THE well-known Joseph Balsamo, Count Cagliostro, is said to have been born at Palermo in 1743. On his trial at Rome in 1790, and at Zurich in 1791, he was accused of "having practised all kinds of impositions; of gold making, and of possessing the secret of prolonging life; of teaching Cabalistic Arts; of summoning and exorcising Spirits; of having actually foretold future things especially in small and secret assemblies, and chiefly by means of a little boy whom he took aside with him into a separate room, in order to fit him for divining".
With regard to the manner in which he employed this Child-Clairvoyant, the documents of the trial give the following information:--"This Child had to kneel before a small table, on which a vessel of water and some lighted candles were placed. He then instructed the boy to look into the vessel of water, and so commenced his conjurations; he next laid his hand on the head of the Child, and in this position addressed a prayer to God for a successful issue of the experiment. The Child now became clairvoyant, and said at first that he saw something white; then that he saw visions, an Angel, etc."
Again the documents say, "That he worked through the usual ceremonies, and that all was wonderfully corroborated through the appearance of the Angel".
Cagliostro is also said at Milan to have availed himself of the services of an orphan maiden of marriageable age as clairvoyant.
It will be remarked that this modus operandi differs strongly from that employed by the mesmerists and hypnotists of to-day with their clairvoyants. For here the whole force of the Operator was concentrated on a magical ritual of evocation, the hand being merely laid on the child's head to form a link; and it in no way appears that the child was reduced to the miserable condition of automatic trance now practised, and which a really advanced Occultist would be the first to condemn, as knowing its dangers.
On the other hand, there seems to be a distinct similarity between Cagliostro's method, and the system of Oriental Divination called the Mendal, to which I have previously referred.