Saint Germain, Comte de (ca. 1710-ca. 1780)
Saint Germain, Comte de (ca. 1710-ca. 1780)
One of the most celebrated mystic adventurers in history. Like Cagliostro and others of his kind, little is known concerning Saint Germain's origin, but there is reason to believe that he was a Portuguese Jew. There were claims that he was of royal birth, but these have never been substantiated.
It is fairly certain that he was an accomplished spy, for he resided at many European courts, spoke and wrote various languages, including Greek, Latin, Sanskrit, Arabic, Chinese, French, German, English, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish, and was even sent upon diplomatic missions by Louis XV. Horace Walpole mentioned him being in London about 1743 and being arrested as a Jacobite spy, but later being released.
Walpole wrote: "He is called an Italian, a Spaniard, a Pole, a somebody who married a great fortune in Mexico and ran away with her jewels to Constantinople, a priest, a fiddler, a vast nobleman. The Prince of Wales has had unsatiated curiosity about him, but in vain. However, nothing has been made out against him; he is released, and, what convinces me he is not a gentleman, stays here, and talks of his being taken up as a spy."
Saint Germain claimed to have lived for centuries and to have known Solomon, the Queen of Sheba, and many other persons of antiquity. Although regarded as a charlatan, the accomplishments upon which he based his reputation were in many ways real and considerable. He was alluded to by Baron Friedrich Melchior Grimm as the most capable and able man he had ever known. He was a composer of music and a capable performer on the violin.
This was especially the case regarding chemistry (or alchemy ), a science in which he was certainly adept. He claimed to have a secret for removing the flaws from diamonds, to be able to transmute metals, and to possess the secret of the elixir of life.
Five years after this London experience, Saint Germain attached himself to the court of Louis XV, where he exercised considerable influence over the monarch and was employed on several secret missions. He was much sought after and discussed, since at this time Europe was fascinated by the occult, and Saint Germain combined mystical conversation with a pleasing, flippant character, he was extremely popular. But he ruined his chances at the French court by interfering in a dispute between Austria and France, and he was forced to leave for England.
He resided in London for one or two years, but in 1762 was in St. Petersburg, where he is said to have assisted in the conspiracy that placed Catherine II on the Russian throne. After this he traveled in Germany, where he was reported in the Memoirs of Cagliostro to have become the founder of Freemasonry, and to have initiated Cagliostro into that rite. If Cagliostro's account can be credited, Saint Germain set about the business with remarkable splendor and bombast, posing as a "deity" and behaving in a manner calculated to delight pseudo-mystics of the age.
Saint Germain died at Schleswig, Germany, somewhere between the years 1780 and 1785, but the exact date of his death and its circumstances are unknown.
Assessing Saint Germain's Career
It would be difficult to say whether Saint Germain really possessed genuine occult power. A great many people of his own time thoroughly believed in him, but we must also remember the credulous nature of the age in which he flourished. It has been said that eighteenth-century Europe was skeptical regarding everything except occultism and its professors.
Saint Germain possessed a magnificent collection of precious stones, which some considered to be artificial, but others believed to be genuine. He presented Louis XV with a diamond worth 10,000 livres (a livre is an old French monetary unit).
All sorts of stories were in circulation concerning Saint Germain. One old lady professed to have encountered him at Venice fifty years before, posing as a man of sixty, and even his valet was supposed to have discovered the secret of immortality. On one occasion a visitor teased this man, asking if he had been present at the marriage of Cana in Galilee. "You forget, sir," was the reply, "I have only been in the Comte's service a century."
Legend has it that Saint Germain made various appearances after his death. He is said to have appeared to Marie Antoinette and to other individuals during the French Revolution. He was also believed to have been one of the Rosicrucians, from whom he obtained his occult knowledge.
The deathless count was also resurrected in modern times by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky as one of the masters of the Great White Brotherhood, and he thus became an important figure in all of the more than a hundred theosophical splinter groups now active. Guy W. Ballard claimed that Saint Germain had appeared to him at Mt. Shasta, California, and from Saint Germain's teachings, Ballard built the I Am Movement. The centrality of Saint Germain has been common to all "I Am"related groups such as the Bridge to Spiritual Freedom and the Church Universal and Triumphant. Within the New Age movement, a number of psychics have emerged channeling an entity called Saint Germain. In the 1970s, author Chelsea Quinn Yarbro drew on the Saint Germain story to begin production of a series of novels and short stories that describe the mysterious count as a vampire. The novels helped begin the current popular interest in the vampire as hero.
Cooper-Oakley, Isabel. The Comte de Saint-Germain. New York: S. Weiser, 1970.
King, Godfre Ray [Guy Ballard]. Unveiled Mysteries. Chicago: Saint Germain Press, 1934.
Lang, Andrew. Historical Mysteries. London: Smith, Elder, 1904.
Prophet, Elizabeth Clare. Saint Germain on Prophecy. Livingston, Mont.: Summit University Press, 1986.
Prophet, Mark L., and Elizabeth Clare Prophet. Saint Germain on Alchemy. Livingston, N.Y.: Summit University Press, 1962.
Seligmann, Kurt. Magic, Supernaturalism, and Religion. New York: Pantheon Press, 1971.
Wraxall, Lascelles. Remarkable Adventurers and Unrevealed Mysteries. 2 vols. London, 1863.
Yarbro, Chelsea Quinn. The Vampire Stories of Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. White Rock, BC: Transylvania Press, 1994.