In the beginning all knowledge was occult, meaning “kept secret,” including mathematics, music, medicine, chemistry, astronomy, metallurgy and philosophy. Eventually, however, the sciences and the study of telepathy parted ways, the former being accepted into the national academies while the later confined to forbidden secret societies.
Priests and clergy have always made some of the best spooks, and certainly the Jesuits are famous for founding universities and recruiting secret agents within their ranks. But when the Age of Enlightenment began to threaten the European oligarchies, there suddenly was an explosive growth in occultism. To quickly advance to the front lines, one merely had to claim some secret wisdom or magic power and arrange a fake demonstration, a mission easily accomplished, which is why so many spooks transformed into fake magicians during this period in history.
While there were many serious students of alchemy, astrology and the use of symbols and ritual to communicate with the unconscious mind, there were more fakers looking for an easy buck, or playing roles as spooks, than authentic mediums. There simply was no more influential position for a spook to play than as official royal fortune teller.
The Most Holy Trinosophia was an illustrated Finnegan’s-Wake-like guide to Egyptian magic containing tarot-like paintings with cryptic captions written in a variety of languages and esoteric codes. The 97-page book had the ability to supply multiple meanings since the imagination was forced to fill in blanks, the same magic trick employed by songwriters seeking universality. Many of its codes have yet to be cracked, probably because the author intended it that way. Manley P. Hall found two triangular copies, now owned by the Getty Museum, while the original resides in a French museum.
Alessandro Cagliostro was the creator of the book, as well as the founder of a new branch of Masonry known as The Egyptian Rite, notable for its acceptance of Jews and women. Born in the Jewish quarter of Palermo, Sicily, as Giuseppe Balsamo, Cagliostro convinced a local goldsmith to loan him 70 pieces of silver and then departed Sicily to seek his fortune. He’d lured the goldsmith into a treasure hunting scheme, claiming he could locate a treasure while shielding against its evil curse.
In 1768, Cagliostro became secretary to Cardinal Orsini, and the following year Pope Clement XIII ordered a consistory to examine widespread demands requesting the suppression of the Society of Jesus. Many monarchs felt the Jesuits were a dangerous conspiracy of power as their influence had grown immensely since the order’s founding in 1534. The order had been recently expelled from France, Portugal, Naples and Sicily. This important consistory was scheduled for February 3, 1769, but whoops, Pope Clement turned up unexpectedly dead on the morning of February 2nd.
While I’m not connecting Cagliostro to this mischief, this background illustrates the intense conspiratorial reality during the Enlightenment, something Jesuits were trying to roll back through the power of the Inquisition.
Cagliostro was making his living forging Egyptian art and amulets (which he no doubt represented as ancient and magical) when he met the beautiful 17-year-old Serafina and swiftly proposed. Soon, Serafina was dangled in front of a forger named Agliata, who agreed to surrender the secrets of expert forgery in exchange for a night or two alone with Serafina, to which Cagliostro readily consented.
The couple soon traveled to London and made contact with the mysterious Compte de Saint-Germain, one of the greatest spooks of the time. In 1776, Cagilostro was inducted into the Esperance Lodge No. 289 on Gerrard Street in Soho, and four years later, founded Egyptian freemasonry. He began traveling throughout Europe in an attempt to unite the Masonic community under his umbrella, as he felt his Egyptian rites preceded all others. He was eventually arrested in Rome by Jesuit Inquisitors and died while in captivity. Aleister Crowley believed he was Cagliostro in a previous life.
The Count of Saint-Germain’s origins are shrouded in mystery. Although he claimed royal birth, that was most likely a lie, although he was well financed throughout most his life. He was constantly inventing autobiographical fables, usually claiming he was over a hundred years old and sometimes much older. He claimed to have discovered the secret of the Philosopher’s Stone.
The Count was also a talented composer who published an extensive array of sonatas and arias, as well as being fluent in many languages. Mostly, he was an expert in flattery and seduction.
These are the foundations upon which Blavatsky and Crowley constructed their philosophies. That and the tradition of using spooky symbols to scare people, an art that was all the rage in Paris prior to and during the Revolution. There was a side to the occult based in sadomasochism and the art of amplifying fear, for fear is one of the easiest emotions to evoke, especially during times of civil unrest. This trend can still be found all over the Internet today employed by spooks and kooks. Just try to keep in mind, any time they try to scare you with religion or magic, it’s always a hoodwink. Always.