Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin (1743 – 1803)


Biographical summary

Saint-Martin is not very well known in the Anglo-Saxon countries. His surname “Le Philosophe Inconnu” (The Unknown Philosopher) was given to him at the beginning of his discovery of the spiritual world. Later, he would be called “The Theosopher of Amboise”, after the name of the town where he was born in 1743. After a short career as lawyer, Saint-Martin joined the army as an officer. He became very active in the Free-Masonry. Later, he resigned his commission to assist Martines de Pasqually to organize a new system of High Masonic Degrees. The purpose of this system was to attract those interested in spiritual and theurgical activities and keep them in the framework of the Free-Masonry. Saint-Martin received the highest degrees and even represented the French Lodges in several convents, in association with the well-known Count Saint-Germain.

After several trips in England and Italy, Saint-Martin stayed in Strasbourg from 1788 to 1791.  He discovered and studied the books of Jacob Boehme, translated and published (in Amsterdam) the works of the Theosopher of Gorlitz in French. This contact with theosophy changed his life completely. This evolution can be observed in his correspondence with the Swiss Kirchberger, published in the United States in an excellent translation.

Saint-Martin was actively involved in the preparation of the French revolution, as a necessary change of form of government. With other members of the French nobility, he tried to install the Synarchy, or government by a certain number of individuals elected for their moral integrity and ability to manage a specific area of government. History proved the Synarchical method of government to be an utopia, but Saint-Martin remains known as the creator of the famous principle of democratic government: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.

Saint-Martin is without any doubt the classical Theosopher who contributed the most to modern theosophy and to the earthly inspiration of the founders of the Theosophical Society. Madame Blavatky used the information published in his Book on Numbers to draw the Seal of theT.S. and in the early days, Saint-Martin’s theosophical seal was printed on the society’s publications concurrently with the one of the Society. Saint Martin’s texts and invocations are still used, the most famous one beginning with  “May the Holy Ones, who’s pupils you aspire to become…”


Saint-Martin’s Theosophy


•  The Universal Brotherhood and the return to Unity

St-Martin’s cosmos consists of four distinct worlds: the Divine, the sub-celestial, the celestial and finally the terrestrial. Each pair being separated by an axis of Fire. The upper two being reflected into the two lower, as by a mirror. Each of those worlds is inhabited by four categories of spirits respectively called Superiors, Majors, Inferiors, Minors. From the two upper worlds, little is known. The Celestial world is subdivided in three planes : the rational (mental), the Visual (astral) and sensible (etheric). The Terrestrial world is divided in four kingdoms: Mineral, Vegetal, Animal and Human. The Celestial World is to be looked at as “the envelope of the material or terrestrial world”.

The axis of fire is essential in this cosmology, as it is the mirror of the divine world, but also contains both the ideas from which the creation is formed and the Life that animates all creatures. St Martin describes this central Fire as follows: “The axis of fire is the principle of the life of each created body, a fire that holds all forms in balance; without which no being can have life or movement. It is by the action and the operation of this fire that all forms of apparent matter are maintained during the duration of their existence, fixed by the will of the Creator.”

Saint Martin also defines all created forms as “a vehicle” of Life and, as such,  is very close to the teachings of the East.


•  The Universal Brotherhood and the return to Unity

St-Martin calls this aspect of Theosophy the universal Reintegration. All creatures of this earth have their origin in God and none is separated, in essence, from the Original Unity.  “In God nothing or no one is superior, nothing or no one is inferior: all beings are one and indivisible, all are alike, all are equal in the Unity”. (Tableau Naturel) Man participates both in the material and non-material created nature, and therefore manifests the three faculties of its creator: Action, Will and Thought; but he also participates in Freedom. Therefore he is, in his current position, separated from the original unity. This process is part of the Divine Plan, of the general economy and purpose of creation . When returning to this Unity, man will have gained the faculty to reintegrate himself, and also the capacity to help other creatures in this process. “While most humans are involved only with their own Reintegration, some of the men on earth are called to a more positive determination of this Work of Reintegration and will obtain vast and considerable results. Their purpose is to manifest the Life of Godin the form of the Divine Wisdom (Theosophia) and to distribute its participation among all men. As man was emanated directly from God, without the participation of any other power, he can only have receivedthe same virtues as God himself, and there is nothing between God and himself. Such a power shall help man to restore his likeness and his relationship with thePrimordial Unity.” (Tableau Naturel).


•  Latent Powers in Man

In his days as a disciple of Martinez de Pasqually, Saint-Martin approached direct contact with the invisible through the use of theurgy. Later in his life, he also recognized and practiced mysticism and meditation, preferring the later method over Martinez’s practices. He never denied the effectiveness of ceremonies as a method of spiritual development, but preferred listening to the inner voice, the way of the heart. At the end of his life, he declared that the only initiation he was aspiring to was to come to the moment that the One Initiator is invoked and that he would see His star shining forth.

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