The Elizabethan Sorcerer Scientist
One of the most enigmatic and influential men to ever live was born, about a century after the printing press, on July 13th of 1527, in Tower Ward, London, England. Although history has tried to forget him on numerous occasions, Joh Dee was a gifted child prodigy who was destined for greatness. He was even raised among royalty because his father was a Welsh courtier to King Henry VIII. In line with Dee’s mathematical capabilities, during his adolescence, he began receiving one of the finest educations that Europe had to offer, at least in the middle of the 16th century. To begin with, Dee attended Chelmsford Chantry School from 1535 to 1542. Then, he entered St. John’s College, Cambridge, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in 1546. Dee then became an original fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, on its foundation by Henry VIII, long before Isaac Newton came along. Dr. Dee even went on to study at Louvain in 1548, and then he began to give lectures in Paris, primarily on Euclidian mathematics. Dee was even offered a readership in mathematics at Oxford University in 1554, but he declined, citing the school’s emphasis on the “trivium” (logic, rhetoric, and grammar), rather than the “quadrivium” (arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy). Finally, in 1555, Dee joined the Worshipful Company of Mercers, just as his father had, through its system of patrimony.
However, that same year, during the culmination of the Renaissance, even though he was a low official of the royal court of the House of Tudor, Dr. John Dee was arrested for “calculating” and “conjuring” after he meticulously cast the horoscopes of Queen Mary and Princess Elizabeth. As a consequence of his verboten esoteric inquiry, terribly serious charges were raised against Doctor Dee for treason against Queen Mary after his findings were revealed to the royal family. This was because the Protestant polymath predicted the fall of Mary and the rise of Elizabeth, which was appalling to the Catholic queen, but quite alluring to her half-sister the Protestant princess. As a consequence of this, Dee had to appear in the Star Chamber where the sorcerer scientist eventually exonerated himself. Regardless, Dr. Dee was subsequently turned over to the Catholic Bishop Edmund Bonner for religious examination, in the midst of the Inquisition, no less. However, Dee managed to charm his way out of that too, in spite of the recent rise of the Protestant Reformation. John Dee even managed to become a close business associate of “Bloody Bonner”, in spite of his unique spirituality and religiosity, or maybe I should say because of it. Interestingly enough, centuries before Mesmer came along, Dee was also able to hypnotize people with his voice, especially when his life was on the line. The fact is that Dee only narrowly escaped being burned at the stake on more than one occasion. This was of the utmost importance because, in many ways, the fate of the world rested on his shoulders.
As evidence of what I mean by this, in 1556, Doctor Dee presented Queen Mary with a visionary plan for preserving old books, manuscripts, and other kinds of records. Dee requested that she found a national library, but Mary refused. So, he just decided to expand his own personal library by acquiring books and maps from the British Isles and across various parts of Europe. Dee even mastered navigation, coined the phrase “the British Empire”, and spearheaded English colonization through reckless imperial expansion into the New World. His vast collection of documents soon became a center of learning outside the universities, attracting great scholars from far and wide. Dr. Dee gathered more than 4,000 books in total, many of which were heavily underlined and annotated because he tried to analyze and synthesize all the information he could lay his hands on. In the process of it all, just as he had predicted, Queen Elizabeth came to power in 1558, and Dee became her trusted vizier, with royal license to practice mathematics and magic. He then used astrology to select January 15th of 1559 as the most auspicious coronation date to usher in her new reign. A few years later, in 1564, Dr. Dee wrote The Hieroglyph Monad, which is an exhaustive Hermetic and Kabbalistic interpretation of a magical symbol of his own design. As part of this, the glyph, which is shown below, is meant to represent the mystical unity of all creation. The brilliant British sorcerer scientist even dedicated The Hieroglyph Monad to the Holy Roman Emperor, Maximillian II, in an effort to gain patronage, attempting to present it to him at the time of his ascension to the throne of Hungary.
Since Dee was closely acquainted with Tycho Brahe, he correctly applied Copernican theory to the problem of calendar reform. Thus, when Dr. Dee was asked to advise Queen Elizabeth about the new Gregorian calendar promulgated bt Pope Gregory XIII from October 1582, his advice was that England should accept it, albeit with specific amendments. The first was that the adjustment should not be the ten days that would restore the calendar to the time of the Council of Nicaea, but eleven, which would restore it to the birth of Christ. As a Neo-Platonist, all of Dee’s activities were part of his grand unifying quest for a transcendent understanding of the divine forms underlying the visible material world. These were what he called the “pure verities”. In line with this, by the 1580s, John Dee had read Johannes Trithemius’ Steganographia and, like many people at the time, he believed it to be a book about communicating with spirits. However, the manuscript is not a grimoire. Unbeknownst to Dee, the “magical formulae” are actually cover texts for cryptographic content. Nonetheless, the mysterious three-volume text inspired Dee to summon things that were far beyond his control. He completely immersed himself in supernatural means of acquiring knowledge, from that point on. This altered the course of his life and thereby the history of humanity. In line with this, Dee sought to contact angelic beings through the use of a scryer which would act as an intermediary between him and the otherworldly entities. His first attempts with several supposed scryers were unsatisfactory, but in 1582 Dee met a man calling himself “Edward Talbot” who impressed him greatly with his abilities, using items like the black mirror and crystal ball shown below.
Regardless, the man’s real name was Edward Kelley and he had previously been convicted of “coining” which was a form of forgery, but Dee was unaware of that fact. With that being said, John Dee became thoroughly convinced that Edward Kelley was a highly proficient medium, so he put him to work scrying for a living. Furthermore, in spite of Kelley’s secret shady past, Dee saw to it that their “spiritual conferences” or “Angelic Conversations” were conducted with intense Christian piety, after lengthy periods of fasting, abstinence, and prayer. In fact, they toiled away at scrying for as many as eight to ten hours a day, a few days a week for about seven years, diligently searching for the keys to unlock an unlimited reservoir of occult knowledge. Kelley even ended up giving himself a splitting headache on most of these occasions, often working himself to the point of complete exhaustion. Typically speaking, the two men would work together to summon the spirits to appear in a crystal ball. Once Kelley could see one, then Dee would begin to interrogate it. Before long a cast of 70 different characters had emerged, and Dee immediately recognized some of them as angels with ancient names. They even revealed to them the language that God spoke to Adam, the first prophet of the Israelites. This “Language of the Angels” is based on 22 letters, like Hebrew, but with its own unique words, grammar, and syntax, much more similar to English. As a polyglot, Dee must have recognized this, at least intuitively. After all, he was fluent in English, Latin, Greek, and most importantly, Hebrew, but this was certainly something different, yet strikingly similar at the same time.
Dee’s extensive journals describe the language as the “Celestial Speech”, the “Language of Angels”, the “Holy Language”, or “Adamical”, in reference to the words that God used with the first prophet of the Israelites. This is not to be confused with Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa’s “Celestial Alphabet”, from the Three Books of Occult Philosophy. More to the point, the modern term “Enochian” rather than “Adamic” actually comes from John Dee’s assertion that Enoch had been the last human before him to know the “Holy Language”. To put that in a Christian context, Enoch was the great-grandfather of Noah from the Bible. More importantly, Enoch performed powerful theurgic invocations of the holy spirit of God, thereby re-establishing the sacred connection between humanity and divinity that had been lost after Adam forsook the Lord. That’s why, unlike Adam, at the end of Enoch’s life, he was “translated” into Heaven where he was “transformed” into Metatron. As an angel of the highest order, he was then appointed as the guardian of all the celestial treasures, the chief of the archangels, and the immediate attendant of the Throne of God. As the Metatron, Enoch’s enlightened soul was taught the secret mysteries of the cosmos in order to fulfill, of his own accord, whatever God declares, thereby executing His divine decrees. As part of this, Metatron was the one who communicated God’s revelation to Moses, dictating the Book of Jubilees.
Joh Dee believed that the universal language of creation would allow him to achieve a pre-apocalyptic unity of mankind. More importantly, the use of the “Celestial Speech” during Kelley’s scrying sessions led Dee to believe that they were working exclusively with a host of angels and archangels. Unfortunately, there were demons among them, which is why the reception of the revived arcane language was in reverse. If Kelley didn’t somehow just make it all up, then in the classical sense, Dr. Dee’s spirit guide was a cacodemon instead of a eudaemon, meaning an evil spirit rather than a good one. Tragically, the fiend finally revealed herself to be a succubus who demanded that Dee and Kelley swap wives, which made them swingers and sinners at a time when adultery could have gotten them killed. To make matters worse, Dee’s wife became pregnant with Kelley’s son during the unholy union of the final pact. This brought about the undoing of Dee and Kelley’s esoteric partnership, and the former never found a suitable replacement for the latter. On top of that, Dee spent his final years in poverty at Mortlake, Surrey, England, where he was forced to sell off his possessions to support himself and his daughter, Katherine, who cared for him until his death in late 1608 or early 1609. It’s hard to tell for sure since both the parish registers and his gravestone are missing thanks to historic iconoclasts. Sadly, when it was all said and done, the “Magus of Mortlake” never fully understood the Enochian language that he had worked so hard to find. In the end, Dee’s attempts to unlock the hidden and forbidden secrets of creation uncovered a great many things, it just wasn’t what he had really hoped to find.