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Seeing the Word : John Dee and Renaissance Occultism

Håkansson, Håkan LU (2001) In Ugglan, Minervaserien 2.
Abstract
This study reassesses the occult philosophy of the British polymath John Dee (1527-1609). Focusing on his treatise Monas hieroglyphica (1564) and his notorious angelic conversations in the 1580s, it describes Dee’s philosophical career as a continuous search for a language which could yield knowledge of both nature and God. Situating Dee’s philosophy in the context of early modern “symbolic exegesis”, a group of discursive practices aimed at uncovering the creative principles of God by means of language, the study is an attempt to show how Dee’s seemingly divergent interests were interrelated. In Monas hieroglyphica he treated such disciplines as grammar, biblical exegesis, kabbalah, astronomy, alchemy, and mathematics as grounded on a... (More)
This study reassesses the occult philosophy of the British polymath John Dee (1527-1609). Focusing on his treatise Monas hieroglyphica (1564) and his notorious angelic conversations in the 1580s, it describes Dee’s philosophical career as a continuous search for a language which could yield knowledge of both nature and God. Situating Dee’s philosophy in the context of early modern “symbolic exegesis”, a group of discursive practices aimed at uncovering the creative principles of God by means of language, the study is an attempt to show how Dee’s seemingly divergent interests were interrelated. In Monas hieroglyphica he treated such disciplines as grammar, biblical exegesis, kabbalah, astronomy, alchemy, and mathematics as grounded on a common foundation, identical to the Word of God. By conceiving a graphical symbol, expressing God’s Word in visual form, Dee believed that he could bring these sciences to perfection. In the later angelic conversations, Dee’s aim was to recover the language spoken by the prelapsarian Adam. The Adamic language was conceived of as representing accurately God’s creative Word, and Dee’s recovery of this tongue would ultimately result in a complete restitution of both religion and knowledge. Dee’s works provide an example of how metaphoric associations between the Word of God, language, nature and the human soul could be exploited in Renaissance occult thought. Such metaphoric associations had an important role in shaping and legitimizing early modern views of symbolism, mysticism, and magic. Relying on Dee’s own sources, many of which still survive with his annotations, this study tries to reconstruct Dee’s search for the perfect language, while simultaneously stressing the syncretistic character of his views. (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
opponent
  • Dr. Clucas, Stephen, Birkbeck College, University of London
organization
publishing date
type
Thesis
publication status
published
subject
keywords
Philosophy, mysticism., metaphors, symbolism, alchemy, magic, Renaissance philosophy, occultism, Filosofi
in
Ugglan, Minervaserien
volume
2
pages
373 pages
publisher
Department of Cultural Sciences, Lund University
defense location
Biskopsgatan 7, 223 62 Lund
defense date
2001-06-06 10:15
ISSN
1650-7339
ISBN
91-974153-0-8
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
bd3769a7-e1b2-4166-b92f-d6a07428d138 (old id 20198)
date added to LUP
2007-05-28 09:34:26
date last changed
2018-05-29 10:47:27
@phdthesis{bd3769a7-e1b2-4166-b92f-d6a07428d138,
  abstract     = {This study reassesses the occult philosophy of the British polymath John Dee (1527-1609). Focusing on his treatise Monas hieroglyphica (1564) and his notorious angelic conversations in the 1580s, it describes Dee’s philosophical career as a continuous search for a language which could yield knowledge of both nature and God. Situating Dee’s philosophy in the context of early modern “symbolic exegesis”, a group of discursive practices aimed at uncovering the creative principles of God by means of language, the study is an attempt to show how Dee’s seemingly divergent interests were interrelated. In Monas hieroglyphica he treated such disciplines as grammar, biblical exegesis, kabbalah, astronomy, alchemy, and mathematics as grounded on a common foundation, identical to the Word of God. By conceiving a graphical symbol, expressing God’s Word in visual form, Dee believed that he could bring these sciences to perfection. In the later angelic conversations, Dee’s aim was to recover the language spoken by the prelapsarian Adam. The Adamic language was conceived of as representing accurately God’s creative Word, and Dee’s recovery of this tongue would ultimately result in a complete restitution of both religion and knowledge. Dee’s works provide an example of how metaphoric associations between the Word of God, language, nature and the human soul could be exploited in Renaissance occult thought. Such metaphoric associations had an important role in shaping and legitimizing early modern views of symbolism, mysticism, and magic. Relying on Dee’s own sources, many of which still survive with his annotations, this study tries to reconstruct Dee’s search for the perfect language, while simultaneously stressing the syncretistic character of his views.},
  author       = {Håkansson, Håkan},
  isbn         = {91-974153-0-8},
  issn         = {1650-7339},
  keyword      = {Philosophy,mysticism.,metaphors,symbolism,alchemy,magic,Renaissance philosophy,occultism,Filosofi},
  language     = {eng},
  pages        = {373},
  publisher    = {Department of Cultural Sciences, Lund University},
  school       = {Lund University},
  series       = {Ugglan, Minervaserien},
  title        = {Seeing the Word : John Dee and Renaissance Occultism},
  volume       = {2},
  year         = {2001},
}