Gnostic Fish

On the connections between Euclid, the English Reformation, James Bond and the Rosicrucians

The Fish is a symbol for the inner sanctum.
The Vesica Piscis: The intersection of two domains.
The name literally means the "bladder of a fish" in Latin.

This figure appears in the first proposition of Euclid's Elements, where it forms the first step in constructing an equilateral triangle using a pair of compasses and a straight-edge. This is a fundamental step in architecture and masonry (both operative and speculative)

It was an underlying symbol of Gothic Architecture, esoterically representing the intersection of the inner masculine and inner feminine is the inner sacrum. Depending on how the fish in the symbol is drawn, it will either be "tail up" or "tail down".

gnostic fish

© Copyright Author, 2019

Here, I've drawn it "tail down", with the tail looking like a "^".


A more complete illustration would also show “the tail” on the top as well, with the “tail” looking like a "v".


Regardless of the direction, or what scale the circles are drawn at, the ratio of height to width (across the center) is always the square root of 3. The significance of that may come later.

Depending on the direction of viewing, one is described as a masculine right-hand path, variously known as: The Way of Passion, The Warrior’s Path, The Hero’s Journey, The Way of the King. The other complementary view is a left-hand feminine path, variously known as: The Way of Grace, The Virgin’s Path, The Grail path, The Way of the Maiden. Tony Allen describes this as "(the) path meant for those persons who possess a creative or emotional nature".

The third form (the dumbed-down version that has lost most of the symbolism) is the horizontal version, most often seen on car bumpers. Even so, it appears in some symbolic Christian and neo-pagan places as well. Like the cover of the Chalice Well in Glastonbury.

In the well lid design, a spear or a sword bisects these two circles, a possible reference to Excalibur, the sword of the legendary King Arthur, believed by some to be buried at the nearby Glastonbury Abbey. ... Christian mythology suggests that Chalice Well marks the site where Joseph of Arimathea placed the chalice that had caught the drops of Christ's blood at the Crucifixion, linking the Well to the wealth of speculation surrounding the existence of the Holy Grail.
Ref : Chalice Well (Wikipedia)

Euclid's Elements in Britain

One might wonder, how did we (English-speakers) ever learn anything about something written more than 2,000 years ago in Egypt? The first known translation of Euclid's Elements into the English language was by Sir William Billingsley in 1570.

Billingsley published his translation of Euclid's Elements The elements of geometrie of the most ancient philosopher Euclide ... The work included a lengthy preface by John Dee, which surveyed all the existing branches of pure and applied mathematics. Dee also provided copious notes and other supplementary material. The work was printed in folio by John Day, and included several three-dimensional fold-up diagrams illustrating solid geometry. Though not the very first, it was one of the first books to include such a feature. .. Day, whose technical skill matched his business acumen, has been called "the master printer of the English Reformation"
Ref : Henry Billingsley (Wikipedia)

The three-dimensional fold-up diagrams were a creative masterpiece. The connections with John Dee and John Day are not accidental and they are not coincidences.

John Day (1522-1584)

One of the key parts of the English Reformation was a rapid increase in the quantity and quality of knowledge and information available to the general public, as the Church of England broke free from the Roman Church. This was not without its mortal dangers. After the death of Edward VI, the new Queen Mary did her best to stem the flow of the English Reformation, and the old heresy laws were restored. Between 1555 and 1556, hundreds were found guilty and executed. Protestant bishops Hooper, Ridley, Latimer and Cranmer were all burnt at the stake.

No wonder then that:

During the reign of the Catholic Queen Mary I, many Protestant printers fled to the continent.
Ref : John Day (Wikipedia)


Day stayed in England and continued to print Protestant literature. But in 1554, he was arrested and imprisoned, presumably for these illicit printing activities.

He must have been brave or foolhardy to stay in England, and then lucky(?) to survive the next four years after his arrest. In 1558, Queen Mary's Privy Council had passed a law that made the carrying of Protestant literature illegal, and an offense that carried the death penalty. Fortunately for Day, Mary herself did not survive much longer. Elizabeth became Queen in the November of 1558.

Under Queen Elizabeth I, Day returned to his premises at Aldersgate in London, where he enjoyed the patronage of high-ranking officials and nobles, including William Cecil (Wikipedia), Robert Dudley, and Matthew Parker.

John Dee (1527-1608)

John Dee was a pivotal figure, a true polymath in mathematics, astronomy, astrology, occult philosophy, and an adviser to Queen Elizabeth.

Dee was an ardent promoter of mathematics and a respected astronomer, as well as a leading expert in navigation, having trained many of those who would conduct England's voyages of discovery.
Ref : John Dee (Goodreads)

The expertise in navigation connects Dee with Drake and his secret voyages. In this respect, Dee was a leading light in the English Renaissance, following the example of Leon Battista Alberti - "In his personality, works, and breadth of learning, he is considered the prototype of the Renaissance universal man.”

Like many famous individuals we now consider to be giants of science (Newton, Kepler, etc), Dee was happy to be an astrologer and cast horoscopes. The distinction between astrology and astronomy is something we perceive now, as a difference but that distinction was not made in Dee's and Kepler's eras. With us being blind to this, it is not the original characters that are diminished, it is ourselves, as we are numbly indifferent to many of their skills and attitudes.

Dee did not draw distinctions between his mathematical research and his investigations into Hermetic magic, angel summoning and divination. Instead he considered all of his activities to constitute different facets of the same quest: the search for a transcendent understanding of the divine forms which underlie the visible world, which Dee called "pure verities".
Ref : John Dee (Goodreads)

Dee had travelled widely in search of the esoteric and hidden. One such "hot spot" was Bohemian Praque.

Prague became a Mecca for those interested in esoteric and scientific studies from all over Europe. Hither came John Dee and Edward Kelly, Giordano Bruno and Johannes Kepler. However strange the reputation of Prague in the time of Rudolph it was yet a relatively tolerant city. Jews might pursue their cabalistic studies undisturbed (Rudolph’s favourite religious adviser was Pistorius, a Cabalist) and the native church of Bohemia was tolerated by an official ‘Letter of Majesty’. The Bohemian church, founded by John Huss, was the first of the reformed churches of Europe. Rudolph’s toleration was extended to the Bohemian church and to the Bohemian Brethren, a mystical brotherhood attached to its teachings. Prague under Rudolph was a Renaissance city, full of Renaissance influences as they had developed in Eastern Europe, a melting pot of ideas, mysteriously exciting in its potentiality for new developments.”
Ref : Francis Yates, The Rosicrucian Enlightenment (p. 26)

Note that curious and significant mention of Giordano Bruno also being in Praque.

Before his arrest and imprisonment in 1592, Bruno had written numerous works, spoken out against Catholic Ministers, and had been employed as a spy in Elizabethan England by Queen’s “spy-master” Francis Walsingham.
Ref : The Art of Memory by Frances A Yates

For much of his life, Dee was on the receiving end of allegations of sorcery and of being a necromancer.

The latter, necromancer, at this distance in time, is difficult to appreciate in any rational way. Was Dee being feared for attempting to repeat the allegorical activities of Jesus? It's worth understanding this topic. Raising Lazuras from the dead was never (in Egyptian, Aramaic and Judeac gnosticism) seen as a literal action, it was an allegory for the raising of a person from an lower state of consciousness to a higher state, where a more-enlightened person is figuratively reborn.

Despite Dee having one of the greatest libraries of Elizabethan times, I suppose it's unlikely that Dee would have read the great Indian epic, the Mahabharata (unless he understood Sanskrit), as (we're told) "the first complete English translation was the Victorian prose version by Kisari Mohan Ganguli, published between 1883 and 1896". The relevance is the 1535 times that Dvija is mentioned. "Dvija" means "twice-born": the first birth is physical, while the second birth is a spiritual one. But as a collector of esoteric literature, was Dee alone?

The allegations of sorcery are easier to understand and counter. In Dee's time, Mathematics was still considered a Dark Art, especially by the Humanists who made up most of the academic population of Oxford and Cambridge at that time. Mathematical signs, symbols and formulas were akin to magic for many folk, and still are, for many of the leading lights of Intelligentsia have no idea how a light bulb produces light. Or even an appreciation of "Natural Philosophy".

On that subject of Humanists -v- Natural Philosophers, I strongly recommend Arthur Koestler's "The Sleepwalkers" as a great work that casts light and clarity where previously there was only shadow and confusion. I gladly acknowledge it as one of my inspirations for creating "Grael Britannia". The first paragraph of the preface to "The Sleepwalkers" is an excellent introduction:

In the index to the six hundred odd pages of Arnold Toynbee's "A Study Of History", abridged version, the names of Copernicus, Galileo, Descartes and Newton do not occur. This one example among many should be sufficient to indicate the gulf that still seperates the Humanities from the Philosophy of Nature. I use this outmoded expression because the term "Science", which has come to replace it in more recent times, does not carry the same rich and universal associations which "Natural Philosophy" carried in the seventeenth century, in the days when Kepler wrote his "Harmony of the World" and Galileo his "Message from the Stars". Those men who created the upheaval which we now call the "Scientific Revolution" called it by a quite different name: the "New Philosophy".
Ref : Preface to "The Sleepwalkers"

Mathematics is in fact the scientific language of the universe. In symbols, it can describe imaginary worlds as well as physical worlds. One such example is the square root of minus one.


It does not exist in the "real" world, it cannot exist! And yet it does exist in mathematics (complex numbers i). As Einstein famously said : "God does not play dice" - but she does play games with numbers!

Dee's skills at cryptography meant he was able to make words and messages disappear and reappear at will. A form of sorcery indeed!

Dee's expertise in codes and cyphers connected him with important members of the espionage and intelligence community, like Francis Walsingham (Queen Elizabeth's spymaster).

... on the afternoon of August 11, 1582 there was an entry in Dee's journal that they met at Mortlake. Bacon was 21 years old at the time and was accompanied by a Mr. Phillipes, a top cryptographer in the employ of Sir Francis Walsingham who headed up the early days of England's secret service.
Ref : John Dee - 007

The significance of Bacon in the search for knowledge (and the concealment of knowledge) comes later in Brush up yer Shakespeare. Some say that Dee signed his letters to Elizabeth with two circles and an elongated number 7 - the original 007, four centuries before James Bond.


Dee's "007" symbol is intriguingly echoed (400 years later) by George Spencer-Brown's choice of symbols for his Laws Of Form and the Calculus of Distinctions / Propositional Calculus

The symbol: ¬
also called the "mark" or "cross", is the essential feature of the Laws of Form. In Spencer-Brown's inimitable and enigmatic fashion, the Mark symbolizes the root of cognition, i.e., the dualistic Mark indicates the capability of differentiating a "this" from "everything else but this." Laws Of Form (Wikipedia

More certainly, John Dee wrote a book - the Monas Hieroglyphica - devoted to the esoteric symbol of the same name.

You may wonder - (as I did) - what does that Hieroglyph symbol mean? It's derived from alchemy (as also practiced by Isaac Newton). First, we need to understand that the word "alchemy" comes al-kīmiyā from Al-Khem. Variously described as an ancient name for "The Art of Egypt".

The main body of the symbol is Mercury, representing the spirit and the mind, and a state of being that can transcend death.

Note how the horizontal bar of the Hieroglyph symbol is larger than the bar in Mercury. As the larger bar symbolises salt, which represents the Body. But the mind is larger (greater) than the body.

The dot within the circle represents Gold, which symbolises perfection. As the centre within a circle is the point from which I cannot err.

The curved feet come from the symbol for Aries (Ignis), which represents Fire (the ignition or energy by which we are transformed).

The existence of the Hieroglyph links Dee to Rosicrucianism ... 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.

What came first? The Monas Hieroglyphica or the Rosicrucian Manifesto? The answers to this question will give us an insight into the originals of Rosicrucianism in Europe, and how the newly-(re)minted Grael Legends came back to Britain.



The allegations of sorcery that Dee had to endure were not unique to him. For example Kepler (now taught to our children as a famous astronomer and an example of the rational scientists) had his own share of woes.

Kepler really was the Imperial Mathematician for Rudolph II. One of his jobs was to do astrological readings for the Royalty. His mom was arrested and taken to jail when she was 74 years old, accused of being a witch by some meddling neighbors. Kepler and his lawyer wrote up a 126 page legal brief to try and get her acquitted, but it was his mother’s own verbal defense in the presence of a bailiff and a torturer which ultimately saved her. The neighbors were charged 10 florins (about a dollar and a half) for the false report.
Ref : One Foot Walking

I would have liked to have met Kepler's mother, she sounds like a person worthy of respect. Meanwhile...

Philosophy is written in this grand book, the universe, which stands continually open to our gaze. But the book cannot be understood unless one first learns to comprehend the language and read the characters in which it is written. It is written in the language of mathematics, and its characters are triangles, circles, and other geometric figures without which it is humanly impossible to understand a single word of it; without these one is wandering in a dark labyrinth.
—Galileo Galilei (1623)
The underlying, primary psychic reality is so inconceivably complex that it can be grasped only at the farthest reaches of intuition, and then but dimly. That is why it needs symbols.
(Carl Jung)

But first : Brush up yer Shakespeare

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