On Her Majesty’s Secret Service – Shakespeare and the Mysterious Origins of 007

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‘We are such stuff as dreams are made on’

The Tempest is one of Shakespeare’s best known plays and has mesmerised audiences since the early seventeenth century. Like all of the great Bard’s works, it can be analysed on many levels, but the themes of magic, power and the occult are dominant.

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Prospero in Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki’s Tarot Deck

On reading the play, few are aware that the main protagonist – Prospero – was based on a real man who held an esteemed position in the court of Queen Elizabeth I. Dr John Dee was respected as one of the most learned men of his age. His knowledge of science, mathematics, astronomy and geography was astounding, and his formidable intellect was celebrated throughout Europe.

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Dr John Dee

However, Dee also harboured a deep interest in astrology and the occult. In the late sixteenth century, science and the supernatural were in fact closely interwoven. Frequent references to magic and superstition throughout Shakespearian literature are testimony to the mind-set of the Elizabethan world. Indeed, few eyebrows were raised when Dee claimed to be able to commune with spirits, and to be close to discovering the fabled ‘Philosopher’s Stone’ which granted the privilege to transmutate base metals into gold.

Acting as an adviser to the Royal Court, Dee decided upon the most auspicious date for the Queen’s coronation using astrology, and predicted the coming of the British Empire. He also travelled far and wide on the continent, functioning as a spy for the Crown. Using the code number of 007, Dee communicated intelligence back to England via a complex network of secret agents and covert ciphers.

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Dee and Kelly communing with a spirit

It was during this period that Dee befriended the psychic Edward Kelly and undertook a dangerous series of magical operations. These involved communicating with spirits and angelic entities. The two men began to decipher a mysterious language known as Enochian which permitted them deeper discussion with preternatural beings. Some say that the language is a genuine medium of communication for those inclined to study the occult, whilst sceptics argue that Enochian is merely an ingenious cypher developed by Dee himself to transmit intelligence to the Royal Court in London.

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‘this rough magic I here abjure… I’ll break my staff…’

Like all great artists, Shakespeare himself seemed to sense a spiritual, academic and cultural shift taking place during the Elizabethan era. The ascent of James I to the throne in 1603 heralded the dawning of a new age. The King was no friend of witches and soothsayers – having remorselessly persecuted them prior to the Union of The Crowns. The Tempest would be the Bard’s final play, and Prospero’s symbolic act of breaking his magical staff after the climax seems to portend the coming of an age of reason when mainstream science would completely divorce itself from magic, spirituality and the occult.

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Ian Fleming took the number 007 for his fictional secret agent Bond

Nonetheless, Dr John Dee continues to be a figure of interest for many contemporary scholars and academics. The instruments Dee and Kelly used to communicate with the angels are now on display in the British Museum, and scores of books have been written about his mysterious exploits. Ian Fleming drew upon the Queen’s conjurer’s exceptional life story and took his secret number when creating the iconic James Bond character. Daniel Craig may not sport a flowing beard and communicate with spirits during his outings as 007 – relying instead upon intelligence, vulpine instinct, and the magical genius of Q’s gadgetry to outwit adversaries.

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Instruments used by Dee and Kelly to communicate with angels and spirits on display in the British Museum.

The author of the article is David Fox, a professional entertainer and freelance writer based in the UK. Visit David’s website for more details about him: David Fox Magician

Feel free to contact us on: email@magician-midlands.co.uk

Ouija – Portent to the Spirit World?

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Everyone has a story involving a Ouija board. This peculiar panel – which is said to offer communication with the deceased – continues to mystify and intrigue.

The existence of a spirit world has played a prominent role within most cultures since the dawn of time. Ancient folklore boasts a multitude of terrifying tales speaking of necromancy, vivid apparitions and dearly departed ancestors returning from beyond the grave to deliver consequential communiqués to the living.

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The Witch of Endor summons the ghost of the Prophet Samuel. This painting by William Blake depicts one of the earliest accounts of necromancy.

The Chinese appear to have developed an early form of intercourse with the deceased using an object which resembles the present day planchette of the Ouija board. This ancient method of spirit writing became widely practiced, but was eventually outlawed by the Qing Dynasty (1636 – 1912). Indeed, authorities and religions warning of the dangers of such practices, and often forcefully forbidding them, is a recurring theme in this field of psychic investigation. Does officialdom genuinely care about our welfare? Or is there something of great value to be experienced and learned which makes the status-quo uneasy?

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It is said that Dr John Dee, court Astrologer of Queen Elizabeth I, used these items to communicate with spirits.

Perhaps what makes the Ouija board so appealing to contemporary psychics, sensitives and ghost hunters is its remarkable degree of practicality. In times gone by, a consultation with the denizens of the other side was often an elaborate affair involving lengthy ritual, astrological observances and sonorous incantations. Queen Elizabeth I’s courtier Dr John Dee was said to speak to spirits and angelic forces after conducting such intricate practices. More recently, the French mystic Eliphas Levi experienced a chilling nocturnal meeting with Apollonius of Tyana which is well documented.

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Famous actresses Lana Turner, June Lockhart and Susan Peters consult the ‘talking’ board.

The dawn of the modern technological era ironically triggered a great surge of spiritual interest in Western society. 1875 saw the creation of the Theosophical Society, and the Golden Dawn – which boasted such notables as WB Yeats, Bram Stoker and Aleister Crowley – flourished in England during the late 19th century. In 1890 Elijah Bond began to market the first commercial Ouija boards and the institution was born.

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Horror movies such as ‘The Exorcist’ may be responsible for negative attitudes towards the Ouija board.

Negative contemporary attitudes towards the board possibly stem from horror movies such as ‘The Exorcist‘ (1973). However, there are many who claim the Ouija can be utilised in a safe and controlled manner. Despite voicing his indifference towards spiritualism, Aleister Crowley had a profound respect for this method of preternatural communication but insisted upon specific cleansing rituals before and after use to eliminate the possibility of mischievous spirits or demons harming the sitters.

David Conway provides detailed instructions on how to communicate effectively with the spirit world in his classic work ‘Ritual Magic: An Occult Primer’ but in typical good humour he parenthesises: ‘there are plenty of human beings in this world without your having to seek company in the next.’

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Various guides have been published on how to safely consult the board.

Ouija is now a trademark of Hasbro. A harmless parlour pass-time? A safe method to communicate with spirits? Or something more sinister? Everyone has a story involving a Ouija board… What’s yours?

Feel free to send any comments or stories to us at: email@magician-midlands.co.uk

David Fox is a professional entertainer and freelance writer based in the UK. Find out more about him at: David Fox Magic.

Magician Mystic Soldier Spy – The extraordinary life of Uri Geller

‘Nowadays even presidents, vice-presidents and heads of big agencies are opening their minds to accept psychic phenomena because they know it works.’ 

Uri Geller

Uri Geller needs no introduction. A household name the world over, the indefatigable Israeli has been amazing audiences for the past five decades. Minds are read, metal mysteriously bends, watches and clocks which have not worked for many years suddenly spring to life and impossible predictions are made which will soon come to pass. These are the hallmarks of the mild-mannered entertainer’s sensational performances. However, recent revelations of Geller’s involvement with secret intelligence agencies, most notably the CIA, have further enhanced his legendary status.

Oscar winning director Vikram Jayanti’s documentary The Secret Life of Uri Geller  charts the charismatic mystery man’s meteoric rise from humble origins to worldwide super-stardom. From an early age Geller developed a heightened sense of perception and an awareness of his psychic capabilities. After serving in the Israeli army during the Six Day War in 1967, he was invited by Mossad (the Israeli secret service) to demonstrate his preternatural talents. Hardened military men were perplexed by Geller’s telepathic abilities and he would later be called upon to assist the state of Israel during times of emergency. Subsequent CIA interest in his inexplicable aptitudes followed, and Geller was promptly summoned to the USA to participate in a rigorous course of scientific experimentation.

Uri Geller at the Stanford Research Institute circa 1973

It was during this intense period of investigation at Stanford Research Institute in California during the early 1970s that Geller would develop his reputation as a man of extraordinary capabilities. Scientists were amazed by his propensity to read minds, find hidden objects and successfully conclude experiments in remote viewing (observing objects, places and people many miles away by using the power of his mind). The experts were unable to discern any logical explanation for these seemingly miraculous feats and conceded that Uri Geller must possess some sort of extra sensory perception (ESP). These findings would eventually culminate with Geller being invited to assist with covert intelligence operations throughout the world.

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Salvator Rosa’s famous painting of Saul’s visit to the Witch of Endor.

Inevitably many will find such a disclosure difficult to digest. However, governments calling upon the aid of psychics and paranormal experts, particularly at times of crisis, is certainly not a novel concept. Since time immemorial, powerful leaders have sought to gain the upper hand against an adversary by invoking the mysterious forces of the unseen. Indeed, one of the earliest accounts of this practice is King Saul’s clandestine meeting with the Witch of Endor in the First Book of Samuel. The King sought divine inspiration prior to a major battle with the Philistines and was terrified by the witch’s ominous prediction. The next day the prophecy was fulfilled: the battle was lost and the King took his own life shortly afterwards.

Dr John Dee. The original 007 and confidant of Queen Elizabeth I.

Thankfully not all interactions between great leaders and soothsayers have ended in disaster. The reign of Queen Elizabeth I is now celebrated as a golden age of British history, and perhaps this can be credited in no small part to the travails of the enigmatic Dr John Dee. Highly regarded throughout Europe as one of the most learned men of his age, it is believed that Dee provided Shakespeare with the inspiration for Prospero in his final play The Tempest. He was a trusted confidant of the Queen and used the number 007 (later to be adopted by Ian Fleming for his fictional character James Bond) when serving as a spy for the Crown. Dee possessed a deep knowledge of the occult arts and was said to have conversed with angelic beings from another dimension. He foresaw the coming of a great British Empire and provided Sir Francis Drake with tactical advice on how to defeat the mighty Spanish Armada in 1588. It is said that he may even have used his magical powers to summon the storm which assisted Her Majesty’s fleet.

Aleister Crowley. Most people are still unaware of his work as a British spy.

The English occultist and self styled ‘Great Beast 666’ Aleister Crowley gained notoriety during the early twentieth century and revelled in his sobriquet of the ‘Wickedest Man in the World’. But was Crowley really so wicked? In recent years academics have begun to appreciate that he may in fact have been a misunderstood genius. Crowley was also a secret agent who worked with British intelligence during both world wars. Whilst masquerading as a German sympathiser in New York during the early years of World War One, Crowley secretly lobbied to ensure that the USA came into the war on the side of the British Empire. Crowley’s close connections with occult groups in Germany during the 1930s naturally made him a person of interest for MI5. The Nazi’s obsession with the occult is well documented and Ian Fleming (the creator of James Bond who then worked with British Naval Intelligence) contacted Crowley in order to entice Rudolf Hess (deputy Fuhrer and a man with a deep interest in the occult) to come to the UK. Hess’s ill-fated clandestine flight to Scotland in 1941 soon followed and was said to have had a devastating impact upon Hitler when he learnt of this betrayal. It is widely believed that Crowley used his mysterious influence to draw him to the UK in order to discuss possible peace negotiations.

The mysterious Wolf Messing who amazed Josef Stalin.

The cessation of hostilities in 1945 would pave the way for a new world order and the dawning of the Cold War era. A tense stand-off between the two major Super Powers naturally intensified the covert activities of intelligence agencies across the globe. The campaign to identify and utilise people who exhibited extra sensory perception and psychic abilities would unearth some exceptional individuals. One such person was the Polish entertainer Wolf Messing who came into the orbit of the KGB (the Russian secret intelligence agency). Messing had been amazing audiences throughout Europe for many years before being forced to flee to the USSR during the Second World War. His ability to influence the thoughts of others, read minds and cast accurate predictions became legendary in Soviet Russia. Josef Stalin was said to have been mesmerised by his incredible talents and it is widely believed that Messing assisted the KGB during the post-war years.

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Jonathan Margolis’ recent publication.

In the early 1970s Uri Geller was invited to a meeting with Wolf Messing in Berlin. The Polish master was clearly amazed by the young Israeli’s amazing talents as well as the fact that Geller is a distant relative of Sigmund Freud (who Messing had mesmerised alongside Albert Einstein many years before). The exchange shared between the two men will perhaps forever remain classified, but it is a great testimony to the respect Messing had for Geller that he chose to divulge the secret techniques he used to perform some of his incredible feats.

As the world enters an era of political uncertainty, Uri looks certain to remain very busy.

Thus, it could readily be argued that governments and leaders who do not take the powers of the unseen seriously do so at their peril. Indeed, with Brexit negotiations looming and some challenging times ahead, perhaps Uri Geller can expect a phone call from Prime Minister Theresa May very soon?

*Special thanks to Uri for his kind assistance with this article.

Recommended Reading

Uri Geller’s website: http://www.urigeller.com/

Uri Geller’s Little Book of Mind Power Uri Geller, Robson Books, 1998

The Secret Life of Uri Geller – CIA Masterspy?  John Margolis, Watkins Publishing London, 2013

The Queen’s Conjurer: The Science and Magic of Dr John Dee Benjamin Woolley, Flamingo, 2002

Secret Agent 666: Aleister Crowley, British Intelligence and the Occult Richard Spence, Feral House, 2008

Aleister Crowley: The Beast in Berlin Tobias Churton, Inner Traditions, 2014

Wolf Messing: The True Story of Russia’s Greatest Psychic Tatiana Lungin, Glagoslav Publications, 2014

The author of the article is David Fox, a professional entertainer and freelance writer based in the UK. Visit David’s website at: www.magician-midlands.co.uk