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Gnostic My Ass or Massive Levi-Taxil-Crowley Hoax

From: catherine yronwode 
Subject: "Gnostic My Ass" or "Massive Levi-Taxil-Crowley Hoax"
Date: Thu, 17 Jun 1999 13:21:39 -0800

--------------------------------------- text begins ----------------

BE WARNED. The following text may contain information about OTO
initiations and therefore may be unsuitable to those attempting
to remain unfamiliar with said information.

        "Gnostic My Ass" or "Massive Levi-Taxil-Crowley Hoax"

        Being Reflections on attendence at an OTO "Gnostic 
        Mass (Liber XV)" Variation and Why it is Both a 
        Hoax and So Repellant to Partake of its supposed 

        By Soror U First

        In 1999 i attended a so-called Gnostic Mass held in
        a so-called lodge of the OTO. I did not partake of
        the communion offered there. Upon learning that i
        had not done so, a correspondent opined that i may have
        been "intimidated" by the ritual. I explained that this
        was not the case, and went on to give my reasons for 
        refusing the so-called eucharist as follows: 

        As far as i was concerned, most of the ceremony was 
        more or less a sacralized titty show designed for the 
        delictation of sexually repressed Victorian and 
        Edwardian era men. I would have gone along with the 
        deal, silly though i thought it was, but i could not 
        in good conscience recite the required affirmation of 
        belief in the transubstantiation of foods and bodily 
        excreta into "Baphomet," since, as far as i know, the 
        whole "Baphomet" obsession of late 19th century 
        British and French "magical order" members is rooted 
        in naive acceptance of Eliphas Levi's bad scholarship 
        (scholarship so bad i actually think it was 
        INTENTIONALLY misleading and inflammatory, although i 
        cannot prove that). 

        Levi got the word "Baphomet" from some dreadful 
        Catholic propaganda of the 1300s that had been 
        created to accuse the Christian monastic order of 
        Knights Templar of pro-Islamic sympathies by claiming 
        that they engaged in the heresy of worshipping 
        Mohammed {= Mahomet = Baphomet, a poor transliteration 
        by people unfamiliar with the Arabic language}. This 
        14th century Catholic propaganda had directly led to 
        the execution of all the members of the Knights 
        Templar order and the confiscation of the order's 
        material possessions, the spoils being divided 
        between the Pope and the King of France. 

        Levi connected the "Baphomet" of the old Catholic 
        anti-Templar propaganda with the ancient Egyptian 
        worship of the so-called "Goat of Mendes." That 
        latter entity was actually never a goat, but a ram 
        (a male sheep) that had been worshipped at the 
        ancient Egyptian site of Mendes as a pre-dynastic 
        tutelary or regional tribal god called Ba-neb-Tettu,
        i.e., "The Ram, Lord of Tettu." The worship of 
        Ba-neb-Tettu was eventually incorporated into the 
        more general worship of the gods Kenmu (a.k.a. Knum) 
        and Ra. 

        The ram-god of Mendes was not hermaphroditic, as 
        depicted by Levi (who was an artist as well as a 
        writer) and he was in no way associated with the 
        Islamic prophet Mohammed {= Mahomet = Baphomet}. 
        Thus Levi made three deliberate misstatements -- 
        that the ancient Egyptians at Mendes worshipped a 
        goat (it was a ram), that their god was 
        hermaphroditic (he was male), and that the "goat 
        of Mendes" was the same as the "Baphomet" named 
        in 14th century Catholic propaganda against the 
        order of Knights Templar (there is no connection 
        between the two, since "Baphomet" is simply a 
        poor transliteration of the name of the Islamic 
        prophet Mohammed or Mahomet). 

        Levi's bogus representation of a goat-headed 
        "Baphomet" as an object of worship really got 
        off the ground when it was put into popular
        circulation as an urban legend in the 1880s 
        through the efforts of Gabriel Jogand-Pages, a 
        French atheist, journalist, and pornographer who
        wrote under the pseudonym Leo Taxil. In 1881 
        Jogand-Pages was expelled from his Freemasonic 
        lodge for "selling obscene matter to foolish and
        corrupt people under the guise of anti-clerical 
        propaganda." Accounts i have read of the lodge 
        minutes indicate that Jogand's anti-clerical
        philosophical stance was not at issue; the 
        reason for his expulsion was his creation and 
        publication of libelous pornography disguised as
        anti-clerical material, a behaviour not 
        reconcilable with the Masonic principle of 
        "dealing on the square." He had been cautioned by 
        his lodge master against persisting in this form 
        of falsehood but had ignored the warning. 

        In September 1881 Jogand-Pages founded The 
        Anti-Clerical League with headquarters at 338 Rue 
        de Vaugirard in Paris and published the 
        pornographic and anti-clerical book "The Secret 
        Loves of Pope Pius IX," attributed to an 
        imaginary secret pupil of the Pope known as "Volpi." 
        He also gave public lectures throughout France on 
        the topic "The Crimes of the Inquisition" during 
        which he displayed what he claimed were authentic 
        medieval instruments of torture, all of them modern 
        fakes which he had had made for show.  

        Shortly thereafter, still writing under the 
        pseudonym Leo Taxil, he concocted an elaborate 
        Templar-Baphomet-Freemasonry hoax in order to fool 
        Pope Leo XIII and thus to publicly disprove the 
        Pope's newly originated doctrine of "the 
        infallibility of the Papacy." Taxil could have 
        selected any fraternal or social body as a vector 
        for use in this anti-Papacy campaign, but he 
        apparently selected the Freemasons because he 
        resented having been expelled from his own 
        Freemasonic lodge. 

        Taxil's hoax -- similar in scope and popularity 
        to the more recent "Satanic Ritual Abuse" hoaxes 
        in America -- was quite elaborate. He conducted 
        it without remission over the course of twelve 
        years. Because he was well-known to be an atheist, 
        his first step was to sell off all his stock of 
        pornographoic and anti-clerical publications and 
        to stage a very public conversion to Catholicism. 
        In 1885 he confronted his former fellow-members of 
        the Anti-Clerical League at a meeting and admitted 
        to being a turncoat, but not a "traitor" to their 
        cause. They responded by devoting an issue of the 
        magazine he had founded to denouncing him -- and 
        then ceased publication. 

        Next, taking advantage of the fact that he was 
        known to have been a Freemason, Taxil helped other 
        authors to concoct tracts in which they 
        erroneously associated the Knights Templar with the 
        Freemasons and set forth claims that contemporary 
        Freemasons secretly worshipped Lucifer in their 
        lodges. As if this were not outrageous enough, by 
        1891 he went further and brought in his experience 
        as a pornography writer to describe (in a book he 
        co-wrote under the pseudonym "Dr. Bataille") how 
        the wicked and libertine Baphomet-worshipping 
        Anti-Catholic Freemasons had a special, secret 
        degree called "Palladism," and how the 
        "Supernatural Cabal" of Palladist Masons placed 
        naked women on their altars and took communion 
        from them while the demon Asmodeus descnded from 
        the ceiling! He even hireded a woman named Diana 
        Vaughn, a free-thinker and atheist, to assume the 
        identity of an eye-witness/victim to the exploits 
        of the fictional Palladist Masonic High Priestess 
        Sophie Walder. Vaughan allowed Taxil to claim on
        her behalf (in the books "The Devil in the 19th 
        Century" by Dr. Bataille and "Souvenirs of an 
        Ex-Palladist" by Diana Vaughan) that she had 
        participated in the debauched eucharist conducted 
        by the Baphomet-worshipping Freemasons of 
        Charleston, South Carolina (!). 

        Taxil's major tactic throughout his long anti-
        Papacy hoax was to persuade clerics that the 
        Freemasons were anti-Catholic and that they 
        conducted sexually licentious ceremonial rites in 
        their lodges. In this way, he hoped to create a 
        groundswell of public opinion that would in time 
        influence the Pope to declare his own "infallible" 
        belief in the secretly anti-Catholic nature of 
        Freemasonry. To understand the magnitude of 
        Taxil's task, you must know that prior to his 
        hysterical promotion of the "Baphomet" story, 
        many Catholics were Masons; Catholic clerics 
        among them. (For proof, consult the well-known 
        portait painting of the members of the Viennese 
        Masonic lodge "Crowned Hope" during the 1700s; 
        in addition to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the 
        recognizable and identifiable members of the 
        lodge include a robed and tonsured Franciscan 
        monk.) To understand Taxil's succes, you need 
        only know that while the hoax was on, the 
        prestigious "New Illustrated Larousse 
        Encyclopedia" gave a two-column entry to the 
        entirely fictional form of Masonry called 

        As a result of his conversion, his apparent 
        devoutness, and his panic-mongering, Taxil was 
        granted an audience with Pope Leo XIII. Diana
        Vaughan also entered into correspondence with 
        the Pope's personal secretary. Taxil later 
        wrote of Vaughan: "I convinced Miss Vaughan to
        become my accomplice for the final success of 
        my hoax. I drew a fixed agreement with her: 
        150 francs per month for typing manuscripts as 
        well as for letters which should be copied by 
        hand. It goes without saying that should trips 
        be necessary, all her expenses would be defrayed; 
        but she never accepted any money as a gift. In 
        fact, she enjoyed the prank quite a lot and took 
        a liking to it. Corresponding with Bishops,
        Cardinals, receiving letters from the private 
        secretary of the Sovereign Pontiff, telling them 
        fairy tales, informing the Vatican about the dark
        plots of Luciferians, all this set her in an 
        inexpressible gaiety, she thanked me for 
        associating her with this huge prank." Vaughan's 
        part in the plot was not only to permit the use 
        of her name in Taxil's fictions but to correspond 
        with prominent clerics and to archive their letters 
        of commendation and their statements of belief in 
        the allegations Taxil had ascribed to her. 

        With the Pope firmly convinced that Freemasons 
        partook of a secret eucharist during which naked 
        females were placed on an altar dedicated
        to Baphomet, Taxil was triumphant. In 1897 he 
        hired a hall under the pretense of being ready to 
        give forth more revelations about the orgiastic 
        Baphomet-worshipping Freemasons, but he surprised 
        the assembled crowd by instead delivering a self-
        confessionary lecture. On April 25, 1897, the 
        magazine Le Froundeur published the text of this
        lecture under the ungainly title "The Confession 
        of Leo Taxil: Twelve Years Under the Banner of the 
        Church; the Prank of Palladism; Miss Diana Vaughan 
        -- the Devil at the Freemasons; a Conference held 
        by M. Leo Taxil at the Hall of the Geographic 
        Society in Paris."

        During the course of this lecture, Taxil declared 
        that he was a life-long atheist, that all his 
        claims about Baphomet-worship and naked women on 
        altars in Masonic lodges were fabrications, and 
        that he had manufactured the entire hoax in order 
        to delude the Pope. Here is an excerpt from Le 
        Fronduer's transcription of Taxil's lecture, 
        concerning the Baphomet-worship allegation:

            M. Leo Taxil -- Under the pen-name 
             "Dr. Bataille" I related -- and under that 
             of "Miss Vaughan" I confirmed -- that the 
             Masonic temple in Charleston contained a maze 
             at the center of which stays the chapel of 


            M. Oscar Havard -- The Bishop of Charleston 
             declared this to be an imposture. 

            M. Leo Taxil -- So it is. I was going to say 
             so in a moment. But do not triumph yet. Wait 
             a little! ... I said that in the Masonic 
             temple in Charleston one of the rooms, 
             triangular in shape, called the Sanctum Regnum, 
             has as its main ornament a monstrous statue 
             of Baphomet, which the High-Masons worship. 
             That in another room, a statue of Eve comes 
             alive when a Templar Mistress is especially 
             agreeable to Master Satan, and that this statue 
             then turns into the demon Astarte, for a moment 
             alive, and gives a kiss to the preferred Templar 

        {The full text of the "Confession of Leo Taxil" can 
         be found at }

        Once the Pope supported such falsehoods, and 
        once Taxil had, through Vaughan, accumulated a 
        sufficient store of letters of commendation and
        approval to make the Chruch look ridiculous, 
        Taxil could expose himself and thus supply proof 
        to the world that the Pope had not been infallible
        after all. As for the Freemasonic Baphomet-worship 
        and the naked woman on the altar -- that was all 
        lies, he said. Having delivered this bombshell, 
        Taxil then left the hall as his free-thinker friends
        applauded and the many anti-Masonic and pro-Papacy 
        journalists in the audience went ballistic. The 
        Pope, rather than admit that Taxil had proved him 
        fallible, persisted in his verbal persecution of the
        Freemasons -- and almost a hundred years went by 
        before the Papacy allowed Catholics to be Freemasons. 

        I get the impression that the "bad boy" or 
        "libertine" members of Crowley's crowd must have 
        found Taxil's "Masons-worship-Baphomet-and-put-
        naked-women-on-altars" hoax and Levi's bogus 
        Egyptian-Baphomet scholarship supremely fun -- so 
        much fun that even though Taxil had exposed his 
        own fraudulence, they would not give it up -- and 
        thus they perpetuated aspects of Taxil's claims 
        *as fact* for the enjoyment of those who wanted 
        to see a Masonic-Egyptian-Baphometic titty show. 

        Crowley was briefly a Mason, but his warrants came 
        from the so-called "Yarker Diploma Mill" which 
        were later withdrawn by the United Grand Lodge 
        of England. During the 1920s the OTO was sued 
        for claiming to "make Masons." 

        Why would Crowley put forth such a claim? 
        Why would he call OTO meeting-places "lodges" 
        -- a word with Masonic roots, meaning the 
        workman's lean-to at a building site? Why are 
        there so many obvious thefts from both Craft 
        Masonry and the Masonic-appendant degree system 
        called The Scottish Rite in OTO initiations -- 
        including the giving of grips, the hand-gestures 
        of the penalty oaths, the presence on the altar 
        (and the kissing of) a Volume of Sacred Law, 
        and the performance of mystery plays involving 
        Knights taking part in the Crusades? 

        I believe that Crowley's O.T.O. and Gnostic 
        Catholic Church made these Masonic claims in 
        part because Crowley wanted to give a grounding to 
        his desired perpetuation of the Leo Taxil 
        altars" hoax -- not because he was anti-Masonic, 
        but because he liked Taxil's porn-fueled fantasy 
        so much that he wanted it to be REAL! 

        It could be argued that since Masonry is not a
        religion, but the OTO is controlled by a church 
        (the EGC or Gnostic Catholic Church), any ritual
        resemblances are coincidence, but i believe that
        i can make a realistic claim that the closest 
        model for the OTO / Gnostic Catholic Church is  
        a specific offshoot of Freemasonry known as 

        In support of this theory, i must digres for a 
        moment: Co-Freemasonry was founded in France during 
        the 1880s and had, by the 1900s, spread to England
        Spain, Belgium, Brazil, India, the United States,
        Venezuela, and other nations. It is distinguished 
        from male Masonry solely by virtue of the fact that 
        women are permitted to join; in all other respects, 
        it preserves the character, symbolism, rituals, and 
        organizational hierarchy of male Freemasonry. 

        {a documentary web page on Co-Freemasonry can 
         be found at  }

        During the very early 20th century Co-Freemasonic 
        lodges in several English-speaking nations, 
        (notably Australia, Canada, England, New Zealand,  
        and the U.S.A) were infiltrated -- and in a few cases 
        virtually subsumed -- by an influx of members who also
        belonged to the Theosophical Society. This was done
        at the direct behest of Annie Besant, then the head 
        of the Theosophical Society, who requested that all
        Theosophists join and support Co-Masonic lodges. Besant's
        co-hierarch in the Theosophical Society, the accused
        pederast C. W. Leadbeater, undertook a hermetic-style 
        revision of some of the Co-Masonic rituals at that time, 
        but thankfully his tampering with the ancient landmarks
        only seems to have had lasting effect in areas where 
        most of the lodge members are Theosophists. In another 
        intriguing development, Leadbeater masterminded the 
        proliferation of a religious order called the Liberal
        Catholic Church, which presented masses for those
        Theosophists who enjoyed dress-up rituals more high-
        seeming than the simple brotherly rites of Craft 
        Masonry or the pseudo-Crusader stories of the Knights
        Templar and the Scottish Rite. 

        Membership linkages between the Liberal Catholic
        Church and Theosophist-controlled national bodies of
        Co-Freemasonry -- especially among the highest-
        ranking officers -- exactly parallels the
        membership linkages among high-ranking officers  
        in the Gnostic Catholic Church and the ruling 
        body of the OTO. The set-up is virtually identical,
        in fact.  
        The OTO apparently lost the 1920s suit brought 
        against it by the Freemasons, for since that time 
        the OTO has been legally enjoined from making 
        any claims of a relationship to Freemasonry. To 
        my surprise, however, right after the Gnostic Mass 
        concluded, i myself was presented with this bogus 
        claim! I mentioned to a man there that i had been 
        amused to hear the name of the Reverend Hargrave 
        Jennings in the list of official OTO Saints, 
        and he asked what i knew about Jennings. I told
        him that Jennings had been an Anglican minister, 
        a Rociscrucian, and a prominent Freemason of the 
        mid-19th century who wrote a dozen scholarly 
        books on the ethnography of sex-worship in 
        various tribal and national religions. The fellow 
        then asked how i knew that Jennings was a Mason,
        so i gave him some Freemasonic citations from 
        Jennings' works -- and in response he claimed 
        that the OTO is a "Co-Masonic Order." 

        I could scarcely believe this! I felt like i had 
        fallen into a time-warp. As a member of a co-
        Masonic lodge myself, i almost burst out laughing, 
        but discretion seemed more kindly under the 
        circumstances and so i just smiled and nodded. 
        Yep. Yep. Sure. And ya'll worship Baphomet.  
        Uh-huh. Cool. 

        Why did i refuse the Gnostic Mass communion? 
        Because i couldn't stand on what was alleged to 
        be sacred ground and honestly affirm my belief in 
        a transubstantiation that i consider to be both 
        highly stupid and extremely mean-spirited in 

        I call it "stupid" because it incorporates the 
        tabloid-style bogus Egyptian scholarship of 
        Eliphas Levi, who couldn't tell a goat from a 
        ram, dragged in hermaphroditism for its purely 
        sensationalistic value, and conveniently 
        overlooked the fact that the ancient Egyptian 
        worship of the ram-god Ba-neb-Tettu pre-dated 
        the birth of the Islamic prophet Mohammed 
        {= Mahomet = Baphomet} by many, many centuries. 

        I call it "mean-spirited in intention" because 
        the origin of the Baphomet-worship story was to 
        justify the mass-executions of the Knights 
        Templar on the false grounds of pro-Islamic 
        heresy -- and it was used mean-spiritedly 
        thereafter by Taxil, both to discredit his former
        associates in Freemasonry (who'd expelled him) and 
        to discredit Pope Leo XIII (who probably deserved 
        it, due to the inherently asinine nature of his 
        claim of "Papal infallibility"). 

        To put it simply -- the affirmation of the 
        transubstantiation of foods and bodily excreta 
        into Baphomet {= Mahomet = Mohammed} that i 
        witnessed was not "religion" to me -- it was not 
        "worship" to me -- it was just like, well, like 
        hanging out with a bunch of folks who think that 
        some book by H. P. Lovecraft is a "gospel" and 
        thus claim to witness the transubstantiation of 
        their bodily excreta into Cthulhu. It gave me a
        chuckle, but i really couldn't attest to its 
        "truth" for myself, even as a joke. So i refused 
        to play along. 

        When i left the communion line and stepped aside, 
        one person tried to harrass me into further 
        participation, but other folks said it was okay 
        if i refused, either (a) because "Do What Thou 
        Wilt Shall Be the Whole of the Law" or (b) 
        because the deacon had not pre-advised me that if 
        i were to witness the ceremony i'd be agreeing to
        take communion. 

        Of course, even if i HAD been pre-advised that 
        witnessing the ceremony was a contract to take 
        communion, i'd STILL have refused the communion,
        because no one would have informed me that i 
        would have had to have agreed to affirm a sincere 
        belief in what i consider to be a lot of 19th
        century Baphomet-transubstantiation foolery. 

        As e.e. cummings said, "there is some shit i 
        will not eat." 

        Sr. U First

        Sr. U First may be contacted through Fr. Nigris 
        at; condemnation and
        aggressive tactics will be met with smilies. :>


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