The Mystic of the 18th Century Who
Anticipated Helena Blavatsky’s Mission
Carlos Cardoso Aveline
Count Alessandro Cagliostro, born around 1743; a portrait
published in the book “Cagliostro, Le Maître Inconnu”, by Dr. Marc Haven
“I come from no place and belong
to no time.  Outside time my spiritual
being lives its eternal existence.”
Alessandro Cagliostro was one of the main 18th century mystics. He was also misunderstood and persecuted until he died – or at least up to the moment when he mysteriously disappeared from his cell, in an inaccessible prison belonging to the Vatican.
Anyone who challenges organized ignorance becomes a target of attacks. According to the legend of Christian gospels, Jesus Christ was condemned to the cross as a punishment for being a charlatan. Cagliostro is called a charlatan even today, and the same is true of Saint-Germain, of Helena Blavatsky and other wise thinkers and philosophers of different ages.
In spite of the slanders against Cagliostro, his work in the second half of 18th century has an internal relation with the founding – one century later – of the modern theosophical movement. 
Famous for his ability to heal, Cagliostro worked on higher levels of consciousness. His effort concurred with the actions of other 18th century thinkers, including the Enlightenment philosophers of various European countries. He helped provoke great social transformations. He also made an attempt to save the masonic movement from its decadence.
Cagliostro created in Lyon, France, 1786, a masonry for which he designed an Egyptian Rite.[1] It was open to women. In the beginning of the 20th century, false clairvoyant Annie Besant and her followers would use the name “Egyptian Rite” to fabricate an illegitimate ritual that has no relation with the authentic one.   
According to H. P. Blavatsky, Cagliostro worked under the inspiration of the Eastern Esoteric Philosophy of the Masters of Wisdom. He spent some time in Russia and in England. After that he lived in France. Persecuted, he lived in prison for six months in the Bastille until his innocence was declared in the famous affair of the Queen’s necklace. His work for the regeneration of humanity coincides with the same inner humanistic impulse that inspired the proclamation of human rights and originated the North-American independence and French Revolution. The excesses of the French revolution, which degenerated into a sort of State terrorism, only show the need for peaceful action. The basic ideal of democracy and freedom of the individual is more up-to-date than never in the 21st century. The motto “Liberty, Equality [of rights] and Fraternity”, is today the goal of the United Nations and of every citizen of good will.
Step by step, civilizations make progress toward the moment when the ideal of perpetual peace among all nations will be achieved. The goal was formulated in the second half of the 18th century by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Immanuel Kant, Baron Holbach and other thinkers, at the same time that the mystics Alessandro Cagliostro and the count of St. Germain also worked, on a more esoteric plane, for the elevation of human soul.
Born in the beginning of the 1740s, Cagliostro had been able to work for a long time for the progress of mankind when he was arrested by the Inquisition of the Vatican in Italy, in December 1789.
The French Revolution had started in July 1789. Taken as a prisoner, he was several times transferred from one prison to another. He was submitted to long and useless sessions of torture by specialized Catholic tormentors. The goal of the torturers was to force him into confessing crimes he did not commit.
On 7 April 1791, Cagliostro was condemned to death. His books and some of his masonic objects were burned in public on the Piazza della Minerva, in Rome.
H. P. Blavatsky says that something curious occurred a short time after that:
“A stranger, never seen by any one before or after in the Vatican, appeared and demanded a private audience of the Pope, sending him by the Cardinal Secretary a word instead of a name. He was immediately received, but only stopped with the Pope for a few minutes. No sooner was he gone than his Holiness gave orders to commute the death sentence of the Count to that of imprisonment for life, in the fortress called the Castle of San Leo, and that the whole transaction should be conducted in great secrecy.” [2]
San Leo is built on the top of a large rock, “almost perpendicular on all sides”, says Blavatsky in the same text.  In order to get into San Leo “one had to enter a kind of open basket which was hoisted up by ropes and pulleys”. It was a primitive elevator.
From that prison Cagliostro disappeared more than 200 years ago on 26 August 1795.
According to the official version, he died. Other sources, mentioned by Helena Blavatsky, say that he went out of the Castle thanks to some unspecified special method.
There is indeed a mystery regarding the way the life of Cagliostro came to an end. According to W. R. H. Trowbridge, who gives H. P. Blavatsky as his source, the Count abandoned the prison in a way unknown to the prison officers. Indeed, HPB clearly states such a possibility in her article “Was Cagliostro a Charlatan?” (see note 2).
Besides, Trowbridge mentions a report according to which a few years after the disappearance of Cagliostro something occurred of great interest for theosophists. Trowbridge says HPB is his source, yet he does not mention the text where she made the statement. According to him, HPB said that Cagliostro was seen in Russia by various persons after his supposed death, and spent some time in the house of Helena Blavatsky’s father. [3]  
This last statement made by Trowbridge is yet to be confirmed. It is not a proved fact – as far as our research goes, that Blavatsky is its source. 
It is a certain fact, however, that Cagliostro lived for a few months in Russia between 1779 and 1780. Helena Blavatsky was born in the Russian empire a few decades after Cagliostro’s death. A comparative study of the personalities and life-circumstances of both lives shows a large number of similar elements. Blavatsky wrote a lot about Cagliostro. She also possessed the Masonic jewel that had belonged to him, and which is now in the archives of the Theosophical Society of Adyar, India [4].
In a letter to Alfred Sinnett, Helena Blavatsky says that one of her associates, Darbargiri Nath, visited for more than one hour the prison cell where Cagliostro lived. Darbargiri may have fulfilled some special contemplative activity there. In the same paragraph, HPB mentions Mr. Hodgson, one of the deluded people who in the 1880s accused her of being a charlatan:
“Am I greater, or in any way better, than were St. Germain, and Cagliostro, Giordano Bruno and Paracelsus, and so many many other martyrs whose names appear in the Encyclopedias of the 19th century over the meritorious titles of charlatans and impostors? It shall be the Karma of the blind and wicked judges – not mine. In Rome, Darbargiri Nath went to the prison of Cagliostro at the Fort Sant Angelo, and remained in the terrible hole for more than an hour. What he did there, would give Mr. Hodgson the ground work for another scientific Report if he could only investigate the fact.”[5]    
A small numerological fact seems to indicate the occult relationship between Alessandro Cagliostro and Helena Blavatsky.
Cagliostro was sentenced to death on April 7, 1791. Helena Blavatsky died on May 8, 1891, exactly one century, one month and a day after Cagliostro’s conviction.
It is a consensus in esoteric circles that in the 18th century Cagliostro worked in cooperation with Count St. Germain. Henry Olcott, co-founder of the modern theosophical movement, wrote something significant about a Russian lady who was very close to HPB on a personal level; her aunt Nadya Fadeef.
Referring to St. Germain, Olcott said:
“If Mme. de Fadeef – H.P.B.’s aunt – could only be induced to translate and publish certain documents in her famous library, the world would have a nearer approach to a true history of the pre-Revolutionary European mission of this Eastern Adept than has until now been available.” [6]
Indeed, HPB concludes her article “Count de Saint-Germain”, published in “The Theosophist”, with the following words:
“A respected member of our [Theosophical] Society, residing in Russia, possesses some highly important documents about the Count de Saint-Germain, and for the vindication of the memory of one of the grandest characters of modern times, it is hoped that the long-needed but missing links in the chain of his chequered history, may speedily be given to the world through these columns.”
Boris de Zirkoff, the editor of the Collected Writings of HPB, adds that such a Theosophist living in Russia was certainly Nadya, HPB’s aunt, and that the documents mentioned have never been made available to the public. [7]
Henry Olcott also writes that in 1878 HPB and he thought of making the theosophical movement repeat the work done by Cagliostro in the 18th century. [8]
In the first years of her mission, HPB made many psychic phenomena similar to those performed by Cagliostro.
French thinker Marc Haven wrote a long and excellent biography of Cagliostro, “Le Maître Inconnu”. It is one of the few large-scale studies of Cagliostro that do justice to him.
The book reproduces a testimony given by Cagliostro, in which we can read: 
“I belong to no epoch and no place. Outside time and space, my spiritual being lives its eternal existence, and, if I plunge into my consciousness and go back through the course of the ages, and if I take my spirit to a form of existence which is far away from the form that you perceive, then I become that which I desire. Consciously participating of the absolute being, I regulate my action according to the environment that surrounds me. My name is the name of my function, and I choose my name, as well as my function, because I am free; my country is the one in which I walk for the time being.”
Cagliostro had this to say about his origin:    
“I was not born from the flesh, nor from the will of men. I was born of the spirit. My name belongs to me, and it is the name I chose to appear before you, this is the name I claim. The name I was called at birth, the one given to me in my youth and the names by which I was known in other times and places, these I have abandoned like old clothes that are of no further use to me.”
And then: 
“All human beings are my brothers; all countries are loved by me. I travel them so that everywhere Spirit can come down and find a path to you. I ask the kings, whose power I respect, only hospitality in their countries; and when I receive it, I travel them, doing the greatest good possible around me, but I just pass. Am I a noble traveler?” [9]
Like Blavatsky, Cagliostro had a clear vision of his larger task.
“In each place I spend some time”, he said, “I abandon some parts of myself, wearing myself down, reducing myself at every stage, leaving you a little clarity, a little warmth, a little strength, until the moment at last when I will have definitely reached the end of my trajectory, the moment the rose will bloom on the cross.” [10]
H.P. Blavatsky wrote that Cagliostro was the last member of the Rosicrucian Fraternity [11], and his words reproduced above seem to suggest two things:
1) That Cagliostro’s mission included various incarnations; and 
2) That his mission would conclude with the victory of universal wisdom and ethics, in human community, “the blooming of the rose on the cross”.  
When will that victory take place?
Blavatsky says (Collected Writings, volume XIV, p. 27) that the wisdom of altruism will “win the day”, that is, defeat spiritual ignorance, “before the end of the 21st century”. In the final sentences of “The Key to Theosophy”, she announces that life in the twenty-first century may get to be a heaven in comparison with what it was in her time.
[1] Click to read the book Rituel de la Maçonnerie Egyptienne.
[2] See “Was Cagliostro a Charlatan?”, an article by H.P. Blavatsky, available in the associated websites.
[3] “Cagliostro – Maligned Freemason and Rosicrucian”, W. R. H. Trowbridge, Kessinger Publishing Co., Montana, USA, 312 pp., see pp. 306-307.
[4] On the eventful trajectory of Cagliostro’s Masonic jewel, see the article “The Mysterious Life and Transitions of the Cagliostro Jewel”, by Nell C. Taylor, in “Theosophical History”, July 1990 issue, California, USA, pp. 79 et seq. Advanced disciples have the possibility to reincarnate quickly, because they experience high levels of consciousness while physically alive, and therefore do not need a long interval between two incarnations so as to obtain a “rest in the celestial sphere”. According to some researchers, such as the English author Jean Overton Fuller, the incarnations of Paracelsus, Cagliostro and Blavatsky may have been three lifetimes of the same immortal soul, whose longstanding goal is to help prepare a new cycle of human evolution. (However, the similarities between these three lives could also be the result of other causes.) There are at least one or two astrological data linking Blavatsky’s birth chart to Cagliostro’s life. Each day of August 26, when Cagliostro disappeared from prison, the Sun passes through an important point on Blavatsky’s astrological chart. Around that point several planets are in conjunction in her chart, including Saturn, the master of Time and Karma. It is worth mentioning that the August 26th is just 14 days after Blavatsky’s birth date, August 12th. It’s two times seven.  August 26 is a strong, favorable point in HPB’s birth chart. On Cagliostro and Blavatsky, see our commentaries on the narrative “An Unsolved Mystery”, in the bibliographical notes at the end of the present article.
[5] “The Letters of H. P. Blavatsky to A.P. Sinnett”, transcribed by A.T. Barker, Theosophical University Press, Pasadena, California, USA, 1973, 404 pp., see Letter XLVI, p. 110.  H. P. B. says the name of the fortress is Sant Angelo. As a prisoner, Cagliostro was held initially in Sant Angelo. The Vatican states that he died while in the fortress of San Leo (“Collected Writings”, volume XII, pp. 86-88). There are images of San Leo and of the cell in this prison where Cagliostro was supposedly kept, in the book “Cagliostro”, by Roberto Gervaso.  
[6] “Old Diary Leaves”, Henry Olcott, First Series (volume I), TPH, India, 1974, 490 pp., see p. 241, footnote. 
[7] “Count de Saint-Germain”, the article by HPB, in “Collected Writings”, volume III, pp. 125-129. See p. 129.
[8] “Old Diary Leaves”, Henry Olcott, First Series (volume I), pp. 468-469.
[9]Cagliostro, Le Maître Inconnu” (Étude historique e critique sur la Haute Magie), by Marc Haven, Ed. Dorbon-Einé, 19, Boulevard Haussmann, Paris, 1912, see Épilogue, pp. 281-284. Click to see the book in the associated websites. There is a more recent edition, Editions Dervy, Paris, Quatrième Edition, 1995, see pp. 241-244. The book by Marc Haven has a Brazilian edition (Editora Madras, São Paulo city) under the title “Cagliostro, o Grande Mestre do Oculto”, 304 pp., 2005. English language edition: “Cagliostro – The Unknown Master”, by Marc Haven, Lewis Masonic Publishers, Hersham, Surrey, UK, 2021, paperback, 282 pages.
[10]Cagliostro, Le Maître Inconnu”, see p. 283. In the 1995 edition, the p. 242 near its end, and the beginning of p. 243.  
[11] This is said by her in the article “A Few Questions to Hiraf”, “Collected Writings”, H. P. Blavatsky, TPH, Adyar, India, volume I, pp. 103-104. In the same volume, see also the text “The Science of Magic”, on p. 141.
Other Bibliographical
Sources on Cagliostro:
Besides the books and texts referred above, see also:
* “Cagliostro et le Rituel de la Maçonnerie Égyptienne”, Robert Amadou, SEPP, Paris, 1996, 117 pp. See on  pp. 34-37 of this small book a speculation by M. Amadou on the end of times around the year 2000. 
* “L’Esprit Des Choses”, Publication du  C. I. R. E. M., (Centre International de Recherches et D’Etudes Martinistes), France; volume 4 (1995)  et volume 5 (1996).
* “The Phoenix, an Illustrated Review of Occultism and Philosophy”, Manly P. Hall, second edition, The Philosophical Research Society, 1995, 176 pp., see the chapter “Cagliostro and the Egyptian Rite of Freemasonry”, pp. 152-159.
* “Compendio de la Vida y Hechos del Conde Calliostro”. The Spanish language compilation of the judicial proceedings of the Inquisition against Cagliostro. This is a 1991 facsimile edition made by Ediciones Obelisco, which reproduces the book published in Sevilla, Spain, in 1791, with 315 pages. The facsimile edition consists of 750 numbered copies.  The copy belonging to the Independent Lodge of Theosophists has number 504.
* The article “Who Was Cagliostro?”, by Will C. Burger, in “The Theosophist”, Adyar, Madras / Chennai, India, March 1962, starting at p. 384.     
* The article “The Mystery of Cagliostro’s Mission”, by Will C. Burger, in “The Theosophist”, July 1962, Adyar, Madras / Chennai, India, starting at page 252.  
* The article “Blavatsky About Cagliostro”, by Will Burger, “The Theosophist”, October 1964, starting at page 8.
* The article “Great Theosophists – Cagliostro”, in the magazine “Theosophy”, Los Angeles, October 1938, pp. 530-536.
* HPB’s narrative “An Unsolved Mystery”, included with commentaries by the editor Boris de Zirkoff in “Collected Writings”, H. P. Blavatsky, TPH, volume I, pp. 151-162. The short story is also published in the associated websites. The fantastic tale describes a supposed episode with Cagliostro and his wife, both using other names and living in Paris, in 1861. The narrative might be a way for HPB to evaluate the life of an initiate while at the same time giving false clues about “the mystery of Cagliostro” in order to protect the secret that must surround the life of every advanced disciple. Beneath its outer layer of symbolism, the text examines fundamental challenges faced by disciples in general, and more specifically by Cagliostro in the 18th century. However, if seen at from the external and literal point of view, the story is incongruous. For example, it makes no sense to think that a non-advanced person on the Path, like Cagliostro’s wife, could reincarnate in such a short time. Nor is it correct to think that Cagliostro could be doing exactly the same things one century later, or that he was involved in a personal situation as complicated as the one shown by the narrative. Furthermore, if the facts reported were real, they would have had to appear in the newspapers, and there is no evidence that they did. It is evident therefore that one must transcend the dead letter reading in order to fully appreciate the lessons of great value contained in it.
* There are several references to Cagliostro in the first part of the narrative entitled “The Silent Brother”, by HPB, included in “Collected Writings”, volume II, pp. 366-377. See especially the first two pages.  
* “HPB Speaks”, edited by C. Jinarajadasa, TPH, Adyar, India, a compilation in two volumes. See volume II, pp. 27 through 36.  
* “Cagliostro”, Roberto Gervaso, Biblioteca Universale Rizzoli, BUR, copyright 1972, 1976, 1992, Milano, Italy, 250 pages.
* The book “Cagliostro”, Philippe Brunet, copyright 1994, Rusconi Libri, Milano, Italy, 380 pages.  
* The article “Prince Talleyrand, On Cagliostro”, by William Q. Judge, which is available at the associated websites.
* “Collected Writings” of H.P. Blavatsky, TPH, India, volume XV (Index), pp.  98-99.
* The article “Alexandre Dumas Describes Cagliostro”, by Carlos Cardoso Aveline. The same text, in Portuguese language: “Alexandre Dumas Descreve Cagliostro”.
* The 20-page essay “Cagliostro”, in the book “Les Illuminés”, by Gérard de Nerval, Éditions Gallimard, France, 441 pp., see pp. 357-377.
The Mystery of Cagliostro” is available as an independent article in the associated websites since 20 October 2021. It is a translation made by the author of his Portuguese language text “O Mistério de Alessandro Cagliostro”. It was first published in English in two parts in the editions of September 2021 and October 2021 of “The Aquarian Theosophist”.
Read more:
* “Rituel de la Maçonnerie Egyptienne”, Édition des Cahiers Astrologiques, Nice, France, Annoté par le Docteur Marc Haven, 147 pp., 1948.