Comte Saint-Germain: The Immortal German Alchemist
Comte Saint Germain
The German count was said to have lived for centuries
“A man who knows everything and who never dies,” said Voltaire of the Comte de Saint-Germain
“When you are seventeen or eighteen,” he asked her, “will you be happy to remain at that age, at least for a great many years?”
A Man Beyond His Time
Many average, reasonable men can conceive wisdom only under the boring form of a sermon and think of the sage only in the semblance of a clergyman. For such men prudery, hypocrisy, and the most abject enslavement to ritual habit and prejudice must be the everyday virtues. When therefore it happens that a genuine sage, by way of amusing himself, mystifies his contemporaries, follows a woman, or lightheartedly raises his glass, he is condemned eternally by the army of short-sighted people whose judgment forms posterity.
That is what happened in the case of the Comte de Saint-Germain. He had a love of jewels in an extreme form, and he ostentatiously showed off those he possessed. He kept a great quantity of them in a casket, which he carried about everywhere with him. The importance he attached to jewels was so great that in the pictures painted by him, which were in themselves remarkable, the figures were covered with jewels; and his colors were so vivid and strange that faces looked pale and insignificant by contrast. Jewels cast their reflection on him and threw a distorting light on the whole of his life.
His contemporaries did not forgive him this weakness. Nor did they forgive him for keeping for an entire century the physical appearance of a man of between forty and fifty years old. Apparently, a man cannot be taken seriously if he does not conform strictly to the laws of nature, and he was called a charlatan because he possessed a secret which allowed him to prolong his life beyond known human limits.
Saint-Germain seems also to have been free personally from the solemnity in which men of religion and philosophers wrap themselves. He enjoyed and sought the company of the pretty women of his day. Though he never ate any food in public, he liked dining out because of the people he met and the conversation he heard. He was an aristocrat who lived with princes and even with kings almost on a footing of an equal. He gave recipes for removing wrinkles and dyeing hair. He had an immense stock of amusing stories with which he regaled society. It appears from the memoirs of Baron von Gleichen that when Saint-Germain was in Paris he became the lover of Mademoiselle Lambert, daughter of the Chevalier Lambert, who lived in the house in which he lodged. And it appears from Grosley’s memoirs that in Holland he became the lover of a woman as rich and mysterious as himself.
At first sight all this is incompatible with the high mission with which he was invested, with the part he played in the Hermetic societies of Germany and France. But the contradiction is perhaps only apparent. His outward appearance of a man of the world was necessary in the first place for the purposes of the secret diplomacy in which Louis XV often employed him. Moreover, we often have an erroneous conception of the activities of a master. The possession of an “opal of monstrous size, of a white sapphire as big as an egg, of the treasures of Aladdin’s lamp,” is a harmless pleasure if these treasures have been inherited or have been made through the help of miraculous knowledge. It is no great eccentricity in a man to pull down his cuffs in order to show the sparkle of the rubies in his links. And if Mademoiselle Lambert had the ideas of her time on the subject of gallantry, the Comte de Saint-Germain can hardly be reproached for lingering one night in her room in order to open in her presence the mysterious jewelcasket and invite her to choose one of those diamonds that were the admiration of Madam de Pompadour.
For pleasure in life drags a man down only when it is carried to excess. It may be that there exists a way by which a man may attain the highest spirituality and yet keep this pleasure. Moreover, on a certain plane, the chain of the senses no longer exists and kisses cease to burn; a man can no longer harm either himself or others by virtue of the power that the transformation has wrought in him.
A Man Who Never Dies
“A man who knows everything and who never dies,” said Voltaire of the Comte de Saint-Germain. He might have added that he was a man whose origin was unknown and who disappeared without leaving a trace. In vain his contemporaries tried to penetrate the mystery, and in vain the chiefs of police and the ministers of the various countries whose inhabitants he puzzled, flattered themselves that they had solved the riddle of his birth.
Louis XV must have known who he was, for he extended to him a friendship that aroused the jealousy of his court. He allotted him rooms in the Chateau of Chambord. He shut himself up with Saint-Germain and Madam de Pompadour for whole evenings; and the pleasure he derived from his conversation and the admiration he no doubt felt for the range of his knowledge cannot explain the consideration, almost the deference, he had for him. Madam du Housset says in her memoirs that the king spoke of Saint-Germain as a personage of illustrious birth. Count Charles of Hesse Cassel, with whom he lived during the last years in which history is able to follow his career, must also have possessed the secret of his birth. He worked at alchemy with him, and Saint-Germain treated him as an equal. It was to him that Saint-Germain entrusted his papers just before his supposed death in 1784. However, neither Louis XV nor the Count of Hesse Cassel ever revealed anything about the birth of Saint-Germain. The count even went so far as invariably to withhold the smallest detail bearing on the life of his mysterious friend. This is a very remarkable fact, since Saint-Germain was an extremely well known figure.
In those days, when the aristocracy immersed itself in the occult sciences, secret societies and magic, this man, who was said to possess the elixir of life and to be able to make gold at will, was the subject of interminable talk. An inner force that is irresistibly strong compels men to talk. It makes no difference whether a man is a king or a count; all alike are subject to this force, and increasingly subject to it in proportion as they spend their time with women. For Louis XV and the count to have held out against the curiosity of beloved mistresses we must presume in them either a strength of mind that they certainly did not possess or else some imperious motive which we cannot determine.
The commonest hypothesis about his birth is that Saint-Germain was the natural son of the widow of Charles II of Spain and a certain Comte (Count) Adanero, whom she knew at Bayonne. This Spanish queen was Marie de Neubourg, whom Victor Hugo took as the heroine of his Ruy Blas. Those who disliked Saint-Germain said that he was the son of a Portuguese Jew named Aymar, while those who hated him said, in the effort to add to his discredit, that he was the son of an Alsatian Jew named Wolff. Fairly recently a new genealogy of Saint-Germain has been put forward, which seems the most probable of all. It is the work of the theosophists and Annie Besant, who has frequently made the statement that the Comte de Saint-Germain was one of the sons of Francis Racoczi II, Prince of Transylvania. The children of Francis Racoczi were brought up by the Emperor of Austria, but one of them was withdrawn from his guardianship. The story was put about that he was dead, but actually he was given into the charge of the last descendant of the Medici family, who brought him up in Italy. He took the name of Saint-Germain from the little town of San Germano, where he had spent some years during his childhood and where his father had estates. This would give an air of probability to the memories of southern lands and sunny palaces which Saint-Germain liked to call up as the setting of his childhood. And it would help to account for the consideration that Louis XV showed him. The impenetrable silence kept by him and by those to whom he entrusted his secret would in this event be due to fear of the Emperor of Austria and possible vengeance on his part. The belief that Saint-Germain and the descendant of the Racoczis are one and the same is firmly held by many people, who regard him as a genuine adept and even think he may still be living.
The Comte de Saint-Germain was a man “of middle height, strongly built, and dressed with superb simplicity.” He spoke with an entire lack of ceremony to the most highly placed personages and was fully conscious of his superiority. Said Gleichen of the first time he met Saint-Germain: “He threw down his hat and sword, sat down in an armchair near the fire and interrupted the conversation by saying to the man who was speaking: ‘You do not know what you are saying! I am the only person who is competent to speak on this subject, and I have exhausted it. It was the same with music, which I gave up when I found I had no more to learn.'”
Indeed, many people who heard him play the violin said of him that he equaled or even surpassed the greatest virtuosos of the period, and he seems to have justified his remark that he had reached the extreme limit possible in the art of music.
Saint-Germain was also an accomplished artist. One day he took Gleichen to his house and said to him: ” I am pleased with you, and you have earned my showing you a few paintings of mine.” “And he very effectively kept his word,” said Gleichen, “for the paintings he showed me all bore a stamp of singularity or perfection which made them more interesting than many works of art of the highest order.”
However, he seems not to have excelled as a poet. There survive of his an indifferent sonnet and a letter addressed to Marie Antoinette (quoted by the Comtesse d’Adhemar) that contains predictions in doggerel verse. At the request of Madam de Pompadour he also wrote a rather poor outline of a comedy.
By far the greatest obvious talents of the Comte de Saint-Germain were connected with his knowledge of alchemy. Yet if Saint-Germain he knew how to make gold, he was wise enough to say nothing about it. Nothing but the possession of this secret could perhaps account for the enormous wealth at his command, though he was not known to have money on deposit at any banker’s. What he does seem to have admitted, at least ambiguously, is that he could make a big diamond out of several small stones. The diamonds that he wore in his shoes and garters were believed to be worth more than 200,000 francs. He asserted also that he could increase the size of pearls at will, and some of the pearls in his possession certainly were of astonishing size.
If all that he said on this subject was mere bragging, it was expensive, for he supported it by magnificent gifts. Madam du Hausset tells us that one day when he was showing the queen some jewels in her presence, she commented on the beauty of a cross of white and green stones. Saint-Germain nonchalantly made her a present of it. Madam du Hausset refused, but the queen, thinking the stones were false, signed to her that she might accept. Madam du Hausset subsequently had the stones valued, and they turned out to be genuine and extremely valuable.
His Amazing Youthfulness
But the feature in Saint-Germain’s personage that is hardest to believe is his astounding longevity. The musician Rameau and Madam de Gergy (with the latter of whom, according to the memoirs of Casanova, he was still dining about 1775) both assert that they met him at Venice in 1710, under the name of the Marquis de Montferrat. Both of them agree that he then had the appearance of a man of between forty and fifty years old. If their recollection is accurate this evidence destroys the hypotheses according to which Saint-Germain was the son of Marie de Neubourg or the son of Francis Racoczi II, for if he had been, he would not have been more than about twenty in 1710. Later, Madam de Gergy told Madam de Pompadour that she had received from Saint-Germain at Venice an elixir that enabled her to preserve, for a long time and without the smallest change, the appearance of a woman of twenty-five. A gift as precious as this could not be forgotten! It is also true, however, that Saint-Germain, when questioned by Madam de Pompadour on the subject of his meeting with Madam de Gergy fifty years earlier and of the marvelous elixir he was supposed to have given to her, replied with a smile: “It is not impossible; but I confess it is likely that this lady, for whom I have the greatest respect, is talking nonsense.
We can compare with this the offer he made to Mademoiselle de Genlis when she was a child: “When you are seventeen or eighteen will you be happy to remain at that age, at least for a great many years?’ She answered that she should indeed be charmed. “Very well,” he said very gravely; “I promise you that you shall.” And he at once spoke of something else.
The period of his great celebrity in Paris extended from 1750 to 1760. Everyone agreed then that, in appearance, he was a man of between forty and fifty. He disappeared for fifteen years, and when the Comtesse d’Adhemar saw him again in 1775, she declared that she found him younger than ever. And when she saw him again twelve years later he still looked the same. While he deliberately allowed his hearers to believe that his life had lasted inconceivably long, he never actually said so. He proceeded by veiled allusions.
“He diluted the strength of the marvelous in his stories,” said his friend Gleichen, “according to the receptivity of his hearer. When he was telling a fool some event of the time of Charles V, he informed him quite crudely that he had been present. But when he spoke to somebody less credulous, he contented himself with describing the smallest circumstances, the faces and gestures of the speakers, the room and the part of it they were in, with such vivacity and in such detail that his hearers received the impression that he had actually been present at the scene. ‘These fools of Parisians,’ he said to me one day, ‘believe that I am five hundred years old. I confirm them in this idea because I see that it gives them much pleasure — not that I am not infinitely older than I appear.'”
Tradition has related that he said he had known Jesus and been present at the Council of Nicea. But he did not go so far as this in his contempt for the men with whom he associated and in his derision of their credulity. This tradition originates from the fact that Lord Gower, who was a practical joker, gave imitations at his house of well-known men of his time. When he came to Saint-Germain, he imitated his manner and voice in an imaginary conversation that Saint-Germain was supposed to have had with the founder of Christianity, of whom Lord Gower made him say: “He was the best man imaginable, but romantic and thoughtless.”
About 1760, an English newspaper, the London Mercury, quite seriously published the following story: “The Comte de Saint-Germain presented a lady of his acquaintance, who was concerned at growing old, with a vial of his famous elixir of long life. The lady put the vial into a drawer. One of her servants, a middle-aged woman, thought the vial contained a harmless purge and drank the contents. When the lady summoned her servant next day, there appeared before her a young girl, almost a child. It was the effect of the elixir. A few drops more and I have no doubt the servant would have answered her mistress with infantile screams!”
“Has anyone ever seen me eat or drink?” said Saint-Germain, as he was passing through Vienna, to a Herr Graeffer who offered him some Tokay. Everyone who knew him agreed in saying that though he liked sitting down to table with a numerous company, he never touched the dishes. He was fond of offering his intimate friends the recipe of a purge made of senna pods. His principal food, which he prepared himself, was a mixture of oatmeal.
But is it really so surprising that the authors of memoirs depict Saint-Germain as retaining the same physical appearance during a whole century? Human life may have a duration infinitely longer than that ordinarily attributed to it. It is the activity of our nerves, the flame of our desire, the acid of our fears, which daily consume our organism. He who succeeds in raising himself above his emotions, in suppressing in himself anger and the fear of illness, is capable of overcoming the attrition of the years and attaining an age at least double that at which men now die of old age. If the face of a man who is not tormented by his emotions should retain its youth, it would be no miracle. Not long ago a London medical periodical reported the case of a woman who at seventy-four had preserved ” the features and expression of a girl of twenty, without a wrinkle or a white hair. She had become insane as the result of an unhappy love affair, and her insanity consisted in the perpetual reliving of her last separation from her lover.” From her conviction that she was young she had remained young. It may be that a subjective conception of time, and the suppression of impatience and expectation, enable a highly developed man to reduce to a minimum the normal wear and tear of the body. The Comte de Saint-Germain asserted also that he had the capacity of stopping the mechanism of the human clock during sleep. He thus almost entirely stopped the physical wastage that proceeds, without our knowing it, from breathing and the beating of the heart.
Saint-Germain’s activity and the diversity of his occupations were very great. He was interested in the preparation of dyes and even started a factory in Germany for the manufacture of felt hats. But his principal role was that of a secret agent in international politics in the service of France. He became Louis XV’s confidential and intimate counselor and was entrusted by him with various secret missions. This drew on him the enmity of many important men, including, notably, that of the Duke de Choiseul, the minister for foreign affairs. It was this enmity which compelled him to leave hurriedly for England in order to escape imprisonment in the Bastille.
Louis XV did not agree with his minister’s policy with regard to Austria and tried to negotiate peace behind his back by using Holland as an intermediary. Saint-Germain was sent to The Hague to negotiate there with Prince Louis of Brunswick. Monsieur d’Affry, the French minister in Holland, was informed of this step, and complained bitterly to his minister for foreign affairs that France was carrying on negotiations that did not pass through his hands. The Duke de Choiseul seized his opportunity. He sent d’Affry orders demanding the extradition of Saint-Germain and have him arrested by the Dutch Government and sent to Paris. This decision was communicated to the king in the presence of his ministers in council, and Louis, not daring to admit his participation in the affair, blamed it all on his emissary. But Saint-Germain received warning just before his arrest. He had time to escape and take ship for England. The adventurer Casanova gives us some details of this escape; he happened to be in a hotel near that in which Saint-Germain was staying, and found himself mixed up in a complicated story of jewels, swindlers, duped fathers and girls madly in love with him — a story, in fact, that was typical of the ordinary course of Saint-Germain’s life.
According to Horace Walpole’s letters, Saint-Germain had been arrested in London some years previously on account of his mysterious life. He had been set free because there was nothing against him. Walpole, a true Englishman, came to the conclusion that “he was not a gentleman” because he used to say with a laugh that he was taken for a spy. He was not arrested a second time in England. Not long after this, he was found in Russia, where he was to play an important but hidden part in the revolution of 1762. Count Alexis Orloff met him some years later in Italy and said of him: “Here is a man who played an important part in our revolution.” Alexis’ brother, Gregory Orloff, handed over to Saint-Germain of his own free will 20,000 sequins, an uncommon action, seeing that Saint-Germain had not rendered him any particular service. At that time he wore the uniform of a Russian general and called himself Soltikov.
It was about this period, the beginning of the reign of Louis XVI, that Saint-Germain returned to France and saw Marie Antoinette. The Comtesse d’Adhemar has left a detailed account of the interview. It was to her that he turned to obtain access to the queen. Since his flight to England, he had not reappeared in France, but the memory of him had become a legend, and Louis XV’s friendship for him was well known. It was easy, therefore, for the Comtesse d’Adhemar to arrange a meeting with Marie Antoinette, who immediately asked Saint-Germain if he was going to settle in Paris again. “A century will pass,” was his reply, “before I come here again.”
In the presence of the queen he spoke in a grave voice and foretold events that would take place fifteen years later. “The queen in her wisdom will weigh that which I am about to tell her in confidence. The Encyclopedist party desires power, which it will obtain only by the complete fall of the clergy. In order to bring about this result, it will upset the monarchy. The Encyclopedists, who are seeking a chief among the members of the royal family, have cast their eyes on the Duke de Chartres. The duke will become the instrument of men who will sacrifice him when he has ceased to be useful to them. He will come to the scaffold instead of to the throne. Not for long will the laws remain the protection of the good and the terror of the wicked. The wicked will seize power with bloodstained hands. They will do away with the Catholic religion, the nobility, and the magistracy.”
“So that only royalty will be left,” the queen interrupted impatiently.
“Not even royalty. There will be a bloodthirsty republic, whose scepter will be the executioner’s knife.”
It is quite plain from these words that Saint-Germain’s ideas were entirely different from those ascribed to him by the majority of historical authors of this period, nearly all of whom see in him an active instrument of the revolutionary movement. His terrible and amazing predictions filled Marie Antoinette with foreboding and agitation. Saint-Germain asked to see the King, in order to make even more serious revelations, but he asked to see him without his minister, Maurepas, being told of it.
“He is my enemy,” he said, “and I count him among those who will contribute to the ruin of the kingdom, not from malice but from incapacity.”
The king did not possess sufficient authority to have an interview with anybody without the presence of his minister. He informed Maurepas of the interview that Saint-Germain had had with the queen, and Maurepas thought it would be wisest to imprison in the Bastille a man who had so gloomy a vision of the future.
Out of courtesy to the Comtesse d’Adhemar, Maurepas visited her in order to acquaint her with this decision. She received him in her room.
“I know the scoundrel better than you do,” he said. “He will be exposed. Our police officials have a very keen scent. Only one thing surprises me. The years have not spared me, whereas the queen declares that the Comte de Saint-Germain looks like a man of forty.”
At this moment the attention of both of them was distracted by the sound of a door being shut. The comtesse uttered a cry. The expression on Maurepas’ face changed. Saint-Germain stood before them.
“The king has called on you to give him good counsel,” he said; “and in refusing to allow me to see him you think only of maintaining your authority. You are destroying the monarchy, for I have only a limited time to give to France, and when that time has passed I shall be seen again only after three generations. I shall not be to blame when anarchy with all its horrors devastates France. You will not see these calamities, but the fact that you paved the way for them will be enough to blacken your memory.”
Having uttered this in one breath, he walked to the door, shut it behind him and disappeared. All efforts to find him proved useless. The keen scent of Maurepas’ police officials was not keen enough, either during the days immediately following or later. They never discovered what had happened to the Comte de Saint-Germain.
As had been foretold to him, Maurepas did not see the calamities for which he had helped to pave the way. He died in 1781. In 1784 a rumor was current in Paris that the Comte de Saint-Germain had just died in the Duchy of Schleswig, at the castle of the Count Charles of Hesse Cassel. For biographers and historians this date seems likely to remain the official date of his death. From that day forward, the mystery in which the Comte de Saint-Germain was shrouded grew deeper than ever.
Secluded at Eckenforn in the count’s castle, Saint-Germain announced that he was tired of fife. He seemed careworn and melancholy. He said he felt feeble, but he refused to see a doctor and was tended only by women. No details exist of his death, or rather of his supposed death. No tombstone at Eckenforn bore his name. It was known that he had left all his papers and certain documents relating to Freemasonry to the Count of Hesse Cassel. The count for his part asserted that he had lost a very dear friend. But his attitude was highly equivocal. He refused to give any information about his friend or his last moments, and turned the conversation if anyone spoke of him. His whole behavior gives color to the supposition that he was the accomplice of a pretended death.
Although, on the evidence of reliable witnesses, he must have been at least a hundred years old in 1784, his death in that year cannot have been genuine. The official documents of Freemasonry say that in 1785 the French masons chose him as their representative at the great convention that took place in that year, with Mesmer, Saint-Martin, and Cagliostro present. In the following year Saint-Germain was received by the Empress of Russia. Finally, the Comtesse d’Adhemar reports at great length a conversation she had with him in 1789 in the Church of the Recollets, after the taking of the Bastille.
His face looked no older than it had looked thirty years earlier. He said he had come from China and Japan. “There is nothing so strange out there,” he said, “as that which is happening here. But I can do nothing. My hands are tied by someone who is stronger than I. There are times when it is possible to draw back; others at which the decree must be carried out as soon as he has pronounced it.”
And he told her in broad outlines all the events, not excepting the death of the queen, that were to take place in the years that followed. “The French will play with titles and honors and ribbons like children. They will regard everything as a plaything, even the equipment of the Garde Nationale. There is today a deficit of some forty millions, which is the nominal cause of the Revolution. Well, under the dictatorship of philanthropists and orators the national debt will reach thousands of millions.”
“I have seen Saint-Germain again,” wrote Comtesse d’Adhemar in 1821, “each time to my amazement. I saw him when the queen was murdered, on the 18th of Brumaire, on the day following the death of the Duke d’Enghien, in January, 1815, and on the eve of the murder of the Duke de Berry.”
Mademoiselle de Genlis asserts that she met the Comte de Saint-Germain in 1821 during the negotiations for the Treaty of Vienna; and the Comte de Chalons, who was ambassador in Venice, said he spoke to him there soon afterwards in the Piazza di San Marco. There is other evidence, though less conclusive, of his survival. The Englishman Grosley said he saw him in 1798 in a revolutionary prison; and someone else wrote that he was one of the crowd surrounding the tribunal at which the Princess de Lamballe appeared before her execution.
It seems quite certain that the Comte de Saint-Germain did not die at the place and on the date that history has fixed. He continued an unknown career, of whose end we are ignorant and whose duration seems so long that one’s imagination hesitates to admit it.
Many writers who have studied the French Revolution do not believe in the influence exerted by the Comte de Saint-Germain. It is true that he set up no landmarks for posterity, and even obliterated the traces he had made. He left no arrogant memorial of himself such as a book. He worked for humanity, not for himself. He was modest, the rarest quality in men of intelligence. His only foibles were the harm less affectation of appearing a great deal younger than his age and the pleasure he took in making a ring sparkle. But men are judged only by their own statements and by the merits they attribute to themselves. Only his age and his jewels attracted notice.
Yet the part he played in the spiritual sphere was considerable. He was the architect who drew the plans for a work that is as yet only on the stocks. But he was an architect betrayed by the workmen. He had dreamed of a high tower that should enable man to communicate with heaven, and the workmen preferred to build houses for eating and sleeping.
He influenced Freemasonry and the secret societies, though many modem masons have denied this and have even omitted to mention him as a great source of inspiration. In Vienna he took part in the foundation of the Society of Asiatic Brothers and of the Knights of Light, who studied alchemy; and it was he who gave Mesmer his fundamental ideas on personal magnetism and hypnotism. It is said that he initiated Cagliostro, who visited him on several occasions in Holstein to receive directions from him, though there is no direct evidence for this. The two men were to be far separated from one another by opposite currents and a different fate.
The Comtesse d’Adhemar quotes a letter she received from Saint-Germain in which he says, speaking of his journey to Paris in 1789, “I wished to see the work that that demon of hell, Cagliostro, has prepared.” It seems that Cagliostro took part in the preparation of the revolutionary movement, which Saint-Germain tried to check by developing mystical ideas among the most advanced men of the period. He had foreseen the chaos of the last years of the eighteenth century and hoped to give it a turn in the direction of peace by spreading among its future promoters a philosophy that might change them. But he reckoned without the slowness with which the soul of man develops and without the aversion that man brings to the task. And he left out of his calculations the powerful reactions of hatred.
All over the country secret societies sprang up. The new spirit manifested itself in the form of associations. Neither the nobility nor the clergy escaped what had become a fashion. There were even formed lodges for women, and the Princesse de Lamballe became grand mistress of one of them. In Germany there were the Illuminati and the Knights of Strict Observance, and Frederick II, when he came to the throne, founded the sect of the Architects of Africa. In France, the Order of the Templars was reconstituted, and Freemasonry, whose grand master was the Duke de Chartres, increased the number of its lodges in every town. Martinez de Pasqually taught his philosophy at Marseilles, Bordeaux and Toulouse; and Savalette de Lange, with mystics such as Court de Gebelin and Saint-Martin, founded the lodge of the Friends Assembled.
The initiates of these sects understood that they were the depositories of a heritage that they did not know, but whose boundless value they guessed; it was to be found somewhere, perhaps in traditions, perhaps in a book written by a master, perhaps in themselves. They spoke of this revealing word, this hidden treasure it was said to be in the hands of “unknown superiors of these sects, who would one day disclose the wealth which gives freedom and immortality.”
It was this immortality of the spirit that Saint-Germain tried to bring to a small group of chosen initiates. He believed that this minority, once it was developed itself, would, in its turn, help to develop another small number, and that a vast spiritual radiation would gradually descend, in beneficent waves, towards the more ignorant masses. It was a sage’s dream, which was never to be realized.
With the co-operation of Savalette de Lange, who was the nominal head, he founded the group of Philalethes, or truth-lovers, which was recruited from the cream of the Friends Assembled. The Prince of Hesse, Condorcet, and Cagliostro were all members of this group. Saint-Germain expounded his philosophy at Ermenonville and in Paris, in the rue Platriere. It was a Platonic Christianity, which combined Swedenborg’s visions with Martinez de Pasqually’s theory of reintegration. There were to be found in it Plotinus’ emanations and the hierarchy of successive planes described by Hermeticists and modem theosophists. He taught that man has in him infinite possibilities and that, from the practical point of view, he must strive unceasingly to free himself of matter in order to enter into communication with the world of higher intelligences.
He was understood by some. In two great successive assemblies, at which every Masonic lodge in France was represented, the Philalethes attempted the reform of Freemasonry. If they had attained their aim, if they had succeeded in directing the great force of Freemasonry by the prestige of their philosophy, which was sublime and disinterested, it may be that the course of events would have been altered, that the old dream of a world guided by philosopher-initiates would have been realized.
But matters were to turn out differently. Old causes, created by accumulated injustices had paved the way for terrible effects. These effects were in their turn to create the causes of future evil. The chain of evil, linked firmly together by men’s egoism and hatred, was not to be broken. The light kindled by a few wise visionaries, a few faithful watchers over the well being of their brothers, was extinguished almost as soon as it was kindled.
Legend of the Eternal Master
Napoleon III, puzzled and interested by what he had heard about the mysterious life of the Comte de Saint-Germain, instructed one of his librarians to search for and collect all that could be found about him in archives and documents of the latter part of the eighteenth century. This was done, and a great number of papers, forming an enormous dossier, was deposited in the library of the prefecture of police. Unfortunately, the Franco-Prussian War and the Commune supervened, and the part of the building in which the dossier was kept was burnt. Thus once again a synchronous accident upheld the ancient law that decrees that the life of the adept must always be surrounded with mystery.
What happened to the Comte de Saint-Germain after 1821, in which year there is evidence that he was still alive? An Englishman, Albert Vandam, in his memoirs, which he calls An Englishman in Paris, speaks of a certain person whom he knew towards the end of Louis Philippe’s reign and whose way of life bore a curious resemblance to that of the Comte de Saint-Germain. “He called himself Major Fraser, wrote Vandam, “lived alone and never alluded to his family. Moreover he was lavish with money, though the source of his fortune remained a mystery to everyone. He possessed a marvelous knowledge of all the countries in Europe at all periods. His memory was absolutely incredible and, curiously enough, he often gave his hearers to understand that he had acquired his learning elsewhere than from books. Many is the time he has told me, with a strange smile, that he was certain he had known Nero, had spoken with Dante, and so on.”
Like Saint-Germain, Major Fraser had the appearance of a man of between forty and fifty, of middle height and strongly built. The rumor was current that he was the illegitimate son of a Spanish prince. After having been, also like Saint-Germain, a cause of astonishment to Parisian society for a considerable time, he disappeared without leaving a trace. Was it the same Major Fraser who, in 1820, published an account of his journey in the Himalayas, in which he said he had reached Gangotri, the source of the most sacred branch of the Ganges River, and bathed in the source of the Jumna River?
It was at the end of the nineteenth century that the legend of Saint-Germain grew so inordinately. By reason of his knowledge, of the integrity of his life, of his wealth and of the mystery that surrounded him, he might reasonably have been taken for an heir of the first Rosicrucians, for a possessor of the Philosopher’s Stone. But the theosophists and a great many occultists regarded him as a master of the great White Lodge of the Himalayas. The legend of these masters is well known. According to it there live in inaccessible lamaseries in Tibet certain wise men who possess the ancient secrets of the lost civilization of Atlantis. Sometimes they send to their imperfect brothers, who are blinded by passions and ignorance, sublime messengers to teach and guide them. Krishna, the Buddha, and Jesus were the greatest of these. But there were many other more obscure messengers, of whom Saint-Germain has been considered to be one.
“This pupil of Hindu and Egyptian hierophants, this holder of the secret knowledge of the East,” theosophist Madam Blavatsky says of him, “was not appreciated for who he was. The stupid world has always treated in this way men who, like Saint-Germain, have returned to it after long years of seclusion devoted to study with their hands full of the treasure of esoteric wisdom and with the hope of making the world better, wiser and happier.” Between 1880 and 1900 it was admitted among all theosophists, who at that time had become very numerous, particularly in England and America, that the Comte de Saint-Germain was still alive, that he was still engaged in the spiritual development of the West, and that those who sincerely took part in this development had the possibility of meeting him.
The brotherhood of Khe-lan was famous throughout Tibet, and one of their most famous brothers was an Englishman who had arrived one day during the early part of the twentieth century from the West. He spoke every language, including the Tibetan, and knew every art and science, says the tradition. His sanctity and the phenomena produced by him caused him to be proclaimed a Shaberon Master after a residence of but a few years. His memory lives to the present day among the Tibetans, but his real name is a secret with the Shaberons alone. Might not this mysterious traveler be the Comte de Saint-Germain?
But even if he has never come back, even if he is no longer alive and we must relegate to legend the idea that the great Hermetic nobleman is still wandering about the world with his sparkling jewels, his senna tea, and his taste for princesses and queens even so it can be said that he has gained the immortality he sought. For a great number of imaginative and sincere men the Comte de Saint-Germain is more alive than he has ever been. There are men who, when they hear a step on the staircase, think it may perhaps be he, coming to give them advice, to bring them some unexpected philosophical idea. They do not jump up to open the door to their guest, for material barriers do not exist for him. There are men who, when they go to sleep, are pervaded by genuine happiness because they are certain that their spirit, when freed from the body, will be able to hold converse with the master in the luminous haze of the astral world.
The Comte de Saint-Germain is always present with us. There will always be, as there were in the eighteenth century, mysterious doctors, enigmatic travelers, bringers of occult secrets, to perpetuate him. Some will have bathed in the sources of the Ganges, and others will show a talisman found in the pyramids. But they are not necessary. They diminish the range of the mystery by giving it everyday, material form. The Comte de Saint-Germain is immortal, as he always dreamed of being.