THE MAN OF DESIRE
BY ARTHUR EDWARD WAITE
AFTER the publication of Le Tableau Naturel Saint-Martin remained less or more at Pares, and his intermittent correspondence with Willermoz is at times scarcely intelligible in the absence of the latter's communications. Willermoz evidently was passing through a strenuous period, connected perhaps with embroilments consequent on the Masonic Convention of Wilhelmsbad, held in 1782, and the fate of the Strict Observance. There is one allusion which suggests vaguely the his torical transformation of that Rite at Lyons prior to 1778, and the creation thereby of the Knights Beneficent of the Holy City. But there is no certainty on the subject, and for the rest we learn only of Saint-Martin's brief interest in the discovery of Mesmer, its connection with a society instituted by that great comet of a season, and his presence at certain cures operated magnetically by Puysegur.
A single remark informs us that he would take no part in the Convention of Paris, summoned by the Rite of the Philalethes. We reach in this manner the month of April, 1785, when Saint Martin had received such news from Willermoz that in his reply of the 29th he expresses his rapture on learning that the sun has risen on Israel; he affirms that the man so chosen is for him henceforward a man of God whom he will venerate as the anointed one of the Saviour; he entreats him to pardon whatever wrongs he may be thought to have committed against him on his own part; he ascribes all differences which have arisen between them to his own ignorance he condemns himself for his temerity in having published anything; he asks Willermoz to intercede for him with something which appears to be called La chose, whose place he has taken unasked; he prays to be enlightened on the faults of his own heart the errors of his mind and of his works, he places himself under has orders and terms him has master, holy friend, father in God and Christ Jesus.
It looks evident in a word that Saint-Martin stood ready to set aside all his previous views and inferentially those which had always disposed him towards the inward way of the mystics rather than that of his first Master What, therefore, had occurred ? I have forestalled the event unavoidably in my third chapter. According to Dr. Papus, the archives in his possession show that after prolonged failure Willermoz reached the end of his labours, that he obtained "phenomena of the highest importance," which culminated in 1785, or "thirteen years after the death of his initiator Martines de Pasqually." More explicitly, the Being who is said to be described by Willermoz as "the Unknown Agent charged with the work of initiation" - otherwise, perhaps, La chose - materialised at Lyons and gave instructions which - as we have seen were reduced to writing.
Occurrences of this kind being innumerable at the present day, I suppose that we are not in a position to sympathize with the raptures of Saint-Martin, his tears or his changing front. His next letter, dated May 13, indicates that he had been reassured and consoled by Willermoz, for which he praises God. He waits now on a summons to Lyons, that he may see and hear for himself. Meanwhile he and his correspondent will remain united through time and eternity.
On June 30 he has made preparations for the journey and is looking to greet Willermoz soon after the letter under that date. Of what followed we know little and nest to nothing, except that fifteen months later Saint-Martin is at Paris, bewailing his imprudence in having spoken too freely to certain brethren and thus prejudiced the "enjoyments" of has friend. (2a) In January, 1787, he is in London, where he remained for some six months, making the acquaintance of William Law and the astronomer Herschel, the Comte de Divonne, Dutens and the Russian Prince Galitzin, with whom he was domiciled. It was in London also, as he tells us, that he wrote his third book, L'Homme de Desir, though it was not published till 1790, and then at Lyons. It is important not only in itself, as one of Saint-Martin's most inspired writings, but as showing beyond debate that, whatever experiences had awaited him at Lyons, they cooled the ardour kindled by their first indications, and he had returned to his own path with an increased sense of dedication. I can say only that the hunger and thirst after God are in all its pages.
This is not, however, to suggest that he is denuded of all interests in the Lyons phenomena: his only letter written to Willermoz while in England offers a contrary indication; but the interest appears detached.
In July, 1787, Saint-Martin passed through Paris on has way to Amboise, where his father had been stricken with paralysis. In September he was again at Lyons, but it was in the absence of Willermoz. Thereafter he paid a second visit to Italy, visiting Siena and Rome. In the early part of 1788 Papus reports that the apparitions of the Agent had ceased, according to a letter of Willermoz.
In April of that year Saint-Martin is at Paris and about to visit his father, who is still alive, at the native place of both. In June he proceeded to Strasbourg, where he resided for three years, the happiest of all his life. As I said long ago: "It was here, under the auspices of Rodolphe Salzmann, also mystically disposed, and of Madame de Boecklin, his most intimate and cherished woman friend, that he made his first acquaintance with the writings of Jacob Bohme; here he became intimate with the Chevalier de Silferhielm, a nephew of Swedenborg; and all his horizon widened under the influence of the Teutonic theosopher. On December 16, 1789, he asked Willermoz whether he could participate in the "initiation" attached to the Regime Rectifie without belonging to its Symbolical Lodge. I do not think that Papus knew what this meant, and therefore wisely offered no word of comment. But the Regime Ecossais Ancien et Rectifie was the Strict Observance as transformed at Lyons and ratified at Wilhelmsbad; more especially it was the Craft Degrees of this Rite and their supplement the Grade of St. Andrew. Beyond it were the novitiate and chivalry of the Holy City, and these again beyond were two final Grades, which I do not propose to specify by name, as they were and are in obscurity. It is to these that Saint-Martin refers under the vague title of "initiations."
He did not apparently get a straight answer, and on July 4, 1790, he asked Willermoz to advise the proper quarter of his resignation from the Interior Order - i.e., the novitiate and chivalry - and from all lists and registers in which his name may have been inscribed since 1785. He points out that in the spirit he had never been integrated therein. His intention apparently was to remain among the Coens - i.e., the EIect Priesthood - but how nominally we call imagine from the utter detachment of his letter, (1a) the references to his simple mode of life, and above all his closing words, in which he registers a hope that he has separated for ever from those complicated paths which had always wearied him. It is an eloquent commentary on the manifestations of Lyons, the dictated instructions of La chose, the astral travellings of D'Hauterive, and the clairvoyance's of the "lucids" who seem to have assisted at the operations.
There are no further letters from Saint-Martin to Willermoz, and already during this year, in some early month, the Agent had received "on demand" and had destroyed "more than eighty folios" of his dictated instructions, the same not having been " published," as Willermoz states in a letter quoted by Papus.
It follows that ''the Unknown Agent charged with the work of initiation" had undone that work, and whether or not, as suggested- but Papus seems doubtful - the manifestations continued at intervals till 1796, it would seem that there is no record of proceedings, and the whole thing sagged out. The Elect Priesthood missed its mark; with all his ceremonial, all his occult powers, PasqualIy scored a failure, and the Master who emerged from the unseen, carrying such high ascribed warrants, permitted himself, through sheer lack in resources, to be circumvented by as the emissaries of Robespierre." Meanwhile the star of Saint-Martin's influence grew from more to more. L'Homme de Desir was reprinted several times, and in the highest circles of society, at Strasbourg and Paris, in the palace of the Duchesse de Bourbon, amidst the convulsions of the revolutions he taught the way of the mystics.