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‘A Course of Severe and Arduous Trials’

Bacon, Beckett and Spurious Freemasonry in Early Twentieth-Century Ireland


Lynn Brunet

The artist Francis Bacon (1909-1992) and the writer Samuel Beckett (1906-1989) both convey in their work a sense of foreboding and confinement in bleak, ritualistic spaces. This book identifies many similarities between the spaces and activities they evoke and the initiatory practices of fraternal orders and secret societies that were an integral part of the social landscape of the Ireland experienced by both men during childhood.
Many of these Irish societies modelled their ritual structures and symbolism on the Masonic Order. Freemasons use the term ‘spurious Freemasonry’ to designate those rituals not sanctioned by the Grand Lodge. The Masonic author Albert Mackey argues that the spurious forms were those derived from the various cult practices of the classical world and describes these initiatory practices as ‘a course of severe and arduous trials’. This reading of Bacon’s and Beckett’s work draws on theories of trauma to suggest that there may be a disturbing link between Bacon’s stark imagery, Beckett’s obscure performances and the unofficial use of Masonic rites.


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Acknowledgements vii Introduction 1 Chapter One Francis Bacon, Royal Arch Rites and the ‘Passing of the Veils’ 13 Chapter Two Perambulations with the Men of No Popery: Orange Order Themes and the Irish Warrior Tradition in the Art of Francis Bacon 37 Chapter Three Samuel Beckett’s Plays: Waiting for Godot: A Parody of Royal Arch Rites? 63 Chapter Four Samuel Beckett’s Plays: Ritual Movements, Subjective States, Torture and Trauma 85 Chapter Five Initiatory Rites in Samuel Beckett’s The Unnamable and Other Prose 117 Chapter Six Trauma, Druidism and the Gnostic Tradition in the Work of Bacon and Beckett 139 vi Appendix Francis Bacon websites 151 Notes 153 Select Bibliography 189 Index 203

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