13th July 1527. Neo-Paganism.
Today Dr Dee, alchemist, astronomer, astrologer, occultist, navigator, imperialist and mathematician was born in 1527 at a time when the occult co-existed with the Reformation, and the new classical learning of Petrarch and the Renaissance.
Dee was a close adviser to Queen Elizabeth, devoting much of his time to divination and the Hermetic philosophy of ceremonial magic, but also employed promoting the science of navigation and cartography for the new voyages of discovery.
Dee believed that heavenly influences operate on ‘the elemental portion of the world’ and that spiritual as well as physical forces were at work within the universe.
Science and natural magic were seen as complementary and Renaissance men studied both, but Black Magic was taboo. The Church’s view was that natural magic was a force when God worked through the hidden spirit world, a force for good and more akin to modern spiritualism.
He was introduced to Sir Francis Walsingham, who was Elizabeth’s spy-master, ‘Head of Spiery’, being sent abroad on assignments. However he was accused of trying to murder Queen Mary by the heinous crime of Black Magic. Imprisoned he was lucky to be released in 1555.
However in the late 18th century, preconceived Ptolemaic, classical times notions, of the universe were giving way to Scientism, where alchemy gradually morphed into chemistry, and astrology into astronomy, as the new scientific laws of physics were being discovered.
The old thinking of the occult and mysticism never went away, to still hold sway, among the intelligentsia in the early 20thc with the likes of Cambridge educated, mountaineer, poet and painter, Aleister Crowley, and his association with the ‘Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn’ of William Estcott.
Crowley described himself as ‘the Great Beast 666’, with his motto, ‘Do what thou wilt’. The press described him as ‘the wickedest man in the world’.
The Order had many influential members including writer Bram Stoker and poet, W.B.Yeats, there was even a suggestion that author of the Secret garden, E. Nesbit was associated.
The Crowleys had started brewing in Croydon and acquired a brewhouse in Alton, Hampshire, from James Baverstock, the mysteries of brewing obviously not being enough for their descendant Aleister.
In the 19thc in his weekly published journal, Charles Dickens spoke of Crowley’s as, ‘providing a first rate sandwich and a sparkling glass of ale’.(1)
Dr Dee died in Mortlake c1608, but over 500 years later the occult was still alive and kicking, when the Wicca Cult, of neo-Paganism was created by Gerald Gardner in the 1950.s.
(1) In 1821 Abraham Crowley had bought the brewery from James Baverstock, who had experimented with a hydrometer and discovered he could determine the strength of the wort, the beginning of Saccharometry. The water of a ‘Burton type’ enabled a pale ale to be brewed.