The Elizabethan World Order, it has been said, "was at once theological, legal, scientific, psychological and moral. It was designed to provide for everything." It was felt as "a poetry at work in the world preparing a grand solution of the problem of human existence," (9) rather than expressed as a formal body of doctrine; and thus, though it embodies specific features possessed of high survival value and considerable fertility, examination of these and the particular systems of thought of the day which produced them, must be conducted with reference to this general background. Moreover, although Dee's works are set, quite consciously, within a fairly clearly discernible philosophic tradition, no one of them sets forth explicitly, in ordered and comprehensive form, a total philosophical system. Whether such an adjective in its modern sense is properly applicable to them is doubtful. Dee for instance seldom touches on epistemological problems; he has made certain assumptions, from which he is inclined to dogmatize about the foundations of knowledge, and seems only ever concerned with the problem of the possible range and extent of its content. Compatible with his assumptions and his efforts to determine these is characteristically an extensive and eager syncretism, in which he attempts to absorb with an almost voracious credulity, vast areas of data and ideas discovered by various recourse to myth, tradition, theology, authority, reason and experience; his criteria of their validity being only the potentialities they may exhibit for being brought into coherent arrangement within a framework whose pattern takes its inspiration from what he believed to be the methods of mathematics and the dialectic of Plato. But such tests he did, with considerable strictness, apply, and thus may be allowed to have followed "the true method of philosophical construction which is to frame a scheme of ideas the best that one can, and unflinchingly to explore the interpretation of experience in terms of that scheme," (10) and his works may be legitimately considered in the light of such an implicit scheme.

That the new science grew up within the confines of a metaphysic is not surprising (11), for one of the most striking characteristics of this metaphysic is its view, radically differing from that of other schools of thought, of the status, functions, and potentialities of mathematics. And mathematical studies stood in dire need of such organised philosophical encouragement and support. Without it the fulfillment of the rich promises held out by contemporary rediscovery of many ancient scientific works might have been much longer delayed. The difficulties of obtaining adequate instruction in mathematics was a grave discouragement; their study penetrated only slowly and in the face of many obstacles into the curricula of the universities; an established and orthodox Aristotelian science, by relegating mathematics to a wholly inadequate place in the universe of knowledge, provided no inducement to a prolonged and arduous study of them, since it largely denied the prospect of any valuable results to be achieved thereby.

Moreover mathematics still suffered under the unenviable reputation, deeply entrenched in the learned as well as the popular mind, of being a branch of necromancy, or at least of being intimately connected with such forbidden lore in its more recondite aspects. Such suspicions Langland had voiced - the words are supposed to be those of Dame Study - in the fourteenth century:

"As astronomye is an harde thynge and yvel for to knowe,
Geometrie and geomesye is gynful of speche,
Whoso thenketh werche with tho two thryveth ful late,
For sorcerye is the sovereyne booke that to the science longeth." (12)

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