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  Sympathy for the Doctor

Magick Posted by charles humphries on March 26, 2001 @ 01:16 AM
from the prophet-sharing dept.

The Queen's Conjurer
by Benjamin Woolley
Henry Holt & Company, Inc. 355 pages. ISBN: 0805065091

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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The Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them.

**Re: Sympathy for the Doctor**
by Mordecai Shapiro on Tuesday March 27, @04:40PM

Another cool thing about Dee: the code name he was given to use as a member of Elizabeth's spy network was “007”!

  • |Re: Sympathy for the Doctor\\
    by <Andyx> on Saturday March 09, @09:39PM

    I met Doctor Dee in Oxford in the early 1970's he was called James Moorehouse, Kelly was called Micky Dobain. They are probably ..\\

  • |Re: Sympathy for the Doctor\\
    by <Andyx> on Saturday March 09, @09:39PM

    I met Doctor Dee in Oxford in the early 1970's he was called James Moorehouse, Kelly was called Micky Dobain. They are probably ..\\

**Re: Sympathy for the Doctor**
by <Nekial> on Wednesday March 28, @05:42PM

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.

Thanks for the review! I just finished the book meself. I'm wondering if you found the non-chronological hops at all disorienting. (That would be my one caveat regarding an otherwise wonderful book.)

You mention many of the book's good points. But, one of the things I most appreciated was the treatment of Sir Kelley. Woolley did an equally fine job of illuminating this man by historical context; explaining the peculiar 'type' that was usually used for scrying, clarifying the ears issue, and setting the record straight about the rumours of his demise. I was delighted with the book's completeness regarding Kelley's non-Dee connected life.

I also appreciated the way he handled the scryings themselves; neither as occult fact, nor as mere chicanery. Woolley's even-handed objectivity is admirable. What seems to matter to Woolley most is not whether or not the actions were 'real', but what they revealed, and how they affected the people involved.

And, finally, the rare touch and perception with which the “common and indifferent using of matrimonial acts…” [Dee] episode was treated gave me a deep understanding of Dee's thorough-going devoutness. He was an amazing man, combining the best qualities of scientist and priest.

And the book is inspiring.

Love is the law, love under will.

  • |Re: Sympathy for the Doctor\\
    by Charles Humphries on Wednesday March 28, @08:02PM

    Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.\\
    I appreciated your comments, and actually mentioned much of this in the orignal draft. However, I seriously needed to cut the review down from the two full pages that I had. I actually share your sentinments, in all but the analinear nature of the author's writing, which to me was not disorienting or distracting.\\
    Love is the law, love under will.\\

**Re: Sympathy for the Doctor**
by <Shadnu> on Wednesday April 04, @12:36AM

…i just copped a copy of this book
at crown books, they are going out
of business, and i got it half off

can't wait to sink my brain into it!

any thoughts on the hieroglyphic monad?

Re: Sympathy for the Doctor\\
by <Xnoubis> on Wednesday April 04, @07:01AM
The monad's always been of interest to me. I've written one piece on it here. But it's a deep subject, and I'd like to see more work on it. There's an essay by Dianne diPrima (sp?) that forms an introduction to one edition of the Monad, where she implies that she understands it, without actually explaining anything about it. Does anybody know of any others?\\

  • |Re: Sympathy for the Doctor\\
    by <Shadnu> on Wednesday April 04, @05:25PM

    Dianne diPrima…is a famous beat poet\\
    fancy that?\\
    one other small coment,\\
    years ago, not to long after\\
    Meryl and i left Berkeley\\
    i had a copy of this book\\
    about the Monad, can't recall what is was called,\\
    but it was small and it was about the Monad, any-\\
    rate i was just looking at it, the Monad! and that\\
    night i had a very vivid dream, when i awoke, i was having this waking dream experiance, i sat up\\
    still half dreaming and half awake, and i saw,\\
    experianced, a kind of vivid impression of a psychic energy, that seemed to be a psychic, representation of the Monad, a kind of visual, presence-entity, alive with all the philosophical\\
    occult-alchemic meaning of the MONAD!…it was an\\
    very illuminating experiance to me at the time,i\\
    felt like i was vouchsafed some very important knowledge on some level, but it was all mental,\\
    psychic visual, i did not get any actual physical\\
    images, ie. any actual (enochian) letters or that\\
    sort of thing, but i alway remember the experiance, and i feel inadequate in a sense, in that i am not very left brained, and at point Enochian is like too left brained for me,\\
    having said that, i still feel that i have some connection with it, on an intuitive level, perhaps from past lives…\\
    and right around that time, Meryl was sleeping\\
    and she uttered something in her sleep, like an\\
    oracle was coming thouugh her…\\
    just so, with the cycle becoming another…at the end\\

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