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Kelley, Edward and John Dee

Category: Magician

John Dee (1527 – 1608 or 1609) was one of the most learned men of his age.  He was a mathematician, having been invited to lecture on advanced algebra at the University of Paris while still in his early twenties.  He published a "Mathematical Preface" to Henry Billingsley's English translation of Euclid's Elements in 1570, arguing the central importance of mathematics and outlining mathematics' influence on the other arts and sciences. Intended for an audience outside the universities, it proved to be Dee's most widely influential and frequently reprinted work.

He was a highly respected astronomer.  Dee was a friend of Tycho Brahe and was familiar with the work of Copernicus. Many of his astronomical calculations were based on Copernican assumptions. Dee also applied Copernican theory to the problem of calendar reform. His sound recommendations were not accepted, however, for political reasons.

Dee promoted both the sciences of navigation and cartography. He studied closely with Gerardus Mercator, and he owned an important collection of maps, globes and astronomical instruments. He developed new instruments as well as special navigational techniques for use in polar regions. Dee served as an advisor to the English voyages of discovery, and personally selected pilots and trained them in navigation.

And he had a vast library of books, one of the largest collections in the UK at the time.  His personal library at Mortlake was the largest in the country, and was considered one of the finest in Europe

His high status as a scholar also allowed him to play a role in Elizabethan politics; he was a consultant to Queen Elizabeth I serving as both an occasional adviser and tutor to Elizabeth.  He also nurtured relationships with her ministers Francis Walsingham and William Cecil. Dee also tutored and enjoyed patronage relationships with Sir Philip Sidney, his uncle Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester, and Edward Dyer. He also enjoyed patronage from Sir Christopher Hatton.

So an intellectual.

Dee the spiritualist

Edward Kelley

But Dee also straddled the worlds of science and spirituality. He was intensely interested in the spiritual world and devoted much of his life to the study of alchemy, astrology, divination and Hermetic philosophy. He also devoted much time and effort in the last thirty years or so of his life to attempting to communicate with the spiritual world.

By the early 1580s, Dee realised that his own attempts to contact the spiritual world [mostly via prayer] were an abject failure, thus he sought the help of an intermediary.  In 1582, he met Edward Kelley (then going under the name of Edward Talbot), who impressed him greatly with his abilities. Dee took Kelley into his service, paying him a handsome wage and together they began to devote all their energies to spiritual experience.  These "spiritual conferences" or "actions" were conducted with an air of intense piety.  Dee was convinced of the benefits they could bring to mankind.

The Intelligences

Kelley received all his information from ‘Intelligences.  It is the only time I have come across Intelligences apparently attempting to help the super intelligent by wearing down the intellect. But I think we need to be a bit wary about this.

Glindoni - John Dee performing an experiment before Queen Elizabeth

It occurred to me that Kelley was maybe a little bit more than he made out and that he was a magician of high talent, recognising the problem Dee had and devising himself the most efficacious way of getting Dee to abandon intellect and go with wisdom. 

One reason why I suspect that Kelley was a magician of considerable talent, is that the so called angels apparently gave Dee duff advice.  Now archangels do not give duff advice.  In 1583, Dee met the visiting Polish nobleman Albert Łaski, who invited Dee to accompany him on his return to Poland. With some prompting by the angels, Dee was persuaded to go. Dee, Kelley and their families left for the Continent in September 1583, but Łaski proved to be bankrupt and out of favour in his own country. Dee and Kelley were then forced to begin a nomadic life in Central Europe, with considerable hardship – hardship that would help enormously with the attrition of Dee, but was not very ‘angelic’ in its origins.

Furthermore, during a spiritual conference in Bohemia, in 1587, Kelley told Dee that the angel Uriel [or Madimi, accounts differ] had ordered that the two men should share their wives. The order caused Dee great anguish, but he did not doubt its genuineness and apparently allowed it to go forward.  If you turn to the section on Magic, you will see that this is one method of breaking down the ego – submission via sexual acts – but not exactly ‘angelic’.

Dee's biographer, Benjamin Woolley, indicates that Jane was the object of Kelley's "obsessive interest" from the first time Kelley met her. Whatever the motivations behind it, a covenant was drawn up between the two couples and on May 21 was consummated. Dee's diary confirms this fact, and also that Jane was not happy with this arrangement. Forty weeks later, she gave birth to Theodore Trebonianus Dee.

Either way – Magus Kelley or Intelligences, they both clearly wanted Dee to be more open to communication from his Higher spirit, so they centred on his one passion and weakness – his love of codes and ciphers.

The puzzles and the ciphers

John Dee and Edward Kelley received a vast amount of coded information whilst Kelley was using the crystal ball and mirrors to contact various ‘Intelligences’.  Many of the comments I read about this seem to assume that somehow it is this information that is magic, but – and the end result is beautiful- it was not the end result that was key, but for Dee at least the process

Sigillium Dei Aemeth

Dee and Kelley’s magical workings took place in three distinct phases that yielded three unique magical systems – Heptarchia, Loageth and Enochian.  The details of all these systems are extraordinarily complex and include a magic language, the making of a ring with coded language, a ‘lamen’ – a breastplate, a holy table with all sorts of inscribed letters and the Sigillium Dei Aemeth – an intricately carved disk made of bees wax, so stunningly beautiful it is preserved in the British Museum.  In addition there were talismans called the Ensigns of Creation. 

Much of what is encoded in this system is actually symbolic as opposed to 'magic' per se, but the symbolism is important and it appears that Kelley was trying to teach Dee symbolism, as well as involve some Enacting of Ritual and ceremony, a very key technique in the Magician's approach.

If you want to read about the process Dee had to go through to get to the final result I really recommend Enochian Vision Magick by Lon Milo DuQuette, which is very clear and easily followed.

Dee became totally absorbed with the process. 

The first system of magic Dee and Kelley received was delivered in 1582.  The Intelligences then amended it.  The details of how it was painstakingly received are recorded in Dee’s Qinto Libri Mysteriorum.  Before he had the chance to decipher this system with its 343 letters and numbers, mystical circles with the 49 angels, 12x7 Lamen tables, Holy Tables with the ensigns of creation and the truly beautiful Lamen itself with its angelic letters, Dee was off on version two of the system.

  

  

The second phase of Dee and Kelley’s magical operations covered most of 1582 and 1583.  It is documented in the work Liber Mysteriorum et Sanctus, the Book of Enoch and Liber Loagaeth.  The material is hugely complex and almost undecipherable – which is, of course, the point.  One manuscript alone comprises 48 leaves each containing 49x49 lettered squares, 115,000 lettered squares altogether, each square was filled letter by letter during Kelley’s visions.  Imagine the amount of patience and concentration needed to do this. This was masterful magicianship.

All during this process, certain elements of the system were corrected and amended from vision to vision, months apart requiring painstaking study of every document to amend.  Dee was then told to replace every Latin or English letter of the Lamen, Holy Table and the seven ensigns of creation with letters from the angelic script they were given at this time, an immense job – a true act of attrition.  The 21 characters of the angelic alphabet appeared fully formed in yellowish letters that rose in Kelley’s vision above the table [according to his account] and the images then obligingly hovered over a sheet of paper long enough for Dee to be able to transcribe them in ink before they faded away.

Dee was led to believe he was being guided by the top tier of the angelic community, so he did not resist.  Occasionally we see a half hearted act of rebellion, but on the whole he did as he was told – well you would wouldn’t you if you thought that the archangel Michael was giving you the key to the universe?

Enochian Vision Magick – Lon Milo DuQuette

M: I instructed thee before-hand and told thee, that both of you must jointly learn those holy letters (For, so, I may boldly call them) in memory: with their names: to the intent, that the finger may point to the head, and the head to the understanding of his charge.

Dee: You perceive that I have diverse affairs which at this present do withdraw me from peculiar diligence using to these Characters and their names learning by heart: And therefore I trust, I shall not offend, if I bestow all the convenient leisure that I shall get,  about the learning thereof.

M: Peace, Thou talkest, as though, thou understoodest not.  We know thee, we see thee in thy heart: Nor one thing shall not let another. For short is the time, that shall bring these things to proof.

 

The final phase is now labelled Enochian magick, because the two were told that this was the magick given by God to Enoch in the form of a book and that Enoch had passed it on to others.  Over the generations, the book had fallen into wicked hands and God had caused it to be lost.  Remembering that Dee, despite his alchemical and astrological leanings, was also a devout Christian, he was then told that because of his piety and prayers, God was moved to once again deliver it to mankind.

If it was Kelley who was the master magus, his acts at this time were a masterstroke.  He let it be known that he was practising ‘demon magic’ behind Dee’s back and thus the communication being received was a mixture of the reliable and the totally unreliable.  The Intelligences also told Dee and Kelley that there was also now a deadline – the end of August 1584, Dee’s 57th birthday.  Work had started in April of that year, so the pressure was really on.  Dee had little time to do anything else, which was perfect of course.

The final input consisted of a series of ‘calls’, delivered letter by letter to Kelley but in backward order because ‘the angels at first voiced fears that the calls were so powerful it might be too dangerous to deliver them in a straightforward manner’.  There was also a diversion as an ‘angel’ named Nalvage ambitiously attempted to describe the way spirits ruled various parts of the earth and then described each part – Dee documented this in Liber Scientae Auxilii et Vitoriae Terrestris – more tables, more symbols, more odd names to remember, and geographic co-ordinates.  All playing on Dee’s love of navigation.

Then we have the Golden Talisman and the Watchtowers of the Universe, the unlettered Great Table and the Four Great Seals.  After they received the Great Table, they were told to change and add certain letters in some of the squares, to confuse things further in both earlier and later documents.

 

The material is of course desperately confusing and illogical, as it would be.  We can ignore all attempts by those who placed order on the system later, as they totally missed the point.  It was a masterful game that Kelley [or the Intelligences] played – a game of genius and Dee fell for it to the letter.

It continues – the Black cross, super kerubs, wicked angels, missing symmetrical characters and the Tablet of Union.

The watchtowers - this is actually symbolic and ties in with the I Ching, so there
was knowledge/wisdom behind these 'revelations'

I did wonder how a scientist, as well read and clever as Dee obviously was, could be led so far down this route, but he was a devout Christian and wanted to believe, so here we have the final act of genius on Kelley [or the Intelligence’s] part – every known aspect of Dee’s character was being used to totally befuddle his reason, in the inexorable drip drip drip of change and complexity and incoherence and obscurity coupled with beauty and ritual and – magic.  Dee’s 57th birthday was on Friday 13th, it couldn’t have been better.  Dee laboured over 50 days in prayer and confession, in order to receive what he believed was the final revelation – the missing parts of the ‘system’ which he believed to be the key to the universe.  The Intelligences made him wait in an agony of denial.

There were tantalising hints, then silence, then sudden but incomplete revelations, then silence again.  The effect must have been devastating on Dee’s reason and ego. 

Eventually Dee himself was so befuddled and tired by it all that the angels [Kelley] decided that enough was enough and it had worked.  During all this time, Dee had absolutely no idea what was being done to him, but then if the magus is clever, the person never does.

Enochian Vision Magick – Lon Milo DuQuette

Angel Gabriel - But it is not August come: Norwithstanding [sic] the Lord hath kept his promise with you be the time. Therefore, Now examine you Books, Confer one place with another, and learn to be perfect for the practice and entrance.

See that your garments be clean. Herein be not rash: Nor over hasty; For those that are hasty and rash, and are loathsomely appareled, may knock long before they enter.

There is no other reading of the Book, but the appearing of the Ministers and Creatures of God: which shewing what they are themselves, shew how they are conjoyed in power, and represented formally by those letters.

E. K. Now he taketh the Table, and seemeth to wrap it up together.

Dee: Seeing I have moved the doubt of their names I pray you to dissolve it.

Gab . . . You play with me childishly.

Dee: I have done.

Gab . . . Thinkest thou that we speak any thing that is not true?

Thou shalt never know the mysteries of all things that have been spoken.

If you love together, and dwell together, and in one God; Then the self-same God will be merciful unto you: Which bless you, comfort you, and strengthen you unto the end. More I would say, but words profit not. God be amongst you.

E.K. Now they both be gone in a great flame of fire upwards . . .

Thus, in a dramatic burst of flame, the angels of Enochian magick fell silent, and the most amazing magical operation ever recorded came to an end.

 

And the result? 

It worked, Dee’s rational mind was largely flummoxed and obliterated and his composer took over to give him wisdom. 

Dee had no visions or hallucinations – spiritual input which would have been largely useless to him, but he acquired the gift of prophesy and intuition, far more useful. 

See the observations.

But, this prophetic ability may not be totally attributable to this process.  Dee suffered a series of crushing events which probably served to render him reasonless and egoless. 

On returning to Mortlake after six years Dee found his precious library ruined and many of his prized books and instruments stolen. 

Dee was also married twice and had eight children. In 1578 he married the 23-year-old Jane Fromond (Dee was fifty-one at the time). She was to be the wife that Kelley claimed Uriel had demanded that he and Dee share.  Jane died during the plague in Manchester, along with a number of his children.  So grief may have had a hand in his abilities.

But we are left with a system of ‘magic’ that many have been trying to unravel ever since, and a process which is actually more important, because it was the process that was the mechanism – not the end result.

Observations

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