Talk for Treadwell’s, 5th Dec 2016
On the 23rd of May 1587, the last spiritual action between John Dee and Edward Kelley and the Denizens of the Enochian Realms, was recorded. Since then a mountain of papers and books, from the academic to the more, let’s say, ‘personal gnosis’ variety, has sprung up on the subject of ‘The Angelic Conversations,’ as they are generally known.
Dee’s copious diaries alone, from the seven years that he and Kelley received their spirit visitors, have provided ample material for academics and would-be magicians and occultists alike, to delve into and linger over. Meric Casaubon transcribed it in his ‘A True & Faithful Relation of What Passed for Many Years Between Dr. John Dee . . . and Some Spirits’ of 1659, although it is estimated that up to a third of the original material has been lost. What survives is spread between the Ashmolean, Oxford, Trinity College Library, Cambridge, and the British Library, here in London.
At the one end, academics want to divorce John Dee the brilliant Renaissance scholar, and scientist, even secret agent – Queen Elizabeth’s ‘Eyes’ or Noble Intelligencer – from John Dee the magician and occultist, who sought to communicate with Angels. This was a throw-back to the Middle Ages, they say, an unfortunate lapse in taste and discernment, and how could a man of his intelligence waste his time with such mumbo-jumbo?! This attitude shows up something of the split in Western Culture between science and religion, or the intellect and spiritual belief. Scholars of the Esoteric may have a fascination with John Dee’s supernatural interests, but only until their formidable vocabulary of words and ideas have shown that even exceptional people like Dee could suffer from some inadequacy or emotional need and distress, when they think they can speak with Angels.
At the other end there are those who have no qualms about Enochian Magic, occultists and so-called magicians. The magic word ‘magic’ alone fulfils a need and desire that has long been denied, repressed, or severely punished, by the Church in the Past, or rational materialism in the Present. For such as these, the Enochian Corpus presents an opportunity to fully engage with ‘the Romance of Sorcery.’ They may write books that have the word ‘Enochian’ in the title. It has a certain status in the world of the occult, and even beyond. It’s a catchphrase, almost a magical formula by itself. In addition to a few added comments, opinions and theories by the author at the beginning and then interspersed throughout the text, there is often wholesale copy-pasting of large portions of Casaubon’s manuscript, or from the Golden Dawn’s Enochian syllabus, or even Crowley’s The Vision and the Voice, to which I’ll come back later.
An example: Donald Tyson wrote a book called Enochian Magic for Beginners, in which he shares his belief that the Angels had an apocalyptic agenda. He reads certain words and phrases, such as Judgment, Seal, deliverance of the Keys, the slow and tortuous way the Enochian letters were conveyed – backwards! – phrases that seem to imply veiled threats (such as “for if we depart, thou shalt become a dark sellar,” which meant a dark house, a mad house.) All this seems to alert him that there’s something ‘apocalyptic’ going on. The archaic words and phrases may remind him of The Bible, specifically Revelation, with its judgements and opening of Seals in Heaven, and coupled no doubt with his own view of life and the world, he interprets what he thinks is being played out as a coming apocalypse. The title of his book Enochian for Beginners however, is misleading; he borrows heavily from the Golden Dawn’s Enochian syllabus, which was hardly for beginners. Besides, he copies a considerable amount of Casaubon’s text, which is a facsimile of what had survived at the time of what actually passed between Dee and Kelley and the Angels. It’s also not an easy work. For ‘beginners’ a book like Lon Milo Du Quette’s Enochian Vision Magick is far more suitable. The cover reads: “An Introduction and Practical Guide to the Magick of Dr. John Dee and Edward Kelley,” and that is what it is. It gives you some of the history. It gives advice, practical and otherwise. It’s full of illustrations, such as the Sigillum Dei Aemeth, and other Enochian sigils and graphs, and advice on how to make your own. And you can even read about some of Du Quette’s own practice.
The question of language of course has played a significant role right from the start. The German-born humanist and scholar of Greek and Hebrew, Johann Reuchlin (1455-1522), had expounded on the metaphorical nature of the Word, the Logos, and Man as Magus, with language as a vehicle of Divine Power. Speech was capable of magical properties. But what kind of speech? Aleister Crowley would comment on the Enochian language as possessing “sonorous, stately and impressive” qualities.
It should be remembered that Dee & Kelley themselves never actually referred to the strange language that was revealed to them by their spirit-visitors as ‘Enochian,’ but simply ‘Angelic,’ and they conceived of it as a medicina Dei, something which had been lost since The Fall. The descriptor ‘Enochian’ has been added since, largely because it has been claimed – and was clearly believed by Dee & Kelley – that this was the Sacred Tongue which God Himself had spoken with Adam, that had been used for the naming of all parts of Creation in Eden. Enoch, seventh in line of the Old Testament patriarchs, according to Genesis, was said to be the last man to have actually walked and talked with God, before He then “took him up into Heaven” – apparently leaving behind a much-fabled (and, of course, lost) Book of Enoch in which these conversations and their various revelations were recorded. If that original language could be restored, it would possess a unique quality to refer directly to the things in the world, naming their very essences.
The Enochian language was delivered in two forms. Firstly, there was a written alphabet of 21 curious characters, unlike anything anyone had seen before. Apparently a vision of this Heavenly script was revealed in the glass, in letters of radiant gold, no less, which Dee & Kelley were then able to trace. Then there is Enochian as it is spoken, and that is a rich and powerful ‘Barbarous Tongue’ indeed. The actual rules of pronunciation can seem fiendishly complex, and it appears from their records that even Dee & Kelley struggled to get it exactly right – all of which has led to some quite divergent approaches and attempts by magical scholars since.
Casaubon’s document, the papers that weren’t lost, is definitely worth studying, as it provides invaluable insights into what actually took place during those seven years. Casaubon, by the way, did not write in admiration or support of Dee, far from it – he was suggesting the good Doctor was having dealings with the Devil, and he wrote in order to put people off following in his footsteps! It may be one reason why in the centuries after Dee’s death, the Enochian Keys were barely even used.
It would be The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn who would do the most to re-introduce Enochian, regarding it as the ‘Jewel in the Crown’ of their magical syllabus – but hardly for beginners. You were only allowed to practice their brand of Enochian Magic if you were well-advanced into the order. Someone who was rushing ahead, acquiring grades likes nobody’s business, was, of course, Aleister Crowley. Grades gave you initiatory status, but Crowley deeply craved initiation for himself alone, some feat that would set him apart from everyone else, something more than an initiation into an order. He decided that invoking the 30 Enochian Aethyrs would take him there.
On November 17th 1909, Crowley and his apprentice and lover, Victor Neuburg (who had recently become Frater Omnia Vincam of the Argenteum Astrum; there is little doubt that Neuburg looked to Crowley as his guru), set out to walk into the Algerian desert with only a few provisions. Crowley says that he had no particular magical objective in mind; they merely wanted to rough it a bit, and enjoy the austere experience of sleeping under the stars. He writes he had, “by chance” (!) in his rucksack one of his early notebooks which happened to contain a transcription of the Nineteen Calls or Keys obtained by Dee and Kelley during their Angelic Conversations.
And so he and Neuburg set about scrying the 30 Enochian Aethyrs, with Crowley as Seer and Neuburg as Scribe. Richard Kaczynski, in his definitive biography of Crowley paints this picture: “Crowley and Neuburg headed out of Aumale into the heart of Algeria. Crowley wore a robe and turban and read from the Koran as they marched across the desert. Neuburg’s head was shaved except for two tufts of hair that he twisted into the likeness of horns. Thus Crowley led his familiar Djinn about on a chain, to the amazement of the locals.”
He was not motivated to try and comprehend their profound nature and mystery; he was led far more by his overweening ego and a marked lack of respect, as well as his irrepressible inclination to blaspheme or break taboos whenever possible.
For instance, when Crowley arrives at the 6th Aethyr, MAZ, he does the usual: he gives the ‘Cry’ (as he calls the 19th Key or Call), without distinguishing between the three Denizens. He makes the same error many who use the Enochian Keys make, or rather he was the first, and others followed. The majority of the thirty Aethyrs have three Denizens or Messengers. When you don’t take the trouble to address each of them individually, you may perhaps access a spiritual ‘location’ if you like – something that’s akin to the Golden Dawn’s Rising on the Planes, exploring the paths or spheres of the Kabalistic Tree of Life for instance – or do a spot of ‘remote viewing,’ where you travel through a kind of fantasy land of your own making when you have managed to switch off your controlling conscious mind. But unless you invoke and address each Denizen of the Aethyr in question, you will not get any meaningful exchange. It is also better if there are at least two of you when it comes to true communication. There is a protective membrane between our realms, theirs and ours – think of it as an aethyric fire-wall – and to establish proper contact there must be a balance of two. It’s the only way to keep the channel open and stable.
The three Messengers in the 6th Aethyr are SAXTOMP, VAVAAMP and ZIRZIRD. They are robed initiates, hermits on the edge of the Great Sea of Time. Crowley doesn’t know this, because he hasn’t taken the trouble to call each one of them separately. He finds he cannot get through: the veil, the membrane, is too thick. He tries every trick he knows, but it’s no good. He hears a voice, suggesting to him that he should try and open his understanding to wisdom. What does he do after that? The Vision and the Voice tells us: “Accordingly, I wait in a certain magical posture which it is not fitting to disclose.” The footnote says: Beardsley’s Bathyllus? Even if you don’t know the Beardsley drawing it refers to, it’s from Lysistrata, and shows a corpulent naked man with a finger up his anus. You may be familiar with the expression “pull your finger out,” meaning that if you have your finger in that particular orifice, you’re indicating you have other things on your mind than the subject under review. That’s typical Crowley – the Angels keep him waiting and suggest he “open his understanding to wisdom” – and he shows them what he thinks of that. This happens time and time again. But then, for Crowley, “the key of joy is disobedience” – “the word of sin is restriction,” after all.
He was also taking drugs: hashish, opium, and mescaline. Drugs may open you up to the Spirit-realm, but what you get tends to be a jumble: you may get something from the other side, you may see something, but it will be mixed up with your own fantasies, obsessions, fears, desires, projections. And when you come back, when the drugs stop working, it’s likely you won’t be able to tell the difference. You may not even remember much at all – you may just have had a trip.
Let us turn now to the lesser-known Heptarchia Mystica. It was ‘discovered’ in a hidden drawer, 54 years after Dee’s death, and therefore is not included in Casaubon. It’s a system of Hierarchical Planetary Magic, transmitted early, mostly in 1582, though it was revised somewhat the following year. Dee worked it into a book he called The Mystical Rule of the Seven Planets. There are forty nine names, seven for each Planetary Court. (Even the Planets discovered later, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto, have a current in there: Neptune is a ‘higher octave’ of Venus, for instance.) Each of the seven Planetary Spheres was assigned a King, a Prince, and five Ministers. What is also very marked, and Crowley is no exception, is that there is a general assumption that most of the Angels are male, which is not the case at all. They tend to be androgynous, and can appear as male or female – or even hermaphrodite. Having scryed and visited each Court and each Denizen thereof in turn with my partner, I can assure you there are a good proportion of females among them, including monarchs! But apparently they all appeared to Kelley in the crystal as male, probably because that is what he would have expected, or because he could not have born the true sight of them, as some are spectacularly exotic or strange indeed. They also came dressed in Elizabethan attire, not to disconcert Kelley (and Dee) too much. He was already having a difficult enough time of it. When the Mercurial Prince, BRORGES, appeared to him, there were “ugly fyrie flames” coming out of his sides. Again, this is not fire the way we know it, but Plasma Energy. Kelley experienced it as fire, though, and it freaked him out.
The Planetary Angels also instructed Dee and Kelly to make a number of magical items: the Ring, the Holy Table, the Ensigns of Creation, the Lamen, and the Sigillum Dei Aemeth. You can make them yourself. They don’t have to be of silver or gold, or other special materials. They can be made of board, or even drawn on paper. What matters is what is on them. They are about building a structure astrally, psychically, energetically. The various devices focus and refract and tune the relevant energies to bring Them into alignment with us, or vice-versa. From their perspective, if you are doing an Enochian working using the Apparatus, it is like a five-dimensional crystal has grown around you that better interfaces with the Aethyrs. But most people don’t use them; even the Golden Dawn mostly ignored them, and so did Crowley. Speaking of which, not to dismiss him totally, Crowley did have some genuine insight, if only because he had a sense of how the Enochian Realms bring together knowledge of all systems of magical doctrine, and how they all “fall into their proper places.”
There is a black scrying mirror Dee and Kelley used, on display in the British Museum, a short walk away from here. It is made of obsidian. We were curious about this, and decided to ask an Enochian Denizen to tell us more. The one we called is LABNIXP, from the 28th Aethyr BAG, who appears tall and black, with opal eyes, and bound with fire, an Aries-affiliated Fire Elemental. Yes, it was an Aztec Glass, and it had been among the booty taken from a Spanish ship by freebooters licensed by Queen Elizabeth. When its provenance was known, it was passed to Dee for examination. He wrote about it in his diary, LABNIXP said, but as a number of Dee’s journals have been lost, it may have been in one of those. To the Aztec priests it was known as a ‘smoking mirror,’ named for their god, TEZCATLIPOCA, whose name means just that. Obsidian is a volcanic glass, formed as a result of quickly cooled volcanic lava. The priests would burn copious amounts of copal incense before it during their ceremonies, and scry through the smoke. When Kelley looked into it, he got results the very first time. The mirror had been consecrated by blood and pain to their savage gods, and when Kelley made contact, he felt he was in a court of devils – the current still lingered. The black smoke threatened to choke him; he could feel the heat of the volcano it was born from. He asked Dee to put it away, and after they would use it only very sparingly.
Even though seven years seems a long enough time, the Transmissions did end abruptly and pre-maturely, with the infamous ‘Cross-Matching’ of the two couples, and the vision of the Daughter of Fortitude. But could they have gone on longer, with Dee using the Calls and the Apparatus he had been given? He needed Edward Kelley to scry for him and get in touch with the Other Side, as he himself was not psychic. He was one of the most brilliant minds of his time, comparable to a Stephen Hawking, or Albert Einstein. Dee was a scholar, scientist, cartographer, mathematician, astronomer, he knew several languages, and may even have been a spy for Queen Elizabeth, her secret ‘Eyes.’ He was also an astrologer and an occult philosopher, a Magus: it is said that he was the model for Marlowe’s Faust, and he almost certainly inspired Shakespeare to create the character of Prospero in The Tempest. Yet, when he was about fifty, he felt he’d reached the limit of knowledge. He wrote in his diary:
“I found (at length) that neither any man living, nor any Book I could yet meet withal, was able to teach me those truths I desired, and longed for: And therefore I concluded with myself, to make intercession and prayer to the giver of wisdom and all good things.”
There has always been the wish to contact Messengers who exist on different planes. From the Cabalists to the Renaissance and on, magicians have tried very hard to interact with non-human intelligences, but most efforts were crude and confused. Much of what has survived of the Grimoires is specifically about angels, demons, spirits and the like. Conversations with Angels had long been a unique pastime for a certain kind of educated person in English society, for which Dee surely qualified. A certain secrecy was called for, however: taking personal initiative in acquiring knowledge that went outside the remit and authority of the Church was dangerous, to put it mildly. The key difference with Dee and Kelley was that, for the first time since Antiquity, it was decided to make known the Enochian Language and the Calls that could be used to communicate with the Angelic Realms more directly.
Kelley was a bit of a scoundrel, and there’s little doubt that he was in it primarily for gain. People will never agree on whether Dee manipulated Kelley more, or vice versa. Kelley was none too bright, and rather a slave to his appetites, an obstreperous, troubled man, whose visions were mixed with his own troubled mind, his own demons. He could be full of fear, and he had some reason to fear: because he was a natural psychic, he would see other-worldly beings at the drop of a hat. Sometimes the Angels would transmit their messages or material directly into his brain, and it didn’t always agree with him, as you can imagine. He would hold his head and cry that it was on fire. Sometimes even Dee would see this. This wasn’t actual fire, as we know it, but a kind of Plasma Energy they can transmit.
In general, the séances would start with Dee & Kelley repairing to Dee’s private study, after initial preparations that would include, fasting, abstinence from strong liquor, meat, and carnal relations, as well as ceremonial washing (itself no small thing in Elizabethan times, when it was not uncommon for even those at Court to go months without bathing!) Then would come long prayers, often interspersed with the recital of certain key Psalms, and then the actual scrying would begin, with Kelley peering into a quartz crystal, “the size of a hen’s egg” – or perhaps into the black mirror of polished obsidian – until any one of a number of angels would appear to him. As time went on, and because of what Kelley had to endure at times, he was often not convinced they were not always speaking to Angels of the Lord. And he wasn’t wrong.
Dee had his own vulnerabilities. He had a warm and naturally devout nature, but he was a little too much inclined to want knowledge for knowledge’s sake. He had a boyish delight in numbers and tables and puzzles. There was always that little bit more to know before he might consider actually using the Keys and Apparatus he had been given. The Angels wanted to teach him, but there was always something else, something more to know. The irony is that if he had taken the time to explore what had already been transmitted, he would have found himself less in need of Kelley, on whom he had come to rely too much. He was chasing an ever-retreating mirage, in a way. The Angels wished him to begin exploring for himself, but he wanted to be told all first, before he would dare to set out on the journey for himself
And while Kelley grew more troubled, even unhinged, there appeared a child called Madimi. At first she materialized as a little girl of eight or nine, playing among Dee’s books, because she knew it would charm him. Dee had a finely honed intellect, but his female soul was still childlike, fairly undeveloped. One does not necessarily preclude the other. As time went on, Madimi gradually matured until she was a full-grown young woman. She would slow proceedings down, taking Kelley on a number of detours and aimless wanderings, until it became harder and harder for the other Angels to get their messages and material across. One day Kelley read a message on a distant globe: “all sins committed in my name are forgiven. He who goes mad on my account, let him be wise. He who commits adultery because of me, let him be blessed for eternity, and receive the heavenly prize.” The next day Madimi again appeared to Kelley and “parted her cloak, to reveal that she was naked,” and “showeth her shame,” as Dee noted in his diary. He told her to go. “In the name of God, why find you fault with me?” she protested. Dee had his son Arthur with him, because he wanted to prepare him for when he and Kelley would part ways. During this incident the boy fainted. It may have been the fasting or for some other reason. Madimi then suggested to Kelley that he and Dee should swap partners. Dee hummed and harred, unsure whether it was God’s will or not, but finally he agreed. The next day, after the deed was done, Kelley had a vision of “the Daughter of Fortitude,” who was “ravished every hour from my youth.” She also said: “Disclose not my secrets unto women, neither let them understand how sweet I am …” It was May 23rd, 1587. That would be the last transmission.
The figure of Madimi is problematic. You never hear a bad word spoken about her! On the contrary, she’s a favourite, a good angel, and some have even adopted her as a kind of mascot or spirit-guide. Even if she’s ‘bad’, she’s bad in that particular way that needs no comment. As one middle-aged male occultist writes:
“The other Spirit I have been Working with, and over a much longer span of time, is the same Madimi who communicated with Dee and Kelley . . . She is a supreme Enochian Initiatrix. She appears to me as a girl of about sixteen, with short, punky, dark hair, a wicked sense of humour, wearing a ‘punked’ school uniform, quite deliberately provocative.”
In contrast, every time we have spoken with the Enochian Denizens about Madimi, we were left under no illusions that she sabotaged the Angelic Conversations with her delaying tactics, and then her sexual antics. The criticism has ranged from the more polite to stronger expressions like “that accursed bitch.”
There was the intention by the Angels to transmit a manifestation of the Divine Feminine, the Female side of the Most High, if you will. It has been a terrible shortcoming of the Christian Church to have fallen short in that respect. Mother Mary really hasn’t cut the mustard. But by the time Kelley saw the Daughter of Fortitude, as she called herself, whose secrets were not to be disclosed unto women, the operation had been contaminated by the combination of Kelley’s psychotic state, Dee’s immaturity, and Madimi’s machinations.
Centuries later, Crowley took Kelley’s vision of the Daughter of Fortitude, and various other disparate female manifestations from the Aethyrs and Revelations, as the raw material for his ‘Babalon/Scarlet Woman’ travesty. What is seriously needed is a complete re-visioning, to unify the essence of the feminine – both Daemonic and Divine.
For a time, it seemed Enochian Magic was one more secret that the good Dr. Dee had taken to the grave with him, and it would only be the flimsiest and almost fated of threads that would connect his work to an eventual revival, courtesy of the Golden Dawn, and in particular the attention shown it by Aleister Crowley, that would bring Enochian back to life and into the Twentieth Century and Beyond.
Probably the most far-fetched version of Enochian – and certainly the furthest from anything Dee and Kelly would have recognized – begins with the self-styled ‘black pope’ of the Church of Satan, Anton LaVey. Attempting to cash in on the surprise success of his The Satanic Bible, at the instigation of his agent, he hastily cobbled together a sequel, The Satanic Rituals, which among other things includes so-called ‘Enochian’ rituals, in which Angelic names have been swapped for those of demons, and every reference to the Most High has been substituted with the name of Satan. Surprisingly enough, those within the Church of Satan and successor organizations, such as the Temple of Set, who have worked with these bastardized, infernal versions of the Calls – and there have been many – still claim that this method is every bit as valid. While any success on their part may be a testament to the inherent power of the Enochian Calls, however abused or corrupted, one has to wonder as to the actual nature and validity of any powers or regions contacted in that way.
The Angels themselves are by no means the creatures of Christmas cards, stained-glass windows, or that you might meet at a New Age crystal counter. One has to agree with Crowley, when he wrote that they bring “all systems of magical doctrine into harmonious relation.” Their forms and natures have an infinite variety – they are adaptable – when they want to manifest to us, or walk among us, they will take different shapes, even be in disguise. Their wings mean they can move effortlessly from element to element, transform as they travel from dimension to dimension, and can do so with incredible speed.
People have liked Crowley’s version of the Enochian because he removed the Christian veneer. But what the Aethyrs contain is the Hermetic Universe. What has always underpinned Hermetic Philosophy was provided by the idea that all that exists is derived from something called the Pleroma – Fullness of Being – and that it was of One Essence. Humans, Gods, and Cosmos were linked, from the cosmological orderings through the theological and daemonological realms, down to the psychic or anthropological. In the Hermetic Universe, the Magician makes use of the principles of the Cosmos, which were the means by which the gods are also able to create, and to some extent guide the development of the world. This is what John Dee was after. And the Angels were prepared to help him with this, to communicate and disclose at least a portion of the Keys – literally! – by which you can begin to make use of the principles and codes that are known to the gods. Hermeticism is both Art and Science. And Balance is one of the keys, something we find so hard here, where we often swing between extremes.
The Church closed the Temples and put a prohibition on the Magical Arts. Magic makes use of the principles of the Cosmos. Divination, like the Magical Arts, must in the first instance be revealed to us by means of some clairvoyant communication. There was always some process of initiation involved, because it was not only what you did, but also what you had become, through initiation or election. Then it has to be carried on along secret lineages, so missing here in the West, which has played fast and loose with its spiritual legacy, although there has been an underground stream flowing, through Alchemy and Secret Societies. The Magic the West needs is not one of transcendence, but rather transformation. You do not develop science and technology as we have done here, to then transcend them.
With the Denizens of the Enochian realms there is a distinct sense of time-travel. You meet ancient beings, whose currents manifested in the Classical world, or even much further back in primordial times, but a number have also adapted to our period, and they are definitely up to date. If they have prohibitions, they are there for valid reasons of safety and security – as much for the person who would attempt to enter as it is for the contents. It’s not so much old-fashioned notions of morality, but a sense of personal responsibility that matters.
The seven years of the Angelic Conversations are not a closed, done-and-dusted chapter of esoteric history. There’s a lot in it that can be studied, examined, and taken forward. What the Enochian Angels wanted to do most of all is re-open the Book of Hermetic Magic and Art, which the Church had all-but-closed – except for what survived in the illicit underground stream. The Hermetic tradition is dynamic, and far from static. There are Enochian Angels you can contact with the Enochian Keys, who were there, also appearing in the Crystal to Kelley, who can answer your present-day questions – and I don’t mean the ‘how can I win the lottery’ variety! They can give you council, talk with you about the Cabala, the Graeco-Egyptian Magical Papyri, and the Hermetica; reveal secret chapters of history, and even appear to you in your dreams.
They are Spirits elemental and eternal, from beyond Time and Space – yet just as present Today as they were Yesterday, and just as relevant to the Here and Now, and Tomorrow . . .
The 19th Call declares: “Open the Mysteries of your Creation and make us partakers of undefiled knowledge,” and the Angels of the Enochian Realms are still extending that same invitation.
All we have to do is be prepared to meet them halfway: it just takes the first step to begin the Journey.
“For now we see in a mirror, darkly.”
– 1 Corinthians 13:12
Picture the scene: a dimly-lit room, and two people sitting at a table within a Magic Circle, which they have drawn and marked earlier with a ceremonial blade. On the table, covered with a red silken cloth, are a crystal, or shew-stone, and scrying mirror. Also on the table are a writing pad and pen, and a tape-recorder. The darkened room is atmospherically lit by candle-light and scented with incense, to better attune the two performing the séance to The Beyond. One of them is a scryer, someone with Spirit Vision, which means they have an ability to see apparitions or messengers from the Other Side in the glass, which they hope to conjure. If they make contact, the other will question any Angels or Spirits that manifest. After an invocation and prayer, the next move will be the reading of a Call, spoken in a beautiful and uncommon language.
Aleister Crowley (1875-1947), who claimed to have invoked the thirty Enochian Aethyrs during the Winter of 1909, while walking through the Algerian desert accompanied by the poet Victor Neuburg as his scribe, would comment on the Enochian language’s “sonorous, stately and impressive” qualities. He would wax quite lyrical about it, comparing it to Greek or Sanskrit, to his ear the most exalted languages. Its contents were unsurpassed even by Shakespeare, Milton and The Bible, and reading the Second Enochian Call received by Elizabethan Magus Dr. John Dee (1527-1608/9), translated into English, one cannot but agree:
“Can the Wings of the Wind understand your voices of Wonder? O You! The second of the First! Whom the burning flames have framed in the depth of my Jaws! Whom I have prepared for a wedding, or as the flowers in their beauty for the chamber of Righteousness! Stronger are your feet than the barren stone; and mightier are your voices than the manifold winds! For you are become a building such as is not, save in the Mind of the All-Powerful.”
Already, as a student at St. John’s College, Cambridge, age fifteen, John Dee was spending eighteen hours out of twenty-four reading. Of the remaining six hours, he allowed only four for sleep. He would keep up this rigorous regime all through his student days. He was developing into that fairly rare kind of human being we’ve named Renaissance Man – or Woman! – one whose intelligence has an unusually large scope, and who finds a balance in a whole array of disciplines that include Science and the Humanities, as well as the Art of Magic, bolstered by a formidable Hermetic scholarship. The most famous example is Leonardo da Vinci, of course. The Elizabethan Renaissance was an exceptional time, and Dee one of its more exceptional products, serving undoubtedly as the model for Marlowe’s Faust and Shakespeare’s Prospero: his successful prediction of the storm that confounded the Spanish Armada being a key inspiration for The Tempest. In time, he would amass one of the finest and largest libraries in Europe, some 3,000 books and about 1,000 manuscripts. On its shelves volumes on advanced mathematics sat happily side-by-side with obscure tomes on alchemy; the latest developments in navigation technology, rubbed metaphorical shoulders with Agrippa’s occult works, and Pliny, Reuchlin, Paracelsus, Marsilio Ficino, and Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, to name but a few.
Numbers came naturally to Dee, who had a great gift for mathematics, and when only in his twenties had lectured on Euclid’s geometry in Paris. Plato had already put forward the idea that numbers were potentially divine, and existed, not only in the mind of man, but also in the minds of angels, and so the human intellect in theory was linked to a chain of understanding which might ultimately lead to the Divine. Numbers, in other words, offered the possibility of Truth by connecting man to the angels, and possibly to God. The most complete philosopher was the Natural Philosopher, who would “unify all branches of natural philosophy, mathematics, also the manipulation of astral radiation through a combination of optics and astrology.” Dee’s ideal new complete science, which he called Archemastrie, would not be satisfied with mere speculation however, but required action, an active engagement with not only the natural world with all its properties, but also the Heavenly hierarchies.
There was one thing John Dee desired most of all: to be able to read what used to be called The Book of Nature, in which God revealed Himself, if you but found a way to decipher it. The reading of The Book of Nature could never be divorced from language, by which Dee understood a language like no other: the language spoken before The Fall, the Adamic language. For this purpose, Dee studied and researched exhaustively, but there came a point where he felt he was reaching the limits of knowledge for his time. Johannes Trithemius (1462-1516), born Johann Heidenberg, a Benedictine abbot and a polymath active in the German Renaissance, had suggested in his Steganographia that it might be possible to operate spirits over long distances. Dee called his book “the most precyous juell that I have yet of other mens travailes recovered.”
Conversations with Angels had long been a unique pastime for a certain kind of educated person in English society, for which Dee surely qualified. A certain secrecy was called for, however: taking personal initiative in acquiring knowledge that went outside the remit and authority of the Church was dangerous, to put it mildly. As a student, Dee had already experienced what it was like to rouse suspicion and be shunned because of the distinctly unsociable hours he kept, studying deep into the night. Still, the urgency drove him on. He wrote in his diary:
“I found (at length) that neither any man living, nor any Book I could yet meet withal, was able to teach me those truths I desired, and longed for: And therefore I concluded with myself, to make intercession and prayer to the giver of wisdom and all good things.”
Language would play a significant role, right from the start. Restoring the original language revealed to Adam would possess a unique quality to refer directly to the things in the world, naming their very essences. The German-born humanist and scholar of Greek and Hebrew, Johann Reuchlin (1455-1522), had expounded on the metaphorical nature of the Word, the Logos, and Man as Magus, with language as a vehicle of Divine Power. Speech was capable of magical properties. But what kind of speech?
The History of Magic is full of strange and unusual languages, from the “Barbarous Names of Evocation” that riddle the Graeco-Egyptian Magical Papyri, to the Latin, Hebrew, and Greek that are still used by would-be magicians to this day. In the case of the former, the often awkward strings of vowels and consonants given as Words of Power, forming the linguistic motor of almost all the spells at the start of the Hermetic Tradition, are usually corruptions arising from attempts to preserve phonetically what may have been passed down from foreign tongues via oral tradition. As for the latter, the tradition of borrowings from difficult, obscure, and even unknown tongues, can often be just a part of the ritual theatrics, along with all the clouds of incense and dressing up in robes. It has, however, been argued by Post-Modern theorists that these so-called ‘Barbarous Tongues’ are not just gibberish, but actually a more appropriate form of discourse with the Hidden Realms. In this they are maybe closer to the religious phenomenon of glossalalia, or ‘Speaking in Tongues’ – a subject which brings us much closer to what Dee & Kelley thought they were doing. Dee had already begun to experiment with attempting to capture angels in crystals, but found he had not much aptitude for it. In other words, he did not possess the Spirit Vision, and had need of a scryer. Edward Kelley (1555-1597) was not the first scryer employed by John Dee, but once he’d been introduced, the stage was set for a cosmic drama that would, all-in-all, continue for seven years.
It should be remembered that Dee & Kelley never actually referred to the strange language that was revealed to them by their spirit-visitors as ‘Enochian’ themselves, but simply ‘Angelic’ and conceived of it as a medicina Dei, something which had been lost since The Fall. The descriptor ‘Enochian’ has been added since, largely because it has been claimed – and was clearly believed by Dee & Kelley – that this was the Sacred Tongue which God Himself had spoken with Adam, that had been used for the naming of all the animals and plants in Eden. Enoch, seventh in line of the Old Testament patriarchs according to Genesis, was said to be the last man to have actually walked and talked with God, before He then “took him up into Heaven” – apparently leaving behind a much-fabled (and, of course, lost) Book of Enoch in which these conversations and their various revelations were recorded. Hence, Enochian. It was the very Operating Language of Creation itself.
So, what exactly is Enochian ?
The Enochian language was delivered in two forms. Firstly, there was a written alphabet of 22 curious characters, unlike anything anyone had seen before. Apparently a vision of this Heavenly script was revealed in the glass, in letters of radiant gold, no less, which Dee & Kelley were then able to trace. Then there is Enochian as it is spoken, and that is a rich and powerful ‘Barbarous Tongue’ indeed. The actual rules of pronunciation can seem fiendishly complex, and it appears from their records that even Dee & Kelley struggled to get it exactly right – all of which has led to some quite divergent approaches and attempts by magical scholars since.
As well as the Enochian language itself, over the course of The Angelic Conversations, gradually there was a not-inconsiderable communication of what can only be described as magical – or even spiritual – technology: descriptions of a ring and a lamen, or breastplate, that were to be engraved in gold, and worn to attune to the angelic presences, a series of Ensigns of Creation – planetary talismans, to facilitate contact with the angelic rulers of these realms – and, lastly, Liber Loagaeth, a book of forty-nine pages, each a table consisting of forty-nine by forty-nine of the mysterious Enochian letters, which – when translated – would reveal Calls or Keys: rich and sonorous invocations in the otherworldly tongue of the angels, which could be used to unlock the Aethyrs, and summon their denizens.
In general, the séances would start with Dee & Kelley repairing to Dee’s private study, after initial preparations that would include, if not outright fasting, then at least a period of abstinence from strong liquor, meat, and carnal relations, as well as ceremonial washing (itself no small thing in Elizabethan times, when it was not uncommon for even those at Court to go months without bathing!) Long sequences of prayer would proceed, often interspersed with the recital of certain key Psalms. The actual scrying would then begin, with Kelley peering into a quartz crystal, “the size of a hen’s egg” – or perhaps into a black mirror of polished obsidian – until any one of a number of angels would appear to him. In an incredibly laborious and painstaking process, the angel would then point with a wand to a large chart of letters and figures, which corresponded to tables Dee had already constructed. Kelley would then give Dee the co-ordinates, by column and row, and he would make a note of the appropriate character, gradually taking down the letters of the angelic transmission – which, as they were given in reverse, apparently to safeguard against even the accidental power of this sacred tongue – Dee would then have to first transcribe backwards, and then translate into English so as to ascertain the actual meaning. This way, John Dee & Edward Kelley gradually had given to them a whole working language, complete with grammar, syntax, and vocabulary, of unknown origin and unlike any other, that defies explanation to this day.
The Angels or Messengers themselves are by no means the creatures of Christmas cards and stained-glass windows, or that you might meet at a New Age crystal counter. One has to agree with Aleister Crowley, when he wrote that they bring “all systems of magical doctrine into harmonious relation,” although the expression ‘War in Heaven’ is not an unfounded one; there has been War, and terrible conflict in the Deep Past, and there continues to be a certain tension, skirmishes here and there. Sometimes they are under attack. Their forms and natures have an infinite variety – they are adaptable – when they want to manifest to us, or walk among us, they will take different shapes, or even be in disguise. Their wings mean they can move effortlessly from element to element, transform as they travel from dimension to dimension, and can do so with incredible speed. In the 25th Aethyr, VTI, one by the name of Mirzind appeared, who was an Angel of Light with splendid wings enfolded about Her. Opening them, She revealed a goatish form, crowned, majestic. The affiliation is with the Zodiac sign Capricorn. There are Archers, Warriors, Diplomats, Seraphs and Cherubs, and lion-headed Brothers of the Mane, fulfilling ancient duties, and yet as aware of our world as you or me. There are beings of the ocean. Focisni, an hermaphroditic denizen of the 28th Aethyr, BAG, introduced itself as follows: “my attributes are of Cancer and the Moon. My appearance at present is conventional, but when I’m in my element in the watery depths I am black of colour with opal eyes and a great scorpion tail.” As for the otherworldly and sometimes apocalyptic nature of their information and insights, these are angels for our complicated and troubled times indeed. Their message and possible meanings may seem more at home, even welcome, in our pandaemonic and polymorphously perverse Post-Modern era, but it wasn’t always so: when Kelley was channelling the original Angelic Conversations with Dee, sometimes he would be so affected by what he was seeing and hearing that he would feel that his head was on fire, or that demons were beating and tormenting him. Even that self-styled Great Beast, Aleister Crowley – not one to scare easily, by anybody’s standards – complained in his Magical Record of attempts to penetrate the Enochian Aethyrs in which he had been temporarily blinded, strapped to a Catherine Wheel, and scourged with a whip of living fire.
Since his death, Dee’s memory and reputation have not fared well at the hands of posterity, suffering a number of unexpected, and often quite unfair and inappropriate, reversals. This was probably not helped by the fact that the only account we had to rely on for the longest time, Meric Casaubon’s incredibly longwindedly entitled A True and Faithful Relation of What Passed for Many Years Between Dr. John Dee and Some Spirits, of 1659 – transcriptions from Dee’s Spiritual Diaries, recounting his and Kelley’s exchanges with the angels – was, in fact, written as a condemnation. Casaubon made no secret of the fact that he was publishing the book as a warning: a kind of cautionary object-lesson regarding the dangers of excessive pride, intellectual curiosity, and mystical dabbling, showing in no uncertain terms how even somebody as brilliant as “the great Dr. Dee” – despite initial protestations of piety – ultimately could be led astray by consorting with “wicked and damnable spirits.”
Following Casaubon, for the longest time response to Dee either tended to ignore his more esoteric endeavours altogether, and simply concentrate on his not inconsiderable work with cartography, geometry, and the like – or else single it out for unfair criticism. How could a man of his obvious brilliance waste their time with such nonsense? Surely the only reason such a scholar had fallen back into the kind of superstitious mumbo-jumbo that belonged in the Middle Ages was because he had been soundly conned and manipulated by the devious Kelley, who was, of course, always painted as the villain of the piece.
Angel Magic continued to be a popular pursuit among would-be magicians – particularly the moneyed classes, who had benefited from a Classical education (all male, typically) and were looking for something they felt befitted their schooling and status. After all, why settle for being a mere Cunning Man or Hedgewitch, when you can secure a hotline to the envoys of the Almighty? As for Enochian Magic itself, for a while it seemed that it was one more secret that the good Dr. Dee had taken to the grave with him, and it would only be the flimsiest and almost fated of threads that would connect his work to an eventual revival, courtesy of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and in particular the attention shown it by their enfant terrible, Aleister Crowley, that would bring Enochian back to life and into the Twentieth Century and Beyond.
Coming forward in time, since the re-introduction of Enochian Magic, John Dee has certainly been claimed by the Modern Occultist, perhaps at times a little too enthusiastically and uncritically. Ironically, the version of ‘Enochian’ put forward by the Golden Dawn – doubtless well-intended, for they certainly held it in high regard – then carried on by Crowley and his followers, actually bares only passing resemblance to the original. These modern revivalists only had Casaubon’s text to go on, with all its errors and omissions, and so what they lacked in authentic source-material, they inevitably tried to make up for with equal parts enthusiasm and imagination. So it is that a kind of ‘Occultist’s Enochian’ has come into being, a curious hybrid, equal parts Dee & Kelley, Golden Dawn, Crowley and his Thelema, and . . . Even Anton La Vey’s carnival-and-cartoon Church of Satan has its own version, in which the names of God are swapped for those of various Devils, and all the angelic references are made suitably infernal. Later, Chaos Magic iconoclasts the Illuminates of Thanateros also experimented with Enochian, as a prototype for their own designer magickal tongue, “Ouranian-Barbaric.” It is unlikely that Dr. Dee would recognise these various revisions as having anything to do with his original divinely-inspired “Science of Angels,” and chances are he would even be appalled by some of them – but the power of the Enochian Language is such that even corrupted, it still has the mojo to conjure results, apparently.
What would it be like now in our day to speak with the Angels? Even though it is perfectly possible to practice Enochian Magic on a modest scale, as long as the intent is pure and the appropriate rituals, before and after, are adhered unto, there is a more complete magical apparatus, given to Dee and Kelley, which renders the authentic practitioner even more attuned to the Enochian realms.
Let us return to that room we entered at the beginning . . .
Picture the scene: a dimly-lit room, and two people sitting at a table within a Magic Circle, which they have drawn and marked earlier with a ceremonial blade. They have bathed, and are dressed in simple robes, and each wears a ring, and a golden lamen upon their chest, inscribed with formulae in Enochian. On the table, covered with a red silken cloth, is the Sigillum Dei Aemeth – or Seal of the Truth of God – resting upon which is a crystal, or shew-stone, and scrying mirror. Also on the table are a writing pad and pen, and a tape-recorder, and at strategic points around the circle are placed the Ensigns of Creation of the Planetary Powers. The darkened room is atmospherically lit by candle-light and scented with incense, and at the Four Quarters are placed the Watchtowers of the Elements, all of which help to better attune the two performing the séance to The Beyond. One of them is a scryer, someone with Spirit Vision, which means they have an ability to see apparitions or messengers from the Other Side in the glass, which they hope to conjure. If they make contact, the other will question any Angels or Spirits that manifest. After an invocation and prayer, the next move will be the reading of a Call, spoken in a beautiful and uncommon language:
“Madriax ds praf – chis Micaolz saanir caosgo od fisis bal zizras Iada nonca gohulim . . .”