Henry Gillard Glindoni: John Dee Performing an Experiment before Elizabeth I (c. 1900) (source)
The enigmatic John Dee was one of the most learned men of the Elizabethan period. Having amassed one of the largest libraries in England, he was a mathematician, astronomer, and adviser to the queen. He was also devoted to the study of magic, astronomy, alchemy, divination, and Hermetic philosophy. Most of his magical works concern efforts to summon and commune with angels “in order to learn the universal language of creation and bring about the pre-apocalyptic unity of mankind.” (Wikipedia)
Perhaps the title of this painting should be revised to say “invocation” instead of “experiment”; in 2016, the Guardian reported that “X-ray imaging of the stately Victorian artwork has revealed that Dee was originally surrounded by human skulls before the ghoulish image was painted over, probably because it was too odd for the buyer.”
Dee, along with spirit medium Edward Kelley, produced a number of works detailing the system of “Enochian magic”—which was largely concerned with the invocation and commanding of angelic spirits. The secrets of this system, Dee and Kelly reported, were revealed to them directly by various angels—as were the characters of the Enochian language:
This language was supposed to be that spoken by God, the angels, and Adam and Eve before the Fall—a concept that already had a long tradition in Christian theological thinking. It was, in essence, a perfect language in which the word for a thing was not an arbitrary sign but identical with the thing named and therefore infused with magic properties—”God said, Let there be light: and there was light.”
Here is one of Dee’s invocations:
This is the invitation to the four good angels of the East, who are most skilled and powerful in medicine and the cure of diseases:
O you angels of light CZNS or CZONS, TOTT or TOITT, SIAS or SIGAS, FMND or FMOND, dwelling in the Eastern part of the universe, powerful in the administering of the strong and healthy medicine of God and in the dispensing of cures: In the Name of the omnipotent, living, and true God, I, John Dee, by the grace of God of the Celestial City of Jerusalem, and through the reverence and obedience which you owe to the same, our God, and through these, His divine and mystical Names, IDOIGO and ARDZA, I vehemently and faithfully require of you, one and all to come before me, I beseech you, at whatever moment of time I wish for the duration of my natural life. I summon you by the Names of God IDOIGO and ARDZA, to perform, to accomplish, and to complete all my re-quests, abundantly, excellently, thoroughly, pleasantly, plentily and perfectly, in any and all things, through every possible medicine and through the peculiar strength and power of your office and ministry.
Through the Sacrosanct Names of God
IDOIGO and ARDZA.
(Source: The Enochian Magick of Dr. John Dee: The Most Powerful System of Magick in its Original, Unexpurgated Form. Geoffrey James, trans. St. Paul, Llewellyn Publications, 1998.)