In spite of the sensational title, this book is actually a debunking of a notorious late 19th century hoax. Leo Taxil, a French anti-clericalist, suddenly converted to Catholicism in the 1885 and wrote a number of books in which he claimed that Freemasonry was a world-wide satanic conspiracy. Taxil ...
In spite of the sensational title, this book is actually a debunking of a notorious late 19th century hoax. Leo Taxil, a French anti-clericalist, suddenly converted to Catholicism in the 1885 and wrote a number of books in which he claimed that Freemasonry was a world-wide satanic conspiracy. Taxil started an anti-Masonic newspaper. In 1887 Taxil even had an audience with Pope Leo XIII, who subsequently sanctioned his anti-Masonic campaign.
Waite systematically debunks Taxil in this book, citing factual inaccuracies, plagarism, and sheer absurdities. Waite is in top form here, witty, sarcastic, and utilizing extensive firsthand knowledge of Victorian mystical and masonic groups to demolish Taxil. Of interest is Chapter VII, wherein Waite gives a detailed summary of Taxil's pulp-fiction narrative, which has never been translated into English. It is amazing that anyone would take this yarn seriously, then or now.
In 1897, the year after Waite published this book, Taxil announced at a press conference that his conversion was a fraud, the books he had written were complete fabrications, and that he had published them to embarass the Catholic church. His motive for targeting the Freemasons was because they had rejected his application to join them. Diana Vaughan, the central character in his book The Devil in the Nineteenth Century, was also fiction--Diana Vaughan was the name of one of his typists.
Unfortunately, no matter how absurd or discredited, this is the meme that refuses to die. Both Taxil and Waite have been quoted out of context numerous times by anti-Freemasons, conspiracy theorists and the simply paranoid to underpin their beliefs that Lucifer is secretly worshipped by Masons.
Arthur Edward Waite (October 2, 1857 – May 19, 1942) was a scholarly mystic who wrote extensively on occult and esoteric matters, and was the co-creator of the Rider-Waite Tarot deck. As his biographer, R.A. Gilbert described him, "Waite's name has survived because he was the first to attempt a systematic study of the history of western occultism — viewed as a spiritual tradition rather than as aspects of proto-science or as the pathology of religion.”
Waite was born in the United States. Waite's father, Capt. Charles F. Waite, died when he was at a very young age, and his widowed mother, Emma Lovell, returned to her home country of England, where he was then raised. As they were not well off, Waite was educated at a small private school in North London. When he was thirteen, he was then educated at St. Charles' College. When he left school to become a clerk he wrote verse in his spare time. The death of his sister, Frederika Waite, in 1874 soon attracted him into psychical research. At twenty-one he began to read regularly in the Library of the British Museum, studying many branches of esotericism.
When Waite was almost thirty years old, he married Ada Lakeman and they had one daughter, Sybil Waite. Some time after Lucasta's death in 1924, Waite married Mary Broadbent Schofield. He spent most of his life in or near London, connected to various publishing houses, and editing a magazine The Unknown World.
A.E. Waite joined the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in January 1891 after being introduced by E.W. Berridge. He became a Freemason in 1901, and entered the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia in 1902. The Golden Dawn was torn by further internal feuding until Waite's departure in 1914; later he formed the Fellowship of the Rosy Cross, not to be confused with the Societas Rosicruciana. By that time there existed some half-dozen offshoots from the original Golden Dawn, and as a whole it never recovered.
Waite was a prolific author with many of his works being well received in academic circles. He wrote occult texts on subjects including divination, esotericism, Rosicrucianism, Freemasonry, and ceremonial magic, Kabbalism and alchemy; he also translated and reissued several important mystical and alchemical works. His works on the Holy Grail, influenced by his friendship with Arthur Machen, were particularly notable.