Rosicrucian Writings Online
The Unknown PhilosopherLOUIS CLAUDE DE SAINT-MARTIN
By Stanislaw and Zofja Goszczynski, F.R.C.
Officers, Grand Lodge of the A.M.O.R.C. of Poland
[From The Rosicrucian Digest December 1947]
IN THE great family of nations, notwithstanding the differences of race, nationality, and language, there is a tendency for spiritually awakened men to gravitate to each other; the men of kindred souls who seek the plenitude of their humanity and who, unable to attain it solely on the physical plane, pursue it in the higher regions where their ardent yearning leads them to the very sanctuary of the Living God. Those wayfarers recognize each other by signs visible and invisible, and discover the degree of development and rebirth in the spirit as real and definitely achieved. In cases of special spiritual nearness the link between them becomes so close that even so-called death ceases to be an impediment.
Not always does a spiritually united family exist in the flesh at one time but each of the members discovers sooner or later its traces, and benefits by the spiritual hoardings of predecessors. Each one on the way to self-development tends to the knowledge of his own self, endeavors to unveil the transcendental, eternal picture concealed in him, to unravel the text of God-thought deposed in him and attain its fullest and purest manifestation.
Here can be aptly quoted the words of the Gospel: "Seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you." Whoever ardently desires, perseveringly seeks and yearns to reach the Divine Ideal with the whole strength of his soul is sure to find support.
Indeed, the courageous conquer the Kingdom of Heaven by subduing the opposition of the lower instincts of nature, by scorning any compromise and tending ever higher toward the Kingdom of Light and Liberty. Louis Claude de Saint-Martin was such a knight bent on the quest of light. He has been acknowledged as one of the greatest mystics of France, but the work of his life is not solely in the books he wrote. His whole existence was devoted to the idea of a great renascence of mankind, and he awakened a profound echo not only in France but also in the West and East of Europe. We find traces of this influence in the creative works of our prophetic poets, markedly in Adam Mickiewicz.
To be able to understand Saint-Martin one must go deep into his work; peruse his wide correspondence, study his biography (published by Papus, Matter, Franck, and others) presented by many authors and critics, often partially and wrongly.
A keen observer should have no difficulty in discovering the real Saint-Martin, a picture not blurred by superfluous and erroneous suggestions.
His real self passed through various phases of development; a disciple and adept of the esoteric science of Martinez Pasquales, who was a sociologist, a theurgist, and a mystic, we see the rungs of the ladder he mounted, marked by the very title of his successive books: The Man of Desire, The New Man, The Ministry of the Man-Spirit.
The principal traits of Saint-Martin's character were manly energy, vigorous activity, and also a womanly, fine sensitiveness and inborn refinement. His undaunted and unwavering attitude when he stood up in defence of professed ideals, virtually supported by his mode of life, often made him seem hard, even toward friends, but he was the first to suffer. A tenderness springing from the heart would strive to allay the pain he could not help inflicting on others.
The mysticism of Saint-Martin was not abstract and separated from life. He endeavored to penetrate the very depth of the Godhead and with the searchlights of knowledge illuminate all the aspects of life. He had discovered the secret of happiness on earth, perfect balance between law and duty, harmony of professed ideals with everyday life. He considered that the coexistence of various people should be based on fraternity, leading toward the spiritual equality of all and to the freedom which is the natural outcome of the principles of brotherhood.
The doctrine of Saint-Martin is clear and simple. Its truth can be easily perceived by any man of good will, because the French mystic had first gained the knowledge of divine laws and fashioned his doctrine accordingly. Through his works he desired to diffuse the light of knowledge imparted to him by revelation, and yet a dread of possible abuse on the part of people, unprepared or persistently of bad-will, induced him to use the esoteric veil of symbols, when approaching truths destined for the initiated. The work of his life made his name immortal, not only in his own country but throughout the world, since the ray, started from the source of universal light, shines irresistibly for the whole of mankind.
Saint-Martin was born in Amboise, January 18, 1743. Very little is known about his childhood. His mother died soon and this loss must have had a deep influence on the molding of his personality. Thence his excessive sensitiveness, the outpouring of feeling in quest of response, and the sweetness of his refinement. Between him and his father there was lack of understanding and even in the early years of Saint-Martin's activity clashes became unavoidable. Not much is known concerning his brothers, but it also seems that no harmony existed in this relation. Sorrow stung the heart of Saint-Martin in early childhood but his reaction showed more strength than weakness.
In the background of a not-too-happy childhood, there arose in the child's soul yearnings for a higher life; shortage of love in his family circle incited him to seek the love of God. The letters of Saint-Martin tell us how conscientiously he tried to fulfill his duty toward his father, even at the cost of great sacrifice, thereby impeding the plans he had made for his future. After he had finished school, his father wanted him to study law; Saint-Martin was obedient to this wish. Nevertheless, he was soon convinced of the impossibility of continuing in this direction. The intricacies of law, its relativity, went against the grain of his character. He was looking for another sort of law. In this period of his life, he could not see his way clearly, conscious will power was still missing--thence his second mistake: military service. This also did not last long, but in this station of life something began to crystallize in the interior of his being--a door seemed to open on the enchanted garden in which he was to begin his mission. He became acquainted with Monsieur de Grainville, an officer like himself, and with De Balzac, both disciples of Martinez Pasquales. Gradually their relations grew closer. Saint-Martin was received into the inner circle of Martinez Pasquales; he became initiated and became to Martinez Pasquales a chosen pupil and secretary.
Saint-Martin left the army and devoted himself entirely to his work. The idea of the Reintegration of Mankind advanced by Martinez Pasquales appealed to him strongly. Loyally and with great fervor, Saint-Martin began to execute all the orders of his Master, studying his theory, submitting to recommended and theurgic practices.
The turning point in the life of Saint-Martin came when he met the "Unknown Agent" (L'Agent Inconnu). This was a being who belonged to the higher spiritual planes, put his stamp on the lodge at Lyons, and especially inspired Saint-Martin. Now the individuality of Saint-Martin began to crystallize, making him more and more interested in regard to the collective work in the lodges and to new personal contacts as, for example, with the Mesmeric Society, and the numerous occultists of the time--English, Italian, Polish, and Russian.
Friendships with women played an important part in the life of Saint-Martin; their tone was lively and enthusiastic, and seemed to flow from a need of spiritual communion with the pole of eternal womanhood. However, Saint-Martin used to say that he was made solely for spiritual life; he never married.
His biographers enumerate a list of prominent women of the time. The Duchess of Bourbon, Madame de Bry, Madame de Saint-Dicher, Madame de Polomieu, Madame de Brissac, and others. A significant role in the life of Saint-Martin was played by Madame de Boecklin (thanks to her spirituality and her great intelligence). She inspired him to read the works of Jacob Boehme. The preceding years of his life were only a preparation, for now his soul opened like a flower. The light of spiritual knowledge streamed from the works of Boehme into the prepared interior of Saint-Martin's being and gave an unwanted glamour to his mission. He felt a new plenitude of realization, a freedom from the fettering influence of the exterior world, henceforward only a field of action, a scope of fruitful service. The great French Revolution left him unshaken. As an initiate of high degree, he could easily unravel the meaning of tremendous events but, though compassionate for the mass of suffering showered on France, he never tried to avert the decisions of destiny as did other initiates, according to Cazotte, a man of high moral worth and a mystic, with whom he was in close relations. When death overshadowed Paris, snatching at highborn victims, Saint-Martin felt safe in this city, while he gave help to the needy without fear for his own life which he had entrusted to God. When forced to leave for Amboise he remained there to the end of his days, correcting and completing his work. He died on October 13, 1803. The pupils of Saint-Martin state that the last moments of his life were ecstatic. Light surrounded and transfigured him. He already had lived on another plane, and proved that the death of a mystic and initiate is free from the dread of the unknown. For a liberated soul, death is a shaking off of the limitations of matter, a return from exile, a reunion with the Celestial Father.
We propose now, after having perused available documents, to present more exactly the phases of the development of Saint-Martin. His soul sought to manifest itself in exterior life in a way corresponding to his yearnings and vague desires. His meeting with De Grainville and De Balzac brought a change in his whole life. He seemed to receive a patent directive as to the future trend of his life. From his early youth he was always ready for an eager subjection to the interior imperative. Never did his exterior nature give opposition. It seemed to be a foresight of his own mission which exacted a holocaustal renouncement of his lower nature, a compromise in the service of truth, modesty and humility.
Martinez Pasquales was the first teacher of Saint-Martin. The chief idea of his doctrine of the reintegration of man--that is, man's return to that primary state before his plunge into the material world of phenomena--swept Saint-Martin. Overcome by the greatness of truth and beauty, he willingly devoted himself to all necessary studies and required practices. In the school of Martinez at Lyons the way toward Illuminism led through practices of ceremonial magic. The last goal was the union with God. Martinez Pasquales founded a convent in Lyons under the name of Elus Cohens. It was a time when great interest was awakened by esoteric problems, by so-called magic. Under the guidance of Villermoz, whom Saint-Martin came to know, the Lyons Lodge expanded.
The doctrine of Martinez magic and theurgy seemed most appropriate to Villermoz. It was his mission to spread Illuminism in France. He appreciated team work. Common pursuits at first drew those two eminent pupils of Martinez together, but there soon appeared their differences of character and psychic organization. They parted on the question of methods leading to the ultimate goal. Villermoz chose the mental way which exacted an intellectual development and found its expression in ceremonial magic, whereas Saint-Martin chose the way of the heart and found his expression in pure theurgy. He found magic undesirable because it magnified individual will power, which often led to pride, imperceptibly penetrated into the interior, and caused, if not a fall, a stumbling on the way to renascence. On the contrary theurgy as recognized by Saint-Martin developed ever-deeper humility, because of the tightening of the bond with God through prayer and imploration. Humility and simplicity, these two dominant traits of Saint-Martin's character, made him shun the pomp and resplendent form affected by the lodges. He was looking for a direct and simple expression of the experiences of the soul. He wanted above all to see and demonstrate the precious essence left by the intercourse with the Upper Powers.
An important landmark of Saint-Martin's development, as mentioned previously, was his contact with the so-called Unknown Agent, whose communicated teaching made a profound impression on him. It was at this time that he wrote his first book: On Error and Truth. Ever trying in all his aims to be as near truth as possible, he signed this book with the name "The Unknown Philosopher." This inspired work, because of its unusual tenor, started much discussion, especially in the circles of the Illuminati. Its thesis was that through the knowledge of his own nature man can attain the knowledge of his Creator and of all creation, and also of the fundamental laws of the Universe found reflected in the law made by man. In this light was shown the importance of free will, this fundamental aptitude of man, which when ill-used, leads to the fall of man, and when used for the good leads to the enfranchisement and resurrection in the spirit. The Unknown Agent was active in the Lyons Lodge and copies were made of his teachings. Saint-Martin eagerly assimilated these teachings and as time passed and he himself received revelation he desired to share it with the members of the Lyons Lodge. Dazzled and exhilarated by the light of his own knowledge, he expected the same reaction on the part of his brethren. How great and painful was his disappointment when he met with a cold and suspicious reception on the part of the assembly. This experience proved tremendous because he realized the dread responsibility of unveiling lofty truths to the unprepared. It was a blow which through him reached the Great Mediator and was all the more painful. After this, Saint-Martin developed a great reserve, a fear of divulging higher knowledge. Here we find the explanation of a certain obscurity veiling the light contained in his work. He apparently adopted the Pythagorean maxim: "Man has only one mouth and two ears."
The exterior life of our Unknown Philosopher was a living web on which the thread of his interior life embroidered the design, and for its perfection he knew how to use any happening, fortunate or unfortunate, always finding therein a concealed instruction. Saint-Martin discovered the great worth of silence, a condition absolutely necessary to assure inspiration. Was not silence a mantle protecting the invisible world from profanation? Nevertheless the school of silence was hard for a mystic of his temperament, whose soul desired above all to throw light into the dusk of ignorance.
A dry dogma could only impede the creative torrent of his interior life--silence could not fence his activity, but it served him to weigh spiritual gold before abandoning it to his pupil.
Next in turn was Saint-Martin's book Tableau Naturel (Natural Picture). Here the author treats of the relation between God, man, and nature. Man was deprived of his higher aptitudes and means, by reason of his plunge in matter so deeply that he lost the conscience of his primary nature, existent prior to his fall, which was a reflection of the image of God. Thus was man subjected to the laws reigning in the physical world. Through his fall, man stepped out of the frame of his own rights and ceased to be a link between God and Nature. Man possesses higher psychic aptitudes which can subject the senses and the forces of nature, if he becomes independent of the encroachment of the senses, without foregoing the possibility of making them serve him to enlarge the scope of his knowledge. Man as a rule possesses the faculty of perceiving law, order, unity, wisdom, justice, and power of a higher grade. By subjecting himself to the working of his own will, he can return to the fount of knowledge still existing in him; he can restore the unity which was the beginning of all. The renascence of man was made possible by the sacrifice of the Savior, and now any man can take part in the work of restoration of the old order and return to the old laws which are at the service of every creature.
Saint-Martin was an ardent foe of the philosophy of atheism and materialism then rife in the whole of Europe. In this period one can see the full individual richness of the Unknown Philosopher. He unites the cognizance gained from the invisible world with the knowledge of mind, and both things combined give the fullness of his teachings which deal with all the problems touching the conditions of the development of individuals, societies, and nations. This was the time of his untiring activity, of his numerous contacts in his own country and abroad. He found time for a large correspondence and shared with others the fruit of his knowledge. The influence of Saint-Martin and the diffusion of his teachings in France, England and Russia date from the year 1785. This is shown by his letters and the work of Longinow: Nowikow and the Moscow Martinists.
When in London he met Law, the mystic, and also M. Belz, the famous clairvoyant. This meeting proved very important. He became a friend of Zinovoew and of Prince Galitzin, who introduced Martinism into Russia. If Martinism was criticized and persecuted, it was only the result of ignorance as to the essence and the aims of this doctrine, and also the result of the human faults of sundry Martinists--weak and incomplete natures, unequal to the high moral stand demanded by the teachings of Saint-Martin.
(To be concluded in the next issue)
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