Monas Hieroglyphica

by John Dee, Antuerpiæ, G. Silvius typog. regius, excud., 1564

The Monas Hieroglyphica (‘Hieroglyphic Monad’) is an esoteric symbol invented and designed by John Dee, the Elizabethan Magus and Court Astrologer of Elizabeth I of England. It is also the title of the 1564 book in which Dee expounds the meaning of his symbol. The Hieroglyphic embodies Dee’s vision of the unity of the Cosmos and is a composite of various esoteric and astrological symbols. Dee wrote a commentary on it which serves as a primer of its mysteries. However, the obscurity of the commentary is such that it is believed that Dee used it as a sort of textbook for a more detailed explanation of the Hieroglyph which he would give in person. In the absence of any remaining detail of this explanation the full significance of the glyph may never be known.

The existence of the Hieroglyph links Dee to Rosicrucianism, but in what way remains obscure. The Hieroglyph appears on a page of the Rosicrucian Manifesto Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz, beside the text of the invitation to the Royal Wedding given to Rosenkreutz who narrates the work. It is indeed at least possible that Dee showed the Glyph to Johannes Valentinus Andreae or even an associate during one of his visits to Central Europe. However, whether Andreae’s claims of authoring the treatise hold any weight is still a hotly debated question among scholars.

Frances Yates notes that Dee’s influence later “spread to Puritanism in the New World through John Winthrop Jr., an alchemist and a follower of Dee; Winthrop used the ‘monas’ as his personal mark”.

Facsimile Editions

For John Dee’s esoteric writings that were kept secret, discovered only by accident long after his death see: John Dee’s Grimoires.

John Dee

John Dee (1527 – 1608 or 1609) was an Anglo-Welsh mathematician, astronomer, astrologer, teacher, occultist, and alchemist. He was the court astronomer for, and advisor to, Queen Elizabeth I, and spent much of his time on alchemy, divination and Hermetic philosophy. Much effort in his last 30 years was dedicated to communing with angels in partnership with Edward Kelley. Dee claimed that angels dictated several books to him, through Kelley, in a special angelic or Enochian language.

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