Encyclopaedia of Freemasonry


Francisco Xavier ⬩ Xerophagists ⬩

Francisco Xavier

The end of our work is upon us, and I place on record this name apart from all lesser personalities connected with Masonry to establish a point of view. In the second decade of the nineteenth century the old wolf of the Vatican was as hungry for prey as when it fell, at once gorged and unsatisfied, from two hundred thousand Albigensian throats in Languedoc, Provence and Gascony. The forgotten notability who is here commemorated must be distinguished from St. Francis Xavier, eminent in the Calendar of God and as a writer on the spiritual life. I speak of a Bishop of Almeria who was Inquisitor-General of Spain at that time when King Ferdinand VII reopened the dungeons of the Holy Office, as we have seen already. It was the time also when Pope Pius VII had issued another Bull against Masons and Masonry. The Spanish Inquisitor, being moved with the zeal of his vocation, did more than publish it. The record concerning him says (1) that he issued an ordinance on his own part in which he characterised Masonic Lodges as “Societies which lead to sedition and independence, to all errors and crimes”; (2) that the utmost severity of civil and canon law were threatened against all who did not renounce them within fifteen days; (3) that thereafter he began a persecution described as atrocious in character; and (4) that many distinguished people were cast into the prisons of the Inquisition on the suspicion that they were Freemasons. I suppose that Latin Freemasonry remembers these things and that its anti-clerical programme is a rejoinder to that Rome which never changes and never repents. The word “independence” as used by the Bishops of Almeria is wholly memorable.


We have seen that, according to one hypothesis, the Austrian Order of Mopses was founded at Vienna as a kind of substitute for Freemasonry when this was condemned by the Bull of Pope Clement XII on April 24, 1738. The edict which carried a consequence of this kind in Austria would be more effective still in Italy, within sound of the Vatican thunders. It appears that Italian Masons had recourse to a similar subterfuge: according to Thory they changed the name without changing the thing and met for a season under the style and title of Xerophagists, which—being rendered out of the Greek—signifies those who eat dry food. Mackey says that it is “the first Temperance Society on record,” but seeing that the name was a veil there is no warrant for assuming that abstinence was actually practised, merely to justify the veil. Woodford commands one’s sympathy when he doubts “the whole story”; but on the other hand Acta Latomorum, I, 346, affirms that the Mother Lodge of the Scottish Philosophical Rite had an account of the Order in its archives. On many considerations—though not on this one in particular—we need those archives badly. The Mopses were nothing and the Xerophagists were less than nothing, but the facts in the two cases are curious by way of contrast. At that distance from the comminatory centre which is represented by the capital of Austria they suppressed the real thing and provided a mockery which does not appear even to have been redeemed by wit: under the nose of the Holy Office they continued to meet and work in the guise of an innocent experiment in food-reform. It was at least daring, considering that life was at stake, for the Inquisition was in its not uncommon mood of murder; but it was scarcely complimentary to the Sacred Office and its watchdogs. One speculates whether they were taken in so easily and whether Woodford was possibly right after all—those archives of the Mother Lodge notwithstanding.

Ecclesia Latomorum.—The Holy Office survives, but the day of the Inquisition is over. The policy of the Vatican centre in respect of Freemasonry is not likely to change. I have said enough in these volumes to shew that a change is impossible in the nature of things. Let us realise on our own part, as heirs of the Greater Mysteries and sons of their Doctrine, that the Vatican is not the Church; that Latin Catholicism is the witness of a living tradition which does not differ from our own; and that both are rooted in experience. The doctrine is always “that God is and that He recompenses those who seek Him out.” This search is the quest of Masonry: it leads through a new birth, new life, figurative death and mystical resurrection into an eternal rmion. We have found the memorials of this quest in Masonry; but it is that also which has been followed by the catholic saints of God from time immemorial in Christ. The Vatican can rave and fulminate: all its thunders notwithstanding, true Masonry remains a Church of God and one at the roots as such with the Catholic and Christian Church.