Catholics fell in love with Taxil’s work, and a Catholic journalist by the name of Abel Clarin de la Rive became friends with Taxil, believing unreservedly in his revelations about the Masonic threat the Church faced. Taxil authorized de la Rive to publish a quote by Albert Pike alleged by Diana Vaughan, Taxil’s whistleblower, in his 1894 book La Femme et l’Enfant Dans la Franc-Maçonnerie Universelle:
That which we must say to the world is that we worship a god, but it is the god that one adores without superstition. To you, Sovereign Grand Inspectors General, we say this, that you may repeat it to the brethren of the 32nd, 31st and 30th degrees: The masonic Religion should be, by all of us initiates of the higher degrees, maintained in the Purity of the Luciferian doctrine. If Lucifer were not God, would Adonay and his priests calumniate him?
Yes, Lucifer is God, and unfortunately Adonay is also god. For the eternal law is that there is no light without shade, no beauty without ugliness, no white without black, for the absolute can only exist as two gods; darkness being necessary for light to serve as its foil as the pedestal is necessary to the statue, and the brake to the locomotive.
Thus, the doctrine of Satanism is a heresy, and the true and pure philosophical religion is the belief in Lucifer, the equal of Adonay; but Lucifer, God of Light and God of Good, is struggling for humanity against Adonay, the God of Darkness and Evil.
The assault upon Freemasonry drew intense criticism from their ranks, as well as from other esoteric societies. In 1896 Arthur Edward Waite, a British poet and mystic who wrote extensively on the occult, published Devil Worship in France, a comprehensive refutation of Taxil’s allegations.
By 1897 everyone was becoming impatient with Taxil, whose stories had been growing ever more radical and grotesque. They wanted to meet Diana Vaughan, in person, and Taxil eventually obliged.
On the evening of April 19, 1897, Taxil held a press conference at the Hall of the Geographic Society in Paris. Many reporters, Catholic priests, Freemasons, monks, and other illustrious figures from around the world were in attendance. After raffling off a typewriter used by Diana Vaughan (the winner being M. Ali Kental, Editor of Ikdam, at Constantinople), Léo Taxil finally addresses his audience.
He reveals there is no Dr. Karl Hacks, there is no Dr. Bataille, there is no Diana Vaughan, there is no Palladium Rite.
“There wasn’t the least masonic plot in this story,” he says, and denies that his conversion to Catholicism was in earnest – all part of the prank, to win the Church’s trust and approbation. Diana Vaughan was a real person, but she was only his typist and collaborator in this colossal fraud designed to deeply embarrass the Catholic Church and become the crown jewel of his anti-clerical work.
Slandering Freemasons was the best way to establish the foundations of the colossal prank of which I savored all the suave happiness in advance. – Léo Taxil
After explaining in immense detail how everything he published on Freemasonry over the last 12 years was a monumental hoax, Taxil concludes his press conference saying, “You were told that Palladism would be knocked down today, better still, it is annihilated, it is no more,” and that “Palladism is now dead for good. Its father just murdered it.” The audience erupts calumniously, with Catholics hissing and screaming, a priest mounts a chair to try and maintain order, and it becomes obvious why Taxil had the attendees check their walking sticks at the door – some would certainly have beaten him to death on the spot.
They ought to have known better, though, as Taxil’s extensive use of the Baphomet throughout the entirety of his hoax was a dead giveaway that not all was as it seemed. Created several decades prior by another Frenchman, Éliphas Lévi, it was clearly stated in the book in which it first appeared that it was not a representation of a demon or the devil, but something far more complex and esoteric. Ultimately, it was Lévi’s attempt at rehabilitating the image of the extinct Knights Templar, who were massacred by the Catholic Church in the year 1312 after a campaign of blood libel, and false confessions obtained by gruesome tortures. Nevertheless, it found great use being circulated by others like Taxil and de la Rive as a demonic idol.
The shock of Taxil’s confession, the entirety of which was published in Parisian newspaper Le Frondeur on April 25, 1897, rocked the world. The same day Le Père Peinard, a weekly Parisian journal for anarchists, published a detailed recounting of the event.
Here is but a sampling of other stories published about Taxil’s infamous confession:
- “Personal,” The New York Times, April 30, 1897, Page 6.
- “The Hoax of the Century,” Dunstan Times, Issue 1819, 18 June 1897, Page 3.
- “The Hoax of the Century,” Evening Star, Issue 10332, 4 June 1897, Page 1.
- “The Finest Hoax of the Century,” New Zealand Herald, Volume XXXIV, Issue 10461, 5 June 1897, Page 2 (Supplement).
- “The Hoax of the Century,” Oamaru Mail, Volume XXII, Issue 6909, 7 June 1897, Page 1.
- “The Hoax of the Century,” Hawke’s Bay Herald, Volume XXXII, Issue 10630, 8 June 1897, Page 2.
- “Freemasons and the Devil,” Auckland Star, Volume XXVIII, Issue 136, 12 June 1897, Page 1 (Supplement).
- “A Great Scandal Exploded,” North Otago Times, Volume XXVI, Issue 8918, 15 June 1897, Page 1.
- “The Diana Vaughan Case,” Grey River Argus, Volume LVII, Issue 9733, 26 July 1897, Page 4.
- “Curious Fraud in France,” Nelson Evening Mail, Volume XXXI, Issue 178, 29 July 1897, Page 4.
Taxil further elaborated on the intentions behind his grand hoax in a 1906 interview in Volume XXIV of The National Magazine:
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 I 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 humor. 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.
Then it dawned upon me that there was lots of money in being a Munchausen of the right kind, and for twelve years I gave it to them hot and strong, but never too hot. When inditing such slush as the story of the devil snake who wrote prophecies on Diana’s back with the end of his tail, I sometimes said to myself: “Hold on, you are going too far,” but I didn’t. My readers even took kindly to the yarn of the devil who, in order to marry a Mason, transformed himself into a crocodile, and, despite the masquerade, played the piano wonderfully well.
One day when lecturing at Lille, I told my audience that I had just had an apparition of Nautilus, the most daring affront on human credulity I had so far risked. But my hearers never turned a hair. “Hear ye, the doctor has seen Nautulius,” they said with admiring glances. Of course no one had a clear idea of who Nautilus was, I didn’t myself, but they assumed that he was a devil.
Ah, the jolly evenings I spent with my fellow authors hatching out new plots, new, unheard of perversions of truth and logic, each trying to outdo the other in organized mystification. I thought I would kill myself laughing at some of the things proposed, but everything went; there is no limit to human stupidity.
Taxil would die ten months later in March 1907. In November of the same year the Sydney-based Catholic Press published an anonymous letter eulogizing Taxil as “The World’s Worst Liar,” and that he had “died despised by those who had known him and by the great world he had cheated,” while calling him a “horrible buffoon,” whose “thrilling fairy tale under the guise of fact took the Catholic world by storm.” More accurately, however, they also called his hoax “the most successful fraud of the nineteenth century,” something Taxil certainly would have taken as a compliment.
It was Taxil’s intent to exploit people’s tendency towards confirmation bias in his hoax, which had succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. However, what he didn’t foresee was that the egos of his victims were so big that they would carry on pushing his fabrications as if nothing had happened. Confession or not, it had to be true.
The World in Chaos
With World War I kicking off in 1914, followed by the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, people were scrambling for a coherent explanation of why so much chaos was being sown around the world. In 1920 a book called The Cause of World Unrest emerged attempting to explain it all. It was an anonymous compilation of essays originally published in the London Morning Post in July of the same year.
In one of the essays we find Taxil’s magisterial hoax cited as truth, describing the chapter already mentioned above from Le Diable au XIXe Siècle about the written plan drawn up on August 15, 1871 by the fictitious Palladian Rite for global destruction. A familiar paragraph from the so-called plan is reproduced in The Cause:
That is why, when the autocratic Empire of Russia will have become the citadel of Papal Christianity (adonaisme papiste), we shall unchain the revolutionary Nihilists and Atheists, and we shall provoke a formidable social cataclysm, which will demonstrate clearly to the nations, in all its horror, the effect of absolute unbelief, mother of savagery and of the most bloody disorder. Then, everywhere, the citizens, obliged to defend themselves against the mad minority of revolutionaries, will exterminate these destroyers of civilization, and the multitude, disillusioned of Christianity, whose deist soul will up to that moment be without compass, thirsting for an ideal, but not knowing where to bestow their worship, will receive the True Light, by the universal manifestation of the pure Luciferian doctrine, at last made public, a manifestation which will arise from the general movement of reaction following the destruction of Atheism and Christianity, both at the same time vanquished and exterminated.
There is no mention of Taxil’s sensational confession in the pages preceding or following the reproduction of this part of the hoax. It does say in The Cause that this quote and the document it allegedly comes from could be a hoax, but that it nevertheless is quite prophetic.
But was it really? The rising tide of revolutionary socialism in the late 19th century was surely no stranger to Taxil. Marx and Engel’s Communist Manifesto had been in circulation for decades prior to Taxil creating the hoax, and bloody revolution was already being openly discussed. It was only a matter of where it would first emerge, and popular locations for that had already been determined to be Russia or Germany.
The Cause would go on to be used in the 1925 book called The Mystery of Freemasonry Unveiled, published by Cardinal Caro y Rodriguez of Chile. In it, the Cardinal uncritically repeats what he found in The Cause, reproducing verbatim the same paragraph from Taxil’s hoax. How a Catholic Cardinal would not know this was a fabrication is surprising seeing that he would have been nearly thirty years old at the time of Taxil’s confession and by then already an ordained priest.
Read more here…