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Count Alessandro di Cagliostro is Born

Today in Masonic History Count Alessandro di Cagliostro is born in 1743.

Count Alessandro di Cagliostro was an Italian adventurer and occultist.

Cagliostro was born Giuseppe Balsamo and in France is referred to as Joseph Balsamo. He was born to a poor family in Albergheria, which was once part of the Jewish Quarter in Palermo, Sicily. Despite the financial issues of the family Cagliostro's grandfather made sure he had a solid education. At one point Cagliostro became a novice in the Catholic Order of St. John of God, an order founded in 1527 dedicated to good works in health and social service activities. He was eventually expelled from the order. In the order he learned chemistry and spiritual rites.

In 1764, Cagliostro convinced a wealthy goldsmith a treasure was buried on Mount Pellegrino. The goldsmith believed Cagliostro's knowledge of the occult was useful in protecting them from the mythical creatures which surely guarded the treasure. Just before the digging was to commence Cagliostro robbed the goldsmith, beating him over the head. The goldsmith believed it was djinns, generally referred to as genies. The next day the goldsmith went to Cagliostro's home where he found Cagliostro and two accomplices had fled the country. Cagliostro eventually went to Malta and become a pharmacist.

In 1768, Cagliostro went to Rome and began working for a Cardinal. The job was boring for Cagliostro so he began leading a double life, selling Egyptian amulets and engravings. It was also during this time Cagliostro befriended a swindler and forger who taught Cagliostro how to forge official documents. Cagliostro then traveled around Europe with his wife, a girl he had met when she was just 14.

In 1781 we find the first mention of Egyptian Freemasonry. In 1784, Cagliostro setup the mother lodge La Sagesse Triomphante, for his Egyptian Rite in Lyon, France. Egyptian Freemasonry was created by Cagliostro in order to dupe unsuspecting fellow masons who sought greater understanding of the rites. It is through his efforts with Egyptian Freemasonry, Cagliostro became known as great Masonic charlatan of his age.

At this point in Cagliostro's life, it seemed his past was catching up to him. He was held for 9 months in the Bastille when he was implicated in the Affair of the Diamond Necklace. The Affair is cited as one of moments when the people of France became disillusioned with the monarchy, which led to the French Revolution. He was released when no evidence was found connecting him with the affair. After his release he went to England where he was accused of being Giuseppe Balsamo, which he of course was. He denied the charge and published an open letter to the people of England. The letter caused his accuser to issue a public apology and retraction.

In 1789, Cagliostro left England to visit Rome. There he was arrested by the inquisition. It is believed Cagliostro's wife turned him in. He was convicted of being a Freemason and sentenced to death. The Pope commuted his sentence and he was sentenced to life in prison.

Cagliostro died in prison on August 26th, 1795.

Cagliostro was a member of Esperance Lodge No. 289. He became a member on April 12th, 1776.

This article provided by Brother Eric C. Steele.