The Monas Hieroglyphica of John Dee (1527-1608)

However the best-known work of Dee, his Monas Hieroglypica is by far his most mysterious and difficult one. Other writings are accounts of his conversations with angels, the Monas was written through direct inspiration by God in a trance-like state. In a preface and 24 ‘theorems’ Dee wants to “revolutionize astronomy, alchemy, mathematics, linguistics, mechanics, music, optics, magic, and adeptship” to quote Joe Peterson in the short intro of his online version of the text.

Dee starts to explain that the circle and the line are the first forms in creation and therefor come back in the hieroglyph. The point in the circle is the earth and the circle the sun (a circle with a point is also the Egyptian symbol for the sun), the crescent is of course the moon and adds to the idea of the sun. Together they are day and night, the first day of creation even.

The cross represents both the number two (two lines) and four (four lines). Dee doesn’t say anything about the two, but of course you can think of opposites, like the sun and the moon. The number four is explained more lenghty. The cross stands for the four elements, I could add the ‘four corners of the world’ or the four worlds of the Kabbalah. Dee also walks on less obvious paths. The cross can also be 10, because 1+2+3+4=10.

The two ‘leggs’ are of the zodiacal sign Aries which signifies fire, so the “M” can also said to be ‘ignis’, which results in the following summing-up: luna, sol, elementa, ignis. “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. “

Dee even manages to find more astrology in his hieroglyph: Saturn (definately!), Jupiter (on its side), Mars (with some imagination) and Mercury of course, both its ancient and modern sign. He continues by explaining the highness of Mercury as alchemical quicksilver and the god of knowledge (Egypt: Tehuti/Thoth, Greece: Hermes).

What follows then is an astrological explanation based on the sun and the moon. The sun is linked with the constellation of Taurus (sun and moon together in the hieroglyph) and the Moon with Aries (the bottom part of the hieroglyph).

Dee continues with linking the cross with letters from the Latin alphabeth and the numbers they represent. Numerological values have its significance. The same goes for the Greek letters that Dee finds in his symbol, but these have even more significances such as elements, divine names and periods in Genesis.

After this you will lean the proportions and symmetry of the hieroglyph and to conclude the 14 permutations of the Pythagorean quarternary is spoken about resulting in complex schemes.
All in all a short text, but long if you look at the symbol it explains. It can be read online in English translation at

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