Contemporary observers as well as historians have long grappled with open questions concerning the convictions, political beliefs, decision making processes, and motivations of the revolutionary government led by Francisco I. Madero between 1911 and 1913 in Mexico. A hopeless idealist, said most, an inept leader, indecisive, clueless, proposed others. Madero fought the Mexican dictator Porfirio Diaz on principle, deposed him without much violence, but in the process unleashed a social revolution so powerful that one out of seventeen Mexicans succumbed to violent ends. When he took power in 1911, he deferred taking it and gave the presidency to Francisco Leon de la Barra instead. Nine months later, in the fall of 1911 and in the first democratic election in her history, Mexico overwhelmingly elected Madero to the presidency. However, almost immediately his government is threatened from both, the reactionary old power structure and members of his own revolutionary circle. Violent uprisings plagued political and social progress until finally, in the Decena Tragica, both the president and his vice president are deposed and murdered in a bloody coup d'etat. Why did Madero not fight harder against his enemies? Why did he not immediately institute fundamental social and economic reform? And, above all, why did he not listen to those around him who predicted his tragic demise? In a secret book, Madero wrote under the pen name "Bhirma," called the Spiritist Manual, many of the answers can be found.
Catherine M. Mayo does a brilliant job combining the known facts of the Mexican Revolution and Madero's role within it, and creates an intellectual bridge to the president's spiritist belief structure. He was not the hopeless idealist so many historians have proclaimed him to be. Neither was he inept or indecisive. Rather, his personality was deeply rooted in a sharply defined vision for a future Mexico. His inclusion of friend and foe in a revolutionary cadre of leaders, that ultimately proved his downfall, set the stage for real governance: The inclusion of all, the agreement of a whole people on a new social contract guided by justice, democracy, due process, and law. His belief in a cosmic energy that can be summoned and called upon to help overcome the past and pave the way to the future guided his decisions. The Spiritist Manual is the document in which he put into words what guided him in his quest to save Mexico from herself. He never lived to see the final signature under the new social contract that was not completed until many years later, in the 1940s. But his spirit, his unselfish, uncompromising, deeply rooted beliefs, remained... With her translation of the Spiritist Manual, Catherine Mayo opened this incredible window into the metaphysical side of the Mexican Revolution that might otherwise have been forgotten.