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. It is crucial that anyone investigating the issue (such as it is) read this book in its entirety in order to get perspective.Title Page
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