John Dee and Edward Kelley’s Great Table (or, What’s This Grid For, Anyway?)
by Teresa Burns and J. Alan Moore
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
--Arthur C. Clarke’s 3rd Law of Prediction
Dr. John Dee’s spirit diaries, and the “Enochian” language and magickal system derived from them, present one of the great enigmas of the western mystery tradition. In contemporary magickal practice, the most commonly encountered parts of the Enochian system beyond the language itself are the so-called “Enochian Tablets,” also known as the “elemental” tablets or Watchtowers. Originally received as parts of a singular grid or map called the Great Table, the Four Watchtowers were joined by a Black Cross; from this cross are derived the names of the more commonly used “Tablet of Union.” This Great Table was the last component of a system and language delivered to Dee and Kelley over many years, and clearly dependent upon the components that had come before it. Yet today the Enochian Tablets and Tablet of Union are often used without any of the other components Dee was told were necessary.
One of the most documented uses has been in the materials of the Golden Dawn. Israel Regardie himself advised Golden Dawn students to be very careful with how they used Enochian : “It is a very powerful system, and if used carelessly and indiscriminately will bring about disaster and spiritual disintegration.” Why does he think this will happen? From observation and experience, likely, though in terms of actual mechanics we can infer he did not know the mechanism.
That of course leaves the unanswered questions of why the Great Table has been turned into four Enochian Tablets and a Tablet of Union, and why they are used in Golden Dawn rituals anyway. (The reason often given is because they were in the cipher manuscript from which Mathers derived the initiations, but that really is a dodge rather than an answer.) Aleister Crowley’s Vision and the Voice recounted experiments scrying the aethyrs with Victor Neuberg and left more readers shocked than instructed; his more analytic Liber Chanokh is often ignored because of lack of sensationalism. Some later ceremonialists simply took the Enochian Tablets out of the initiatory process: Paul Foster Case’s B.O.T.A., for instance, uses materials very similar to the Golden Dawn but deletes the Enochian.
Today there seems to be a veritable Renaissance of writers trying to reconstruct what John Dee and Edward Kelley were doing. Some, most notably Donald Tyson, believe that angels gave the Enochian language and system to Dee and Kelley with the sinister intent of bringing about the Christian apocalypse, though Tyson calls the accounts themselves “the most remarkable artifact in the history of spirit communication.” Other modern writers, like Lon Milo DuQuette, advise students to simply start using the system and never discuss its intent : as the first chapter of his book Enochian Vision Magick proclaims, “Don’t Try to Duplicate the Magick Dee and Kelley did to Receive the System—Just Use the System they Received!"
The Great Table, with its Four Watchtowers and Black Cross, is the last received and most complex component of a system that many have used, proclaimed as powerful, and cautioned others about using haphazardly. Therefore, given the demonstrated potency of even isolated parts of the Enochian system, it seems only logical that we should attempt to determine the purpose and correct structure of the Great Table before engaging its use.
What did John Dee believe this Great Table contained, and what did he think it was for?
What basic understandings would Dee have brought to his reception of the Enochian material? These include his concept about what the language was, how it connected to the sacred geometry he knew, and what components should be in place before using it.
That should lay the groundwork for answering, next issue, some of the most vexing questions about the use, misuse, and “development” of the so-called Enochian Tablets.
Because answering the above questions about the Great Table is our focus, we will not be able to do more than touch on all of the other components of the Enochian system. However, we’re not advocating using the Four Watchtowers alone without the other components Dee and Kelley were told should be used. We suggest the opposite: the language and mechanics for using the “Enochian” system of magick form a dynamic and self-referencing system where each part relates in an organic way with each other part. In section three we’ll briefly discuss components which must be used and why. Since a thorough analysis of other components is beyond the scope of these articles, we’ll recommend other works the reader may consult as we go along.
Despite wide present-day interest, explanations of Enochian and Enochian magic that both place it in its historical, political and esoteric context and look at the system in its entirety are still few. Linguist Donald Laycock’s 1994 Complete Enochian Dictionary is still the best introduction to the language. Lon Milo DuQuette’s 2008 Enochian Vision Magic and Vincent Bridge’s Complete Enochian Handbook (forthcoming in The Ophanic Revelation but widely available in earlier 1996 form on the Internet) are two of the few that look at all of the “non-language” components. Duquette’s is the best in-print guide the writers’ have found to understanding how individual components were derived ; Bridge’s was originally intended as short-hand “user’s guide” for a specific working in Sedona in 1996, but is currently being revised for publication.
Both Enochian Vision Magic and the Complete Enochian Handbook describe components such as the Holy Table, Lamens, Seal of Ameth, Ring, Elemental Tablets derived from the Great Table, Tablet of Union derived from the Great Table, and the Tablet of Nalvage. Bridges calls these the “communication hardware” set up to run the programs given to Dee and Kelley, and considers the language itself as the software. He considers the whole of Enochiana as complex multi-dimensional system that seems to function like a four-dimensional computer able to interface with our three-dimension modes of processing light waves into images and pressure waves into sounds.
When one understands that Dee and Kelley were trying to communicate with “something” they called “angels” which was beyond themselves, and were receiving from those “somethings” a system literally designed to lever our local reality by bringing in energies of the multiverse—then it makes sense to try to understand the whole system before using any part of it. The language itself, in terms of letter organization, seems to correspond to both the 64 hexagrams of the I Ching and the 64 codons of our DNA.
The letters that fill the grid that is the Great Table were originally given in Roman rather than Enochian characters, with some capital and some lower case. The grid was received by Kelley in trance on June 25, 1584, one 12 x 13 Watchtower at a time, then these were joined by the Black Cross. The angels never explained why some letters were capitalized. Dee repeatedly tried to understand and correct the Table, though the only concrete corrections they receive from the angels came on July 2, 1584.
If we follow Dee exactly from the original manuscript, as Ian Rons has done in his reconstruction below, we wind up with a grid like this:
The Reformed Table of Earth from Sloane 3191
(digital reconstruction with colour adjustment)
Used with permission.
If we read the rest of Dee’s account as straightforward rather than suspecting any magical blinds, then Kelley was never able to duplicate the material he received in trance, and Dee was never able to correct the tablets, resulting in either messy multiple-letter squares or forcing a reader to make the choice Dee seemed unable to make. If we note that Dee’s account is not always straightforward—that in his private diary and in the material surrounding the angelic conversations he often “lies,” usually for an explicable reason—then it becomes easier to correct the Great Table, and to assume that Dee had “correctly” corrected it. But of course, we’re getting ahead of the story. What was this Great Table for, anyway?
II. The Purpose of the Great Table, according to AVE
Beginning May, 1584, after two years of “angelic conversations” that yielded other components of the Enochian language and system as well as various other personal and political commentary, John Dee and Edward Kelley began receiving the material that would become part of the Great Table. On May 21, Kelley scryed the names of the 91 Angelic Governors, which David Hulse calls “the real skeleton of the four Watchtowers.”
The angels gave the names of the first 42 Angelic Governors, and continued giving the remaining names the next day. The following day, May 23, Dee and Kelley received names of the 91 provinces of the world these governors were supposed to control. Many (of the few that would consider this at all) would agree with Hulse that these Governors and what they are supposed to do are the “greatest secret of Enochian magic :” that is, if one takes the system on face value and understands all of the multidimensional components, one sees that the Governors are supposed to influence particular parts of the world and their governments. This point will become very important later, when we use the Governors to solve the magical blind of which of several possible versions of the Four Watchtowers is correct.
How do the Governors influence places and governments? Presumably by bringing in higher-level energetic structures to particular parts of the earth and so affecting these places and their leaders. John Dee and Edward Kelley did not take the system lightly. When one of us referred to it elsewhere as a “secret control language of celestial mechanics,” that was merely trying to take the system on the terms upon which it was received.
Conversing with angels to discover a secret control language of celestial mechanics—and, apparently, succeeding--is without linguistic precedent, though a few tales might strike us as similar. For instance, today universities hold week-long conferences on the recently discovered “lost” work of India's Srinivasa Ramanujan, a mathematical genius who filled notebooks with pages of mathematical formulas and relationships whispered in his ear by the Goddess Namagiri ; high tech mathematicians aided with supercomputers still can’t solve many of the theorems he proved by scribbling numbers on a paper while his wife stuffed enough food in his mouth to keep him alive. Or we might think of the case of “Beautiful Mind” economist and Nobel-prize winner John Nash, who was famously asked, "How could you, a mathematician, believe that extraterrestrials were sending you messages?" "Because the ideas I had about supernatural beings came to me the same way my mathematical ideas did," he answered. "So I took them seriously."
Who is to say, when someone thinks he or she is deriving information from “higher intelligences,” whether that person is speaking to angels, extraterrestrials, a Goddess, or an intricate system somehow extruded from the light emitted by that person’s own DNA? The test should be in the integrity of the system, rather than the mythology in which it is dressed. Dee’s angels speak to us through a heavily Christian Hermetic Renaissance tradition of angel magic, which one can embrace if one chooses, or discard if one finds it outdated or disturbing. We will be using the word “angels” throughout to describe the higher intelligences with which Dee believed he was communicating, but the reader is invited to substitute whatever metaphor she finds most palatable. It appears that within a few years the structure of the Great Table itself may be explicable through higher-dimensional mathematics and precessional astronomy, as it is partially explicable today in ways it was not in Dee and Kelley’s era. Until, if and/or when that happens, we each describe what the Great Table is through the metaphors we’re most comfortable with. Christianity was both John Dee’s favored mythic system, and his veil of choice over material that would otherwise be heretical.
Keep in mind that he and Edward Kelley were receiving these names at the height of Inquisitional and political unrest, beginning in Protestant England and then while on a five-year continental mission through parts of the Holy Roman Empire. Their journey can best be described as a combination of missionary work, espionage, and practical magic with the intent of changing the political alignments of the European theater. Their trip culminated in 1588 with a huge working that appeared to last many months and whose timing coincided with that of the ill-fated Spanish Armada’s failed attack on England. In the apocalyptic astronomy and astrology of the time, this year, 1588, the year of the Armada and of the “Heptagonal” working Dee mentions in his diary but never explains, was supposed to be the most likely date of the end of the world. If you were King Philip II of Spain receiving news that your “invincible” fleet was returning home in ruins, you’d be hard pressed to disagree.
Let’s return to 1584. Less than a month after Dee transcribed the Angelic Governors, his accomplice Edward Kelley, on the summer solstice, dreamed of four gigantic Watchtowers which (by his description) ruled the “World.” We’ll see later that this “World” Kelley dreamed of might mean something other than our day-to-day physical reality: again, not knowing when or how to “translate” terms in and out of their Renaissance mythological viewpoint has been a stumbling block for many of us who work with Enochian materials.
By June 25, these Watchtowers are communicated as four 12 x 13 grids filled with Enochian letters and joined by a Black Cross. This is the material Dee calls the “Great Table,” which we might think of as the great central operating system that builds upon all components that have been received before, and through which the operator can run particular linguistic strings, like the Enochian calls. On June 26, 1584, via his scryer Kelley, Dee records the angel AVE telling him the “purpose” for these four Watchtowers:
Ave: Now to the purpose. Rest, for the place is Holy. First, generally what this Tablet Containeth.
- All human knowledge.
- Out of it springeth Physick.
- The knowledge of the Elemental Creatures among you. How many kinds there are, and for what use they were created. Those that live in the air, by themselves. Those that live in the waters, by themselves. Those that live in the earth, by themselves. The property of fire—which is the secret life of all things.
- The knowledge, finding, and use of Metals. The virtues of them. The congelations and virtues of Stones. They [these preceding three things] are all of one matter.
- The conjoining and knitting together of Natures. The destruction of Nature, and of things that may perish.
- Moving from place to place (as into this Country, of that Country at pleasure.]
- The knowledge of all crafts Mechanical.
- Transmutatio formalis, sed non essentialis [formal alchemical transmutation.]
- [Dee’s note in margin:] The ninth chapter may be added, and is of the secrets of men knowing, whereof there is a particular table.
After this, AVE disappears for a moment, then Dee records the Great Angel reappearing with three others, whose names should be familiar to many readers:
E.K. Now he [AVE] appeareth again.
. . . Look out Lexarph, with the two other that follow him, among the names of the earth the three last.
Lexarph, Comanan, Tabitom
Look out the name Paraoan. Write Paraoan on a void of paper.
Dee : I have done so.
After this, there has been much confusion about what Dee wrote and what he may have intended. In Causabon’s True and Faithful Relation, the most-read account but one far from sympathetic to Dee and also one with identifiable transcription errors, we soon have Dee seeming to write out the following:
[AVE:] They must all be of one character :
Lexarph, Comanan, Tabitom
You may recognize above the letters as almost the same as those in the Tablet of Union (when it’s written using Roman rather than Enochian letters), followed again by names used as part of the Golden Dawn and Thelemic rending of the Veil, which uses these names plus a combination of words from the first and second angelic calls.
If you’re among those who use the four Enochian Watchtowers and Tablet of Union derived from the Great Table, ask yourself: can you explain how the names Dee writes here connect to the rituals you may be doing? Can you connect those to the purposes, veiled as they are in Renaissance alchemical language, that the Great Angel AVE attributes to the four Watchtowers? Most of us learn the system without ever being taught the larger mystery of which they are a part.
But just so there is no mistake, here again is what AVE says the Great Table contains, with some modern word translations: 1) all human knowledge; 2) knowledge of “physick” (medicinal physical, mental, moral, or spiritual curatives); 3) knowledge of elementals; 4) knowledge of metals and stones; 5) the joining of “Natures” and destruction of “Nature.” At this “Nature” we’ll pause for emphasis: note that in the 16th century this word meant something very different from today. “Natura” was often portrayed as a Goddess in medieval literature, and the term itself was both sexually and alchemically charged. In Dee’s Hieroglyphic Monad Theorem XV, for instance, when Dee writes “Nature rejoices in Nature,” and refers to the “most secret mysteries” of the “great Ostanes,” he is clearly making multiple sexual and alchemical puns about the creation and union of all things.
To continue: 6) how to travel from place to place (David Hulse takes this to mean “astral travel via the names of the 91 Governors”) ; 7) “mechanical crafts,” which if used in the same context familiar to Dee from his own writings such as the Propaedeumata Aphoristica, would include celestial mechanics ; 8) how to make formal alchemical transmutations (which Kelley allegedly later did, though many since have questioned it) ; and 9) all the secrets of men.
That’s quite a list, to put it mildly.
No writer that we’re aware of has had the confidence, or audacity, to try to answer how the Great Table contains this sort of information. Yet many, many writers have noted that it’s impossible to prove that the reception of the Enochian language or system was a fraud. The lettering of the Great Table came through Kelley in one day, June 25, 1584 ; and in a manner that did not even match the method he’d dreamed of in his vision a fewdays before. Dee seems to be unable to correct the Watchtowers and Kelley seems unable to reproduce them (he allegedly tries in a trance in 1587). No one can explain how or why this Great Table can contain the material AVE says it contains, leaving the odd situation of having a system where many people use the parts that they don’t understand (the Enochian, especially the Tablets), and ignore the material, conveyed in English, that they could understand. As Hamlet might say, aye, there’s the rub. If you use it without understanding it, you’re perhaps a fool ; yet if you entertain the possibility that the Great Table could contain the information AVE says it does, you’re at the least someone who must admit that there is more in heaven and earth that our philosophies have ever dreamt.
Suppose we take the last possibility, and use Vincent Bridge’s metaphor of the components as hardware and language as software. Once the system, with all of its components, is up and running, he suggests looking at the Watchtowers as a “giant circuit board,” which processes different organized electromagnetic fields. An organized electromagnetic field by definition carries information via wavefronts; so the circuiting becomes the pattern “on which, around which, and by which these encapsulated fields integrate, communicate, interphase, overlap, and embed.” In a holographic universe, all information should theoretically be present in every place, but we have no, at least, conscious access to it. Consider the Watchtowers as a circuit board which will allow the processing and downloading of that everywhere-present information, and you have a concept at least close to AVE’s words. You also have a way to explain how John Dee and Edward Kelley could receive such information : it was there anyway, and something, within them or without, just had to focus the information field in a way that they could receive it.
Within that information field, there also exist ways to focus particular types of information upon particular places of the earth. That’s the function of the Angelic Governors, which are part of the Four Watchtowers.
Multiple versions of the Four Watchtowers have proliferated in the past 120 years. Recently, so has the rather bizarre argument that there is no “right” version. Dee and Kelley believed, or were told, or extruded from someplace within and without, that the Four Watchtowers were not only an extremely valuable tool, but something that would give them access to all of the things listed above, including “all human knowledge” in encoded form.
If that is the case, then saying there is no “right” version is something akin to saying there is no right way to construct a galactic guidance and communication system or remote energy relay system. Perhaps one can find several right ways and explain why each works, but if the system never engages to begin with, something is wrong. If we have the system set up wrong, whatever knowledge Dee thought it should impart, and whatever power he thought it should lever, obviously will not come through. Energy and communication devices set up wrong simply don’t work; if they’re set up just slightly wrong, they may work poorly and/or dangerously. One can shock oneself with electrical current without ever getting the radio to turn on. And one can become addicted to the rush of the shock, mistaking its energy for insight.
In fact, as we will suggest at the end of this article and show next issue, Dee and Kelley did have one “right” version of how the Table should be lettered, hidden though it is within a magickal blind.
Once one has the Tablets lettered correctly, and has in mind the rather dramatic purposes listed above, then one has the understanding to add embellishments to the system. Some modern embellishments, such as “coloring” it with flashing colors as was started by the early Golden Dawn, make sense. Others do not. But we won’t get to that demonstration until next issue!
III. Some Background on Basic Components of “Enochian” Magic
While we don’t have space in this article to discuss every component, we must briefly introduce two of them: the language itself, and the Sigillum Dei Aemeth, or Seal of God’s Truth. Both are critical to understanding the world view Dee embraced, and which he must have found compatible with the purposes of the Great Table. A third “hidden” component one should have in mind is the sacred geometry of Dee’s Hieroglyphic Monad, especially the way Dee superimposes geocentric and heliocentric views of the cosmos. Once one understands what the Great Table may be in terms of sacred geometry—that its grid may simply be an ingenious two-dimensional shadow of four dimensional and higher mathematical ideas—one might find several ways of demonstrating how that two-dimensional rendering can be stepped back up to three and four dimensions, but some will work and some will not.
Let’s start with the “component” of the Enochian language itself.
The “Enochian” or “Angelicall” Language.
Once constructed, Dee’s Great Table is comprised of letters from the so-called “Enochian” alphabet. John Dee was intensely interested in finding a copy of the Biblical Book of Enoch, and many of the angelic conversations concern Dee’s inquiries about an “Adamic” language and desire to re-establish the wisdom of this prophet.
The Enochian Alphabet, from The Complete Enochian Handbook. Used with permission.
He most often called the language “Angelicall,” the language he believed God used to create the world and thus implicitly underlying all physical structure. Commentators since have used the term “Enochian” to distinguish Dee’s “Angelical” from other “angelic” languages, noting the widespread Judeo-Christian tradition that there was a divine language, spoken by the angels, that matched the sacred numbering and ordering used in their creation story. It is a language of light, in whichever of many contexts one understands “light,” traceable to the “Fiat Lux” or “Let there be light” of Genesis. Dee makes multiple plays on “Fiat Lux” on the frontispiece of the Monad and throughout the work itself, most notably in Theorem 17, as we’ll discuss in a moment.
Within John Dee’s heavily Abrahamic belief system, this original language was used by the first man, Adam, to talk with God and the angels. Some Renaissance Kabbalists, both Jewish and Christian, thought the primary language was Hebrew; modern students of the mystical Kabballah, who believe that the “22 sounds and letters of the Hebrew alphabet are the foundation of all things,” ordering the first creation of earth and stars in the heavens, and represented by different occult symbols and gematria, will recognize the outline of this belief system in modern esotericism. Gematria, the system of assigning numerical value to letters in sacred alphabets, especially Hebrew and ancient Greek, is derived from both the ancient Greek words for geometry (measurement of the earth or world) and grammar.
By the time Dee and Kelley began their angelic conversations, Dee was convinced that
Hebrew (or some proto-Hebrew that could be “corrected” by Kaballistic study) was constructed by Adam after the Fall based on a shadowy memory of an earlier language, which Dee termed “Angelicall,” or other synonyms such as “First Language of God-Christ” or “Celestiall Speech.” In Renaissance Hermetic Christian belief, in common with all Abrahamic faiths, the Biblical patriarch Enoch (“Idris” in Islamic tradition, and associated with Tehuti, Thoth, and Hermes in multiple magical traditions) was the one known human who also spoke this language.
As noted, linguistic gematria assume an implicit connection between number and letter. Kaballists also often map the 22 letters of Hebrew to a cube, the “building block,” so to speak, of three dimensional reality. It is not much of a stretch to hypothesize that, just as Hebrew maps to three dimensions, Enochian maps to four dimensions. While we don’t usually think of modern languages mapping implicitly to geometric structures, John Dee did. That, to him, was part of what made a language sacred.
The Hieroglyphic Monad as a key to Dee’s sacred geometry.
Dee’s most famous work, the Hieroglyphic Monad or Monas Hieroglyphica,and a related much longer work, the Propeudamata Aphoristica, explicitly combine sacred languages and sacred geometry within an alchemical system purporting to show the structure of physical reality and how it is placed within the larger cosmos; both make use of four dimensional mathematics and show an understanding of gravitational forces 100 years before Newton. In a previous article, we’ve shown how the first 17 theorems could be considered Dee’s “outer mysteries,” and the final of these, 17, also a transition to his “inner mysteries.”
By Theorem 17, Dee makes an ingenious language play upon the word “light”—in Latin lux, then written LVX—that suggests the INRI/LVX transformation central to modern western esotericism, as well as connecting to the geometry of conic sections and specifically, letters formed when a plane intersects two cones in particular ways. To Dee, understanding the concept of light and the transformation of shape stood at the border between the inner and outer mysteries. Curiously, and with prescient accuracy, it also stood between his concepts of three-dimensional and four-dimensional geometry : by Theorem XX, he is outlining the use of a hypercube for those who have eyes to see. (The fact that Dee also uses a hypercube in the Seal of Anael in his green-language laden Consecrated Little Book of Black Venus is one of the ways we know Dee must be associated with this work ; notably, it is also “Annael” who appears in John Dee’s very first existing angelic working, in 1581.)
The Monad is a grand synthesis of the Kabalah, mathematics, myth, geometry, astrology, and Pythagoreanism, with one little glitch: the Kabalistic mappings no longer work when Dee shifts to four dimensions. Most do not understand that Dee has conceptualized a hypercube, because he never gives it that name; indeed the word did not exist in the English language at that time. The public mathematical expression of this idea was years away. Similarly the Copernican revolution was still underground, and so when Dee refers to “the most secret mysteries of this physical analysis” in Theorem 18 of the Monad, most do not realize he is referring to the “secret” that the Sun was at the center of the solar system. This is suggested again by the egg accompanying this theorem, which shows the sun at the middle :
Why this brief discussion of the Monad? Because when looked at as a mathematical and magickal text rather than as quaint artifact, it suggests to us some things about where, in terms of Dee’s magical system, a “vision of the Four Watchtowers” might take place, and where a magician today might expect to “see,” on the inner planes, a similar vision. Think of the Monad as the Knowledge Lectures anyone, including Edward Kelley, would have to know how to practically apply to do magic with Dee, and certainly Dee himself would have used the ideas in his own work to set up a sacred space. Perhaps the clairvoyant Kelley was actually better able to “see” the shapes Dee invoked than Dee himself : Bridges suggests that it was such a vision of an extended or unfolded hyper-cube in three dimensions, essentially a cube with another cube on each of its six faces, by Kelley on April 29th 1582, which became the basis for the Angelic heptarchy which they believed controlled the nature of time. That occurs only a month after Kelley, as Edward Talbot, has arrived at Dee’s door.
Once one understands what the Great Table may be in terms of sacred geometry—that it likely is a two-dimensional rendering of four dimensional and higher mathematical ideas—one might find several ways of demonstrating how that two-dimensional rendering can be stepped back up to three and four dimensions, and how some will work and some will not.
As a simpler analogy, consider that a pentagram inscribed in a pentagon is a two-dimensional projection of a four dimensional pentatope. You can try to “build up” many three- then four- dimensional shapes from the pentagram-inscribed-in-a-pentagon, but most will not be pentatopes. Most will look like geometric messes. It’s easier to cast shadows from higher dimensions to lower ones than to intuit from lower dimensions what is casting the shadow.
Now, if you have a huge grid of four 12 x 13 blocks, how might that “expand up” to higher dimensions? The most logical way would be to note how perpendicular lines “add” a dimension to a square : add perpendicular lines of equal scale to a square, and you define a cube ; add enough more perpendicular lines of equal scale, and you’ve defined a hypercube. If, hypothetically, each of the squares on the grid corresponds to a hypercube whose central cube “holds” the letter, we might have an idea just beyond our ability to visualize, but likely not beyond John Dee’s. If the shape corresponded to standing waves, as shapes demonstrably do, the wave fronts would have to be self-organized enough to all be in phase with each other. The idea is intriguing, at least to the authors. Yet that is not the only way to “expand up” from this grid.
To return to the mathematical ideas expressed in the Monad: as practical magic, Dee’s intertwined references to the Kabalah, myth, and Pythagoreanism in the Monad work well as long as the reader/student works within a geocentric universe (basically through the first 17 theorems). In terms of personal astrology and Kabalistic study, this also makes sense : an individual is in a certain real sense the center of that person’s world, and the astrological and other influences upon them are understood to be forces exerted upon a person on a specific location on Earth. That view is geocentric. Personal astrology today is still geocentric, and implicitly so is study of the Kabalah.
But when one switches, via “the most secret mysteries,” to a heliocentric view of the universe in Theorem 18, the mathematician/magician is paradoxically still at its center. How can this be? By Theorem 20, we can only explain how Dee makes his central point both geocentric and heliocentric by assuming he has the concept of a hypercube but no words for it. (Bridges and Burns have elsewhere suggested Dee’s concept of a hypercube was akin to the “holy Grail” of his mathematical spirituality.) The mathematician/magician’s personal “geocentric” cube becomes the container for a superimposed, phase-locked hypercube whose center is the sun, and which Kabalistically corresponds to Tiphareth. After this, Kabalistic correspondences break down because they would be totally different in four dimensions anyway.
Dee’s hypothetical student superimposes or evokes a heliocentric universe from within her geocentric or geolocal self much in the same way as Aleister Crowley describes evocation : “To ‘invoke’ is to ‘call in’, just as to ‘evoke’ is to ‘call forth’ . . . In invocation, the macrocosm floods the consciousness. In evocation, the magician, having become the macrocosm, creates a microcosm.” As we’ll see next issue, Dee has one more particular trick up his sleeve, which is to superimpose the heliocentric cube onto a Cube of New Jerusalem (also described by other Rosicrucian writers influenced by Dee, such as Simon Studeon in his Naometria.) What is amazing is that Dee’s “New Jerusalem Cube” is what might now be described as “galactic-centric,” lining up most directly during an 18 year time period centered on 2002, and running from 1992-2012. Four hundred years ago, with the instruments they had available, someone like Dee could have seen that this astronomical phenomenon was going to line up soon, but have no name for the center of the galaxy or what it was. Instead, an advanced understanding of the Hieroglyphic Monad would show another shift, from heliocentric to something that, by Theorem 24, seems centered on John and the Book of Revelation, but properly understood is Dee using the apocalyptic language he had available to describe a celestial phenomenon, the current galactic alignment, for which he had no words. Similarly, the last five theorems of the Propaedeumata Aphoristica (116-120) only make sense in the context of looking for a way to determine from earth (geocentric) an alignment of the solar system (heliocentric) with the “fixed stars” outside of our solar system.
Let’s return to the mechanics of sacred geometry and assume that John Dee would use, or evoke, various superimposed geometric structures to set up his ritual space. This is really no intuitive leap at all, because its exactly what the writers of most of the ancient Greek geometric texts that Dee read in the original asked their students to do. We’ve looked at this in more detail elsewhere, in our analysis of how to visualize the geometry of the Monad:
. . . when you start explaining the origin of geometric shapes and forms, such as progressing from point to line to square to cube, you are both describing mystical principles of formation that exist in higher realms, but also, by describing them in a certain way, you are evoking those powers or principles in your own consciousness. The odd (to us) grammar used by Greek geometers makes this even clearer : propositions are introduced in a form called the perfect imperative passive, so instead of a sentence like “draw a line from the vertex at a right angle to the plane,” a literal translation would likely be, “let a line have been drawn from the vertex having a right angle where it has intersected the plane.” The effect of this type of writing is the implicit presence of what some translators have called “The Helping Hand, the well-known factotum in Greek geometry, who sees that lines be drawn, points be taken, perpendiculars dropped. No one who has read Euclid’s Elements in Greek will have missed it. . . The Helping Hand is always there to see that these things were done.”
The form already exists, and by drawing it you are evoking it from within your own consciousness with the aid of this nameless “Helping Hand.”
If one wants to evoke higher intelligences into that space, or use material from those intelligences, and one is immersed in ancient Greek geometry as Dee was, one would certainly want to set up one’s space using such shapes, in addition to using the other components Dee and Kelley are told to make (such as the Holy Table, Seal of Aemeth, and protective lamens and ring.)
We submit that casting geometric shapes to create sacred space is no modern innovation, but one of the oldest practices in esoterica. We simply need to reconnect the shapes to the material. For example, suppose a modern ceremonialist sets up for Enochian work that involves “opening” the Watchtowers by having arranged and cleansed a sacred space set up as Enochian Temple, casting a Lesser Invoking Pentagram, then a Supreme Invoking Pentagram. The modern ceremonialist might have a need to conceptualize how these first two structures create a sacred space that make particular actions possible. For instance, maybe it occurs to her that she has just cast 12 two-dimensional pentagrams which might, for various reasons, self-organize into a three-dimensional dodecahedron. Maybe she notices too that the total number of squares in each 12 x 13 Watchtower are 156, a dodecagonal number. Maybe she conceptualizes how this dodecahedron might interface with a hypercube.
If Dee were doing the ritual, we are certain that these are the very sort of details upon which he might obsess, though he can only convey this in writing through very complex dense texts like the Monad which, to most, need “decoding.” John Dee, an expert in classical languages and collector of sacred geometry texts in ancient Greek, the man who wrote the preface to the first English-language edition Euclid, had to use his knowledge of sacred geometry in setting up a “platform,” so to speak, to talk to higher intelligences. Part of his “platform” would be superimposing the geocentric and heliocentric via a hypercube. That Kelley succeeded in scrying is indirect proof that he too was comfortable either with evoking four-dimensional structures, or working within those cast by Dee. (Many have pointed out that it would be impossible in three dimensions to distinguish an extra-dimensional voice coming from “outside” from one emanating “inside” ones head. Kelley was the one who heard the voices, though we have no evidence that he continued to hear them after he and Dee parted company in 1589.)
At the center of the hypercube, the superimposed heliocentric cube, the ceremonialist is now also in Tiphareth, the “place on the Tree” where Dee’s Kabbalistic correspondences in the Monad break down because he shifts to higher dimensions. And surprise, this is where many report astrally “seeing” the Four Watchtowers, not as one Great Table but as Four Tablets in four “directions.” That at least is the practical experience of many ceremonialists, including the authors, and thus how we connect it to Kelley’s various later visions : of the Four Watchtowers, and later, of the Roundhouse. It also tells us that, to use the Great Table, one needs to understand Dee’s sacred geometry or some more modern equivalent. Can we find an explanation, beyond personal experience, for this phenomenon?
And what about the Black Cross? We’ll return to that next issue, when we line up the heliocentric cube with another cube that today we might call “galactic centered.” Within Dee’s Christian mythology, as discussed above, it was “New Jerusalem.”
The Sigillum Dei Aemeth or Seal of Truth.
Early in their angelic conversations—in the first two Books of Mystery, Liber Primus and Secundus, recorded at Mortlake in 1581 and 1582—Dee receives the most important protective device of the Enochian system, the Sigillum Dei Aemeth, also called the Seal of God’s Truth, or the Seal of Truth.
The Sigillum Dei Aemeth, from The Complete Enochian Handbook.
Used with permission.
We won’t attempt to detail much about the Seal’s construction here. Colin Campbell, in his book The Magic Seal of Dr. John Dee, notes that it “defines a complete system of planetary magic based on the Hebrew Kabalah.” In fact, it would be an interesting exercise, one we’ve talked through many times, to compare how the Monad maps astrological material to how the Seal of Truth does. But for our purposes here, we simply note that the instructions for making the Holy Table and the Seal of Truth come through before any of the other Enochian material. If we take Dee’s system on its own terms, the message is quite clear : do not use any of the material which comes later, the culmination of which is the Great Table, without having the Seal of Truth in place first. Let’s look at what immediately precedes its reception.
In Mysteriorum Liber Secundus, which Dee says elsewhere is “Nothing else but the Mysteries most Marvaylous of Sigillum Dee otherwise called Sigillum Aemeth,” Dee asked the Archangel Michael if the form of the Great Seal is “perfect,” and he’s told that it is. This conversation follows:
Michael : This is a Mystery, skarse worthy for us ourselves, to know, muche less to Reveal. Art thow, then, so Contented?
Dee : I am. God be my strength.
Michael : Blessed art thow among the Saincts: and blessed are you both.
Michael to “E.T.” [Edward Kelley still using the pseudonym Edward Talbot] : I will pluck the, from among the wicked. Thow commyttest Idoltry. But take hede of Temptation :
The Lord hath blessed The. This is a Mystery.
Michael to Dee : Dee, what woldest thou have?
Dee : Recte sapere et Intelligere, etc.
Michael : Thy Desyre is granted the.
Now, inconveniently, the top quarter of the next page is missing. A generation later, Elias Ashmole will write in the margins his estimate that 16 or 17 lines are gone. But the conversation at least seems along similar lines when it continues : fragments that include “they are corrupted” and “They have byn used to the wycked...” appear, then a return to full text.
If Kelley has just scryed more conversation along the lines of the above—that he is being mysteriously plucked from among the wicked and is now blessed—one might imagine Kelley himself tore it out. Or, if the “they” is someone Dee later thinks he should have no written record of labeling “wicked,” he could have torn it out himself. But we really don’t know. Let’s look at a few more lines :
A voice, probably Michael [name of speaker was in the section torn out] : I will shew the in the might hand and strength of God, what his Mysteries are : The true Circle of his aeternitie
Comprehending all vertue : The whole and sacred Trinitie.
Oh holy be he : Oh holy be he: Oh holy be he:
Uriel answered : Amen.
Michael : Now what wilt thow?
Dee : I would fain procede according to the matter at hand.
Immediately, Dee is told to divide the circle into 40 parts, and the instructions for creating the Seal commence. Notice that this has happened after Dee has said he wants “Recte sapere et Intelligere,” records that that desire is granted, and says he wants to proceed with the matter at hand, which is constructing the Seal. “Recte sapere et Intelligere” translates loosely as “to perceive or understand properly,” but with added overtones—recte means both “correctly”,”properly”, and “in a straight line;” “sapere” is actually a form of the verb “to taste,” here used metaphorically as in “to have good taste in discernment” or “to discern wisely”, and “Intelligere” as one might guess is “to come to know, to see into, to perceive, understand, discern, or gather.”
In other words, Dee is asking for something that will allow him to correctly discern higher wisdom from what is not, and he’s given the Seal of Truth, a synthesis of Renaissance planetary magic. What is the Seal suppose to do? In simple terms, it is supposed to serve as a filter so that nothing that is not “True” or “of God” comes through.
Take as an analogy the polarizing filters on some sunglasses, that prevent any light from coming through except waves that are vectored a particular way, or consider the DSL filters on phones which filter out unwanted static. In other words, it filters out all aspects of the signal except the one you want. The Seal of Truth is supposed to be such a filter for Enochian workings, and not only was Dee instructed to make an appropriately sized Seal for the Table, but four smaller ones to put under each of the Table’s four feet. This was to ensure that no spurious information came through, however one wants to interpret that.
In effect, the Seal compresses a complete Renaissance, heavily Agrippan, geocentric magical system into a protective talisman. No Enochian letters appear on the Seal : after the angels explain how to derive the names (though a process that seems extremely easy to follow, as opposed to the much more opaque explanation of how to derive names in Enochian), the names which result all appear to be Hebrew.
Recall that Hebrew maps easily to a cube, the geometric building block of three dimensions. The Seal as a talisman might also be considered the three-dimensional buffer which protects one if the other energetic structures are not superimposed correctly or phase locked. In other words, if Dee’s hypothetical student had cast geometric shapes but his personal sacred space was not in sync with the heliocentric hypercube he was trying to evoke, the filter of the Seal would protect that student.
Of course, we know that many if not most ceremonialists today use the “Enochian Tablets” and “Tablet of Union” without the Seal of Truth. What would be the effect of that practice?
Simply put, without the Seal, the energetic body of the practicioner herself becomes the filter, whether she wants it to be or not. That begs the question of whether any man or woman is capable of that : certainly Dee did not think he was. It also suggests one reason why Regardie may indeed have witnessed the “spiritual disintegration” of those who were not careful in how they used Enochian : the Golden Dawn initiations as presented by Regardie, and indeed the few R.R. et A.C. Inner Order rituals he presents, all use the Tablets without the Seal of Truth.
Now, we have at least pointed to the material Dee would have in mind or physically present before the Great Table was ever received. We haven’t even begun to look at the construction and organization of the Table.
That will take us to next issue, with its topic of “Bad [Occult] History.” We’ll look at these controversies:
- The interesting history of mislettering the Tablets and confusing manuscripts. We’ll suggest that if one uses Dee’s reported lettering and corrections, the material itself suggests a solution to the blind, via the names of the Angelic Governors.
- How do modern esotericists wind up with a “Tablet of Union” rather than “Black Cross”?
- Where does Macgregor Mathers come up with his odd system of determining the names of the Watchmen? Is his presentation of confusing material in “The Book of the Concourse of Forces” and “The Tree of Life Projected in a Solid Sphere?” itself “bad occultism,” or is the joke upon the supposed Adepts who have publicly mocked the material because they don’t understand it?
- What does Aleister Crowley’s combining of the Watchmen, Watchtowers, Black Cross/Tablet of Union and Enochian calls in Liber Chanokh say about his understanding of the Enochian system’s possible four-dimensional architecture? Or about his interesting relationship with other occult personalities?
- How does one account for the different systems of “coloring” the Tablets? By what method can one discern the truly bizarre from something that might heighten the system?
By working through these five sometimes humorous controversies, and keeping in mind we need to either take the system on its own terms or have a clear reason for correcting it, we should be able to answer a final and most ambitious question : whether an understanding of Dee’s sacred geometry, and some of Mathers’ most odd-sounding arguments, suggest that the Great Table was meant to process and download information now much more directly than 400 years ago. We’ll map information from our corrected Watchtowers, visualized as projected onto the celestial sphere, to events in the sky during this era.
Until then, we’ll conclude with our Watchtowers, version 2010.1 :
Watchtower graphics by J. Alan Moore with a modification of the Enochian font created by DARLENE.
Used with permission.