“Essentially the distinction is thus: a sign gives reference to that which is known, whereas a symbol points to the muted unfamiliar.” -- Carl Jung.
Francis Bacon adjusts his cumbersome black hat slightly, watching the man seated across from him at the large library table as he flips through one of his many books with earnest. The book in question is purple: one of three the man keeps on his person at all times, along with a few other things, most noticeably the large gold pendent around his neck. If ‘Agent’ Dee, (the first person to hold this title to Bacon’s knowledge) was not held in such high esteem one might think him to be an absent-minded idiot of some sort, with the books tethered to his belt, and gaudy jewelry with numeric sequences. Surely one can remember the content of three books, or some numbers?
Still, despite these questions, the old man’s superlative rank is undeniable. He walks around the castle grounds in a wake of rumors which knows no rival. Now alone with the strange old man, an inevitable curiosity enlists in Francis.
Bacon, not so long ago a mere writer, had seen his latest manuscript capture the type of attention which pays in this noble age. So much so that he was entrusted, if only in part, with the creation of new English words for Her Majesty. All this before the book in question, The New Atlantis, has even graced the public eye. This is an honor which eclipses all previous. So it was that the two men came to be paired up, trading thoughts beneath the flickering illumination of the chandelier above. They are positioned high in the castle walls of the clerical section of London: the voice of the English Empire, salient in a world of barbaric darkness.
Dee is alleged to be, amongst many other interesting things, a magician. Francis had lived long enough to see the rise of the true sciences, however, and suspects that this word ‘magic’ is itself a sort of sorcery of the mouth. A boastful misdirection away from natural ends. Surely the mystery behind this ‘Seal of God’ which he displays so proudly on his chest is that it hides a regular man. There are always rational answers.
John Dee lifts his head, blinking a few times as if perhaps forgetting about the other man’s presence momentarily. The old man looks at Bacon in thought for a moment before motioning to the blank piece of paper before him with his quill, and glancing into the open book one more time. “Spelling: we shall henceforth take this to mean the act of writing.” He says this out loud with careful enunciation before carefully beginning to write the declaration down on the paper in front of him.
Bacon writes this definition into his notes as well, conscious of the logic working its effects, somewhat to dissatisfied ends. “This is a...tricky approach, good agent of the Crown.”
Dee laughs at this, the older of the two men looking up again from his slow inscription. “Tis’ not trickery my approaching friend, but a path of reason.”
“Sp- Sorcery -- it is not reason; it is illusion, trickery. Everything can be explained in due course; why should we ascribe such a curious term unto the sciences?”
“I disagree, but let me applaud: you, sir, are learned, and ride the agile legs of wit down the empirical path. Men such as yourselves aliken to candles which scare the darkness around you, revealing truths. Like a keen ear to a priest’s symbal, the village person may hear the tone of your words, as you construct them with ritual and intention. You will, god willing, go far and see an age where angels descend from the ceiling of the sky.” The Agent’s eyes are slightly bloodshot as they always seem to be, suspended within dual webs of fatigue. They peer into Bacon’s being. “Your New Atlantis, as it were.”
Francis considers his words carefully, playing with his quill. “I have doubts as to whether angels with descend from the sky, good Agent of the Crown, but a world of civility surely can. I see it now, down the path of time somewhat.”
“Bah...” Dee grunts playfully. “What do you see but literal? You see no angels but you see the angles of sun, so what of the son? Thirty, thirty-three? Life is metaphor, and it runs deep. You see the surface of the code at work here, good fellow.
“The code of the angels: sublime in archetype, elegant. Sure, it rests in book, in a manner of speaking, but all one must do is listen to the signing birds on a bright spring day.”
“You confuse me, Sir.”
“Let me return to your question, then. What else is a spell but a vocalized intention, with inflection, that has the power to make people think a certain way? Your science will struggle to explain this with convoluted linguistics, some of which I have seen. So I act in cognizance of this.”
Bacon leans back in his chair, exhaling slightly with a small grin. He struggles to find the words to respond. He wonders just how much this old man knows, for he is opening like the ceiling.
As if preempting this thought, Dee continues. “Look, good fellow, where you-- where we stand, it is cause for certain reflections. I will die soon. That which I’ve seen, that which lies beyond your method...though large as the library has blossomed into, stands but one library, easily destroyed. The human story should be accessible to all or it will perish under it’s own foreign weight. Good Sir, we are moving into a new world; if I know certain minds like I think I do, then it will be one where knowledge is commodity, to be rationed and used for control. May our work here seek to remind the future from whence it came. In a sense, I believe this to be somewhat out of our hands. The universe talks to us when we talk to each other.”