Respected Philosopher Led Astray by Con Man

John Dee, an alchemist, astrologer, philosopher and scientist of Elizabethan England, publicly revived and did much to restore interest in ancient Enochian magic and the spells and conjurations of King Solomon.

In his early years he was so highly respected that he was personal astrologer to Mary Tudor, maintained an impressive private library and even provided advice about navigating the New World to Sir Walter Raleigh and other ships’ captains.

When Mary Tudor died, as royal astrologer, Dee chose the most propitious date for the coronation of the new Queen Elizabeth.

Dee’s magical experiments were also bearing fruit. He revealed that he had made contact with the Angel Uriel, who bestowed upon him the power to communicate with beings on other planes of existence.

But his troubles began when he met and became involved with Edward Kelley, who produced an ancient parchment written in old Gaelic, and two vials of a strange powder he claimed to have bought from an innkeeper. Kelley quoted the innkeeper as saying the paper came from the grave of a rich bishop.

Kelley said that the parchment had something to do with transmuting base metals into gold.

It would be much later before Dee learned that Kelley was a scoundrel, a crooked lawyer and convicted forger.

Kelley coaxed Dee into forming a partnership to try out the magical formula in the old paper, so that together they could solve the mystery of the Philosopher’s Stone – creating gold from cheaper substances.

Dee was pleasantly astonished when they turned a pound of lead into gold. Or so it seemed.

The story had spread throughout Europe. The duo was entertained and financed in new experiments by royalty in Poland, Prague, Bohemia and elsewhere.

At that time Kelley told his benefactor that he had also been in contact with angels, and the two men began to conduct séances together. Dee took care of the invocations, and the angels and other spirits talked through Kelley. During a séance in the English Royal Court attended by Queen Elizabeth, the spirits or angels, speaking through Kelley, told a Polish prince, Albertus Alasco, that he would become king of Poland and live forever.

When the bubble broke and Dee at last realized he had been hoodwinked by some kind of sleight-of-hand or other trick to produce the gold and had been taken terrible advantage of in his dealings with Kelley, it was too late. Dee’s reputation was irreparably damaged.

About the only bright spot for the discredited alchemist and conjuror was Queen Elizabeth. She paid him a personal visit and awarded him a license to practice alchemy.

Others were less forgiving. Sometime later, a mob burned his library and laboratory. Dee died at age 81. He was penniless.

No one is quite sure what happened to the heartless con artist who ruined his life. Some accounts indicate he died in prison, possibly when a rope he was using to escape through a window broke, sending him to his death.

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