Hieroglyphic Monad

Hieroglyphic Monad

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by John Dee

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The Monas Hieroglyphica (or Hieroglyphic Monad) is an esoteric symbol invented and designed by John Dee, the Elizabethan Magician and Court Astrologer of Elizabeth I of England. In 1564, at the age of 37, Dee wrote the Monas Hieroglyphica as an interpretation, (or commentary on), the symbol, which is meant to express the unity of all creation. According to "legend,"…  See more details below


The Monas Hieroglyphica (or Hieroglyphic Monad) is an esoteric symbol invented and designed by John Dee, the Elizabethan Magician and Court Astrologer of Elizabeth I of England. In 1564, at the age of 37, Dee wrote the Monas Hieroglyphica as an interpretation, (or commentary on), the symbol, which is meant to express the unity of all creation. According to "legend," Dee wrote the manuscript in twelve days while in a mystical state: "I am the pen, merely, of God," Dee said, "whose Spirit, quickly writing these things through me, I wish and I hope to be." He claimed it would revolutionize astronomy, alchemy, mathematics, linguistics, mechanics, music, optics, magic and adeptship. He traveled to Hungary to present a copy of it to Maximilian II, the Holy Roman Emperor.

This edition includes the remnants of Dee's diary, written primarily on the backs of old Almanacs and edited, with footnotes, by James Orchard-Halliwell, and also the catalog made of the manuscripts that were in his possession. The diary has been formatted for easy readability, and contains subject matter ranging from the daily minutia of paying servants, to Dee's self-treatments for his kidney stones, to luncheons with famous historical figures...and there is even a mention of a "strange spiritual creature roaming about the house..."

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Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC

Copyright © 1975 Red Wheel/Weiser
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-57863-203-9



It is by the straight line and the circle that the first and most simple example and representation of all things may be demonstrated, whether such things be either non-existent or merely hidden under Nature's veils.


Neither the circle without the line, nor the line without the point, can be artificially produced. It is, therefore, by virtue of the point and the Monad that all things commence to emerge in principle.

That which is affected at the periphery, however large it may be, cannot in any way lack the support of the central point.


Therefore, the central point which we see in the centre of the hieroglyphic Monad produces the Earth, round which the Sun, the Moon, and the other planets follow their respective paths. The Sun has the supreme dignity, and we represent him by a circle having a visible centre.


Although the semicircle of the Moon is placed above the circle of the Sun and would appear to be superior, nevertheless we know that the Sun is ruler and King. We see that the Moon in her shape and her proximity rivals the Sun with her grandeur, which is apparent to ordinary men, yet the face, or a semi-sphere of the Moon, always reflects the light of the Sun. It desires so much to be impregnated with solar rays and to be transformed into Sun that at times it disappears completely from the skies and some days after reappears, and we have represented her by the figure of the Horns (Cornucopia).


And truly I give the completion of the idea of the solar circle by adding a semicircle for the Moon, for the morning and the evening were the first day, and it was therefore in the first (day) that the Light of the Philosophers was made (or produced).


We see here that the Sun and the Moon are supported upon the right-angled Cross. This Cross may signify very profoundly, and for sufficient reasons in our hieroglyph, either the Ternary or the Quaternary. The Ternary is made by the two straight lines having a copulative centre.

The Quaternary is produced by the four straight lines enclosing four right angles. Either of these elements, the lines or the right angles, repeated twice, therefore, afford us in the most secret manner the Octad, which I do not believe was known to our predecessors, the Magi, and which you should study with great attention. The threefold magic of the first Fathers and the wise men consisted in Body, Soul and Spirit. Therefore, we have here the first manifested Septenary, that is to say, two straight lines with a common point which make three, and the four lines which converge to form the central point in separating the first two.


The Elements being far from their accustomed places, the homogeneous parts are dislocated, and this a man learns by experiment, for it is along the straight lines that they return naturally and effectively to these same places. Therefore, it will not be absurd to represent the mystery of the four Elements, in which it is possible to resolve each one into elementary form, by four straight lines running in four contrary directions from one common and indivisible point. Here you will notice particularly that the geometricians teach that a line is produced by the displacement of a point: we give notice that it must be the same here, and for a similar reason, because our elementary lines are produced by a continual cascade of droplets as a flux in the mechanism of our magic.


Besides, the kabbalistic extension of the Quaternary according to the common formula of notation (because we say one, two, three, and four) is an abridged or reduced form of the Decad. This is because Pythagoras was in the habit of saying: 1+2+3+4 make 10. It is not by chance that the right-angled Cross—that is to say, the twenty-first letter of the Roman alphabet, which was considered as being formed by four straight lines—was taken by the most ancient of the Roman Philosophers to represent the Decad.

Further, they have defined the place where the Ternary conducts its force into the Septenary.


We see that all this accords perfectly with the Sun and Moon of our Monad, because, by the magic of the four Elements, an exact separation upon their original lines must be made; following which the circulatory conjunction within the solar complement through the peripheries of these same lines is performed, because however long a given line may be, it is possible to describe a circle passing through its extremes, following the laws of the geometricians. Therefore, we cannot deny how useful the Sun and the Moon are to our Monad, in conjunction with the decadal proportion of the Cross.


The following figure of the zodiacal sign Aries, in use amongst the astronomers, is the same for all the world (a sort of erection both cutting and pointed), and it is understood that it indicates the origin of the fiery triplicity in that part of the sky. Therefore, we have added the astronomical sign Aries to signify that in the practice of this Monad the use of fire is required.

We finish the brief hieroglyphic consideration of our Monad, which we would sum up in one only hieroglyphic context:

The Sun and the Moon of this Monad desire that the Elements in which the tenth proportion will flower, shall be separated, and this is done by the application of Fire.


The mystical sign of the Ram, composed of two semicircles connected by one common point, is very justly attributed to the place of the equinoctial nycthemeron, because the period of twenty-four hours divided by means of the equinox denotes most secret proportions.

This I have said in respect of the Earth.


The very ancient wise men and Magi have transmitted to us five hieroglyphical signs of the planets, all of which are composed out of the signs used for the Moon and the Sun, together with the sign of the Elements and the hieroglyphical sign of Aries, the Ram, which will become apparent to those who examine these figures:


Each one of these signs will not be difficult to explain according to the hieroglyphical manner in view of our fundamental principles, already posited. To begin with, we will speak in paraphrases of those which possess the characteristics of the Moon : following that, of those which possess a solar character. When our lunar nature, by the science of the Elements, had accomplished the first revolution round our Earth, then it was called, mystically, Saturn. Afterwards, at the following revolution, it was named Jupiter, and holds a very secret figure. Then the Moon, developed by yet a third journey, was represented very obscurely again by this figure which it was their custom to call Mercury. You see how this is Lunar. That it must be conducted through a fourth revolution will not be contrary to our most secret design, whatever certain sages may say. In this manner the pure magical spirit, by its spiritual virtue, will perform the work of the albification at the place of the Moon; to us alone and as it were in the middle of a natural day he will speak hieroglyphically without words, introducing and imprinting these four geogonic figures in the pure Earth very simply prepared by us:


this last figure being in the middle of all the others.


Now regard the mystical character of Mars! Is it not formed from the hieroglyphs of the Sun and Aries, the magistery of the Elements partly intervening? And that of Venus—I wish to know is it not produced from that of the Sun and the Elements according to the best exponents? Therefore, the planets look towards the solar periphery and the work of revivification.

In the progression we will notice this other Mercury will appear who is truly the twin brother of the first: for by the complete Lunar and Solar magic of the Elements, the Hieroglyph of this Messenger speaks to us very distinctly, and we should examine it carefully and listen to what it says. And (by the Will of God) it is the Mercury of the Philosophers, the greatly celebrated microcosm and ADAM. Therefore, some of the most expert were inclined to place him in a position of, and give him a rank equal to, the Sun himself. This we cannot perform in the present epoch unless we add to this coraline crystal work a certain SOUL separated from the body by the pyrognomic art. It is very difficult to accomplish this and very perilous because of the fire and the sulphur which the breath contains within it. But certainly this Soul can perform marvellous things. For example, join it by indissoluble ties to the disc of the Moon (or at least of Mercury) by Lucifer and Fire. In the third place, it is necessary that we should show (in order to demonstrate our Septenary number) that it is the Sun of Philosophers itself. You will observe the exactitude as well as the clarity with which this anatomy of our Hieroglyphic Monad corresponds to what is signified in the arcana of these two theorems.


It is therefore clearly confirmed that the whole magistery depends upon the Sun and the Moon. Thrice Greatest Hermes has repeatedly told us this in affirming that the Sun is its father and the Moon is its mother: and we know truly that the red earth (terra lemnia) is nourished by the rays of the Moon and the Sun which exercise a singular influence upon it.


We suggest, therefore, that Philosophers should consider the action of the Sun and the Moon upon the Earth. They will notice that when the light of the Sun enters Aries, then the Moon, when she enters the next sign, that is to say Taurus, receives a new dignity in the light and is exalted in that sign in respect of her natural virtues. The Ancients explained this proximity of the luminaries—the most remarkable of all—by a certain mystic sign under the name of the Bull. It is very certain that it is this exaltation of the Moon to which in their treatises the astronomers from the most ancient times bear witness. This mystery can be understood only by those who have become the Absolute Pontiffs of the Mysteries. For the same reason they have said that Taurus is the house of Venus—that is to say, of conjugal love, chaste and prolific, for nature rejoices in nature, as the great Ostanes concealed in his most secret mysteries. These exaltations are acquired by the Sun, because he himself, after having undergone many eclipses of his light, received the force of Mars, and is said to be exalted in this same house of Mars which is our Ram (Aries).

This most secret mystery is clearly and perfectly shown in our Monad by the hieroglyphic figure of Taurus, which is here represented, and by that of Mars, which we have indicated in Theorem XII and Theorem XIII by the Sun joined to a straight line towards the sign of Aries.

In this theory another kabbalistic analysis of our Monad offers itself, because the true and ingenius explanation is this: the exaltations of the Moon and of the Sun are made by means of the science of the Elements.

Note.—There are two things which should be particularly observed : first, that the hieroglyphic figure of Taurus is the same as the diphthong of the Greeks which was always used in terminating the singular gender; secondly, that by a simple transposition of place we show the letter alpha twice, by a circle and a half-circle, being simply tangents which touch one another as shown.


We must now, in view of our subject, philosophise for a short time upon the Cross. Our Cross may be formed of two straight lines (as we have said) which are equal one to the other—that is to say, we cannot separate the lines except we do it by parting them so that we get equal lengths. But in the mystic distribution of the components of our Cross, we wish to use parts which are both equal and unequal. These parts show that a virtue is hidden under the power of the division of the Equilateral Cross into two parts, because they are of equal grandeur. In general, the Cross must be composed of equal right angles, since the nature of justice demands the perfect equality of the lines used in the decussation. In accordance with this justice, we propose to examine with care that which follows concerning the Equilateral Cross (which is the twenty-first letter of the Latin alphabet).

If, through the common point where the opposite angles meet in our Rectilineal, Rectangular, and Equilateral Cross, we imagine a straight line dividing it into two parts, then on either side of the line thus traversed we find the parts are perfectly equal and similar. And these parts are similar in shape to that letter of the Romans which is regarded as the fifth of the vowels, and which was frequently used by the most ancient Latin Philosophers to represent the number five. This, I conceive, was not done by them without good reason, because it is in fact the exact half of our Decad. Of these parts of the figure thus duplicated by the hypothetical division of the Cross, we must conclude it to be reasonable that each part represents the quinary, although one is upright and the other reversed in imitation of the multiplication of the square root which comes in here in a marvellous way as the circular number, that is to say, the quinary, from which we find the number twenty-five is produced (because this letter is the twentieth of the alphabet and the fifth of the vowels).

We will now consider another aspect of this same Equilateral Cross—that which follows is based upon the position shown in our Monadic Cross. Let us suppose a similar division of the Cross into two parts be made as in the drawing. Now we see the germinating shape of another letter of the Latin alphabet—the one upright, the other reversed and opposite. This letter is used (after the ancient custom of the Latins) to represent the number fifty. From this, it seems to me, we establish our Decad of the Cross, for this is placed at the summit of all the mysteries, and it follows that this Cross is the hieroglyphic sign of perfection. Therefore, enclosed within the quinary force is the power of the Decad, out of which comes the number fifty as its own product.

Oh, my God, how profound are these mysteries! and the name E L is given to this letter! And for this very reason, we see that it responds to the decadal virtue of the Cross, because, starting from the first letter of the alphabet, L is the tenth letter, and counting backwards from the letter X, we find that it falls into the tenth place, and since we show that there are two parts of the Cross, and considering now their numerical virtue, it is quite clear how the number one hundred is produced. And if by the law of squares these two parts be multiplied together, they give a product of 2500. This square compared with the square of the first circular number, and applied to it, gives a difference of one hundred, which is the Cross itself explained by the square of its Decad, and is recognised as one hundred. Therefore, as this is contained within the figure of the Cross, it also represents unity. By the study of these theories of the Cross, the most dignified of all, we are thereby induced to utilise this progression, viz. one—ten—one hundred, and this is the decadal proportion of the Cross as it appears to us.


After a due study of the sixth theorem it is logical to proceed to a consideration of the four right angles in our Cross, to each one of which, as we have shown in the preceding theorem, we attribute the significance of the quinary according to the first position in which they are placed, and in transposing them to a new position, the same theorem shows that they become hieroglyphic signs of the number fifty. It is quite evident that the Cross is vulgarly used to indicate the number ten, and further, it is the twenty-first letter, following the order of the Latin alphabet, and it is for this reason that the sages amongst the Mecubales designated the number twenty-one by this same letter. In fact, we can give a very simple consideration to this sign to find out what other qualitative and quantitative virtues it possesses. From all these facts we see that we may safely conclude, by the best kabbalistic computation, that our Cross, by a marvellous metamorphosis, may signify for the Initiates two hundred and fifty-two. Thus: four times five, four times fifty, ten, twenty-one and one, which added together make two hundred and fifty-two. We can extract this number by two other methods as we have already shown: we recommend to the Kabbalists who have not yet made experiments to produce it, not only to study it in its conciseness, but also to form a judgment worthy of philosophers in regard to the various permutations and ingenious productions which arise from the magistery of this number. And I will not hide from you a further memorable mystagogy : consider that our Cross, containing so many ideas, conceals two further letters if we examine carefully their numerical virtues after a certain manner, so that, by a parallel method following their verbal force with this same Cross, we recognise with supreme admiration that it is from here that LIGHT is derived (LUX), the final word of the magistery, by the union and conjunction of the Ternary within the unity of the Word.

Excerpted from THE HIEROGLYPHIC MONAD by JOHN DEE. Copyright © 1975 Red Wheel/Weiser. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
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