TRTZ no 45 : The Occultists John Dee and Agrippa

Queen Elizabeth I with her Astrologer John Dee

Hello and welcome to The Real Twilight Zone…

The topic this week….


There are words that have strong emotional hooks – Quija is one and OCCULT is another.

Often the emotional reaction each produces is the result of beliefs, attitudes and, lets be honest, prejudice. Whilst I can perhaps understand (but not agree with) some of the knee jerk reactions to the word Quija, I’m less sympathetic to the negative connotations some folks have to the word OCCULT. This, dear reader and listener is the focus of tonight’s show. Occultism and Occultists. We will be looking at two influential occultists and asking what all the fuss is really about.


Some news:-

15th January:  Brendan Jamison, an artist from Northern Ireland has sculpted 10 Downing Street in a rather unusual way.  The sculpture is made entirely of sugar and he has been chosen for an exhibition inside 10 Downing Street about which he is thrilled, stating that, ‘It is a great honour to exhibit in Number 10 and is definitely a career highlight’.  He has sculpted several other buildings from sugar cubes and says that his eye for cube-based architecture began in childhood, when he was quite the LEGO enthusiast.  Prior to his sugary art, he dabbled with wool and wax.

27th January:  More strange rain fell in Dorset recently, this time a shower of jelly-like blue spheres.  The spheres are 3cm in diameter and have no odour, despite suggestions that they might be marine invertebrate eggs.  Steve Hornsby from Bournemouth discovered them in his garden following a hailstorm on Thursday.  ‘They have an exterior shell with a softer inner but have no smell, aren’t sticky and do not melt’, he explained, also adding that he had been keeping them in his fridge while he attempted to find out what they were.  Following the recent fall of apples in Coventry, this phenomenon is still fresh in people’s minds, but the blue spheres have everyone a little more mystified!

Tony Alleyne has spent the last decade painstakingly replicating the interior of the Starship Voyager in his one-bedroom apartment in Hinckley, Leicestershire.  He says that it became a sort of therapy when he split from his wife in 1994, ‘Building every bit from scratch really helped me to deal with the stress of it all.’

The apartment has everything a Trekky could ever hope for, including a voice activated computer system and exact replicas of the illuminated panels in the show, there is also a transporter and all the windows have been carefully disguised to appear as though they look out into space.  The bad news is that his ex-wife is hoping to sell the apartment and without all the futuristic additional features.  Alleyne states that ‘To say I’m gutted is an understatement. It is my life’s work — and it looks like it’s going into a skip. I admit there were tears.’  As a fellow Trekky I can say this is possibly the saddest thing I have ever heard!  Commenters on the story wonder whether perhaps Mrs Alleyne was a fan of the Original Series instead.


 International News

13th January:  Police in Portland, Oregon have been searching for some rather odd stolen items after 18 rabbits were pilfered from farmer Levi Cole the night before a rabbit-cooking class.  Cole is an instructor for the Portland Meat Collective and believes that his class on raising, slaughtering and cooking rabbits might be the reason for the theft.  Board Member of the group ‘Rabbit Advocates’, Erin Ford says that 17 of the rabbits were discovered on the doorstep of a volunteer and since been returned to Cole, though the group say they are hoping to buy them from Cole so they can live as pets.  Police are still looking for one missing rabbit.  Apparently his name is Roger and he is small and grey in appearance.

14th January:  A man from Washington has attempted to sue the people behind mind-bending film Donnie Darko and the weird and wonderful X-Files TV series owing to a set of circumstances he couldn’t accept as coincidence.  Michael Charles Bertsch believes that his phones were tapped and details of his private life used in these films and that ‘a congruence of fact and fiction adds up to News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch and his Fox empire committing defamation and a privacy invasion against him’.

His proof of aforementioned privacy invasion hangs on lines of reasoning that are somewhat tenuous to say the very least.  He points out that ‘Donnie Darko’s sister’s name is Elizabeth. My sister’s name is Elizabeth’, and that ‘The family car in the movie was a sky blue Ford Taurus. My father has the exact same car with the exact same color’.

Of the X-Files show, he believes that the Ten Thirteen logo is related to him in that by adding up the first three digits of his Social Security number, then adding up the last four digits you get 10 13.  The substantial list of complaints continues in much the same vein and additionally accuses the makers of film ‘Burn Notice’ of much the same thing given that his mother is a chain smoker much like the mother in the film.  Safe to say he probably won’t get that far with this lawsuit.

Other individuals who filed ludicrous lawsuits in the past year include Sarah Deming, who attempted to sue Drive distributor FilmDistrict because the film’s trailer promoted the film “as very similar to the Fast and Furious, or similar, series of movies.”  The Hollywood Reporter wittily retorts that ‘In other words, she was disappointed it was artsy and thoughtful instead of loud and mindless.’

21st January:  Chicago born Dante Autullo accidentally shot a nail gun by his head while building a shed and thought nothing of it, believing the shot had just missed his ear and while admitting afterwards that it did feel remarkably like being punched in the head, he went about his daily routine.  However, the next day, Autullo awoke from a nap feeling nauseous and his long-time partner Gail Glaenzer insisted he go to hospital.  X-rays revealed that the nail hadn’t whizzed off into the stratosphere as he’d assumed, but was lodged some way into his brain!  He was then taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, where doctors removed the 3.75-inch nail and replaced a fragment of his skull with metal mesh.  Glaenzer called it a miracle, astonished that he could talk, move and remember normally and even Autullo had not believed it to begin with, stating, “When they brought in the picture, I said to the doctor, ‘Is this a joke? Did you get that out of the doctors joke file?!”  It makes sense that he didn’t feel any pain given that there are no pain sensitive nerves in brain tissue (Though there are on the skull).


 24th January:  Scientists in New Caledonia have upheld the crows’ reputation as one of the most intelligent species of bird.  In the experiment, food was placed in a beaker of water too small and tall for the crows to squeeze their heads into to reach.  They had a selection of rocks as well as a selection of (Comparatively useless) Styrofoam pieces and the birds proved their avian brain-power by dropping the rocks into the beaker to raise the water level and reach the food.  In similar news, a clip of a crow repeatedly sledding down a snow-caked rooftop on a jam jar lid in Russia has gone viral and given rise to debate as to whether this particular specimen is displaying the playful nature of corvids or is trying to pry food from the lid and failing.

27th January:  Ghadir Aleeyan from the Arab Israeli town of Shefa’Amr, 9 miles east of the port city of Haifa, was horrified to discover her thirteen month old son Imad Aleeya chewing on the head of snake.  ‘I was making his milk and I looked over and saw he had a snake in his mouth,’ she says, adding that she screamed enough to bring the rest of the family and some nearby neighbours rushing to help.  A neighbour yanked the snake from Imad’s mouth and killed it, though it was half dead already from being chewed.  Imad was taken to hospital but suffered no ill effects from his reptilian delicacy and was not bitten.  Fortunately for him, it turned out that the snake was in fact not a venomous species and according to an amphibian and reptile expert may have been a young coin-marked snake (hemorrhois nummifer) that did not bite him because of the cold.

Thanks Catherine for the news…

AND … from Tegan and Catherine we have the following….


16th January:  You may have heard stories of peculiar noises frightening people around the world, from Glasgow to Chicago. The strange sounds were almost immediately attributed to the end of the world, (It is 2012 after all) and videos recording the bizarre sounds keep cropping up, now in Canada.  The first video started circulating the internet on January the 11th 2011 and since then many more have been recorded, not appearing to be specific to any location.  2012 has seen a sudden influx of similar videos. Hoax theories suggest this may be the promotion of a film or similar franchise especially as some of the recorded sounds do sound horribly like something from War of the Worlds.

It should also perhaps be noted that while these sounds are now causing something of a frenzy online, nobody has seen or heard a peep from any television news team, which is curious.  Additionally, videos have been posted of the original video (Filmed in Kiev, Ukraine in January 2011) lined up with the Canadian video that came out in the last week (In Conklin) and people believe the two sets of sounds to be identical and that the Conklin video is therefore a hoax, perhaps somebody playing the Kiev sounds on a set of speakers.  More scientific theories hypothesise the possibility of harmonic tremors or some other nature of shift in the earth’s crust.

Here’s one collection of ‘sounds’ (red flag for the title sequence, but the sounds are interesting)…

Meanwhile Tegan writes …

Strange sounds of UNKNOWN origin penetrating through the earth. The phenonema has been on going for months now in various parts of the world and has been given no real explination to how or why

Normally before an earthquake and apparently increasing in frequency, the earth or the atmosphere is making haunting groaning sounds that pulsate in a metal against machine, technological way. Many theories are sprouting up including Planet X, HARRP, Pole shift and more. It almost sounds as if something has woken up inside the planet and is making it’s way out.

Awen24; a member of from the document Strange Sounds, “Earth Groaning”: A Biblical/Scientific Theory has a
interesting theory on whats happening and goes to say:

“It wouldn’t surprise me if it was the earth literally groaning. The past couple of years have been a real eye-opener for me in terms
of the literal nature of the Bible, so it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if creation was both figuratively AND literally groaning. After
all, the book of Romans says that “Creation itself groans, awaiting its redemption at the hand of God”…

My thoughts up to this point have tended more toward scientific principles – e.g. one of my fundamental beliefs regarding the “nature
of the universe” (e.g. the expansion of the universe, how planets function, how the sun generates heat etc.) is that everything that we
see around us operates, at least to some extent, under the degenerative processes set in motion by sin. So, for example, the
universe isn’t expanding so much as it is unravelling… the sun, while it does have clear evidence of nuclear processes, is also subject to
gravitational collapse etc.

It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the earth is literally being overburdened by sin. Whether that sin is related to the blood being
spilled every day (and that wouldn’t be surprising, we know that the earth cries out to God over the blood of His children – why should
that be merely figurative?), or sin in a broader sense, I don’t know, but it would be hardly surprising if either or both were the case.

In another sense though I wonder whether it’s a gravitational thing. We tend to take the laws of science and physics as being fixed
constants – but the more we learn as a race, the more we explore, the less fixed and constant things seem to be. In fact, even this week
science discovered that neutrinos move faster than the speed of light, which contradicts Einstein’s theory of relativity in a number of
crucial ways. But these discoveries, rather than showing me that we’re simply wrong in what we believe about the universe, tend to suggest to me that the weight of sin has actually broken the fundamental structure of the universe. The rules that govern everything we know…are themselves falling into decay.

I don’t have any concrete or Biblical evidence to suggest that this is so, but I think it’s consistent with Biblical principles, and the more
I read about the world around us the more I feel that it’s the case.

So perhaps, rather than, or in addition to, groaning over sin, the world itself is literally… falling into decay. The very fabric that
holds our world together is stretched thin, and its effects are being felt everywhere. This might also explain the increase in earthquakes
and natural disasters; the subtle expansion and retraction of our planet based on a form of gravitational collapse and/or compromise.

Anyway. That’s my theory… take it or leave it!

So what do you think guys ???

Interesting References:

Earth Noise Study

Earth Noise Comments

A Song or a Moan

Strange Earth Noises – including The Bloop! 

Media Reports (ITN)


I (Alan) am considering the viral nature of this particular news item  – and this causes me to think carefully about the sources of the reports…

This graph shows the GOOGLE Search Trends for the phrase  Earth Sounds up until the end of 2011. Notice the ‘spike’ as we enter 2012. Most of the websites who have picked up on this story according to Trends Buzz are, as we might expect, of the more ‘out there kind’ or those with a stated conspiratorial expose agenda. Another red flag in terms of the care with which the ‘evidence’ is being presented.

The first question has to be is there a real phenomenon to be explored?

Other questions follow which include the possibility of mis-interpretations, pattern matching what is heard with ‘trending’ ideas, the idea that low frequency sounds are often difficult to localise when being listened too (hence the from the sky, from the Earth, from the UFO’s interpretations) …. and so on..

I guess the issue has to be about trying to sort through the ‘band-wagoning’ to look at the real nature of the data. There are clear socio-genic possibilities which need to be taken into account.

I’ve got an interested, open mind……


So now onto the main topic of this evenings show –

The Occult and Occultists

My rant; OCCULT simply means HIDDEN and an OCCULTIST is one who looks for truths and ideas which may be part of some ‘hidden’ or ‘sercret’ tradition. Generally the term is applied to a seeker of metaphysical or spiritual truths and this, I guess, is the link with Religious Heresy and the idea that anything occult is evil.

Catherine has prepared a primer on John Dee and Cornelius Agrippa….

John Dee

John Dee was born 13th July 1527 and died 1608 (or 1609) and had some degree of expertise in many a field, such as mathematics, astrology, astronomy and the occult being that he considered science and magic as important as eachother.

His father was Roland Dee: a textile merchant and courtier for King Henry VIII.  His mother was Jane Wild and he had no siblings.

John Dee alleged that he was a descendant of a Prince of Wales, specifically Roderick the Great.

He also studied hermetic philosophy and alchemy as well as divination.

Additionally, he was Queen Elizabeth I’s consultant.

His fascination with the occult added weight to the suspicion that he was a secret government agent.

He attended Cambridge College at the age of 15 in 1542 and studied Greek, Latin, philosophy, astronomy, geometry and arithmetic.  He graduated four years later with a BA in 1546.

He didn’t cease in his pursuit of knowledge even after graduating, becoming a fellow of Trinity college in 1546 as well as a Greek Underwriter.

In 1547 Dee traversed both Holland and France, settling in Louvain during 1548 and beginning to lecture Geometry in Paris.  He also lectured at Brussels University and studied with Gemma Frisius (Born Jemme Reinerszoon, a physician, mathematician, cartographer, philosopher, and instrument maker. He created important globes and greatly improved the mathematical devices of his day as well as improving the mathematic field in general) and Gerardus Mercator (A cartographer remembered for the invention of the Mercator projection world map which meant navigators could travel oceans in straight lines) until 1551 when he moved back to England, bringing with him all manner of navigational instruments.

Consequently, he continued to lecture, this time to Naval Captains.  He taught the all-important arts of navigation and mathematics.

In 1552 Dee came under the patronage of the Earl of Pembroke, then the Duke of Northumberland, and following that King Edward VI.

1553 was something of an eventful year for Dee, not only did he become astrologer to the queen, Mary Tudor, but he was accused of attempted murder (Of the Queen) by sorcery, heresy and of being a magician who used calculating as a form of magic, for which he was arrested and imprisoned in Hampton Court.

It has been suggested that this imprisonment was the direct result of a horoscope he wrote for Mary’s sister and future Queen, Elizabeth, as it apparently included details of Mary’s imminent death.

He was not released from prison until 1555, though 1556 saw Queen Mary offer him a full pardon.

From now until 1558, when Elizabeth came to power, Dee became a consultant to the Muscovy Company (formed by Sebastian Cabot, a fellow navigator) and aimed to search for the Northeast Passage.  His nautical knowledge and navigational expertise were a key advantage as he tutored the crews on geometry and cosmography (Before they left for North America in 1576).

He also presented a plan for a National Library to Queen Mary, probably fuelled by his obsession with books, but whether she still distrusted him even after the pardon or she just didn’t like the idea no one can say, either way, the scheme never received her blessing.

He lived into his mother’s house, Mortlake, in Richmond-upon-Thames and set up his own personal library, acquiring books with the zeal of any modern day collector.

1558 saw the succession of Queen Elizabeth I, Dee was asked to predict the best astrological time for the coronation and the date he chose was the one that was used.

This was not all; he became one of the Queen’s most trusted advisors, being consulted on matters of science and astronomy as well as continuing to provide his knowledge and guidance to crews and captains on significant voyages of discovery, apparently also being the man who first coined the term ‘Britannica’ during this period.

1564 saw the publication of his first work of hermetic/ occult based book, The Monas Hieroglyphica.  This was a narrative work in reference to a symbol of his own creation that he felt was the ultimate expression of occult knowledge and of the ‘mystical unity of all creation’.  It was a composite symbol of many other symbols, mostly with their roots in esoterical imagery.  The next year saw the publication of Di Trigono.

1568 saw Dee publish Propaedeumata Aphoristica, a work specific to his fields of expertise that was also presented to Queen Elizabeth, as well as theorise that ‘every object exerts force on every other’.

In Mysteriorum Libri, Dee makes frequent references of the work of another earlier occultist, Cornelius Agrippa, indeed Dee seems almost to have memorised it.

Agrippa wrote de occulta philosophia, a work that attempted to outline some major theories and practices in magic.  Covering planetary rulerships, ‘occult virtues, sympathies and enmities of natural things’, enchantments, types of divination, talismans, the divine Trinity, the Kabbalistic Names of God and the orders of evil spirits.  The resulting publication is heralded ‘as the most influential writer of Renaissance esoterica, and indeed all of Western occultism’

His work is often merged with other occult publications and has unfortunately been plagiarised a few times as well by Frances Barrett and LW de Laurence.

His other work is just as famous, consisting of Declamatio de nobilitate et praecellentia foeminei sexus (Declamation on the Nobility and Preeminence of the Female Sex) in 1529, a publication that did not just discuss the equality of women but emphasised their superiority.  His other title, De incertitudine et vanitate scientiarum atque artium declamatio invectiva (Declamation Attacking the Uncertainty and Vanity of the Sciences and the Arts, 1527. Often shortened to De Vanitate) was a ‘skeptical satire of the sad state of science’ and both have proved to remain in the consciousness of anyone who has an interest in the occult throughout the ages.

De Vanitate  is often regarded as almost contradictory to his other works, being an attack on the ability of the human mind to gain veritas (truth), or as an absolute denunciation of religious hypocrisy.  However, some regarded it as a case of does-what-it-says-on-the-tin and believe it to have been an amusing satire for anybody who enjoyed shocking people by being unconventional.

He has featured in fiction and folklore since his death in 1535, everything from Frankenstein to Harry Potter.

Agrippa lingered in Germany, France and Italy as a theologian, physician, soldier (Under Maximilian I, who also made him a knight) and legal expert.

Like John Dee, he was often thought to be heretical and dangerous, though he may not have faced quite the degree of persecution as Dee did.

Agrippa was featured in Elogia doctorum virorum, a collection of character sketches of then-celebrities by Paolo Giovio and a book that led to many a tall tale about Agrippa’s doings and involvement with the occult.  In particular, that a lodger died in his home and commanded a demon to enter the body and make it walk outside so that it would be found on the street and remove Agrippa from the equation.

By 1578 Dee was living permanently in his mother’s house at Mortlake after she gave it to him and he had married his third wife, Jane Fromond.

From this point onwards, Dee began to experiment with the ‘celestial’ magic that would consume his works for a significant part of his remaining life.

In 1579, lawyer Edward Kelley, a man who had been convicted with fraud and forgery in the past, tempted John Dee to examine a document about the ‘transmutation of metals’ that he had obtained from an innkeeper earlier in the decade.

The story goes that they were successful in transforming a pound of lead into a pound of gold and following this success they attracted one Prince Laski, a guest and nobleman in Elizabeth I’s court.

In 1581 Dee also began experimenting with attempts to contact the so-called spirit realm after a series of peculiar dreams and noises in his home.  He apparently contacted the angel Uriel prior to his meeting Edward Kelley and was bestowed with the ability to communicate with beings on other astral planes.

In 1582 he announced that he had made contact with the spirit world using a crystal ball after years of meticulous study.

In order to research the phenomena he had experienced in further detail, he employed scryers so that he could freely take notes on the goings on during the séances.

Barnabas Saul was the primary source of his information from the Otherworld until he had an ‘experience’ and lost contact.

Dee’s experience with Uriel led to the introduction of the obsidian scrying mirror to the world of the occult.  This object had long been used in other cultures; in this case it was used by Kelley to see the angels.  This mirror is still in the British museum.

Kelley later informed Dee that he too had had contact with angels and Dee believed him, the two performing a séance for Prince Laski after this announcement during which the angels allegedly said that the Prince was both destined to live forever and become King.  Pleased with this, he invited them to Poland and either in 1583, 84 or 85; they accepted the offer and moved to Cracow.

The events in the next few years are difficult to verify.  Most accounts say that Laski was broke and out of favour with his countrymen so the pair attempted to make gold to help him support his dwindling economy in accordance with the wishes of the angels.  When this turned out to be a fruitless endeavour and Laski was made only all the poorer as they continued to attempt alchemy they left of their own accord.

Laski offered to pay for the pair to visit Prague and introduce themselves to Emperor Rudolph II, an event that happened to coincide with a message from the angels according to Kelley, which they had to deliver to the Emperor.

They arrived in Prague in 1586 with a warm welcome from the Emperor.  He expressed an interest in the rumours of the philosopher’s stone, but unfortunately they were sent away after the Pope got wind of the goings on and insisted the Emperor dismiss them or have them burned at the stake.  Additionally, there were rumours that Dee and Kelley were involved in necromancy.

The pair made their way as fortune tellers back in Cracow until they managed to convince King Stephen of Poland that they knew he would be the one to assassinate Emperor Rudolph and take his place.

However, King Stephen soon found their constant demands for money suspicious and difficult, so in 1586 attempted to distract them with Count Rosenberg, who allowed them to live and work within his castle.

Two years later and they were still having no luck with their experiments to make gold.

There was speculation during this time that as Dee was a favourite of Queen Elizabeth I, any move he made in Poland could have hidden political agenda.  Indeed, there are thoughts that he was the Queen’s official spy.

His correspondence with her was often signed 007 and this is what inspired Ian Fleming.

Apparently he underwent several mysterious missions during his time under Queen Elizabeth the details of which are still unknown, as well as creating several intricate ciphers, some of which have yet to be fully translated.

While Dee was in Poland, his treasured library in his English home of Mortlake was trashed, destroying many of his books and his occult instruments.  It is thought that this was in response to rumours that Dee was a wizard or sorcerer of some nature and later accusations of consultation with Satan were thrown his way.

1587 saw the beginnings of distrust between Kelley and Dee.  Kelley told Dee that the angel Uriel had told him they should share wives and that as it was a command from God, it would not be sinful.

Dee accused him of consorting with evil spirits and after a heated row they went their separate ways, leaving Dee with the difficult prospect of finding a new scryer.

Of his many children, Dee attempted to teach Arthur the art of scrying.  Unfortunately he did not succeed and when Kelley made contact with him again he was relieved enough to accept the wife-swapping idea and pick up where they left off.

In 1589 Dee was given permission by Queen Elizabeth to return to England and he did not return with Kelley, but alone.

By this point he was not especially favoured by his home country, though Queen Elizabeth still trusted in him and awarded him a licence to practice alchemy.

Unfortunately, his fortunes steadily declined from then on.  He appointed another two scryers in the hope of remaining in contact with the otherworld, but they were both frauds.

He was appointed the Chancellorship of St Paul’s Cathedral but swapped this for the Wardenship of Manchester College in 1595.

He retired in 1603 and returned to Mortlake.  Here he attempted to continue his fortune-telling until his death at the age of 81.

He was, sadly, said to have died in poverty, though his daughter took care of him best that she could.

Kelley’s fate was none too pleasant either.  He was imprisoned in Poland and perished attempting to escape sometime in the later part of the 1590s.


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