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vol. 3, p. 223
from Adyar archives of the International Theosophical Society
vol. 3 (1875-1878)


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< A New Contributor (continued from page 3-222) >

whomsoever in the spirit world any person desired to see. He was a philosopher of the highest rank, a friend of human progress, and a most determined enemy of the Papal establishment. It is not surprising that, having once put himself within the jurisdiction of such a merciless government as the latter, it should adopt the flimsiest pretext to arrest and condemn him to punishment; nor, even, that it should seek to blacken his memory by circulating falsehoods about him, which should make his name synonymous with charlatanism aid dishonesty.

Thanks to the labors of Mr. Sotheran, among the archives of the French government, the real character of this prodigy of the last century is now apparently displayed for our wonder and instruction.


Alessandro di Cagliostro; Impostor or Mortyr?
For From the Spiritual Scientist
[Societ; Rosie Crucis.]
[Editor of the “American Bibliopolilist;” and author of several genealogical works.]

The life of Cagliostro is one of the most wonderful, and yet least understood, in the annals of biography. This is owing to the fact that the Roman Catholic Church, having sacrificed him as a victim of her tyranny, has endeavored to falsify his character and labors, by an officially published, untruthful memoir, from which all of his biographers have taken their materials for compilation.

From having made his life a study, and had access to many unpublished documents, I am enabled to confidently assert that, instead of being a quack, charlatan and impostor, he was a philosopher, scientist, philanthropist, and one whom Spiritualism and Free Masonry should regard as a shining, eighteenth century light of their own peculiar doctrines.

He was a son of Emmanuel de Rohan, was brought up in Asia, in the palace of an Eastern monarch, and was at an early age doctrinalized into Oriental Illuminism, Theurgic Magic and Spiritualism. After a long series of travels through the principal countries of Europe, he was ordered by the political secret societies to assist in bringing about the destination of the French monarchy, which he effectually did, being furnished with ample funds by those societies. This circumstance being unknown, his wealth was attributed to other sources by his enemies, as was not unnatural to expect.

Contemporary accounts concur in stating that the noblest, most learned and richest men in Europe fairly worshipped him on account of his almost miraculous cures of apparently hopeless diseases, his benevolence and his knowledge of Spiritualism, mesmerism, and the occult sciences generally; also that his assistance in movement towards political regeneration, endeared him to the common people.

The most notorious circumstance in his beneficent and eventful career, was his connection with the “Affair of the Diamond Necklace,” in which Mme. de la Motte figures, and from all nefarious participation in which he was, with his friend, the Cardinal de Rohan, honorably acquitted. While in Strasburg previously, the King of France and his Government, ordered that every attention should be paid him, and in Bordeaux, the Magistrates, to show their appreciation of him, had a military guard stationed in front of his house, night and day.

His hatred of religious and political tyranny having come to light, owing to his connection with the secret societies having been exposed, made him a marked man, and so great was the fear of his presence, that the Emperor of Austria and King of Sardinia banished him from their dominions. In 1789, boldly planting himself in the Papal Territory, he had the temerity to practice Spiritualism and Masonry. The Inquisition discovered him guarding a Masonic lodge, and for this crime, and for sorcery, he was sentenced to death; but the Pope commuted the nefarious verdict to perpetual imprisonment in the Castle of St. Leon, where in 1795, he died from the effects of torture and starvation.*

The biographies of this great man, published by the Inquisition and other authorities, are worthless in every respect and the statement of his real name being Balsamo or Cicho, false.

Cagliostro is charged with charlatanism, quackery, imposture and the use of jargon. Are these allegations proven? What was Alchemy? The foster mother of Chemistry, or the Chemical Science of the Medical Ages. Nobody can deny that if it had not been for Alchemy, Bacon would never have discovered gunpowder, nor Van Helmont, the properties of gas. Nor is this all we owe to Alchemy, for it conserved for the scientists of to-day all their bases of knowledge for the pursuits of further discoveries and inventions. Alchemy and Theurgic Magic still exist in the East, and when brought, as it frequently is, into contact with modem science, the devotees of the latter are powerless to explain results easily practicable to Oriental chemists and mediums. How can we be certain that the Transmutation of Metals and the Rosicrucian’s discovery of the Elixir Vitae are myths? But a few days ago, I read that a European chemist had found the secret of the manufacture of diamonds from sugar; yet this “discovery” appears to have been known to Cagliostro. Science is only in her swaddling-clothes to-day, and who can tell that she will not have to change her front in regard to Rosicrucian lore, as Lyell and Murchison were compelled tom the matter of geology? The “jargon” of Rosicrucian ism. Spiritualism and Alchemy is perfectly explicable to their disciples of to-day. I have no doubt that if we were to bring together a modern Greek and an Irishman from the wilds of Connemara, each would fancy the other was talking jargon, and yet neither Celtic nor Greek, as we know, are anything of the kind. Is not the Astronomy of to-day based on the Astrology of the past? Is Astrology, too, all untrue? It would seem not, for a very short time ago, in the action brought by “Zadkiel,”—Lieut. Morison of the British Royal Navy—against Admiral Belcher, I find that numbers of English noblemen, scientists and men of letters came forward, and, in the 44 broad daylight of the nineteenth century,” swore in open court to an unwavering belief in the astrology of the past. Are the Spiritualists. Magnetists and Mesmerists, too, all charlatans, impostors and quacks? If I had the effrontery to make so uncharitable and false a statement, men of science, and of real science, would throw the assertion back into my teeth, as Cagliostro did in the case of his envious detractors. Is Spiritualism really a delusion? If so, how is it that the Dialectical Societies and Prof. Crookes and Col. Olcott are confounded by the phenomena, and obliged to confess their utter incapacity to solve those problems, by aid of their knowledge of the ramification of the laws of nature and science.

The philanthrophy of Cagliostro alone entitles him to a pedestal by the side of John Howard and Wilberforce; he, this man whose benevolence filled hospitals of his own creation, where his profound medical knowledge was given without stint to those who needed it, and who, when cured, were net sent away empty-handed. His acquaintance with geology and the learned and abstruse sciences should place him in the ranks of the eighteenth century pioneers of this century’s discoveries; notwithstanding the fact that his disciples unhesitatingly in their reverence, but ignorance accredited him with miraculous cures and effects, which to-day aie quite explicable, but were then exaggerated to lengths as absurd as the miracles we read of in Buddhist and Xtian Hagiologies.

The assistance he gave to Free Thought, and his aid towards political reorganization, testified in the dissemination of I the principles of “Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite,” should endear him to our gratitude, equally with those other patriots to whom the people of Europe and America owe the blessings enjoyed to-day.

In conclusion; if we have as his inventive calumniators, a blackmailing editor and a Jesuit biographer, have we not in his record with others in his favor, the names of Lavater, Cardinal de Rohan, Mirabeau, Lord George Gordon, Talleyrand, Lord Lytton, Swedenborg, Lafayette, the jurists of Bordeaux, the Masonic Brotherhood, and last, not least, Louis the Sixteenth and the Government of France.

[Greatly abridged and extracted from a Lecture delivered before the Liberal Club, N.Y., May 28, ‘75]

* Voluntarily? It was the boast of the Rosicrucians that they had entirely under their own control the time when they should die: they could exist for centuries, or pass away like a breath.— Ed. Scientist.]

Editor's notes

  1. Cagliostro by Sotheran, Charles, Spiritual Scientist, v. 2, No. 14, June 10, 1875, p. 163