Sir Francis Bacon, John Dee and Rosicrucian America
In this article, I want to examine the impact that Sir Francis Bacon’s writings and teachings, and the Rosicrucian movement in general would have on the evolution of the future United States of America. To this end I am particularly indebted to Steve Sora
and his book Rosicrucian America
– How a Secret Society Influenced the Destiny of a Nation
, which I will quote from extensively. The first part of the article will, however, concentrate on the people, especially John Dee, who would help to launch the English (and Rosicrucian) colonisation of North America.
However, before proceeding, I must first put on record that I do not pretend to be any kind of an expert on American history. I have a good general working knowledge of American history but, as someone born and educated in England and raised on British history, I certainly do not have the kind of in-depth knowledge that an American student majoring in U.S. history might be expected to have. Hence, I would appreciate the input particularly of American Forum members who read this article where they may have additional information to add to what is said here.
I think it is fair to say that both Laura and the Cassiopaeans have taught us that we cannot rely on official or mainstream history, since it is often just a gloss on real events, written either by the victors or those writing on behalf of the predominant power elite of the time. Thus, official history can often represent a major distortion of the true events and facts, or, in the worst-case scenario, it can represent an outright fabrication. To cite just one example from British history, the ‘Glorious Revolution
’ of 1689 that saw King James II
forced from his throne was anything but glorious. It was, in reality, an invasion by a hostile foreign potentate who seized the British throne with the help of a small group of English Parliamentary plotters (who may all have been Freemasons) and the abject treachery of England’s greatest military commander of the age, John Churchill
, the First Duke of Marlborough. As to the charge of treason against John Churchill, this was upheld by a noted British historian of the 20th Century, who just happened to be his direct descendant. That historian was none other than Sir Winston Churchill
, the famous British wartime leader, who in his memoirs wrote that he had struggled when writing about this particular episode of British history in his monumental work The History of the English-Speaking Peoples
, since he could come to no other conclusion than his illustrious ancestor was a traitor to his king.
If such distortions are true of major events in British history, then the same is no doubt true of American history as well, which might explain why the famous 20th Century American industrialist Henry T Ford
famously exclaimed that “history is bunk
” [Indeed, he himself could be said to have betrayed his own country’s war efforts when he sent his son Edsel to Casablanca in Morocco to conduct secret negotiations with the Nazis over the building of troop carriers at Ford’s car plants in occupied France for the German army. See:Ford and the Führer
]. Steve Sora also takes this line where he states “History is written by the victorious, so it should always be considered suspect
”. As to American history, he commences his book with the following statements:
“History, as we have been taught it, implies an America born from the grassroots movement of a large populace striving for freedom of worship as well as freedom from high-handed taxation. The truth is that a very small handful of individuals with lofty goals was the party responsible for seeking these freedoms. This group consisted of alchemists, geomancers and philosophers, many of whom met in secret and risked everything on their new venture.
From its humble beginnings in a college in sixteenth century England, this small circle of individuals has played an unusually great role in the history of the world. This true secret society has influenced politics, science, and the very foundation of the United States. The circle has been known by more than one name, but its most fitting name is “the Invisibles
Forced to remain sub rosa (under the rose), many of the new thinkers took protection by coming together as groups, or circles, and in their entirety became an Invisible College. This “College” would eventually spread from England to Italy, Germany, France and the New World. Its curriculum consisted of an underground stream of knowledge
. Secret societies survived even while the Cathars of France and Italy were being exterminated by the Church”
The Underground Stream
We have, of course, encountered this theme of the underground stream, which launched the Renaissance, before on this thread when I mentioned the role played by individuals such as Réne d’ Anjou
, the 15th Century French nobleman and patron of the arts, who was one of the first to promote the theme of Arcadia. He especially influenced the Medicis
who would play a major part in kick starting the Renaissance in Italy. In medieval art, Arcadia was frequently denoted by a fountain or tombstone [MJF: which makes me think here of the Skull & Bones Society and their headquarters known as ‘The Tomb’
], both of which are associated with an underground stream. This stream is usually equated with the river Alpheus – the actual geographical Arcadia in Greece, which flows underground and is said to surface again at the Fountain of Arethusa in Sicily. The river Alpheus derives from the same root as the Greek word ‘Alpha’ meaning ‘first’ or ‘source’. Among other things it would appear to connote the ‘underground’ esoteric tradition of Pythagorean, Gnostic, Cabalistic and Hermetic thought.
, the three authors of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail
thought it might also connote something more than a general corpus of teachings, perhaps some very specific information – a ‘secret’ of some sort, transmitted in clandestine fashion from generation to generation, which might relate to an unacknowledged and thus ‘subterranean’ bloodline
. They, of course, had in mind the bloodline of Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene. They could be right about the bloodline secret, except it may be a very different bloodline from the one they proposed in their book. It may well be the ‘Grail bloodline’ linked perhaps to the Nordic Covenant.
Lincoln, Leigh and Baigent noted that during the 16th Century Arcadia and the ‘underground stream’ became a prominent cultural fashion, which would inspire the likes of Sir Philip Sydney
in his most important work, Arcadia
. It would also inspire Sir Francis Bacon who saw in North America the opportunity to create a new Arcadia. By the 17th Century the motif of Arcadia would also inspire the artist Nicolas Poussin
(a suspected Rosicrucian) in his two works relating to ‘Les Bergers d’Arcadie
’ (the Shepherds of Arcadia). Indeed, Poussin spelled out the ‘underground stream’ symbolism clearly in his first painting on the theme of the Shepherds of Arcadia when in the foreground of the painting (see below) he depicted the river god Alpheus
, who was lord of the underground stream.
Nicolas Poussin’s Et in Arcadia ego
Returning to Steven Sora, he went on to state:
“Smaller circles of men banded together to help inspire each other on Paths of discovery. Among such groups were a handful of men who stood out, both in terms of spreading knowledge and in forming and maintaining the secret societies. They ensured that these societies avoided detection and yet succeeded in their purpose
Possibly the greatest of these individuals was the Englishman Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626), an intellectual giant who would go on to be a founder of the Rosicrucians [ ]. Bacon was a philosopher and writer. He was also the architect of what would be the American Revolution even though he lived and died
[MJF: assuming here that he did!
] much earlier in time, long before his work would come to fruition. And although he would not reach the “promised land” himself, his efforts launched the expeditions that would attempt to create a new society where a democratic ideal could be installed as a progressive model.
In this, Bacon and his circle became the driving force for the English colonisation of the Americas. For Sir Francis Bacon there was an Atlantis, and it was directly across the Atlantic Ocean. In the distant past the Americas had shared commerce with Europe. Bacon wrote:
“You shall understand … that about 3,000 years ago, or somewhat more, the navigation of the world, especially for remote voyage, was greater than at this day.”
“We lost our traffic with the Americas … navigation did everywhere greatly decay.”
*The above quotes attributed to Bacon come from James Bailey’s book - The God Kings and the Titans.
Strangely Sora does not comment on the startling nature of the claim made in Bacon’s quote. You have to ask how is it that a 17th Century writer and philosopher knew of this earlier commerce between America and Europe, which dated back more than 1400 years before his own time? This time period long predates the Greek and Roman eras and takes us back to the halcyon days of ancient Egypt and Assyria. Indeed, 1400 BC places us in the same timeframe as the 18th dynasty pharaohs of Egypt, including the heretic Pharaoh Akhenaton.
Professor Barry Fell
Could the ancient Egyptians have undertaken transatlantic voyages? Well, we have tentative evidence that their boats were able to navigate their way to northern Britain and Ireland (recall here the Egyptian Bronze Age boats that were discovered well preserved at North Ferriby in East Yorkshire and the skeleton of the young Egyptian nobleman found at Tara in Ireland). We have also considered possible hieroglyphic evidence for an ancient Egyptian expedition to Australia. Moreover, Laura also mentioned in Secret History of the World the evidence for Bronze Age copper mining in North America, which would seem to date back to this timeframe as well. The C’s confirmed that this mining activity was undertaken by Celts and not native American peoples (N.B. the Celts have always been great miners). The point here is that Europeans of the 16th Century, then as now, were led to believe that Christopher Columbus discovered the Americas, which for them became the ‘New World’. There is no official history from before Bacon’s age that relates an earlier discovery of the Americas (although there were vague references by ancient writers to a vast land existing across the Atlantic Ocean), which Bacon could have drawn on to make this bold statement. Thus, we have to ask whether he had access to secret knowledge of ancient links between Europe and the Americas. This is quite possible, and Dr John Dee could have been the source for this information (see more below), given Dee’s extensive collection of ancient works and tomes, many of which are now missing, and his network of contacts on the Continent. Indeed, in persuading Queen Elizabeth to support the establishment of an English empire based on North America, Dee used various legends (for example, the Celtic tales of St Brendan and King Arthur) to support an English prior claim to possession of the lands of North America.
It is the Celtic connection that particularly intrigues me though. Although in the 17th Century, English colonists did not carry out any meticulous archaeological surveys in their new American colonies, a lot of serious archaeology has been conducted since. In spite of intense hostility from mainstream American archaeologists, there is now an abundance of evidence emerging to show that there was a strong Celtic presence (and an Egyptian and Phoenician one too) in North America from deep into antiquity.
Professor Barry Fell’s makes a strong and compelling case for an ancient Celtic presence in North America in his excellent book America BC, which is based on the numerous neolithic stone monuments that have been discovered all over the USA (but particularly in the north-east states) and the associated ancient Ogham* stone inscriptions, which betray a definite Celtic origin. Like the Middle Eastern/North African Phoenicians who settled in Spain, the Celts were also the great sailors of the ancient world.
The British Claim to North America
*‘Ogham’ script dates back centuries and has several theories about its origins. Traces of Ogham can still be found across Ireland, Britain and the Iberian Peninsula. The ancient script of Ogham, sometimes known now as the 'Celtic Tree Alphabet', originally contained 20 letters grouped into four groups of five.
Using his knowledge of deciphering ancient stone inscriptions, Fell drew a connection between the Celtic god Bel and the Canaanite god Baal based on an ancient stone Ogham inscription he had discovered in North America, which clearly describes Bel as Baal, the principal god of the Canaanites, who occupied what would become Northern Israel. The ancient Canaanite culture would in time give rise to the Phoenicians. The Phoenicians were a Semitic-speaking people of unknown origin who emerged in the Levant around 3000 BC. The religious practices and beliefs of Phoenicia were generally common to those of their neighbours in Canaan, hence they were also Baal worshippers. The Phoenicians subsequently extended their presence throughout the Mediterranean, from Cyprus to the Iberian Peninsula (via their colony in Carthage). They were renowned among their contemporaries as skilled traders and mariners, becoming the dominant commercial power for much of classical antiquity. The Phoenicians developed an expansive maritime trade network that lasted over a millennium, helping facilitate the exchange of cultures, ideas, and knowledge between major cradles of civilisation such as Greece, Egypt, and Mesopotamia. Their best-known legacy is the world's oldest verified alphabet, whose origin was connected to that of the Hebrew script via the Proto-Sinaitic script. and which was transmitted across the Mediterranean and used to develop the Arabic script and the Greek alphabet and in turn the Latin and Cyrillic alphabets. As early as 1200 BC, the Phoenicians built large merchant ships. During the Bronze Age, they also developed the keel. Hence, if any ancient group of mariners was capable of sailing to America and establishing trading links with the indigenous peoples of that continent, it was the Phoenicians.
However, Fell viewed the creation of trade links and settlements in America as primarily a Cantiberian enterprise, which involved a mixed group of Phoenicians, Basques and Celts from the Iberian Peninsula working together to establish these trade links and settlements. Fell found evidence not just of Phoenician script but also Basque and Celtic (Ogham) script too. For him there were also definite signs of Phoenician, Basque and Celtic influences on the languages of many of the native American tribes encountered by the first European settlers. This may explain why a native American tribe such as the Mi’kmaq or MicMac may have been so welcoming to Prince Henry Sinclair’s expedition to Nova Scotia in the late 14th Century. Official history suggests that the first Europeans to make contact with the Mi’kmaq were the early European explorers John Cabot and Jacques Cartier. By the early 16th century fisherman from Portugal, Spain, France, and England [MJF: which had all been Celtic territories in the distant past] all participated in the whaling industry and while the contact with the Mi’kmaq was not one of colonisation, many of the fishermen would set up camp on the coast before they sailed home. Thus, it is an irony of history that these new western European settlers/traders from former Celtic dominions were replicating the same trading/settlement patterns as their ancient Celtic ancestors.
But again, we need to ask the question how did Bacon know of these ancient Celtic trade links when evidence for them has only emerged in the late 20th Century?
The answer to that question might lie, as I said, with Doctor John Dee. As we have seen in earlier posts on John Dee, it was he who made out the case for an English prior claim to North America in order to encourage Queen Elizabeth I to back plans for the settlement of the New World by English colonists. Although a papal treaty had awarded the Americas to Portugal and Spain, England was now a protestant country, which owed no fealty to the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church. However, Dee realised that it would also help his case for promoting an English prior claim if he could adduce evidence for the past discovery and settlement of America by Britons.
You will note that I specifically refer to “Britons” above rather than the English or Anglo-Saxons. For those not familiar with British history, Britain had been a (Brythonic) Celtic country up to and after the Roman conquest and colonisation of the country. Although many Britons had become Romano-British in both their lifestyle and culture, most of them still retained their Celtic language unlike the Spanish Celts, for example, who were completely Romanised. However, when the Romans pulled their last garrisons out of Britain circa 400 A.D. to defend Rome from the Germanic hordes, the British soon experienced attacks from the Picts in the north and the Irish Hibernians (Gaels) from the west. This led the Romano-Celtic British leader Vortigern
to seek assistance from some of the Germanic tribes based on the mainland of Europe, especially the Angles (from whom the name ‘England’ derives) and the Saxons. Unfortunately, as is often the case in history, these Germanic mercenaries turned from saviours to conquerors. Consequently, the Anglo-Saxons would come to dominate most of what we call England today, imposing their language, customs and laws on the country.
The Anglo-Saxons would, however, encounter stiff resistance from the Cymri people in what today we call Wales (Cymru) and in the north, particularly Northumberland, the land of the Brigantes or Briganti Celtic tribe. You should note here that the people of what is now Wales were not distinguished by the Romans from the rest of the peoples of southern Britain; all were called Britons and spoke common Brittonic, a Celtic language.
As well as the Dark Age Anglo-Saxons and Dutch Fresian colonisers, the Vikings, especially the Danes, would subsequently get in on the act until in 1066, the French-Normans under Duke William of Normandy
would complete the conquest and institute the Plantagenet line of kings of England. However, like the Romans before them, the Norman kings would attempt to conquer the whole of mainland Britain, including Wales and Scotland. In the case of Wales, they would eventually succeed when one of the last independent Welsh princes, Llywelyn ap Gruffydd
(Llywelyn the Last), was killed at the Battle of Orewin Bridge
in 1282. His brother, Dafydd ap Gruffydd
, was executed the following year. After these two deaths, Edward I of England invested his son Edward of Caernarfon
as the first English prince of Wales in 1301. However, the title was later claimed by the heir of Gwynedd
, Owain Glyndŵr
(Owain ap Gruffydd or Owen Glendower), from 1400 until 1415 (the date of his assumed death) who led Welsh forces against the English. With conquest came assimilation and the English kings and their government officials in Wales would lead an unrelenting attack on the Welsh language and culture, which persisted long into the 19th century, with a ban on the teaching and use of the Welsh language in Welsh schools. This bred fierce Welsh resistance to English rule and subordination, which is still very much felt to this day.
As someone of Norman ancestry (my ancestor Ralph de Frane was a right-hand man of William the Conqueror who remained behind in Normandy to protect William’s Duchy whilst William embarked on the conquest of England), I can personally vouch for this surviving Welsh resentment of the English/Norman conquest of Wales. In Wales, the sport of rugby football is a religion and the Welsh love nothing better than defeating their hated English oppressors when the two nations clash during the annual Six Nations Rugby Union internationals. At these games, the old rivalries still loom large, as I would find out when I attended one such international game at Twickenham in south-west London with my brother in the 1980’s. The Welsh supporters would sing their Welsh national songs (in Welsh of course) at these games and jeer the English players. Unfortunately, my brother and I found ourselves that day in an overwhelmingly Welsh section of the crowd. It was here that I witnessed a most interesting conversation between a Welsh rabble rouser and an Englishman, which was a history lesson in itself. The conversation went something like this:
Welsh rabble rouser pointing at the English players on the pitch and turning to his Welsh colleagues behind him yells:
“You f***ing English donkeys, you invaded our country, you burned down our towns, you killed our men and raped our women. We are going to f*** you off the pitch today”
to loud cheers from his fellow Welsh fans.
At this point a young Englishman standing just in front of him turned around and said “Taffy old boy, we English, Anglo-Saxons, didn’t do any of these things. We built Offa’s Dyke* to keep you lot out of England. No, it was the Normans who did those things, not we English.”
*Offa's Dyke (Welsh: Clawdd Offa) is a large linear earthwork that roughly follows the border between England and Wales. The structure is named after Offa, the Anglo-Saxon king of Mercia from AD 757 until 796, who is traditionally believed to have ordered its construction. Although its precise original purpose is debated, it delineated the border between the Anglian kingdom of Mercia and the Welsh kingdom of Powys.
Dee as a Proto-Rosicrucian
Our Welsh rabble rouser grunted “Eh!”
and after thinking about what the English fan had said for a moment, turning round to his fellow Welsh fans, he then gesticulated at the pitch and shouted: “You f***ing Norman donkeys, you invaded our country, you burned down our towns, you killed our men and raped our women. We are going to f*** you off the pitch today”,
again to loud cheers from his Welsh colleagues.
At this point, my brother and I kept very silent since you see, my ancestors were henchman for Edward I of England who placed his toughest and nastiest Norman knights on the Welsh border, who did exactly what the Welshman had said when they would lead punitive missions into Wales from English bordering counties to enforce English rule. In this last respect, my ancestors were based primarily in the county of Herefordshire on the Welsh border. Incidentally, when my paternal cousin visits Wales and crosses the border, he always announces to anyone in the car that we are now entering conquered territory, so the antipathy cuts both ways, at least where he is concerned.
You may ask at this stage why any of this matters to American history. Well, John Dee, although born and raised in London, was reputedly from a Welsh family. Indeed, he claimed descent from Rhodri the Great
, Prince of Wales, and constructed a pedigree accordingly (see: John Dee's genealogy and self-portrait | The British Library (bl.uk)
). His family had arrived in London with Henry Tudor's coronation as Henry VII after Henry had defeated Richard III, the last Plantagenet king, at the Battle of Bosworth Field. Whatever the truth of the matter, Dee’s father, Roland Dee, was definitely of Welsh descent. Moreover, Henry VII, was a Welshman and had a strong, romantic attachment to the legend of King Arthur of the Britons. He even called his first-born son, Arthur. Henry's father, Edmund Tudor
, the 1st Earl of Richmond, was a half-brother of Henry VI
of England and a member of the Welsh Tudors of Penmynydd
, Henry made political capital out of his Welsh ancestry in attracting military support and safeguarding his army's passage through Wales on its way to the Battle of Bosworth. Wales was historically a Lancastrian stronghold, and Henry owed the support he gathered to his Welsh birth and ancestry. He came from an old, established Anglesey family that claimed descent from Cadwaladr
, in legend, the last ancient British king, and on occasion Henry displayed the red dragon of Cadwaladr. He took it, as well as the standard of St. George, on his procession through London after the victory at Bosworth. A contemporary writer and Henry's biographer, Bernard André
, also made much of Henry's Welsh descent.
And John Dee’s monarch, Elizabeth Tudor, was, of course, the granddaughter of Henry VII. Hence, as Steve Sora explains, although the English had anglicised the legend of King Arthur, even accepting a claim made by medieval English monks that they had found his remains at Glastonbury Abbey in Somerset, his roots in British folklore always lay with the Welsh, not the English. John Dee, being of Welsh stock, would certainly have been aware of this and may have had in his collection of books ancient Welsh manuscripts which fleshed out the Arthurian legends (N.B. Dee seems to have placed Avalon, Arthur's burial place, in America – see more below on this) and perhaps reference works for other acclaimed Celtic discoverers of North America such as the Irish Saint Brendan
and the 12th century Welsh Prince Madoc
. In Queen Elizabeth, with her own Welsh ancestry, Dee would find a willing listener. In this way, Dee in presenting his Arthurian claims to Elizabeth for a British original discovery of North America would play a key role in obtaining her royal support for his ambitious plans to explore and settle the continent. These plans would be backed by the likes of Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Francis Drake, Richard Grenville, Sir Humphrey Gilbert and, of course, Sir Francis Bacon.
I may do a separate post on Prince Madoc and other supposed discoverers of America prior to Columbus like the English Franciscan friar Nicholas of Lynn
(see more below on him), since there may be more than a grain of truth to their stories and the subject really deserves an article of its own. This post may also include an analysis of Prince Henry Sinclair
’s alleged voyage to Nova Scotia in the late 14th century, which I appreciate is controversial but their does seem to be hard evidence now emerging for Sinclair’s voyage to have really occurred.
According to Steve Sora, before the Rosicrucians even had a name, Dee had his own sect built around him. Although he was not a Freemason, Dee was certainly knowledgeable about many of the topics pursued by the Freemasons. For example, apart from his mathematical skills, Dee also had a great interest in architecture and in navigation (bearing in mind here that he was one of England’s foremost cartographers as well as being a personal friend of the celebrated Flemish cartographer/map maker Gerardus Mercator), with English explorers and renowned mariners often visiting him to discuss the planning of their voyages to the New World. Sora claims that one way we can trace Dee’s Rosicrucian leanings is to look at his servants and associates, all of whom were involved with alchemy in one way or another. Interestingly, he doesn’t mention Edward Kelley, Dee’s famous scryer (or trance medium) who was known to be an alchemist and who for a while was celebrated in that capacity in Bohemia, the centre of power of Emperor Rudolf II , who had a great interest in alchemy and all things esoteric. Nor did Sora mention either Adrian or Humphrey Gilbert, who were the half-brothers of Sir Walter Raleigh, who, like Raleigh, were renowned mariners and explorers in their own right. Apart from exploring, both men also dabbled in alchemy.
Sweet Swan of Avon! What a sight it were
As a side note, it should be mentioned that in this last connection Adrian Gilbert was the assistant to Mary Sidney Herbert, the Second Countess of Pembroke, in her alchemical laboratory. She was one of the most educated women in England at that time, being able to speak and read several languages, and, like John Dee, she also possessed an extensive library of books. As with Bacon, Marlowe and Edward de Vere, she is suspected of having a hand in the authorship of the literary works attributed to William Shakespeare. Combined with her love of riding, hunting, and hawking, she was the perfect example of a Renaissance woman. Moreover, like Sir Walter Raleigh and Robert Deveraux, the Earl of Essex, she made her main residence at Wilton House a cultural centre of England where she nurtured writers and poets such as Sir Philip Sydney (who wrote Arcadia), Michael Drayton, Edmund Spenser (the author of the Faerie Queen), Thomas Kydd, Christopher Marlowe and Ben Jonson within its cosy academic environment, all these men being frequent visitors to her home.
Like Dee, she was also interested in musical codes and invisible ink. She sponsored other writers whilst indulging in her own literary efforts as well. Curiously, a letter written to her son in 1606, which was found in the archives of her home declared: “We have the man Shakespeare here”. Was it William Shakespeare she was referring to or one of the men who may have penned the works attributed to him? Here it should be noted that the first folio (i.e., collection) of Shakespeare’s plays was dedicated to her sons. Furthermore, her symbol was the swan, and she had an estate on the river Avon. Was Mary Sidney Herbert the real ‘Sweet Swan of the Avon’, an expression first coined by Ben Jonson in his poem “To the memory of My Beloved, The AUTHOR Mr William Shakespeare And what he hath left us”, which was prefixed to the First Folio of Shakespeare’s works published in 1623:
To see thee in our waters yet appeare,
And make those flights upon the banks of Thames
That so did take Eliza, and our James!
The “swan” since Virgil’s day was conventionally used as a symbol to represent a poet and “Avon” is the name of the river that runs through Stratford in Warwickshire where William Shakspere was born in 1564 and died in 1616.
One man who thinks Mary Herbert may have been the real Shakespeare is Robin Williams the author of Sweet Swan of Avon: Did a Woman Write Shakespeare?
The actor Mark Rylance
, who was the Artistic Director of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in London (1996-2006) and Chairman of the Shakespearean Authorship Trust, when writing a forward to Williams’ book declared:
“It is long overdue that someone took a closer look at the brilliant Mary Sidney. I have a suspicion that Mary Sidney's life, and especially her dedication to the English language after her brother's death, may throw important light on the mysterious authorship of the Shakespeare plays and poems
Dee’s Associates and Influences and their Connections to Rosicrucianism
The Monas Hieroglyphica
First, I might add that in seeking Rosicrucian links through the practice of alchemy, it is fair to say that not all 16th Century alchemists would have been Rosicrucians and, by the same token, not all Rosicrucians would have been practising alchemists. Hence, a person’s involvement with alchemy does not automatically mark them out as being a Rosicrucian, although many Rosicrucians did certainly practice alchemy. Having made that distinction clear, let us now look at some of Sora’s Rosicrucian candidates from among Dee’s associates and retinue of servants.
was in Dee’s employ from 1567 to 1581 after which he left only to return in 1600. At that point Cook changed his name to Roger Cock, possibly because the rooster is a spiritual symbol. He subsequently went into the employ of Cornelis Drebbel
, an alchemist, inventor and a man who was considered to be the most important Rosicrucian of his day. With apologies to Dutch Forum members, I must confess that until I read Sora’s book, I had never heard of Drebbel, but historians consider him, as a prolific inventor, to have been the Thomas Edison of his day. For more on Drebbel see: Cornelis Drebbel - Wikipedia
Drebbel was born in Alkmaar
, Holland to an Anabaptist family in 1572. Drebbel became a skilled engraver on copperplate and also took an interest in alchemy. He initially made his living as a painter, engraver and cartographer. He first came to England in 1604. His inventions covered a wide range of apparatus. He arguably built the first navigable submarine in 1620, even taking King James I for a trip in it down the river Thames. He also built telescopes and microscopes – and even hydraulics for the theatre. He astonished the court of King James with his inventions (a perpetuum mobile and automatic and hydraulic organs amongst others) and his optical instruments. His fame circulated through the courts of Europe. In October 1610, Drebbel and his family moved to Prague at the invitation of Holy Roman-German Emperor Rudolf II
(as had John Dee before him), who was preoccupied with the arts, alchemy and occult sciences. Here again Drebbel demonstrated his inventions. When in 1611 Rudolf II was stripped of all effective power by his younger brother Archduke Matthias
, Drebbel was imprisoned for about a year. After Rudolf's death in 1612, Drebbel was set free and went back to London in 1613. However, as a glutton for punishment or perhaps thinking lightning could not strike twice, at the request of Holy Roman-German Emperor Ferdinand II
in 1619, he went to Prague again to tutor the Emperor’s sons and was taken prisoner after the Battle of White Mountain and the capture of Prague in 1620. He subsequently returned to London where he would die in 1633. The eminent Anglican clergyman, Robert Burton
, noted in his book Anatomy of Melancholy
(a three-part treatise on depression) that Drebbel was a Rosicrucian and an alchemist. Unfortunately, Sora does not mention whether John Dee ever became associated with Drebbel. However, given Drebbel’s high reputation at King James’s court and his standing as a scientist and inventor, their paths would no doubt have crossed at some point.
Sora then mentions Dee’s other seminal assistant and pupil, Patrick Sanders
(or Saunders). His name appears in connection with a loan of some of Dee's alchemical books to Henry Percy, the “Wizard Earl” of Northumberland.
The antiquarian and early Freemason Elias Ashmole knew Saunders and his activities, describing him as “an astrologer and physician as well as a scryer with a reputation for seeing visions in crystals.
" It is not surprising, in light of this description, that Saunders found a place with Dee as an alchemical assistant. Sanders would eventually go on to become a member of the Royal College of Physicians. However, he also edited a work by the 13th Century Franciscan Friar and alchemist Roger Bacon
, Epistola … de secretis operibus Artis et Naturae
, which he dedicated to the Rosicrucians. In 1619 Saunders also wrote an inscription in the album amicorum
of a Rosicrucian from Lübeck, Joachim Morsius
. Sanders acquired several of Dee's manuscripts after his death. Some of Sander’s own alchemical manuscripts are now housed in the British Library.
Sora tells us that another influence on John Dee was Giacopo Brocardo
. He has been described as a Christian Kabbalist. He wrote The Revelation of St. John
and is considered a forerunner of Rosicrucian tradition. In his written works he maintained that the finding of Christian Rosencreutz’s tomb would precede the victory over the antichrist. He also claimed that a last age would end 120 years after Martin Luther was gone.
Sora also points out that Dee studied and taught at the university of Louvain in what today is Belgium. This school was a hotbed of occult philosophy, mathematics with a Pythagorean bent, and gnostic thought.
Another fellow alchemist was Robert Fludd
(1574 – 1637), who was a friend of Dee’s and inherited his mantle as England’s leading exponent of esoteric thought. He is remembered as being an astrologer, mathematician, cosmologist, Qabalist and Rosicrucian. Both men would share the same thirst for knowledge in a new and evolving scientific framework. However, whilst Fludd would be highly esteemed as a scientist by England’s scientific community, Dee would not be, due no doubt to his involvement in what may be described as the dark sciences. Ironically, Fludd would openly endorse the Rosicrucian tradition spread by Dee and Bacon, calling the “Brothers of the Rosy Cross”
and their work with magic, alchemy and Kabbalah the highest good.
Fludd was a member of the Royal College of Physicians as was Robert Boyle
(famous for his ‘Boyle’s Law’ for those who remember their chemistry classes) who had close ties to the Palatinate in Germany where Rosicrucianism flourished and where, Sora notes, many of Pennsylvania’s immigrants would later originate from. Like his Rosicrucian colleagues, he never claimed to be a member of any esoteric order but his letters were replete with references to the Invisible College. However, as Sora points out, letters from others attest to the fact that their authors belonged to an Hermetic society, Boyle being a case in point. Born in1627, Boyle was a founder of the Invisible College
. Sora quoting author Michael White in his biography of Sir Isaac Newton: “The real Invisible College was the network of nameless adepts who kept alight the alchemical flame.
” It is worth noting here that Boyle was Sir Isaac Newton’s teacher in the alchemical sciences and his writings were mostly concerned with alchemy. From a religious viewpoint, Boyle claimed to be an Arian and not a believer in the Holy Trinity, which would have been viewed as heretical at that time. He also claimed that the ancients were far more knowledgeable than scientists of his day (MJF: given what we know of the advancement of Atlantean learning, this claim was undoubtedly true and is still applicable in our own age, in spite of the great advances made in science since Boyle’s era – recall here that the C’s once said our science was like that of the Neanderthals compared to the Atlanteans
). Yet like Fludd, Boyle has still received the respect of history in his role as a scientist, a respect that has never been conferred on John Dee.
Apart from these scientific luminaries, Dee’s house at Mortlake would become more of a private college than a home where visiting scientists were made welcome, with rooms being set aside for them as laboratories so they could conduct their experiments. Regular guests included Edward Dyer (the Chancellor of the Order of the Garter), Robert Dudley (the Earl of Leicester), Adrian Gilbert a half-brother to Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Philip Sydney the author of Arcadia and his sister Mary, the Countess of Pembroke (see above). However, one of Dee’s closest friends was Sir Walter Raleigh whose social and intellectual circles (MJF: recall here Raleigh’s ‘School of Night’
) overlapped with his own. The nearby Syon House, which was owned by Henry Percy, the Wizard Earl of Northumberland (who was married to the sister of Robert Deveraux – the ill-fated Earl of Essex) also served as a place where great minds shared similar interests. John Dee would visit Syon House and therefore he seems to have straddled both the Raleigh circle and the Earl of Essex (Baconian) circle.
Percy was a patron to the astronomer Thomas Harriot
. Harriot had been a navigational tutor to Raleigh and his captains. From 1598 (or possibly from 1607) Harriot lived at Syon House. There he used a telescope to make a map of the moon several months before Galileo did the same. Before entering Percy’s service, Harriot had travelled to the Americas, accompanying the 1585 expedition to Roanoke Island funded by Sir Walter Raleigh and led by Sir Ralph Lane. He learned the Carolina Algonquian language from two Native Americans and could translate it, making him a vital member of the expedition. His account of the voyage to Roanoke, called A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia
, was published in 1588 and it contained an early account of the Native American population encountered by the expedition. It would prove very influential upon later English explorers and colonists. Harriot wrote: "Whereby it may be hoped, if means of good government be used, that they may in short time be brought to civility and the embracing of true religion.
" At the same time, his views of Native Americans' industry and capacity to learn were later largely ignored in favour of the parts of the "True Report
" about extractable minerals and resources. This may bear out what I said in my earlier article on Sir Walter Raleigh about this focus on purely material rewards being perhaps the reason why the Greys abducted the Roanoke Colony en masse but left the Virginia Colony sponsored by Sir Francis Bacon to survive, in order to facilitate the fulfilment of Bacon’s Rosicrucian dream of America becoming the New Atlantis.
In 1564, Dee would put together what was considered his most important work, the Monas Hieroglyphica
, which is viewed as an alchemical text written in an alchemical language. He dedicated it to Emperor Maximillian of the Holy Roman Empire. He included on the front cover of the work an odd symbol (see below) representing the moon, the sun, the elements and the zodiac sign of Aries (the zodiacal month which commences at the Spring Equinox), which he had invented. The book is an exposition of the meaning of the symbol. When Dee was asked to explain the symbol to Queen Elizabeth and later to Emperor Rudolf II, he claimed that a single four-letter word held the secrets of Creation (as it did for the Jews – which could therefore link it to the Hebrew Tetragrammaton
, the four-letter Hebrew theonym
or name for God “YHWH”, possibly derived from a verb that means "to be", "to exist", "to cause to become", or "to come to pass".
Frontispiece of the 'Monas Hieroglyphica' by John Dee, printed by Willem Silvius in Antwerp, 1564. Dee’s glyph can be seen on the right.
The glyph on the right was subsequently adopted by the Rosicrucians and appears on a page of the Rosicrucian Manifesto The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz
(1616), beside the text of the invitation to the Royal Wedding given to Rosenkreutz who narrates the work. The esoteric historian Dame Frances Yates
who specialised in the Renaissance notes that Dee's influence later "spread to Puritanism in the New World through John Winthrop Jr., an alchemist and a follower of Dee; Winthrop used the 'Monas' as his personal mark.
" John Winthrop
(1606 – 1676) was an early governor of the Connecticut who played a large role in the merger of several separate settlements into the unified colony. His father had been a founding governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. During his tenure as Governor of Connecticut, Winthrop oversaw the acceptance of Quakers who were banned from Massachusetts. While in England, he was elected as a Fellow of the newly organised Royal Society, which was the institutional successor to the Invisible College. Winthrop is thus indicative of an early Rosicrucian presence in the embryonic America and his adoption of Dee’s Monas as a personal mark indicates the lasting influence of John Dee on the Rosicrucian movement.
Continued in Part 2