a self-portrait one wonders whether the sense of an inverted body, like a worm crawling down a cross, might have been associated with another body-memory. 54 In the Celtic tradition it was the custom to take the sons of the warrior aristocracy to train them either to become a warrior or to take one of the other key roles honoured amongst the Celts.
'A Course of Severe and Arduous Trials': Bacon, Beckett and Spurious Freemasonry in Early Twentieth-Century Ireland (Reimagining Ireland) by Lynn Brunet