This is the third great novel by the enigmatic Meyrink. His themes of the gothic, mysticism, religion, occult, death and rebirth continue in this story based around the life of Dr John Dee; the real Elizabethan alchemist advisor to the queen being most famous for his learning and spiritualism. Meyrink is not the only author to use such ripe material (I've read Dan Ackroyd's go) though he does do it in a very deep and complicated way.
The story structure is very similar to other novels and Meyrink's own, in being recursive and reincarnate of body or mind. The narrator Mueller has the diary of his ancestor John Roger who was reconstructing the diary of his ancestor Dr John Dee. The central arc is that John Dee (in 1550ish) is involved with the evil Bartlett Green and the Green spirit (of the West Window - the temptress Isais?) - trying to gain immortality (not eternal life which is different) through the philosopher's stone and also the means to create gold. John Dee is helped by his wife (despite wanting the Queen) Jane. Now basically the present day Mueller realises that the people he's dealing with, such as his maid Johanna Fromm (cf Dee's wife) are repeating events of John Roger and then those of John Dee; Mueller begins to experience the events of John Dee in visions and is he being affected by Dee's decisions and can he change them himself. Key reincarnate characters also include Isais/Princess Shotokalungin and antique dealer Lipton/Mascee orbiting the Spear of Hywel Dal which would allow Isais to win. John Dee's real life occultist Edward Kelley makes an appearance. The gothic setting and dark evil pervading the story is very atmospheric (if perhaps a little stereotyped)
This really is a very confused/ing book (not least because both Mueller and Dee appear in the first person through the diaries) yet I think it's meant to be. The parallel stories are engaging and you are always wondering where each of the two main overlapping stories (Mueller's and John Dee's) will go; will either, neither or one win out against the two evils Isais and Kelley&Green Spirit?. Because it is so mixed up I would recommend Golem and the Green Face before this novel but it certainly is nearly as good. I would recommend reading a little about John Dee's life off the net before starting the book as it will help.
I found it absolutely wonderful and revealing of the perils of esoteric/occult knowledge - that's intertwined so easily with the powers of this dialectical world! "Do or die!" as an antidote, and with the help of the golden rose brotherhood of "gardeners"/helpers. I find it that nowadays it's so easy to get lost in intellectualism and in the same esoteric/occult ways! Don't you?