Born in Sicily as Giuseppe Balsamo, Cagliostro allegedly Awakened in 1770 and was recruited into the Hermetic Covenant of Palermo. Only one year after his admission, the covenant was destroyed by the Order of Reason, leaving Cagliostro to wander Europe by himself. Traversing the noble courts, Cagliostro bedazzled the nobility with fake elixirs, alchemical diamonds, communication with spirits, and similar things.
Claiming to have been tutored by the Egyptian magician Althotas, he styled himself as the "Grand Copt". In 1784, he founded the Egyptian rite of Freemasonry and took on extensive travels across the continent to promote it. After the Affair of the Diamond Necklace at the court of Louis XVI of France in 1785, he spent nine months in the Bastille, where he wrote the "Open Letters to the French People", which detailed the conditions of the Bastille and may have been one of the catalysts of the French Revolution.
In 1789, Cagliostro was captures by agents of the Inquisition in London. During the trial, he was accused to have been a pretender and a charlatan. Confronted with information from his beginnings in Sicily, Cagliostro was condemned to a life sentence. As far as the world knew, Giuseppe Balsamo, not the Grand Copht, died in the Inquisition's dungeons in 1795.
He was saved by a Setite coterie that had posed as his mentor Althotas. They provided him with exemplars from their vitae to ghoul him, but ultimately had deemed him a failure. In the end, they saved him from prison by faking Balsamo's death and smuggling him out of Britain. He was brought to the Temple of Faiyum, where the Hierophant Shemti decided to gave him the Embrace.
For the real life figure, see Alessandro Cagliostro.