Devil-Worship in France/Chapter XV

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It remains for us now to appreciate the exact position in which the existence of the Palladian Order is left after all suspicious information has been subtracted. We have examined in succession the testimony of every witness to the discovery of Leo Taxil and M. Adolphe Ricoux, and it has been made entirely evident that they are of a most unsatisfactory kind. I make no pretence to pass a precise judgment upon Leo Taxil, for I am not in a position to prove that the Palladian rituals which appear in "Are there Women in Freemasonry?" can be characterised as invented matter. Granting his personal good faith, there are still many obvious questions, one of which is the connection between the Palladians and Masonry. As regards the so-called Paris triangle, from which the information was obtained, as regards the ritual itself, there is obviously no such connection, except the fantastic and arbitrary rule that initiation is imparted exclusively to persons possessed of Masonic degrees. It is patent that such an institution is not Masonic, though it possesses some secrets of Masonry. The Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia, as we have seen, is an association based upon precisely the same regulation, but it has no official position. Should a circle of Catholic priests conspire for the formation of a society dedicated to black magic and the celebration of the Satanic mass, that would not be the Church diabolising. No institution, and no society, is responsible for the unauthorised acts of individual members. At the same time, if it should be advanced by hostile criticism that the invention of rituals is easy, and that the literary antecedents of Leo Taxil are not precisely of that kind which would lead any cautious person to place blind confidence in his unchecked statements, I am compelled to say that I should find considerable difficulty in challenging such a position.

Mgr. Meurin, the next witness, deserves, by his position and ability, our very sincere respect; compared with the octogenarian sentimentalism of Jean Kostka, the violence of Signor Margiotta, and the paste-pot of M. de la Rive, one breathes à pleine poitrine in the altitudes of ecclesiastical erudition, artificial as their eminence turns out; the art sacerdotal does not concern itself with preposterous narratives, so that it disputes nothing with the art of Bataille; it has never stood in need of conversion, and hence is exempt from the hysterical ardours and languors of Diana Vaughan. But the archbishop's interpretation of Masonry is based upon another interpretation of Kabbalistic literature, which can be accepted by no person who is acquainted therewith, and would have scarcely been attempted by himself if he had known it at first hand. In the matter of Palladian Masonry, he can tell us only what he has learned from Ricoux.

It is agreed upon all sides that we dismiss Dr Bataille. He does not disclose the name and nation which he adopted during his Masonic career, and hence the persons whom he states that he met are, with one exception, not in a position to contradict him, because they are not in a position to identify him. The personality of the one exception is not particularised, but may be guessed without the exercise of much skill in divination, and here I must leave the point, not because I am disinclined to speak plainly and thus risk the possibility of being mistaken, but because Dr Bataille informs us that this one confidant is in his power, and that he could procure for him or her a term of penal servitude. Lastly, he is not in a position to exhibit his Palladian diplomas, which were demanded by the dispensing authorities when he first fell under their suspicion and have not been returned to him. While we are therefore prevented from checking his affirmations in what most concerns our inquiry, we see that at all points where it is possible to control him he has completely broken down; the miraculous element of his narrative transcends credit, and his statements upon a multitude of ordinary matters of fact are beneath it. When we connect these points with the mode of publication he has seen fit to adopt, and remember the kind of motive which usually attaches to that mode, we have no other course but to set him entirely outside consideration. His book is evidentially valuable only to close the question. He may have visited Charleston; he may have made the personal acquaintance of Albert Pike, Gallatin Mackey, Phileas Walder, and his daughter Sophia; three of these persons are dead and cannot testify; the fourth acknowledges that he attended her medically at Naples; she protests against his betrayal, but she does not betray in return his Masonic identity, though I need scarcely add that she does not substantiate his statements. On these points my readers may be reasonably left to form their own judgments.

Miss Diana Vaughan is a lady who, in spite of much notoriety, is not in evidence; with one exception no credible person has ever said that he has seen her; that exception is Signor Margiotta. It would not, however, be the strongest line of criticism to dispute her existence; we may accept very gladly all that her Italian friend is good enough to say in regard to her personal characteristics, but we know that she has tried to deceive us, with conspicuous ill-success it is true, yet in a gross and most wicked manner. As to Signor Margiotta himself, with all his imperfections, he is the strongest witness to the discovery of Leo Taxil. I have admitted the great apparent force which belongs to his enormous array of documentary evidence, and I have established the nature of the complications which make that evidence extremely difficult to accept.

Lastly, Jean Kostka and M. A. C. de la Rive, though they came within the scope of our inquiry, are not Palladian witnesses. It would appear, therefore, that Leo Taxil and M. Adolphe Ricoux are, for the most part, neither honoured in their witnesses nor in a position to stand alone. The evidence which has grown out of their discovery is in an exceedingly corrupt state, and in summing the Question of Lucifer, as an impartial critic, I shall therefore simply propose to my readers the following general statement:—In the year 1891, Leo Taxil and M. Adolphe Ricoux state that they have discovered certain documents which show the existence of a Palladian Society, claimed to be at the head of Masonry, and in the year 1895 Signor Domenico Margiotta states that he belonged to that society and gives further particulars concerning it. A number of other witnesses have also come forward whose evidence must, for various reasons, be completely rejected. It is in all respects much to be deplored that Signor Margiotta has largely and approvingly cited the testimony of two of these witnesses who are most open to condemnation, and that he has himself exercised an imperfect and uncritical censorship over papers which have come into his hands. From first to last all documents are open to strong suspicion.

Such is the slender residue which results from this sifting of Lucifer; if I have made my final statement thus indeterminate in its character, it is because I wish my readers to form their own conclusions as to Leo Taxil and Domenico Margiotta, and because I believe that, before long, further evidence will be forthcoming. I have little personal doubt as to the ultimate nature of the verdict, but at the present stage of the inquiry, with all the exposures which I have had the satisfaction of making fresh and clear in my mind, I would dissuade any one from saying that there is "nothing in" the Question of Lucifer; it is at least obvious that there is no end to its impostures, in which respect I do not claim to have done more than trim the fringes of the question. It is not therefore closed, and, if I may so venture to affirm, it assumes a fresh interest with the appearance of this book. It deserves to rank among the most extraordinary literary swindles of the present, perhaps of any, century. The field which it covers is enormous, and there is room, and more than room, for a score of other investigators who will none fail of their reward. Within the limits of a moderate volume, it is impossible to take into account the whole of the issues involved, while the importance which is to be attributed to the subject should not be lightly regarded, seeing that in France, at the time of writing, it provides an apparently remunerative circulation to two monthly reviews, and that its literature is otherwise still growing. At the present moment, and for the purposes of this criticism, a few concluding statements alone remain to be made; they concern the position of Italy in connection with the so-called Universal Masonry, some aspects of the history of the Scotch Rite in connection with the recent revelations, and the interference of the Catholic Church, wisely or not, in the question.

The one Mason whose rank corresponds in Italy to that of Albert Pike in America is not Adriano Lemmi, but Signor Timoteo Riboli, Sovereign Grand Commander of the 33rd and last degree of the Ancient and Accepted Scotch Rite. Adriano Lemmi is, or was, Grand Master of the Craft Section of Italy and Deputy Grand Commander only of the Supreme Council of Italy of the 33°. The pretended Grand Central Directory of Naples, which governs all Europe in the interests of Charleston, with Giovanni Bovio for Sovereign Director, is a Masonic myth—pace Signor Margiotta. Signor Bovio is a Member of the Grand Master's Council and a 33° at Rome. There is a Neapolitan Section of the Ancient and Accepted Rite, but it has powers only up to the 30°, and as such has no authority in general government, nor does Bovio appear to be a member of the Neapolitan section, though as a member of Lemmi's Council, and a 33°, he no doubt has his share in the government of the Neapolitans.

The history of the Ancient and Accepted Rite as given by Signor Margiotta and sketched in my second chapter is an incorrect history. The facts are as follows:—A person named Isaac Long was engaged in propagating the French Rite of Perfection of 25° in America before 1796; in that year he gave the degrees to one de Grasse and also to de la Hogue, who established a Consistory of the 25° at Charleston. In 1802 this Consistory had blossomed into a Supreme Grand Council, 33°, and at a little later period they forged the name of Voltaire's friend, Frederick the Great of Prussia, to what Mr Yarker terms "one of the most stupidly concocted documents ever palmed upon an ignorant public." However this may be, Long does not seem to have been at any time a member of this body. This is how the "Mother Council of the World" is said to have come into existence, and Charleston has established Supreme Councils 33°, between 1811 and 1846, in France, Ireland, Scotland, England, and elsewhere.

There is no foundation for the legend of the Charleston Templar relics, namely, the skull of Jacques de Molay and the Baphomet, beyond the fact that one of the grades, the 23° of the old Rite of Perfection and the 30° of the modern Rite, uses a representation of the Papal tiara in its ceremonies and also of the crown of France, in allusion to Pope Clement V. and Philip le Bel.

I can find no Mason, of what grade or rite soever, who has ever heard of Pike's Sepher d'Hebarim, his book called Apadno, or lectures in which he imparted extracts unacknowledged from Éliphas Lévi; they may rank with triangular provinces, Lucifer chez lui, the skull of Molay, and the Palladium; in other words, they are lying myths. Nothing which Pike has or is known to have written has any Luciferian complexion. He has collected into his lectures a mass of mystical material from rites like Memphis and Misraïm, but it is alchemical, theosophical, or dealing with ancient symbolism, the mysteries, pre-christian theology, &c. As to Pike himself, a Mason of high authority observes in a private letter:—"He was one of the greatest men who ever adorned our Order. He was a giant among men, his learning was most profound, his eloquence great, and his wisdom comprehensive; he was a scholar in many languages, and a most voluminous writer. He was an ornament to the profession to which he belonged, namely, Law; he fought the cause of the red man against the American government many years ago, and prevailed in a large degree. I believe he was a true and humble servant of the One True and Living God, and a lover of humanity."

Having regard to all these facts, it is much to be regretted that the Catholic Church should have warmly approved and welcomed the extremely unsatisfactory testimony which connects Masonry with Diabolism. When the report of Diabolism first reached the ears of English mystics, and it was understood that the Church had concerned herself very seriously in the matter, I must confess that a hidden motive was immediately suspected. A recrudescence of mediæval Black Magic was in no sense likely to attain such proportions as to warrant the august interference; it seemed much as if Her Majesty's government should think it worth while to suppress the League of the White Rose. But when it transpired that the Question of Lucifer was a new aspect of the old question of Catholic hostility to Masonry, the astonishment evaporated; it was at once seen that Modern Diabolism had acquired an extrinsic importance because it was alleged to be connected with that Fraternity which the Church has long regarded as her implacable enemy. I must be permitted to register clearly the general conviction that if black magic, sorcery, and the Sabbath up to date had been merely revived demonomania, had been merely concerned with the black paternoster, the black mass, or even with transcendental sensualism and the ordeal of the pastos, the Roman hierarchy would not have taken action as it has, nor would the witnesses concerning these things have been welcomed with open arms; as a fact, no interest whatsoever is manifested in the doings of diabolists who operate apart from Masonry. Now, the hostility of Continental Masons towards Catholicism, in so far as it provably exists, has been largely or exclusively created by the hostility of the Church, and we know that he hates most who hates the first. In so far, therefore, as the Church has concerned herself by encouragement, which has something of the aspect of incitement, in the recent revelations, we shall have to bear in mind her attitude, while the history of forged decretals and bogus apostolic epistles will reveal to us that she does not invariably exercise a searching criticism upon documents which serve her purpose.

The sorcery of the nineteenth century is under no circumstances likely to justify the faggots of the fifteenth; it might be easier to justify the sorcery. As much by mystics as by the Church Catholic, modern black magic may be left to perish of its own corruption. But an attempt on the part of the Church to fasten the charge of diabolism on the Masonic Fraternity has credibly another motive than that of political hostility, which seems held to justify almost any weapon that comes to hand. At the bottom of her hatred of Masonry there is also her dread of the mystic. Transcendental science claims to have the key of her doctrines, and there is evidence that she fears that claim. Black magic, which, by the hypothesis, is the use of the most evil forces for the most evil purposes, she does not fear, for it wears its condemnation on its forehead; but mysticism, which accepts her own dogmas and interprets them in a sense which is not her own, which claims a certitude in matters of religion that transcends the certitude of faith, seems to hint that at one point it is possible to undermine her foundations. Hence she has ever suspected the mystic, and a part of her suspicion of Masonry has been by reason of its connection with the mystic; she has intuitively divined that connection, which by Masons themselves, for the most part, is not dreamed at this day, and when suggested is generally somewhat lightly cast aside. It would be quite out of place at the close of the present inquiry, which, from a wholly independent standpoint, has sought to justify a great fraternity from a singularly foul aspersion, to attempt enforcing upon Masons a special view of their institution, but it is desirable, at the same time, to be just towards the Catholic Church, and to affirm that we, as mystics, are on this point substantially in agreement with her. The connection in question was for a time visible, and remains in historical remembrance; from the beginning of its public appearance till the close of the eighteenth century, the history of Masonry is part of transcendental history. That connection has now ceased to manifest, but there is another which is integral and permanent, and is a matter of common principles and common objects. Let it be remembered, however, that connection is not identity; it is not intended to say that the threshold of Masonry is a gate of Mysticism, but that there is a community of purpose, of symbolism, of history, and indirectly of origin, between the two systems.

All true religion, all true morality, all true mysticism have but one object, and that is to act on humanity, collective and individual, in such a manner that it shall correspond efficiently with the great law of development, and co-operate consciously therewith to achieve the end of development. Under all the mysteries of its symbolism, behind the impressive parables of its ritual, and as equally, but if possible more effectually concealed, beneath the commonplace insistences of its moral maxims, this end is also proposed by the occult initiations of Masonry; and if it be defined more explicitly as the perfection of man both here and hereafter, and his union with what is highest in the universe, we shall see more clearly not only that it is the sole fundamental principle of all religion, its very essence, divested of creed and dogma, but also inherent in the nature of symbolical Masonry, and "inwrought in the whole system of Masonic ceremonies."

As mystics, however, we consider that the ethical standard of Masonry will produce good citizens to society and good brethren to the Fraternity, but it will not produce saints to Christ. There is an excellence which is other than the moral, and stands to morality in precisely the same relation that genius bears to talent. The moral virtues are not the summum bonum, nor the totality of all forces at work in the development of man, nor actually the perfect way, though they are the gate of the way of perfection. Now, the mystic claims to be in possession of the higher law which transcends the ethical, from which the ethical derives, and to which it must be referred for its reason. That the lost secret of Freemasonry is concerned with special applications of this higher law which connect with mysticism, we, as mystics, do hold and can make evident in its proper time and place. Here, and personally, I am concerned only with a comprehensive statement. In addition to its body of moral law, which is founded in the general conscience, or in the light of nature, Masonry has a body of symbolism, of which the source is not generally known, and by which it is identified with movements and modes of thought, and with evolutionary processes, having reference to regions already described as transcending the ethical world and concerned with the spiritual man. From every Masonic candidate, ignoring the schismatic and excommunicated sections, there is required a distinct attitude of mind towards the world without and the world within. He is required to believe in the existence of a Supreme Intelligence, with which his essential nature corresponds in the possession of an indestructible principle of conscious or understanding life. Beyond these doctrines, Masonry is wholly unsectarian; it recognises no other dogmas; it accredits no form of faith. Now, Mysticism is a body of spiritual methods and processes, based, like the Masonic body of ethical methods and processes, on these same doctrines. Every man who believes in God and immortality is the raw material of a mystic; every man who believes that there is a discoverable way to God is on the path of conscious mysticism. As this path has been pursued in all ages and nations by persons of widely divergent creeds, it is clear that however much mysticism has been identified with special spheres of religious thought and activity, it is independent of all.

But while Masonry would appear to regard the evolution of our physical, intellectual, and moral nature as the best preparation for that larger existence which is included in its central doctrine, and would thus work inward from without, mysticism deems that the evolution of the spiritual man and the production of a human spirit at one with the divine, constitute the missing condition requisite for the reconstruction of humanity, and would thus work outward from within. Neither Mason nor Mystic, however, can ignore either method. The one supplements the other; and seeing that the processes of mysticism are distinct from what is still a subject of derision under the name of transcendental phenomena, as they are wholly philosophical and interior, not to be appreciated by the senses, a secret experience within the depths and heights of our spiritual being, an institution which believes in God and immortality, and by the fact of immortality in the subsistence of an intimate relation between the spirit and God, will not look suspiciously on mysticism when it comes to understand it better.

I have spoken of Masonic symbolism, and the method of instruction in Masonry is identical with that of mysticism; both systems are "veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbolism." The significance of this correspondence would not be measurably weakened were there no similarity in the typology, no trace of mystic influence in Masonic rite and legend. But there is a resemblance, and the types are often identical, though the accredited interpretation varies. Masonry, as a fact, interprets the types which belong to our own science according to the criterion of ethics, and thus provides a prolegomena to Mysticism, as ethics are a necessary introduction to the inner science of the soul. There is naturally a minor body of conventional typology which is tolerably exclusive to the craft, but the grand and universal emblems, characteristic of symbolical Masonry as distinct from the operative art—these are our own emblems. The All-Seeing Eye, the Burning Star, the Rough and Perfect Ashlar, the Point within a Circle, the Pentalpha, the Seal of Solomon, the Cubic Stone—all these belong to the most lofty and arcane order of occult symbolism, but in mystic science they illumine more exalted zones of the heaven of mind. The rites, legends, and mysteries of the great Fraternity are also full of mystical allusions, and admit of mystical interpretation in the same manner, but their evidential force is weaker, because ceremonial and legend in the hands of a skilful commentator can be made to take any shape and any complexion; it is otherwise with the symbols of the Brotherhood which were possessed by us before the historical appearance of Masonry. So also the Masonic reverence for certain numbers which are apparently arbitrary in themselves is in reality connected with a most recondite and curious system of mystic methodical philosophy, while in the high titles of Masonic dignity there is frequently a direct reference to Mysticism.

If we turn from these considerations and approach the historical connection through those still undetermined problems which concern the origin of Masonry, we shall discern not unfortunately a way clear to their solution, but a significant characteristic pervading every Masonic hypothesis almost without exception—namely, an instinctive desire to refer Masonry in its original form to sources that are provably mystic. In the fanciful and extravagant period, when archæology and comparative mythology were as yet in their childhood, this tendency was not less strong because it was mostly quite unconscious. To pass in review before us the chief institutions of antiquity with which Masonry was then said to be connected, would be to sweep the whole field of transcendental history, and when we come to a more sober period which recognised the better claim of the building guilds to explain the beginnings of the Fraternity, the link with Mysticism was not even then abandoned, and a splendid variant of the Dionysian dream took back the mediæval architects to the portals of Eleusis and of Thebes.

When the history of Freemasonry becomes possible by the possession of materials, its chief philosophical interest centres in one country of Europe; there is no doubt that it exercised an immense influence upon France during that century of quakings and quickenings which gave birth to the great revolution, transformed civilisation in the West, and inaugurated the modern era. Without being a political society, it was an instrument eminently adaptable to the sub-surface determination of political movements. At a later date it may have contributed to the formation of Germany, as it did certainly to the creation of Italy, but the point and centre of Masonic history is France in the eighteenth century. To that country also is mainly confined the historical connection between Masonry and mystic science, for the revival of Mysticism which originated in Germany at the close of the eighteenth century, and thence passed over to England, found its final field in France at the period in question. There Rosicrucianism reappeared, there Anton Mesmer recovered the initial process of transcendental practice, there the Marquis de Puységur discovered clairvoyance, there Martines de Pasqually instructed his disciples in the mysteries of ceremonial magic; there the illustrious Saint-Martin, le philosophe inconnu, developed a special system of spiritual reconstruction; there alchemy flourished; there spiritual and political princes betook themselves to extravagant researches after an elixir of life; there also, as a consequence, rose up a line of magnificent impostors who posed as initiates of the occult sciences, as possessors of the grand secret and the grand mastery; there, finally, under the influences of transcendental philosophy, emblematic Freemasonry took root and grew and flourished, developing ten thousand splendours of symbolic grades, of romantic legends, of sonorous names and titles. In a word, the Mysticism of Europe concentrated its forces at Paris and Lyons, and all French Mysticism gathered under the shadow of the square and compass. To that, as to a centre, the whole movement gravitated, and thence it worked. There is nothing to show that it endeavoured to revolutionise Masonry in its own interest. The Fraternity naturally attracted all Mystics to its ranks, and the development of the mystic degrees took place as the result of that attraction.

By the year 1825 a variety of circumstances had combined to suspend transcendental activity, and the connection with Masonry ended, but the present revival of mystic thought is rapidly picking up the links of the broken chain; secretly or unobtrusively the spirit of transcendentalism is working within the Fraternity, and the bogus question of Lucifer is simply a hostile and unscrupulous method of recognising that fact. If Masonry and Mysticism could be shown in the historical world to be separated by the great sea, the consanguinity of their intention would remain, which is more important than external affinity, and they are sisters by that bond. But they have not been so separated, and on either side there is no need to be ashamed of the connection. With all brethren of the Fraternity, "we also do believe in the resurrection of Hiram," and we regard the Temple as "an edifice immediately realisable, for we rebuild it in our hearts." We also adore the Grand Architect, and offer our intellectual homage to the divine cipher which is in the centre of the symbolic star; and we believe that some day the Mason will recognise the Mystic. He is the heir of the great names of antiquity, the philosophers and hierarchs, and the spiritual kings of old; he is of the line of Orpheus and Hermes, of the Essenes and the Magi. And all those illustrious systems and all those splendid names with which Masonry has ever claimed kindred belong absolutely to the history of Mysticism.