"To preserve the reputation of the Fraternity unsullied must be your constant care."


Thursday, January 18, 2018

The Tall Tales of Leo Taxil

"The public made me what I am, the arch-liar of the period, for when I first commenced to write against the Masons my object was amusement pure and simple. The crimes laid at their door were so grotesque, so impossible, so widely exaggerated, I thought everybody would see the joke and give me credit for originating a new line of humour. But my readers wouldn't have it so; they accepted my fables as gospel truth, and the more I lied for the purpose of showing that I lied, the more convinced became they that I was a paragon of veracity." 
— Marie Joseph Gabriel Antoine Jogand-Pagès, aka Leo Taxil

At some point in your Masonic life, you'll hear anti-Masons prattling about Freemasonry being linked to Lucifer or Satanism, and they'll quickly get around to hauling out Albert Pike quotes—both real and completely imaginary ones, as well as contorted re-wording of authentic ones. Here's a favorite phony:

Utter crap that was never ever said by Pike. I promise.

And more than likely they'll finally drag out the hoary old figure of Baphomet.

The late religious tract cartoonist Jack Chick made this stupidity into a cottage industry, as you can see from this little rogue's gallery of favorites. But he was, and is, far from alone. He's had plenty of company.

So as a Mason, you've gone and joined every possible obscure appendant organization imaginable, from the Royal Order of Scotland, the Holy Royal Arch Knight Templar Priests, and the Commemorative Order of St. Thomas of Acon, right down to Ye Antiente Order of Corks. You've witnessed every single degree you've ever heard of, and scores more that you hadn't known of before. You've even been coroneted with the so-called "highest" degree of all, the 33° of the Scottish Rite (yes, I know, that "high ranking" Mason nonsense dazzles the non-Masons every time, when we all know it's nothing of the kind). And you've gone so far as to read all of the old degrees of the Allied Masonic Degrees, and all of the decades of back copies of the Grand College of Rites' collections of defunct degrees from the past. 

Yet try as you might, there's nary a Satanic, Luciferian, 'Baphometian' image, symbol, reference, utterance, hint, suggestion, or lapel pin to be found anywhere. So where the hell did this stupidity come from?

Blame it on the French. At least one Frenchman, in particular.

If you've never heard of Leo Taxil and The Taxil Hoax, you need to. Masons really should have at least a passing knowledge of the episode, if only to calm the occasional aunt or pastor who gets the jitters in the presence of your Masonic ring. 

The elevator explanation is that Leo Taxil (born as Marie Joseph Gabriel Antoine Jogand-Pagès) was a 19th century French practical joker and con artist who couldn't stand Catholics or Masons. After dabbling in anti-Catholic porn for a few years, he started pumping out out lurid and increasingly ridiculous stories about the bizarre goings on in Masonic lodges, hoping to dig at Masons (who mostly wouldn't respond publicly, at least in Europe at the time) and to make incredulous Catholics look foolish. To his good fortune, he came to the attention of anti-Masonic Catholic Church leaders who didn't get the joke and swallowed the whole gag as serious, including Pope Leo XIII. The pontiff had just issued his anti-Masonic encyclical, Humanum Genus, in 1884, and Taxil had started madly writing the next year. With this Pope, he had an enthusiastic fan and promoter, who never even seemed to notice that this new author's nom de plume looked astonishingly similar to his own name (Leo TaXiI vs. Leo XIII).

Every succeeding book got sillier and more outrageous. Masons made tables float in the air, slaughtered animals, transformed into liquids and passed through walls. As the gags got more elaborate and preposterous, Taxil created an imaginary female Masonic wing and a fictitious heroine named Diana Vaughan (who was his typist in real life), so that he could then introduce lascivious details about sexual initiations into a non-existant type of sexual-satanic-magickal Masonry called the Palladian Rite. Can't sell a really juicy scandal without sex, you know. And of course there was the Satanic stuff, so he could invent Black Masses and sex orgies going on in "Satan's Synagogue" (thereby using Masonry to take a swipe at Judaism). And as a cherry on top, he headquartered the whole affair in Charleston, South Carolina with "General" Albert Pike named as the "Supreme Pontiff of Universal Freemasonry of the 23 Supreme Councils of the World." It was easy to do because Pike died in 1891, so Taxil could eventually allege anything he liked without fear of direct rebuttal from the old, dead lawyer.

Don't think these were just broadsheets and pamplets, either. Just one of Taxil's many anti-Masonic tomes ran to 2,000 pages. In 1886, the Bishop of Charleston had written directly to Leo XIII to say he was acquainted with Albert Pike and and that Taxil's stories were fables, but by then the pontiff was so deeply committed to the anti-Masonic cause that nothing would dissuade his support—the Bishop was officially reprimanded for being a doubter. Taxil, meanwhile, was invited in 1887 to an audience with the Pope.

Pope Leo and the Church as a whole were so alarmed by it all that in 1896, an anti-Masonic Congress was assembled in Trent, Austria with over 1,000 attendees and 36 bishops. But after twelve years of this, along with increasing catcalls from America, some in the Catholic press finally caught on that they were being duped and called Taxil out on it. He assembled an audience together in Paris in 1897 at the Geographical Society to speak of his latest "revelation," and then gleefully admitted onstage to the audience that it had all been a fabulous lie. The crowd went nuts, newspapers all over France published his confession, and Taxil ducked out and retired to Switzerland. Since then, Taxil has vanished as the source of the story from most who peddle it today, but the lunatic Satanic accusations have remained.

One of Taxil's early book is fairly typical of his style and substance. Here's the way he described a Masonic initiation into those mysterious "higher degrees" you've never managed to be invited to join:
"Before a man is admitted to the higher degrees he is blindfolded & taken into a room where a live sheep is lying on the floor. The animal's mouth and feet are secured and it is clean shaven, so that its skin feels to the touch like that of a human being.

"Next to the animal a man is placed, who breathes heavily, feigning to struggle against imaginary enemies. The candidate is given to understand that the sheep's body is that of a disloyal Mason who gave away the secrets of the order and must die according to some ancient law, the candidate being made executioner, as a warning to him.

"Then he is given a big knife, and after some ceremonial is persuaded to 'kill the traitor,' that is, plunge the knife repeatedly into the body of the sheep, which he imagines to be that of an unknown human being, his brother.

"Thus every Mason is a murderer in spirit at least, if not actually, for sometimes treacherous Masons take the place of the animal."
Taxil was able to keep his gag going for so long because of Freemasonry's very structure: it seems at first that there's always another appendant body to join, always another degree to experience. Maybe you piddling proles in the Blue Lodges just never saw the HIGHEST ones, the sooper secret ones that the really high, HIGH degree Masons practice. Of course, modern believers in this bilge allege the very same thing even today.

Of course, the Roman Catholic Church was licking a serious chest wound at that point in history. Bear in mind that the Vatican had just lost control of Italy and the last of the Papal States in 1870. From 800 until 1808, the Vatican controlled central and a eventually a chunk of northern Italy as a sovereign possession. Napoleon's exploits severely altered the map, but the eventual unification of Italy finally stripped the Church of all but the few square blocks in Rome known today as Vatican City. 

Pope Leo was desperate to regain the sort of widespread cultural and political influence the Church had largely enjoyed for over 1,000 years, and Freemasons and other "free-thinkers" represented a major threat to that influence. In the previous hundred years or so, high-profile Freemasons had been identified with revolutions in both North and South America, France, and Italy that had all sought to separate the state from the Church, to offer public education instead of religiously controlled schools, democratically electing leaders instead of relying on Divine Rights of Kings (or popes), "freedom of religion," and more. As a result, Pope Leo saw Masons as fighting against all the Church represented. It's almost unbelievable that the current pontiff, Pope Francis apparently thinks the very same thing today.

The reason I'm posting this today is that an excellent look at Taxil's actual writings and contemporary reactions has appeared in the unlikeliest spot you could imagine. The Cannibis Connection website Tuesday posted a long article by Chris Bennett: The Devil’s Weed and The Luciferian Freemasonry Hoax of Leo Taxil. It is truly a terrific article that is worth your time, especially if you've only had a superficial acquaintance with the story. It includes excerpts from A.E. Waite (who should have known better—but then again, maybe not) actually attempting to take the whole Palladian business seriously, at least briefly.

If you're fortunate enough to belong to the Bristol Masonic Society, S. Brent Morris also presented an outstanding talk of his own, The Pope and the Pornographer in March 2016, and it is published in their 2015-2016 volume of Corona Gladiorum. And the entire text of The Confession of Leo Taxil in which he exposed his hoax, was translated for the 1996 Volume 5 of the Scottish Rite Research Society's Heredom by Alain Bernheim, A. William Samii, and Eric Serejski. It is available online HERE.

H/T to Luke Stark

1 comment:

  1. The hysteria at the end of the 18th century about the Bavarian Illuminati, and over the founding of the Society of the Cincinnati, and then at the start of the 19th century perhaps prompted by religious fervor in the so-called burnt out farming area of upper New York State that nurtured Mormonism, helped push Presidents John and John Quincy Adams into a drawn out support of Anti-Masonry. See a recent edition of Adams writings on the subject --



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