Sub-Figura vel Liber Caeruleus
by Donald Tyson
[from Gnosis Magazine, Summer 1996]
John Dee’s Enochian Keys of magic intended to unleash violent
occult forces that would hurl us into another age?
Between the years 1582 and 1589 the English scholar John Dee
(1527-1608) conducted a series of ritual communications with a set
of disincarnate entities who eventually came to be known as the Enochian angels. It was Dee’s plan to use the complex system of
magic communicated by the angels to advance the expansionist
policies of his sovereign, Queen Elizabeth I. At the time England
lay under the looming shadow of invasion from Spain. Dee hoped to
control the hostile potentates of Europe by commanding the tutelary
spirits of their various nations.
Dee was a thoroughly remarkable man. Not only was he a skilled
mathematician, astronomer, and cartographer, but he was also the
private astrologer, counselor, and (some believe) confidential
espionage agent of Queen Elizabeth.(1) His father had been a
gentleman sewer (a kind of steward) at the table of Henry VIII. When
Elizabeth ascended to the throne in 1558, Dee was asked to set an
auspicious date for her coronation. Always intensely loyal to the
Protestant Elizabeth, he had earlier been falsely accused of trying
to kill her predecessor, the Catholic Queen Mary, with sorcery. His
intellectual brilliance and skill as a magician were famous, and
infamous, throughout Europe.
In his occult work he was aided by an equally extraordinary person,
Edward Kelley (also spelled "Kelly"; 1555-1597), the son of a
Worcester apothecary, who dreamed of discovering the secret of the
philosopher’s stone and dabbled in the black art of necromancy.
Fleeing Lancaster in 1580 on charges of forging title deeds, Kelley
found it prudent to set out on a walking tour of Wales. Somewhere
near Glastonbury (so the story goes) he purchased a portion of the
fabled red powder that could turn base metals into gold; the source
of the powder was an innkeeper who had received it from tomb
For the remainder of his colorful life Kelley labored to unlock the
secret of the red powder so that he could manufacture more of it
himself. It was on this quest for alchemical knowledge that he
sought out the library of John Dee in 1582, and it was primarily for
this reason that he agreed to serve as Dee’s seer.
Dee was a saint, Kelley a rogue, but they were bound together by
their common fascination with ceremonial magic and the wonders it
promised. Dee possessed little talent for mediumship. He tried to
overcome this limitation by hiring a mountebank named Barnabas Saul
as his professional scryer but had poor results. When Dee learned of
Kelley’s considerable psychic abilities, he eagerly employed Kelley
as his seer for the sum of 50 pounds per annum.
Dee invoked the Enochian angels to visible appearance within a
scrying crystal or a black mirror of obsidian by means of prayers
and certain magical seals. After Kelley had alerted Dee to the
presence of the spirits, Dee questioned them. Kelley reported their
sayings and doings back to Dee, who recorded them in his magical
The most important portion of Dee’s transcription of the Enochian
communications, covering the years 1582-1587, was published in
London in 1659 by Meric Casaubon under the tide A True and Faithful
Relation of What Passed for Many Years between Dr. John Dee ...and
Some Spirits. This fascinating work has been reprinted several times
in recent decades and is readily available.
The Enochian spirits got their name from the nature of the magical
system they described. It was, they claimed, the very magic that the
biblical patriarch Enoch had learned from the angels of heaven. The
angel Ave told Dee, "Now hath it pleased God to deliver this
Doctrine again out of darknesse: and to fulfill his promise with
thee, for the books of Enoch."(3) I Compared to it, all other forms
of magic were mere playthings.
Although Dee faithfully recorded all the details of Enochian magic
in his diaries, he never tried to work this system in any serious
way. We cannot know the reason with certainty. In 1589 he broke with
Kelley, who stayed on in Bohemia to manufacture gold for the Holy
Roman Emperor Rudolph II while Dee returned to England at the
request of Elizabeth, a circumstance that may have inconvenienced
his plans. But it is my contention that Dee was awaiting permission
from the angels to employ their magic, and this permission was not
given in his lifetime.
It is necessary to state unequivocally for those unfamiliar with
Enochian magic that neither Dee nor Kelley fabricated the spirit
communications. Both believed completely in the reality of the
angels, although they differed about the motives of these beings.
Dee believed them to be obedient agents of God who submitted to the
authority of Christ. Kelley mistrusted them and suspected them of
deliberate deception. The dislike was mutual. The angels always
treated Kelley with amused contempt. Kelley hoped the angels would
communicate the secret of the red powder, which was the only reason
he endured their insults for so many years.
There is no space here to enter into the question of the nature and
objective reality of spirits, nor is it likely that any conclusions
could be reached on this difficult subject. Whatever their essential
nature, the Enochian angels acted as independent, intelligent beings
with their own distinct personalities and purposes. This is how Dee
and Kelley regarded them, and this is how I shall regard them in
this essay. Using this assumption, I will present what I believe to
be the angels’ secret agenda, which they concealed from Dee: to
plant among mankind the ritual working that would initiate the
period of violent transformation between the present aeon and the
next, commonly known as the apocalypse.
Gates and the Keys
What the Enochian angels conveyed to Dee was not merely a potent
form of magic to rule the tutelary spirits of the nations. It was an
initiatory formula designed to open the locked gates of the four
great watchtowers that stand guard against chaos at the extremities
of our universe. The Watchtowers are described by the angel
"The 4 houses, are the 4 Angels of
the Earth, which are the 4 Overseers, and Watchtowers, that the
eternal God in his providence hath placed, against the usurping
blasphemy, misuse, and stealth of the wicked and great enemy,
the Devil. To the intent that being put out to the Earth, his
envious will might be bridled, the determinations of God
fulfilled, and his creatures kept and preserved, within the
compass and measure of order."(4)
These Watchtowers, represented in Enochian magic by alphabetical squares, are equivalent to the four
mystical pillars of Egyptian mythology that hold up the sky and keep
it from crashing into the earth. They bar the chaotic legions of
Coronzon from sweeping across the face of the world. Coronzon, the
angels reveal, is the true heavenly name for Satan.(5) He is also
known by the Enochian title of Death-Dragon or Him-That-Is-Fallen (Telocvovim).(6)
The Enochian Calls or Keys (the angels refer to them by both titles)
are 48 spirit evocations delivered to Dee and Kelley in the Enochian
language and then translated into English word for word by the
angels. The overt purpose of the Keys, the angels declared, was to
enable Dee to establish ritual communication with the spirits of the
30 Aethers or Airs who rule over the tutelary spirits of the nations
of the earth. There are actually 49 Keys, but the first, the angels
said, is too sacred and mysterious to be voiced. The first eighteen
explicit Keys are completely different in their wording; the last 30
are similar save for the name of the Aether inserted in the first
line. The angel Raphael declares the expressed purpose the Keys to
"In 49 voyces, or callings: which
are the Natural Keyes, to open those, not 49, but 48. (for One
is not to be opened) Gates of understanding, whereby you shall
have knowledge to move every Gate, and to call out as many as
you please, or shall be thought necessary, which can very well,
righteously, and wisely, open unto you the secrets of their
Cities, and make you understand perfectly the [mysteries]
contained in the Tables."(7)
The tables referred to are the 49
alphabetical tables from which the Keys were generated, one letter
at a time, by the Enochian angels. The Keys are related in sets to
the four Watchtowers, which contain the names of various hierarchies
Dee’s blindness to the true function of the Keys is curious, because
clues about their nature are everywhere for those with eyes to see
them. The Enochian communications are filled with apocalyptic
pronouncements and imagery. Again and again the angels warn of the
coming destruction of the world by the wrath of God and the advent
of the Antichrist. This apocalyptic imagery is also found throughout
the Keys themselves.
The very name of these evocations should have been clue enough.
Surely if the Watchtowers stand guard at the four corners of our
dimension of reality, keeping back the hordes of Coronzon from
descending like "stooping dragons," as the Eighth Key puts it, and
if the evocations known as the Keys are designed to open the gates
of these watchtowers, we might suspect that it would be a bad idea
to unlock the gates.
Perhaps Dee believed, as the angels deceitfully encouraged him to
believe, that the gates could be opened a crack for specific human
purposes and then slammed shut before anything too horrible slipped
through to our dimension of awareness. Dee would have assumed that
the harrowing of the goddess Earth and her children by the demons of
Coronzon would not occur until the preordained time of the
apocalypse, an event initiated by God and presumably beyond Dee’s
What he failed to understand is that the date of the initiation of
the apocalypse is (in the intention of the angels) the same date as
the successful completion of the full ritual working of the 48 Keys.
This date is not predetermined, but will be determined by the free
will and actions of a single human being who in the Revelation of
St. John is called the
Nature of the Apocalypse
It has always been generally assumed that the apocalypse is in the
hands of the angels of wrath, to be visited upon the world at the
pleasure of God, at a moment preordained from the beginning of
creation. In the veiled teachings of the Enochian angels this is not
true. The gates of the Watchtowers can only be unlocked from the
inside. The angels of wrath cannot initiate the apocalypse even if
they wish to do so. This is suggested by an exchange between Dee and
the angel Ave:
Dee - As for the form of our
Petition or Invitation of the good Angels, what sort should
it be of?
Ave - A short and brief speech.
Dee - We beseech you to give us an example: we would have a
confidence, it should be of more effect.
Ave - I may not do so.
Kelley - And why?
Ave - Invocation proceedeth of the good will of man, and of
the heat and fervency of the spirit: And therefore is prayer
of such effect with God.
Dee - We beseech you, shall we use one form to all?
Ave - Every one, after a divers form.
Dee - If the minde do dictate or prompt a divers form, you
Ave - I know not: for I dwell not in the soul of man. (8)
Spiritual beings must be evoked into our
reality by human beings. We must open the gates and admit the
servants of Coronzon ourselves. Evocation and invocation are not a
part of the business of angels, but of humans. That is why the
angels needed to go through the elaborate ruse of conveying the
system of Enochian magic, with the Keys and the Great Table of the
Watchtowers, to Dee. If the apocalypse is to take place, and if it
is necessary for human beings to open the gates of the Watchtowers
before it can take place, the angels first had to instruct a man in
the correct method for opening the gates.
It is evident that Dee was to be restrained from opening the gates
of the Watchtowers until it pleased the angels. The angel Gabriel,
who purports to be speaking with the authority of God, tells him:
"I have chosen you, to enter into my
barns: And have commanded you to open the Corn, that the
scattered may appear, and that which remaineth in the sheaf may
stand. And have entered into the first, and so into the seventh.
And have delivered unto you the Testimony of my spirit to come.
"For, my Barn hath been long without Threshers. And I have kept
my flayles for a long time hid in unknown places: Which flayle
is the Doctrine that I deliver unto you: Which is the Instrument
of thrashing, wherewith you shall beat the shears, that the Corn
which is scattered, and the rest may be all one.
"(But a word in the mean season.)
"If I be Master of the Barn, owner of the Corn, and deliverer of
my flayle: If all be mine (And unto you, there is nothing: for
you are hirelings, whose reward is in heaven.)
"Then see, that you neither thresh, nor unbinde, until I bid
you, let it be sufficient unto you: that you know my house, that
you know the labour I will put you to: That I favour you so much
as to entertain you the labourers within my Barn: For within it
thresheth none without my consent."(9)
Surely nothing could be clearer.
Throughout the Enochian commun- ications the angels euphemistically
refer to the apocalypse as "the Harvest." Here Enochian magic is
specifically described as the "Instrument of thrashing." Yet
not comprehend the awesome significance of the burden that had been
laid upon his shoulders. Elsewhere in the record the angel Mapsama
is just as explicit about the need for Dee to await permission
before attempting to use the Keys:
Mapsama - These Calls are the
keyes into the Gates and Cities of wisdom. Which [Gates] are not
able to be opened, but with visible apparition.
Dee - And how shall that be come unto?
Mapsama - Which is according to the former instructions:
and to be had, by calling of every Table. You called for wisdom,
God hath opened unto you, his judgement: He hath delivered unto
you the keyes, that you may enter; But be humble. Enter not of
presumption, but of permission. Go not in rashly; But be brought
in willingly: For, many have ascended, but few have entered. By
Sunday you shall have all things that are necessary to be
taught, then (as occasion serveth) you may practice at all
times. But you being called by God, and to a good purpose.
Dee - How shall we understand this Calling by God?
Mapsama - God stoppeth my mouth, I will answer thee no
Despite these hints and many others, the
angels never actually came out and told Dee that he was to be the
instrument whereby the ritual formula for initiating the apocalypse
would be planted in the midst of humanity. Here it would sit like a
ticking occult time bomb, waiting for some clever magician, perhaps
guided by the angels, to work it. Dee evidently never received the
signal to conduct the Apocalypse Working in his lifetime. It was to
be reserved for another century and another man. That man was Aleister Crowley (1875-1947).
the Great Beast
Even as a child, Crowley became convinced that he was the Great
Beast mentioned in the biblical book of Revelation. He studied magic
with the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, then went on to
construct his own occult system using an amalgamation of the ritual
working of Abramelin the Mage, the Goetia, and the Tantric sexual
techniques of the German Ordo Templi Orientis, among other sources.
He firmly believed that he was the herald for a new age of strife
and destruction that would sweep across the world. He called this
the Aeon of Horus, after the Egyptian god of war. In Cairo in 1904,
he received the bible of this apocalyptic period, LiberAL vel Legis
(The Book of the Law), in the form of a psychic dictation from his
guardian angel, Aiwass. The book sets forth some of the conditions
that will prevail in the Aeon of Horus. It also contains Crowley’s
famous dictum "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law."(11)
It is highly significant that Crowley never considered himself to be
the Antichrist. He is not the central character in the drama of the
apocalypse, but the herald who ushers in the age of chaos. In a very
real sense he was the gatekeeper of the apocalypse. The text of The
Book of the Law clearly states:
"This book shall be translated into
all tongues: but always with the original in the writing of the
Beast; for in the chance shape of the letters and their position
to one another: in these are mysteries that no Beast shall
divine. Let him not seek to try: but one cometh after him,
whence I say not, who shall discover the key of it all."(12)
Crowley studied and practiced Enochian
magic more often and deeply than any other magician of the Golden
Dawn, indeed probably more deeply than any other human being who has
ever lived. About the angelic communications of Dee and Kelley he
"Much of their work still defies
explanation, though I and Frater Semper Pararus [Thomas Windram],
an Adeptus Major of the
A[rgenteum] A[strum] have spent much
time and research upon it and cleared up many obscure
The record of Crowley’s working of the
Enochian Aethers in 1909 in the desert of North Africa is preserved
in the document titled The Vision and the Voice. He possessed a
profound and broad understanding of ritual magic, an understanding
that was not merely theoretical but practical. No other man of the
twentieth century was better suited to initiate the Apocalypse
Working, even as there had been no man in the sixteenth century
better suited than Dee to receive it from the Enochian angels.
Interestingly, Crowley believed himself to be the reincarnation of
I doubt that Crowley ever succeeded in correctly completing the
entire Enochian Apocalypse Working -- that is, the primal occult Key
which is nowhere recorded, the eighteen manifest Keys, and the Key
of the 30 Aethers in their correct correspondence with the parts of
the Great Table of the Watchtowers. But he may have succeeded in
partially opening the gates of the Watchtowers. It is significant
that he states concerning the African working with his disciple
Victor Neuberg: "As a rule, we did one Aethyr every day."(15) About
the method for invoking the spirits of the Watchtowers, the angel
Ave tells Dee:
"Four days ...must you only call
upon those names of God [on the Great Table of the Watchtowers],
or on the God of Hosts, in those names:
"And 14 days after you shall (in this, or in some convenient
place) Call the Angels by Petition and by the name of God, unto
the which they are obedient.
"The 15 day you shall Cloath yourselves, in vestures made of
linen, white: and so have the apparition, use, and practice of
the Creatures. For, it is not a labour of years, nor many dayes."(16)
It seems clear to me that the complete
Apocalypse Working must be conducted on consecutive days, one Key
per day. I would guess that the unexpressed primordial Key of the
Great Mother is the missing ingredient that will complete the
Working, but this is a matter of practical magic and there is no
space to investigate the details of the Apocalypse Working in this
Crowley remained firmly convinced until his death in 1947 that the
Aeon of Horus had begun in 1904, precisely at the time he received
The Book of the Law. He may have been right. The Aeon of Horus is
the duration of the apocalypse, that period when Coronzon shall rule
over the cosmos and visit destruction upon mankind. And the
apocalypse is a mental transformation that will occur, or is
presently occurring, within the collective unconscious of the human
Fundamentalist Christians commonly believe that the end of the world
will be a completely physical event and will be sparked by some
horrifying material agent -- global thermonuclear war, or the impact
of a large asteroid, or a deadly plague.
This supposition is natural in view of the concrete imagery of the
book of Revelation. It is in keeping with the materialistic world
view of modern society. But nobody stops to consider that this
destruction is described by angels, or that angels are spiritual,
not physical, beings.
In my opinion the apocalypse prepared by the Enochian angels must be
primarily an internal, spiritual event, and only in a secondary way
an external, physical catastrophe. The gates of the Watchtowers that
stand guard at the four corners of our dimension of reality are
mental constructions. When they are opened, they will admit the
demons of Coronzon, not into the physical world, but into our
Spirits are mental, not material. They dwell in the depths of mind
and communicate with us through our dreams, unconscious impulses,
and more rarely in waking visions. They affect our feelings and our
thoughts beneath the level of our conscious awareness. Sometimes
they are able to control our actions, either partially, as in the
case of irrational and obsessive behavior patterns, or completely,
as in the case of full possession. Through us, and only through us,
are they able to influence physical things.
The Enochian communications teach not only that humanity itself must
initiate the apocalypse through the magical formula delivered to Dee
and Kelly, but that humans must be the physical agents that bring
about the plagues, wars, and famines described with such chilling
eloquence in the vision of St. John. It is we who will let the
demons of Coronzon into our minds by means of a specific ritual
working. They will not find a welcome place there all at once, but
will worm their way into our subconscious and make their homes there
slowly over time. In the minds of individuals that resist this
invasion they will find it difficult to gain a foothold, but in the
more pliable minds of those who welcome their influence they will
establish themselves readily.
Once the demons have taken up residence, we will be powerless to
prevent them from turning our thoughts and actions toward chaotic
and destructive ends. These apocalyptic spirits will set person
against person and nation against nation, gradually increasing the
madness and chaos in human society until at last the full horror of
Revelation has been realized upon the stage of the world. The
corruption of human thoughts and feelings may require generations to
bring to full fruition. Only after the wasting and burning of souls
is well advanced will the full horror of the apocalypse achieve its
final fulfillment in the material realm.
Let us suppose for the sake of argument that the signal for the
initiation of this psychic invasion occurred in 1904 when Crowley
received the Book of the Law, as he himself believed. Crowley’s
Enochian evocations of 1909 then pried the doors of the Watchtowers
open a crack enough to allow a foul wind to blow through the common
mind of the human race. This would explain the senseless slaughter
of the First World War and the unspeakable horror of the Nazi
Holocaust during the Second World War. It would explain the decline
of organized religions and why the soulless cult of science has
gained supremacy. It would explain the moral and ethical bankruptcy
of modern times and the increase in senseless violence.
We may not have long to wait before the individual known in the
vision of St. John as the Antichrist, the one foretold in Crowley’s
Book of the Law to follow after the Beast, will succeed in
completing the Apocalypse Working. Then the gates of the Watchtowers
will truly gape wide, and the children of Coronzon will sweep into
our minds as crowned conquerors. If this chilling scenario ever
comes to pass, the wars of the twentieth century will seem bucolic
to those who survive the slaughter.
1. See Richard Deacon, John Dee:
Scientist, Geographer, Astrologer and Secret Agent (London:
Frederick Muller, 1968). See also Cherry Gilchrist, "Dr. Dee
and the Spirits," in GNOSIS #36.
2. See the introduction to The Alchemical Writings of Edward
Kelley, ed. A.E. Waite (New York: Samuel Weiser, 1970
3. Meric Casaubon, ed., A True & Faithful Relation Of What
Passed for many Yeers Between Dr. John Dee (A Mathematician
of Great Fame in Q. Eliz. and King James their Reignes) and
Some Spirits (Glasgow: Antonine Publishing Co., 1974
[16591), p. 174.
4. Ibid., p. 170.
5. Ibid., p. 92.
6. Ibid., p. 207.
7. Ibid., p. 77.
8. Ibid., p. 188.
9. Ibid. p. 161.
10. Ibid. pp. 145-46.
11. Aleister Crowley, The Book of the Law, ms. pp. 10-11.
12. Ibid., ch. 3, para. 47.
13. Aleister Crowley, The Confessions of Aleister Crowley,
ed. John Symonds and Kenneth Grant (London: Arkana, 1989),
14. Aleister Crowley, "Liber XXX AERUM vel Saeculi sub
figura CCCCXVIII being of the Angels of the Thirty Aethyrs,
the Vision and the Voice:" in The Equinox, vol. 1, no. 5,
supplement, 1911. Reprinted as The vision and the Voice, ed.
Israel Regardie (Dallas, Texas: Sangreal Foundation, 1972).
See also Crowley, Confessions, ch. 66.
15. Crowley, Confessions, p. 618.
16. Casaubon, p. 184.
Donald Tyson is the author of many
books about the history and theory of magic in the Western
world, as well as the inventor Of rune cards and rune dice. His
annotated edition of Cornelius Agrippa’s Three Books of Occult
Philosophy was reviewed in GNOSIS #33. His latest book,
Tetragrarmnaton (published by Llewellyn), discusses the
relationship between the Kabbalah and Dee’s Enochian magic.
The Book of Enoch
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