John Dee
Copyright Michael D. Robbins 2005


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Dr. John Dee—Astrologer, Spy, Occultist

(1527-1608) July 23, 1527 NS, Morlake, England, 4:46 LMT. Various times reported and much mystery surrounds the chart supposedly done in his own hand. (Source: Astrological Quarterly summer 1970 from John Dee by Richard Deacon; Marc Penfield gives 5:00 AM, ascribed to a “personal” report; at time of 4:35 AM, LMT is also given) Died in 1608, Mortlake, England

(Ascendant, Leo; MC in Aries; Sun in the last degree of Cancer with Mercury and Jupiter, also in Cancer and conjuncted; Moon in Capricorn conjunct Ceres and Pluto in Capricorn; Venus in Virgo; Mars in Scorpio; Saturn in Taurus; Uranus in Gemini; Neptune in Pisces conjunct Chiron; NN in Sagittarius)          

Worked in counter-espionage for Queen Elizabeth I to thwart Spain singing his messages "007" GIfted as a child, educated in mathematics, philosophy and the occult; the author of two books before the age of 21. Studied astrology with Carden from 1552; gained fame as a lecturer; married 1578; eight children.


Cut that in Three, which Nature hath made One,
Then strengthen hyt, even by it self alone,
Wherewith then Cutte the poudred Sonne in twayne,
By length of tyme, and heale the woonde againe.
The self same Sunne twys yet more, ye must wounde,
Still with new Knives, of the same kinde, and grounde;
Our Monas trewe thus use by natures Law,
Both binde and lewse, only with rype and rawe,
And ay thanke God who only is our Guyde,
All is ynugh, no more then at this Tyde.

There is (gentle reader) nothing (the works of God only set apart) which so much beautifies and adorns the soul and mind of man as does knowledge of the good arts and sciences. Many arts there are which beautify the mind of man; but of all none do more garnish and beautify it than those arts which are called mathematical, unto the knowledge of which no man can attain, without perfect knowledge and instruction of the principles, grounds, and Elements of Geometry.

O comfortable allurement, O ravishing persuasion to deal with a science whose subject is so ancient, so pure, so excellent, so surrounding all creatures, so used of the almighty and incomprehensible wisdom of the Creator, in distinct creation of all creatures: in all their distinct parts, properties, natures, and virtues, by order, and most absolute number, brought from nothing to the formality of their being and state.
"The Mathematical Preface" to Henry Billingsley's English translation of Euclid's Elements (1570)

Monas Hieroglyphica (1564)

It is by the straight line and the circle that the first and most simple example and representation of all things may be demonstrated, whether such things be either non-existent or merely hidden under Nature's veils.

Neither the circle without the line, nor the line without the point, can be artificially produced. It is, therefore, by virtue of the point and the Monad that all things commence to emerge in principle.
That which is affected at the periphery, however large it may be, cannot in any way lack the support of the central point.

Therefore, the central point which we see in the centre of the hieroglyphic Monad produces the Earth, round which the Sun, the Moon, and the other planets follow their respective paths. The Sun has the supreme dignity, and we represent him by a circle having a visible centre.

Although the semicircle of the Moon is placed above the circle of the Sun and would appear to be superior, nevertheless we know that the Sun is ruler and King. We see that the Moon in her shape and her proximity rivals the Sun with her grandeur, which is apparent to ordinary men, yet the face, or a semi-sphere of the Moon, always reflects the light of the Sun.

We finish the brief hieroglyphic consideration of our Monad, which we would sum up in one only hieroglyphic context:
The Sun and the Moon of this Monad desire that the Elements in which the tenth proportion will flower, shall be separated, and this is done by the application of Fire.

A marveilous newtrality have these things mathematicall, and also a strange participation between things supernaturall, immortall, intellectuall, simple and indivisible, and things naturall, mortall, sensible, componded and divisible.
Preface to his edition of Euclid's Elements

Perspective is an Art Mathematical which demonstrates the manner and properties of all radiations direct, broken and reflected.

The art of Navigation demonstrates how, by the shortest good way, by the aptest direction, and in the shortest time, a sufficient ship, between any two places (in passage navigable) assigned, may be conducted; and in all storms and natural disturbances chancing, how to use the best possible means, whereby to recover the place first assigned.

I seek the treasure of heavenly wisdom and knowledge. So why do they condemn me as a companion of hell-hounds, and a conjurer of wicked and damned spirits?

The angel Mandini says that nothing is unlawful which is unlawful unto God. One committing adultery on my behalf shall be blessed eternally and given a heavenly reward.The cross is not a passive agent. It protects the pure of heart, and it has often appeared in the air above our sabbats, confusing and dispersing the powers of Darkness.


John Dee's father was Roland Dee who was of Welsh descent. Roland Dee dealt in textiles and, in addition, was a gentleman sewer at the court of Henry VIII. In this latter capacity he would have made clothing for the royal household as well as buying and supplying fabrics for the King. John Dee's mother was Jane Wild. Jane married Roland when she was fifteen years of age and, three years later, John (who was their first and only child) was born.

John was educated at a school in Chelmsford in Essex from 1535, then entered St. John's College, Cambridge in November of 1542. There he studied Greek, Latin, philosophy, geometry, arithmetic and astronomy. Woolley writes [10]:-

He was so eager to learn, he later recalled, so "vehemently bent to study", that he worked eighteen hours a day, allowing just four hours for sleep and two for meals. Mathematics was his passion ...

During 1546, his final year as an undergraduate, he began to make astronomical observations. Using a quadrant and a cross-staff he made (as he later wrote in Compendious Rehearsal):-

... observations (very many to the hour and minute) of the heavenly influences and operations actual in this elemental portion of the world. Of which sort I made some thousands in the years then following.

Perhaps we should say a few words at this stage to explain this quotation. One would not expect a modern astronomer to say "observations of the heavenly influences" but Dee, in common with the general practice in his time, believed in astrology. However, Dee sought a scientific explanation for the reasons that the positions of the planets at the moment of a person's birth would affect their future. He would argue that each body emitted rays of force which acted on all other bodies. One could view this as an early form of the law of universal gravitation, but this might be somewhat overstating Dee's idea. However, Newton's concept of force certainly derived from concepts of magic powers such as those of Dee. We should stress, however, that Dee's approach was always through mathematics and he sought a scientific explanation.

Dee graduated with a B.A. in 1546 and became a Fellow of St John's College. In December 1546 he became a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. Henry VIII founded Trinity College, the largest of the Cambridge colleges, in 1546 and Dee became one of its founding Fellows.

Being unhappy with the scientific attitude in England, Dee travelled on the Continent between 1548 to 1551. He first made a visit to Louvain near Brussels, arriving on 24 June 1548, where he studied with Gemma Frisius and Gerardus Mercator. Soon Mercator became a particularly close friend of Dee's and together they discussed new models for the universe. Dee later wrote:-

It was the custom of our mutual friendship and intimacy that, during three whole years, neither of us lacked the other's presence for as much as three whole days.

During his time in Louvain Dee wrote two texts on astronomy. In 1550 he went to Brussels to meet the mathematicians working there. It seems that around this time he met Nunes and they became close friends. In the same year Dee went to Paris where he lectured on Euclid's Elements. He must have been an impressive lecturer for it was reported that people flocked to hear his lectures which filled the lecture rooms to overflowing. In 1551 Dee was offered an appointment as professor of mathematics in Paris but declined. He also declined a lectureship in mathematics at Oxford three years later.

Back in England Dee entered the service of the Earl of Pembroke in February 1552, then he entered the service of the Duke of Northumberland near the end of the same year. While holding this latter post he wrote a work on tides.

After the death of King Edward VI, there were great problems between Catholics and Protestants as to the succession. The Catholic Queen Mary came to the throne very much against the wishes of many Protestants who feared for their safety. Indeed they were right to have such fears as Mary instigated a campaign against eminent Protestants and one person to be arrested was Roland Dee, John Dee's father, who was taken prisoner in August 1553. He was released, but only after he had been deprived of all his financial assets. John, who had expected to inherit considerable wealth from his father and be in a position to carry out scientific studies free from worries about earning an income, was put in a difficult position. He might have solved his financial problems by accepting a mathematics post at the University of Oxford which he was offered in 1554, but his views on the lack of scholarship in the English universities led him to turn the offer down.

On 28 May 1555 Dee was arrested and charged with "calculating". At this time mathematics in England was considered to be equivalent to the possession of magical powers and Aubrey writes (see [22]) that the authorities had:-

... burned mathematical books for conjuring books.

Although he was guilty of the charges brought against him, Dee was released in August after being held for three months. Although he was released as a free man his sources of income were removed putting him in severe financial problems. Dee's father died in 1555 without being able to recover his wealth. As to Dee's religious position this seems a little harder to ascertain. He seems, with good reason, to have tried to avoid taking sides in the Catholic-Protestant argument, but after his release from prison he seemed completely at home in the Catholic regime which had imprisoned him. He may have changed sides for political convenience, but we shall see in a moment that there is a theory that he was acting as a spy.

Dee presented plans for a national library to Queen Mary on 15 January 1556. It was a superb scheme to preserve learning by finding copies of all important books and keeping them in a Royal Library which men could consult to settle:-

... such doubts and points of learning, as might cumber and vex their heads [and] learning [would] wonderfully be advanced.

The scheme did not receive official backing, but nevertheless Dee, despite his financial difficulties, set out to create his own library. See [7] for the library catalogue from the library that he built up.

Queen Mary died in 1558 and the Protestant Elizabeth became Queen. Dee quickly found favour with Elizabeth and was even asked to use his astrological skills to select the most appropriate day for her coronation. This he did but one is left wondering how someone so closely associated with the previous Catholic administration might have found favour so soon. Woolley [10] suggests that Dee may have acted as a spy for Elizabeth in Mary's administration and this would certainly be consistent with events and explain some otherwise puzzling ones.

During the next five years Dee spent time abroad collecting books for his library, and studying astronomy, astrology, mathematics, coding, and magic - all topics which were linked in his mind as he struggled to understand the ultimate truths about the universe. Despite being close to Queen Elizabeth, and advising her frequently, he never achieved from her the financial security that he longed for to enable him to devote himself completely to his studies. By 1566 he was living with his mother at Mortlake, in London, to reduce his living costs. There he built up a remarkable collection of scholarly works in his library as well as a collection of astronomical instruments, globes (including one given to him by Mercator) and accurate clocks.

In 1568 he published Propaedeumata Aphoristica and presented the work to Queen Elizabeth. Elizabeth was impressed and Dee gave her mathematics lessons to enable her to understand it. The book contains a mixture of good physics and mathematics, and also a lot of astrology and magic. Let us emphasise that we should not think any the less of Dee because of his interests in magic; most of the great scientists and mathematicians of his time, and much later, had such interests. For example Brahe firmly believed in alchemy and astrology as did Cavalieri and Kepler while Newton, like Dee, was obsessed with studying alchemy. Among what we would describe as "good science" in Propaedeumata Aphoristica is a statement that unequal masses fall at the same speed. Dee refers to earlier scientists who also claimed this fact. He also states that every object in the universe exerted a force on all others.

In 1570 Dee edited an edition of Euclid's Elements translated by Billingsley. Dee wrote a famous preface to this edition justifying the study of mathematics:-

O comfortable allurement, O ravishing persuasion to deal with a science whose subject is so ancient, so pure, so excellent, so surrounding all creatures, so used of the almighty and incomprehensible wisdom of the Creator, in distinct creation of all creatures: in all their distinct parts, properties, natures, and virtues, by order, and most absolute number, brought from nothing to the formality of their being and state.

Dee observed the "new star" which is often called "Tycho Brahe's supernova of 1572" and in the following year he wrote Parallacticae commentationis praxosque which gives trigonometric methods which were applied to find the distance to the new star. He had made accurate observations with his assistant Thomas Digges and the two probably corresponded with Brahe about the star. Certainly Brahe greatly admired Dee's contributions.

Dee brought instruments of navigation back from the Continent when he returned in 1551. From 1555 he was a consultant to the Muscovy Company. The Muscovy Company was formed in 1555 by the navigator and explorer Sebastian Cabot together with a number of London merchants. It was granted a monopoly of Anglo-Russian trade and had as one of its aims the search for the Northeast Passage. Dee prepared nautical information, including charts for navigation in the polar regions, for the company during the next 32 years. He instructed the crews on geometry and cosmography before they left for voyages to North America in 1576.

In 1579 Dee's mother gave her house at Mortlake (which he had lived in for at least 13 years) to him; she died the following year. Dee had married Jane Fromands in February 1578 and together they had eight children. She was his third wife - his second wife had died in March 1576 in the year following their marriage. He had no children (at least none that survived) from his first two marriages.

Edward Kelley entered Dee's life in March of 1582. He was a medium who claimed to be able to contact angels and spirits and he did so by gazing into a crystal ball. Although this was not the first time Dee had been involved in such practices, at first he was still highly suspicious that Kelley's visions were real. Two things convinced him, however: Kelley was highly skilled in his art, and secondly Dee so longed to understand the ultimate truth about the universe which he had failed to find by other means. The lack of reaction of others to his scientific work was also a factor, as was the fact that he had been accused of magic so often in his life. Dee became more and more deeply involved in conversing with angels and spirits through Kelley and, sadly, it dominated the latter part of his life. This took place over a period of about five years. Several of the references give details of these conversations which Dee recorded in a diary; see for example [6], [9], and [10]. We note that in his diaries Dee refers to himself as , a clever pun on the fact that is the Greek character for the letter "dee" and also a magical symbol.

Dee made a proposal to Queen Elizabeth for calendar reform in February 1583. He proposed the removal of eleven days to bring the calendar into line with the astronomical year. It was, of course, exactly the right course of action and Dee's proposal gained support from several of Elizabeth's advisors. However, the Archbishop of Canterbury opposed the scheme, partly because he was engaged in a longstanding argument with Elizabeth, partly because he considered such a scheme to be close to what the Catholic Church had adopted in the previous year. Dee's scheme was, however, a better one than that adopted across Europe after the proclamation by Pope Gregory XIII. The Gregorian calendar was based on the date of the Council of Nicaea in 325, while Dee proposed a calendar with an astronomical base rather than a political one as he clearly pointed out. The failure of Dee's calendar reform proposal would mean that England retained a calendar at odds with that in the rest of Europe until 1752.

Dee and Kelley visited Poland and Bohemia (1583-89), giving displays of magic at the courts of princes. Kelley achieved fame and wealth and was knighted. On the other hand Dee, still in severe financial problems, returned to Mortlake in December 1589 to discover that much of his library had been stolen, as were his scientific instruments. Around this time Dee must have become friendly with Thomas Harriot. The two discussed the allegations of atheism made against Raleigh's school and discussed which of them was being referred to as "the conjurer that is master thereof". They also discussed scientific and mathematical matters in the 1590s. In 1590 Harriot sent Dee a copy of one of his books in which he had written "To my dear friend".

For a number of years Dee tried unsuccessfully to gain compensation for the income he had lost over the years. He tried to gain an appointment as Master of St John's Cross which was approved by Queen Elizabeth subject to approval by the Archbishop of Canterbury - but this approval never materialised. In 1596 he was appointed warden of the Collegiate Chapter in Manchester, almost certainly as a means of removing him from London. In 1605 Manchester was hit by the plague and Dee's wife and several of his children died. He returned to London where he died a few years later.


John Dee (1527-1608) was a renown philosopher, mathematician, geographer and navigator during 16th century's Elizabethan Renaissance. He was educated in Cambridge and served as court astrologer to Queen Elizabeth I - even predicting her coronation would be in 1558. Nowadays, Dee is most well known for his conversations with angels.

Dee was very well respected during the early parts of his career, often in contact with higher ups in British society and the Catholic Church, and amassing for himself one of England's finest libraries. In 1582, Dee made a failed attempt to introduce the Gregorian Calendar to England, and this was also the year he met Edward Kelley. During 1583-1589, Dee spend much of his time pursuing occult sciences and touring Europe with his wife and Kelley. At times, they even stayed with the King of Poland and the Emperor Rudolf in Prague

In 1584, Dee started to find himself in hot water with Giovanni Francesco Bonomi, the bishop of Vercelli, for offering to reveal some of his angelic revelations with Rudolf II, the Holy Roman emperor. At that time, the Church didn't deny that Dee and his scryer, John Kelley's conversations with celestial beings were real - but they did question whether evil spirits were involved. Basically, the Church believed that because Dee had a wife, and therefore was concerned with "worldly" matters, he couldn't possibly be in contact with good angels, for only very holy, celibate hermits received such visits.

In 1589, he and Kelley parted and Dee and his wife returned to England. Upon Dee's return, he found few offers for patronage, and soon fell upon difficult times financially. In 1596, Queen Elizabeth made him Warden of Christ's College in Manchester until King James took over and the witch-hunts began in full swing. Dee resigned in 1905 and died shortly after in 1608.

Soon after, he was branded as a conjurer and demonized by 17th century historians. It has only been recently, with the works of modern scholars such as Frances Yates, Nicholas Clulee and Deborah Harkness, that Dee's true intellectual contributions to the Renaissance have been explored in a positive light.

Dee's Scryers
Scrying was a method of divination that involved looking into a shiny or reflective object to aid in prophecy. Angels would appear in the reflection and the scryer would hear a voice - scryers were not mediums and the angels did not speak through them. Dee believed wholeheartedly that what the angels/spirits/intelligences told him through his scryer was true and obeyed their commands religiously.

He had at least four scryers during his lifetime including Barnabas Saul, Edward Kelley, his son Arthur Dee, and Bartholomew Hickman. Barnabas Saul participated in his first conversation on December 22, 1581 though later denied he had seen anything. Dee wrote in his diary a few months later that "The injuries wihch this Barnabas had done me diverse wayes were very great."

John Kelley, the scryer most often associated with Dee nowadays, began working with him on March 10, 1582. Very little is known about Kelley's life. He was born on Aug 1, 1555 and attended Oxford as "Edward Talbot." His relationship with Dee was unstable and sometimes violent, and the men quarreled frequently, yet Dee continued to work with him because he needed a scryer to communicate with the angels.

Dee's Angels
Many of the angels appeared as men in his crystal, though a few had female form. Dee was suspicious that those that appeared as female were actually demonic spirits, but after a few conversations he was convinced otherwise.

Many had familiar names - Gabriel, Michael, Raphael, and Uriel - though the majority was not. Gabriel, for instance, first appeared on June 22, 1583. He guarded Eden and was the angel of annunciation, resurrection, and revelation. Other angels considered him guardian of the moon. And at one point, he sent divine medicine to heal Dee's wife, Jane. In Islamic traditions, Gabriel dictated the Koran to Mohammad. In cabalistic traditions, Gabriel delivered the cabala to humanity. And according to Trithemius's De spetem secundeis, Gabriel oversaw the historical period beginning in 1525 AD, the time Dee lived.

Dee also had frequent communications with Michael ("strength of God"), the guardian of Jacob and Israel, who first appeared on March 14, 1582. Michael would weigh human souls at the Last Judgment and wielded his sword of justice. Trithemius claimed Michael was guardian of the sun and Agrippa considered him guardian of the metal quicksilver. Both equated him with the planet Mercury in alchemy.

Raphael ("healing power of God") first communicated with Dee on March 15, 1582. In the Zohar, he is associated with healing the earth and humanity, and is also the guardian of the Tree of Life and therefore associated with knowledge and knowledge of the future. Both Trithemius and Azalus claimed he was one of the 7 angels of the apocalypse.

Uriel ("light of God") was the first angel to speak with Dee after Kelley started scrying for him. In cabalistic lore, Urial gave humanity knowledge of the cabala and alchemy.

Anael ("the favored, wretched misery of God") was one of the seven angels of creation and had power over all things, good and evil and was the guardian of Venus.

Dee's Books
Dee wrote a number of books before he began his angelic conjurations. Some of these include the following his first esoteric book, Monas hieroglyphica, written 1564. Dee wrote this book over a period of 13 days (Jan 13-25, 1564) in Antwerp, though he mentions it was the result of a 7 year gestation. The text consists of the primary symbol and the accompanying text of 24 theorems with diagrams.

The Angels revealed several books to Dee starting in 1583, during his work with Kelley. Surviving manuscripts of these books can be found in the British Library. These works include:

Liber Logaeth - the Book of the Speech of God. This book was Dee's introduction to the angelic language, a language now referred to as "Enochic" which was to play a role in perfecting the world. The Liber Logaeth consisted of 49 calls and 95 tables consisting of smaller squares with letters placed in them. Dee was instructed to complete this book forth days after March 29, 1583.

De heptarchia mystica This reference encyclopedia contained prayers to specific angels including the days and times these prayers were to be said on as well as the seals for the 19 elemental angels.

48 Claves angelicae - the Angelic Keys. This book, written in both English and angelic, contained 48 revelations prophesized by the angels.

Liber scientiae auxilii (delivered in central Europe sometime after 1584) - Told of which angels governed various geographical areas.

Tabula bonorum angelorum (delivered in central Europe sometime after 1584) - Consisted of letter tables.

Book of Soyga. This long lost book was first mentioned in Dee's diary on January 17, 1582. The angel Uriel described it as a good that "God's good angels revealed to Adam in Paradise." Michael was its interpreter. By mid April 1583, the angels had discredited the work and it was lost or stolen until a copy (or forgery) was rediscovered in December 1595. The book is primarily astrological in nature.

There are a number of books revealed to Dee that didn't survive. At one point, the angels commanded Dee to burn a number of his books including 48 companion books to the 48 Claves angelicae, an English translation of the 48 Claves, and a book called the "Mystery of Mysteries and the Holy of Holies" that Dee had not deciphered at the time. Also, a number of manuscripts were burned after his death.

A sixteenth century portrait of John Dee, artist unknown. According to Charlotte Fell Smith, this portrait was painted when Dee was 67. It belonged to his grandson Rowland Dee and later to Elias Ashmole, who left it to Oxford University.John Dee (July 13, 1527 – 1608 or 1609) was a noted British mathematician, astronomer, astrologer, geographer, and consultant to Queen Elizabeth I. He also devoted much of his life to alchemy, divination, and Hermetic philosophy.

Dee straddled the worlds of science and magic. One of the most learned men of his time, he had lectured to crowded halls at the University of Paris when still in his early twenties. He was an ardent promoter of mathematics, a respected astronomer and a leading expert in navigation, having trained many of those who would conduct England's voyages of discovery. At the same time, he immersed himself deeply in Christian angel-magic and Hermetic philosophy, devoting the last third of his life almost exclusively to these pursuits. For Dee, as with many of his contemporaries, these activities were not contradictory, but particular aspects of a consistent world-view.

Early life
Dee was born in Tower Ward, London to a Welsh family, whose surname derived from the Welsh du ("black"). His father was a merchant and minor courtier. Dee attended the Chelmsford Chantry School, then – from 1543 to 1546 – St. John's College, Cambridge. His great abilities were recognized, and he was made a founding fellow of Trinity College. In the late 1540s and early 1550s, he travelled in Europe, studying at Leuven and Brussels and lecturing in Paris on Euclid. He studied with Gemma Frisius and became a close friend of the cartographer Gerardus Mercator, returning to England with an important collection of mathematical and astronomical instruments.

John Dee was offered a readership in mathematics at Oxford in 1554, which he declined, citing English universities' emphasis on rhetoric and grammar (which, together with logic, formed the academic trivium) over philosophy and science (the more advanced quadrivium, comprised of arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy) as offensive.

In 1555, he was arrested and charged with "calculating" for having cast horoscopes of Queen Mary and Princess Elizabeth; the charges were expanded to treason against Mary. Dee appeared in the Star Chamber and exonerated himself, but was turned over to the reactionary Catholic Bishop Bonner for religious examination. His strong and lifelong penchant for secrecy perhaps worsening matters, this entire episode was only the most dramatic in a series of attacks and slanders that would dog Dee through his life. Clearing his name yet again, he soon became a close associate of Bonner.

Dee presented Queen Mary with a visionary plan for the preservation of old books, manuscripts and records and the founding of a national library in 1556, but his proposal was not taken up. Instead, he expanded his personal library at his house in Mortlake, tirelessly acquiring books and manuscripts in England and on the Continent. Dee's library, a center of learning outside the universities, became the greatest in England and attracted many scholars.

When Elizabeth took the throne in 1558, Dee became her trusted advisor on matters astrological and scientific, choosing Elizabeth's coronation date himself . From the 1550s through the 1570s, he served as an advisor to England's voyages of discovery, providing technical assistance in navigation and ideological backing in the creation of a British Empire, and was the first to use that term. In 1577, Dee published General and Rare Memorials pertayning to the Perfect Arte of Navigation, a work that set out his vision of a maritime empire and asserted English territorial claims on the New World. Dee was acquainted with Humphrey Gilbert and was close to Sir Philip Sidney and his circle.

Dee's glyph, which he explained in Monas HieroglyphicaIn 1564, Dee wrote the Hermetic work Monas Hieroglyphica ("The Hieroglyphic Monad"), an exhaustive Cabalistic interpretation of a glyph of his own design, meant to express the mystical unity of all creation. This work was highly valued by many of Dee's contemporaries, but the loss of the secret oral tradition of Dee's milieu makes the work difficult to interpret today.

He published a "Mathematical Preface" to Henry Billingsley's English translation of Euclid's Elements in 1570, arguing the central importance of mathematics and outlining mathematics' influence on the other arts and sciences. Intended for an audience outside the universities, it proved to be Dee's most widely influential and frequently reprinted work.

Later life
By the early 1580s, Dee was growing dissatisfied with his progress in learning the secrets of nature and with his own lack of influence and recognition. He began to turn towards the supernatural as a means to acquire knowledge. Specifically, he sought to contact angels through the use of a "scryer" or crystal-gazer, who would act as an intermediary between Dee and the angels.

Dee's first attempts were not satisfactory, but in 1582 he met Edward Kelley, who impressed him greatly with his abilities. Dee took Kelley into his service and began to devote all his energies to his supernatural pursuits. These "spiritual conferences" or "actions" were conducted with an air of intense Christian piety, always after periods of purification, prayer and fasting. Dee was convinced of the benefits they could bring to mankind. (The character of Kelley is harder to assess: some have concluded that he acted with complete cynicism, but delusion or self-deception are not out of the question. Kelley's "output" is remarkable for its sheer mass, its intricacy and its vividness.) Dee maintained that the angels laboriously dictated several books to him this way, some in a special angelic or Enochian language.

In 1583, Dee met the visiting Polish nobleman Albert Laski, who invited the Englishman to accompany him on his return to Poland. With some prompting by the angels, Dee was persuaded to go. Dee, Kelley and their families left for the Continent in September 1583, but Laski proved to be bankrupt and out of favor in his own country. Dee and Kelley began a nomadic life in Central Europe, but they continued their spiritual conferences, which Dee recorded meticulously. He had audiences with Emperor Rudolf II and King Stephen of Poland in which he chided them for their ungodliness and attempted to convince them of the importance of his angelic communications. He was not taken up by either monarch.

During a spiritual conference in Bohemia in 1587, Kelley told Dee that the angel Uriel had ordered that the two men should share their wives. Kelley, who by that time was becoming a prominent alchemist and was much more sought-after than Dee, may have wished to use this as a way to end the spiritual conferences. The order caused Dee great anguish, but he did not doubt its genuineness and apparently allowed it to go forward, but broke off the conferences immediately afterwards and did not see Kelley again. Dee returned to England in 1589.

Personal life
John Dee was married three times and had eight children. His eldest son was Arthur Dee, who was also an alchemist and hermetic author. John Aubrey gives the following description of Dee: "He was tall and slender. He wore a gown like an artist's gown, with hanging sleeves, and a slit.... A very fair, clear sanguine complexion... a long beard as white as milk. A very handsome man."

Final years
Dee returned to Mortlake after six years to find his library ruined and many of his prized books and instruments stolen. He sought support from Elizabeth, who finally made him warden of Christ's College in Manchester in 1592. However, he was by now widely reviled as an evil magician and could not exert much control over the Fellows, who despised him. He left Manchester in 1605. By that time Elizabeth was dead, and James I, unsympathetic to anything related to the supernatural, provided no help. Dee spent his final years in poverty at Mortlake, where he died in late 1608 or early 1609. Unfortunately, both the parish registers and Dee's gravestone are missing.

Dee was an intensely pious Christian, but his Christianity was deeply influenced by the Hermetic and Platonic-Pythagorean doctrines that were pervasive in the Renaissance. He believed that number was the basis of all things and the key to knowledge, that God's creation was an act of "numbering". From Hermeticism, he drew the belief that man had the potential for divine power, and he believed this divine power could be exercised through mathematics. His cabalistic angel magic (which was heavily numerological) and his work on practical mathematics (navigation, for example) were simply the exalted and mundane ends of the same spectrum, not the antithetical activities many would see them as today. His ultimate goal was to help bring forth a unified world religion through the healing of the breach of the Catholic and Protestant churches and the recapture of the pure theology of the ancients.

Reputation and significance
About ten years after Dee's death, the antiquarian Robert Cotton purchased land around Dee's house and began digging in search of papers and artifacts. He discovered several manuscripts, mainly records of Dee's angelic communications. Cotton's son gave these manuscripts to the scholar Méric Casaubon, who published them in 1659, together with a long introduction critical of their author, as A True & Faithful Relation of What passed for many Yeers between Dr. John Dee (A Mathematician of Great Fame in Q. Eliz. and King James their Reignes) and some spirits. As the first public revelation of Dee's spiritual conferences, the book was extremely popular and sold quickly. Casaubon, who believed in the reality of spirits, argued in his introduction that Dee was acting as the unwitting tool of evil spirits when he believed he was communicating with angels. This book is largely responsible for the image, prevalent for the following two and a half centuries, of Dee as a dupe and deluded fanatic.

Around the same time the True and Faithful Relation was published, members of the Rosicrucian movement claimed Dee as one of their number. There is doubt, however, that an organized Rosicrucian movement existed during Dee's lifetime, and no evidence that he ever belonged to any secret fraternity. Dee's reputation as a magician and the vivid story of his association with Edward Kelley have made him a seemingly irresistible figure to fabulists, writers of horror stories and latter-day magicians. The accretion of false and often fanciful information about Dee often obscures the facts of his life, remarkable as they are in themselves.

A re-evaluation of Dee's character and significance came in the 20th century, largely as a result of the work of the historian Frances Yates, who brought a new focus on the role of magic in the Renaissance and the development of modern science. As a result of this re-evaluation, Dee is now viewed as a serious scholar and appreciated as one of the most learned men of his day.

His personal library at Mortlake was the largest in the country, and was considered one of the finest in Europe, perhaps second only to that of de Thou. As well as being an astrological, scientific and geographical advisor to Elizabeth and her court, he was an early advocate of the colonization of North America and a visionary of a British Empire stretching across the North Atlantic.

Dee promoted the sciences of navigation and cartography. He studied closely with Gerardus Mercator, and he owned an important collection of maps, globes and astronomical instruments. He developed new instruments as well as special navigational techniques for use in polar regions. Dee served as an advisor to the English voyages of discovery, and personally selected pilots and trained them in navigation.

He believed that mathematics (which he understood mystically) was central to the progress of human learning. The centrality of mathematics to Dee's vision makes him to that extent more modern than Francis Bacon, though some scholars believe Bacon purposely downplayed mathematics in the anti-occult atmosphere of the reign of James I. It should be noted, though, that Dee's understanding of the role of mathematics is radically different from our contemporary view.

Dee's most long-lasting practical achievement may be his promotion of mathematics outside the universities. 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.

Dee was a friend of Tycho Brahe and was familiar with the work of Copernicus. Many of his astronomical calculations were based on Copernican assumptions, but he never openly espoused the heliocentric theory. Dee applied Copernican theory to the problem of calendar reform. His sound recommendations were not accepted, however, for political reasons.

He has often been associated with the Voynich Manuscript. Wilfrid M. Voynich, who bought the manuscript in 1912, suggested that Dee may have owned the manuscript and sold it to Rudolph II. Dee's contacts with Rudolph were far less extensive than had previously been thought, however, and Dee's diaries show no evidence of the sale.

The British Museum holds several items once owned by Dee and associated with the spiritual conferences:

Dee's Speculum or Mirror (an obsidian Aztec cult object in the shape of a hand-mirror, brought to Europe in the late 1520s), which was once owned by Horace Walpole.
The small wax seals used to support the legs of Dee's "table of practice" (the table at which the scrying was performed).
The large, elaborately-decorated wax "Seal of God", used to support the "shew-stone", the crystal ball used for scrying.
A gold amulet engraved with a representation of one of Kelley's visions.
A crystal globe, six centimetres in diameter. This item remained unnoticed for many years in the mineral collection; possibly the one owned by Dee, but the provenance of this object is less certain than that of the others.
In December 2004, both a shew-stone (a stone used for scrying) formerly belonging to Dee and a mid-1600s explanation of its use written by Nicholas Culpeper were stolen from the Science Museum in London; they were recovered shortly afterwards.





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