This is a reprint of a work by Donald Tyson as published at http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/bb/bluebook418.htm
[from Gnosis Magazine, Summer 1996]
Were John Dee’s Enochian Keys of magic intended to unleash violent occult forces that would hurl us into another age?
Between the years 1582 and 1589 the English scholar John Dee (1527-1608) conducted a series of ritual communications with a set of disincarnate entities who eventually came to be known as the Enochian angels. It was Dee’s plan to use the complex system of magic communicated by the angels to advance the expansionist policies of his sovereign, Queen Elizabeth I. At the time England lay under the looming shadow of invasion from Spain. Dee hoped to control the hostile potentates of Europe by commanding the tutelary spirits of their various nations.
Dee was a thoroughly remarkable man. Not only was he a skilled mathematician, astronomer, and cartographer, but he was also the private astrologer, counselor, and (some believe) confidential espionage agent of Queen Elizabeth.(1) His father had been a gentleman sewer (a kind of steward) at the table of Henry VIII. When Elizabeth ascended to the throne in 1558, Dee was asked to set an auspicious date for her coronation. Always intensely loyal to the Protestant Elizabeth, he had earlier been falsely accused of trying to kill her predecessor, the Catholic Queen Mary, with sorcery. His intellectual brilliance and skill as a magician were famous, and infamous, throughout Europe.
In his occult work he was aided by an equally extraordinary person, Edward Kelley (also spelled “Kelly”; 1555-1597), the son of a Worcester apothecary, who dreamed of discovering the secret of the philosopher’s stone and dabbled in the black art of necromancy. Fleeing Lancaster in 1580 on charges of forging title deeds, Kelley found it prudent to set out on a walking tour of Wales. Somewhere near Glastonbury (so the story goes) he purchased a portion of the fabled red powder that could turn base metals into gold; the source of the powder was an innkeeper who had received it from tomb robbers.(2)
For the remainder of his colorful life Kelley labored to unlock the secret of the red powder so that he could manufacture more of it himself. It was on this quest for alchemical knowledge that he sought out the library of John Dee in 1582, and it was primarily for this reason that he agreed to serve as Dee’s seer.
Dee was a saint, Kelley a rogue, but they were bound together by their common fascination with ceremonial magic and the wonders it promised. Dee possessed little talent for mediumship. He tried to overcome this limitation by hiring a mountebank named Barnabas Saul as his professional scryer but had poor results. When Dee learned of Kelley’s considerable psychic abilities, he eagerly employed Kelley as his seer for the sum of 50 pounds per annum.
Dee invoked the Enochian angels to visible appearance within a scrying crystal or a black mirror of obsidian by means of prayers and certain magical seals. After Kelley had alerted Dee to the presence of the spirits, Dee questioned them. Kelley reported their sayings and doings back to Dee, who recorded them in his magical diaries.
The most important portion of Dee’s transcription of the Enochian communications, covering the years 1582-1587, was published in London in 1659 by Meric Casaubon under the tide A True and Faithful Relation of What Passed for Many Years between Dr. John Dee …and Some Spirits. This fascinating work has been reprinted several times in recent decades and is readily available.
The Enochian spirits got their name from the nature of the magical system they described. It was, they claimed, the very magic that the biblical patriarch Enoch had learned from the angels of heaven. The angel Ave told Dee, “Now hath it pleased God to deliver this Doctrine again out of darknesse: and to fulfill his promise with thee, for the books of Enoch.”(3) I Compared to it, all other forms of magic were mere playthings.
Although Dee faithfully recorded all the details of Enochian magic in his diaries, he never tried to work this system in any serious way. We cannot know the reason with certainty. In 1589 he broke with Kelley, who stayed on in Bohemia to manufacture gold for the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolph II while Dee returned to England at the request of Elizabeth, a circumstance that may have inconvenienced his plans. But it is my contention that Dee was awaiting permission from the angels to employ their magic, and this permission was not given in his lifetime.
It is necessary to state unequivocally for those unfamiliar with Enochian magic that neither Dee nor Kelley fabricated the spirit communications. Both believed completely in the reality of the angels, although they differed about the motives of these beings. Dee believed them to be obedient agents of God who submitted to the authority of Christ. Kelley mistrusted them and suspected them of deliberate deception. The dislike was mutual. The angels always treated Kelley with amused contempt. Kelley hoped the angels would communicate the secret of the red powder, which was the only reason he endured their insults for so many years.
There is no space here to enter into the question of the nature and objective reality of spirits, nor is it likely that any conclusions could be reached on this difficult subject. Whatever their essential nature, the Enochian angels acted as independent, intelligent beings with their own distinct personalities and purposes. This is how Dee and Kelley regarded them, and this is how I shall regard them in this essay. Using this assumption, I will present what I believe to be the angels’ secret agenda, which they concealed from Dee: to plant among mankind the ritual working that would initiate the period of violent transformation between the present aeon and the next, commonly known as the apocalypse.
The Gates and the Keys
What the Enochian angels conveyed to Dee was not merely a potent form of magic to rule the tutelary spirits of the nations. It was an initiatory formula designed to open the locked gates of the four great watchtowers that stand guard against chaos at the extremities of our universe. The Watchtowers are described by the angel Ave:
“The 4 houses, are the 4 Angels of the Earth, which are the 4 Overseers, and Watchtowers, that the eternal God in his providence hath placed, against the usurping blasphemy, misuse, and stealth of the wicked and great enemy, the Devil. To the intent that being put out to the Earth, his envious will might be bridled, the determinations of God fulfilled, and his creatures kept and preserved, within the compass and measure of order.”(4)
These Watchtowers, represented in Enochian magic by alphabetical squares, are equivalent to the four mystical pillars of Egyptian mythology that hold up the sky and keep it from crashing into the earth. They bar the chaotic legions of Coronzon from sweeping across the face of the world. Coronzon, the angels reveal, is the true heavenly name for Satan.(5) He is also known by the Enochian title of Death-Dragon or Him-That-Is-Fallen (Telocvovim).(6)
The Enochian Calls or Keys (the angels refer to them by both titles) are 48 spirit evocations delivered to Dee and Kelley in the Enochian language and then translated into English word for word by the angels. The overt purpose of the Keys, the angels declared, was to enable Dee to establish ritual communication with the spirits of the 30 Aethers or Airs who rule over the tutelary spirits of the nations of the earth. There are actually 49 Keys, but the first, the angels said, is too sacred and mysterious to be voiced. The first eighteen explicit Keys are completely different in their wording; the last 30 are similar save for the name of the Aether inserted in the first line. The angel Raphael declares the expressed purpose the Keys to Dee:
“In 49 voyces, or callings: which are the Natural Keyes, to open those, not 49, but 48. (for One is not to be opened) Gates of understanding, whereby you shall have knowledge to move every Gate, and to call out as many as you please, or shall be thought necessary, which can very well, righteously, and wisely, open unto you the secrets of their Cities, and make you understand perfectly the [mysteries] contained in the Tables.”(7)
The tables referred to are the 49 alphabetical tables from which the Keys were generated, one letter at a time, by the Enochian angels. The Keys are related in sets to the four Watchtowers, which contain the names of various hierarchies of spirits.
Dee’s blindness to the true function of the Keys is curious, because clues about their nature are everywhere for those with eyes to see them. The Enochian communications are filled with apocalyptic pronouncements and imagery. Again and again the angels warn of the coming destruction of the world by the wrath of God and the advent of the Antichrist. This apocalyptic imagery is also found throughout the Keys themselves.
The very name of these evocations should have been clue enough. Surely if the Watchtowers stand guard at the four corners of our dimension of reality, keeping back the hordes of Coronzon from descending like “stooping dragons,” as the Eighth Key puts it, and if the evocations known as the Keys are designed to open the gates of these watchtowers, we might suspect that it would be a bad idea to unlock the gates.
Perhaps Dee believed, as the angels deceitfully encouraged him to believe, that the gates could be opened a crack for specific human purposes and then slammed shut before anything too horrible slipped through to our dimension of awareness. Dee would have assumed that the harrowing of the goddess Earth and her children by the demons of Coronzon would not occur until the preordained time of the apocalypse, an event initiated by God and presumably beyond Dee’s control.
What he failed to understand is that the date of the initiation of the apocalypse is (in the intention of the angels) the same date as the successful completion of the full ritual working of the 48 Keys. This date is not predetermined, but will be determined by the free will and actions of a single human being who in the Revelation of St. John is called the Antichrist.
The Nature of the Apocalypse
It has always been generally assumed that the apocalypse is in the hands of the angels of wrath, to be visited upon the world at the pleasure of God, at a moment preordained from the beginning of creation. In the veiled teachings of the Enochian angels this is not true. The gates of the Watchtowers can only be unlocked from the inside. The angels of wrath cannot initiate the apocalypse even if they wish to do so. This is suggested by an exchange between Dee and the angel Ave:
Dee – As for the form of our Petition or Invitation of the good Angels, what sort should it be of?
Ave – A short and brief speech.
Dee – We beseech you to give us an example: we would have a confidence, it should be of more effect.
Ave – I may not do so.
Kelley – And why?
Ave – Invocation proceedeth of the good will of man, and of the heat and fervency of the spirit: And therefore is prayer of such effect with God.
Dee – We beseech you, shall we use one form to all?
Ave – Every one, after a divers form.
Dee – If the minde do dictate or prompt a divers form, you mean.
Ave – I know not: for I dwell not in the soul of man. (8)
Spiritual beings must be evoked into our reality by human beings. We must open the gates and admit the servants of Coronzon ourselves. Evocation and invocation are not a part of the business of angels, but of humans. That is why the angels needed to go through the elaborate ruse of conveying the system of Enochian magic, with the Keys and the Great Table of the Watchtowers, to Dee. If the apocalypse is to take place, and if it is necessary for human beings to open the gates of the Watchtowers before it can take place, the angels first had to instruct a man in the correct method for opening the gates.
It is evident that Dee was to be restrained from opening the gates of the Watchtowers until it pleased the angels. The angel Gabriel, who purports to be speaking with the authority of God, tells him:
“I have chosen you, to enter into my barns: And have commanded you to open the Corn, that the scattered may appear, and that which remaineth in the sheaf may stand. And have entered into the first, and so into the seventh. And have delivered unto you the Testimony of my spirit to come.
“For, my Barn hath been long without Threshers. And I have kept my flayles for a long time hid in unknown places: Which flayle is the Doctrine that I deliver unto you: Which is the Instrument of thrashing, wherewith you shall beat the shears, that the Corn which is scattered, and the rest may be all one.
“(But a word in the mean season.)
“If I be Master of the Barn, owner of the Corn, and deliverer of my flayle: If all be mine (And unto you, there is nothing: for you are hirelings, whose reward is in heaven.)
“Then see, that you neither thresh, nor unbinde, until I bid you, let it be sufficient unto you: that you know my house, that you know the labour I will put you to: That I favour you so much as to entertain you the labourers within my Barn: For within it thresheth none without my consent.”(9)
Surely nothing could be clearer. Throughout the Enochian commun- ications the angels euphemistically refer to the apocalypse as “the Harvest.” Here Enochian magic is specifically described as the “Instrument of thrashing.” Yet Dee did not comprehend the awesome significance of the burden that had been laid upon his shoulders. Elsewhere in the record the angel Mapsama is just as explicit about the need for Dee to await permission before attempting to use the Keys:
Mapsama – These Calls are the keyes into the Gates and Cities of wisdom. Which [Gates] are not able to be opened, but with visible apparition.
Dee – And how shall that be come unto?
Mapsama – Which is according to the former instructions: and to be had, by calling of every Table. You called for wisdom, God hath opened unto you, his judgement: He hath delivered unto you the keyes, that you may enter; But be humble. Enter not of presumption, but of permission. Go not in rashly; But be brought in willingly: For, many have ascended, but few have entered. By Sunday you shall have all things that are necessary to be taught, then (as occasion serveth) you may practice at all times. But you being called by God, and to a good purpose.
Dee – How shall we understand this Calling by God?
Mapsama – God stoppeth my mouth, I will answer thee no more.(10)
Despite these hints and many others, the angels never actually came out and told Dee that he was to be the instrument whereby the ritual formula for initiating the apocalypse would be planted in the midst of humanity. Here it would sit like a ticking occult time bomb, waiting for some clever magician, perhaps guided by the angels, to work it. Dee evidently never received the signal to conduct the Apocalypse Working in his lifetime. It was to be reserved for another century and another man. That man was Aleister Crowley (1875-1947).
Enter the Great Beast
Even as a child, Crowley became convinced that he was the Great Beast mentioned in the biblical book of Revelation. He studied magic with the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, then went on to construct his own occult system using an amalgamation of the ritual working of Abramelin the Mage, the Goetia, and the Tantric sexual techniques of the German Ordo Templi Orientis, among other sources.
He firmly believed that he was the herald for a new age of strife and destruction that would sweep across the world. He called this the Aeon of Horus, after the Egyptian god of war. In Cairo in 1904, he received the bible of this apocalyptic period, LiberAL vel Legis (The Book of the Law), in the form of a psychic dictation from his guardian angel, Aiwass. The book sets forth some of the conditions that will prevail in the Aeon of Horus. It also contains Crowley’s famous dictum “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.”(11)
It is highly significant that Crowley never considered himself to be the Antichrist. He is not the central character in the drama of the apocalypse, but the herald who ushers in the age of chaos. In a very real sense he was the gatekeeper of the apocalypse. The text of The Book of the Law clearly states:
“This book shall be translated into all tongues: but always with the original in the writing of the Beast; for in the chance shape of the letters and their position to one another: in these are mysteries that no Beast shall divine. Let him not seek to try: but one cometh after him, whence I say not, who shall discover the key of it all.”(12)
Crowley studied and practiced Enochian magic more often and deeply than any other magician of the Golden Dawn, indeed probably more deeply than any other human being who has ever lived. About the angelic communications of Dee and Kelley he writes:
“Much of their work still defies explanation, though I and Frater Semper Pararus [Thomas Windram], an Adeptus Major of the A[rgenteum] A[strum] have spent much time and research upon it and cleared up many obscure points.”(13)
The record of Crowley’s working of the Enochian Aethers in 1909 in the desert of North Africa is preserved in the document titled The Vision and the Voice. He possessed a profound and broad understanding of ritual magic, an understanding that was not merely theoretical but practical. No other man of the twentieth century was better suited to initiate the Apocalypse Working, even as there had been no man in the sixteenth century better suited than Dee to receive it from the Enochian angels. Interestingly, Crowley believed himself to be the reincarnation of Edward Kelley.
I doubt that Crowley ever succeeded in correctly completing the entire Enochian Apocalypse Working — that is, the primal occult Key which is nowhere recorded, the eighteen manifest Keys, and the Key of the 30 Aethers in their correct correspondence with the parts of the Great Table of the Watchtowers. But he may have succeeded in partially opening the gates of the Watchtowers. It is significant that he states concerning the African working with his disciple Victor Neuberg: “As a rule, we did one Aethyr every day.”(15) About the method for invoking the spirits of the Watchtowers, the angel Ave tells Dee:
“Four days …must you only call upon those names of God [on the Great Table of the Watchtowers], or on the God of Hosts, in those names:
“And 14 days after you shall (in this, or in some convenient place) Call the Angels by Petition and by the name of God, unto the which they are obedient.
“The 15 day you shall Cloath yourselves, in vestures made of linen, white: and so have the apparition, use, and practice of the Creatures. For, it is not a labour of years, nor many dayes.”(16)
It seems clear to me that the complete Apocalypse Working must be conducted on consecutive days, one Key per day. I would guess that the unexpressed primordial Key of the Great Mother is the missing ingredient that will complete the Working, but this is a matter of practical magic and there is no space to investigate the details of the Apocalypse Working in this brief essay.
Crowley remained firmly convinced until his death in 1947 that the Aeon of Horus had begun in 1904, precisely at the time he received The Book of the Law. He may have been right. The Aeon of Horus is the duration of the apocalypse, that period when Coronzon shall rule over the cosmos and visit destruction upon mankind. And the apocalypse is a mental transformation that will occur, or is presently occurring, within the collective unconscious of the human race.
A Mental Armageddon
Fundamentalist Christians commonly believe that the end of the world will be a completely physical event and will be sparked by some horrifying material agent — global thermonuclear war, or the impact of a large asteroid, or a deadly plague.
This supposition is natural in view of the concrete imagery of the book of Revelation. It is in keeping with the materialistic world view of modern society. But nobody stops to consider that this destruction is described by angels, or that angels are spiritual, not physical, beings.
In my opinion the apocalypse prepared by the Enochian angels must be primarily an internal, spiritual event, and only in a secondary way an external, physical catastrophe. The gates of the Watchtowers that stand guard at the four corners of our dimension of reality are mental constructions. When they are opened, they will admit the demons of Coronzon, not into the physical world, but into our subconscious minds.
Spirits are mental, not material. They dwell in the depths of mind and communicate with us through our dreams, unconscious impulses, and more rarely in waking visions. They affect our feelings and our thoughts beneath the level of our conscious awareness. Sometimes they are able to control our actions, either partially, as in the case of irrational and obsessive behavior patterns, or completely, as in the case of full possession. Through us, and only through us, are they able to influence physical things.
The Enochian communications teach not only that humanity itself must initiate the apocalypse through the magical formula delivered to Dee and Kelly, but that humans must be the physical agents that bring about the plagues, wars, and famines described with such chilling eloquence in the vision of St. John. It is we who will let the demons of Coronzon into our minds by means of a specific ritual working. They will not find a welcome place there all at once, but will worm their way into our subconscious and make their homes there slowly over time. In the minds of individuals that resist this invasion they will find it difficult to gain a foothold, but in the more pliable minds of those who welcome their influence they will establish themselves readily.
Once the demons have taken up residence, we will be powerless to prevent them from turning our thoughts and actions toward chaotic and destructive ends. These apocalyptic spirits will set person against person and nation against nation, gradually increasing the madness and chaos in human society until at last the full horror of Revelation has been realized upon the stage of the world. The corruption of human thoughts and feelings may require generations to bring to full fruition. Only after the wasting and burning of souls is well advanced will the full horror of the apocalypse achieve its final fulfillment in the material realm.
Let us suppose for the sake of argument that the signal for the initiation of this psychic invasion occurred in 1904 when Crowley received the Book of the Law, as he himself believed. Crowley’s Enochian evocations of 1909 then pried the doors of the Watchtowers open a crack enough to allow a foul wind to blow through the common mind of the human race. This would explain the senseless slaughter of the First World War and the unspeakable horror of the Nazi Holocaust during the Second World War. It would explain the decline of organized religions and why the soulless cult of science has gained supremacy. It would explain the moral and ethical bankruptcy of modern times and the increase in senseless violence.
We may not have long to wait before the individual known in the vision of St. John as the Antichrist, the one foretold in Crowley’s Book of the Law to follow after the Beast, will succeed in completing the Apocalypse Working. Then the gates of the Watchtowers will truly gape wide, and the children of Coronzon will sweep into our minds as crowned conquerors. If this chilling scenario ever comes to pass, the wars of the twentieth century will seem bucolic to those who survive the slaughter.
1. See Richard Deacon, John Dee: Scientist, Geographer, Astrologer and Secret Agent (London: Frederick Muller, 1968). See also Cherry Gilchrist, “Dr. Dee and the Spirits,” in GNOSIS #36.
2. See the introduction to The Alchemical Writings of Edward Kelley, ed. A.E. Waite (New York: Samuel Weiser, 1970 ).
3. Meric Casaubon, ed., A True & Faithful Relation Of What Passed for many Yeers Between Dr. John Dee (A Mathematician of Great Fame in Q. Eliz. and King James their Reignes) and Some Spirits (Glasgow: Antonine Publishing Co., 1974 [16591), p. 174.
4. Ibid., p. 170.
5. Ibid., p. 92.
6. Ibid., p. 207.
7. Ibid., p. 77.
8. Ibid., p. 188.
9. Ibid. p. 161.
10. Ibid. pp. 145-46.
11. Aleister Crowley, The Book of the Law, ms. pp. 10-11.
12. Ibid., ch. 3, para. 47.
13. Aleister Crowley, The Confessions of Aleister Crowley, ed. John Symonds and Kenneth Grant (London: Arkana, 1989), p. 611.
14. Aleister Crowley, “Liber XXX AERUM vel Saeculi sub figura CCCCXVIII being of the Angels of the Thirty Aethyrs, the Vision and the Voice:” in The Equinox, vol. 1, no. 5, supplement, 1911. Reprinted as The vision and the Voice, ed. Israel Regardie (Dallas, Texas: Sangreal Foundation, 1972). See also Crowley, Confessions, ch. 66.
15. Crowley, Confessions, p. 618.
16. Casaubon, p. 184.
Donald Tyson is the author of many books about the history and theory of magic in the Western world, as well as the inventor Of rune cards and rune dice. His annotated edition of Cornelius Agrippa’s Three Books of Occult Philosophy was reviewed in GNOSIS #33. His latest book, Tetragrarmnaton (published by Llewellyn), discusses the relationship between the Kabbalah and Dee’s Enochian magic.
Related Reports: The Book of Enoch