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”.’

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“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.”

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The Hieroglyphic embodies Dee’s vision of the unity of the Cosmos

“The Hieroglyphic embodies Dee’s vision of the unity of the Cosmos and is a composite of various esoteric and astrological symbols.” From Wikipedia:

“The Monas Hieroglyphica (or Hieroglyphic Monad) is an esoteric symbol invented and designed by John Dee, the Elizabethan Magus and Court Astrologer of Elizabeth I of England. It is also the title of the 1564 book in which Dee expounds the meaning of his symbol.

(Dee’s glyph, whose meaning he explained in Monas Hieroglyphica as representing (from top to bottom): the moon; the sun; the elements; and fire.)

The Hieroglyphic embodies Dee’s vision of the unity of the Cosmos and is a composite of various esoteric and astrological symbols. Dee wrote a commentary on it which serves as a primer of its mysteries. However, the obscurity of the commentary is such that it is believed that Dee used it as a sort of textbook for a more detailed explanation of the Hieroglyph which he would give in person. In the absence of any remaining detail of this explanation we may never know the full significance of the Glyph.


The existence of the Hieroglyph links Dee to Rosicrucianism but in what way remains obscure. The Hieroglyph appears on a page of the Rosicrucian Manifesto Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz, beside the text of the invitation to the Royal Wedding given to Rosenkreutz who narrates the work. It is indeed at least possible that Dee showed the Glyph to Johannes Valentinus Andreae or even an associate during one of his visits to Central Europe. However, whether Andrae’s claims of authoring the treatise hold any weight is still a hotly debated question among scholars.”

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A true & faithful relation of what passed for many yeers

[It was Isaac Casaubon who showed that the Corpus Hermeticum (a collection of influential ancient metaphysical writings believed to from the time of Moses) really only dated from the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD. His son Meric wrote “A true and faithful relation of what passed for many years between Dr. John Dee and Some Spirits” (1659). A true & faithful relation is available at]

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Although astrology was never taught formally in English universities…

“Although astrology was never taught formally in English universities either, and was also regarded with suspicion by the majority of the clergy, it nevertheless began to enjoy a popular reception there during the later half of the sixteenth century. This sixteenth century renewal in England of interest in astrology, indeed to a level of interest that surpassed that of the middle ages, is attributed mainly to the mathematical revival brought about by the most famous Elizabethan astrologer John Dee (1527-1608), along with the help of Leonard Digges and his son Thomas, both astrologers and mathematicians as well.

Dee and the Digges’s practiced and advocated rigorous mathematical calculations in the study of astronomy as it applied to astrology, and in doing so raised the standard for the English astrological community from that time on.

John Dee was a long-time consultant of Queen Elizabeth I, and was commissioned for everything from the proper time for her coronation in 1559 to drawing an accurate map of the world in I580.”


“The revival of astrology in England then, began during the reign of Elizabeth I with Dee and the Digges’s, but was practiced at first mainly among the upper classes, only slowly trickling down to the rest of society. Such was the state of astrology in England at the beginning of the seventeenth century.”

From: Kemp, David (2003) The scientific revolution’s axiomatic rejection of magical thinking : the case of astrology in England (1600-1700). Masters thesis, Concordia University.

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Edward Kelley, a Magician in the Act of invoking the Spirit of a Deceased Person

Edward Kelley, a Magician in the Act of invoking the Spirit of a Deceased Person (an 1806 artist’s impression):

“Edw[ar]d Kelly, a Magician. in the Act of invoking the Spirit of a Deceased Person.

Astrology, A New and Complete Illustration of the Occult Sciences by Ebenezer Sibly, M.D. F.R.H.S., Embellished with Curious Copper-Plates, London, 1806

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[There’s a better copy of the illustration below.]

[Here’s some text on Kelly/Kelley from Sibly’s 1826 A new and complete illustration of the celestial science of astrology…. It’s a different edition of the same book. Note that this is over 200 years old, and can’t be relied upon for historical truth. The above illustration is about 7 pages after, and shows Kelley and his partner in the churchyard. Note also the Faustian ending described! We begin with Sibly’s short biography of John Dee:]

Doctor Dee was another very extraordinary character of the same class [having just described Appollonius Tayaneus, from the time of the Emperor Domitian], and a native of this island. He was not only a famous magician, but a great author, having written upwards of forty-eight different volumes, the first of which was published in 1594. A full account of his conversation and intercourse with spirits is now extant, written with his own hand, and esteemed a very curious and singular performance. His company and acquaintance was much sought by the Emperor Charles V. and by Ferdinand his brother; and, during his travels over the continent, he had not only every respect and attention paid him, but his company was courted by all the learned and religious people wherever he went. He was certainly one of the most learned men of the age in which he lived, and had collected a library of upwards of 4,000 volumes of curious and valuable writings, mostly upon physical, theological, and occult subjects, which he had the misfortune to see burnt by the fury of a mob, who assailed his house, and conspired against his life, under an idea that by magical spells and incantations he had altered the natural course of the weather, and brought on storms, hurricanes, tempests, and, continual rain, in order to ruin the harvest, and destroy the fruits of the earth. Yet he bore the torrent and fury of this infatuated, multitude with the greatest composure, saying, “They would see their error soon enough to treat him with greater kindness hereafter than their persecution was now cruel.” And so it happened; for, having by means of his confederacy with spirits foretold and detected a fatal conspiracy against his country, he was then as much honoured and caressed as he had before been stigmatized and abused by the hasty multitude. He wrote the mathematical preface to Euclid’s Elements, and has left tables of the harmony and extent of numbers infinitely beyond the capacity of the present times, though so much more learned and refined.

Edward Kelly was also a famous magician, and the companion and associate of Dr. Dee, in most of his magical operations and exploits; having been brought in union with him (as the Doctor himself declares, in preface to his work upon the initiation of spirits) by mediation of angel Uriel. But Dr. Dee was undoubtedly deceived in his opinion, that the spirits which ministered to him were executing the Divine will, and were the messengers and servants of the Deity. Throughout writings on the subject, he evidently considers them in this light, which is still more indisputably confirmed by the piety and devotion invariably observed at all times when these spirits had intercourse with him. And further, when he found his coadjutor Kelly was degenerating into the lowest and worst species of the magic art, for the purposes of fraud and avaricious gain, he broke off all manner of connection with him. and would never after be seen in his company. But it is believed, that the Doctor, a little before his death, became sensible that he had been imposed upon by these invisible agents, and that all their pretences of acting under the auspices of the angel Uriel, and for the honour and glory of God, were but mere hypocrisy, and the delusions of the devil. Kelly, being thus rejected and discountenanced by the doctor, betook himself to the meanest and most vile practices of the magic art; in all which pursuits money, and the works of the devil, appear to have been his chief aim. Many wicked and abominable transactions are recorded of him, which were performed by witchcraft, and the mediation of infernal spirits ; but nothing more curious, or more apropos to the present subject, than what is mentioned by Weaver, in his Funeral Monuments. He there records, that Edward Kelly the magician, with one Paul Waring, who acted in capacity of companion and associate in all his conjurations, went together to the church-yard of Walton Ledale, in the county of Lancaster, where they had information of a person being interred, who was supposed to have hidden or buried a considerable sum of money, and, to have died without disclosing to any person where it was deposited. They entered the church-yard exactly at twelve o’clock at night; and, having had the grave pointed out to them the preceding day, they exorcised the spirit of the deceased by magical spells and incantations, till it appeared before them, and not only satisfied their wicked desires and enquiries, but delivered several strange predictions concerning persons in that neighbourhood, which were literally and exactly fulfilled. It was vulgarly reported of Kelly, that he outlived the time of his compact with the devil, and was seized at midnight by some infernal spirits, who carried him off in fight of his own wife and children, at the instant he was meditating a mischievous scheme against the minister of his parish, with whom he was greatly at enmity. (Page 1099)

A new and complete illustration of the celestial science of astrology: or, The art of foretelling future events and contingencies by the aspects, positions, and influences of the heavenly bodies … In four parts. by Sibly, Ebenezer, 1751-1800. See it at

Here’s the same illustration from the 1826 edition. It’s better quality.

Edward Kelly, a magician. In the act of invoking the spirit of a deceased person.
Edward Kelly, a magician. In the act of invoking the spirit of a deceased person.

Digital Scans of the Enochian Manuscripts

Digital Scans of the Enochian Manuscripts

During the 1580s, Dr. John Dee (a mathematician and astrologer of great fame throughout Europe) conducted a series of “spirit actions” with the scryer Edward Kelley in an attempt to gain knowledge of the world directly from God (יהוה) and his angels. The records of these angelic conferences purport to reveal a method of commanding nature through a knowledge of the interwoven angelic hierarchies and their “Adamic” language, as described in a series of visions and through the use of sigils, tables and “calls”.

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Charles MacKay: Extraordinary Popular Delusions And The Madness Of Crowds

[Charles Mackay’s 1841 classic gives a skeptical perspective on Dee and Kelley. Although written in 1841, Mackay’s book is still widely read and referenced, especially the sections on tulip mania and the South Sea Bubble for their cautionary lessons for new investors about the risks of contagious enthusiasm. As for Dee and Kelley, this book may be out of date]

Vol. III – Philosophical Delusions 2

Chapter 45 – Dr. Dee and Edward Kelly

John Dee and Edward Kelly claim to be mentioned together, having been so long associated in the same pursuits, and undergone so many strange vicissitudes in each other’s society. Dee was altogether a wonderful man, and had he lived in an age when folly and superstition were less rife, he would, with the same powers which he enjoyed, have left behind him a bright and enduring reputation.

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The Talmudic mysteries, which he had also deeply studied, impressed him with the belief, that he might hold converse with spirits and angels, and learn from them all the mysteries of the universe. Holding the same idea as the then obscure sect of the Rosicrucians, some of whom he had perhaps encountered in his travels in Germany, he imagined that, by means of the philosopher’s stone, he could summon these kindly spirits at his will. By dint of continually brooding upon the subject, his imagination became so diseased, that he at last persuaded himself that an angel appeared to him, and promised to be his friend and companion as long as he lived.

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He had at this time in his service, as his assistant, one Edward Kelly, who, like himself, was crazy upon the subject of the philosopher’s stone. There was this difference, however, between them, that, while Dee was more of an enthusiast than an impostor, Kelly was more of an impostor than an enthusiast. In early life he was a notary, and had the misfortune to lose both his ears for forgery. This mutilation, degrading enough in any man, was destructive to a philosopher; Kelly, therefore, lest his wisdom should suffer in the world’s opinion, wore a black skull-cap, which, fitting close to his head, and descending over both his cheeks, not only concealed his loss, but gave him a very solemn and oracular appearance. So well did he keep his secret, that even Dee, with whom he lived so many years, appears never to have discovered it.

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[The book is also at Google:]