History of Enochian Magic - Part 1


With the reign of Elizabeth I, a vivid sense of new beginning and of new vigor came to England, and to London especially. Of this new vigor a dream of greatness was born, and men still famous for high art in words or hardihood in deeds came together to give form and substance to that dream: Marlowe, Shakespeare, Bacon and Spenser; Raleigh, Frobisher, Hawkins and Drake, with many another. In the material world, first the Renaissance and then the Reformation had each dug deeper than was immediately perceived (deeper than many people have even yet perceived), and to the bold thinker everything was thrown open to new question. At the same time, the age itself had its own mystique, derived inevitablγ, despite its new temper, from the mystique of the preceding ages. A flick of history which looked almost like chance gave a supreme symbol of this mystique to Elizabeth herself. Heiress of both the Lancastrian and the Yorkist houses, the great antagonists in the previous century's Wars of the Roses, she took as her personal badge the White and Red Rose conjoined, the great alchemical symbol of the achievement of the Work.

Of Elizabeth's personal beliefs there can be no doubt.

Her mother, Anne Boleyn, had been brought up in Provence where Gnostίc and Manιchaean beliefs had mίngled with Troubadour poetry in a high and courtly culture which Rome had decimated in the hideous "Albigensian Crusade" but could never wholly obliterate. That Anne, with her sixth finger and her intense personal magnetism, would have been considered a heretic by any church, and knew more than a little of witchcraft, has been a persistent and probable tradition from her own days onward. Elizabeth herself, on her father's side, inherited in addition the Welsh-Celtic blood of the Tudors. She was by every motive, including the question of her own legitimacy, separated utterly from Rome; but never, on the other hand, was she known to show any great faith in the Church of England which she did so much to establish. She swore at its ministers when their sermons did not please her, she said openly that they were no true priests, and it is altogether evident that her interest in its affairs was wholly political, a matter of state. At the same time, her belief in all the occult arts was a manifest reality. She feared their possible use against her as she never feared the Spanish Armada, but also she assiduously cultivated their use on her behalf. A magical Queen she was truly. Even her personal appearance was a near miracle, in which the medieval and the modern meanings of the word "glamour" were inscrutably combined. A thin, red-haired woman with an over-intelligent face and mannish figure, she was the subject of exquisite portraits showing the vision of delicate beauty in which a nation believed. Nor was she a recluse who was known by hearsay or by portraits only, for her progresses through the country and her other public appearances were innumerable. Her habitual array of jewels was fabulous, and she never appeared twice in one of her rich brocade dresses. The name by which she loved to be called was Gloriana. Her belief in herself as a figure of destiny, as the living symbol of the great age in which she lived, is not to be doubted.

From all this it follows that an alchemist-astrologer who could advise Glorίana on difficult matters would, if he were a man of discretion and of good repute, stand well to receive her considerable favor—at least, to receive as much favor as anyone could expect from an "imperial votaress" who had so many other uses for her money. Such a man was John Dee, and such, as far as ordinary affaίrs went, was his destiny. His true career, however, was concerned with far from ordinary affairs.

John Dee held no actual doctorate; he was a Master of Arts, but the title of Doctor has always been accorded to him as the just due of hίs great learning. He had attracted attention, both for his notable mathematical studies and for his suspected magical practices and unacceptable religious views, in the reign of Edward VI. Elizabeth, who was not only keenly interested in the occult but was herself a considerable scholar, took him into the service of the court immediately upon her accession. He was at that time most prudently reticent as to his occult knowledge, he was a dignified and impressive figure, and he was himself of Welsh descent. He wrote a number of books on mathematical and alchemίcal subjects, spent a few years on the Continent "in pursuit of knowledge," and on his return established himself in his own house beside the Thames at Mortlake. There, through fame of his astrological skill and strange knowledge, people came to consult him; and thither with her entourage came Elizabeth to visit him, but on being told of the recent death of Dee's wife she would not enter the house. However, on several occasions subsequently she sent for him, both for astrological advice and for magical aid.

One of Dee's sources of arcane knowledge was a skryίng glass, or crystal ball, employed either by himself or by an assistant. He also had a black polished disc which was used for the same purpose. It was through his need for a gifted assistant to conduct this aspect of the work that in 1582 he met with Edward Kelly, and one of the most notable of magical partnerships began.

In contrast to Dee, Kelly's career had begun under a cloud of social unacceptabilitγ. He had been for a time an apothecary's apprentice; he had been a student at Oxford, also for a time; he had tried other employments equally without good result. He had tried his hand as a coiner, but was arrested and had his ears cropped as a punishment, and it also became known that he had taken part in the disinterment of a lately buried corpse in the North of England for use in necromancy; that is to say, specifically, to be employed as an instrument for the reception of oracular communications. All this is frequently alleged by writers as evidence against Kelly's possession of genuine psychic powers; in fact, of course, it is evidence of nothing either way. Among genuine psychics are to be found some who have from the beginning a sure intuitive insight as to their path in the material world, but there are also some, equally genuine, who are initially completely lost in it, and who have no comprehension of the material world and of Its laws until they learn by harsh experience. We may grant, therefore, all that is alleged concerning Kelly's early errors; we mαy even posit as a highly probable truth that he went to his interview with Dee in a mood of complete resolution that he was going to succeed. All this, if it was so, was Kelly's private personal responsibility; but the psychic, even more than the insensitive man, is liable to have events lifted completely out of his hands as soon as he has brought his plans to a point desired by other forces. From the day of Kelly's securing his position as Dee's skryer, there begins the unfoldment of one of the most remarkable series of revelations in the history of magical seership. Thus was given to the magical world, piece by piece, fragment by fragment, the great Enochίan system which is known in the magical world today as one of the most potent, and dangerous, and still one of the least understood, of the magical systems in existence. The initial work was carried out in the house at Mortlake, and it was not only Dee who was impressed by Kelly's strange sublimity. Notable men, including the poet Dyer, were as if spellbound. After a year they were visited there by the Earl of Leicester and a friend of his, a nobleman of Bohemia, and, as a result of the new patronage which developed therefrom, much of the later work was conducted in Poland. Throughout this time, Dee kept meticulous diarίes of the skrying sessions and of his own as well as Kelly's visions and other experiences, with diagrams all beautifully drawn in the accurate manner of the skilled mathematician. These treasured manuscripts are models of what a magical record should be. It is quite evident that Dee wrote down what occurred exactly as it happened, regardless of whether he felt he understood it or not, regardless of whether one utterance contradicted another. Only by such means could an adequate record have been made of so unearthly and complex a system, on which magical scholars of these later centuries have carried out so much further research from the basis of that same record.

To be continued.

Excerpt from the Chapter IX of "the Magical Philosophy," Denning & Phillips, Llewellyn Publications.

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