John Dee’s crystal…

John Dee’s crystal, Europe, 1582

Pasted from <http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/broughttolife/objects/display.aspx?id=10708&keywords=dee>




Credit: Science Museum, London

Pasted from <http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/broughttolife/objects/display?id=10708&keywords=dee>


From Wikipedia:

“In the 1st century AD, Pliny the Elder describes use of crystal balls by soothsayers (“crystallum orbis”, later written in Medieval Latin by scribes as orbuculum). By the 5th century AD, scrying was widespread within the Roman Empire and was condemned by the early medieval Christian Church as heretical.

Dr. John Dee was a noted British mathematician, astronomer, astrologer, geographer, and consultant to Queen Elizabeth I. He devoted much of his life to alchemy, divination, and Hermetic philosophy, of which the use of crystal balls was often included.”

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

John Dee’s Claude Glass

John Dee’s Claude Glass

[Thought to have once belonged to John Dee (1527-1609), this object is a “Claude glass:” a convex piece of glass with a black blacking. They were popular among artists and tourists to look at landscapes (with their backs to the subject). Dee is said to have used this object like a crystal ball for divination (telling the future or fortunes) or scrying (seeing visions).]



Credit: Science Museum, London

Pasted from <http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/broughttolife/objects/display?id=10722&keywords=dee>



Science Museum, London, Wellcome Images

Pasted from <https://www.rcplondon.ac.uk/news/mystical-objects-john-dee>

While John Dee’s interest in spirit communications has been considered

[While John Dee’s interest in spirit communications has been considered discreditable, that is because Christian authorities assumed that any spirit that talked through, well, anybody but them, was probably a demon. Dee was considerate of this, and didn’t necessarily trust anything or anyone.

The Faustian path is one taken by a lot of people in history – well educated, always seeking for more knowledge, they exhaust their resources, reach a pinnacle, and still grasping, find empty air. Faust dies on a dung heap, Dee dies broke.

The quest for learning involves unhinging one’s self from the mundane. Drifting is a challenge, getting caught up in a current and lost happens far too often. The people who do this accept the risks. Dee was unable to secure a patron and a living. His hope lay in some advance in alchemy or spirit mining, but nothing was fruitful. The material world was the place to secure riches, but even that’s a gamble and requires more dedication that Dee seems willing to have given it.

Dee took Faust’s path and paid the traditional price. From Charlotte Fell Smith, a small quote:]

“Search while thou wilt; and let thy reason go
To ransom truth, e’en to th’abyss below;
Rally the scattered causes; and that line
Which nature twists be able to untwine.
It is thy Maker’s will; for unto none
But unto reason can He e’er be known.”
— Sir Thomas Browne

Pasted from <http://www.johndee.org/charlotte/pdf/charlotte.pdf>

Some people think that John Dee was an inspiration for Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus

[Some people think that John Dee was an inspiration for – at least – Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus. Here, Charlotte Fell Smith copies from Dee’s journal a conversation with the (supposed) Archangel Michael that echoes Faustus’s conversation with Mephisto.

From Charlotte Fell Smith’s biography of John Dee:]

“The sole object of his ambition was the attainment of legitimate wisdom.

When conversing with the angels, how near within his grasp it seemed! Michael’s exposition seemed almost to promise it to him: —

`Wilt thou have witt and wisdom? Here it is.’

Michael points each time to a figure of seven squares shown within a circle of light.

`The exaltation and government of princes is in my hand.
In counsayle and Nobilitie, I prevayle.
The Gayne and Trade of Merchandise is in my hand. Lo! here it is.
The Qualitie of the Earth and Waters is my knowledge, and I know them.
And here it is.
The motion of the Ayre and those that move in it, are all known to me. Lo! here they are.
I signifie wisdom. In fire is my government. I was in the beginning and shall be to the end.
Mark these mysteries. For this knowne, the state of the whole earth is knowne, and all that is thereon. Mighty is God, yea, mighty is he who hath composed for ever. Give diligent eye. Be wise, merry and pleasant in the Lord.’“

Pasted from <http://www.johndee.org/charlotte/pdf/charlotte.pdf>

Dee turns to magic….

[Like Faust, Dee has exhausted other means, and still desiring yet more knowledge, in fact, to communicate with the spirits, Dee turns to magic. He meets Edward Kelly (who appears first, not as a dog (Goethe’s Mephistopheles), but as “Edward Talbot”):]

“One Mr. Edward Talbot cam to my howse, and he being willing and desyrous to see or shew something in spirituall practise, wold have had me to have done something therein. And I truely excused myself therein: as not, in the vulgarly accownted magik, neyther studied or exercised. But confessed myself long tyme to have byn desyrous to have help in my philosophicall studies through the cumpany and information of the blessed Angels of God. And thereuppon, I brought furth to him my stone in the frame (which was given me of a frende), and I sayd unto him that I was credibly informed that to it (after a sort) were answerable Aliqui Angeli boni. And also that I was once willed by a skryer to call for the good Angel Annael to appere in that stone in my owne sight. And therefore I desyred him to call him, and (if he would) Anachor and Anilos likewise, accounted good angels, for I was not prepared thereto.

“He [Talbot] settled himself to the Action, and on his knees at my desk, setting the stone before him, fell to prayer and entreaty, etc. In the mean space, I in my Oratory did pray and make motion to God and his good creatures for the furdering of this Action. And within one quarter of an hour (or less) he had sight of one in the stone.”

John Dee by Charlotte Fell-Smith (1909)

Pasted from <http://www.johndee.org/charlotte/pdf/charlotte.pdf>

Faust, Dee and Cagliostro joined many others in the search for buried treasure

[Faust, Dee and Cagliostro joined many others in the search for buried treasure using various means including magical ones. Today we use metal detectors, aerial imagery and lidar. Buried treasure was more than a vain hope – in a time before banks, burying one’s wealth was a way to protect it while one was away – perhaps at war or in flight. Astrologers and cunning folk were employed by treasure hunters to find the hordes – but also to find (say by dowsing) natural sources of metal. Dee was sincere, Cagliostro was probably a fraud. Treasure hordes are still being discovered. From Charlotte Fell Smith:]

‘He has spent twenty years in considering the subject; people from all parts have consulted him about dreams, visions, attractions and demonstrations of “sympathia et antipathia rerum;” but it is not likely he would counsel them to proceed without permission from the State. Yet what a loss is here!

“Obscure persons, as hosiers or tanners, can, under color of seeking assays of metalls for the Saymaster, enojoy libertie to dig after dreamish demonstrations of places. May not I then, in respect of my payns, cost, and credit in matters philosophical and mathematicall, if no better or easier turn will fall to my Lot from her Majestie’s hands, may I not then be thought to mean and intend good service toward the Queen and this realm, if I will do the best I can at my own cost and charge to discover and deliver true proofe of a myne, vayn, or ore of gold or silver, in some place of her Grace’s kingdom, for her Grace’s only use?”

The Society of Royal Mines had been incorporated May 28, 1565, and the Queen had granted patents to Germans and others to dig for mines and ores. It was well known that the country abounded in hidden treasure. The valuables of the monasteries had been, in many cases, hastily buried before the last abbot was ejected at the dissolution. The subject had a special fascination for Dee, who was conscious of a “divining rod” power to discover the hiding places. He made a curious diagram of ten localities, in various counties, marked by crosses, near which he believed treasure to lie concealed. ‘

Pasted from <http://www.johndee.org/charlotte/pdf/charlotte.pdf>



Charlotte Fell Smith: John Dee’s legacy and the history of his house at Mortlake

Charlotte Fell Smith: John Dee:

[John Dee’s legacy and the history of his house at Mortlake.]

‘There is perhaps no learned author in history who has been so persistently misjudged, nay, even slandered, by his posterity, and not a voice in all the three centuries uplifted even to claim for him a fair hearing. Surely it is time that the cause of all this universal condemnation should be examined in the light of reason and science; and perhaps it will be found to exist mainly in the fact that he was too far advanced in speculative thought for his own age to understand. For more than fifty years out of the eighty-one of his life, Dee was famous, even if suspected and looked askance at as clever beyond human interpretation. Then his Queen died. With the narrow-minded Scotsman who succeeded her came a change in the fashion of men’s minds. The reign of the devil and his handmaidens — the witches and possessed persons — was set up in order to be piously overthrown, and the very bigotry of the times gave birth to independent and rational thought — to Newton, Bacon, Locke.’

Pasted from <http://www.johndee.org/charlotte/pdf/charlotte.pdf>


‘Before 1570 he took up his abode with his mother, in a house belonging to her at Mortlake, on the river Thames. It was an old rambling place, standing west of the church between it and the river. Dee added to it by degrees, purchasing small tenements adjoining, so that at length it comprised laboratories for his experiments, libraries and rooms for a busy hive of workers and servants. Mrs. Dee occupied a set of rooms of her own. Nothing of the old premises now remains, unless it be an ancient gateway leading from the garden towards the river. After Dee’s death the house passed through an interesting phase of existence, being adapted by Sir Francis Crane for the Royal tapestry works, where, encouraged by a handsome grant of money and orders from the parsimonious James, suits of hangings of beautiful workmanship were executed under the eye of Francis Cleyne, a “limner,” who was brought over from Flanders to undertake the designs. At the end of the eighteenth century, a large panelled room with red and white roses, carved and coloured, was still in existence. Early in the nineteenth century the house was used for a girls’ school, kept by a Mrs. Dubois.

Here Dee took up his abode. Its nearness to London and to the favourite places of Elizabeth’s residence — Greenwich, Hampton Court, Sion House, Isleworth, and Nonsuch — was at first considered a great advantage, and the journey to and from London was almost invariably made by water. The Queen desired her astrologer to be near at hand.’

John Dee by Charlotte Fell-Smith (1909)

Pasted from <http://www.johndee.org/charlotte/pdf/charlotte.pdf>

Wikipedia article on Kelley summarizes Dee’s interest in his angelic readings

[Wikipedia article on Kelley summarizes Dee’s interest in his angelic readings:]

‘Dee considered the dictation of angelic material highly important for three reasons. First, Dee believed the angelic represented a documentable case of true glossolalia, thereby “proving” that Kelley was actually speaking with angels and not from his imagination. Second, the angels claimed that their language was actually the original prototype of Hebrew: the language with which God spoke to Adam, and thus the first human word. Third, the angelic material takes the form of a set of conjurations that would summon an extremely powerful set of angelic beings who would reveal many secrets to those who sought them, especially the key to the philosopher’s stone, to god-like wisdom, and eternal life.’

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

The rising class of technological adepts – these “mecanicians”

[The rising class of technological adepts – these “mecanicians” – wanted to increase and improve their skills. They sought out learning, not unlike those a hundred (?) years earlier who flocked to classes on literacy when the printing press spread the printed word – in the local languages (not Latin) – throughout Europe. Not long ago, in a similar fashion, people “flocked” to computer courses.]

It should be noted, though, that Dee’s understanding of the role of mathematics is radically different from our contemporary view. Dee’s promotion of mathematics outside the universities was an enduring practical achievement. As with most of his writings, Dee chose to write in English, rather than Latin, to make his writings accessible to the general public. His “Mathematical Preface” to Euclid was meant to promote the study and application of mathematics by those without a university education, and was very popular and influential among the “mecanicians”: the new and growing class of technical craftsmen and artisans. Dee’s preface included demonstrations of mathematical principles that readers could perform themselves without special education or training.

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

John Dee’s motivations – and methods – were not much different from Faust’s

[John Dee’s motivations were not much different from Faust’s:]

‘A student of the Renaissance Neo-Platonism of Marsilio Ficino, Dee did not draw distinctions between his mathematical research and his investigations into Hermetic magic, angel summoning and divination. Instead he considered all of his activities to constitute different facets of the same quest: the search for a transcendent understanding of the divine forms which underlie the visible world, which Dee called “pure verities”.’

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

“Dee, on the other hand, was more interested in communicating with the angels whom he believed would help him solve the mysteries of the heavens through mathematics, optics, astrology, science and navigation.”

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