Anti-Mormonism, a strange shadow of Mormonism, is itself a social phenomenon. In 1992 the Encyclopedia of Mormonism noted that no comprehensive history of anti-Mormonism has yet been published.Even if such a history had been published, it would need considerable periodic updating because of the changing activity of anti-Mormons. I have argued elsewhere that the 1982 film The God Makers marked the emergence of a new anti-Mormonism that I have called “postrationalist.” While “rationalist” anti-Mormonism—mostly represented by the “career apostates” Jerald and Sandra Tanner —denied anything supernatural in Joseph Smith’s experiences and regarded him as a mere fraud, postrationalist anti-Mormonism advances the theory “that Joseph Smith was in touch with a superhuman source of revelation and power.” However, according to the postrationalist theory, the superhuman source was not God, but Satan.
While the postrational theory may seem new, this article will show that it is merely an example of old wine in new bottles, being part of a tradition that dates back to the nineteenth century. Although this tradition became somewhat disreputable in the first decades of the twentieth century, it continued to exist in the fundamentalist subculture. Indeed, postrationalist anti-Mormons in the 1980s started using nineteenth-century literature as source material to prove their thesis about the Satanic connection in Mormonism. This article traces the origins and nature of the world view held by those nineteenth-century writers and traces their influence on postrationalist anti-Mormonism.
The French Revolution, Spiritualism, and Satanism
Certain historical events are perceived as so incredible and unexpected as to announce the end of an era, if not the end of a world. Such was the French Revolution. For many Europeans and Americans, it was so unexpected that it could not be explained through natural causes; behind the Revolution, a supernatural agent must have been at work. For millennialist religious thinkers, the power behind the French Revolution was God himself, and the date 1789 soon became part of a number of prophetic chronologies offering calculations for the more or less imminent end of the world.Although this interpretation was particularly popular among Protestants, Catholics could not reconcile themselves with the idea that the anti-Catholic French Revolution, with its persecution of their church, was really masterminded by God. They started suggesting that the Revolution was the product of a conspiracy organized by secret societies, including Freemasonry, the Illuminati (a Bavarian politically radical secret society mostly active between 1776 and 1785), and the mysterious “retro-lodges” (secret Masonic lodges allegedly controlling the regular lodges). The most famous work on the Revolution as a conspiracy was published in 1797 by the French Catholic priest Augustin Barruel (1741–1820) while in exile in England. John Robison’s Proofs of a Conspiracy made the same claim from a Protestant point of view. By 1802 parts of Barruel’s work, translated into English, had been published in the United States.
Barruel and Robison suggested that “retro-lodges” were “diabolical” organizations, but they did not explicitly involve Satan in the conspiracy. However, in Paris during the Revolution, another Catholic priest, Jean-Baptiste Fiard (1736–1818), published underground and anonymous editions of two works suggesting that groups of Satanists in direct contact with the devil were behind the French Revolution.In 1796 and 1803, Fiard published two further books in which he openly argued that “the leaders of the French Revolution, the Freemasons, the Illuminati could only have success because they have signed a written pact with the devil.” After the Revolution, Fiard’s ideas were spread by Jean Wendel Wurtz (1760–1826), a German Catholic priest living in Lyon, France. Wurtz also combined the Satanic and the millenarian themes about the Revolution, announcing the coming of the anti-Christ in the year 1912. He started suggesting that fallen angels inspired reformers, causing not only the French Revolution, but also the phenomenon of Spiritualism.
Although Spiritualism has existed in France since the last decades of the eighteenth century, “modern Spiritualism” originated in 1848 with the Fox sisters in Hydesville, New York—a village now called East Palmyra, which is next to Joseph Smith’s Palmyra. The enormous success of Spiritualism in the 1840s and 1850s took both Catholics and Protestants by surprise. Although of a different nature, it was a phenomenon as unexpected as the French Revolution. Again, someone suggested that it could not be explained through purely natural causes and must involve the direct action of Satan.
The debate about the “real” origins—Satanic or otherwise—of Spiritualism was connected with the great discussion on the five-volume work authored by German theologian Johann Joseph von Görres (1776–1848) on divine, natural, and Satanic mysticism. Although Görres often believed reports of the most incredible facts, he was very cautious when it came to explaining these facts. For Görres, “Satanic mysticism” did exist but was extremely rare; most Spiritualist and magic phenomena could be explained through natural causes, including Mesmer’s “animal magnetism” and the newly discovered electricity. However, Görres was criticized for being too cautious. When Spiritualism spread in the United States, a number of Protestant critics were ready to conclude that the devil was indeed responsible for most of the phenomena.
The French Revolution and Spiritualism—both unexpected phenomena of great concern to Catholics and Protestants—thus had set the standard for conspiracy theories explaining the inexplicable not only through the secret action of Freemasons, the Illuminati, and “retro-lodges,” but also through the direct action of Satan. When Mormonism became prominent, critics attempted to explain this new phenomenon in the same way.
It was easier for the French Catholics to see Mormonism as non-Christian than to try to prove that its divine origins were impossible. Mormonism’s origins were, in fact, too close to Christianity’s own origins to claim that such things as revelations and miracles could not happen. Disconnecting Mormonism from Christianity was the only way to solve the dilemma.
Orestes Brownson as an Anti-Mormon
Although he is less well-known than other nineteenth-century religious authors, Orestes Augustus Brownson (1803–1876) “had a far greater impact [on his own time] than those like a Henry David Thoreau or Emily Dickinson.”A native of Vermont, Brownson was raised a Congregationalist but converted to Methodism and then to Universalism. In 1826 he was ordained a Universalist minister. Quite restless in his religious ideas, he left the ministry in 1829 and became a social reformer and, for a short period, a free thinker. In 1831, Brownson started an independent ministry, and he became a Unitarian pastor in 1832.
In the subsequent decade, although he kept in touch with the tolerant Unitarians, Brownson aligned himself with a number of religious and philosophical movements, associating with Emerson’s Transcendentalism, dabbling in Spiritualism, and enthusiastically trying to spread the doctrines of the French socialist and pantheist thinker Henri Leroux (1797–1871), an independent disciple of Saint-Simon. During this period, he also explored Mormonism but found it intellectually wanting. Brownson’s brother, Oran, later became a convert to Mormonism. Finally in 1844, Brownson converted to the Roman Catholic Church, where he stayed for the remaining thirty-two years of his life, acquiring great fame through his magazine, The Brownson Quarterly Review.
As “the Pope’s champion in America,”Brownson exposed from a Catholic viewpoint the various “isms” he had explored before conversion, including Spiritualism, Universalism, and Mormonism. Brownson regarded himself as an expert on Mormonism because he was personally acquainted with Joseph Smith in Vermont and had lived in upstate New York during the formative years of the LDS Church. He also tried to explain the true causes of the French Revolution.
In 1854, ten years after his conversion, Brownson published a fictionalized autobiography under the title The Spirit-Rapper.In this book, Brownson, like Fiard and others, concluded that the influence of secret societies is not sufficient to explain the French Revolution. Some Catholic writers, as “good, honest” as they are,
would explain all this by the Secret Societies. It is in vain. They did much, those secret societies; but how explain the existence of those societies themselves, their horrible principles, and the fidelity of their members in submitting to what they must know is a thousand times more oppressive than the institutions they are opposing?
The answer could only be “there was there the mighty power, whatever it be, which it is said once dared dispute the empire of heaven with the Omnipotent, and which all ages have called Satan.”
The actions of Satan, according to Brownson, also explain much of Spiritualism and the success of new religions that oppose Catholicism. Both “Mahomet” and Swedenborg were directly inspired by Satan. “The same,” Brownson proclaimed, was the case with Joseph Smith, “in whose hand the divining-rod will operate,” and who “could throw himself,” by means of his Urim and Thummim, “into the sleep-waking state, in which only would he or could he prophesy.”Brownson reported that when “the spirit was upon him, his face brightened up, his eye shone and sparkled as living fire, and he seemed instinct with a life and energy not his own. He was in those times, as one of his apostles assured me, ‘awful to behold.’”
Brownson thought that Satan was the real author also of the Book of Mormon and ridiculed the Spaulding theory as “the most ridiculous” attempt to explain the Book of Mormon:
This version is refuted by a simple perusal of the book itself, which is too much and too little to have had such an origin. . . . Whoever had produced it in his normal state, would have made it either better in its feebler parts, or worse in its stronger passages.
A further element for Brownson was that Mormonism seemed to produce “marvellous cures.” The reality of these cures was not doubted but only proved to Brownson that Satan was behind Mormonism:
That there was a superhuman power employed in founding the Mormon church, cannot easily be doubted by any scientific and philosophic mind that has investigated the subject; and just as little can a sober man doubt that the power employed was not Divine, and that Mormonism is literally the Synagogue of Satan.
After the publication of The Spirit-Rapper and his first years of “militant aggressive [Catholic] apologetic[s],” Brownson’s Catholicism became “more conciliatory and optimistic.”In later years, he was less certain that all non-Catholic religious movements came straight from Satan. He concluded that “Satan, though a creature, has a superhuman power, and is able to work, not miracles, but prodigies, which imitate miracles, and which the unwary may mistake for them.” By 1875, Brownson was prepared to conclude that “much fraud, and no little jugglery” of human rather than supernatural origin was connected with Spiritualism. In the same year, more than three decades after The Spirit-Rapper, Brownson returned to the subject of Mormon miracles and concluded that perhaps they were due simply to inexplicable causes:
We had a near relative who for six months had been rendered utterly helpless by inflammatory rheumatism. She was unable to move herself in bed, or even to raise her hand. A Mormon Elder asked her husband for a night’s lodging, which was refused on the ground of the illness of his wife. The Elder replied that that was no reason for refusing his request, for, if he would let him see his wife, he doubted not he could cure her. He was led to her bedside, where he kneeled down and made a short prayer; at the end of the prayer she was completely cured—as well as ever she was in her life. We do not believe that God wrought a miracle at the prayer of the Mormon Elder, nor are we willing to suppose an intervention of the Evil One. There are moral or non-physical causes whose operation we but imperfectly understand, and which produce effects on the physical system that seem to us little less than miraculous. Till we know the extent of these causes, or the moral vis medicatrix of nature, we cannot take these sudden and inexplicable cures as conclusive proofs of a supernatural intervention.
French Anti-Satanism in the 1860s
Brownson, who read both French and Italian, had been deeply influenced by the huge Pneumatologie of the French marquis Jules Eudes de Mirville (1802–1873). Mirville argued in ten volumes that all Spiritualist phenomena from the ancient mysteries to modern Spiritualism originated from the devil. Mirville was the acknowledged leader of a school of French Catholic authors—whose books were recommended by both the French bishops and the Vatican—who tried to answer skepticism about the existence and the action of the devil by beating skeptics at their own game through a showing of prodigious scholarship. Mirville and his disciples, Henri-Roger Gougenot des Mousseaux (1805–1876; a diplomat) and Joseph Bizouard (1797–1870; a lawyer), produced thousands of pages on Spiritualism and the devil (with occasional remarks against the Jews). They also criticized Görres for being too cautious in not attributing the phenomenon of Spiritualism to Satan. Their works became popular among European Catholics in the 1860s.
While Brownson had been influenced by Mirville, Mirville’s protégé Bizouard in turn used the French 1862 translation of Brownson’s The Spirit-Rapper in volume six of his four-thousand-page work on Satanism to prove the demonic origin of Mormonism. Bizouard devoted sixteen pages to Joseph Smith and Mormonism and noted that French Catholic priest and encyclopedist Jacques-Paul Migne (1800–1875) had explained away Mormonism, citing only the alleged greed and fanaticism of Joseph Smith. Bizouard asserted that these traits were not enough to explain Mormonism. He also reviewed the travel account of Jules Remy published in French in 1860. According to Bizouard, Remy tried to treat Mormons kindly and fairly, but he could not avoid giving involuntary evidence to the thesis that their religion originates with Satan. Bizouard believed Mormon leaders were provincial Americans, neither particularly brilliant nor intelligent. Naturally, they could not have been capable of what they had achieved. Since their achievements were, indeed, extraordinary, the only possible conclusion for him was that behind both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young was the action of a superhuman power, namely, the devil.
The Mormon Connection in the Taxil Hoax of the 1890s
In the 1870s, the popularity of authors like Mirville and Bizouard declined in France (although they remained popular among Catholics in Italy). The success of positivist skepticism made French bishops very cautious in endorsing Satanic explanations of Spiritualism or new religious movements. By the 1880s, they preferred to attribute spiritual phenomena to naturalistic explanations based on psychiatry or electricity.
However, an interest in Satanism was revived in the late 1880s by the scandals surrounding the defrocked Lyon priest Joseph-Antoine Boullan (1824–1893), who claimed that his controversial ceremonies, including sex magic, were necessary to counteract the operations of Satanists, and by the presence in the occult subculture of small groups of Satan-worshippers in France and Belgium. These groups were revealed to the public by investigative journalist Jules Bois (1868–1943), himself a member of the occult milieu. A close friend of Bois, novelist Joris-Karl Huysmans (1848–1907), caused a sensation in 1891 with his extremely successful novel Là-bas, which included the first literary depiction of a Black Mass, allegedly based on the real experiences of the author and his friend Berthe Courrière (1852–1917).
After the publication of Huysmans’s novel, anti-Masonic literature produced by a Léo Taxil, recently reconverted to Catholicism, started introducing the idea of Satanic secret orders behind Freemasonry, a theme not prominent in Taxil’s pre-1891 anti-Masonic works. Taxil, whose real name was Marie-Joseph-Antoine-Gabriel Jogand-Pagés (1854–1907), was raised Catholic before joining French Freemasonry in a period when French Lodges were so extremely anticlerical that they were cut off from communion with British and American Freemasonry. Taxil exploited the anticlerical climate by producing extreme anti-Catholic literature that contained exposés of alleged sexual scandals of the clergy and of Pope Pius IX, who, according to Taxil, entertained a number of secret lovers. Since many anti-Catholics were atheist and rationalist free-thinkers, Taxil did not suggest that the Roman Catholic Church was run by Satan. He did claim, however, that Jesuits had learned both Eastern and Western magic and were capable of killing people from a distance and of performing other mysterious and almost supernatural wrongdoing.
Taxil earned his livelihood for a period of time by publishing anti-Catholic pamphlets. Because he later recognized that many more Catholics lived in France than anti-Catholics, in 1885 he decided to return to the Roman Catholic Church. Once he was back in the fold, he began to produce anti-Masonic literature with all sorts of astonishing revelations intended for the Catholic reader. Some of these books became best sellers and were eventually translated into many languages.
Taxil was no ordinary con man and exhibited two traits of exceptional cunning. First, before his “conversion,” he created a legal scheme through which the copyrights on his anti-Catholic works were transferred to his wife. He even pretended to separate from the wife, and she continued to publish anti-Catholic books (sometimes without the name of the author or with Taxil’s unfamiliar names “Jogand” or “Pagés”) while her “estranged” husband was busy selling anti-Masonic literature to Catholics. In this way, Taxil managed to retain the profits of his anti-Catholic business while simultaneously working in an ostensibly conflicting enterprise.
Taxil’s second ingenious idea was to produce a perfect witness who could not be cross-examined since she never existed. In his first set of disclosures, Taxil began to focus on a “High Freemasonry” called Palladism that was hidden behind the public lodges. Palladist lodges, unlike regular Freemasonry, included both men and women. Taxil and his co-conspirator Charles Hacks, a medical doctor who in 1892 started publishing his popular serial Le Diable au XIXe siècle (The Devil in the Nineteenth Century) under the pen name of “Dr. Bataille,” also mentioned the struggle for the control of Palladism between two powerful Satanic high priestesses called Diana Vaughan and Sophia Walder.
To make these two fictitious characters more believable, Taxil and Bataille pretended these women were in touch with other well-known Freemasons of the time who were secret members of Palladism, including the Italian prime minister Francesco Crispi (1818–1901), the powerful great master of Italian Freemasonry Adriano Lemmi (1822–1906), and Albert Pike (1809–1891), the great commander of the Southern Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry in America. Although Pike was particularly controversial during the U.S. Civil War, Taxil made him the secret Satanic Pope of the World, who reigned over a worldwide Satanic-Masonic enterprise from his “Luciferian Holy See” in Charleston, South Carolina (perhaps a strange and exotic place for the average European reader of the time, as well as the place where the Civil War began). When the Roman Catholic bishop of Charleston ruled out the possibility that his city was the seat of a “Luciferian Holy See,” Palladist high priestess Diana Vaughan personally suggested that some U.S. bishops were perhaps in league with the Satanists.
According to Taxil, Diana Vaughan had converted to Catholicism and was hiding in a monastery for fear of being kidnapped by Palladists. From her hiding place, she was busy publishing a monthly journal (written, of course, by Taxil) that included her recollections. Bishops, cardinals, and even the Vatican congratulated Taxil for being instrumental in the conversion of Diana Vaughan. By 1894 other anti-Masonic writers—possibly to the genuine delight of Taxil, who may not have been in league with them originally—began writing their own books about both Diana Vaughan and her archrival Sophia Walder. These writers included Abel Clarin de la Rive (1855–1914), who published La Femme et l’enfant dans la franc-maçonnerie universelle (The Woman and Child in Universal Freemasonry) in 1894, and the Italian Domenico Margiotta. In 1896, Margiotta tried to win the leadership of the movement by revolting against Taxil and explaining that he had evidence that the real Diana Vaughan had never converted: a false Miss Vaughan was writing the French publications sponsored by Taxil.
Soon Catholic anti-Masonic writers who were more sober emerged. They suggested that Diana Vaughan was simply a figment of Taxil’s imagination. Under pressure, Taxil announced in 1897 that Diana Vaughan would finally appear on April 19 in public at a lecture in Paris. On that date before a crowded public hall of the French Geographic Society, Taxil appeared and announced that he had never really converted to Catholicism, that he remained an anti-Catholic, and that he had fabricated the whole Vaughan-Walder story to demonstrate to the world that Catholics were incredibly gullible. One Diana Vaughan, he explained, existed: she was a French typist of remote American descent who, although she had nothing to do with Freemasonry, had authorized Taxil to use her name and had done some typing work to help him and to share the fun of the hoax. Following his “confession,” Taxil left the hall through an emergency door and never returned to the world of anti-Masonry. Instead, he quietly returned to his wife (whom he later, however, divorced) and to his anti-Catholic publishing business, which he continued until his death.
Nevertheless, the Taxil episode was not a simple story. It was viewed by both Freemasons and Catholics as a complicated scheme worthy of a modern spy story, and debate continues on its real meaning. Taxil continued to be quoted even after the 1897 scandal. Some counter-Masonic authors continued to maintain that even though Taxil had willfully mixed true and false statements readers could extract the true statements through careful analysis. Others relied on authors such as Abel Clarin de la Rive, who was clearly not in league with Taxil and was credited with separating the good and bad parts of Taxil’s work. Clarin de la Rive, at least for some years after 1897, continued to believe in Diana Vaughan and did not exclude her having been conveniently killed by Taxil in 1897. Finally, other authors simply continued to use Taxil as a source without quoting him by name.
Taxil had argued at length that Satan was behind Freemasonry as well as a number of other organizations. He included Mormonism in that number. Mormonism had been exploited in French literature as a source of intrigue, fanatacism, and scandalous sex. For Taxil’s purposes, this image made Mormonism an ideal candidate for Satanic power. Indeed, in his hoax one of the chiefs of the worldwide Satanic conspiracy was none other than a top Mormon leader from Salt Lake City. He is introduced in The Devil in the Nineteenth Century by “Dr. Bataille” (Taxil’s co-conspirator, Charles Hacks) as
former pastor Walder, unsaved Anabaptist, now Mormon, living in Utah, United States, where he is the real shadow of John Taylor, the successor of Brigham Young as leader of the Mormons; he [Walder] is one of the most active missionaries of Palladism, the semi-masonic form of Luciferian occultism. . . . This Phileas Walder . . . is one of the ugliest specimens of the human race I have ever seen.
Apparently, nobody in France bothered to check whether a Phileas Walder had ever been a Mormon General Authority or whether a person of his description was raised to prominence by being the “shadow of John Taylor.”
Walder was no minor character in Taxil and Hack’s fictitious and fantastic worldwide Satanic conspiracy. In fact, Satan planned that after three generations one of Walder’s own descendants would give birth to the anti-Christ. Since the tribe of Dan has to figure in the genealogy of the anti-Christ and since modern Danish populations really descend from the Jewish tribe of Dan (according to Bataille), the devil planned that the Mormons would organize one of their most important missions in Denmark. Walder was sent to Denmark as mission president (another detail, by the way, that could easily have been proved false). In Denmark, Walder managed to convert and seduce a young girl, Ida Jacobsen, and took her to Strasbourg, where she gave birth to Phileas’s daughter, Sophia Walder. Satan had ordered the birth of Sophia to take place in Strasbourg, because of the occult tradition of that city and also (as Bataille explained) because Strasbourg had a sizable Protestant minority that could eventually convert to Mormonism.
At this point Ida Jacobsen, the mother of Sophia, disappears, never to be mentioned again in the saga. Among Taxil’s readers—organized in clubs and societies throughout Europe—the rumor circulated that she had been killed by Walder himself. Years later, however, the charitable Diana Vaughan cleared the old “shadow of John Taylor” from this crime. Walder, she explained, was not above resorting to homicide, when really necessary, but the mystery of Ida Jacobsen was “of supernatural order.” Before her conversion from Satanism, Diana Vaughan asked the devil Asmodeus about the fate of the mother of Sophia, and the devil replied that the young Mormon convert from Denmark “had not been killed, nor abandoned by Mr. Walder.” The mystery would have remained a mystery, but it seems that the devil himself—not Walder—took poor Ida Jacobsen, if not straight to hell, very far from her baby daughter Sophia. Diana Vaughan explained that Satan did not want Sophia to be raised by a woman who was not deeply entrenched in the Satanic mysteries. In fact, Sophia Walder was raised by her father and then by Albert Pike, Freemason commander, but not without a little help from Satan personally.
Sophia spent most of her time in Charleston, South Carolina—not a typical place for the daughter of a Mormon authority, but remember that Charleston was the seat of the Luciferian Holy See. In addition, Pike was a close associate of John Taylor, and the third president of the Mormon Church was himself a Palladist, the founder of a sacred “Moabitic” Freemasonry mostly composed of Utah Mormons who would spread Freemasonry over Utah’s borders.
By age twenty (she was allegedly born in Strasbourg on September 29, 1863), Sophia Walder was second-in-command in the worldwide Satanic conspiracy, immediately after Albert Pike, and on the same level as Adriano Lemmi, the Italian grand master. No doubt, she was helped by being “as beautiful as her father is ugly.” Sophia had at her command more than one million Palladists throughout the world when on October 18, 1883, in a secret meeting in Rome where Adriano Lemmi and Italian prime minister Francesco Crispi were also present, the devil Bitru appeared. Bitru declared that he would marry Miss Walder on December 25, 1895, and that on September 29, 1896, the daughter of Sophia and the devil would be born. In due course, Sophia’s daughter would marry another devil, Décarabia, and would in turn become the mother of another daughter. That daughter would later become the mother of the anti-Christ.
This complicated prophecy of generations meant that Sophia Walder would eventually become the great-grandmother of the anti-Christ. It also meant that Phileas Walder, alleged Mormon General Authority and the “shadow of John Taylor,” was the father-in-law of the devil Bitru. In 1896 the monthly magazine for which Diana Vaughan served as editor followed the saga of Sophia’s pregnancy, to the great astonishment of its readers in France and elsewhere.
Evangelical Fundamentalist Anti-Mormonism
As previously mentioned, the Taxil saga did not entirely die with the scandal of 1897. A “key character”—as French scholar Jean-Pierre Laurant calls him—Abel Clarin de la Rive continued after the scandal as an anti-Masonic writer for seventeen years until his death in 1914. Although Clarin de la Rive suspected Taxil even before the scandal, he was never entirely convinced—even after Taxil’s confession—that Diana Vaughan and Sophia Walder never existed.
Evangelical fundamentalist allegations of Mormon connections to Masonry also survived the Taxil hoax. Catholic anti-Masonic authors, who were normally very careful with respect to the whole Satanic connection after 1897, nevertheless continued to speculate that Mormons were part of a larger conspiracy. The summa on secret societies from a Catholic perspective was written by Monsignor Nicolas Deschamps from 1874 to 1876 and went through a number of editions. The book explained that Mormons and Freemasons were not necessarily always in league between themselves but that Mormons probably represented an example of a “sect” or “cult” “more advanced” than Freemasonry itself. A group of European and American authors used parallel criticisms for Mormonism and Spiritualism but did not necessarily imply that either “heresy” was directly inspired by Satan.
Although the fall of Taxil discredited and marginalized all theories of Satanic conspiracy, these theories did not disappear entirely. In 1904 a Reverend Eugene Rickard of Meath (Ireland) had a selection of writings by “Diana Vaughan” republished in English in Mexico—without mention of the Taxil hoax. Claiming that the former “Priestess of Lucifer” was “now a nun,” he distributed the writings in the United States.
The interest in Diana Vaughan was revived in 1929 by the publication in Paris of L’Elue du Dragon, a book purportedly written by one Clotilde Bersone, who in the years 1877–80 had been the lover of the future United States president James A. Garfield (1831–1881). Garfield was represented as the leader in Paris of a secret Satanic Freemasonry similar to Palladism. The book was actually written by the Catholic priest-novelist Paul Boulin (1875–1933) and was purportedly based on an ancient manuscript discovered by the Jesuit father Harald Richard (1867–1928). Boulin’s book was actively promoted by the influential anti-Masonic journal Revue internationale des sociétés secrètes, whose editor, Mgr. Ernest Jouin (1844–1932), had a number of readers and friends in the United States. Strangely enough, nobody checked in Garfield’s papers the dates when he should have been in Paris as head of international Satanism: Garfield had been in Paris for only a few days in 1867 and did not leave America at all between 1875 and 1881. After the publication of L’Elue du Dragon, the French anti-Masonic camp became interested again in Diana Vaughan, and books suggesting that perhaps both she and Sophia Walder had really existed were again published.
In the last years of his life, Mgr. Jouin was heavily influenced by Lesley (or Leslie) Fry, a Russian-American anti-Semitic author well known for her defense of the spurious Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Fry, whose real name was Paquita Shishmarev, also persuaded Jouin to occasionally include Mormonism in lists of Satanic “cults interested in sex” published by the Revue internationale. The French anti-Masonic camp was noted for its evangelical fundamentalist political preferences and had good connections in the United States.
A key figure in the transmission of the Taxil saga to America is Edith Starr Miller, Lady Queenborough. Her two volumes of Occult Theocrasy were “published posthumously for private circulation only” in Paris (in English) in 1933 but have since gone through a number of U.S. editions and are in print even today. Miller admitted that parts of her work relied heavily on Margiotta, Dr. Bataille (Hacks), Paul Rosen, and Alice Bailey. Samuel Paul Rosen (1840–1907) was a Jewish rabbi from Poland who converted to Roman Catholicism and wrote a very famous book, Satan et Cie. (Satan and Co.), in which he insisted that a Satanic conspiracy existed at the direction of Freemasons. Before and after the Taxil scandal, Rosen, with a blessing by Pope Leo XIII, continued to lecture against Freemasonry. Alice Bailey (1880–1949), an independent Theosophist and founder of the Arcane School, wrote from an entirely different perspective, but Miller found in her works evidence that she was also a member of the Satanic conspiracy.
Miller also quoted liberally from Clarin de la Rive. Basically translating from the fictitious Dr. Bataille, Miller revealed some spicy details of astonishing “Palladian sessions” Albert Pike held in Charleston. She also claimed that a “wireless telephone [was] in the possession of the heads of the Masonic organization” that worked only because of Satan, because when Pike was alive “wireless was unknown.” Joseph Smith, according to Miller, “conceived the idea of establishing a Masonic super rite.” However,
Joseph Smith, applying his powers of mediumship towards the realization of the ambitious project nurtured by General Pepe, Mazzini and others for the establishment of a super rite, was not necessarily acceptable to the Masonic leaders of his time. Thus as a Mason he failed but as the founder of a Masonic sect he succeeded.
Miller concluded that “the Mormon dogma is universality, materialism, and pantheism. It blends Judaism and Christianity, aiming at a progressive universal religion while seeking to unite in itself all faiths and the cults of every people on earth.”The establishment of this “universal religion” is, of course, the whole aim of the great Satanic conspiracy. Miller’s influence should not be underestimated, and her anti-Mormon (and anti-Masonic) arguments are still quoted by a certain kind of evangelical fundamentalist literature today.
In recent years, the reception of such anti-Mormon arguments has been aided by the rise of “perennialism”—a name implying that a “perennial,” esoteric philosophy is behind all religions—which has become increasingly popular in the United States. One of the founders of the perennialist school was René Guénon (1886–1951), a French esoteric author who had a number of followers throughout Europe and was received with sympathy even by a number of Roman Catholics before converting to Islam and settling in Egypt, where he died. Though largely limited to the perennialist milieu and to academic scholars of esoterica, the influence of Guénon in the United States seems to be growing in recent years.
Guénon regarded Mormonism as one of the most important religious movements produced by the United States and wrote a report based largely on anti-Mormon sources from various countries. Guénon suggested that Joseph Smith, though he may have been a sincere fanatic, was controlled by hidden inspirators, perhaps through Sidney Rigdon. Guénon saw Joseph as intellectually inferior to Orson Pratt, who had some knowledge of European philosophy. Guénon wrote, “Notwithstanding their peculiarities, the emergence of Mormon doctrines is not a lonely phenomenon” but part of a much larger conspiracy. Europeans needed to “keep a watch” since “Americans have already presented Europe with other very unpleasant gifts.” Guénon’s anti-Mormonism largely explains why more recent perennialist authors in the United States and elsewhere, who regard Guénon as a sort of cult figure, have facilely viewed Mormonism as a pseudoreligion or a false revelation.
Direct Use of Nineteenth-Century Sources in
Contemporary Evangelical Fundamentalist Anti-Mormonism
We are now in a position to understand and critique the main proponents of recent anti-Mormonism. Despite the publication of a less successful sequel, The God Makers II,in 1993, there is little doubt that The God Makers, released as a film in 1982 and published as a book in 1984, is the most visible contemporary work of evangelical fundamentalist anti-Mormonism, particularly of its extreme postrationalist wing. One of the key arguments of The God Makers is that Mormonism is derived from Freemasonry; Freemasonry, in turn, is a form of Satanic worship and as a consequence (even if admittedly only very few Mormons are aware of it), Mormonism worships Satan.
The origin of these claims is obvious: quotes attributed to Albert Pike are prominent in The God Makers, including an address to “the leaders of World Freemasonry” in which Pike explains that there are two gods, Adonay (the God of the Christian Bible) and Lucifer. Lucifer, according to the quotation cited by Decker, is Pike’s hero while Adonay is the villain: “‘Lucifer is God and unfortunately Adonay is also god . . . for the absolute can only exist as two gods. . . . Lucifer, God of Light and God of Good, is struggling for humanity against Adonay, the God of Darkness and Evil.’”
This quotation from Pike is very important in The God Makers. According to The God Makers, satanic Freemasonry was the major influence on Mormon doctrine and practice. But is there any evidence that Pike “turn[ed] Lucifer (Satan) into God”?Where does Decker’s evidence come from? Endnote 30 to chapter 9 of The God Makers reads:
Instructions to the 23 Supreme Councils of the World, by Albert Pike, Grand Commander, Sovereign Pontiff of Universal Freemasonry, July 14, 1889, recorded by A. C. De La Rive and reported in La Femme et l’Enfant dans la Franc-Maconnerie [sic] Universelle, p. 588, as found in Edith S. Miller, Occult Theocracy [sic], vol. 1, pp. 220–21.
This is a strange note: it is a quote from a quote of a quote. Decker claims he is quoting from Miller, quoting de la Rive, quoting Pike. The mention that Instructions by Pike was “recorded by A. C. De La Rive” is clearly misleading. De la Rive did not “record” anything. He was simply using information supplied by Diana Vaughan, that is, Léo Taxil, who had admitted that everything he wrote about Pike was ficticious, including the allegations of Satanism.
Interestingly enough, when William Schnoebelen and James Spencer published their Mormonism’s Temple of Doom two years after The God Makers, they quoted again from Pike’s spurious Instructions, altering the endnote only slightly.Taxil specifically admitted his forgery of the 1889 Pike Instructions in his 1897 confession and that even anti-Mormon and anti-Masonic authors such as Leslie Fry recognized the forgery as such.Apparently Decker and Schnoebelen do not realize that
In 1991 Schnoebelen wrote a new book, Masonry beyond the Light, which was published by the controversial Chick Publications (known for its anti-Mormon and anti-Catholic comics) and which contained an entire chapter on “Albert Pike and the Congress of Demons.” After admitting to the Tanners in a 1988 interview that the source was “controversial,”Domenico Margiotta, whom we met earlier as the Italian who claimed he had known Diana Vaughan and Sophia Walder quite well. Schnoebelen quotes Margiotta to the effect that “Albert Pike had only specified and unveiled the dogmas of the high grades of all other Masonries,” and asks his readers, “Please note that . . . statement carefully! The Lucifer doctrine, we are told, is implicit in the lower degrees, and only becomes an explicit teaching in the highest degrees. The highest of the high was the Palladium.”Schnoebelen nevertheless wrote in his 1991 Chick Publications book that “if we look at his writings and statements attributed to him, we find that he [Pike] acknowledged Lucifer as the true god and Adonay (the Biblical God) as the god of evil.” This time, the quote is from “de LaRive” [sic], again with no reference to Miller. Schnoebelen quotes liberally not only from de la Rive, but also from Miller and from
Next come the claims—mentioned but not emphasized in Mormonism’s Temple of Doom—that the Palladium not only really existed in the nineteenth century, but also still exists today in the United States and that Schnoebelen has been a member of it:
I was brought into Palladium Lodge (Resurrection, #13) in Chicago in the late 1970’s and received the degree of “Paladin” in that Lodge in 1981 from the son of one of the leading occultists in the late 19th century—an associate of Aleister Crowley. Evidently there was (and is) Palladium Masonry being worked in the 20th century.
I am ashamed to admit it, but I, myself, stood in Lodge and joined in the traditional Palladium imprecation, which is (translated from the French): “Glory and Love for Lucifer! Hatred! Hatred! Hatred! to God accursed! accursed! accursed!”
One wonders why a ritual supposedly devised by an American like Albert Pike would need to be “translated from the French,” although if one assumes that Schnoebelen is really translating from Taxil the situation becomes obvious.
In the 1988 interview, Schnoebelen told the Tanners that the Palladium ritual requires the initiate to immediately burn his certificate of initiation.However, Schnoebelen published in 1993 a certificate of initiation of his wife, Sharon, into the Order of Palladium signed by a “David D. DePaul.” According to Michael Bertiaux—a well-known figure in the occult milieu of Chicago and the man who consecrated Schnoebelen as a bishop in his Gnostic Church in 1977—David DePaul “was a real person and that was his name. He was originally Roman Catholic, from an orphan’s home, or else placed there by family.” Having “realised a special bond between himself and satanism,” DePaul
believed that Diana Vaughan was a real spirit trying to contact him. He also stated that she came to him and directed him in setting up a mystical society that would continue the work of the Palladium, of which he was chief.
There is, at any rate, much to learn from Schnoebelen’s distortions, for example his questionable claim that the Mafia is really “a Sicilian Masonic terrorist organization” and is a part of the big conspiracy. According to Schnoebelen it was founded by Giuseppe Mazzini (1805–1872), the Italian revolutionary, and “the name Mafia . . . is an acronym for Mazzini autorizza furti, incendi, avvelenamenti—Mazzini authorizes thefts, arson and poisoning.” This theory was first suggested in the late nineteenth century but was immediately abandoned because historians in Europe recognize that the Mafia existed some centuries before Mazzini. But we have to leave Schnoebelen, although not without noting that his whole book is a tribute to the Taxil sources and the legend they built around Albert Pike.
The way Decker, Schnoebelen, and the whole postrationalist anti-Mormon camp use nineteenth-century French sources connected with the Taxil hoax (quoted directly or from Miller) is only part of the story. By relying on these French sources to buttress their arguments, postrationalist anti-Mormons rely on Taxil not only for all their spurious data about Albert Pike, Mazzini, and Palladism, but also for a whole method and logic. Taxil’s line of “logic” is replicated in the contemporary anti-Mormonism that The God Makers inaugurated. According to both, (1) Satan plays a direct role in the story. (2) Besides Satan, the major villains in the plan are the devil’s agents, a chosen few who are aware they are working for him. The term “demonized” is relatively new, but the concept is the same as that employed by Taxil and his followers. (3) Although the great Satanic conspiracy is, of course, secret, Satan leaves his signature via symbols, books, and acronyms. When these are studied by counter-Satanist experts, it is obvious to them that Satan is in charge. We have seen that even Mafia is an acronym and that no Masonic symbol or motto escapes a sinister explanation by Taxil or de la Rive. Likewise Decker and Schnoebelen have played fast and loose. And they have acknowledged that the real master at this game of dissimulation is another postrationalist anti-Mormon with the pseudonym of Loftes Tryk. (4) The two main tools used by Satan to recruit people for his conspiracy are power and sex. Taxil introduced the likes of Pike and Walder, who wanted to rule the entire world, and sex was always present. (5) Neither Masons nor Mormons could have succeeded alone in the Satanic conspiracy. As we have seen, Freemasonry in the Taxil saga and Mormonism in The God Makers are both supposedly best understood as part of a larger occult conspiracy. Accordingly, it is no contradiction to state that Joseph Smith was an occultist and also to insist that he “was a classical humanist atheist,” for secular humanists and atheists are clearly part of the conspiracy, too. Decker’s explanation of Mormonism could just as well be a summary of Occult Theocrasy, Miller’s compilation from earlier French sources.
Likewise, in a marginal book about the New World Order as a Satanic threat, William T. Still claims the Mormons are part of the conspiracy. In chapter 9 of Still’s book, titled “Albert Pike & Mazzini,” we again find the familiar reference—quoted from Miller’s quote of de la Rive—to Albert Pike’s alleged “Instructions,” issued from Charleston, “the sacred city of the Palladium”: “Yes Lucifer is God, and unfortunately Adonay is also God.” The Taxil saga of Albert Pike, Diana Vaughan, Sophia Walder, Satanic Masons—and a few Mormons—did not die with the scandal of 1897. And it will probably continue into the next century.
All Ends in Confusion?
The new wave of anti-Mormonism that emerged in the 1980s is largely different from both secular and sectarian anti-Mormonism, which have existed since the birth of the LDS Church. Although the new anti-Mormonism borrows themes and arguments from both its predecessors, its historical roots are in the much older French nineteenth-century counter-subversion literature, which focused on Freemasonry and included tangential references to Mormonism. The new anti-Mormonism has borrowed much more than a few quotations from these nineteenth-century sources. It has borrowed their whole system of logic and world view.
Even though scholars agree these sources were spurious and largely connected to a hoax—the Taxil scandal—they are so crucial to the postrationalist anti-Mormon movement that its proponents are not prepared to stop using them. It would be simple to eliminate the references to the Instructions by Pike—known to be a fabrication for more than one hundred years—but anti-Mormons are reluctant to abandon a “smoking gun” that they claim proves that Masons worship Satan. The Masonic connection—which becomes their Satanic connection to Mormonism—is too essential for their purposes.
Although new developments are probably in store for the future, for the time being I will conclude with one of my favorite quotations from C. S. Lewis:
There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors.