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John Dee's Occultism: Magical Exaltation Through Powerful Signs (SUNY Series in Western Esoteric Traditions) Hardcover – July 5, 2005

4.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Szonyi has much of value to say about John Dee. He makes a significant contribution to the field of Dee studies and to the understanding of Renaissance/early modern European esotericism, especially from the perspective of Eastern Europe."

From the Back Cover

Delving into the life and work of John Dee, Renaissance mathematician and "conjurer to Queen Elizabeth," György E Szőnyi presents an analysis of Renaissance occultism and its place in the chronology of European cultural history. Culling examples of "magical thinking" from classical, medieval, and Renaissance philosophers, Szőnyi revisits the body of Dee's own scientific and spiritual writings as reflective sources of traditional mysticism. Exploring the intellectual foundations of magic, Szőnyi focuses on the ideology of exaltatio, the glorification or deification of man. He argues that it was the desire for exaltatio that framed and tied together the otherwise varied thoughts and activities of John Dee as well. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Series: SUNY Series in Western Esoteric Traditions
  • Hardcover: 380 pages
  • Publisher: State University of New York Press; 1st edition (July 5, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0791462234
  • ISBN-13: 978-0791462232
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,229,473 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
This is a great scholarly resource, full of quick synopses on important developments in the last few decades of John Dee research. Scholarship on Western Esotericism has reached a climax in this text, which provides a workable model on how to understand Dee's occultism properly in the context of the culture, politics, science, and theology of his day. A rich and nuanced picture of Dee emerges, and the traitorous reputation of a certain notorious nearby character receives a welcome deconstruction. Towards the end there is a valuable look at Causabon's anti-magical motivation for publishing Dee's scrupulous notes. The book is especially valuable for providing an eastern-European point of view, and is hip to the useful critiques in post-structuralist history.

Both academics and occultists will find this book most enjoyable, though challenging and dense. Great gift for the magician/intellectual who has everything, essential for libraries and bookshelves dealing with Renaissance Magic and the Elizabethan Age.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was looking for a good book about John Dee written from a historical and culture perspective and I mostly found it in this book. The author does a good job of presenting Dee in a historical context. He also does a great job of reviewing the authors that were influential to Dee, such as Agrippa.

Be warned, this book is somewhat heavy reading and is boring and repetitive in certain parts. Overall though, it was an excellent purchase and I do recommend it to anyone interested in John Dee, historians and occultists alike.
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Format: Hardcover
With this work, Hungarian scholar Gyorgy Szonyi has made a significant contribution to John Dee studies, building on the work of scholars such as Yates, Clulee, and Sherman, and running parallel with, and complementing, Harkness' book John Dee's Conversations with Angels (1999) which was encountered by Szonyi near the completion of his book. According to Szonyi, Harkness utilizes an approach that "seems to combine the historical and the anthropological concerns and thus her interpretation runs quite close to my own" (page 12). He reflects on her suggestions throughout his text, and states in his preface that his book is intended to represent Dee research up to around 2000 while acknowledging the fact that other Dee studies paralleling his were being developed (such as Hakan Hakansson's Seeing the Word: John Dee and Renaissance Occultism [2001]).

Szonyi analyzes Dee's occult philosophy within the context of Renaissance esotericism's mystical-magical concept of exaltation (or "exaltatio"), the deification of man. This concept was understood and applied by Dee within the Judeo-Christian context (via the Old Testament book of Genesis) of a Primordial Fall of the human race and its need for restoration. According to Szonyi, Dee's aim "was to restore the Adamic or Enochian wisdom of the Golden Age that had been lost with the Fall and which would not be compatible with the methods and means of the fallen science relying on discursive logic" (page 16). Dee's fervent desire was for elevation to the sphere of perfect knowledge, even omniscience, "in order to understand the divine plan of creation and God's intentions with the cosmos and man" (ibid).
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Format: Paperback
This is an engaging and scholarly read for those interested not only in Dee, but Agrippa, Paracelcus, Pico, Trithemius and works such as the Corpus Hermeticum.

It gives an overview of the key literature of (and leading up to) Dee's work, and takes an even-handed yet critical view of the various influences at play in Rennaisance magical and occult thinking. Whilst a scholarly work, it is nevertheless surprsingly easy to read and respectful of the material discussed.

The only minor annoyance was that many book titles and small quotes are left in their original Latin, without translation. I can only assume the author thinks we can all read Latin, or we can infer from the Latin quote what is meant.
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