Life & Soul

Heretic of the week: The Count of St Germain

Count of St Germain

The annals of heresy give one many strange figures to contemplate. But definitely in the running for the title of strangest of all is the bizarre and mysterious Count of St Germain (1253? 1691? 1712?–1784? 1837? Not Yet?).

In the mid-18th century, the Count moved between the various Royal Courts of Europe, claiming to be – and at times demonstrating some of the skills thereof – a diplomat, spy, chemist, cosmetics maker, musical composer, scientist, and many other things beside.

A master of languages, his conversation enchanted such diverse folk as Horace Walpole, Casanova and Louis XV, and he seemed to have an endless supply of money (as well as many jewels which he wore conspicuously enough to gain comment in a notoriously flamboyant age).

Rumoured to be variously a Transylvanian Prince, an Alsatian Jew or a renegade Spanish seminarian, the Count himself not only told various contradictory stories about his origins, he hinted that he was – through his alchemical arts – at least 500 years old.

When he was at last supposed to have died, at Schleswig in 1784, all of his jewels and strictly personal effects had vanished; an elderly French noblewoman who had known him in her youth claimed to have seen him in 1821.

St Germain taught during his visible career a farrago of often self-contradictory theological and philosophical doctrines. Apart from several treatises more or less reliably attributed to him, his supposed immortality has allowed such as the Theosophists, Guy and Edna Ballard of the I AM movement, and innumerable other sects to attribute some or all of their various teachings to him.

The Count may well have been the greatest con man who ever lived; then again, he might be waiting around the corner, readying himself to found yet another strange sect. You might meet him yourself, one day!