A seemingly universal human trait is the fear of death. To some extent we all find ways to deal with the reality that one day, the life we live now, will come to an end. Historically, man has created tales of afterlives and heavens/paradises as a means of coming to terms with the inevitability of death. Another interesting wrinkle in the equation is the idea of immortality. That someone can find a way to completely conquer death and therefore live forever. Within the paranormal/fortean realm, the concept of immortality takes on a few forms which I want to spend some time talking about today.
The Comte de Saint Germain
A few months back, Greg Bishop interviewed the enigmatic Red Pill Junkie (of The Daily Grail, Mysterious Universe, and Intrepid Magazine fame) on Radio Misterioso. During their enlightening conversation (part 1, part 2), which I recommend you give a listen, RPJ mentioned a particular book which he found to be worth reading. I didn’t remember hearing about the book before, so I promptly went to amazon and ordered it. The book is The Morning of the Magicians, which I came to learn is considered a classic work on esotericism from the mid-1960’s. Topics within the book include; the works of Charles Fort, the ‘teachings’ of Gurdjieff, Alchemy, Fulcanelli, and possible ancient advanced civilizations. I haven’t completely finished the book yet as there is a ton of content to digest. However the authors discussion on Alchemy really grabbed my attention and sent me off on a variety of internet web searches. The searches ended with me learning of the bizarre personage known as: The Comte de Saint Germain.
St. Germain is widely believed to have been born in 1690. He claimed to be the son of Francis II Rákóczi, the Prince of Transylvania, although Francis’ will claimed that he only had one heir, a Leopold George who is said to have died at age four. Other more extreme theories hold that Germain was born around the time of Christ and was actually in attendance at the wedding where Jesus is said to have turned water into wine. Regardless, actual historical evidence exists of a person named St. Germain who was often in the company of the aristocracy of 18th century Europe and France. Germain arrived on the scene around 1742 and began courting favor with the rich and famous of the time period. By all accounts Germain was an odd character who seemed to have great deal of knowledge on a variety of topics. Here are some attributed characteristics and facts about St. Germain courtesy of Stephen Wagner from paranormal.about.com:
- He could play the violin like a virtuoso.
- He was an accomplished painter.
- Wherever he traveled, he set up an elaborate laboratory, presumably for his alchemy work.
- He seemed to be a man of great wealth, but was not known to have any bank accounts. (If it was due to his ability to transmute base metals into gold, he never performed the feat for observers.)
- He dined often with friends because he enjoyed their company, but was rarely seen to eat food in public. He subsisted, it was said, on a diet of oatmeal.
- He prescribed recipes for the removal of facial wrinkles and for dyeing hair.
- He loved jewels, and much of his clothing - including his shoes - were studded with them.
- He had perfected a technique for painting jewels.
- He claimed to be able to fuse several small diamonds into one large one. He also said he could make pearls grow to incredible sizes.
- He has been linked to several secret societies, including the Rosicrucians, Freemasons, Society of Asiatic Brothers, the Knights of Light, the Illuminati and Order of the Templars.
Another interesting story about St. Germain comes from a 1760 meeting between St. Germain and a Countess von Georgy. Wagner relates the following:
An anecdote from 1760 most likely gave rise to the notion that Saint-Germain could be immortal. In Paris that year, Countess von Georgy heard that a Count de Saint-Germain had arrived for a soiree at the home of Madame de Pompadour, mistress of King Louis XV of France. The elderly countess was curious because she had known a Count de Saint-Germain while in Venice in 1710. Upon meeting the count again, she was astonished to see that he hadn't appeared to age, and asked him if it was his father she knew in Venice.
"No, Madame," he replied, "but I myself was living in Venice at the end of the last and the beginning of this century; I had the honor to pay you court then."
"Forgive me, but that it impossible!" the perplexed countess said. "The Count de Saint-Germain I knew in those days was at least forty-five years old. And you, at the outside, are that age at present."
"Madame, I am very old," he said with a knowing smile.
"But then you must be nearly 100 years old," said the astonished countess.
"That is not impossible," the count told her matter-of-factly, then continued to convince the countess that he was indeed the same man she knew with the details of their previous meetings and of life in Venice 50 years earlier.
The official record of The Comte de Saint Germain comes to an end on 1784 with his death. The unofficial record of St. Germain was just beginning. If, as he alluded to Countess von Georgy, Germain was an immortal (or discovered the secret of immortality through alchemy) it should come as no surprise that Germain continued to be sighted long after his death. Although it was often under an assumed name. I suppose continuing to use the same name after you’ve “died’ could prove problematic. Stephen Wagner tells of a few encounters with Germain, or persons who claimed to be him, after his “death”:
- In 1785 he was seen in Germany with Anton Mesmer, the pioneer hypnotist. (Some claim that it was Saint-Germain who gave Mesmer the basic ideas for hypnotism and personal magnetism.)
- Official records of Freemasonry show that they chose Saint-Germain as their representative for a convention in 1785.
- After the taking of the Bastille in the French Revolution in 1789, the Comtesse d'Adhémar said she had a lengthy conversation with Count de Saint-Germain. He allegedly told her of France's immediate future, as if he knew what was to come. In 1821, she wrote: "I have seen Saint-Germain again, each time to my amazement. I saw him when the queen [Antoinette] was murdered, on the 18th of Brumaire, on the day following the death of the Duke d'Enghien, in January, 1815, and on the eve of the murder of the Duke de Berry." The last time she saw him was in 1820 - and each time he looked to be a man no older than his mid-40s.
After 1821, Saint-Germain may have taken on another identity. In his memoirs, Albert Vandam wrote of meeting a man who bore a striking resemblance to Count de Saint-Germain, but who went by the name of Major Fraser. Vandam wrote:
"He called himself Major Fraser, lived alone and never alluded to his family. Moreover he was lavish with money, though the source of his fortune remained a mystery to everyone. He possessed a marvelous knowledge of all the countries in Europe at all periods. His memory was absolutely incredible and, curiously enough, he often gave his hearers to understand that he had acquired his learning elsewhere than from books. Many is the time he has told me, with a strange smile, that he was certain he had known Nero, had spoken with Dante, and so on."
Major Fraser disappeared without a trace.
Coming full circle back to The Morning of the Magicians, the famed occultist Madame Helena Blavatsky and others of her Theosophical Society claimed many contacts with the still living Comte de Saint Germain as late as the early 20th century. Blavatsky stated that Germain was hard at work helping the spiritual development of the West, which just so happens to have been Blavatsky’s stated goal. A sad final note to the tale of St. Germain is related by Stephen Wagner again. He notes:
The most recent appearance of a man claiming to be Saint-Germain was in 1972 in Paris when a man named Richard Chanfray announced he was the legendary count. He appeared on French television, and to prove his claim apparently turned lead into gold on a camp stove before the cameras. Chanfray later committed suicide in 1983
Who or what was/is Comte de Saint Germain? Could he have actually been an immortal? Could it be that he was just an exceptionally bright individual which has had their legend grow overtime? If he was actually an immortal, he should still be out there somewhere right now. If that is the case, surely he would be doing what I know I would do in his position; Google himself. Assuming he is, if you’re reading this and I’ve misspoke about your history, St Germain, please drop me a line I’d be happy to edit as needed!
Moving on from more likely candidates who may have achieved immortality, we will now take a look at some less than credible speculation courtesy of everyone’s favorite website; Above Top Secret! A thread I stumbled across entitled Celebrity vampires/Time Travel, reminded me about the strange doppelganger effect some folks have noticed between modern day celebrities and photos from antiquity. This thread collates a variety of the many immortal celebrity stories which have been making the rounds on the internet.
As seen in the photo above, the idea that Nicholas Cage may be immortal first came out in 2011. A Civil War era photo popped up on ebay with the seller claiming that the photo was proof that Cage is immortal, although the seller came at it from the Vampire angle. He was asking a substantial amount of money for the photo, which did eventually sell. Cage refuted the claims on the David Letterman show, because why not?
The thread brings to light some other examples that I wasn’t familiar with previously. Writing for Examiner, Tom Rose discussed the possibility that funnyman Zach Galifianakis too was an immortal, or had time traveled. Rose writes:
On Jan. 22, 2013, another man, Steven Canfield Crowley, posed the same question about the actor Zach Galifianakis after unearthing a tintype photograph from the 1880s which bears a striking resemblance to the comedian.
In a YouTube video, Crowley makes the same claim. What's going on here?
Again, the resemblance is startling. The unidentified man in the tintype is somewhat older, but the two men could literally be brothers. Does time travel work in reverse as well?
Other examples from the thread include; Jay-Z, Keanu Reeves, and Queen Latifah. I highly recommend you take the opportunity to check out the thread and follow the various links you’ll find there to examine the “evidence” for this phenomena yourself. How do we explain the resemblances between the celebrities and their historical doppelgangers? Coincidence? Over-active imagination? Immortality? While it’s fun to look at these photos and imagine “What if?”, I have to say that, at least for the moment, I’m going to say it’s unlikely that these photos show proof of immortality. But like everything else, who knows?
Immortality: Nature vs Science
Our journey through the world of immortality ends with an examination of the possible future scientific breakthroughs in immortality. Could it be that one day, and maybe not that far off, science could effectively “cure” death? Some scientists seem to be hard at work doing just that. A quick Google search for “science of immortality” reveals a plethora of recent scientific articles which deal with this very idea.
A somewhat related idea to this is the “promise” of immortality which is sought by the Transhumanist movement. Believing that they can potentially achieve immortality by transcending the human body by way of technology. This is thought to be achievable by perhaps reconstructing human consciousness in a computer or digital construct. Interesting stuff to be sure, but I’m not quite as optimistic about this technologies arrival as one of it’s main proponents, Ray Kurzweil is.
Along these same lines, I have to wonder if it’s not possible that someone has already discovered the key to immortality. There seems to be a lot about some ancient civilizations which was lost to us. Could it be that they knew this secret and passed it down only to the initiated, many of whom would still be alive today? Alchemical traditions speak of the concept of the Philosopher’s Stone which could, along with transmuting lead into gold, grant eternal life. It’s entirely likely that modern science/medicine is simply retreading well-worn ground.
Where do we go from here? It’s hard to settle this issue with any finality. It’s likely that as long as we age and die, we will probably always entertain the ideas of immortality. As is often the case our fantasies of living forever don’t deal with the day-to-day issues which might come along with immortality.,We would watching family and friends age and die, dealing with advances in knowledge and technology, etc. So long as we continue to fear death, I imagine we will continue to invent ways to deal with it. Whether this takes the form of building up legends of already extraordinary people, “seeing” modern celebrities in images from the past, or literally making advances to wipe out death, it will go on and on.