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from the prophet-sharing dept.
The Queen's Conjurer
The picture painted of John Dee is not always a pretty one. It’s commonly a portrait of an old man, looking for all those things of which the Alchemists sought in the mind of a belligerent crook with a glib tongue seeking a free ride and a romp with a married woman. Perhaps only within the Magical tradition does Dee get any form of respect, and usually as the Father of Enochian Magic, which undeniably has a very prominent position in the repertoire of the New Aeon Magician. However, there does seem to be a recent attempt to not just reconcile Dee with his fellows in science, but to exemplify his life as the dawning of the Renaissance.
In Benjamin Woolley’s new biography of John Dee, The Queen’s Conjurer, we are given an interesting look at the life of the Elizabethan Magus. The author jumps right into the first part bluntly stating, "There is no record of the moment John Dee entered the world." These words are, in their simplicity, evidence of what is being offered that Dee was ill afforded in life: recognition. I have often pined over the necessity for a good biography on Dee to better understand his context of the spiritual actions that encompassed the prime of his life, and its decline. The Queen’s Conjurer is a valiant, and in some ways, successful attempt. It leaves me with my current dilemma: How do you do justice to a book that does justice to a Magician that you are so inherently biased towards without sounding like a fanatic? You keep it short.
Woolley has resurrected the biography as a work of art. Far more than a history lesson, his admiration for Dee shows on every page, even in its construction. From the moment I took the book in hand, I had this impression: I’m holding History. The meticulous detail that Dee seemed to adopt in his practices is accurately reflected, first off in the painstaking detail that Woolley attempts to recreate the details of the nativity, life, death, and legacy of John Dee. The Doctor’s love for the written word is reflected in a striking cover that commands attention, meeting you with a soulful gaze that no doubt beheld glory, even if not by his own eyes.
Woolley starts first of the locale, then by the astrology, of the matter of the nativity. Finally, after being introduced to Dee’s kith and kin, we are given the portrait of everyday life that the son of Roland Dee, gentleman sewer of the British Royal Court, experienced in his youth.
Our author makes this less a story and more a journey into the life of John Dee. The stage is consistently set socially, politically, economically, and, yes, astrologically at every event. We go to Trinity College with Dee. We stay up late studying Pythagoras with him, as he was prone to do. We go with him to understudy Mercator. We come back and plead to the court to be recompensed for our service. We endeavor to establish a British Empire. We find ourselves studying the Cabala. We find ourselves constantly trying to be understood, and to be given the due credit we deserve for our achievements, which only seemed to be rewarded as an afterthought. We find ourselves looking ever closer at the patterns of Nature, and seeing there concealed a pattern -- a rhythm -- a means to establish on Earth the Divine Providence that is certainly the root of all true Scientific Thought. We find a man who is himself the conduit for those forces.
One of the precious few things we don’t find is what was on the pie plates that about half of Dee’s writings were used for.
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