I believe all that the Church believes; the Church believes all that I believe.

[Twentieth century British philosopher, agnostic Bertrand Russell on the easy path to heaven, like it or not. It wasn’t so easy in Faust’s time.]

An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish
by Bertrand Russell

Orthodox Christianity, in the Ages of Faith, laid down very definite rules for salvation. First, you must be baptized; then, you must avoid all theological error; last, you must, before dying, repent of your sins and receive absolution. All this would not save you from purgatory, but it would insure your ultimate arrival in heaven. It was not necessary to know theology. An eminent cardinal stated authoritatively that the requirements of orthodoxy would be satisfied if you murmured on your death-bed: “I believe all that the Church believes; the Church believes all that I believe.” These very definite directions ought to have made Catholics sure of finding the way to heaven. Nevertheless, the dread of hell persisted, and has caused, in recent times, a great softening of the dogmas as to who will be damned. The doctrine, professed by many modern Christians, that everybody will go to heaven, ought to do away with the fear of death, but in fact this fear is too instinctive to be easily vanquished. F. W. H. Myers, whom spiritualism had converted to belief in a future life, questioned a woman who had lately lost her daughter as to what she supposed had become of her soul. The mother replied: “Oh, well, I suppose she is enjoying eternal bliss, but I wish you wouldn’t talk about such unpleasant subjects.” In spite of all that theology can do, heaven remains, to most people, an “unpleasant subject.”
Pasted from <http://www.personal.kent.edu/~rmuhamma/Philosophy/RBwritings/outIntellectRubbish.htm>

The problem with heaven is imagining an eternity of it

[The problem with heaven is imagining an eternity of it. An eternity of hell is more captivating, especially imagining it for others, but it keeps everyone in line. The Catholic church, arousing indignation through Faust’s fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, believed it had the authority to forgive sins which were confessed on behalf of God. They furthermore thought they could essentially sell forgiveness if the sinner made up for his sins by doing something nice for God, like building a church. The Church’s obvious conflict of interest led to corruption and the loss of divine authority in many people’s minds. This of course, is a big part of what the Protestants were protesting about and helps explain the anti-Catholic tone in Faust stories coming out of Protestant-leaning regions.

British writer and journalist Gordon Rattray Taylor describes how it came to be in Sex In History (1954):]

“But it soon was evident that no mere physical system of supervision could hope to regulate the most private doings of a man and even his very thoughts: only a system of psychological control based on terror would serve. The offender must, of his own accord, confess his own sin. The incentive for such confession was found in the claim to be able to remit sins. Christ had given Peter the power of “loosing and unloosing”. This was interpreted as the power to admit to Heaven or to refuse; and it was further postulated, first, that Peter could hand this power on to a successor, and he in turn to his successor, and secondly, that each of these could bestow the power upon lesser members of the hierarchy, and thus to every ordained priest. But to make this power effective it was necessary to emphasize the attractions of Heaven, and the disadvantages of Hell. Unfortunately, the picture drawn of Heaven proved insipid, and it became necessary to dwell with increasing heaviness upon the appalling nature of the torment reserved for sinners, rather than on the loving kindness of God – or perhaps we should attribute this to the fact that Church leaders were often more interested in imagining sadistic horror as a fate for others than eternal bliss. It came to be held that only one person in a million could hope to reach Heaven, and historians have noted the increasing emphasis on the doctrine of damnation throughout this period, and the gradual substitution in the iconography of a stern and vengeful father figure in place of the merciful intercessor, Jesus.”

Pasted from <https://ourcivilisation.com/smartboard/shop/taylorgr/sxnhst/chap3.htm>

As concerns the brilliance of the stars and their appearance by night

[This excerpt from HISTORIA & TALE OF DOCTOR JOHANNES FAUSTUS at http://lettersfromthedustbowl.com/Fbk1.html expounds an old Earth-centric cosmic model. This is from the earliest-known manuscript version (Wolfenbüttel Manuscript) of the Faust story, written just before 1587. This author doesn’t provide a Copernican answer, but the question of the nature of the cosmos was on his mind.]

The Second Question
XXI
I thank you very much, spake the doctor, my dear Lord Faustus, for your brief account. I shall remember it and ponder upon it my life long. But, if I may trouble you further, would ye not instruct me once more as concerns the brilliance of the stars and their appearance by night.

Yea, very briefly, answered Doctor Faustus. Now it is certain, so soon as the sun doth ascend into the Third Heaven (if it should move down into the First Heaven, it  would ignite the earth–but the time for that is not yet come, and the earth must still proceed along her God-ordained course), when the sun doth so far withdraw itself, I say, then doth it become the right of the stars to shine for as long as God hath ordained. The First and Second Heavens, which contain these stars, are then brighter than two of our summer days, and offer an excellent refuge for the birds by night.
Night, therefore, observed from Heaven, is nothing else than day, or, as one might also aver, the day is half the night. For ye must understand that when the sun ascends, leaving us here in night, the day is just beginning in such places as India and Africa. And when our sun shineth, their day waneth, and they have night.

Pasted from <http://lettersfromthedustbowl.com/Fbk2.html>

Ergotism—Saint Anthony’s Fire—Food Poisoning

By Dominique Jacquin via Wikimedia Commons
Claviceps purpurea on barley. By Dominique Jacquin [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Burning extremities; lost limbs; stinking, erupting pustles; delerium and death—ergotism is a form of food poisoning caused by fungal growth on grain. Among the effects are hallucinations and the alkaloids within are related to the psychoactive drug LSD.

The cause of ergot poisonings was not known in Europe for almost a thousand years. From its rise before the end of the first millennium until the identification of the ergot fungus as the cause of bread poisonings in the seventeenth century, it killed tens of thousands at a time in waves of epidemics.

Ergot is a group of Claviceps fungi that grows in the field in ears of rye, and to a lesser extent, barley and wheat, among other grasses. It was a long-known thing in some parts of the world where rye had long been cultivated: ergot may have been used deliberately among prehistoric cults, and for the psychoactive effects 4,000 years ago in the Greek Eleusinian mystery cult. It was used in China as a medication before 1000 BC and in the Middle East almost a thousand years before that. But rye was only introduced into Europe in the Middle Ages, and Europeans had no experience with the ergot.

In one stage of its growth, it sticks prominently out of an ear of grain. Back then, that purple-black growth on some ears of grain was so common it was assumed to be part of the plant. When the winter was cold and the summer was wet, there was more of it. Black, elongated and shriveled, it was clearly not a normal seed, and one could see an ergot amidst lighter-coloured grains, and pick it out. But since Europeans didn’t know it caused problems, it might be left in low quality grains. When ergot-infested grain was ground into flour, baked into bread, and eaten by many people, ergotism occurred in epidemics.

Ergot symptoms come in two forms, depending on the alkaloids in the ergot. One includes painful spasms, itching, psychosis (including delirium and hallucinations), nausea and vomiting, and spontaneous abortions. Those are the “convulsive” central nervous system effects of severe poisoning, and was (apparently) more common in Germany.

The “gangrenous” form (caused by blood vessel constriction) includes skin swelling, blistering, burning pain, numbness, and gangrene. Limbs could dry and fall off, and death could result. It was more common in France.

Advanced ergotism. By Matthias Grünewald, about 1515.
Advanced ergotism. By Matthias Grünewald, about 1515.

It would make famine worse. We don’t think much about famine these days, but so much could go wrong back when your sole food source grew around you: bad weather meant a poor harvest which meant that by early summer of the next year everyone would be out of food and the next harvest wouldn’t be ready yet. Bad weather favoured the ergot fungus, and ergot infections increased with cold winters and wet summers, the same conditions that also ruined crops and harvests, and stretched the resources and resilience of people. Growing on many types of grass, ergotism also affects cattle, pigs, sheep, and poultry, causing weight loss, abortions, and other symptoms, including gangrene and death, and is passed in mother’s milk.

When people were reduced to eating anything they could, that meant literally scraping the bottom of the barrel, eating poorest quality grain, and flour bulked up with roadside adulterants.

Full section of the outer wing of the Isenheim Altarpiece, depicting The Temptation of St Anthony. Matthias Grünewald, about 1515.
Full section of the outer wing of the Isenheim Altarpiece, depicting The Temptation of St Anthony. Ergotism lower left. Matthias Grünewald, about 1515.

The condition was known as Saint Anthony’s Fire, with the “Fire” part referring to the intense burning in the hands and feet. Ergotism was actually one of the causes of a group of symptoms known as “Saint Anthony’s Fire.”1

The Hospital Brothers of St. Anthony was founded in 1095 by a French nobleman whose son (we are told) was cured by relics of Saint Anthony. Monks of the brotherhood were devoted to treating victims of the condition. In 1676 it was shown that ergot was the cause of bread poisoning, which reduced the incidence as it was now kept out of flour. Ergot was subsequently used as a medicine in Europe for hundreds of years up until the 1930s to induce abortions or childbirth by contractions of the uterus, and it’s still used to treat migraines.

Ergotism still occurs today, but is controlled by careful monitoring of rye, which is the main commercial host of ergot. It’s probably still in your bread. Flour is limited in the maximum amount of ergot contamination legally allowed. With the synthesis of LSD from ergot, came the separation of a psychoactive material from the dangerous consequences of ergot consumption. Our relatively benign attitude to LSD can’t be extended to ergot. It appears to be too dangerous and unpleasant to be an historic entheogen without some unknown and un-heard-of preparation.

A Few References:

Schiff, P. L. (2006). Ergot and Its Alkaloids. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 70(5), 98.

Ergot of rye. Schumann, G.L. 2000. Ergot. The Plant Health Instructor. DOI: 10.1094/PHI-I-2000-1016-01. Updated 2005.

Ergot of Rye – I: Introduction and History. http://www.botany.hawaii.edu/faculty/wong/BOT135/LECT12.HTM (Web)

Footnotes
  1. “St Anthony’s Fire” actually included similar conditions which we now recognize as having other causes – such as shingles and erysipelas. []

The first mention of hallucinogenic mushrooms in European medical literature

Psilocybe semilanceata

It’s to be understood that when “Science” announces a discovery, that it doesn’t mean it wasn’t known long ago. It just means “Science” has discovered it, and most importantly publicly announced and included it among the compendium of things known to humanity. They also reserve among themselves the right to name it and forever attach their names to it as discoverer.

This is the way it is with plants. The natives may have known about it for generations, but they don’t count. Same with archeology. All the local children probably know about a cave and cave drawings, and all anyone ever had to do was go ask a child about the neat stuff in his neighbourhood.

So when we talk about the first mention of hallucinogenic mushrooms in Europe, we qualify it by saying “the first mention of hallucinogenic mushrooms in European medical literature.

The following is a transcript of the first mention of hallucinogenic mushrooms in European medical literature, but whether or not it was known previously, we don’t know. It seems likely that it was, but nobody published it.

In 1799 a man picked some mushrooms for his family’s breakfast in London’s Green Park. He’d picked them from the same spot before and they’d eaten them with no effects, but this time, they got stoned on what turned out to be Psilocybe semilanceata mushrooms.

The father sought help, and received it from the eminent physician Everard Brande who was at hand. Doctor Brande treated them as best he could, without knowing what they had taken, and he subsequently had the mushrooms identified and submitted a letter to the London Medical and Physical Journal about it.

That made it official – the first mention of hallucinogenic mushrooms in European medical literature.

London's Green Park. Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0
London’s Green Park. Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0

Despite our breezy tone, Doctor Brande’s letter is formal, accurate and thorough, and illustrates typically high standards. He had the father go back to the site to get more mushrooms, and Doctor Brande had them identified at Oxford and they identified them in collaboration with Mr Sowerby who was a highly regarded illustrator of natural history and the patriarch of generations of well-respected naturalists. Mr. Sowerby added an illustration to his exhaustive Coloured Figures of English Fungi or Mushrooms which is excerpted, below (any errors in transcription are ours). The Agaricus mushrooms named are now known as as Psilocybe semilanceata. Even though you get to name a new species, that doesn’t mean someone won’t come along and change it, so even for scientists, the future is uncertain.

First:

Doctor Brande’s letter to the Editors of the Medical and Physical Journal:

————————————————————————————————

Mr. E. Brande on a poisonous Species of Agaric.

To the Editors of the Medical and Physical Journal
Gentlemen,

If the following account of the deleterious effects of a very common species of agaric not hitherto generally suspected to be poisonous, appears to you likely to prove useful or interesting to the public you will oblige me by its insertion; should its length be any obstacle to this, I beg you will omit whatever you may think superfluous. I remain, Gentlemen, Your’s, most obediently EVERARD BRANDE. No. 10, Arlington street. Nov. 16th, 1799.

JS gathered early in the morning of the third of October, in the Green Park, what he supposed to be small mushrooms; these he stewed with the common additions in a tinned iron saucepan.1 The whole did not exceed a tea saucerful, which he and four of his children ate the first thing, about eight o clock in the morning, as they frequently had done without any bad consequence; they afterwards took their usual breakfast of tea, &c. which was finished about nine, when Edward, one of the children, (eight years old,) who had eaten a large proportion of the mushrooms, as they thought them, was attacked with fits of immoderate laughter, nor could the threats of his father or mother restrain him To this succeeded vertigo, and a great degree of stupor, from which he was roused by being called or shaken, but immediately relapsed. The pupils of his eyes were, at times, dilated to nearly the circumference of the cornea, and scarcely contracted at the approach of a strong light; his breathing was quick, his pulse very variable, at times imperceptible, at others too frequent and small to be counted; latterly, very languid, his feet were cold, livid, and contracted; he sometimes pressed his hands on different parts of his abdomen, as if in pain, but when roused and interrogated as to it, he answered indifferently, yes or no, as he did to every other question evidently without any relation to what was asked. About the same time the father aged forty, was attacked with vertigo, and complained that every thing appeared black then wholly disappeared; to this succeeded loss of voluntary motion and stupor; his pupils were dilated; his pulse slow, full, and soft; breathing not affected; in about ten minutes he gradually recovered; but complained of universal numbness and coldness great dejection, and a firm persuasion that he was dying; in few minutes he relapsed, but recovered as before, and had several similar fits during three or four hours, each succeeding one less violent and with longer intermissions than the former.

Harriet, twelve years old, who had eaten but a very quantity, was attacked also at the same time with slight vertigo.

At nine o clock I first saw them and ordered a solution ten grains of tartar emetic, in four ounces of water, to be immediately given to each in proportioned doses. It soon the desired effect on the father and on Harriet, both of whom felt themselves much relieved by its operation. As soon as the stomach of the former could bear it, I ordered him an ounce of castor oil, and half an hour afterwards, vinegar and water, of each two ounces. He took three such doses, at intervals of half an hour, when he had a stool, and voided large quantities of urine, and although not perfectly recovered, did not appear to require any thing more.

To Harriet, who had had two or three attacks of slight vertigo, with some languor, I gave, (after the operation of the emetic,) on the suggestion of my friend, Dr Burges, who happened to be present, thirty drops of sal volatile [smelling salts], in a table spoonful of water. This relieved her exceedingly. and by repeating the dose twice in the course of an hour, she was perfectly cured.

From the difficulty with which Edward was made to swallow any thing, and from the large quantity required, it was eleven o clock before he had taken enough of the emetic solution to excite vomiting; by this time the poison had produced so powerful an effect upon his system, that he did not appear in the least relieved by it. I now ordered him a stimulating injection, applied a blister to his neck, and by degrees made him swallow some small quantities of sal volatile diluted with no more water than was absolutely necessary; his feet were frequently rubbed with and wrapped up in warm flannels; in half an hour the injection was repeated; this soon procured two stools, when he was sensibly relieved, knew the voice of his father and mother, and complained of coldness and insensibility about his stomach. His whole abdomen was well rubbed before a fire with some camphorated strong volatile liniment, which, at his own request, was repeated two or three times; he continued also to take the sal volatile, and some castor oil. By four o clock every violent symptom had left him, drowsiness and occasional giddiness only remaining, both of which, with some head ache, continued during the following day.

Charlotte, a delicate little girl, ten years old, naturally of a most mild and tractable disposition, who also had eaten a large proportion, was suddenly attacked in the presence of Dr. Burges and myself, about half after ten, with vertigo and loss of voluntary motion; her pupils were very much dilated, and sight greatly impaired; these symptoms soon gave place to a degree of delirium, in which she refused to take any thing,, forcibly striking whatever was offered to her. A blister was applied to her neck; and having given her a strong dose of the emetic solution, immediately on the first attack, which, though late, operated violently, she became composed as the sickness went off; and after taking a few doses of the sal volatile, was perfectly well, and wholly unconscious of any thing that had passed since the commencement of the symptoms; her pulse, which hitherto had not been much affected, was now irregular, and continued so , though in a less degree, during the whole of the day.

Martha, aged eighteen, who had eaten a small proportion, was attacked about eleven o clock with symptoms exactly the same as those of Harriet. She was treated in the same manner with similar success.

From the evident utility of determining the species to which these agarici belonged, I desired the man who had gathered and partaken of them to bring me some of the same; and on inquiry found he had for several years been in the habit of gathering, in the same place, what he was confident were the same sort. Part of those which he brought me, I sent to Dr. Williams, Botany Professor of Oxford, to whom I had related the cases. In a note which he had the kindness to send me, he says, “Having since passed a short time in company with Mr. Sowerby,2 he has compared them with the Fungi and plates in his Museum. Mr. S. has no doubt respecting the species; it appears to be a variety of the Agaricus glutinosus of Curtis, (Flora Londinensis) the same with Dr, Withering’s Agaricus semiglobatus, yet no notice is taken either by Curtis or Withering of its deleterious quality. This may seem irregular as its effects were so strongly marked, unless any mistake has been made by the person who collected the specimens.”

I have also examined some of the same parcel with Mr. Wheeler, Demonstrator of Botany of the Apothecary’s Company, whose testimony concurring with the above, leaves no room to doubt their authority.

As some of your readers may not readily have an opportunity of referring to either of the authors already mentioned, I shall add Curtis’s description of the species Agaricus glutinosus.

“Stalks generally single, sometimes clustered, from two to four inches in height, the thickness of a goose quill, thread shaped, whitish, almost solid; the tube being very small, glutinous; ring, a little below the cap, scarce perceptible.”

“Cap, from one to two inches in breadth, of a brown colour; in the full grown ones, hemispherical, always convex, and more or less glutinous; wet with rain, it becomes browner and transparent, so that it sometimes appears striated.”

“Gills numerous, single, of a brownish purple colour, clouded; whole ones about twenty, horizontal, three shorter ones placed betwixt them; they throw out a powder of a brownish purple colour.”

“With respect to the use of it, he only says, “There is nothing acrimonious or disagreeable in its taste. yet its appearance will not recommend it to the lovers of mushrooms.”

“The variety, however, in question, (which is almost constantly to be met with on pasture land during autumn,) differs from this description chiefly in being of a conical form, as will be perfectly well seen in No 19, of Mr. Sowerby’s English Fungi to be published on the first of January, next; for the useful purpose of shewing which Mr. S. has expressly added figures 1, 2, and 3, of Table 248.”

P. 41.
The Medical and Physical Journal, Volume 3
R. Phillips, 1800 – Medicine

———————————————————————–

Mr Sowerby’s addition to Coloured Figures of English Fungi or Mushrooms, based on the samples sent to him:

Sowerby J. (1803). Coloured Figures of English Fungi or Mushrooms. 3. London: J. Davis. Table  248.
Sowerby J. (1803). Coloured Figures of English Fungi or Mushrooms. 3. London: J. Davis. Table  248.
Sowerby J. (1803). Coloured Figures of English Fungi or Mushrooms. 3. London: J. Davis. Table  248.Sowerby J. (1803). Coloured Figures of English Fungi or Mushrooms. 3. London: J. Davis. Table  248.

Footnotes
  1. Doctor Brande’s footnote: This accuracy may seem trivial, but I have met with people who supposed the following symptoms might have risen from the use of a copper vessel. []
  2. [James Sowerby’s 1803 book] Author of Coloured Figures of English Fungi [or Mushrooms]. []

What is an entheogen?

What is an entheogen?

From Wikipedia:

‘An entheogen (“generating the divine within”) is any chemical substance used in a religious, shamanic, or spiritual context that often induces psychological or physiological changes.

Entheogens have been used to supplement many diverse practices geared towards achieving transcendence, including meditation, yoga, prayer, psychedelic art, chanting, and multiple forms of music. They have also been historically employed in traditional medicine via psychedelic therapy.

Entheogens have been used in a ritualized context for thousands of years; their religious significance is well established in anthropological and modern contexts.’

Pasted from <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entheogen>

[It’s a quite recent term coined because nobody had a good enough reason until regular people started licking toads to find God. The Wikipedia entry notes the term arose partly to differentiate from licking toads for fun. Yes, people do lick toads. We had a puppy who licked a toad. He died. We don’t know if he saw God. He probably went to heaven since he was a puppy, and if there is a heaven, it’s full of puppies, so sure—he saw God.]

Crazy bread—it was in the month of July that famine was at its worst

[In England around the year 1000 it was in the month of July – just before the harvest – that famine was at its worst. The previous year’s storage was gone and the coming year’s had yet to ripen. Weakened from hunger and already half stoned from eating fungus-infected rotting grain, people scavenged for anything to eat to bulk up what remained. This is when they ran the risk of picking psychoactive plants.]

“This hallucinogenic lift was accentuated by the hedgerow herbs and grains with which the dwindling stocks of conventional flour were amplified as the summer wore on. Poppies, hemp and darnel were scavenged, dried, and ground up to produce a medieval hash brownie known as “crazy bread.”

Lacey, Robert, and Danny Danziger. The Year 1000: What Life Was like at the Turn of the First Millennium: An Englishman’s World. 1999. Print.

We know about poppies and hemp. Wikipedia says about darnel:

‘Darnel can be infected by an endophytic fungus of the genus Neotyphodium, and the endophyte-produced, insecticidal loline alkaloids were first isolated from this plant. The French word for darnel is ivraie (from Latin ebriacus, intoxicated), which expresses the drunken nausea from eating the infected plant, which can be fatal. The French name echoes the scientific name, Latin temulentus “drunk.”‘

Pasted from <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lolium_temulentum>

God cursed women, so suffer dammit

[God cursed women, so he objects to efforts to relieve their suffering. That’s the position of the author(s) below, and we don’t doubt that was the position of the patriarchy of the time, whatever God’s opinion might be. We thought compassion was godly. But the position of the patriarchy was more general – if God has gone to the trouble of inflicting suffering on His people, man or woman, then it is wrong to do anything to alleviate it.]

“When James Simpson proposed to relieve women’s labor pains with the newly discovered anesthetics, chloroform and ether, there was a great outcry from the clergy, who called it a sinful denial of God’s wishes. According to Scottish clergymen, to relieve labor pains would be “vitiating the primal curse against woman.” A New England minister wrote: “Chloroform is a decoy of Satan, apparently offering itself to bless women; but in the end it will harden society and rob God of the deep earnest cries which arise in time of trouble, for help.” With the usual half-concealed sadism of patriarchal morality, he was really saying that female screams of pain gave God pleasure, and men must see to it that God was not deprived of this. The matter was resolved when Queen Victoria allowed her doctor to give her chloroform during delivery of her eighth child, and publicly hailed the new pain-reliever as a great blessing. All at once the clergymen were silenced, in effect conceding to the Queen the right to overrule God.”
p. 665.

Pasted from <http://archive.org/stream/womansencycloped00walkrich/womansencycloped00walkrich_djvu.txt>

The woman’s encyclopedia of myths and secrets
by Walker, Barbara G. Published c1983

Pasted from <https://archive.org/details/womansencycloped00walkrich>

[We don’t have the original source for these quotes, so take them with a grain of salt. We found them quoted on the Internet, referencing Helen Ellerbe (whose book lacks original sources – a main criticism). Ellerbe quoted Walker who quoted Pearsall (Pearsall, Ronald. Night’s Black Angels) at which point we lost interest. The above is from Walker’s “The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets.”

As anyone who tries to verify information on the Internet must soon find, a lot of stuff is lifted out of its context and quoted to suit the writer’s prejudice. Other quotes when traced just vanish into thin air, or are misattributed. We’re not disputing the information quoted here; we just get disturbed by the fact that we looked at a web page and three texts and still didn’t get to the original source.

Spoiled as we are in this day of easily-available online content, we wonder that people write books on subjects limiting themselves to other books on the same subject, never looking at the source materials. Of course they were writing pre-Internet, sitting at tables at their local libraries while the necessary source material was in collections overseas and it was their original perspective which justified the re-hash, but how could they or any subsequent reader know that they weren’t simply repeating errors?

Oh well, we don’t read Greek or Latin either, and it’s not like we have editors, so take what we say with a grain of salt too. Do your own research, and don’t get riled up because bigoted old men ganged up on women, supported by the same religious hatred that justified their hatred of Jews (their justifications were that Jews rejected and killed Jesus and women brought on the curse of God and ejection from the Garden of Eden). With clear reason, they hated each other too, united though they were in their comfortable, smug paternalism against everyone else. Okay, do get riled up. Europe “was” a war-like paternalistic society full of ignorance and fear and old men crawling over each other for power over others. It was no place for Christianity without compassion, and even if God and Satan approved, we don’t think Jesus would have. Can we blame Faust for trying another way?]

John Dee was the original 007?

(We doubt it.)

[There is a story out there, from author Richard Deacon (Donald McCormick) who apparently was in the war with Ian Fleming, that James Bond’s “007” came from John Dee’s signature. We imagine we’ve seen such a letter with the notation, but now can’t find it. If we can’t find it, it’s not true. We haven’t seen Richard Deacon’s book either.

Since there’s so much misinformation out there, we’re not taking this stuff as credible. For now, John Dee wasn’t the original Bond. For that matter, his formal occupation as a “spy” is unsubstantiated and disputed.

From a book on James Bond by Philip Gardiner that draws from the Deacon book, and is repeated throughout the Internet:]

The Bond Code

The code 007 (a sacred numerological code) was that of the magician and occultist Dr. John Dee from the 16th century—the infamous mystic and spy of the realm for Queen Elizabeth.

The queen herself signed her letters to Dee as “M.”

Dee was thrown out of university for creating a flying machine—and Fleming wrote the alchemical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. We also know that he was reading a biography of Dee at the time of writing Casino Royale, the first Bond novel!

[And, from a footnote on the same page:]

According to the writer Donald McCormick (alias Richard Deacon), John Dee signed his memos “007,” or two eyes followed by the occult number 7, meaning he offered his physical sight and his occult sight—thus making Bond an occult agent. Ian Fleming worked with Donald McCormick in the secret service during the Second World War!

Pasted from: The Bond Code: The Dark World of Ian Fleming and James Bond:…. By Philip Gardiner.

[John Dee was tutor to Robert Dudley in his youth. Dudley was Elizabeth’s favourite and signed letters to her with two “eyes.” In Dee’s letters he (according to McCormick) signed with two “eyes” sheltered by a “7” – but we haven’t seen it (we think). While Dee may not have signed his letters so, the Queen’s boyfriend-in-waiting, Robert Dudley did sign his letters to her with two eyes:]

‘After the Armada the Earl was seen riding in splendour through London “as if he were a king”, and for the past few weeks he had usually dined with the Queen, a unique favour. On his way to Buxton in Derbyshire to take the baths, he died at Cornbury Park near Oxford on 4 September 1588. Leicester’s health had not been good for some time and historians have considered both malaria and stomach cancer as death causes. His death came unexpectedly, and only a week earlier he had said farewell to his Queen. Elizabeth was deeply affected and locked herself in her apartment for a few days until Lord Burghley had the door broken. Her nickname for Dudley had been “Eyes”, which was symbolised by the sign of ôô in their letters to each other. Elizabeth kept the letter he had sent her six days before his death in her bedside treasure box, endorsing it with “his last letter” on the outside. It was still there when she died 15 years later.’

Pasted from <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Dudley,_1st_Earl_of_Leicester#Armada_and_death>

[Dee was only 5 or 6 years older than Dudley. Apparently Elizabeth had her own pet names for her crew (Memoirs of the Life and Times of Sir Christopher Hatton). It’s fun to imagine them all having their own codes and having sleepovers and stuff, but we doubt it’s true about Dee, though it’s possible. But the Internet is notorious for taking one piece of misinformation from a single source and blithely copying it without anyone checking the facts. When the references all trace back to a single un-referenced source, it’s a good indication it’s false. Such is the Internet’s lust for easy “content.”]

[Hatton:]

‘These appointments, together with the valuable grants with which the Queen showered him during these early years, prompted rumours that he was her lover, a charge specifically made in 1584 by Mary, Queen of Scots. There was undoubtedly a close personal relationship, In correspondence, the Queen called him her “Lyddes”, and he is said to have referred to himself in at least one letter as her “sheep.”‘

Pasted from <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Hatton>

[And we attempt to conclude our assessment of the claim that Dee signed his letters to Elizabeth with “007” and that Fleming got 007 from Dee, with quotes from Wikipedia:]

….Wikipedia says:

Bond’s number—007—was assigned by Fleming in reference to one of British naval intelligence’s key achievements of World War I: the breaking of the German diplomatic code. One of the German documents cracked and read by the British was the Zimmermann Telegram, which was coded 0075, and which was one of the factors that led to the US entering the war.

Pasted from <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Bond_(literary_character)>

…But Wikipedia also says:

Ian Fleming took James Bond’s code number, 007, from John Dee. Fleming was reading a memoir on the life of Dee during at the time he set off to write Casino Royale (1953).

Pasted from <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Dee>

So there. There doesn’t seem to be any actual evidence that Dee signed his letter as 007. Richard Deacon (Donald McCormick) may be relating the story correctly, and Fleming may be mistaken, or Deacon/McCormick got it wrong. We’ll leave it for the reader to determine. Let us know what you find out.

For more on the matter, also check out A Golden Storm: Attempting to Recreate the Context of John Dee and Edward Kelley’s Angelic Material (Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition No. 19, Vol. 2. Autumnal Equinox 2010) by Teresa Burns:

“Deacon’s biography seems the source of the persistent printed and Internet legend that John Dee signed his name “007.” Did Dee really sign his name this way? A painstaking search through many, many Dee signatures has convinced this writer that he did not. His real signature took many forms, but looks more like a whirlwind than a 007.”

John Dee had an unwanted and unwarranted reputation as a wizard

[John Dee had an unwanted and unwarranted reputation as a wizard.]

“While scholars would systematically soil Dee’s memory over the coming centuries, he became an underground legend—the archetypal cartoon image we inherit of the “wizard,” wearing a pointy hat and robe and wielding a crystal ball, is a survival of folk images of Dee. The eminent historian Francis Yates suggests that Dee’s actions on the Continent and writings are responsible for the Rosicrucian occult revolution in Europe that formed the cradle of the Enlightenment and modern science—and that, in a sense, Dee tricked Europe into having a scientific revolution. The Enochian scholar Stephen Skinner suggests a secret tradition in British high society kept the angelic magic alive—and Dee’s papers in the British Library are well documented as the catalyzing information behind the 19th and 20th century occult revival.”

/ Jason Louv / 2 am Thu, Feb 19 2015

http://boingboing.net/2015/02/19/john-dee-was-the-real-life-mer.html