In examining the more colorful forms of spirituality that appeared during the Victorian and Edwardian eras, there are some interesting figures who movements like Theosophy drew upon and reimagined into a mythological status. The Compte Saint Germaine is perhaps one of the most notable.
In the 1700s a socialite adventurer possessing wit and intirgue could live their lives travelling the courts of Europe, entertaining and seducing their way through high society. Ask Casanova. Be delightful and interesting and the courts of Europe will open for you. You could indeed make a living thourgh sheer personality.
A figure such as Saint Germaine was perfect for such a role. He was a raconteur bar none (Raconteur: one who excels in telling stories and anecdotes) in an age where “conversation very nearly counted as one of the fine arts”. He was undeniably bright, colorful and highly intelligent. He knew six languages and was skilled musician, composer, painter and chemist as well as a bit of a physician. He loved to drop hints that he had been alive for centuries and had known some of the great figures of history with just enough detail to titillate. He was beloved even by those he defrauded.
As with many others of the day who made their way into high society through personality, his origins were very intentionally shrouded in mystery. He first showed up in Holland in 1735 and soon after made a splash in London. Those were early days of Freemasonry and Jacobite vs. Stuart conspiracies and Saint Germain soon found himself implicated in a Jacobite conspiracy. He was eventually cleared of all charges but none the less left the country quickly afterwards.
For the next 12 years he dashed around from Vienna to India before coming to France in 1757and becoming a sensation at Versailles. Saint Germaine was an extraordinary storyteller, the most charming and interesting person in any given room and a sublime boaster. The key was that he boasted of utterly incredible things not the least of which was being numerous centuries old, but was sharp and talented enough to pull off just enough doozies so that he remained impressive amongst those who didn’t buy the far fetched tales and inspired the less cynical into, if not belief, then the suspension of disbelief. King Louis XV thought highly enough of Saint Germain to entrust him with a secret diplomatic mission, however the mission went atrociously wrong and Saint Germain had to flee France in order to avoid a stay in the Bastille as punishment.
In 1762 he was in Holland, involved in a shady deal where a Dutch industrialist got taken for 100,000 gulden. He then lived in Italy and Germany. He won an honorary commision as a Russian general for providing the Russian navy with a healing tea (made with Senna) and eventually spent the last years of his life in the homes of various wealthy German noblemen who found his company worth the upkeep. He died in 1784.
All well and fine. He cut a dashing figure, inspired much talk and left a fairy amusing legend after his death. However, he has since become a strangely popular, larger than life, Master of Higher Worlds and all godlike knowledge figure within the the New Age movement.
How did this happen?
Well, for one thing, although Saint Germain was only a rather lukewarm Freemason, after his death some Lodges needed fodder for their ever increasing, newly uncovered hidden knowledge from which new and fun degrees and initiations could be invented. Actually, most Lodges were coming up with new degrees and “new uncovered knowledge” because going through new theatrical initiations is an enormous part of the fun of Freemasonry. So, Saint Germain, having left a bit of a legend, got used in some of these. This kept his name alive.
In 1836 a set of memoirs was published by a lady in waiting to Queen Marie Antoinette about the eve of the French Revolution. In them, they described how Saint Germain appeared to the Queen to warn her of the coming revolution. Naturally, these memoirs were eventually utterly discredited, but the legend was stoked.
Finally, Compte Saint Germain was picked up by Helena Blavatsky who pretty much wrote the entire blueprint for the eventual beliefs of the New Age movement. By the time she and her successor Annie Besant were done with him, Saint Germain had become one of the members of the Great White Lodge, the secret body of enlightened Masters who were guiding the world to its new age. The White Lodge eventually became the Ascended Masters, and Saint Germain, who had not been particularly interested in the occult or talked of it in any legnth, none the less became a central figure in the pantheon of those great Illuminated Ones communicating occult teachings from the Ascended Spheres to receptive New Agers down here in the muck. Seriously, in some circles, he is on par with Jesus, if not surpassing.
Fascinating, huh? And thus, in a way, Saint Germain did achieve a mark of immortality.