A good deal for and against Cagliostro has been said since the time when he disappeared from the scene, and so much has been written against him by his enemies, especially the members of the order of Jesus, that the ordinary run of people have come to think of him as no more than an impostor, and a very cheap one at that. This has been pushed so far that his name in the encyclopædias stands for one of the great charlatans who from time to time are said to appear for the delusion of mankind and their own profit. The same sort of reputation has been given also to our honored fellow student Helena P. Blavatsky, and for similar reasons, with just as little basis. Indeed, there seems to be little doubt that in time to come her enemies, like his, will delight to call her a great impostor, as has been done already by a little-minded so-called investigator who went all the way to India to look into matters theosophical.
If Cagliostro was in fact an impostor, it is a strange thing that so much attention was paid to him by the very best men and women of Europe. That fact will always call for explanation, and, until it is given due weight, the unbeliever in encyclopædias will be likely to think a good deal of the Count. There are some persons now of quite bright minds and wide acquaintance with men who say they believe he is still living, not under his old name but with another, and that he is engaged in a great work which embraces the whole human family. This may or may not be true, since it calls for a very great age on his part, but the student of the occult knows that we are neither old nor young, but ever immortal.
The great Prince Talleyrand has left us something regarding Cagliostro which is of weight. It is to be found in a book published in London in 1848, containing the Memoirs of the Prince by his private secretary M. Colemache, in chapter four. It there appears that the Prince was asked to give the incidents of his visit to Cagliostro, and did so at some length. He had heard so much about the Count that he resolved to pay him a visit and see for himself the man about whom nearly every one was talking. An appointment was made, and at the time set Talleyrand called and was ushered into the presence, where he found the strange figure - a woman dressed in black and whose face was veiled - of whom much has also been said on the ground that she was alleged to be the confederate of Cagliostro or else a very good sensitive or medium. The Count appeared to be busy, and gazed into the eyes of the Prince with such a peculiar stare that the latter was not able to collect his thoughts, obliging Cagliostro to remind him of the many people waiting for an audience who could not be kept waiting if there was nothing to be said. Thereupon, as the Prince says himself, being utterly confused he failed to recollect the posers he had prepared, and was forced to ask Cagliostro if he could tell him anything about a certain Countess. The reply he received to this was that she would be at the theatre that night and would wear a certain dress and certain ornaments. Then Talleyrand asked if he could have a remedy for headaches she often had, and Cagliostro reaching down took up a jug and gave the Prince what looked like water. It was directed to be applied to her forehead, and the strict injunction given that no one else was under any circumstances to handle the bottle or touch the water. Talleyrand then went off, the Countess appeared at the theatre exactly as was said, and after the play the party, including Talleyrand, went to a supper. The meal had progressed almost to the coffee when some one asked for the result of the visit to the supposed impostor. The Prince produced the bottle, but, contrary to the directions, allowed every one of the company to smell it and handle it. It was then proposed to apply the water to the fair forehead of the Countess, but there was some hesitation, until at last a quantity of the liquid was poured in the hand of one of the guests and placed on her forehead. Immediately she screamed with pain, but the hand could not be easily withdrawn; it had to be pulled off with violence, and with it came a large patch of the lady's skin. The next day the police were sent after Cagliostro, and the jug of liquid was taken to an official analyst who made report that it was water and nothing else, just the same as what was in the bottle. This could not be explained by the Prince, but on the examination Cagliostro said it was indeed water which he had strongly magnetised, and that if the Prince had followed directions no harm would have come; he, however, had permitted a lot of roysterers to handle and smell it, and they had turned the immensely strong magnetism into the violent agent it turned out to be. Of course the manufacturers of hypotheses will say that it was not water but "some" acid or the like, not being able, though, to tell what they mean exactly. The incident is well attested and made a deep impression on the Prince, who gives evidence thus to facts and not to disputable theories.
Path, October, 1890