ORIGINS OF THE WESTERN WORLD CREMATION
This essay aims at clarifying the cultural and philosophical
context in which, at the time of the Directory and the Napoleonic Consulate,
the first cremational issue in the modern Western World arose in France.
To this purpose the fourty "mémoires" sent in 1800 to the
Institut de France, which, on request of the government, had arranged a
contest on the theme: "What are the ceremonies to make for the funerals
and the regulations to follow as regards the place of burials?" will
be studied. The study aims at identifying the ideas of Death and Life, the
theorical and practical requirements and the philosophical traditions which
led, at the end of the Century, to the idea that cremating dead bodies was
plausible and acceptable.
Apparently the two most influent factors of this opening to cremation are
on one side laity, which characterized the society of the Directory and
the First Consulate (requiring the creation of a new rituality which was
different and independent from traditional Catholic rituality); and on the
other side, a conception of nature derived from the materialistic thought
of the second half of the 18th century: the universe is a great whole, where
things are transformed without ever disappearing definitively. Birth, life
and death are essentially processes of composition and decomposition, which
do not alter the total equilibrium of nature.
THE CONTEST OF THE YEAR VIII
This essay analyse the documentary "corpus" of fourty reports
presented to the Institut de France on the occasion of the1800 competition:
"What are the ceremonies to make for the funerals and the regulations
to follow as regards the place of burials?"
The first part of the work will deal with the collection of bio-bibliographical
information on the authors of the fourty reports, so as to compile a personal
The Competition was not an "ex-nihilo" creation, but was part
of an institutional strategy which had its roots in the secularization brought
by the Revolution. This is way the essay will deal whit official documents
of revolutionary assemblies on cimiteries and death legislation.
Finally, the study will consider if and how freemasonry, encentrated on
the myth of Hiram's death, was able to introduce a new representation of
death and consequently on how to deal with death in the secularized world.