Cagliostro (1743-1795)

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Cagliostro (1743-1795)

Considered by some to be one of the greatest occult figures of all time. It was the fashion during the latter half of the nineteenth century to regard Cagliostro as a charlatan and fraud. This viewpoint was greatly aided by the savage attack perpetrated on his memory by Thomas Carlyle, who alluded to him as "the Prince of Quacks." Others, such as W. R. H. Trowbridge (1918), have argued that if Cagliostro was not a man of unimpeachable honor, he was by no means the quack and scoundrel so many have made him out to be.

Following is an outline of Cagliostro's life as known before Trowbridge's examination, after which the details of his career are explored in view of what may be termed as Trowbridge's "discoveries."

Cagliostro's Mysterious Life

The problem of assembling a biographical sketch of Cagliostro is difficult due to the significant amount of legendary material that surrounds him. It is therefore necessary to apply a critical eye when dealing with the myriad contradictions.

Cagliostro's father, whose name is alleged to have been Peter Balsamo, died young. From infancy, young Joseph Balsa-mo showed an unconventional individualism, and when placed in a religious seminary at Palermo he more than once ran away from it; usually found in undesirable company. He was sent next to a Benedictine convent, where he was under the care of a father superior. The father superior quickly discovered his natural aptitude, and Balsamo became the assistant of an apothecary attached to the convent, from whom he learned the principles of chemistry and medicine. Even then his desire was more to discover surprising and astonishing chemical combinations than to gain more useful knowledge. Tiring of the life at last, he succeeded in escaping from the convent, and went to Palermo.

In Palermo resided a goldsmith named Marano, a superstitious man who believed devoutly in the efficacy of magic. He became attracted to young Balsamo, who at the age of seventeen posed as being deeply versed in occultism and had been seen evoking spirits. Marano made his acquaintance and confided to him that he had spent a great deal of money upon quack alchemists, but he was convinced that by meeting him he had at last chanced upon a real master of magic. Balsamo will-ingly ministered to the man's superstitions, and told him as a profound secret that in a nearby field was a buried treasure, which he could locate by the aid of magic ceremonies. But the operation necessitated some expensive preliminariesat least 60 ounces of gold would be required. To this very considerable sum Marano demurred, and Balsamo coolly asserted that he would enjoy the vast treasure alone. But the credulity of Marano was too strong for his better sense, and at length he agreed to furnish the necessary funds.

At midnight they sought the field where it the supposed treasure was hidden. Balsamo proceeded with his incantations, and Marano, terrified at their dreadful nature, fell to the ground in submission. He was then unmercifully attacked by a number of scoundrels whom Balsamo had collected for that purpose. Palermo rang with the affair, but Balsamo managed to escape to Messina, where he adopted the title "Count Cagliostro."

It was in this town where he first met with the mysterious Althotas. He was walking one day in the vicinity of the harbor when he encountered a person of singular dress and countenance. Attracted by his appearance, Cagliostro saluted him, and after some conversation the stranger offered to tell the pseudo count the story of his past and to reveal what was actually passing in his mind at that moment. Cagliostro was interested and made arrangements to visit the stranger.

Cagliostro duly appeared and was led along a narrow passage lit by a single lamp in a niche of the wall. At the end was a spacious apartment illuminated by wax candles and furnished with everything necessary for the practice of alchemy. Althotas expressed himself as a believer in the mutability of physical law (rather than magic), which he regarded as a science having fixed laws discoverable and reducible to reason. He proposed to depart for Egypt and to take Cagliostro with hima proposal that the latter joyfully accepted. Althotas informed Cagliostro that he possessed no funds but told him that it was an easy matter for him to make sufficient gold to pay the expenses of their voyage.

Accompanied by Cagliostro, Althotas penetrated into Africa and the heart of Egypt, visiting the pyramids, making the acquaintance of the priests of different temples, and receiving from them much knowledge. Following their Egyptian tour, they visited the principal kingdoms of Africa and Asia, and were subsequently located at Rhodes pursuing alchemical operations. At Malta they assisted the grandmaster Pinto, who was infatuated with alchemical experiments, and from that moment Althotas completely disappeared, the memoir of Cagliostro stating that during their residence at Malta he passed away.

On the death of his comrade, Cagliostro traveled to Naples. There he met with a Sicilian prince who conceived a strong predilection for his society and invited him to his castle near Palermo. He had not been long in Palermo when one day he traveled to Messina, where he encountered by chance one of his confederates in the affair of Marano the goldsmith. This man warned him not to enter the town of Palermo, and finally persuaded him to return to Naples to open a gambling house for the fleecing of wealthy foreigners. This scheme the pair carried out, but the Neapolitan authorities regarded them with such grave suspicion that they prudently removed themselves to the papal states. There they parted company, and regarding this time the alleged memoir of Cagliostro is not very clear. Later, in Rome, he established a fraudulent medical practice where he retailed concotions for all the diseases that humans can acquire; a setup that provided considerable wealth and luxury.

It was at this time that he met the young and beautiful Lorenza Feliciani, to whom he proposed marriage; her father, dazzled by Cagliostro's apparent wealth and importance, consented, and the marriage took place with some ceremony. All biographers of Cagliostro agree in stating that Lorenza was a thoroughly good woman, honest, devoted, and modest. The most dreadful accusations have been made concerning the manner in which Cagliostro treated his wife, and it has been alleged that he thoroughly ruined her character and corrupted her mind.

At last Caglistro and Lorenza arrived in Spain by way of Barcelona, where they stayed for six months, proceeding afterward to Madrid and Lisbon. From Lisbon they sailed to England, where Cagliostro lived by duping unwitting foreigners. An English "life of Cagliostro" tells of his adventures in London, how he was robbed of a large sum in plate, jewels, and money, and how he hired apartments in Whitcomb Street, where he spent most of his time in studying chemistry and physics, and giving away money.

In 1772 he returned to France with Lorenza and a certain Duplaisir. At this time it is said that Duplaisir eloped with Lorenza, and when Cagliostro obtained an order for her arrest, she was imprisoned in a penitentiary, where she was detained for several months. At this time Cagliostro had attracted attention in Paris with his alchemical successes. It was the period of mystic enthusiasm in Europe, when princes, bishops, and the nobility generally were keen to probe the secrets of nature, and alchemy.

Cagliostro went too far and eventually his benefactors began to seriously doubt his honesty. He was forced to flee to Brussels, where he made his way to his native town of Palermo. He was immediately arrested by the goldsmith Marano. A certain nobleman, however, interested himself on his behalf, procured his release, and Cagliostro embarked with Lorenza for Malta. From that island they soon retired to Naples, and from there to Marseilles and Barcelona. Their progress was marked by considerable state, and having cheated an alchemist of 100,000 crowns under the pretence of achieving some alchemical secret, they fled to England.

During his second visit to London Cagliostro was initiated into Freemasonry and conceived his great idea of employing that system for his own gain. He incessantly visited the various London lodges and ingratiated himself with their principals and officials. At this time he supposedly picked up a manuscript at an obscure London bookstall that is said to have belonged to a certain George Gaston. This document dealt with the mysteries of Egyptian Masonry and abounded in magical and mystical references. It was from this, that Cagliostro allegedly gathered his occult inspirations.

After another tour through Holland, Italy, and Germany, he paid a visit to the Count de St. Germain. In his usual eccentric manner, St. Germain arranged their meeting for the hour of two o'clock in the morning, at which time Cagliostro and Lorenza presented themselves before the count's temple of mystery.

The Count de St. Germain sat upon the altar, and at his feet two acolytes swung golden censers. In the book Lives of the Alchemystical Philosophers, published anonymously in 1815, this inter-view is thus detailed:

"The divinity bore upon his breast a diamond pentagram of almost intolerable radiance. A majestic statue, white and diaphanous, upheld on the steps of the altar a vase inscribed, 'Elixir of Immortality,' while a vast mirror was on the wall, and before it a living being, majestic as the statue, walked to and fro. Above the mirror were these singular words'Store House of Wandering Souls.' The most solemn silence prevailed in this sacred retreat, but at length a voice, which seemed hardly a voice, pronounced these words'Who are you? Whence come you? What would you?' Then the Count and Countess Cagliostro prostrated themselves, and the former answered after a long pause, 'I come to invoke the God of the faithful, the Son of Nature, the Sire of Truth. I come to demand of him one of the fourteen thousand seven hundred secrets which are treasured in his breast, I come to proclaim myself his slave, his apostle, his martyr.'

"The divinity did not respond, but after a long silence, the same voice asked:'What does the partner of thy long wanderings intend?'

" 'To obey and to serve,' Lorenza answered. "Simultaneously with her words, profound darkness succeeded the glare of light, uproar followed on tranquillity, terror on trust, and a sharp and menacing voice cried loudly:'Woe to those who cannot stand the tests.'

"Husband and wife were immediately separated to undergo their respective trials, which they endured with exemplary fortitude and which are detailed in the text of their memoirs. When the romantic mummery was over, the two postulants were led back into the temple with the promise of admission to the divine mysteries. There a man mysteriously draped in a long mantle cried out to them: 'Know ye that the arcanum of our great art is the government of mankind, and that the one means to rule them is never to tell them the truth. Do not fool-ishly regulate your actions according to the rules of common sense; rather outrage reason and courageously maintain every unbelievable absurdity. Remember that reproduction is the palmary active power in nature, politics and society alike; that it is a mania with mortals to be immortal, to know the future without understanding the present, and to be spiritual while all that surrounds them is material.'

"After this harangue the orator genuflected devoutly before the divinity of the temple and retired. At the same moment a man of gigantic stature led the countess to the feet of the immortal Count de St. Germain who thus spoke:

" 'Elected from my tenderest youth to the things of greatness, I employed myself in ascertaining the nature of veritable glory. Politics appeared to me nothing but the science of deception, tactics the art of assassination, philosophy the ambitious imbecility of complete irrationality; physics fine fancies about Nature and the continual mistakes of persons suddenly transplanted, into a country which is utterly unknown to them; theology the science of the misery which results from human pride; history the melancholy spectacle of perpetual perfidy and blundering. Thence I concluded that the statesman was a skillful liar, the hero an illustrious idiot, the philosopher an eccentric creature, the physician a pitiable and blind man, the theologian a fanatical pedagogue, and the historian a word-monger. Then did I hear of the divinity of this temple. I cast my cares upon him, with my incertitudes and aspirations. When he took possession of my soul he caused me to perceive all objects in a new light; I began to read futurity. This universe so limited, so narrow, so desert, was now enlarged. I abode not only with those who are, but with those who were. He united me to the loveliest women of antiquity. I found it eminently delectable to know all without studying anything, to dispose of the treasures of the earth without the solicitations of monarchs, to rule the elements rather than men. Heaven made me liberal; I have sufficient to satisfy my taste; all that surrounds me is rich, loving, predestinated.'

"When the service was finished the costume of ordinary life was resumed. A superb repast terminated the ceremony. During the course of the banquet the two guests were informed that the Elixir of Immortality was merely Tokay coloured green or red according to the necessities of the case. Several essential precepts were enjoined upon them, among others that they must detest, avoid, and calumniate men of understanding, but flatter, foster, and blind fools, that they must spread abroad with much mystery the intelligence that the Court de St. Ger-main was five hundred years old, and that they must make gold, but dupes before all."

Traveling into Courland (western Latvia), Cagliostro and his wife succeeded in establishing several Masonic lodges according to the rite of what he called Egyptian Freemasonry. Persons of high rank flocked around the couple, and it is even said that he plotted for the sovereignty of the grand duchy. It is also alleged that he collected a very large treasure of presents and money and set out for St. Petersburg, where he established himself as a physician.

A large number of medical cures have been credited to Cagliostro throughout his career, and his methods have been the subject of considerable controversy. But there is little doubt that the basis of them was a species of mesmeric influence. It has been said that he trusted simply to the laying on of hands, that he charged nothing for his services, and that most of his time was occupied in treating the poor.

Returning to Germany, he was received in most of the towns through which he passed as a benefactor of the human race. Some regarded his cures as miracles, others as sorceries, while he himself asserted they were effected by celestial aid.

For three years Cagliostro remained at Strasbourg, honored and praised by all. He formed a strong friendship with the cardinal-archbishop, the Prince de Rohan, who was fired by the idea of achieving alchemical successes. Cagliostro accomplished supposed transmutations under his eyes, and the prince, delighted with the seeming successes, lavished immense sums upon him. He even believed that the elixir of life was known to Cagliostro and built a small house in which he was to undergo a physical regeneration.

When he depleted the prince's finances, Cagliostro went to Lyons, where he occupied himself with the foundation of headquarters for his Egyptian Masonic rite. He then proceeded to Paris, where he assumed the role of master of practical magic and evoked phantoms that he caused to appear at the wish of the inquirer in a vase of clear water or in a mirror. Occult authority Arthur E. Waite suggested that in this connection fraud was an impossibility and appears to lean toward the theory that the visions evoked by Cagliostro were such as occur in crystal gazing and believed no one was more astonished than the Count himself at the results he obtained. Paris rang with his name and he received the appellation "the Divine Cagliostro."

Introduced to the court of Louis XVI, Cagliostro succeeded in evoking apparitions in mirrors before many spectators these apparitions included many deceased persons especially selected by those present. His residence was isolated and surrounded by gardens, and there he established a laboratory. His wife affected great privacy and only appeared, in a costume, at certain hours and before a very select company. This heightened the mystery surrounding them, and the elite of Parisian society vied with one another to be present at their magic suppers, at which the evocation of the illustrious dead was the principal amusement. It is even stated that deceased statesmen, authors, and nobles took their seats at Cagliostro's supper table.

Cagliostro's grand objective, however, appeared to have been the spread of his Egyptian Masonic rite. The lodges he founded were androgynalthey admitted both men and women. The ladies were instructed by the master's wife, who figured as the grand mistress of the order, her husband adopting the title of Grand Copt.

There is little doubt that a good deal of money was subscribed by the neophytes of the various lodges. Each woman who joined sacrificed on the altar of mysticism no less than 100 louis, and Cagliostro's immense wealth was established from the numerous gifts that were showered upon him by the powerful and wealthy for the purpose of furthering his Masonic schemes. Although he lived in considerable magnificence, Cagliostro by no means led a life of abandoned luxury, for there is evidence that he gave away vast sums to the poor and needy, attended the sick, and played the part of healer and reformer.

A great deal of mystery surrounded the doings of the Egyptian Masonry in its headquarters in the Faubourg Saint Honoré, and the séances for initiation took place at midnight. The writer Louis Figuier and the Marquis de Luchet gave striking accounts of what occurred during the female initiations. Figuier observed:

"On entering the first apartment the ladies were obliged to disrobe and assume a white garment, with a girdle of various colors. They were divided into six groups, distinguished by the tint of their cinctures. A large veil was also provided, and they were caused to enter a temple lighted from the roof, and furnished with thirty-six arm-chairs covered with black satin. Lorenza clothed in white, was seated on a species of throne, supported by two tall figures, so habited that their sex could not be determined. The light was lowered by degrees till surrounding objects could scarcely be distinguished, when the Grand Mistress commanded the ladies to uncover their left legs as far as the thigh, and raising the right arm to rest it on a neighboring pillar. Two young women then entered sword in hand, and with silk ropes bound all the ladies together by the arms and legs."

"After a period of silence, Lorenza pronounced an oration which preached emancipation of womankind from the bonds imposed on them by the lords of creation.

"These bonds were symbolized by the silken ropes from which the fair initiates were released at the end of the harangue, when they were conducted into separate apartments, each opening onto the garden. There some were pursued by men who persecuted them with solicitations; others encountered admirers who sighed in languishing postures at their feet. More than one discovered the counterpart of her own love, but the oath they had all taken necessitated the most inexorable inhumanity, and all faithfully fulfilled what was required of them. The new spirit infused into the regenerated women triumphed along the whole line of the thirty-six initiates, who with intact and immaculate symbols reentered the temple to receive the congratulations of the sovereign priestess.

"When they had breathed a little after their trials, the vaulted roof opened suddenly, and, on a vast sphere of gold, there descended a man, naked as the unfallen Adam, holding a serpent in his hand, and having a burning star upon his head.

"The Grand Mistress announced that this was the genius of Truth, the immortal, the divine Cagliostro, issued without procreation from the bosom of our father Abraham, and the depositary of all that hath been, is, or shall be known on the universal earth. He was there to initiate them into the secrets of which they had been fraudulently deprived. The Grand Copt thereupon commanded them to dispense with the profanity of clothing, for if they would receive truth they must be as naked as itself. The sovereign priestess setting the example unbound her girdle and permitted her drapery to fall to the ground, and the fair initiates following her example exposed themselves in all the nudity of their charms to the magnetic glances of the celestial genius, who then commenced his revelations.

"He informed his daughters that the much abused magical art was the secret of doing good to humanity. It was the initiation into the mysteries of Nature, and the power to make use of her occult forces. The visions which they had beheld in the Garden where so many had seen and recognised those who were dearest to their hearts, proved the reality of hermetic operations. They had shewn themselves worthy to know the truth; he undertook to instruct them by gradations therein. It was enough at the outset to inform them that the sublime end of that Egyptian Freemasonry which he had brought from the very heart of the Orient was the happiness of mankind. This happiness was illimitable in its nature, including material enjoyments as much as spiritual peace, and the pleasures of the understanding."

At the end of this harangue the Grand Copt once more seated himself upon the sphere of gold and was borne away through the roof.

The Affair of the Diamond Necklace

It was during this period that Cagliostro became implicated in the extraordinary affair of a diamond necklace. He had been on terms of great intimacy with the Cardinal de Rohan. Count-ess de Lamotte had petitioned that prince for a pension on account of long aristocratic descent. De Rohan greatly desired to become first minister of the throne, but Marie Antoinette, the queen, disliked him and stood in the way of this an honor.

Lamotte soon discovered this and, for purposes of her own, told the cardinal that the queen favored his ambitions. She then either forged, or procured someone else to forge, letters to the cardinal claiming to come from the queen, some of which begged for money for a poor family in which her majesty was interested. Rohan was anxious to please the queen but was already heavily in debt and had also misappropriated the funds of various institutions; he was thus driven into the hands of moneylenders.

The wretched Countess de Lamotte met by chance a poor woman whose resemblance to the queen was exceedingly marked. This person she trained to represent Marie Antoinette, and arranged nightly meetings between her and Rohan, in which the disguised woman made all sorts of promises to the cardinal. Between them the adventuresses mulcted the unfortu-nate prelate of immense sums of money.

Meanwhile, a certain Bähmer, a jeweler, was very desirous of selling a wonderful diamond necklace in which, for over ten years, he had locked up his whole fortune. Hearing that Mme. de Lamotte had great influence with the queen, he approached her for the purpose of getting her to induce Marie Antoinette to purchase it. She at once corresponded on the matter with de Rohan, who proceeded posthaste to Paris, to be told by Mme. de Lamotte that the queen wished him to be security for the purchase of the necklace, for which she had agreed to pay 1,600,000 livres in four half-yearly installments.

The cardinal was naturally overwhelmed at the suggestion but signed the agreement, and Mme. de Lamotte became the possessor of the necklace. She speedily broke it up, picking the jewels from their setting with an ordinary penknife.

Matters went smoothly enough until the date when the first installment of 400,000 livres became due. De Rohan, never dreaming that the queen would not meet it, could not lay his hands on such a sum; and Bähmer, noting his anxiety, mentioned the matter to one of the queen's ladies-in-waiting, who retorted that he must be mad, as the queen had never purchased the necklace at all. Bähmer went at once to Mme. de Lamotte, who laughed at him, said he was being fooled, insisted it had nothing to do with her, and told him to go to the cardinal. The terrified jeweler did not take her advice, however, but went instead to the king.

The amazed Louis XVI listened to the story quietly enough, then turned to the queen who was present. Marie Antoinette at once broke forth in a tempest of indignation. As a matter of fact, Bähmer had for years pestered her to buy the necklace; but the crowning indignity was that de Rohan, whom she cordially detested, should have been made the medium for such a scandalous disgrace in connection with her name. She at once decreed that the cardinal should be arrested. The king acquiesced in this, and shortly afterward the Countess de Lamotte, Cagliostro and his wife (who were implicated by the countess), and others followed the cardinal to the Bastille.

The trial that followed was one of the most sensational and stirring in the annals of French history. The king was blamed for allowing the affair to become public at all, and there the evidence of such conduct as displayed by aristocrats inflamed public opinion and may have hastened the French Revolution.

Mme. de Lamotte not only charged Cagliostro with the robbery of the necklace, but also invented for him a terrible past, designating him an empiric, alchemist, false prophet, and Jew. This is not the place to deal with the trial at length, but suffice it to say that Cagliostro easily proved his complete innocence. The Parisian public looked to Cagliostro to supply the comedy in this great drama, and assuredly they were not disappointed, for he provided them with what must be described as one of the most romantic, fanciful, and absurd life stories in the history of autobiography.

His Last Years

Although proved innocent, he had offended so many people in high places that he was banished, amid shouts of laughter from everyone in the court. Even the judges were convulsed, but on his return from the courthouse the mob cheered him heartily.

If he had accomplished nothing else, he had at least won the hearts of the populace by his kindness and the many acts of faithful service he had lavished upon them; and it was partly owing to this popularity, and partly to the violent hatred of the court, that he owed the reception accorded him.

He was reunited with his wife and shortly afterward took his departure for London, where he was received with considerable éclat. There he addressed a letter to the people of France, which obtained wide circulation and predicted the French Revolution, the demolishment of the Bastille, and the downfall of the monarchy. Following this, the Courier de l'Europe, a French paper published in London, printed a so-called exposure of the real life of Cagliostro from beginning to end. From that moment, his descent was headlong. His reputation had preceded him in Switzerland and Austria, and he could find no rest there.

At last he and Lorenza journeyed to Rome. In the beginning he was well received and was even entertained by several cardinals. He privately studied medicine and lived quietly, but he made the great mistake of attempting to further his Masonic ideas within the bounds of the papal states. Masonry was of course anathema to the Roman church; and upon attempting to found a lodge in the Eternal City itself, he was arrested on September 27, 1789, by order of the Holy Inquisition and imprisoned in the castle of Saint Angelo.

His examination occupied his inquisitors for no less than eighteen months, and he was sentenced to death on April 7, 1791. He was recommended to mercy, however, and the pope commuted his sentence to perpetual imprisonment in the castle of Saint Angelo. On one occasion he made a desperate attempt to escape. Requesting the services of a confessor, he attempted to strangle the brother sent to him, but the burly priest, in whose habit he had intended to disguise himself, proved too strong and quickly overpowered him.

Afterward he was imprisoned in the solitary castle of San Leo near Montefeltro, where he died and was interred in 1795. The manner of his death is unknown.

The Countess Cagliostro's wife was also sentenced by the Inquisition to imprisonment for life. She was confined in the Convent of St. Appolonia, a penitentiary for women in Rome, where it is rumored that she died in 1794.

Cagliostro's manuscript volume entitled "Egyptian Freemasonry" fell with his other papers into the hands of the Inquisition and was solemnly condemned by it as subversive to the interests of Christianity. It was publicly burned; but oddly enough the Inquisition set apart one of its brethren to concoct some kind of life of Cagliostro, which did include particulars concerning his Masonic methods.

Cagliostro as Occult Hero

W. R. H. Trowbridge, one of Cagliostro's biographers, made a convincing case that Cagliostro was not the same as Joseph Balsamo, with whom his detractors have identified him. Balsa-mo was a Sicilian vagabond adventurer, and the statement that he and Cagliostro were one and the same person originally rests on the word of the editor of the Courier de l'Europe, and upon an anonymous letter from Palermo to the chief of the Paris police.

According to Trowbridge, the fact that the names of Cagliostro's wife and the wife of Balsamo were identical amounted to little more than coincidence, as the name Lorenza Feliciani was a very common one in Italy. He also claimed in his biography that the testimony of the handwriting experts as to the remarkable similarity between the writing of Balsamo and Cagliostro was worthless and stated that nobody who had known Balsamo ever saw Cagliostro. He also pointed out that Balsamo, who had been in England in 1771, was "wanted" by the London police. How was it then that six years afterward they did not recognize him in Count Cagliostro, who spent four months in a debtors' prison there, for no fault of his own?

The whole evidence against Cagliostro's character rested with the editor of the Courier de l'Europe and his Inquisition biographer, neither of whom could be credited for various reasons. For instance, it must be recollected that the narrative of the Inquisition biographer was supposed to be based upon the confessions of Cagliostro under torture in the castle of Saint Angelo. Neither was the damaging disclosure of the editor of the Courier de l'Europe at all topical, as he raked up matter which was at least fourteen years old, and of which he had no personal knowledge.

Trowbridge also claimed that the dossier discovered in the French archives in 1783, which was supposed to embody Madame Cagliostro's confessions when she was imprisoned regarding the career of her husband, was a forgery. He further disposes of the statements that Cagliostro lived on the immoral earnings of his wife.

A born adventurer, Cagliostro was by no means a rogue, as revealed by his beneficence. It is unlikely that the various Masonic lodges that he founded and that were patronized by persons of ample means provided him extensive funds, and it is a known fact that he was subsidized by several extremely wealthy men, who, themselves dissatisfied with the state of affairs in Europe, did not hesitate to place their riches at his disposal for the purpose of undermining the tyrannical powers that then wielded sway.

There is reason to believe that he had at some period of his life acquired a certain working knowledge of practical occultism and that he possessed certain elementary psychic powers of hypnotism and telepathy.

But on the whole, Cagliostro remains a mystery, and in all likelihood the clouds that surround his origin and early years will never be dispersed. Although Cagliostro was by no means an exalted character, he was one of the most picturesque figures in the later history of Europe, and assuredly the aura of mystery that surrounds his origin does not in the least detract from his appeal.


Funck-Brentano, Frantz. Cagliostro and Company. London, 1900.

Gervaso, Roberto. Cagliostro: A Biography. London, 1974.

Trowbridge, W. R. H. Cagliostro: The Splendour and Misery of a Master of Magic. London, 1910. Reprinted as Cagliostro: Savant or Scoundrel? New York: Gordon Press, 1975. Reprinted as Cagliostro: Maligned Freemason and Rosicrucian. Kila, Mont.: Kessiger Publishing, 1992.