Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution:
Francisco I. Madero and His Secret Book, Spiritist Manual

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From Chapter 1

Roots, Entanglements, Encounters

Metaphysical Odyssey Into the Mexican Revolution:
Francisco I. Madero and His Secret Book, Spiritist Manual
By C.M. Mayo (Dancing Chiva, 2014)


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.

As a writer of both fiction and nonfiction, I have learned to appreciate that fact can be stranger than anything one might imagine. Before returning to the Burned-Over District, a word about Francisco I. Madero and how I came upon his Manual espírita, this until now obscure and yet profoundly illuminating book—at the very least for understanding Madero himself, why and how he led Mexico's 1910 Revolution, and the seething contempt of those behind the overthrow of his government and his assassination.

Madero was a Coahuilan rancher and businessman without whose daring and passion the Revolution might not have begun when it did, and without whom modern Mexico might not have been able to rightly call itself a republic. Francisco I. Madero was none other than Mexico's "Apostle of Democracy," who rejected a stolen election and took up arms to bring down Porfirio Díaz, the military strongman who had ruled Mexico directly and indirectly for more than three decades. When Díaz fled to Paris in 1911, Madero did not seat himself upon the presidential throne; with an interim government in place, he once again campaigned throughout the country to become Mexico's democratically elected President, and only after unequivocally winning that election did he take office later that year. In 1913, but fifteen months into his term, Madero was overthrown in a coup d'état engineered by a cabal of conservatives (and the influence of a meddling U.S. ambassador) and then, with shocking casualness, executed. The Mexican Revolution then exploded into a new and more violent phase, churning on until 1920 with Alvaro Obregón's presidency or, as some historians argue, the end of the Cristero Rebellion in 1929.

Popular imagery of the Mexican Revolution usually features rustic characters in bandoliers and washtub-sized sombreros, such as smoldering-eyed Emiliano Zapata, with his handlebar mustache and skin-tight trousers, or Pancho Villa, who always seems to wear the smirk of having just quaffed a beer (though he was a teetotaler; more likely it was a strawberry soda). Less often are we shown Don Francisco, handsomely-dressed scion of one of Mexico's wealthiest families—usually bareheaded, occasionally in a top hat—for he was and remains a confounding figure. He was a Spiritist, and what the devil is that? I had no idea. And until 2008, it had not occurred to me to wonder.

I had just finished writing The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, a novel based on several years of original archival research into an episode during Mexico's French Intervention of the 1860s, the so-called Second Empire under Maximilian von Habsburg. I mean to say, spending an afternoon delving into an archive, I am happier than a cat after mice. At that time, my husband was in Mexico's Ministry of Finance, which has a number of archives, among them, Francisco I. Madero's. His archive is available to the public, but thanks to my husband's invitation, I had the immense privilege of viewing it in private with the archivist, Martha López Castillo.

When we arrived, she had arranged a selection of the most outstanding items on a table that spanned nearly the width of the room: Madero's masonic regalia; photographs; documents. We went down the table, as she explained the importance of each piece.

Years earlier, on a tour of the National Palace, in one of its parade of ornately decorated rooms (I couldn't have told you which) I had seen the bureau that still bore the bullet hole from the shoot-out between General Victoriano Huerta's men and the presidential guard that ended with President Madero and Vice President, Pino Suárez, taken prisoner. If I knew anything about Madero it was because I had been living in Mexico on and off for two decades, and in Mexico, Madero has a stature comparable to Abraham Lincoln's-in the political-historical sense, not the physical, for Madero was short, with a balding pate and a neatly trimmed triangle of a beard. In portraits, Madero appears kindly yet dignified—one can easily imagine him managing a prosperous complex of farms and factories (as he did). The few moving pictures of him reveal a theatrical, embracing energy. Madero was also distantly related to my husband's family: a paternal uncle had married a great niece of Madero. In sum, what I knew then about Madero amounted to little more than the barest gloss over the story Mexican schoolchildren learn, but certainly I was vividly aware of his transcendent and deeply respected role in Mexican history.

Not halfway through this presentation, my gaze fell on a little book, Manual espírita by "Bhima."

"Who was Bhima?" I asked.

"Madero himself," the archivist answered.

I had picked it up and was already leafing through it... Los invisibles, Chrishná, Mosés, La doctrina secreta... it seemed a farrago of the Bible, Madame Blavatsky, and Hindu whatnot.

"Really?" I said. "Bhima was Francisco Madero?"


I knew, instantly and absolutely, that I had to translate this book into English. Had it been translated?


"Are you sure?" This, too, seemed too extraordinary.

"I assure you, it has never been translated."

Within the week, I had received a xerox copy of this strange little book, and I began my self-appointed task—which turned out to be a Mount Everest more than I imagined.

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