In 1745, one of the most intriguing people in history visited London; a man who was said to be over two thousand years old! Some said he was in league with the Devil, others thought he was a Himalayan yogi of the highest order; all that we know is that, according to written historical references, a Count St Germain was apparently on the European scene from 1651 to 1896 - a period of 245 years. Unable to explain the incredible lifespan of this man, the historians either omitted him from the history books or claimed several impostors in different time periods were responsible for the myth. But if we face the unadulterated facts about the count as they were written, they paint a very perplexing picture of a phenomenal man. Here then, is the story.
When the English soldiers returned from the Holy Land after the third Crusade came to a disastrous end in the twelfth century, they brought back with them many fabulous tales of the mysterious Orient.
One particular story the crusaders often told was of a man known in the East as the Wandering Jew. The story went as follows. In the Judgement Hall of Pontius Pilate, there was a Jewish doorkeeper named Cartaphilus, who had actually been present at the trial of Jesus of Nazareth. When Christ was dragging his cross through the streets on the way to Calvary, he halted for a moment to rest, and at this point, Cartaphilus stepped out from the large crowd lining the route and told Jesus to hurry up.
Jesus looked at Cartaphilus and said, "I will go now, but thou shall wait until I return."
The Roman soldiers escorting Christ to the crucifixion site pushed Cartaphilus back into the crowd, and Jesus continued on his way.
What did Jesus mean? thought Cartaphilus, and many years later, the doorkeeper gradually realized that all his friends were dying of old age, while he had not aged at all. Cartaphilus remembered Christ's words and shuddered. He would wander the earth without ageing until Christ's Second Coming.
This tale was dismissed by the religious authorities of the day as an apocryphal yarn, and the legend of the Wandering Jew was later interpreted by the Christians as an allegorical story, symbolizing the global wanderings and persecutions of the Jewish race because of their refusal to accept Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah. The tale gradually passed into European folklore and joined the other fairy tales of the Middle Ages.
Then, in the 13th century, a number of travellers returning to England from the Continent spoke of meeting and hearing of a strange blasphemous man who claimed he had been around when Christ was on earth. These curious reports were later strengthened in 1228 when an Armenian archbishop visited St. Albans. The archbishop told his astonished audience that he had recently dined with an unusual man who confessed to being Cartaphilus, the man who mocked Christ.
Many more encounters with Cartaphilus were reported in the following centuries, and each meeting seemed to be taking place nearer and nearer to Western Europe. Then one day in the year 1740, a mysterious man dressed in black arrived in Paris.
The gaudily-dressed fashion-conscious Parisians instantly noticed the sinister stranger, and admired the dazzling collection of diamond rings on each of his fingers. The man in Black also wore diamond-encrusted shoe-buckles, a display of wealth that obviously suggested that he was an aristocrat, yet nobody in Paris could identify him. From the Jewish cast of his handsome countenance, some of the superstitious citizens of Paris believed he was Cartaphilus, the Wandering Jew.
The man of mystery later identified himself as the Count of St. Germain, and he was quickly welcomed by the nobility into the fashionable circles of Parisian life.
In the distinguished company of writers, philosophers, scientists, freemasons and aristocrats, the Count displayed a veritable plethora of talents. He was an accomplished pianist, a gifted singer and violinist, a linguist who spoke fluent Spanish, Greek, Italian, Russian, Portugese, Chinese, Arabic, Sanskrit, English, and of courese, French. The Count of St Germain was also a fine artist, an historian, and a brilliant alchemist. He maintained that he had travelled widely, and recounted his many visits to the court of the Shah of Persia, where he had learned the closely-guarded science of improving and enlarging gemstones. The Count also hinted that he had learned many other arcane lessons of the occult.
But what stunned his awestruck listeners most was his insinuation that he was over a thousand years old. This came about one evening when the course of conversation turned to religious matters. When the Count was invited to comment on the subject, he movingly described Christ as if he had personally known him, and talked in detail of the miraculous water-into-wine event at the marriage feast of Cana as if he were describing a party-trick. After his peculiar anecdote, the Count became tearful, and in a broken, uncharacteristically sombre voice, he said, "I had always known that Christ would meet a bad end."
The Count of St Germain also spoke of other historical celebrities such as Cleopatra and Henry VIII and as if he had known them personally. Whenever sceptical historians would try to trip the Count up by questioning him about trivial historical details that were not widely known, the Count would always reply with astonishing accuracy, leaving the questioner quite perplexed.
The Count's claim to be much older than he looked was reinforced one day when the old Countess von Georgy met him. She immediately recognized the enigmatic nobleman as the same individual she had met fifty years previously in Venice, where she had been the ambassadress. But she was amazed that the Count still looked the same age now as he did then, which was about forty-five. The Countess was naturally confused by this, and asked the Count St Germain if his father had been in Venice at that time. The Count shook his head and told her that it had been himself, and he baffled the Countess by telling her how beautiful she had looked as a young woman< and how he had enjoyed playing her favourite musical piece on the violin. The Countess recoiled in disbelief and told him, "Why, you must be almost one hundred years old."
"That is not impossible." replied the Count.
"You are a most extraordinary man!" exclaimed the old Countess, "A devil!"
The comparison to a demon touched a sore point in the Count, and in a raised voice, he replied, "For pity's sake! No such names!"
He turned his back on the shocked Countess and stormed out of the room.
The King of France, Louis XV was intrigued by the stories of the mysterious Count St Germain. He sought him out and offered him an invitation to attend the royal court. The Count accepted the invitation, and succeeded in captivating the king and his courtiers, as well as Madame de Pompadour, the king's mistress.
During the spectacular banquets that were held at the court, the Count would abstain from food and wine, but would sometimes sip mineral water instead. Furthermore, when the Count did dine, it was always in private, and precisely what he did consume is not known, although some of the courtiers claimed he was a vegetarian.
Count St Germain arrived in London in 1743 and lodged at a house in St Martin's Street. He stayed in the capital for two years, and during that time he set up a laboratory and carried out mysterious experiments in it that seem to have been of an alchemical nature. His work was closely guarded, but seems to have involved attempts at manufacturing artificial diamonds. During his stay in London, the count was a frequent guest at the Kit-Kat club, where he mingled with members of the highest nobility. At this prestigious club, the Count once astounded members by talking of two inventions he was working on; the steam train and steamboat. This was twenty years before James Watt put together his crude prototype of the steam engine, and 84 years before George Stephenson's Rocket steam train of 1829.
In 1745, the year of the Jacobite Rebellion in Britain, the Count St Germain was arrested at a coffee house in Paternoster Row and charged with spying. Horace Walpole, the son of Sir Robert Walpole, Britain's first Prime Minister, mentioned the incident in a letter to his lifelong correspondent, Sir Horace Mann. Walpole wrote:
The other day they seized an odd man who goes by the name of the Count St Germain. He has been here these two years, and will not tell who he is or whence, but professes that he does not go by his right name. He sings and plays on the violin wonderfully, is mad and not very sensible.At a time when English xenophobia was at an all-time high because many foreigners, especially Frenchmen were known to be sympathetic to the Jacobite cause, the Count should have been imprisoned. But instead, he was released. Just why this occurred is still a mystery. One curious report that circulated at the time claimed that the Count used hypnotic suggestion to 'persuade' his detainers that he was innocent. This is a real possibility, because, true enough, Anton Mesmer, who is credited with the discovery of hypnotism, stated years before that the Count possessed a 'vast understanding of the workings of the human mind' and had been directly responsible for teaching him the art of hypnosis.