Sunday, July 19, 2009

John Dee & Edward Kelley & the Spirit World: Pt 6

I think several quotes from Richard Smoley's excellent 2006 book: Forbidden Faith-The Gnostic Legacy about John Dee would be a great way to introduce the actual mystery and spiritualism of the man. The chapter in Forbidden Faith that the John Dee information is in is called "The Sages of the Renaissance." In this chapter Smoley focusses on how he would write the Gnostic legacy if it were turned into a drama. He sees two parts to the drama. The first act being the rise and fall of the dualist heresy, and the second great act is the entry of the mystical teachings of the Kabbalah into Western civilization. Later in the series I would like to talk about Enoch and Enochian magic in relation to John Dee and Edward Kelley. Smoley points out that some believe the Kabbalistic tradition began with Enoch, the first fully enlightened human being, who "walked with God" (Gen 5:22). Enoch was said to have been transformed into the angel Metatron, who guides the spiritual evolution of humanity. Metatron appeared before Abraham as Melchizedek and initiated him into the teachings of the sacred Kabbalah.

The pages where I quote from the book are from 118-120. "Because of the ambiguous role of the magus in Western civilization-who is seen sometimes as a sage, often as a charlatan-these figures have risen and fallen in the esteem of history, much as they did in their own day. John Dee, court astrologer to Queen Elizabeth I, the inspiration for the character Prospero in Shakespeare's Tempest, and the man who according to legend, conjured up the storm that sank the Spanish Armada, furnishes a vivid example. Dee (1527-1608) saw extremes of good and bad fortune in his life. At one point a close adviser to Elizabeth, he ended his years in poverty and disgrace. He espoused a version of the Christian Kabbalah that sought to reform the church; he also sketched out the ideal of a universal British monarchy that inspired the beginnings of the British Empire. And yet he became most famous for a strange series of encounters involving a medium named Edward Kelly (or Kelly). The record of these conversations with beings of the other world was published in 1659 under the title A True and Faithful Relation of What Passed for Many Years Between Dr. John Dee and Some Spirits by a debunker named Meric Casaubon, who sought to discredit Dee's reputation posthumously and largely succeeded. Dee was generally regarded as a plain fraud until the twentieth century, when scholars began to see him as a key figure in the intellectual world of the Elizabethan Age."

Smoley goes on to point out that Dee had invoked the supposed Arthurian ancestry of the Tudor dynasty and its mythical rights to lands overseas to lay the groundwork for Elizabeth to take possession of these vast territories. John Dee wanted England to rule over the European continent instead of the extremely powerful Habsburg dynasty that at the time was Europe's greatest power. 1583 was the year that John Dee and Edward Kelley, along with their familes, began a six year tour of Central Europe. Prague was the capital of the Holy Roman Empire at the time and ruled by Emperor Rudolf II. Rudolf II was known for his religious tolerance as well as his interest in occult and esoteric matters. Apparently, Dee discussed with Rudolf his vision of a reformed Christianity that would be guided by esoteric principles. Dee also seemed to be prophesying that Protestanism would triumph over both Catholicism and Islam. Emperor Rudolf II wasn't greatly intrigued by Dee's vision. Smoley also points out that similarities between Dee's failures as a prophet and those of his contemporary Nostradamus. Of course, the idea of Nostradamus being a failure as a prophet has been argued for centuries-and many believe in his work today. The quatrains of Nostradamus were used during World War II by both opposing sides predicting defeat for the other (so maybe that should tell us something of the fluidity of his prophecies)!

Unlike John Dee, Nostradamus was viewed with respect by the French court until his death in 1566, whereas Dee died in penury and near obscurity. Some reasons for this are that Dee's protectors had died. But even more importantly, hatred and suspicion of sorcerers and witches had grown. Smoley writes, "The public-and some of those in power-were not always able to distinguish a learned magus from a low sorcerer who trafficked in evil spirits. Indeed Christopher Marlowe's highly popular 1593 tragedy Doctor Faustus explicitly connected the two turning sorcery hunting into a popular craze. As a result the last two decades of Dee's life were a time of disappointment and impoverishment, made worse by the accession to the throne of James I in 1603. James was obsessed with witchcraft and had even written a tract against witches entitled Demonologie. Dee could expect no favors from him and did not receive any. In 1608, the old magus died in great poverty." The image is of one of John Dee's magical "sigils"-more about this later. I think I will write the next article on John Dee with the first source I had found-I don't know how long it will be but hope that it is interesting. From there maybe I can expand on the subject using internet sources and links that people like Justin Russell and Anadae have given. The articles below this one are all "history" but might be helpful explaining later events. Peace and be well to anyone passing through or stopping by!

9 comments:

X. Dell said...

(1) Does seem plausible that as an advisor to Queen Elizabeth 1, who had an antagonistic relationship with the mother of James 1 (namely, Mary Queen of Scots), Dee wouldn't have found much favor in a Jacobean court. Probably wouldn't expect it, either.

(2) I've enjoyed this series so far. I appreciate how you contextualized the story amid the political fallout of the Tudors and English Reformation.

Dee, himself, has been a person of much scrutiny in conspiracy literature, most notably because his relationship to Francis Walsingham. Many credit Walsingham and Dee with laying the foundation for the modern British security state--which makes sense, since you don't know for certain the potential religious malcontent of your subjects until you investigate them.

My guess is that you'll be taking a different tact, and that's great, for I never really looked into Dee's esoteric life to any extent--only enough to know that he had one.

Fascinating.

Devin said...

I am glad you have enjoyed this X! I hope to have the next and possibly last part here in a week or so-all the best to you and thanks for stopping by!!

Alex Robinson said...

Great & tireless work Devin - did you ever dream of being a history teacher?
Sorry it took me so long to get here. Didn't realise Dee was credited with the Spanish Armada 'tempest' - very interesting.
I hope the heat is behaving itself in the 'land of the long hot furnace'.
Hugs to you :)

Anadæ Effro said...

Oh … my … Gods! My word veri is backer & I'm nothing if not a backer of the Magical Arts! LOL! You can order your own copy of Dee's sigil from Alchemy Gothic, an online shoppe of occult themed jewellery, whose lovely Cross of Lorraine I was fortunate enough to've ordered, just B4 they struck it out of eXistenZ! Thank you, Devin, for this amazing, thorough, awe-inspiring, & STILL ongoing series!

Not just a little Magically informed,
Anadæ Effro (•:-0}

Michael Skaggs said...

Devin, will be back to read all 6 posts! WOW, had no idea you were this far on Dee and company.

I did some Enochian magic investigations awhile back at THA, so this might fill in the gaps on what I didn't dig up!

Be well bro!

Devin said...

Alex, Anadae and Michael-thanks so very much for your comments and I would like very much to continue with this series when i can (sorry about the hold up-for those that private email me you know what it is) and i may even do a personal bit about it here for those that dont-will have to think about that one-the next article or articles should be fairly easy to do as it is research already written down in books/mags dont need to hunt-but i would like to keep going a bit longer with this even after those posts are up if i can-and i would like to link to those enochian articles you did Michael a bit later in the series if you dont mind-thanks again all of you for your great comments-you too Xdell and sorry i couldnt respond to them better-this is the second day in a row i have been up all night (thank you neighbors-haha-i am thinking of putting a curse on you!!) all the best!!

Autumnforest said...

Very good series! I have to admit that I've never understand how man invented religion. When you think of each human spirit as being like a snowflake and completely individual, how can one man profess to know what to do with all these very different spirits? I've always said "religion is the prostitution of spirituality" (my own quote) and I am always very wary of anyone telling me how to deal with my own spirit, as I would if they told me what job I should hold, what color shirt I should wear, or who I should vote for. This is interesting stuff.

Devin said...

Autumnforest thanks so very much for your interest in this series! Like I said at your place I so agree and enjoy the way you put your comment about religion and spirituality!! best to you as always and thanks for the hard work you do at your blog!!

lara jane said...

thank you.