Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Reading Tonight for PEN in San Miguel de Allende (Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution)

***UPDATE: Podcast recording of this event now available. >>LISTEN HERE<<

This evening in San Miguel de Allende in Bellas Artes at 6 PM I will be discussing my new book, Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution: Francisco I. Madero and His Secret Book, Spiritist Manual. 

The small admission charge of 100 pesos benefits PEN International San Miguel Centerone of the 145 centers of PEN International, the worldwide association of writers with centers in 104 countries, to promote friendship and intellectual cooperation among writers everywhere, fight for freedom of expression and represent the conscience of world literature.

President of Mexico Francisco I. Madero
and the First Lady, Sara Pérez de Madero
Back in late 2011 for the Author's Sala and again in 2012 for PEN and SOL Literary Magazine, I spoke in San Miguel de Allende about my translation of Madero's Spiritist Manual; this time I'll be talking about much more from my all-new book about that book--  including some revelations about Madero's personal library of esoterica and the mysterious German-Mexican spy Dr. Arnoldo Krumm-Heller, among others on the esoteric scene.

The cover of Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution features San Miguel de Allende artist Kelley Vandiver's "Gerbara and Eye". And another San Miguel de Allende connection: the opening pages of my book, the chapter "Roots, Entanglements, Encounters," are in SOL Literary Magazine's latest issue, (thanks, Eva Hunter).

Herewith, my article for San Miguel de Allende's Atención which, thanks to Huertista duendes, I guess, did not make it into this week's issue:


When Halley's comet, that star with the quetzal's tail, flared across Mexican skies in 1910, it heralded not only the centennial of Independence, but a deeply transformative episode, the Revolution launched by Francisco I. Madero on November 20, what Javier Garciadiego calls “the true beginning of a process, the birth of the modern Mexican state.” The great chorus of Mexican historians agrees. And yet, almost unknown and curious as it may sound, a vital taproot of this revolution lies in the Burned-Over District of New York state.
So opens my book about Francisco I. Madero’s secret book, Manual espírita, which he wrote during the Revolution of 1910 and brought into circulation in 1911 when President-Elect— but under a pen name, “Bhima,” taken from the Hindu holy book, the Bhagavad-Gita. When I happened upon the Manual espírita in Madero’s archive in the National Palace, I knew at once I should translate it. A literal translation was an easy task, but understanding its metaphysics, origins, and rich esoteric context, required years more of reading and archival research—  including multiple visits to the remains of Madero’s personal library. That little-known library, housed in Mexico City’s Centro de Estudios de la Historia de México, turns out to be one the most outstanding collections of 19th century and early 20th century esoterica in the Americas, comprising many extremely rare volumes from authors such as Annie Besant, Madame Blavatsky, Maestro Huiracocha (Dr Arnold Krumm-Heller), Camille Flammarion, Dr. Peebles, and Swami Vivekananda.
My book about Madero’s secret book, Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution, is an odyssey in three senses:  Madero’s own, from norteño merchant prince to Spiritist medium, gun-slinging revolutionary, President of the Republic and, ultimately, martyr; my own; and the reader’s— for I assume most know little or nothing of Madero’s life and political career, nor of the Spiritism Madero encountered as a student in late 19th century France, and less of that religion’s roots in Upstate New York.
As Mexican historian Enrique Krauze writes in his seminal 1987 biography, Francisco I. Madero: Místico de la libertad, “Politics does not displace Spiritism: it is born of it.” In other words, we cannot understand Madero and the 1910 Revolution without taking into account his Spiritist beliefs and his mediumship. Neither can we understand his beliefs without reference to his own statement, which is his ardent and thoroughly astonishing Spiritist Manual. 

Article for ATENCION, San Miguel de Allende, January 2015, apropos of C.M. Mayo’s reading for PEN International San Miguel Center, January 13, 2015. Her new book, which includes her translation of Madero’s Manual espírita,  is Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution: Francisco I. Madero and His Secret Book, Spiritist Manual (Dancing Chiva, 2014). The book is also available in Spanish, translated by noted Mexican novelist and poet Agustín Cadena as Odisea metafísica hacia la revolución Mexicana, (Literal Publishing, 2014), together with a transcript of the original Manual espírita.

(Talk for the American Literary Translators Association, 2014)