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Confession of Leo Taxil

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THE CONFESSION OF LEO TAXIL
Translated from Le Frondeur, April 25, 1897

by

Alain Bernheim, A. William Samii, and Eric Serejski

Reprinted from Heredom
The Transacations of the
Scottish Rite Research Society
vol. 5, 1996, pp. 137-168

(c) 1997 Scottish Rite Research Society
All Rights Reserved
1733 16 St., N.W., Washington, DC 20009-3103

***

INTRODUCTION
A good practical joke can produce weeks of laughter; a grand joke is retold as the centerpiece of later get-togethers; a few jokes be-come legendary. Gabriel Jogand-Pages, better known as Leo Taxil, played a legendary practical joke a century ago. He chose to ridicule the Roman Catholic Church's credulity about Freemasonry, and he seemed to have thought it all good fun. On April 19, 1897, Taxil confessed everything at a public meeting in Paris. His confession, however, hasn't stopped anti-Masons from rediscovering the hoax and reusing it to attack the Craft. Monsieur Taxil, like Dr. Frankenstein, could not foresee what his creation would do.

A transcript of Taxil's confession was published in the weekly Parisian newspaper, Le Frondeur, on April 25, 1897. It is a long, rambling speech that has never been published in English until now. Taxil's confession is both amusing and appalling and gives the reader a glimpse of the magnitude of his deceit. This translation represents many hours of tedious work by three ardent students of masonry. Taxil's text is colloquial and ungrammatical in many places, as well as being a verbal presentation. The translators have tried to be faithful to the original format while producing a readable text. Headings and subheading have been added to help readability. No other changes have been made in the text.

It is a sad commentary on the intellectual integrity of Freemasonry's enemies that they continue to regurgitate Taxil's hoax with such zeal. A bibliography of anti-Masonic uses of this hoax is appended to this translation together with a bibliography of explanations of how Taxil duped the enemies of Masonry.

S. Brent Morris
Editor, Heredom

The Confession of Leo Taxil
Le Froundeur, April 25, 1897

Twelve Years Under the Banner of the Church

THE PRANK OF PALLADISM

MISS DIANA VAUGHAN--THE DEVIL AT THE FREEMASONS

A Conference held by M. Leo TAXIL
at the Hall of the Geographic Society in Paris

With more or less impartiality, all newspapers reported the memorable evening at the Geographic Society on April 19. We thought the best thing to do was to reproduce the full text of M. Leo Taxil's conference.

Let us say first that the very numerous audience consisted mainly of press representatives from various countries and of all opinions, many priests, monks, very many ladies, some free-thinkers, some freemasons. The nunciature had sent two delegates; the archdiocese was also represented. Entrance was free, but one could get in only by showing nominal invitation cards which had been sent one month in advance.

First thing in the evening, a splendid typewriter offered by Miss Diana Vaughan was raffled. Its lucky winner was M. Ali Kental, Editor of the Ikdam, at Constantinople.

Then M. Leo Taxil addressed the audience:

My Reverend Fathers,

Ladies,

Gentlemen,

First of all, it is appropriate to convey some thanks to those of my colleagues of the Catholic press who-suddenly undertaking a campaign of vociferous attacks six or seven months ago-produced a marvelous result; we already witness it tonight and tomorrow will witness it even better, I mean the quite exceptional explosion of the manifestation of truth in a question whose solution might possibly have passed completely unnoticed without them.

To these dear colleagues, accordingly, my first congratulations! And they will understand in a moment how much these thanks are sincere and justified.

This evening, I shall strive to forget all the unjust and offensive things which have been published against me during the polemic I just mentioned. Or, at any rate, if I come to elucidate specific facts in a way unexpected for many, I shall merely tell the truth, setting aside the very shadow of the lightest resentment from my thoughts.

After the explanations whose time has come at last, maybe these Catholic colleagues will not disarm before my peaceful philosophy. However, should my good dispositions annoy them instead of calming them down, I assure them that nothing will induce me to set aside the equanimity I acquired over the last twelve years and which makes me infinitely happy.

Besides, if this exceptional audience is truly made of the most disparate elements-since all opinions were indiscriminately invited-, nevertheless I am convinced that this audience is possessed of the sweetest tolerance, as far as survey is concerned. To call things by their proper name:

we are here among well-educated people. All of us are all able to make allowance for what is earnest and to take it under consideration with the required seriousness and without passion. However when a fact submitted to us is above all on the witty side, we do not get excited either.

Better to laugh than cry, as the nations' wisdom goes.

THE PRANK OUTLINED

Now, I address myself to the Catholics.

I tell them: --When you were told that Doctor Bataille, pretending to be devoted to the Catholic cause, spent eleven years of his life exploring the darkest dens of secret societies, Lodges and Back-Lodges,[1] and even luciferian Triangles, you fully approved him, you found his behavior admirable. He was overwhelmed with congratulations. Laudatory articles were written even in the publications of the party which, today, can't hurl enough thunderbolts to reduce Miss Diana Vaughan to ashes, here calling her a myth, there an adventuress and a fortune-teller.

Should the cheers which greeted Doctor Bataille be now reconsidered, they existed nonetheless and were thunderous. Illustrious theologians, eloquent preachers, eminent prelates congratulated him, each louder than the other. And I do not say they were wrong.

I merely and simply determine a fact.

And the purpose of this determination is to allow me to say forthrightly:

"Do not get angry, my reverend fathers, but do laugh heartily when you are told now that what did happen is the very opposite of what you expected. There wasn't the shadow of a dedicated Catholic exploring the High-Masonry of Palladism under a false nose. But, on the contrary, there has been a free-thinker who, for his own edification, not because of any hostility, came into your camp and strolled, not during eleven years but during twelve, and ... it is your servant." (Various reactions: murmuring, laughter).

There wasn't the least masonic plot in this story, which I shall prove to you shortly. We must leave to Homer, singing the exploits of Ulysses, the adventure of the legendary Trojan Horse; that formidable horse has nothing to do in this case. Today's tale is much less intricate.

Your servant told himself once that having gone for irreligion too young and possibly with much too much spirit, it was well possible that he might not be aware of the true situation. Then, not acting in anybody's name, willing to change his mind if there were reasons to do so, entrusting no one at first with his decision, he thought he had found the means of knowing better, of ascertaining better, for his own instruction.

Add to this, if you wish, a touch of prank at the back of his temper--he wasn't born in Marseille in vain![2] (Laughter) --Yes, add the lovely pleasure, that most people ignore but which is quite real, the intimate joy of playing a good turn on an opponent, without malice, just for fun and to have some laughs.

Well, I must say so at once, this twelve-year long prank taught me something valuable from the start, namely that I had acted without moderation indeed, that I should have better stayed on the ground of ideas, and that in most cases, it had been a mistake to make personal attacks.

I feel bound to make such a statement and I also admit that I make it easily. During these twelve years spent under the banner of the Church and although I registered as a prankster, I realized how wrong it is to impute the malice of some people to doctrines. It results from mankind itself. A bad man remains bad, just like a good man acts with goodness, whether he keeps his faith or loses it. Dishonest people as well as honest ones are found everywhere. (Marks of approval).

Accordingly, I made for myself a study which has born fruit. That study gave me the equanimity, the inner philosophy mentioned before.

I came at first as a curious person, a bit at random,--but of course intending to withdraw once the experience had come to its end.--Then, the sweet pleasure of pranking took over, overwhelming everything, I lingered in the Catholic camp, gradually developing my plan of an altogether amusing and instructive mystification, and giving it ever broader proportions as things went along.

In the course of time, I happened to secure two collaborators, not more than two: one was a fellow I knew since childhood, whom I took at first for a ride and to whom I ascribed the pseudonym of Dr. Bataille; the other was Miss Diana Vaughan, a French Protestant, rather on the free-thinking side, a professional typist and the representative of one of the typewriter manufacturers in the United States. I needed both to achieve the success of the last episode of this joyful prank, which American newspapers call "the biggest hoax of modern times." (Many laughs. Murmurs.)

Next: The origins of a prankster>




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