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The R+C Legacy: Dr.John Dee
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The R+C Legacy:  Dr. John Dee

by Linda S. Schrigner

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Until modern times it was an established cultural practice for men and women to seek the guidance of God daily in their lives. People also had a sincere desire generally to go out and do what they perceived to be God's good will. This did not mean that everyone saw God's will. Nor, or course, did everyone make decisions affecting others out of a pure spiritual fervor and love of God. 

Indeed, the most pervasive pain and suffering among people century after century has been from religious persecution. In the Holy Roman Empire of the Middle Ages persecution accelerated with radical intensity in the Albigensian Crusades of the 12th and 13th Centuries in particular, where Cathars particularly, and indeed some Jews and others, as well, were slaughtered or burned to death for heresy until their influence was driven underground. Whatever the Cathars had come to believe as a group, those doctrines that were based upon principles that applied to everyone equally elicited the respect of nobles and commmoners alike, and the roots of their influence for over a hundred years were deep. 

Clergical courts of the Inquisition were designed to try and punish heresy as a way of maintaining the political power and wealth of both secular and religious ruling classes. Heresy was a practice based upon a belief system that was denounced by the legally sanctioned doctrines of the Holy Roman Church and regarded by the Church as likely to cause a schism or split in the Church. Even the threat of a schism by the practice of one's beliefs, especially involving others who may also follow an "outlaw" doctrine, was treated as treason against monarchies as well as the Church, and was punishable by torture and death. 

Out of an ancient spiritual tradition that predates early Christianity, some men and women of the 16th Century continued to practice "magical" techniques based upon Natural Laws of God. It wasn't magic or miracles. They were using scientific fundamentals that are no more mysterious than the law of gravity as we know it today. Indeed their work alluded to leaders in early civilization, where the secrets of nature were revered widely and taught sacredly by tribal shamans, as they were demonstrated to them directly in the natural system and order of nature. Over time "civilization" had gradually suppressed the conscious, collective memory or history of these natural premises of life. These natural laws that came down through the generations to these men and women of the 16th Century elicited their conviction that they had a responsibility to work very hard to help bring humans back to God after being cut off psychologically, sociologically—spiritually and "naturally." The instituted supremacy of the governing laws of society had separated people from God ironically by "outlawing" Nature's Laws of God essentially. 


The First Law of God and Nature

The first and primary natural law was about humanity's direct relationship with God, through what Jesus and many, many other spiritual leaders described similarly over many periods as, "the inner way," the "kingdom of God within," the kingdom of God that "is at hand." The first law of God is expressed by different groups in different ways, but it is this: "Thou shalt have no other gods before thee." These men and women felt that by helping all of humankind to reach high within themselves for direct, inner knowledge from God, that as each grew in this understanding, so would the spiritual evolution of all humankind rise high in the application of the natural laws of God. The evil persecution of this Earthly world would naturally stop under these conditions. 

The Master Jesus said it this way: 

If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.

Dr. John Dee

John Dee was one of these men who has come down to us, recognized today by revisionist historians and scientists as perhaps the greatest of all Renaissance men of the 16th Century. Dee's greatest material accomplishments in life came as a result of his scientific contributions in the field of mathematics at a time in the world when math was still considered to be Black Magic. He was also responsible for the major advances in navigation and the proposal of programs for English ocean voyages to discover new lands during the Elizabethan Age. It was Dee who dubbed the land of America as "Atlantis" in 1583 in a plan for colonization which first occured in 1620 at Plymouth following his death. He was perhaps as much an antequarian as he was a scientist. Antequarians utilized legends as references from oral traditions that carry and protect important truths for contemporary historical perspectives. Dee also had access to most government records during Queen Elizabeth's rule. 

"He was Elizabethan England's great magus."1 He was Court Astrologer and confidant to the English Queen, Elizabeth I, and was well beloved by her as such. The Queen travelled regularly by horseback to visit Dr. Dee personally at his home estate, Mortlake. There he had an unusually large library collection of up to 4,000 manuscripts of some of the world's most significant classic writings of all time, before clergical laws were passed outlawing many of them. They were later destroyed by a fire at Mortlake while Dee was out of the country. Mortlake is also where he and Edward Kelly conducted the greatest documented experiments ever at the time with angel or "Spirit" communications. 

John Dee was born July 13, 1527 in London, the son of Rowland Dee, a "gentleman server" in the court of King Henry VIII. He was a decendant of Roderick the Great, ancient Prince of Wales. Personally, however, John Dee arose from the long line of philosopher-magicians known as Hermeticists. His lifetime would see the the success of the Protestant movement out of the failure of reformation within the Roman Church itself, and the beginnings of the Rosicrucian movement out of the Hermetic tradition and an evangelical gnostic Christianity that had contributed during the Reformation to the eventual split of other monarchies from Rome. 

As a way of introducing Dr. Dee, the following is a prayer of petition in its entirety that he wrote and said regularly. It demonstrates the sweet and humble nature of this man's spirituality, and the depth of his sincerity and devotion to God's works in his daily life. 

Prayer of John Dee

O Almighty, Eternal, the True and Living God: O King of Glory: O Lord of Hosts: O thou, the Creator of Heaven, and Earth, and of all things visible and invisible: Now, (even now, at length,) Among others thy manifold mercies used, toward me, thy simple servant John Dee, I most humbly beseech thee, in this my present petition to have mercy upon me, to have pity upon me, to have Compassion upon me: Who, faithfully and sincerely, of long time, have sought among men, in Earth: And also by prayer, (full often and pitifully,) have made suit unto thy Divine Majesty for the obtaining of some convenient portion of True Knowledge and understanding of thy laws and Ordinances, established in the Natures and properties of thy Creatures: by which Knowledge, Thy Divine Wisdom, Power and Goodness, (on thy Creatures bestowed, and to them imparted.) being to me made manifest, might abundantly instruct, furnish, and allure me, (for the same,) incessantly to pronounce thy praises, to rend unto thee, most hearty thanks, to advance thy true honor, and to Win unto thy Name, some of thy due Majestical Glory, among all people, and forever." [Sloane Manuscript 3191, Folio 45; British Museum; presented here with today's spelling.]

Dee's Religious Hermeticism

Dee was no doubt a man of God. However, we must understand that he was not a Roman Catholic, and neither was he an ardent Protestant. He is categorized by historians as a 16th Century contemporary Religious Hermeticist. It is analogous to the labeling of "Deists" of the 18th Century, who adhered to no formal religion, but were unavoidably recognized in their time as men of God. They were such men as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and many other world members of the Royal Society, including founder Francis Bacon. 

Dee wanted to help solve the religious problems of the world, and stop the effects of persecution which had grown into a social and political monster during the Middle Ages and the Reformation. But how does one stop a tidal wave of indirect, subtle, "willing" mental bondage that was instituted in effect by the heresy laws?

Hermetic Gnosticism

Hermeticism in various combinations with classic philosophy, was a very particular gnostic practice based upon the texts of Hermes Trismegistus (the Greek name for the Egyptian god Thoth). Hermetic gnosticism predated the historical Christian beginnings, but much of the Early Christian or Christian gnostic tenets included Hermetic principles. It was gnosticism that produced the writings of Hermes. The following principles, among many others, were commonly expressed by Hermeticists: 

  • the universe is ordered;
  • stars are "living" entities that influence everything below on Earth and throughout the entire Universe;
  • through the Universe there is sympathy and antipathy between all things;
  • the personal Hermetic experience depends upon the development of the imagination—known to be connected, as well, with all knowledge from which ideas spring into our consciousness, a process called intuition today.
  • there are four elements in all material expression—earth, air, fire and water—and these are a part of the Universal hierarchy of all life, as the notes of a music scale are hierarchal—yet, each is individually necessary to the absolute completeness of the whole;
  • and, not last, Light is the first creation and is circular in motion, embuing and connecting all things together in the Universe.

Hermetic gnostic thinking was involved with many devoutly religious people, labeled "pagans," who stood up to the Holy Roman Empire all during the Middle Ages (500 A.D. - 1450 A.D.). The church and monarchies had ruling supremacy together, and to violate the laws of the church in those times was to violate the laws of both. 

From Reformation to Protestantism

The Reformation was a 16th Century spiritual movement designed to reform the Catholic Church from within, due to its medieval practices. It resulted in establishing the Protestant movement, however, beginning with a branch of Lutheranism in Germany. The groundwork for the Protestant movement was inspired by the writings of Hermeticist, Cornelius Agrippa (1486-1535), who was a protégé of Abbott Trithemius. The Mennonites and Calvinists followed in Eastern Europe. By 1563 under the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603), the Anglican Church was established as the official Church of England. It was her return to the "Church of England" established by her father, King Henry VIII—before Elizabeth's half-sister Mary Tudor, also known as "Bloody Mary," attempted to reinstate Catholicism as the official Church in England. In any case, the pattern of the church and monarchy ruling together continued for some time. Also, ruthless and brutal religious persecution continued at the hands of both Catholics and Protestants. 

John Dee's Rosicrucian Movement

Revisionist historians specializing in 17th Century Europe have agreed that there is substantial evidence that Dr. John Dee's contributions played a major role in laying the foundation and opening the doors to what was to follow in the Age of Enlightenment. Also, that under the leadership of John Dee specifically, a group of scholars, noblemen and noblewomen began in the 16th Century what has been recognized as "the Rosicrucian movement" of the 17th Century. 

The oral history passed down is that the movement actually was a continuation of a broad, ancient esoteric tradition that only included Hermetic gnosticism. Hermetic gnosticism had been built upon by Magi throughout the previous centuries, and was constantly protected from loss or destruction through the use of various arcane methods, partly through word of mouth from a lineage of leaders selected initiatically by each generation to carry on the sacred tradition. 

Beginnings of the Age of Enlightenment

In the 16th Century, a number of books were written for the benefit of individuals who were the builders of the world—known then as "mechanists." They were the artisans who had no need for the university in their training—architects, masons, inventors, and so on. For the first time, "layman's" books were published in a language of the common people, instead of in Latin as was the custom for university use. In 1561 John Dee wrote an augmentation to Robert Record's Ground of Artes, a book that was written for the mechanists. It became the first universal textbook of arithmetic using the Arabic system of numbers—after the cumbersome Roman numerals that had been used for centuries. 

Historian Peter J. French1 has said that perhaps the true beginning of the Age of Enlightenment came from another landmark work of John Dee: "Mathematical Preface" to Euclide's Geometry, all done in English, also, for the common public. Considered by historians to be equal in stature with Francis Bacon's 17th Century Advancement In Learning, John Dee's "Mathematical Preface" was the first treatise in history that was specifically directed to scientists, and especially in English to all individuals who qualified as "Unfained Lovers of Truth," in order to open and expand the world of science for all people

In the "Preface" to Euclide's, the application of mathematics to the various scientific disciplines was for the first time explained comprehensively, with added information that would substantiate applications also from the field of mysticism, metaphysics and philosophy. In fact, Dr. Dee saw mathematics as the key to all knowledge

In 1564 while on a stay in Europe, John Dee also wrote a Hermetic treatise called Monas Hieroglyphica. He dedicated it to Maximilian II, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire (1564-1576). In the Monas, which was referred to by contemporaries as a magical and Hermetic work, a "magic parable," he dealt with humankind's spiritual transformation and the need to return to our original divine nature. Written in the oral tradition, it was intended only for those who could recognize its meaning, intentionally disguised for his personal protection under heresy laws. 

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