By Lynn Brunet
The artist Francis Bacon (1909-1992) and the author Samuel Beckett (1906-1989) either exhibit of their paintings a feeling of foreboding and confinement in bleak, ritualistic areas. This publication identifies many similarities among the areas and actions they evoke and the initiatory practices of fraternal orders and mystery societies that have been an essential component of the social panorama of the eire skilled via either males in the course of childhood.
Many of those Irish societies modelled their ritual constructions and symbolism at the Masonic Order. Freemasons use the time period ‘spurious Freemasonry’ to designate these rituals now not sanctioned through the Grand inn. The Masonic writer Albert Mackey argues that the spurious types have been these derived from a number of the cult practices of the classical international and describes those initiatory practices as ‘a process critical and onerous trials’. This analyzing of Bacon’s and Beckett’s paintings attracts on theories of trauma to signify that there is a tense hyperlink among Bacon’s stark imagery, Beckett’s vague performances and the unofficial use of Masonic rites.
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Extra info for 'A Course of Severe and Arduous Trials': Bacon, Beckett and Spurious Freemasonry in Early Twentieth-Century Ireland (Reimagining Ireland)
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.
As the display in St Brigid’s Cathedral in Kildare outlines, male members of the pre-Christian Celtic aristocracy were members of one of three main categories, the Perambulations with the Men of No Popery 47 kings or chieftains, the warrior nobility and the ‘Men of Art’, comprised of the Druids or magicians, the craftsmen and the bards. Bardic poetry in the Celtic tradition celebrated military history and the mythological exploits of famous warrior heroes and was woven through with a belief in a powerful battle-magic designed to stir the warriors into a frenzy.
44 Bacon’s Sphinx III, where the sphinx is surrounded by scattered blocks, implies the possibility that the artist may have been recording a visual image of such a setting within a Royal Arch initiatory space. Taking David Healey’s argument into account, in all of these curtain images the artist may have been representing fragmented scenes, imprinted on the brain, of an environment associated with a traumatic experience. The Royal Arch room in Dublin’s Masonic Grand Lodge is one site where such initiations occur, although given the various versions of Royal Arch rites used in Irish secret societies at the time it is possible that similar elements, including models of sphinxes, could have been found within a range of fraternal contexts.