Fresh Angles On John Dee’s Angels

EnochianThe good people at Destiny Books/Inner Traditions recently sent on a new volume that finds some of magic’s most mysterious writings collected in one book for the very first time. With Decoding the Enochian Secrets: God’s Most Holy Book to Mankind as Received by Dr. John Dee from Angelic Messengers, author John DeSalvo, Ph.D. offers up the complete writings and Tables of Enoch that Dee and Edward Kelley received from the angels.

If you’re already confused, this book isn’t for you. This is not a biography of John Dee or an in-depth examination of the events that found the 16th-century mathematician, scientist, occultist, and the astrologer of Queen Elizabeth I seemingly contacting angels and receiving what may be the most important divinely-channeled communication of all time.  If you are interested in finding out more about Enochian Magic, start with Benjamin Woolley’s excellent tome The Queen’s Conjurer: The Science and Magic of Dr. John Dee, Adviser to Queen Elizabeth I. This new volume is no place for newbies.

On the other hand, if you’ve found yourself intrigued with Dee’s accomplishments, there is much to explore here. And if you’re fluent in the Enochian tongue, this volume promises to put a private collection of Dee’s writings in your conjuring little hands.

The book’s strength lies in DeSalvo’s contextualizing of the magical writings that Dee’s efforts with assistant Edward Kelley produced. DeSalvo’s short, sharp chapters at the beginning of the book pull Dee and Kelley’s pursuits out of a vacuum and place them in a Biblical/historical framework that reads like a mystery novel.

DeSalvo goes into detail about the apocryphal Book of Enoch and the titular Biblical character the book is attributed to. While many attracted to DeSalvo’s book are undoubtedly familiar with these controversial Old Testament writings, DeSalvo’s parsing of the book, its author, its legend and lore are a welcome surprise and the fascinating parallels he draws between the Book of Enoch and the transmissions that Dee and Kelley received are the highlight of the volume.

Along the way, DeSalvo also reveals what he claims to be the missing 49th Table of Enoch, and his step-by-step reconstruction of the rows and columns of various tables almost remind us of an episode of C.S.I. However, despite the forensic intrigue of the first half of the book, the centerpiece is something of a disappointment.

While one’s own set of Dee’s complete tables and writings would be a great addition to any occultist’s library, the offerings here come up short. The last section of the book offers digital reproductions of the actual leaves that Dee and Kelley transcribed from the angels. The problem is that they are so small and lacking in sharpness that it’s difficult to know what to do with them. One can’t really appreciate their details and idiosyncrasies as one might with a work of art. The downright hard to read reproductions will also be of little use to the mage who might have hoped to solve the mysteries of the tables on  his/her own.  We would’ve loved to have seen this released in a coffee table edition that would’ve given readers the real sensation of flipping through Dee’s scrawlings and slipping into one of magic’s greatest mysteries.

While the book’s central offering is a letdown, DeSalvo’s commentary and criticism is enjoying near-universal praise andDecoding the Enochian Secrets is an important book for anyone serious about the study of Dee, his angels, and their magic.

Visit Joe Nolan’s Insomnia to see Terence McKenna play John Dee in the one hour documentary The Alchemical Dream: Rebirth of the Great Work.

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