John Dee and Edward Kelley - the magicians of victorian England
Dr. John Dee was born 1527 as son of Rowland Dee, a lesser noble that served under king Henry VIII. Very early John Dee showed talents in mathematics and became student at the St. Johns College in Cambridge at the age of fifteen. His studies progressed very well and after he finished them in 1546 he joined the "Fellows of Trinity College" that Henry VIII. founded. His title is not documented, it is being asumed by various scholars that it may be an honoris causae or Meric Casaubon invented it. When Elizabeth became queen he was already well-known as scientist. He was fluent in latin, greece and hebrew, was familiar with medicine and a talented mathematician, philosopher, astronomer and astrologer, historician and authored various works. He studied cartography and navigation under Mercator and later became famous for his public readings.
His fame was impressing enough for queen Elizabeth to led him determine the exact coroning-day by astrological means. In the years to follow the queen frequently consulted Dee in questions of the occult and protected him during his journeys in other countries. It is not quite sure whether he was her spy or not but the queen used to call him "Noble Intelligencer" or "My Ubiquitous Eyes" which implies this idea of John Dee being an agent. If you are a James Bond fan you may be interested in the fact that John Dee signed his letters to the queen with "007". Dee gave private lectures to the queen in occult things and the secrets of the hieroglyphic monad. He was among the greatest visionaries in his time and his opinion was highly appreciated in many things. His private library grew to the greatest collection of philosophical and scientific works in England and attracted many scholars.
Edward Kelley was the total opposite to John Dee. He was born in 1555 in Worcester, a time when Dee was standing trial for treason. We know not much about Kelleys descent. It is said that he was a sun of an apothecary, which would explain his tendency to alchemy. He was found guilty of falsification at some time and together with Paul Waring he conducted necromantic operations on a cemetery, during which they evoked the spirit of a dead person. Because of his escapades he was forced to quit his job as scribe and moved to another city. A legend knows that he could lay hands on the red and white powder and an alchemical manuscript named "Book of St. Dunstan" in Wales. Another variation of this story tells us that Dee and Kelley went on a walk in Glastonbury when Kelley found the powder and the book - Ashmole wrote this. It is fact that Kelley met Dee in Mortlake, possessing the powder and the manuscript and believing that the powder would be the powder of transformation.
A common friend of both, Clerkson, introduced Kelley to Dee on March the 8th, 1582. Kelley introduced himself as Edward Talbot and it can be asumed that this was his real name. At this time John Dee's studies in magic made no progress as he worked with the not too much talented medium Barnabas Saul. He conducted some sessions with him with not much substantial results. Dee's progress in ceremonial magic was hindered by his own blindness as medium, throughout his life he had to rely on other, more talented persons. He was obsessed by the idea to get informations on the creation and the world itself by contacting angels and other higher beings. Obviously Dee was deeply impressed by Kelleys talent in these things because he stopped searching for talented psychics. They worked together until 1589, conducted many hundreds of sessions that resulted finally in the transmission of the system of angelic-magic, called enochian magic. Edward Kelley died 1595 at an attempt to escape the prison of emperor Rudolph II. von Böhmen.
During the time Kelley and Dee collaborated the angels strongly influenced the life of both. Both magicians moved to Poland, following the advice of the angels. Though the pessimistic prophecies that Dee would have to stand trial for treason soon were incorrect, Dee unconditionally believed the angels and thus moved to Poland. There are some doubts about Kelleys integrity of motivation, that he misused Dee for his own deeds and faked the sessions. In fact it cannot be denied that some informations the angels transmitted obviously are authored by Kelley and not by the angels. But Kelleys aversion against the angels was clearly documented throughout the sessions. The knowledge the angels revealed to them, contradict the christian believes and conduct of life of these times. So they had rather heretic opinions:
- Jesus is no god.
- No prayer should be directed to Jesus.
- There is no sin.
- The idea of metempsychosis.
- That the story of creation of man in the bible is not a historical fact.
- The angels did not accept the Holy Ghost.
During their collaboration Kelley and Dee were often tested hard by the angels. Once the angels encouraged the magicians to exchange their wives. Of course the wives of both were not that amused by this idea. In those time magic was still forbidden knowledge and quite dangerous for them to conduct their studies. After Kelley quit the contract Dee did not find any other medium of quality again and stopped his studies. His protocols he hid in a chest's false bottom to avoid detection. Some years after that he obviously was in contact with other angel-magicians, because a copy of the calls and prayers by Dr. Rudd exists. John Dee died in poverty 1608.
The material transmitted by the angels can be divided into three different sections, which are part of one whole. The first part is the mystical heptarchy, which is quite similar to the classical grimoires with their spirits, hierarchy, sigills and evocations. Another part is the Liber Loagaeth, the book of the wisdom of the angles. A "book" consisting of two times 48 large squares of letters, written in a language, nowadays called "protoenochian". The third part consists of the system of 49 calls, the Great Table and the thirty Æthyrs which can be opened with one of the calls. The calls evoke beings and powers that can be found in the Great Table. The language the calls are written in is beind named as the language the angels spoke that had contact with Enoch. Linguistic attempts to proof that the angelic language is a artificial construct by Dee or Kelley failed.