Humans with extreme intellectual gifts tend to use them to their advantage– and why shouldn’t they? There’s incredible pressure coming at us from all directions to “succeed” in some sort of culturally respectable, economically practical manner.
For that reason, it’s incredibly rare to encounter an intellectual paragon that rejects the worldly. There’s basically no incentive to do so. So when I hear about someone with an incredible mind choosing to prostrate themselves before the mysteries of the universe, I’m instantly intrigued.
That is largely what this week’s mind meld is about– a brilliant man, possibly the most brilliant living man of his time, dedicating his life to radical esoteric devotion. Not the kind where you go off to a monastery, but the sort that is disruptive, unsettling and perilous. The kind in which you spend all of your peerless intellectual capital on trying summon beings, decode their indecipherable messages and follow them to a T, even when they tell you to do things that will probably get you burned at the stake.
In other words, this podcast is about John Dee.
Dee was a master mathematician, cartographer, linguist and philosopher who served Queen Elizabeth I. He happened to spend roughly the last three decades of his life trying to commune with angels and quite possibly (as far as he was concerned) bring about the apocalypse.
Musings in this mind meld
- Internalization versus externalization
- Rationalism, science and the crowning achievement of humanity
- Why we shouldn’t romanticize superstition
- What is Hermeticism and how it has influenced thinkers since ancient Greece
- The incredible story of John Dee: genius, renaissance man, alchemist and mystery-seeker
- The “language of Eden” and why academics were obsessed with trying to find it
- John Dee and Edward Kelley’s insane, profound, perilous adventures
- Are religious conservatives secretly trying to speed up the destruction of the world?
- Is the world beyond saving?