Masonry and Magic in the Eighteenth Century
By Bro. Henry Evans, Litt.D
FREEMASONRY was carried from England to the Continent during the early part of the eighteenth century, and there underwent many bizarre transformations. Upon the three degrees of the Symbolic lodge were engrafted a multitude of so-called higher degrees, many of them exemplifying the mystical, hermetic and Rosicrucian doctrines of the period. Notwithstanding the fact that Elias Ashmole and other occultists in the seventeenth century joined the Order in England they left no appreciable impress upon it.
English Freemasonry in the eighteenth century was frankly humanitarian and convivial. The degree work was comparatively insignificant. The passing from labor to refreshment was quickly accomplished, and the evening spent in hilarious good fellowship, during which innumerable churchwardens (the long clay pipes of the period) were smoked, and many bowls of bishop emptied; songs and glees were sung, and speeches made.
Hogarth, in his "Night," caricatures the results of these convivial habits of the brethren. But in France and Germany the attention of Freemasonry, to a great degree, was centered on theosophical cults. The English Masons linked up the Craft with the ancient building guilds; the Continental brethren attributed the origin of the Order to the Knights Templar, who went to Palestine to recover the Holy Sepulchre from the Infidels, and there became indoctrinated with the mysticism of the East; while others contended that Masonry was derived from Rosicrucianism. The Fraternity in France and Germany attracted many educated men, who, having abandoned the dogmas of the historic church, sought an outlet for their philosophical tenets in Freemasonry. It was the Chevalier Ramsay, a Scotchman, who, in 1737, first broached the Templar origin of Masonry, claiming among other things that the Order was closely connected with the mysteries of Ceres at Eleusis, Isis in Egypt, and Minerva at Athens.
IN THE Masonic Rite of Schroeppfer we see one of the early attempts to link up Masonry with theurgic or magical practices. Its founder was Johann Georg Schroeppfer, an ex-hussar, who opened a cafe at Leipzig on October 29, 1768, and turned it into a Lodge of the Mysteries in 1772, very much on the order of that established by Cagliostro in France. "He pretended," says Mackey, in his Masonic Encyclopedia, "that he had been commissioned by Masonic Superiors to destroy the system of Strict Observance, whose adherents he abused and openly insulted. He boasted that he alone possessed the great secret of Freemasonry."
Little or nothing is known concerning the early career of this undoubted impostor. He claimed that he was the natural son of one of the French princes, and assumed the name of Baron von Steinbach. "His forte," says Gould, in his History of Freemasonry, "was calling spirits from the vasty deep." After many vicissitudes of fortune, among them a cudgelling in the guard-house of Leipzig, by order of the Duke of Courland, Schroeppfer, on October 8, 1774, gave his last spiritualistic seance. He invited the brethren to a sumptuous feast, "took a walk with them in the woods in the cool of the day, stepped aside and blew out his brains," and so passed from the lesser mysteries of life to the greater mysteries of death.
The mystical order established by Martinez de Pasqually next claims our attention. It was cabalistic and hermetic in its teachings, and was known as the Rite of Elected Cohens or Priests. It comprised the following grades:
(1) Apprentice, (2) Companion, (3) Particular Master (corresponding to the three Craft degrees), (4) Grand Elect Master, (5) Apprentice Cohen, (6) Companion Cohen, (7) Master Cohen, (8) Grand Master Architect, and (9) Knight Commander.
Little or nothing is known of the founder of this Rite, who is said by some writers to have been a Portuguese Jew, but this is denied by others. According to Arthur Edward Waite (The Secret Tradition of Freemasonry, vol 2, p. 152) :
PASQUALLY was born somewhere in the parish of Notre Dame, belonging to the diocese of Grenoble, but the date is unknown. He is first heard of in the year 1760 at Toulouse. He carried his strange Rite of Theurgic Priesthood from Toulouse to Bordeaux, from Bordeaux to Lyons, from Lyons to Paris, seeking its recognition everywhere at the centers of Grand Lodges and Chapters.
IT WAS in the year 1768 that Pasqually, settled in Paris, where he established the Sovereign Tribunal of the Rite, and attracted considerable attention from lovers of the mystic and marvelous. Learning that property had been bequeathed to him in the Island of San Domingo, he hastened there, and Europe knew him no more. He died in 1779 at Port-au-Prince.
Pasqually had for his disciple in Paris, Louis Claude de St. Martin, subsequently known to fame as the "Unknown Philosopher". St. Martin founded the occult sect known as Martinists, and was a deep thinker along theosophical lines. Martinism still survives in France. The late Dr. Encausse ("Papus") was its great exponent. Says Brother Yarker, in his Arcane Schools, London, 1909 (page 471):
PASQUALLY'S work was theurgic and sought union with Deity, as in oriental societies. He traced the initiatory circles and the sacred words himself; and prayed with great humility and fervor in the name of Christ. Then the superhuman beings appeared in full light to bless the labors.
A PRECURSOR of Cagliostro was Friedrich Joseph Wilhelm Schroeder, a doctor and professor of pharmacology, who was born at Bielfeld, Prussia, on March 19, 1733. He devoted himself to chemistry, alchemy and occultism. In 1766, he founded a Chapter of True and Ancient Rose-Croix Masons at Marburburg.
IN 1779, he [Schroeder] organized in a lodge of Sarreburg a school or Rite, founded on magic, theosophy, and alchemy, which consisted of seven high degrees; four high degrees founded on the occult sciences being superadded to the original three Symbolic degrees. This Rite, called the "Rectified Rose-Croix," was only practiced by two lodges under the constitution of the Grand Lodge of Hamburg. Clavel, in his Histoire Pittoresque (p. 183) calls him the Cagliostro of Germany, and Oliver terms him an adventurer. But it is perhaps more just that we should attribute to him a diseased imagination and misdirected studies than a bad heart or impure practises.
NEXT comes Cagliostro's Egyptian Rite of Freemasonry, which was the summum bonum of occultism and magic in the eighteenth century. Cagliostro! — ah, that is a name to conjure with. Who was this enigmatic, sphinx-like man who shone with such "coppery splendor", as Carlyle terms it; and then faded out in darkness and horror in the dungeons of the Castle of San Leon, Italy? Perhaps there never was a character so denounced and vilified as Cagliostro. Was he simply a notorious charlatan? Did he not have some redeeming traits and ideals? The matter is worth investigation.
In 1910, a work was published in London, which analyzes his career in an impartial manner. It is entitled Cagliostro; the Splendour and Misery of a Master of Magic, by W.R.H. Trowbridge. The author has shown very clearly that Cagliostro was not guilty of the heinous crimes imputed to him by his enemies, but, on the contrary, was in many respects a badly abused and slandered man. As all readers of history know, he was mixed up in the Diamond Necklace trial, which dragged the fair name of the beautiful and innocent Queen of France, Marie Antoinette, in the mire. But the necromancer was acquitted, after having been imprisoned for more than a year in the Bastille. He was afterwards banished from France by order of Louis XVI, whereupon he took refuge in England. At the time of the affair of the necklace the French police did their best to throw light on Cagliostro's past, but all their efforts were baffled.
It was in September, 1786, that the assertion was first made by the Courrier de l'Europe, a French newspaper published in London, that he was Joseph Balsamo, a forger and swindler, who some years before the advent of Cagliostro in Paris had made a criminal record for himself in France and other countries, and then had mysteriously disappeared. The editor of the above-mentioned journal was Theveneau de Morande, an unscrupulous blackmailer and spy in the pay of the French Government. His attempts to besmirch the character of Cagliostro were doubtless instigated by the French Minister of Police in order to discredit the alchemist in the eyes of the English public, more especially the Freemasons. Cagliostro, in his famous Letter to the French People, had attacked royalty in France in no uncertain terms, and the pamphlet had been widely circulated in Paris and throughout France.
THE book published in Rome in 1791, under the auspices of the Apostolic Chamber, purporting to be a life of Cagliostro, with an account of his trial by the Holy Inquisition, also identifies the necromancer with the criminal Balsamo, but no dates are given. It is special pleading from start to finish, full of bitter invectives against Masonry, and, as a biography, unreliable. Upon the articles by Morande and the so-called biography published by the Inquisition, all subsequent authors have based their opinions that Cagliostro, the occultist, was Joseph Balsamo, blackmailer, forger, and swindler; a man "wanted" by the police of France, Italy, Spain and England. "But," says Mr. Trowbridge, "there is another reason for doubting the identity of the two men. It is the most powerful of all, and has hitherto apparently escaped the attention of those who have taken this singular theory of identification for granted. Nobody that had known Balsamo ever saw Cagliostro." Continues Trowbridge:
AGAIN, one wonders why nobody who had known Balsamo ever made the least attempt to identify Cagliostro with him either at the time of the Diamond Necklace trial or when the articles in the Courrier de l'Europe brought him a second time prominently before the public. Now Balsamo was known to have lived in London in 1771, when his conduct was so suspicious to the police that he deemed it advisable to leave the country. He and his wife accordingly went to Paris, and it was here that, in 1773, the events occurred which brought both prominently under the notice of the authorities. Six years after Balsamo's disappearance from London, Count Cagliostro appeared in that city…. How is it, one asks, that the London police, who "wanted" Joseph Balsamo, utterly failed to recognize him in the notorious Cagliostro?
AND SO with Cagliostro's identification in Paris. The Balsamo legend seems to be punctured. But, after all is said, who was Cagliostro? He admitted that the name was an alias. Balsamo was devoid of education, and even the appearance of respectability; grasping, scheming and utterly disreputable. Count Cagliostro was a highly accomplished man; a chemist of no mean ability; an empiric, who, made many remarkable cures of diseases that baffled the medicos of the period; a psychic and a mesmerizer. He was charitable and generous to a fault, and gave away immense sums of money to the poor. As Grand Master of the Egyptian Rite, he was fairly worshipped by his followers. How could Balsamo have transformed his character so completely from a common crook to a humanitarian? As Trowbridge pertinently remarks. "Whoever Cagliostro may have been, he could certainly never have been Joseph Balsamo." Now let us study the man whose impenetrable cognomen of Comte de Cagliostro baffled all Europe, and remains today an unsolved mystery.
In July, 1776, two foreigners, calling themselves Count and Countess de Cagliostro, arrived in London and engaged a suite of furnished rooms in Whitcombe Street, Leicester Fields. They were presumably of Italian origin, and possessed money and jewels in abundance. The Count turned one of the rooms he had rented into a chemical laboratory. It was soon noised about that he was an alchemist and a Rosicrucian. To please some people he had met he foretold the lucky numbers in a lottery by alleged cabalistic means. Refusing to be mixed up any further in such matters, he was persecuted by a gang of swindlers, and spent some months in the King's Bench prison on various technical charges.
To avoid any further trouble — and the evidence is conclusive that he was the innocent victim of sharpers, who wished to use him as a tool to obtain money for them by predicting lucky lottery numbers — he left England. But before doing so it is said that he was initiated into a Masonic lodge in London. It was known as Esperance Lodge No. 369, and was composed mainly of French and Italian residents in London, holding its sessions at the King's Head Tavern, Gerard Street. It was attached to the Continental Masonic Order of the Strict Observance, which was supposed to be a continuation and perfection of the ancient association of Knights Templars. The date of the initiation of the famous psychic was some time in April, 1777.
DEEPLY immersed in mystical doctrines, Cagliostro determined to found an Egyptian Rite of Freemasonry upon the first three degrees of the Fraternity, in which magical practices were to be perpetuated. According to the Inquisition biographer he borrowed his ideas for the ritual from an obscure spiritist, George Coston, whose manuscript he accidentally picked up in a bookshop in London. But of this there is no evidence.
In his magical seances, Cagliostro made use of a young boy or young girl in the state of virgin innocence, to whom power was given over the seven spirits that surround the throne of the divinity and preside over the seven planets. The boy or girl would kneel in front of a globe of clarified water placed upon a table, covered with a black cloth embroidered with Rosicrucian symbols, and Cagliostro, making strange mesmeric passes, would summon the angels of the spheres to enter the globe; whereupon the youthful clairvoyant would behold the visions presented to his or her view, and often describe events taking place at a distance.
Many eminent persons testified to the genuineness of the feats performed. This is what is called "crystal vision" by students of psychical research, although the object employed is usually a ball of rock crystal and not a globe of water, such as Cagliostro used. The Society for Psychical Research has shown that persons in a state of partial or complete hypnosis frequently develop clairvoyant and telepathic powers. The crystal is used to promote hypnosis, also to visualize the images that appear in the mind. Undoubtedly Cagliostro was an accomplished mesmerizer. He possessed remarkable psychic powers which he confessed that he did not understand. But, like many mediums who have such gifts, he sometimes resorted (if his enemies are to be believed) to trickery and sleight-of-hand to accomplish results when the real power was not forthcoming.
FROM England Cagliostro went to The Hague. Throughout Holland he was received by the lodges with Masonic honors — "arches of steel," etc. He discoursed learnedly on magic and Masonry to enraptured thousands. He visited Mitau and St. Petersburg in 1779. In May, 1780, he turned up at Warsaw, where he "paraded himself in the white shoes and red heels of a noble." In September, 1780, he arrived at Strasbourg, where he founded one of his Egyptian lodges.
He lavished money right and left, cured the poor without pay, and treated the great with arrogance. The Cardinal de Rohan invited the sorcerer and his wife to live at the episcopal palace. Cagliostro presented the cardinal with a diamond worth 20,000 livres, which he claimed to have made. The churchman had a laboratory fitted up in the attic of the palace for the alchemist, where experiments in gold-making were undertaken. The over-credulous cardinal declared that he saw Cagliostro transmute baser metals into gold. Spiritualistic seances were held in the palace, with all the mise-en-scene of a Faust's studio.
The skeptical Baroness d'Oberkirch, in her memoirs, declares that while at Strasbourg, Cagliostro predicted the death of the Empress Maria Theresa of Austria.
IN THE year 1785 we find the famous necromancer at Lyons, France, where he founded the Lodge of Triumphant Wisdom and converted hundreds to his mystical doctrines. But his greatest triumph was achieved in Paris. A gay and frivolous aristocracy, mad after new sensations, welcomed the magician with open arms. The way had been paved for him by Mesmer and the Count de St. Germain. He made his debut in the French capital on January 30, 1785. His mansion in the Rue Saint Claude was always thronged with noble guests who came to witness the strange seances where ghosts from "the vasty deep" were summoned. How were these phantoms evoked? Confederates, concave mirrors, and images cast upon the smoke arising from burning incense explain the materializations witnessed in the "Chambre Egyptienne."
But what could not be explained at the time were the mesmeric and clairvoyant feats of the necromancer. They not only puzzled the spectators, but himself as well.
TO ENHANCE the effect of his phenomena he had recourse to artifices worthy of a mountebank. The room in which his seances were held contained statuettes of Isis, Anubis and the ox Apis. The walls were covered with hieroglyphics, and two lackeys, clothed like Egyptian slaves as they are represented on the monuments at Thebes, were in attendance to arrange the screen behind which the pupilles or colombes sat, the carafe or mirror into which they gazed, or to perform any other service that was required. To complete the mise-en-scene, Cagliostro wore a robe of black silk on which hieroglyphics were embroidered in red. His head was covered with an Arab turban of cloth of gold ornamented with jewels. A chain of emeralds hung en sautoir upon his breast, to which scarabs and cabalistic symbols of all colors in metal were attached. A sword with a handle shaped like a cross was suspended from a belt of red silk.
IT IS claimed that Cagliostro was the secret agent of the Illuminati; which fact accounted for the great sums of money he had at his command. He rarely received fees for his medical services. If the Inquisition biographer is to be believed, Cagliostro confessed, at his trial, that he had been initiated into the Illuminati in an underground cave near Frankfurt-on-the-Main. This seems probable. When the society was suppressed in 1784, Cagliostro had no need of funds from that source, as he realized large fees from the Egyptain Rite.
John Yarker, in his Arcane Schools (Belfast, 1909), says:
THE Rite of Cagliostro was clearly that of Pasqually, as evidenced by his complete ritual which has recently been printed in the Paris monthly, Initiation; it so closely follows the theurgy [of Pasqually] that it need leave no doubt as to whence Cagliostro derived his system; and as he stated himself that it was founded on the manuscript of a George Coston, which he had acquired in London, it is pretty certain that Pasqually had disciples in the metropolis.
THE Grand Lodge of Scotland possesses a copy of the ritual of Egyptian Masonry. Says Kenneth R.H. MacKenzie, in his Royal Masonic Encyclopedia, the only Masonic work that endeavors to do justice to Cagliostro:
HAVING acquired certain knowledge, according to his own statement, from the various occult students he met with in the East, Count Cagliostro resolved to communicate the results to persons properly fitted to receive them. Barruel (Hist. Jac., Vol. III, p. 8) says that this Egyptian Masonry was introduced into Europe by a Jutland merchant, about 1771, who had been in Egypt — his name was said to be Ananiah. He remained some time in Malta, where Cagliostro may have seen him. His doctrines were those of Manes. Other statements aver that he bought certain manuscripts from one George Coston in London leading up to the idea. However acquired, upon this basis — like many others — he resolved to build. To himself he assigned the post of Grand Kophta, a title borrowed from that of the high priests of Egypt, and he would also seem to have been the initiator of his disciples. He proposed to conduct them to perfection by moral and physical regeneration. He taught that the Philosopher's Stone was no fable, and that belief many before and since his time have shared; and he also promised to his followers to endow them with the pentagon, which restores man to a state of primitive innocence, forfeited by Adam at the fall. Egyptian Masonry he asserted to have been instituted by Enoch and Elias, who taught its divine mysteries, and he reintroduced adoptive or androgynous Masonry. The Grand Kophta possessed the power of commanding the angels; and, in all cases, he was supposed to accomplish by the miraculous power with which he had been endowed by Divine power. All religions were tolerated under this system: a belief in God was the sole qualification, with the additional necessity of having been regularly initiated into the three degrees [of Symbolic Masonry]. Three additional degrees were added, and the initiates, if men, assumed the names of the ancient prophets, while the women took the names of the ancient Sybils…. In the admission to the Master's degree, great pomp and ceremony was used, and although it is undoubted that this Egyptian system of Masonry was spurious, we nowhere find the charges of blasphemy, brought against it by the Roman Catholics, justified.
PERHAPS the best description of the ritual of Egyptian Rite is that of Arthur Edward Waite, in his The Secret Traditions of Freemasonry, (Vol. I, p. 136 et seq.). Brother Waite, who has made a study of the rituals of Cagliostro in the possession of the Grand Lodge of Scotland, and who is well versed in all that appertains to the arch-enchanter of the eighteenth century, says:
EGYPTIAN Masonry was … conferred upon both sexes — apparently in separate temples. It was intended to replace the Craft, which offered a vestige only of the true mystery and a shadow of the real illumination; but in order to secure the end more certainly, according to the mind of Cagliostro, the Masonic qualification was required of his male candidates… . The statutes and regulations of the Royal Lodge of Wisdom Triumphing, being the Mother Lodge of High Egyptian Masonry for East and West, specify three grades as comprised by the system. These were Egyptian Apprentice, Egyptian Companion or Craftsman, and Egyptian Master. At the end of his experience the candidate is supposed to have exterminated vice from his nature; to be acquainted with the True Matter of the Wise, through intercourse with the Superiors Elect who encompass the throne of the Sublime Architect of the Universe. These intelligences are seven angels, who preside over the seven planets, and their names, most of which are familiar in ceremonial magic, were said to be as follows: Anael, the angel of the Sun; Michael, the angel of the Moon; Raphael, who was allocated to Mars, Gabriel, referred to Mercury; Uriel, the angel of Jupiter; Zobiachel, attributed to Venus; and Anachiel, the ruler of Saturn.
IN THE grade of neophyte, the candidate was prepared in a vestibule containing a representation of the Great Pyramid and the figure of Time guarding a cavern. He was introduced into the temple in virtue of his ordinary Masonic titles and as a seeker for the true Masonry possessed by the wise of Egypt. He knelt before Cagliostro, who posed as the Grand Copht, founder and Master of the Rite in all parts of the globe, and the Master … breathed upon him. This took place not only amidst the swinging of censers but the recital of exorcisms to effect moral regeneration. He was instructed in seven philosophical operations: (1) in connection with health and disease in man; (2) on metals and the medicines thereof; (3) on the use of occult forces to increase natural heat and that which the alchemists term the radical humidity of things; (4) on the liquefaction of the hard; (5) on the congelation of the liquid; (6) on the mystery of the possible and impossible; and (7) on the means of doing good with the utmost secrecy.
MORAL regeneration notwithstanding, the so-called knowledge of the grade dwelt on the physical side of alchemy, though it was presumably concerned with the search after God and the examination of self, all work being undertaken being in view of the Divine Glory. The other subjects recommended for study during the period of the novitiate were natural and supernatural philosophy. Of the second there is no explanation, but natural philosophy was described as the marriage of the sun and moon and knowledge of the seven metals.
THE maxim was: Qui agnoscit martem, rognoscit artem — the significance of which is dubious. As connected with alchemy, the discourse dwelt upon the First Matter, which is said to be an unveiled mystery for those who are elect of God and to be possessed by them. It is symbolized by the Masonic acacia, while its mercurial part is denoted by the rough or unhewn stone. It is this which must suffer the death of philosophical putrefaction and then the Stone of Philosophy is made therefrom. The Blazing Star represents Supernatural philosophy and its form is that of a heptogram, signifying the seven angels about the throne of God, who are intermediaries between God and man. In correspondence with the divisions of philosophy, as here stated, the term of the system was dual, being (1) moral and (2) physical regeneration, but the word morality must be interpreted rather widely. Divine aid was necessary to the progress of the candidate, and he was recommended meditation daily for a space of three hours.
IN THE case of a Female Apprentice… the Grand Copht said: "I breathe upon you, that the truth which we possess may penetrate your heart and may germinate therein. So shall it strengthen your spiritual nature and so confirm you in the faith of your brothers and sisters. We constitute you a Daughter of the true Egyptian Adoption, to be recognized as such by all members of the Rite and to enjoy the same prerogatives."
There were, at least by the hypothesis, three years of novitiate between the first and second degrees, during which the candidate was supposed to put in practice the counsels of his initiation. The ceremony of reception took place in the presence of twelve Masters, and the presiding officer said: "By the power which I hold from the Grand Copht, founder of our Order, and by the grace of God, I confer upon you the Grade of Companion and constitute you a guardian of the new knowledge which we communicate in virtue of the sacred names, Helios, signifying the sun; Mene, which refers to the moon; and Tetragrammaton." The candidate was made acquainted with further symbols of the First Matter in the form of bread and wine. He was given red wine to drink, and this is a clear issue on the symbolical side, but is confused by the further indication that Adoniram is also the First Matter and that this must be killed. There is here a reflection from the system attributed to L.G. de St. Victor, wherein this name is attributed to the spurious Master Builder. There are also analogies with the Grades of Memphis, which therefore drew something from Egyptian Masonry…
IT WAS only in the Grade of Master that the so-called magical aspects appeared, for it was there that the dove, being a clairvoyant girl or boy, was shut up in a tabernacle and, prior to the introduction of the candidate, was interrogated as to his fitness. This ceremony was performed with great reverence, beginning with an invocation addressed to God by all present, who solicited that the power possessed by man before the Fall might be communicated to the instrument thus chosen as mediator between the seven planetary spirits and the Chief of the Lodge. The dove demanded on her, or his part, the grace to act worthily. The Grand Copht also breathed upon the child. If the answer was in the affirmative in respect of the candidate, he was brought into the temple and in the presence of two Masters, who represented Solomon and the King of Tyre. They sat upon a single throne, reproducing an arrangement which we have met with previously. One of them was clothed in white and the other in blue bordered with gold, while on either side of them were the names of the seven angels. Twelve other Masters were present, and these were saluted as the Elect of God.
The candidate saw also the symbol of a phoenix rising from a bed of fire. The procedure at his reception owed comparatively little to the culminating degree of the Craft. He renounced all his past life and was directed to prostrate himself on the ground with his face laid against it. Prayers were recited over him; he was lifted up, created a Master and decorated with the insignia of the Grade. The dove was finally interrogated to ascertain whether that which had been done was agreeable to the Divinity. The obligation of a Master included blind obedience as well as perfect secrecy. The discourse of the Grade turned again upon the symbol of the Rose, as representing a further type of the First Matter. Some additional explanations were given concerning the two regenerations which I have described as constituting the term of the system. That which is called moral depended on prayer and meditation continued for a period of 40 days and followed by a specific rule. That of the physical kind lasted for the same time, and it is this which the Cardinal Rohan is supposed to have undergone, to but without much profit to himself, at the instance of Cagliostro.
WHEN a woman was made a Mistress, the acting Mistress, or Chief Officer of the Temple, represented the Queen of Sheba, and she alone remained erect during the invocation of the Supreme Being which first took place. The candidate, lying prostrate on the ground, recited the Miserere mei; she was then raised up; the dove (clairvoyante) was consulted; three sisters sang the Veni Creator and burnt incense about the candidate. The Worshipful Mistress scattered gold leaf with her breath, and said: Sic transit gloria mundi. A symbolic draught of immortality was drunk by the new Mistress before the tabernacle, and the dove prayed that the angels might consecrate the adornments with which she was about to be decorated; Moses was also invoked to lay his hands in blessing on the crown of roses which was placed about her head.
"CAGLIOSTRO'S system of Masonry," remarks Mackenzie, "was not founded upon shadows. Many of the doctrines he enunciated may be found in the Book of the Dead and other important documents of ancient Egypt." The Egyptian Rite must have contained many exalted ideas — ethical, humanitarian, and theosophical — otherwise the intense enthusiasm of its initiates cannot be accounted for. Many eminent men in France were members of this Order. Cagliostro always insisted on the moral and religious implications of his system of Masonry.
The controversy between Cagliostro and the Lodge of Philalethes (or Lovers of Truth) is an Masonic history. On February 15, 1785, the members of the Philalethes, with Savalette de Langes at their head, met in Paris to discuss questions of importance regarding Freemasonry, such as its origin, essential nature, relations with the occult sciences, etc. Thory, in his Acta Latomorum, Vol. II, gives a list of those who composed the conclave, among them being French and Austrian princes, councillors, financiers, barons, ambassadors, officers of the army, doctors, farmers-general, and last but not least two professors of magic. M. de Langes was a royal banker, who had been prominent in the old Illuminati.
A SUMMONS had been sent to Cagliostro to attend the convention, and he had assured the messenger that he would take part in its deliberations. But he changed his mind and demanded that the Philalethes adopt the constitutions of the Egyptian Rite, burn their archives, and be initiated into the Mother Lodge at Lyons ("Triumphant Wisdom"), intimating that they were not in possession of the true Masonry. He deigned, as he said, to extend his hand over them, and consented "to send a ray of light into the darkness of their temple." The Baron von Gleichen was deputed to see Cagliostro and ask for more detailed information, and at the same time to request the presence of the members of the Mother Lodge at the convention. Renewed correspondence took place, but Cagliostro would not recede from his position. Finally three delegates from the Philalethes, among them the Marquis de Marnezia, of Franch e-Comte, repaired to Lyons, and were initiated into Egyptian Masonry. In their report to the convention occur the following significant words: "His [Cagliostro's] doctrine ought to be regarded as sublime and pure; and without having a perfect acquaintance with our language, he employs it as did the prophets of old." The negotiations, however, fell through, and Cagliostro shook off the Philalethes altogether. Shortly after the above event came the affair of the Diamond Necklace, and Cagliostro sought refuge in England. Never again did he set foot on the soil of la belle France, the scene of his greatest exploits.
Cagliostro, assisted by a number of his disciples from Paris and Lyons, endeavored to establish an Egyptian lodge in London, but the attacks of the Courrier de l'Europe put a quietus on his attempt. He was continually harrassed by trumped-up charges preferred by Morande and others. Says Trowbridge:
THE Freemasons, who had welcomed him to their lodges with open arms, as the victim of a degenerate and despicable despotism, influenced by the scathing attacks of Morande, who was himself a Mason, now gave him the cold shoulder. At a convivial gathering at the Lodge of Antiquity which he attended about this time (November 1, 1786) instead of the sympathy he expected he was so ridiculed by one Brother Mash, an optician, who gave a burlesque imitation of the Grand Cophta of Egyptian Masonry as a quack doctor vending a spurious balsam to cure every malady, that the victim of his ridicule was compelled to withdraw. The mortification which this incident occasioned Cagliostro was further intensified by the wide notoriety that it was given by Gillray in a caricature entitled "A Masonic Anecdote."
SOME scurrilous verses were appended to this cartoon.
Cagliostro tried to interest the Swedenborgians in his system of occultism. With this object in view he advertised in the Morning Herald, calling upon all true Masons, in the name of Jehovah, to meet him at O'Reilly's Tavern, in Great Queen Street, on November 3, 1786, to inaugurate plans for the building of the New Temple at Jerusalem. But the Swedenborgians paid no attention to his appeal. "It is a curious circumstance," says Brother Mackenzie, "that Cagliostro's manifestoes while in London were issued from the Hercules Pillars, a tavern still in existence, immediately opposite Freemason's Hall, in Great Queen Street."
Disgusted with his treatment by the Freemasons of London, and fearing a debtor's prison, Cagliostro fled to the Continent, but he was forbidden to practice his system of medicine and Masonry in Austria, Germany, Russia and Spain.
Then unfortunately for himself, he went to Rome, where Freemasonry was anathema. Cagliostro made a feeble attempt to found an Egyptian lodge, but was betrayed by one of its members, a spy in the pay of the Holy Office. Suddenly, on the evening of December 27, 1789, he and his wife were arrested by the agents of the Inquisition and imprisoned in the castle of St. Angelo. His highly prized manuscript of Egyptian Masonry was seized, together with all his papers and correspondence.
Among Cagliostro's effects was found a peculiar seal, upon which were engraved a serpent pierced by an arrow, and holding an apple in its mouth, and the mysterious letters, "L.'.P.'.D.," which puzzled the Holy Office.
Eliphas Levi (Alphonse Louis Constant), the celebrated French cabalist, in his History of Magic, has the following to say regarding this seal:
AS EXPLAINED by the cabalistic letters of the names Acharat and Althotas, it expresses the chief characteristics of the Great Arcanum and the Great Work. It is a serpent pierced by an arrow, thus representing the letter Aleph, an image of the union between active and passive, spirit and life, will and light. The arrow is that of the antique Apollo, while the serpent is the python of fable, the green dragon of Hermetic philosophy. The letter Aleph represents equilibrated unity. This pentacle is reproduced under various forms in the talismans of old magic…. The arrow signifies the active principle, will, magical action, the coagulation of the dissolvent, the fixation of the volatile by projection and the penetration of earth by fire. The union of the two is the universal balance, the Great Arcanum, the Great Work, the equilibrium of Jachin and Boaz. The initials L.P.D., which accompany this figure, signify Liberty, Power, Duty, and also Light, Proportion, Density; Law, Principle and Right. The Freemasons have changed the order of these initials, and in the form of L.'.D.'.P.: . they render them as Liberte de Penser, Liberty of Thought, inscribing these on a symbolical bridge, but for those who are not initiated they substitute Liberte de Passer, Liberty of Passage. In the records of the prosecution of Cagliostro it is said that his examination elicited another meaning as follows: Lilia destrue pedibus: Trample the lilies under foot; and in support of this version may be cited a Masonic medal of the sixteenth or seventeenth century, depicting a branch of lilies severed by sword, having these words on the exergue: Talem dabit ultio messem — Revenge shall give this harvest.
IF IT be true that Cagliostro was a member of the Illuminati, the mystical letters L.'.P.'.D. have especial significance, as Levi explains. The fleur de lys was the heraldic device of the Bourbon kings of France; hence this trampling upon the lilies alluded to the stamping out of the French monarchy by the Illuminati, which was an order grafted on Freemasonry.
According to Alexander Wilder (Notes and Queries, v. 25, p. 216), the name Cagliostro is made up of Kalos, beautiful from kas, to burn; and Aster, a star or sun.
AFTER a long imprisonment and many examinations by the inquisitors of the Holy Office, Cagliostro was finally condemned to death as a heretic, sorcerer, and Freemason, on March 21, 1791; but Pope Pius VI commuted the sentence to life imprisonment. At first he underwent his punishment in the castle of St. Angelo, but was subsequently transferred to the fortress of San Leon, in the Duchy of Urbino, where he died in 1795. The Countess de Cagliostro died in a convent at Rome, when she had been forcibly detained.
THUS ended the career of a remarkable Man of Mystery, whose career is one of the enigmas of history. Although classed as a charlatan by most writers, nevertheless he was a Masonic martyr and deserves some consideration by the brethren.