COMTE DE SAINT GERMAIN
Alchemist, ascended master, consummate adventurer, notorious con-man… There are almost as many different theories regarding the Count de St. Germain as there are commentators on his extraordinary life. Despite being one of the most influential members of 18th Century society in Europe, he remains shrouded in utter mystery. One thing seems certain, though – during the entire period of seventy-four years that he is known for sure to have been active, he maintained the appearance of a fit, handsome man of forty five.
An engraving of the Count of St. Germain by Nicolas Thomas made in 1783, after a painting then owned by the Marquise d'Urfe and now apparently lost.Contained at the Louvre in France.
Despite being one of the most influential characters in modern history, the Count de St. Germain is also one of the most enigmatic. Karl, Prince of Hesse described him as one of the “greatest philosophers who ever lived – the friend of humanity, whose heart was concerned only with the happiness of others.” Despite a horde of such accolades from nobility right across Europe, nothing whatsoever is known of St. Germain’s early life – not even when or where it started.
The Count de St. Germain is remembered as a man of medium height, approximately 45 years old, with a slim figure, graceful bearing, a radiant smile and astonishingly lovely eyes. He was amazingly skilled in just about every area that it was possible to be skilled in. He spoke French, German, English, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Danish, Swedish, Arabic and Chinese fluently, without any trace of an accent. He played most musical instruments – Frederick the Great commended his skill with the Harpsichord – but his favourite was the violin. Paganini himself is known to have declared St. Germain his equal with the instrument. Two works that the Count composed are in the British Museum, whilst others were given to Tchaikovsky and Prince Ferdinand, amongst others.
St. Germain had more talents that the musical, though. His paintings were said to be reminiscent of Raphael and quite extraordinary in quality, particularly for his ability to perfectly render the shine of a gemstone on canvas; he was sought after as an art critic and as a verifier of paintings. His memory was so great that he could glance at a paper and then repeat it word for word days later, and he could write poetry with one hand whilst simultaneously drafting political missives with the other. His chief peculiarity was never eating or drinking with others, instead subsisting on a form of oat gruel he prepared himself, and drinking little other than a tea he personally brewed from dried herbs.
But his feats were greater than mere skill and quickness of mind can allow for. St. Germain was regularly said to be able to answer questions before they were spoken, and to know the content of letters before opening them. Casanova recorded that he visited St. Germain in his laboratory and handed the Count a silver coin which was returned, moments later – now made of solid gold. St. Germain also claimed to know how to melt small diamonds into larger single stones, and astonished the French Ambassador to Holland by smashing a huge diamond to pieces with a hammer – the twin of a stone he had just sold to a dealer for a princely sum. On another occasion, he amazed King Louis XV by melting a flaw out of one of his larger diamonds, increasing the value of the stone by a huge amount.
St. Germain claimed to have lived in ancient Chaldea, and to possess secrets of the Egyptian masters. He commonly spoke about times long past as if he himself had been there to witness them, right down to exacting details. One evening, while telling a story to some guests about an event that had happened many hundreds of years earlier, he nodded over to his butler and asked the man if he had left out anything important. The butler chided him gently: “Monsieur le Comte forgets that I have been with him only five hundred years. I could not, therefore, have been present at that occurrence. It must have been my predecessor.”
If the Count’s origin, birth, nationality and age remain matters of mystery, his presence in Europe through the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries is a matter of record. He first surfaced in Venice in 1710, where he met many people, including Rameau and the Countess de Georgy. The Countess met him again fifty years later, at a party thrown by Madame Pompadour, and asked him if his father had been in Venice in that year. The Count demurred. “No, Madame, but I myself was living in Venice at the end of the last century and the beginning of this. I had the honour of paying you court in 1710, and you were kind enough to admire a little music of my composition.” The Countess, shocked, declared that had indeed been the case, which meant that St. Germain had to be at least a century old. St. Germain just smiled.
All through the Eighteenth century, St. Germain left little ripples of amazement across the nobility of Europe. Every time, the descriptions of his appearance, talents and age remained the same. In 1723, the Countess de Genlis saw a portrait of St. Germain’s mother, but did not recognise the style of her clothes, and could not get the secretive count to comment. From 1737 to 1742, records show that he lived with the Shah of Persia and spent his time in alchemical research. When he returned, he spent a year in Versailles with Louis XV, and then got involved in the Jacobite Revolution in England. Once that was settled, he headed to spend time with Frederick the Great in Potsdam. He met Voltaire while he was there, and greatly impressed the man; Voltaire wrote to Frederick that in his opinion, “the Count de St. Germain is a man who was never born, who will never die, and who knows everything.”
The Comte de Saint Germain c. 1745
1755 saw St. Germain accompanying General Clive to India. A couple of years later, he was back in France, where Louis XV gave him a suite and laboratory in his royal chateau Chambord, in Touraine. In 1760, Louis sent St. Germain to Holland and England on a very delicate diplomatic mission, and it is thanks to his efforts that the historical Family Compact was signed between England and France, which led directly to the Treaty of Paris, and the end of the colonial wars. In 1761, St. Germain was in St. Petersburg in Russia, helping to put Catherine the Great upon the throne. He left the country as a full Imperial General of the Russian armies, and shortly afterwards was placed in Tunis with the Russian fleet, still in uniform, using the title of Graf Saltikoff. Other honours and titles he claimed or was awarded during his adventures included being named Marquis de Montferrat, Comte Bellamarre, Chevalier Schoening, Chevalier Weldon, Graf Tzarogy, and Prinz Ragoczy.
After Louis XV died in 1774, St. Germain spent several years in Austria and Germany, apparently introducing Theosophical notions into the occult and mystic organisations of the day – including the Rosicrucian Society in Vienna, the Knights Templar, the Fratres Lucis, and the Knights and Brothers of Asia. He was a delegate to the Freemason’s Wilhelmsbad Conference in 1782.
The Count de St. Germain officially died on February 27 1784, during chemical experiments in Eckernförde, near Schleswig in Denmark. There was no body, but his good friend, Karl, Prince of Hesse, attested to his death, and his death certificate can be found in the Eckernförde Church Register.
If he did die in Schleswig, it doesn’t seem to have slowed him down much. St. Germain is recorded as attending the great Masonic Paris Convention of 1785. He is then said to have had a very important interview with the Empress of Russia in 1786. After that, he went back to France in a last-ditch – unsuccessful – effort to help stave off the revolution.
The Countess d’Adhémar was one of French queen Marie-Antoinette’s ladies-in-waiting, and she kept extensive diaries of the period. St. Germain features several times. In 1788, St. Germain came to visit the Countess d’Adhémar, warned her that a conspiracy to overthrow the monarchy was underfoot, and asked her to take him to see the Queen. The countess reported the visit, and discovered that the Queen had received warnings herself. A meeting was arranged, and St. Germain asked the Queen to set up a meeting with the King – and to encourage him not to mention it to his minister, Maurepas. But the King ignored the warning, and called Maurepas for advice. The minister immediately went to see the Countess d’Adhémar. St. Germain appeared in the middle of the conversation, and informed Maurepas that his petty jealousy was about to destroy the French monarchy, because he didn’t have enough time to devote to saving it.
In 1789, having seemingly had to give up, St. Germain wrote to Queen Marie-Antoinette on July 14th, warning her that her friend the Duchesse de Polignac – who was visiting her – and all of that line and their friends were doomed to death. On October 5, Countess d’Adhémar got a letter saying that the sun had set on the French monarchy, and it was too late; his hands were tied “by one stronger than myself”. He prophesied the death of Marie Antoinette, the ruin of the royal family, and the rise of Napoleon. He himself would be going to Sweden to investigate King Gustavius III and to try to head off “a great crime.” He added that the Countess d’Adhémar would have sight of him five more times, but not to look forward to the sixth.
In 1790, St. Germain admitted his immediate plans to an Austrian friend, Franz Graeffer.
“Tomorrow night I am off. I am much needed in Constantinople, then in England, there to prepare two new inventions which you will have in the next century — trains and steamboats. Toward the end of this century I shall disappear out of Europe, and betake myself to the region of the Himalayas. I will rest; I must rest.”
The Countess d’Adhémar recorded five further occasions on which she saw the Count – fleeting visitations in 1799, 1802, 1804, 1813 and 1820. It is presumed that he also appeared to her on the day of her death, in 1822.
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 marvellous 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 rumour 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 civilisation 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 traveller be the Comte de Saint-Germain?
The Comte de Saint-Germain is always present with us. There will always be, as there were in the eighteenth century, mysterious doctors, enigmatic travellers, 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.