- Religion and Philosophy
Doctor Dee and His Mirror of Magick
The greatest magician of all time was undoubtedly the Englishman John Dee. His life and his works are wrapped in shrouds of mystery, surrounded by all sorts of rumours. In November 1582, an angel appeared in his laboratory. Uriel, the Spirit of Light, carried a black mirror with him, that would send Doctor Dee on a strange mission to Prague...
As a man of science, Doctor Dee wanted to find all out all about the powers and the possibilities of the black mirror. We now know of the hypnotic effects of looking into a crystal ball of shew stone, and it is possible that the assistant of Doctor Dee, the seer Edward Kelley, driven by his instincts and lowest desires, was visited by hallucinations, projected in the black anthracite dephts of the mirror where he was desperately searching for some light. Kelley seems to have been dragged along by impulses of which he was not aware, while Dee - seeking knowledge and wisdom - was sitting at his side and taking notes, trying to understand the phenomena occurring before his stunned eyes.
The black mirror was not inhabited by the one superhuman spirit of Uriel, the Angel of the Light. There lived other inhuman entities in and outside the mirror, which could only be seen by the seer and who spoke through his mouth, while his body was in action or lying lifeless on the floor. Doctor Dee neglected his other work and soon was plagued by financial problems. His inquisitive Patron, Queen Elizabeth, was of the opinion that he must be able to solve them himself, since he was an alchemist. But unfortunately, Doctor Dee hadn't discovered yet the technology that could turn lead into gold.
One day a desperate doctor Dee asked the female angelic spirit Madimi if she could lend him one hundred pounds for a few weeks. But Madimi said in a previous life she had throwned all her money out of doors and windows, and she got angry when Kelley tried to pry under her skirts.
Uriel refused also refused to help them. "Silver and gold I have not to give," he said. "My blessing is far more valuable than the scum of the earth."
At that time the Polish Prince Alasco stayed at the English court, and Dee asked him if he would like to be the patron of a number of alchemical experiments the Doctor and his seer wanted to conduct by using the black mirror. Dee made an appeal to the vanity and ambition of Prince Alasco. The mirror spirit Galvah predicted that the Prince, whom he called "Laski", one day certainly would become the King of Poland, provided that he possessed an inexhaustible source of gold. But of course, in that case he had to pay Dee and Kelley for conducting the alchemical experiments. Unfortunately, Laski had to return to Poland urgently, and he left a sum of money, so that Doctor Dee, his wife and son Arthur, and Kelley and his wife could travel to Poland.
Dee took his black mirror and a number of books with him, Kelley his "powders of magick" and an alchemical manual. Before reaching the vast estates of Prince Laski however, the relationship between Dee and Kelley got in a serious crisis. In May 1584 they found themselves in Krakow, where the spirits of the mirror said to Kelley that he should burn all the books and records Doctor Dee had brought with him. should burn. It is not clear how Dee responded to this. Several other famous and infamous magicians were at one point asked by beings living in higher spheres to burn their own books of magic: Solomon, Simon Magus, Roger Bacon, Nostradamus... Every time there was this question of a spiritual crisis, a mysterious necessity, a certain threat.
As they approached the estate of Laski, Galvah began to see Prince Laski no longer as the future King of Poland and the benefactor of the rest of the world, but he predicted the Prince would be destroyed too, just as the good old Doctor Dee, who was nothing more than a miserable beggar. The spirits of the mirror again insisted that Dee should burn his wicked and blasphemous books. would destroy, but Dee didn't not succumb to their threats.
All documents remain silent about the events that took place between September 1585 and the end of April 1586. Probably it was Kelley who ritually burned the books of Doctor Dee; apparently he was too afraid of the ghosts of the mirror to resist any longer. Three of Dee's books came back to him in what he called "a miraculous way". Later, other documents also seemed to have been saved from the fire, but it was not clear who did this, or how and when it was done.
The two magicians left Prince Laski for what he was, and before they reached his castle, they turned and moved on to Prague. Dee wanted to speak to the Emperor Rudolf II, but Rudolf had just received a message, also from ghosts, and although no one knew what exactly it was they had said, it must have been a very unpleasant message, because when Doctor Dee arrived at the court, he was promptly thrown out the palace.
Meanwhile, the questioning of the spirits in the mirror had led to a new discovery. The numbers and symbols that appeared together with the ghosts in the mirror, could be reduced to letters and words, and they started to unveil the secrets of the wonderful black mirror. Dee wrote down, in a code, their statements about life in and out the mirror, the forces of the mirror and its effects on the human spirit. This document starts as follows:
Logaeth seg lovi brtnc
Dox Larzed ner habzilb adnor
Doncha Larb frog hirobra
EXI Fri zednip taiip chimvane
Cher mach lendix nor zandox
"In these words are the Mysteries of Our Creation, of Eternity and of the End of the World," the spirits said.
According to Kelley during the experiments not only numbers and symbols were seen, but also dragons and toads. He tried to stop the sessions, but Dee wanted to go further. In this book titled "Logaeth" and dictated to him by the spirits in an almost unbreakable code, all the knowledge and wisdom were reflected, of human and superhuman spirits and since the beginning of Time. Kelley began to exhibit increasingly chaotic behavior, then categorically refused to continue the séances and finally fled from Doctor Dee and his family. Dee's wife Jane and his eight year old son Arthur took his place before the Black Mirror of Magick, but Jane only saw some points and figures without any cohesion and in Arthur's visions there were men with crowns and lions, but no numbers or symbols that could be turned into letters ands words.
Kelley returned and the female spirit Madimi now shamelessly showed herself naked to him, ordering the two magicians to go for "a woman exchange". Both the women of the Magi protested vigorously, and ultimately the experiments were stopped. Some scholars have stated that this was all a trick of Kelley to get Mrs Dee in his bed - but Kelley was speaking in tongues now and seemed to have lost his mind completely.
Nobody knows what finally happened between the two magicians and their wives. In the autumn of 1589 Dee returned with his family back to England. Kelley would come after him, but he wanted to go first to Antwerp for some vague reasons. But Kelley didn't come back and Doctor Dee had to travel through Western Europe again, looking for a new and indispensable assistant. During his absence, his library and his laboratory in Mortlake, were plundered by a mob that called him "the friend of the hell hounds".
Kelley would later pop up in Prague, where Rudolf II asked him to carry out a number of alchemical experiments. When he failed to make gold out of lead, he was imprisoned. The Emperor only released him to perform the "Great Work". Kelley lost his patience and killed a soldier. He was thrown in prison again and in 1595, he tied some sheets together and climbed out of the window. He fell down and broke his neck.
Dee didn't find another seer like Kelley. Queen Elizabeth gave him occasionally some small sums of money. He wrote a report, mentioning his triumphs and also his many misfortunes, but not saying a word about the black mirror. In the year of Kelley's death, Elizabeth appointed him as a teacher in a school in Manchester. But the doctor resigned soon after that and retreated to Mortlake, where he earned a living drawing horoscopes for young couples.
Doctor Dee was once called "the companion of the dogs of hell". The University of Cambridge dismissed him because he was into the black arts. The successor of Elizabeth refused him for exactly the same reason a modest pension. Whatever the nature was of the spirits that Kelley had raised for him, as one had predicted, he died like a beggar in 1608 or 1609...