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Theosophical Encyclopedia

Saint-Germain, Comte De

(c. 1710–1784?). An eighteenth-century adept who was also called der Wundermann “the Wonderman,” being famous as a polyglot, musician, and chemist or alchemist. “Saint-Germain” is a pseudonym; and because several historical persons in the eighteenth century had that name, it is often unclear whether contemporary accounts of a Saint-Germain refer to the adept or to one of the other individuals who bore the name. The adept’s country of origin and real name are unknown. An emissary of the nephew of the German Emperor reported in 1777 that Saint-Germain said he was actually “Prince Rákóczy,” but his connection with the royal family of Transylvania is unknown.

Several accounts of eighteenth-century Saint- Germains may or may not refer to the same person. Horace Walpole, an English writer of the time, mentions in a letter that a Saint-Germain was in London in 1745 and that the Prince of Wales had an insatiable curiosity about him. This Saint-Germain was held on suspicion of spying for the Stuart pretender to the English throne, but released. He was a composer of music performed and published in England. The same or another Saint-Germain was later in France, where he was a friend of Madame Pompadour, the King’s mistress, and was an influential figure in the French Royal Court who served on diplomatic missions for King Louis XV. In 1760, this Saint-Germain went to England for political asylum. A Saint-Germain was in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1762, where he was involved with the replacement of Czar Peter III by Catherine the Great as Empress of Russia, but this may have been Claude-Louis de Saint-Germain, a French soldier instead of the adept.

By 1777, Saint-Germain was in Germany, where he and Prince Charles of Hesse-Cassel collaborated in the study of alchemy and other secret sciences. Prince Charles was involved with the Masonic Rite of the Strict Observance, which claimed Knight Templar origins for Freemasonry. Although there is no historical record of Saint-Germain’s being active in the Craft, Cagliostro later claimed to have received Masonic initiation from him and Helena P. BLAVATSKY reports that Saint-Germain passed on to an English Freemason “certain documents relating to the history of Masonry, and containing the key to more than one misunderstood mystery” (CW XI:184). She also asserts that he belonged to the Martinist-related Masonic Rite of the Philalethes, “whose members made a special study of the Occult Sciences” (CWXII: 82, 84 fn).

HPB had great respect for Saint-Germain, defending him from critical comments (CW II:125-9) as “a gentleman of magnificent talents and education.” She refers to him as one of the exceptional Westerners, along with Robert Fludd, Thomas Vaughan, Parcelsus, and Pico della Mirandola, whose “temperamental affinity” to esoteric science “more or less forced the distant [Eastern] Adepts to come into personal relations with them” (CW IV:607). She also calls Saint-Germain a “fifth-rounder,” that is, an individual far in advance of most human beings on the evolutionary scale (CW V:144-5), and an adept (HPB Speaks1:234). HPB says that Saint-Germain predicted the French Revolution “in every detail” (CW I:107 fn). Despite the fact that adepts do not involve themselves in plots or violence, she believes that he “brought about the just outbreak” of that revolution (CW VI:19), although the basis of her belief may be memoirs that have since been discredited. She frequently links Saint-Germain and Alessandro Cagliostro as maligned mages (CW IV:339, SD II:156), saying that, after those two, magic died out in Europe since the adepts, “having learned bitter lessons from the vilifications and persecutions of the past, pursue different tactics nowadays” (CW XIV:28, IU II:403).

HPB refers to a “cipher Rosicrucian manuscript” of Saint-Germain (IU I:575, CW II:193) that described the actual country known in the Bible as the Garden of Eden. And she reports that he was said to be in possession of a unique copy of a manuscript of the Kabbalah (SD 2:239) and to be the author of another manuscript on number symbolism (SD 2:582–3fns). HPB calls Saint-Germain “a living mystery,” who has “been met and recognized in different centuries,” alluding to the tradition that he knew the secret of prolonging life (CW I:109).

Saint-Germain is reported to have died in 1784, although also to have been seen in several places after that time. Henry S. Olcott (ODL 1:275) mentions a mah€tma who is “a Hungarian by birth,” usually assumed to be Saint-Germain because of his Transylvanian connections. In second-generation Theosophical tradition, Saint-Germain, often called the Master Rákóczy, is said to be the Chohan or head of the Seventh Ray, associated especially with ritual, and to have been in earlier incarnations the third century English proto martyr St. Alban and the fifth century Neo-Platonist Proclus (Leadbeater, The Masters and the Path, ch. 12), as well as the fourteenth century legendary Christian Rosenkreuz, the fifteenth century Hungarian governor and general in the Turkish wars Janos Hunyadi, a sixteenth century monk named Robertus, and the seventeenth century English philosopher Francis Bacon (Besant, Masters, 62) although given what we know of Francis Bacon’s character, that seems extremely doubtful. In Anglophone Co-Masonry, Saint-Germain is especially honored, being called “the Head of all true Freemasons throughout the world” and regarded as the patron of the Craft. These later traditions leave the realm of recorded history and enter that of esoteric legend. Biographical information may be found in CW III:523-8; Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology 2:1120–1; and Jean Overton Fuller’s Comte de Saint-Germain.

J.A.

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