PENANCE AND CONFESSION
Let's now come to the hoax itself, to this funny as
well as instructive hoax. In high quarters, they did not
rely upon that good man of a vicar, a priest with a simple
soul, to whom I confided how I had been struck by grace,
like Saul on the road to Damascus.
"This block covered with flour somehow looks
suspicious," it was thought among the "big hats" of the
Accordingly, it was decided that the day after my
letter of retraction, they would let me make a good little
retreat at the reverend Jesuit fathers' house, and one of
the most expert ones in the art of turning over souls and
searching them was picked out to take care of me. The choice
was not made immediately. They let me wait a good week for
the great searcher who was to be my lot.
He turned out to be a former military chaplain who
became a Jesuit, a sly one among the sly! His appreciation
was to be weighty.
Ah! It was a tough game that the two of us played!... I
still have a headache when I think of it.... Among other
things, the dear director made me practice the Spiritual
Exercises of Saint Ignatius. I thought little of these
exercises, but at least I had to skim through the pages, so
as to look as if I had gone deeply into these extraordinary
meditations. It was not the right time to be caught.
My general confession let me win the battle. This
general confession did not last less than three days.
(Prolonged laughter) My last crushing blow came at the end
I said everything, this, that, and other things, but my
partner suspected there was a further big sin, very big,
very big, which was hard to confess, a sin more painful to
come out with than the admission of thousands and thousands
At last, it had to come out, this monstrous sin.
Ladies and gentlemen, I don't want to keep you waiting
as long as he had to: my big sin was a murder, a first-class
murder, one of the best downright assassinations. No, I had
not slaughtered an entire family, but without being a
Tropmann or a Dumolard, I was good for the guillotine, no
doubt, had I been found out.
I had taken care to investigate a few disappearances
reported three years before by newspapers, and had imagined
a little fairy-tale based upon one of them. But my reverend
father didn't let me tell it all in details. He thought me
capable of the most dreadful sacrileges, and found grounds
to be pleasantly surprised. He did not however expect an
assassin at his knees. (New laughter)
When the first words of admission fell from my lips,
the reverend father jumped backwards in a most significant
way. Ah! Now he understood my embarrassment, my
difficulties, my way of discussing certain sins of less
significance at such length.... And how ashamed I was when I
confessed my crime!... Not only ashamed, but disconcerted,
frightened.... A widow was part of the story, the reverend
father let me promise that, in an indirect and indeed most
ingenious way, I would bestow a rent on my victim's
widow.... He did not want to hear any name, but what he was
interested in was to know whether I had murdered with or
without premeditation. After beating around the bush and
falling under the weight of shame, I admitted premeditation,
a true ambush.
A churchman: What you are doing right now is
Another listener: For your punishment, a priest will
never receive your confession. You are an utmost rascal!
Another listener: All priests in this hall ought to
leave at once!
Abbott Garnier: No! We must listen the scoundrel to the
end! (some people in the audience stand up and leave)
M. L‚o Taxil --Whether you leave or not doesn't matter.
It is my true duty to pay tribute to this reverend
Jesuit father. I never got into troubles with the law. My
prank thus allowed me to test the secrecy of confession. If
one day I tell the story of these twelve years in details, I
will do it just as today, with the strictest impartiality
and with calm, Abbot Garnier! (Approval)
The main point at this stage was my first victory in
the opening of the battle. Had anyone dared and told the
reverend father I was not the most earnest convert, he would
have gotten a strong rebuke. (Laughter)
INTO THE VATICAN
It was not part of my plans to hurry and see the
My confession of assassination was indeed a fantastic
success; but the director of my retreat at Clamart had kept
it secret. Evidently, what else could he tell the
hierarchical authority who entrusted him to inspect the
depths of my soul, except:
"-L‚o Taxil?... I vouch for him!"
Once the mistrust of the Vatican was set aside, how
could I make myself agreeable? In order to bring the hoax to
the heights I dreamed of and which I had the inexpressible
joy to reach, I had to make good a point most cherished by
the Holy See within the program of the Church.
This part of my plan was settled from the start, as
soon as I decided to inquire into Catholicism.
One year earlier, the Sovereign Pontiff had made
himself notorious with the encyclical Humanum Genus, and
this encyclical agreed with a well-established idea of the
militant Catholics. Gambetta had said, "Clericalism,
there is the enemy!" The Church, on the other side, said,
"The enemy is Freemasonry!"
Accordingly, slandering Freemasons was the best way to
establish the foundations of the colossal prank of which I
savored all the suave happiness in advance.
At first, Freemasons were indignant; they did not
foresee that the patiently prepared conclusion of the hoax
would result in a worldwide outburst of laughter. They
actually thought I had joined for good. It was said and
repeated that it was a way of avenging myself for having
been expelled from my Lodge in 1881, a well-known story
which was not in the least dishonorable for me, but the mere
consequence of a little row initiated by two men having
nowadays disappeared, and disappeared under sad
No! I was not avenging myself, I was having fun. And if
one examines now the undersides of this campaign, even the
Freemasons who were most hostile to me will acknowledge that
I did not harm anyone. I would go as far as to say that I
did a good turn to French Masonry. (Interruption: You go too
far!...) Pardon me, wait until I explain myself, and I am
sure you will agree with me. I mean that my publication of
the rituals was certainly not irrelevant to reforms which
resulted in suppressing outmoded practices which had become
ridiculous in the eyes of all masons befriended with the
notion of progress.
A GOOD CANON OF FRIBOURG
Let us leave this aside and summarize facts. Since my
goal was to invent all the elements of contemporary
devilry-which was a good bit stronger than the city under
the Lake of Geneva-it was necessary to proceed step by step,
foundations had to be set, the egg from which Palladism was
to be born had to be laid and incubated. A prank of this
size cannot be created in one day. (A voice: Obviously!)
From the first moment of my conversion, I had found out
that a certain number of Catholics strongly believed that
the name "Grand Architect of the Universe," adopted by
Freemasonry to designate the Supreme Being without relating
it to the particular way of any specific religion, that this
name, as I say, is used in fact to skillfully conceal Master
Lucifer or Satan, the devil!
Various voices: --Enough is enough! He has become a
freemason again! (Laughter)
Other listeners: --Keep on!... It's interesting.
M. L‚o Taxil--Stories are told here and there in which
the devil suddenly appeared in a Masonic Lodge and presided
over the meeting. This is admitted among Catholics.
More good men than can be imagined believe that the
laws of nature are sometimes set aside by good or bad
spirits, and even by simple mortals. I was amazed myself to
be asked to perform a miracle.
A good canon of Fribourg once dropped by like a
hurricane at my house and told me literally:
"-Ah! You, Mister Taxil, you are a saint! Because God
rescued you from so deep an abyss, you must have a mountain
of graces upon your head [sic]. As soon as I heard of your
conversion, I took the train and here I am. On my return, I
must be able to say not only that I saw you, but that you
performed a miracle in front of me." (Laughter)
I was not expecting such a request.
"-A miracle! I answered: I don't understand you, Mister
"-Yes, a miracle, he repeated, it does not matter
which, just so that I can bear witness to it!... Whatever
miracle you wish!... What do I know?... Here, for
example.... This chair ... turn it into a cane, an
umbrella...." (Prolonged laughter)
I had gotten his point. I gently declined to perform
such a wonder. And my Canon returned to Fribourg saying that
if I was not performing miracles, it was out of humility.
Several months later, he sent me an gigantic GruyŠre
cheese on the crust of which he carved pious inscriptions,
wild mystic hieroglyphs, with a knife-an excellent cheese by
all means, which seemed never to come to an end and which I
ate with infinite respect. (Laughter increases. Some
Catholic listeners protest.)
Accordingly, my first books on Freemasonry consisted in
a mixture of rituals, with short innocent parts inserted,
apparently harmlessly interpreted. Each time an obscure
passage occurred, I explained it in a way agreeable to
Catholics who see Master Lucifer as the supreme grand-master
of Freemasons. But only with a touch of suggestion. I was
slowly smoothing the field first, in order to plough it
later on, and then scatter the mystifying seeds which were
to sprout so well.
AN AUDIENCE WITH THE HOLY FATHER
After two years of this preparatory work, I went to
Rome. (A voice: Ah! Here we are!)
Received at first by Cardinals Rampolia and Parocchi, I
had the pleasure of hearing them, one as well as the other,
tell me my books were perfect. Yes indeed, the books
unveiled exactly what was so well known in the Vatican, and
it was truly fortunate that a convert published these famous
Cardinal Rampolia called me "my dear," thick as
thieves. And how much he regretted that I had been only a
mere Apprentice in Masonry! But since I succeeded in getting
at the rituals, nothing was more legitimate than printing
them. He said he could identify therein all his previous
readings from documents in the Holy See's possessions. He
identified everything, even that which, by my doings, had
the same worth as the sharks of Marseilles or the city under
the Lake of Geneva. (A voice: Rascal! Scoundrel! Blackguard!
As for Cardinal Parocchi, what interested him most, was
the question of Masonic Sisters. My precious revelations had
taught him nothing new either. (Murmurs on one side;
laughter on the other.)
I had come to Rome unexpected, unaware of the fact that
a request for a private audience with the Sovereign Pontiff
must be made a long time in advance, but I had the pleasant
surprise of not waiting at all, and the Holy Father received
me for three quarters of an hour.(A voice: You are a
To win this new game, I had played it safe during the
first evening I spent alone with the Cardinal Secretary of
State. Evidently, he had been entrusted with my preliminary
examination. But the impression I wished to give him was
that I was somehow exalted-not quite as much however as the
good Canon of Fribourg. (Laughter)
The verbal report which Cardinal Rampolla must have
given to the Holy Father granted me the reception I desired.
Since the time of my admission under the banner of the
Church, I had convinced myself of a basic truth, namely that
one could not become a good author if one does not put
oneself in the body of the person one represents, if one
does not believe-at least momentarily-that all of it is
true. When a scene of despair is played on the stage, tears
should not be faked: the third-rate actor wipes dry eyes
with his handkerchief; the artist cries actually.
(A voice: Rascal! Rascal!)
Which is why, along the morning before my reception, I
filled myself so completely with the situation that I became
ready for anything and incapable of flinching despite any
kind of surprise.
(Speaker's voice gets momentarily lost in tumult.)
When the Pope asked me:
--My son, what do you wish?
--Holy Father, to die at your feet, right now!... This
would be my greatest happiness.
A listener: Respect L‚o XIII. You have no right to
utter his name!
M. L‚o Taxil --Smiling, L‚o XIII deigned to tell me
that my life was still very useful in the fight for faith.
Then he touched upon the question of Freemasonry. He owned
all my new works in his personal library. He had read them
from one end to the other and insisted upon the satanic
guidance of the sect.
Having been an Apprentice only, I had great merit to
have understood that "the devil is there." And the Sovereign
Pontiff stressed on the word devil with an inflection which
is easy for me to render. It seems that I can still hear him
repeating: "The devil! The devil!"
When I left, I was sure that my plan could be carried
out to the end. The important thing was not to stand out any
more, once the fruit was ripe.
Now, the tree of contemporary luciferianism began to
grow. I gave it all my care for a few more years.... Then I
re-wrote one of my books, introducing a palladian ritual in
it, allegedly obtained in communication, in fact prettily
fabricated by me from beginning to end.
A listener. --And we have to hear that!... It is
M. L‚o Taxil --Now, Palladism or Luciferian
High-Masonry was born. The new book had the most
enthusiastic reception, including all the magazines issued
by the Fathers of the Society of Jesus.
THE CONFESSION OF LEO TAXIL
Translated from Le Frondeur, April 25, 1897
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
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