Last night, curious about John Dee and Edward Kelley's vision of a many-eyed whale which I had heard summarized by Jason Louv on a podcast, I searched the Internet for john dee whale and found on Google Books the part of Louv's 2018 book, John Dee and the Empire of Angels, where this vision is related. Louv gave the date of the vision as April 27. That date struck me as significant or familiar somehow but I wasn't sure how.
Then I looked back at my recent post "The many-eyed whale shows up again," and saw that it begins, "Back in 2014, in the early hours of April 26, I had a dream . . . ." But my original post describing that dream, "A beast with many eyes," didn't give the date of the dream itself but just said, "On Friday night (actually, very early Saturday morning), I dreamed . . . ." For some reason, I had thought it was important to mention the date of the dream in my recent post, so I checked a 2014 calendar for the Saturday before the date of the post.
I went back and checked the date of the post. It was April 27, 2014.
I had checked all this on my phone just before going to bed. It was late, so I told myself that in the morning I would look it up again and post on it.
In the morning, I got up and went into the study. I found that my wife had left her laptop on so she could charge something in the USB port. Whatever version of Windows she has shows a picture when the computer is on but you haven't signed in yet. It's generally some sort of exotic scenery, with something you can click on to get more information about that place. Today, the picture was this:
On my own computer, I went to Google Books to find and transcribe the passage that gives the date of the whale vision, only to find that I was no longer able to do so: "You have either reached a page that is unavailable for viewing or reached your viewing limit for this book."
Fortunately, Louv's source material, Meric Casaubon's A True & Faithful Relation of What passed for many Yeers between Dr. John Dee (A Mathematician of Great Fame in Q. Eliz. and King James their Reignes) and Some Spirits, is available online. I found the whale bit, which starts on p. 102, but it is dated only "Friday, Cracoviae, Aprilis." However, looking back at the date of the previous entry, on p. 93, we find "Wensday, Cracoviae, Aprilis 25," so Louv's date of April 27 for the whale vision checks out. As for the year, the vision took place in Kraków. Dee went to Poland in September 1583 and returned to England in 1589.
The only year in that range in which April 27 falls on a Friday is 1586.
(Update: I had for some reason checked June 27 instead of April! The actual year was 1584, as given on p. 73.)
Here is the account as given in A True & Faithful Relation.
The Firmament and the waters were joyned together, and the Whale CAME, like unto a legion of stormes: or as the bottomless Cave of the North when it is opened: and she was full of eyes on every side.
The Prophet said, Stand still, but they trembled. The waters sank, and fell suddenly away, so that the Whale lay upon the Hill, roaring like a Cave of Lions, and the Prophet took them by the hands, and led them to the Whales mouth, saying, Go in, but they trembled vehemently; He said unto them the second time, Go in: and they durst not. And he sware unto them, and they entred in, and he lifted up his voyce, and cried mightily, Come away, and, lo, they stood before him richer than an Emperours Throne, for unto him that was naked, were clothes given: unto him that was a child and a man, were 12 gates opened. And the Prophet cried mightily, and said, This Whale cannot die; and lifted up his voyce again and said: Within this Whale are many Chambers, and secret dwelling places, which I will divide betwixt you on the right side (unto the which was a child, and now a man) there are twelve opened, but unto thee that hast provided strange Garments for thy self, and not such as men use to wear, I will give thee head, hart, and left side, whose places are 46. You shall enter, and be possessed this day together: And behold, the son shall return again 21 times, and in one year, but not all at one time. You shalt depart hence into a dwelling that shall be all one: where there is no end, the place of comfort and inspeakable glorie.
After this, Dee says, "As you have delivered us a parable, enigma, or prophesie, so I beseech you . . . to expound what is meant by the Whale, the naked man, the Child, &c."
The angels Gabriel and Nalvage reply, "The naked man is Dee, The Childe is Kelly, . . . The Hill is the World, The waters are the bosome of God, . . . The Whale is the spirit of God, The Chambers are the degrees of wisdome . . . ."
This is a bit different from Louv's summary ("they meet God, and God is a whale"). The whole thing is clearly framed as a parable, and God is "what is meant by the Whale."
Specifically, the whale represents "the spirit of God" -- i.e., the Holy Ghost, whose more usual symbol is the dove. This is interesting because entering the mouth of the whale is a reference to the story of Jonah, and the name Jonah means "dove."