The Palladian Order was the subject of a massive hoax started in 1894 by the French writer Gabriel Jorgand-Pages, a prolific writer, pornographer, muckraking journalist, anti-Catholic, and had pen name of Leo Taxil. Among other reasons the hoax is important in that it showed the gullibility of religious people and brought the word Satanist into the English language.
Taxil launched his hoax the same year as Pope Leo XIII published his encyclical attacking Freemasonry. Taxil possibly excommunicated claimed to be reconciled with the Church started writing a series of books against Freemasonry in which he described a diabolical order within the inner core of Freemasonry known as the Palladian Order.
This sinister order, according to Taxil, was a super secret organization of Satanist sex fiends who in their meetings summoned the Devil while committing various blasphemies, sacrileges, and practicing all kinds of obscene sex. They also allegedly supported the British Empire–a charge by itself was enough to define them as willing servants of Satan in the eyes of conservative French Catholics.
In his works Taxil told of orgiastic rites held in lodges in India, in hidden factories under the Rock of Gibraltar making satanic paraphernalia, and séances where Asmodeus and Voltaire were visualized. The organizational head was Albert Pike, the “Sovereign Pontiff of Universal Freemasonry,” who was at the center of this spiderweb of Masonic-Satanic conspiracy in Charleston, South Carolina, U. S. A.
Although, as improbable as this seemed, there were many over zealous late nineteenth-century French Catholics who earnestly believed it. Palladism instantly became a topic of conversation. With this in mind, Taxil continued writing works on the subject which were eagerly read and won him support of important Catholic clergy; finally a private audience with the pope in 1887.
As the furor grew, other writers joined in revealing shocking revelations concerning the activities of the Palladists. There was much concern over a schism between Luciferians—Lucifer the god of light and spirit as alleged by the Gnostic dualists and Adonai, the Christian god, who was the god of matter and darkness–and the Satanists who held the Christian orthodox theory and reversed it.
A new figure appeared among the Palladist leaders: Diana Vaughan, the Grand Priestess, who supposedly descended from the union of the seventeenth-century alchemist Thomas Vaughan and a female demon. Vaughan was quickly associated with Texil through a periodical and she emerged preaching against Palladism after a newspaper announced she had renounced her Palladian connections and converted to Catholicism. Then the paper recounted her shocking testimonies of sinister ceremonies over which she had formerly presided. Her accounts treated readers to descriptions of serpents slithering sensuously over bare breasts of feminine Masons, and the inner-power struggles of the Palladian Order which supposedly involved important European political figures.
Following vigorous pleading from the journalists and Catholic hierarchy, Taxil announced Diana Vaughan would make a scheduled public appearance in Paris. At the appearance Taxil took the stage announcing the entire Palladian Order had been a hoax. All of the sinister and sexual activities he had fabricated. Diana Vaughan was a typist working for him who had agreed to lend her name and photograph to further the hoax. The other authors also writing about the Palladian Order were simply pen names used by Taxil and some of his friends. He admitted the whole thing was a fraud with the purpose of showing the world the total gullibility of the Catholic Church.
A riot occurred following Texil’s admission and the hall in which it took place was cleared by the police. Some devout Catholics were convinced Taxil was lying, not wanting to admit they and Church authorities had been dubbed. On the other side of the coin were Freemasons anxiously waiting to join the Palladian Order. In the end, this boils down to in the eye of the beholder: what is Satanism to one may be good to another. A.G.H
Greer, John Michael. The New Encyclopedia of the Occulti. St. Paul, Mn. Llewellyn Publications. 2005. pp. 358-350