In 1583, John Dee left England and was abroad for six years, returning in 1589.16 During these years on the continent Dee appears to have been engaged in some kind of missionary venture which took him to Cracow, in Poland, and eventually to Prague where the occultist emperor Rudolf II, held his court. It is possible, though there is no evidence for this, that when in Prague, Dee was in contact with the Rabbi Loewe, famous Cabal-ist and magician, who once had an interview with Rudolf (see The Rosicrucian Enlightenment, p. 228). Dee stayed for several years in Bohemia with a noble family the members of which were interested in alchemy and other occult sciences. His associate, Edward Kelley, was with him, and together they were fervently pursuing their alchemical experiments and their attempts at angel-summoning with practical Cabala.
To this period belong the séances described in Dee's spiritual diary,17 with their supposed contacts with the angels Uriel and Gabriel and other spirits. Dee was moving now on the more 'powerful' levels of Christian Cabala through which he hoped to encourage powerful religious movements.
The evidence about Dee's continental mission is somewhat obscure and incomplete. It is referred to thus by a contemporary observer:
A learned and renowned Englishman whose name was Doctor Dee came to Prague to see the Emperor Rudolf II and was at first well received by him; he predicted that a miraculous reformation would presently come about in the Christian world and would prove the ruin not only of the city of Constantinople but of Rome also. These predictions he did not cease to spread among the populace.18
Dee's message appeared to be neither Catholic nor Protestant but an appeal to a vast, undogmatic, reforming movement which drew its spiritual strength from the resources of occult philosophy.
In the context of the late sixteenth century in which movements of this kind abounded, Dee's mission would not have seemed incredible or strange. Enthusiastic missionaries of his type were moving all over Europe in these last years of the century. One such was Giordano Bruno, who preached a mission of universal Hermetic reform, in which there were some Cabalist elements.19 Bruno was in Prague shortly after Dee; he had been in England preaching his version of Hermetic-Cabalist reform, and was to go on into Italy, where he met the full force of the Counter-Reformation suppression of Renaissance Neoplaton-ism, and its allied occultisms, and was burned at the stake in
Rome in 1600. Dee was more cautious, and was careful not to venture into Italy.
For Dee's mission, the Monas hieroglyphica is probably the most important clue, for it contained in the compressed form of a magic sign the whole of the occult philosophy. And it had reference to contemporary rulers who were to be the politico-religious channels of the movement. The first version of it had been dedicated to the Emperor Maximilian II, Rudolf's father. Dee may have hoped that Rudolf would step into his father's role, and accept the monas as his occult imperial sign. In England, Dee had transferred to Queen Elizabeth I the destiny of occult imperial reform, signified by the monas.
There is some kind of congruity between the ideas associated with Rudolf and those associated with Elizabeth. As R. J. W Evans has said: 'Both the unmarried Emperor and the Virgin Queen were widely regarded as figures prophetic of significant change in their own day, as symbols of lost equilibrium when they were dead.'20 It is perhaps in some such sense of occult imperial destiny linking Elizabeth and Rudolf that the true secret meaning of Dee's continental mission may lie. On the more obvious level it would seem to have been a movement antagonistic to the repressive policies of Counter-Reform, and as such it would have made dangerous enemies.
The emperor did not enthusiastically support Dee, and when he returned to England in 1589 it must have been far from clear to the queen and her advisers whether he had accomplished anything at all, beyond making extremely dangerous enemies.
However he had sown powerful seeds which were to grow to a strange harvest. It has been shown that the so-called 'Rosicru-cian manifestos', published in Germany in the early seventeenth century, are heavily influenced by Dee's philosophy, and that one of them contains a version of the Monas hieroglyphica.21 The Rosicrucian manifestos call for a universal reformation of the whole wide world through Magia and Cabala. The mythical
'Christian Red Cross' (Christian Rosencreuz), the opening of whose magical tomb is a signal for the general reformation, may perhaps, in one of his aspects, be a teutonised memory of John Dee and his Christian Cabala, confirming earlier suspicions that 'Christian Cabala' and 'Rosicrucianism' may be synonymous.
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