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‘A Course of Severe and Arduous Trials’

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

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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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Index 203

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Abel and Cain, 81 Ackerley, C. J. and S. E. Gontarski, 88 Aeschylus, Oresteian Trilogy, 50 amnesia, 10, 68, 75–6, 105, 108, 112, 127–8, 131, 142, 144 animal sacrifice, 27–8, 113, 139, 141 Ark of the Covenant, 17–18, 70, 75, 93 arrows, in Bacon’s paintings, 23 Artaud, Antonin, 49 Ascalaphus, 32 Auden, W. H., 37, 136 Axelrod, Alan, 4 Bacon, Edward Anthony Mortimer, 16 Bacon, Francis, paintings: After Muybridge – Study of the Human Figure in Motion – Woman Emptying a Bowl of Water, and Paralytic Child on All Fours, 1965, 32, 55 A Piece of Wasteland, 1982, 41 Crouching Nude on Rail, 1952, 19 Crucifixion, 1965, 29, 32 Diptych: Study from the Human Body – From a Drawing by Ingres, 1982– 4, 41 Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion, 1944, 30 Figure at Washbasin, 1976, 53 Figure in Landscape, 1945, 26 Figure in Movement, 1976, 42, 48 Figure Study I, 1945–6, 31 Figure Study II, 1945–6, 30, 40 Figure Writing Reflected in a Mirror, 1976, 53 Figures in Landscape, 1956, 26 Fragment of a Crucifixion, 1950, 28, 32, 52 Head I, 1948, 25, 31 Head II, 1949, 42 In Memory of George Dyer, 1971, 51 Landscape, 1978, 23 Landscape Near Malabata, Tangier, 1963, 54 Lying Figure with Hypodermic Syringe, 1963, 59 Man at Curtain, 1950 (revised 1951), 19 Painting, 1946, 24, 25, 27–9, 40, 55–6, 141 Painting, 1978, 51 Pope I, 1951, 19 Pope and Chimpanzee, 1962, 43, 94 Portrait of Isabel Rawsthorne...

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