|June 29th, 2014||#1|
The Epitome of Evil
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: The Unseen University of New York
The Taxil Hoax in Lady Queenborough's 'Occult Theocrasy'
The Taxil Hoax in Lady Queenborough's 'Occult Theocrasy'
I recently sat down and read Edith Starr Miller's; aka Lady Queenborough, magnum opus 'Occult Theocrasy' for the first time. As with authors like Nesta Webster I am aware of the various claims made by detractors about what they wrote and having read the best-known attempt to 'debunk' of 'Occult Theocrasy' on the internet I thought I'd correct its claims slightly. (1)
The 'debunk' concerned made me chuckle uproariously given that it is classic pseudo-skepticism in so far as the author claims that because Miller cites no justification or reference for some of the assertions she makes (which he has simply cherry-picked from the work [which is intellectual misrepresentation I might add]) then it ispo facto means what she writes is incorrect.
The author claims that:
'Occult Theocrasy relies heavily on the published works of self-described 33° freemason, Domenico Margiotta; the hoaxers Dr. Karl Hacks and Leo Taxil and their creations, Diana Vaughan and Dr. Bataille; the imaginary Miss. Vaughan’s promoter, Adriano Lemmi; anti-mason, Samuel Paul Rosen (1840-1907), theosophist, Alice Bailey (1880-1949); Taxil’s supporter, Clarin de la Rive; antisemite, Nesta H. Webster and the once anonymous "Inquire Within".' (2)
Now first let us note the way our author thinks: he cites Nesta Webster as being an 'unreliable source' because she is... an anti-Semite. Whether or not Webster was an anti-Semite is completely irrelevant to whether her argument or assertions are grounded in the evidence or not. That the author brings this up informs us that he is attempting to use the fallacy of poisoning the well in order to suggest that Miller has to be wrong because she uses 'evil sources' and Webster is wrong because she holds critical views of the jews (and incidentally she wasn't by definition an anti-Semite: she as anti-Judaism and anti-Zionist).
Secondly let us note the author's claim about Miller's use of the fraudulent material produced by Leo Taxil. Now there is no denying that Miller used material from the Taxil Hoax in her work, but our author is seriously misrepresenting 'Occult Theocrasy' here.
To clarify his views further:
'Dr. Karl Hacks and Léo Taxil both are documented in their confessions that they had created the persona and claims of "Dr. Bataille". Millers continued use of Bataille as a source of information demonstrates a willful inability to accept the fictional nature of everything written under that name.' (3)
In the above our author widens his claim to attribute malice aforethought or simple incompetence to Miller, because she uses one source work that had been debunked as problematic. Now firstly our author is here assuming that; in an age before mass communication, Miller would have necessarily heard of the exposure of the Taxil Hoax given that it occurred between thirty and forty years earlier in France (which is a silly claim to make as there is always the possibility that someone doesn't genuinely know: hence innocent until proven guilty).
If we apply our author's logic to his own arguments then we note that his argument is ispo facto incorrect and thus his whole 'debunk' is wrong, because one statement is without foundation as he hasn't demonstrated she should have heard of it decades afterwards.
As it happens our author rather dropped the ball here as he doesn't cite everything that Miller says about 'Dr. Bataille' (aka Karl Hacks/Carl Hakse and Leo Taxil) in that while she describes him as an 'eminent writer': (4) she also clearly shows knowledge that he is a problematic source. Our author obviously didn't notice that Miller also describes 'Dr. Bataille' as making 'fanciful' claims twice. (5) She also cites and applauds Nesta Webster's dictum on 'Dr. Bataille' that he was the production of 'notorious romancers' and that there was 'not a word of real information' to be found in his works. (6)
Our author also similarly forgets to mention that Miller does not rely on 'Dr. Bataille' alone as for example where she cites 'Dr. Bataille' heavily in the first chapter of 'Occult Theocrasy': she cites his definitions and points about the nature of magic in theory and practice, which were hardly contentious at the time. (7) In addition she cites numerous other works in support of her ideas at various points in this first chapter.
J. M. Ragon's 'De la Maconnerie Occulte' (8)
Bishop Lavington's 'The Enthusiasm of Methodists and Papists Compared' (9)
'Inquire Within's' 'Light-bearers in the Darkness' (10)
William Gray Hudson's 'The Law of Psychic Phenomena' (11)
The periodical 'Freemasonry Universal' (12)
Eliphas Levi's 'Histoire de la Magic' (13)
Strangely our author only mentions 'Inquire Within' as part of his poisoning the wells fallacy and 'forgets' to include the other sources in his analysis. In so doing and claiming that Miller is relying heavily on 'Dr. Bataille' then our author misrepresents what Miller wrote and enables him to falsely claim that 'Occult Theocrasy' is bunk because Miller's 'major sources' are either evil (cf. referring to Webster as an 'antisemite' without a critique of her input to 'Occult Theocrasy').
The fact of the matter is that Miller has only substantially used material from 'Dr. Bataille' in two out of sixty-five chapters of 'Occult Theocrasy'! (14)
In the first chapter as we have seen: Miller does not use 'Dr. Bataille' in any controversial way, but rather as having; to her mind, a good working definition of magic and occultism in addition to the majority of the chapter deriving from other sources most of which our author doesn't mention or criticise.
Arguing that her use of 'Dr. Bataille' in this context invalidates her work would mean that scholars who use concepts from novels (i.e. similarly 'well-known' fictional works) as their critical basis to evaluate the origin of historical documents that they believe to be false are also guilty of similar misconduct. (15) Yet we do not see our author condemning them, but rather he actually uses these ideas elsewhere in his 'analysis'! (16)
In the thirtieth chapter of 'Occult Theocrasy' it is true that 'Dr. Bataille' is Miller's major source on the 'Palladists'. However Miller also shows some criticality in relation to these sources; much as she did in the first chapter, when she pointedly uses other sources such as Paul Chacornac's 'Eliphas Levi' to back up claims made in her use of 'Dr. Bataille', (17) which is a source that our author himself uses! (18)
We should further note that once again the majority of the chapter is not drawn from 'Dr. Bataille's' work, but from four sources explicitly named by Miller: (19)
Domenico Margiotta's 'Adriano Lemmi'
Paul Rosen's 'Maconnerie Pratique'
Alice Bailey's 'Initiation Human and Solar'
Dr. Bataille's 'Le Diable au XIX Siecle'
The other three sources; Margiotta, Rosen and Bailey, are all mentioned in our author's poisoning of the well fallacy earlier with Margiotta labelled as 'self-appointed', Rosen labelled an 'anti-Mason' and Bailey labelled a 'theosophist'. (20) Clearly all these descriptions are pejorative in the mind of our author and intended to lead the reader into dismissing these sources as ipso facto unreliable without evidence or a reasoned argument to do so. (21)
To further illustrate this picture I should also point out that our author also makes similar claims about Eliphas Levi who he regards as ipso facto incorrect, because he presented his ideas to a Freemasonic meeting once and they were rejected. (22)
As if the rejection of a thesis by part of the group concerned was an indicator of falsehood!
One wonders if our author has ever heard of the fallacy of popularity (i.e. just because something is popular or unpopular doesn't make it incorrect) and the concept of self-description (i.e. the myths and ideas groups believe or propound about themselves that they may or may not themselves believe)?
Apparently not, but this does give us an indicator of the fact that our author does have a bit of problem with fairly representing the work; and the character, of those with whom he disagrees (which; according to his own logic, would mean we have disregard every claim he makes as ipso facto incorrect).
That these authors ('Dr. Bataille' included) make up the thirty-three pages of chapter thirty of 'Occult Theocrasy' (which is incidentally 4.6 percent of the work not 'the majority'); even they are all incorrect/hoaxers/imaginative speculation, is not an argument against the work itself, but rather one particular chapter that is itself a historical claim relating to the Italian revolution under Guiseppe Mazzini that is a piece of evidence (in relation to time-line) that is used to support Miller's thesis of a kind of battling light versus darkness occult dualism (which she likes to call gnosticism in line with many academic works of this period on this subject) that lies behind seemingly inexplicable world events.
I happen to think that Miller's thesis is wrong myself (for different reasons), but I don't confuse Miller's use of sources and facts that I consider suspect based on recent research in the area (our author also forgets that academic opinion evolves in shades of grey and is not a stationary light and dark world that he seems to inhabit) with the general thesis she outlines. They are two separate (if linked) beasts and only when you undermine the majority; or a significant minority, of someone's sources can you claim to have shown their thesis is unproven/based on dubious sources.
Not make pejorative claims about the sources and then strut around declaring victory!
We can thus see that Miller's use of the Taxil Hoax is not in any way, shape or form significant and nor does it impact on the truthfulness (or lack of it) of her general thesis as this is confined to a single chapter and even; as I have demonstrated, she looks to other sources to confirm claims from 'Dr. Bataille' which she finds dubious or in need of support. Thus displaying necessary criticality of her source, but I suspect; even thought she knew 'Dr. Bataille' was a problematic source (as I have demonstrated), it was just too tempting to include his material in her work (which is a common problem even in modern academic work especially around controversial topics [for a modern example see the Sokal Hoax]) (23) and so she sought out other authors who could be used to support what 'Dr. Bataille' claimed.
While that is regrettable: it is completely understandable in light of the fact she may well have held that while 'Dr. Bataille' was a problematic source. What he was describing was a real group and/or phenomenon and as the only source that explicitly dealt with it: Miller was forced to use him to illustrate her argument.
Therefore we can see that Miller's 'Occult Theocrasy' is not disproven or wrong, because Miller cited the Taxil Hoax, but we can see the vapid nature of our author's self-serving and pejorative 'criticism' of it.
(4) Edith Starr Miller, 1933, 'Occult Theocrasy', Vol. 1, 1st Edition, Self-Published: Paris, p. 25
(5) Ibid, pp. p. 45, n. 4; p. 58, n. 19
(6) Ibid, p. 295; the reference is to Nesta Webster, n.d., , 'Secret Societies and Subversive Movements', 1st Edition, Omni: Palmdale, p. 76, n.1; curiously Miller forgets to include the quotation marks indicating Webster's comments distinct from the work she is citing which may; but does not necessarily, suggest confusion as to the thrust of Webster's point.
(7) For example of the popular ideas of magic she was writing against in 1933 were still in use in the late 1960s as shown by 'occult' works like W. B. Crow, 1968, 'A History of Magic, Witchcraft and Occultism', 1st Edition, The Aquarian Press: London, pp. 11-14. A brief description of this problem of definitions and views of magic/witchcraft and secret societies propounding can be found in Jeffrey Russell, 1980, 'A History of Witchcraft: Sorcerers, Heretics and Pagans', 1st Edition, Thames & Hudson: London, pp. 8-15; also see his comments on the 'romantic revival' of witchcraft in the nineteenth century on pp. 130-135. For a more recent academic definition and discussion on the issue relating to Satanism see Jean la Fontaine, 1999, 'Satanism and Satanic Mythology', pp. 83-93 in William de Blecourt, Ronald Hutton, Jean la Fontaine (Eds.), 1999, 'Witchcraft and Magic in Europe: The Twentieth Century', 1st Edition, Athlone: London.
(8) Miller, Vol. 1, Op. Cit., p. 37
(9) Ibid, p. 36
(10) Ibid, p. 38
(11) Ibid, pp. 39-40
(12) Ibid, pp. 41-42
(13) Ibid, pp. 29; 34
(14) Specifically Chapters 1 and 30.
(15) For example Umberto Eco, 1995, 'Six Walks in the Fictional Woods', 1st Edition, Harvard University Press: Cambridge, pp. 117-140
(17) Miller, Op. Cit., p. 233, n. 1
(19) Miller, Op. Cit., p. 207
(21) We should note there are no linked articles or 'debunks' of Rosen or Bailey on this point and the author's 'debunk' of Webster is a cut and paste pseudo-skeptic job that is almost identical in its argumentation to that relating to Miller.
This was originally published at the following address: http://semiticcontroversies.blogspot...hoax-lady.html