Now for the history of the papers. Mrs. Wale, the warder's wife, had brought them with her dower from her lamented first husband, Mr. Jones, confectioner, of the Plow, Lombard Street. While courting, these young people had picked up among the "joyners in Adle STreet" a large chest whose "very good lock and hinges of extraordinary neat work" took their fancy. It had belonged, said the shopman, to Mr. John Woodall, surgeon, father of Thomas Woodall, surgeon to King Charles II. and Ashmole's friend. He had bought it probably at the sale of Dee's effects in 1609, after his death. The Joneses owned the chest for twenty years without a suspicion of its contents. Then, on moving it one day, they heard a rattle inside. Jones prized open the space below the till, and discovered a large secret drawer stuffed full of papers, and a rosary of olive-wood beads with a cross, which had caused the rattle. The papers proved to be the conferences with angels from December 22, 1581, down to the time of the printed volume; the original manuscripts of the (unprinted) books entitled, "48 Claves Angelicae," "De Heptarchia Mystica," and "Liber Scientiae Auxiliis et Victoriae Terrestris." We may imagine Ashmole's excitement when he found he had in his hand the earlier chapters of the very remarkable book that was stil in every one's mouth, published only thirteen years before.
We may now briefly examine this remarkable and voluminous Book of Mysteries. In view of the fact that it is perhaps the earliest record of mediumistic transactions, the first attempt to relate consecutive psychic transmissions, in fact a sort of sixteenth century Proceedings of a Society for Psychical Research, it seems to warrant investigation at some length.
The first book (still in manuscript) opens with a Latin invocation to the Almighty, and an attribution of all wisdom and philosophy to their divine original source. It ends "O beata et super benedicta omnipotens Trinitas, concedas mihi (Joanni Dee) petitionem hane modo tali, qui tibi maxime placebit, Amen." Then comes a table of the four angels - Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Uriel, their particular attributes, and their descent from Annael. A long prayer in English follows, which gives a remarkable insight into Dee's attitude of mind. Unfeigned humility towards God, a certain unconsciousness of self and of his own particular acquirements, are mingled with a calm assumption of authority and power to enter into the heart of knowledge. This was perhaps the chief characterisitic of the exalted mysticism so prevalent at the time in a small section of alchemists, especially on the Continent. Dee was its representative in England, having, of course, imbibed much of it during his residence abroad. Paracelsus had been dead but forty years. His disciples everywhere were seeking three secrets which were to fulfil his teaching - the secret of transmutation, the elixir of life, and the philosophic stone, key to all wisdom. Bruno was still alive, developing hs theories of God as the great unity behind the world and humanity. Copernicus was not long dead, and his new theories of the solar system were gradually becoming accepted. Galileo was still a student at Pisa, his inventions as yet slumbering in his brain. Montaigne was writing his getle satires on humanity. Everywhere and in every sphere new thought was beginning to stir.
Dee did not scruple to claim in his prayer gifts like those bestowed
upon the prophets. He deprecates any kind of traffic with unauthorised
or unreliable spirits, and acknowledges again the only Source
of wisdom. But since he has so long and faithfully followed learning,
he does think it of importanc ethat he should know more. The blessed
angels, for instance, could impart to him things of at least as
much consequence as when the prophet told Saul, the son of Kish,
where to find a lost ass or two! A spirit afterwards told him
that ignorance was the nakedness wherewith he was first tormented,
and "the first plague that fell unto man was the want of
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