One of the most mysterious characters in modern history is the famous Count de St. Germain, described by his friend Prince Karl von Hesse as “one of the greatest philosophers who ever lived, the friend of humanity, whose heart was concerned only with the happiness of others.” Intimate and counselor of Kings and Princes, nemesis of deceptive ministers, Rosicrucian, Mason, accredited Messenger of the Masters of Wisdom — the Count de St. Germain worked in Europe for more than a century, faithfully performing the difficult task which had been entrusted to him.
The amazing and inscrutable personality in which the Adept known as St. Germain clothed himself was the outstanding topic of conversation among the nobility of the eighteenth century. During the 112 years that he is said to have lived in Europe, he always presented the appearance of a man about forty-five years of age. He was of medium height, with a slender, graceful figure, a captivating smile, and eyes of peculiar beauty. “Oh, what eyes!” sighed the Countess d’Adhémar. “I have never seen their equal!” He was an extraordinary linguist, speaking French, German, English, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian and Swedish without the slightest trace of an accent, and his knowledge of Sanscrit, Chinese and Arabic showed that he was well acquainted with the East. His proficiency in music was equally remarkable. As a violinist he is said to have rivalled Paganini, while his performances on the harpsichord called forth enthusiastic applause from Frederick the Great. His ability to improvise made a great impression on Rameau, who met him in Venice in 1710. St. Germain was also a composer. One of his musical compositions was given to Tchaikowski, Prince Ferdinand von Lobkowitz inherited a second, while two others, bearing the dates 1745 and 1760, are the property of the British Museum.
The Count de St. Germain was also a painter of rare ability, famed for his power to reproduce the original brilliance of precious stones on canvas. Although he refused to betray his secret, it was commonly supposed that he produced the effect by mixing powdered mother-of-pearl with his pigments. He was highly esteemed as an art critic and was frequently consulted in regard to the authenticity of paintings.
The prodigious memory of the Count de St. Germain was a constant source of amazement to his friends. He would merely glance at a paper, and days afterward repeat its contents without missing a word. He was ambidextrous, and could write a poem with one hand while he framed a diplomatic paper with the other. He frequently read sealed letters without touching them and was known to answer questions before they had been put into words.
Many of St. Germain’s friends had practical proof of his alchemical knowledge. Casanova relates that one day while visiting St. Germain in his laboratory, the latter asked for a silver coin. In a few moments it was returned to Casanova as pure gold. St. Germain also possessed the secret of melting several small diamonds into one large stone, an art learned in India, he said. While visiting the French Ambassador to The Hague, he broke up a superb diamond of his own manufacture, the duplicate of which he had recently sold for 5500 louis d’or. On another occasion he removed a flaw from a diamond belonging to Louis XV, increasing the value of the stone by 4000 livres. On gala occasions he appeared with a diamond ring on every finger and with shoe-buckles estimated to be worth at least 200,000 francs.
The charming personality of the Count de St. Germain made him a welcome guest in the homes of the nobility of every land. But while he often sat at table with his friends, his own food was specially prepared for him in his own apartments. He ate no meat and drank no wine, his favorite beverage being a tea which he prepared from certain herbs, and which he frequently presented to his friends. His extraordinary popularity was due to his prowess as a raconteur, to his well known intimacy with the greatest men and women of the day, to his familiarity with occult subjects, and especially to the mystery of his birth and nationality, which he consistently refused to reveal. He spoke with feeling of things which had happened hundreds of years in the past, giving the impression that he himself had been present. One evening, while he was recounting an event which had happened many centuries before, he turned to his butler and asked if any important details had been omitted. “Monsieur le Comte forgets,” his butler replied, “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, as many claimed, St. Germain affirmed that he had lived in Chaldea and possessed the secrets of the Egyptian sages, he may have spoken the truth without making any miraculous claim. There are Initiates, and not necessarily of the highest, who are able to recall many of their past lives. This may have been St. Germain’s way of calling attention of his friends to the doctrine of reincarnation. Or perhaps he knew the secret of “the Elixir of Life.”
Although no one knew when the Count de St. Germain was born, his life from 1710 to 1822 is a matter of history. Both Rameau and the Countess de Georgy met him in Venice in 1710. Fifty years later the aged Countess met him in Madame Pompadour’s house and asked him if his father had been in Venice in that year. “No, Madame,” the Count replied, “but I myself was living in Venice at the end of the last and the beginning of this century. I had the honor to pay you court then, and you were kind enough to admire a little Barcarolle of my composing.” The Countess could not believe her ears. “But if that is true,” she gasped, “you must be at least a hundred years old!” The Count smiled. “That, Madame, is not impossible!”
In 1723 the Count showed his mother’s portrait, which he always wore on his arm, to the mother of the future Countess de Genlis. It was a miniature of an exceptionally beautiful woman, dressed in a costume unfamiliar to the Countess. “To what period does this costume belong?” the Countess inquired. The Count merely smiled and changed the subject.
From 1737 to 1742 the Count de St. Germain was living in the Court of the Shah of Persia, occupied with alchemical research. On his return from Persia he settled in Versailles and became an intimate friend of Louis XV and Madame Pompadour. In the following year he was caught in the Jacobite Revolution in England. From there he went to Vienna, and afterward visited Frederick the Great in his castle of Sans-Souci in Potsdam, where Voltaire was also an honored guest. Although Voltaire was opposed to St. Germain’s fellow-Theosophist Saint-Martin, his admiration for St. Germain was unbounded. In a letter to Frederick, Voltaire expressed his opinion that “the Count de St. Germain is a man who was never born, who will never die, and who knows everything.”
In 1755 the Count de St. Germain accompanied General Clive to India. On his return to France Louis XV gave him a suite of apartments in the Royal Chateau of Chambord, in Touraine. Here he often entertained the King and members of the Court in the alchemical laboratory which the King had provided for him.
In 1760 Louis sent the Count de St. Germain on a delicate diplomatic mission to The Hague and London. At that time he discovered that the Duc de Choiseul, who up to that time had been implicitly trusted by the King, was playing a double game. Although St. Germain confided this fact to the King, the former was determined that the Peace Treaty between England and France should be signed, no matter who received the credit. So one evening in May, 1761, St. Germain called upon the Duc de Choiseul and remained closeted with him the whole night. This conference resulted in the celebrated alliance known as the Family Compact. This in its turn was the forerunner of the Treaty of Paris, which brought the colonial war between England and France to a close.
In the following year St. Germain was called to St. Petersburg, where he played an important part in the revolution which placed Catherine the Great upon the throne of Russia. He left the country in the uniform of a Russian general, with full credentials to which the imperial seal of Russia was affixed. Shortly afterward he appeared in Tunis and Leghorn while the Russian fleet was there, again in Russian uniform, and known under the name of Graf Saltikoff.
After the death of Louis XV in 1774, St. Germain spent several years travelling in Germany and Austria. Among the Kings, Princes, Ambassadors and scholars who met him during those years, how many suspected that the soul of a great Adept looked out through the eyes of the Count de St. Germain? How many realized that they were conversing with an emissary of that Great Fraternity of Perfected Men who stand behind the scenes of all the great world-dramas, one who was directing not only the minor currents of European history, but some of the major currents as well? How many were aware of St. Germain’s real mission, part of which was the introduction of Theosophical principles into the various occult fraternities of the day?
The Rosicrucian organizations were certainly helped by him. While Christian Rosencreuz, the founder of the Order, transmitted his teachings orally, St. Germain recorded the doctrines in figures, and one of his enciphered manuscripts became the property of his staunch friend, Prince Karl von Hesse. H.P.B. mentions this manuscript in The Secret Doctrine (II, 202) and quotes at length from another (II, 582). While St. Germain was living in Vienna he spent much of his time in the Rosicrucian laboratory on the Landstrasse, and at one time lived in the room which Leibniz occupied in 1713. St. Germain also worked with the Fratres Lucis, and with the “Knights and Brothers of Asia” who studied Rosicrucian and Hermetic science and made the “philosopher’s stone” one of the objects of their research.
Although an effort has been made to eliminate St. Germain’s name from modern Masonic literature, careful research into Masonic archives will prove that he occupied a prominent position in eighteenth century Masonry. He acted as a delegate to the Wilhelmsbad Convention in 1782 and to the great Paris Convention of 1785. Cadet de Gassicourt described him as a travelling member of the Knights Templar, and Deschamps says that Cagliostro was initiated into that Order by St. Germain.
The Count de St. Germain is said to have died on February 27, 1784, and the Church Register of Eckernförde in Danish Holstein contains the record of his death and burial. But as it happens, some of St. Germain’s most important work was done after that date. This fact is brought out in the Souvenirs de Marie-Antoinette, written by one of her ladies-in-waiting, the Countess d’Adhémar. This diary was started in 1760 and ended in 1821, one year before the death of the Countess, and a large part of it is concerned with St. Germain’s efforts to avert the horrors of the French Revolution.
Early one Sunday morning in 1788 the Countess was surprised to receive a visit from the Count de St. Germain, whom she had not seen in several years. He warned her that a giant conspiracy was under foot, in which the Encyclopaedists would use the Duc de Chartres in an effort to overthrow the monarchy, and asked her to take him to the Queen. When Madame d’Adhémar reported the conversation to Marie-Antoinette, the Queen confessed that she also had received another communication from this mysterious stranger who had protected her with warnings from the day of her arrival in France. On the following day St. Germain was admitted into the private apartments of the Queen. “Madame,” he said to her, “for twenty years I was on intimate terms with the late King, who deigned to listen to me with kindness. He made use of my poor abilities on several occasions, and I do not think he regretted giving me his confidence.” After warning her of the serious condition of France, he asked her to communicate his message to the King and to request the King not to consult with Maurepas. But the King ignored the warning, and went directly to Maurepas, who immediately called upon Madame d’Adhémar. In the midst of the conversation St. Germain appeared. He confronted Maurepas with his treachery and said to him: “In opposing yourself to my seeing the monarch, you are losing the monarchy, for I have but a limited time to give to France. This time over, I shall not be seen here again, until after three successive generations have gone down to the grave,”
The second warning from St. Germain came on July 14, 1789, when the Queen was saying farewell to the Duchesse de Polignac. She opened the letter and read: “My words have fallen on your ears in vain, and you have reached the period of which I informed you. All the Polignacs and their friends are doomed to death. The Comte d’Artois will perish.”
His farewell letter, addressed to Madame d’Adhémar, arrived on October 5, 1789. “All is lost, Countess!” he wrote. “This sun is the last which will set on the monarchy. Tomorrow it will exist no more. My advice has been scorned. Now it is too late. . . .” In that letter he asked the Countess to meet him early the next morning. In that conversation the Count de St. Germain informed her that the time when he could have helped France was past. “I can do nothing now. My hands are tied by one stronger than myself. The hour of repose is past, and the decrees of Providence must be fulfilled.” He foretold the death of the Queen, the complete ruin of the Bourbons, the rise of Napoleon. “And you yourself?” the Countess asked. “I must go to Sweden,” he answered. “A great crime is brewing there, and I am going to try to prevent it. His Majesty Gustavus III interests me. He is worth more than his renown.” The Countess inquired if she would see him again. “Five times more,” he answered. “Do not wish for the sixth.”
True to his word, the Count de St. Germain appeared to the Countess d’Adhémar on five different occasions: at the beheading of the Queen; on the 18th Brumaire; the day following the death of the Duc d’Enghien in 1804; in January, 1813; on the eve of the assassination of the Duc de Berri in 1820. Presumably, the sixth time was on the day of her death, in 1822.
What happened to the Count de St. Germain after that date? Did he, as Andrew Lang asks, “die in the palace of Prince Karl von Hesse about 1780-85? Did he, on the other hand, escape from the French prison where Grosley thought he saw him, during the French Revolution? Was he known to Lord Lytton about 1860? Who knows?” Who, indeed. One of the Masters spoke of the “benevolent German Prince from whose house, and in whose presence he (St. Germain) made his last exit — home.”
In the last decade of the eighteenth century St. Germain confided his future plans to his Austrian friend, Franz Graeffer, saying,
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. Exactly in 85 years will people again set eyes on me. Farewell. (Kleine Wiener Memorien.)
These words were spoken in 1790. Eighty-five years from that date brings us to 1875. What part did St. Germain play in the Theosophical Movement of last century? What part is he going to play in the present century? H.P.B. gave a cryptic suggestion of the time when he would again appear:
The Count de St. Germain was certainly the greatest Oriental Adept Europe had seen during the last centuries. But Europe knew him not. Perchance some may recognize him at the next Terreur, which will affect all Europe when it comes, and not one country alone.
Was the event of which she spoke the last great War, or does the real Terreur still lie before us.