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John Dee's Conversations with Angels: Cabala, Alchemy, and the End of Nature Paperback – 2 Nov 2006


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" John Dee's Conversations with Angels: Cabala, Alchemy, and the End of Nature, marks an important addition to Dee scholarship. For the first time, it places Dee's conversations with angels into a comprehensible framework. Harkness elegantly demonstrates that Dee's angel conversations were at the center of his mission to reform nature and the world in the midst of intellectual and religious tumult when the end of human history was imminently expected. This book brilliantly brings out the place of the angel conversations as exegetical aids in a natural philosophy that was meant to restore a corrupted and decaying Book of Nature. Natural philosophy was to provide a bridge between this world and the next, but only with the help of angels could faulty human perception and intelligence be remedied and the real significance of the things of nature be made clear." Pamela Smith, Pomona College

"John Dee's 'angelic conversations' have long proved resistant to the attentions of intellectual historians. Deborah Harkness's impressive and important new book, by situating this unique intellectual formation in a full range of appropriate historical contexts not only makes them intelligible for the modern reader, but identifies some of the key cultural imperatives which shaped late-Elizabethan intellectual life." Stephen Clucas, Birkbeck College, University of London

"[A] fascinating study." Religious Studies Review

"Harkness' book is a welcome addition to Dee scholarship, one that perpahs will open the way to solving the questions that remain." Albion

"Harkness's monography is a lively read that offers an interesting interpretation of Dee's works and their place within early modern intellectual life. It is a work that clearly deserves a place within the corpus of Dee scholarship." The Historian

"Through careful description and analysis, Harkness takes us into that very strange world of early modern thought-a world of astrology, alchemy, and Christian cabala-which eventually led to the rise of science. This is a scholarly book, full of interesting footnotes and with an extensive bibliography, Such apparatus, however, should not dter the interested but nonacademic reader. This is clearly one of the best books to be published on esoteric spirituality during the Renaissance in recent years. It is clear, insightful, and a pleasure to read." the quest Sept-Oct 2001

"This is a truly remarkable story and merits telling for its own sake. Harkness's version is beautifully written with rich footnoting and a good command of the sources. That she has told it unflinchingly and with sensitivity to its subject only adds to its value." Canadian Journal of History

Book Description

John Dee's angel conversations have been an enigmatic facet of Elizabethan England's most famous natural philosopher's life and work. Professor Harkness contextualizes Dee's angel conversations within the natural philosophical, religious and social contexts of his time. These conversations include discussions of the natural world, the practice of natural philosophy, and the apocalypse.

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Lutheran Budovec lived in Prague in the latter half of the sixteenth century, and when he noted in his journal the activities of John Dee he profiled a man far different from the "magus of Mortlake" with whom we are familiar. Read the first page
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Amazon.com: 3 reviews
51 of 52 people found the following review helpful
Very useful for those interested in angel magic and intellectual history 15 Oct. 2007
By Albert Hand - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Deborah Harkness' book is remarkable among scholarly works on Dee in that the entire text is dedicated to an in-depth analysis of his angelic conversations. She has brought a powerful voice to Renaissance scholarship with methodological insight into how to study Dee's place in the wider cultural "conversations" of his time. Up to date on the difficult issues surrounding the interpretation of the place of alchemy and cabala in Dee's work, she provides a compelling argument in support of the sophistication of both his scientific and theological learning.

Harkness has also made a solid contribution with her research into Dee's sources on angel magic, offering the reader tantalizing glimpses into Dee's marginalia in texts like the dionysian corpus (see her longer PhD dissertation for more juicy text gossip) and other neoplatonic texts, without falling into the trap of blindly following the opinions of past scholars either positive (F. Yates) or negative (K. Thomas).

This book is dense but readable and offers and excellent place to start in the intimidating world of John Dee studies. As a student transitioning from undergrad to graduate work I found it most helpful, and a ready jumping-off point for more. The bibliography is rich but not unwieldy.

If you're interested in the "Dee and Renaissance Talk" angle a good place to go next is Sherman's book on Dee and the Politics of Speaking and Writing. If the "Dee and Renaissance Magic" topic is more to your liking seek out Szonyi's book on Dee's Occultism. For language/theory check out Hakansson's "Seeing the Word." If you just want to know about Dee's place in the history of science read Clulee. To get up to date on the cutting edge of Dee scholarship see Clucas' interdisciplinary volume. For Alchemical information see the recent Dee-centered issue of the Ambix journal.

Google Claire Fanger's excellent review for a more academic point of view than mine.

No bookshelf or library on Dee, or Renaissance Magic in general, could be complete without this book, and will be well-used by those with curiosity and a demand for efficient management of information.
Five Stars 30 Mar. 2015
By Jill Hamilton Smith - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Love the authors fiction writings which actually inspired this purchase!
9 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Filled with errors 27 Sept. 2013
By comaofloss - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
While the text when focusing on the persona and the ambitions of Dee gives some very good insights, it is filled with errors in the information, especially in regards of the angelic conversations and the furniture.

Just from the top of my head, the small sigillum were not to be put in metallic containers, but wooden. The golden triangular lamen was not used for the angelic conversations since it was later revealed to have been delivered by an "illuding spirit" and a square paper version was delivered in its stead. And there are lots more small errors like this throughout the text that anyone familiar with enochian will spot out.

I'm assuming the errors are repeated from Whitby who the author uses largely as a source, whose "John Dee's Actions With Spirits" is also laden with misinformation.

Unfortunately there really isn't any other source for the correct information than the diaries themselves, reproduced in "John Dee's Five Books of Mystery", "A True and Faithful Relation" and "Dr. John Dee's Spiritual Diaries".
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