“Alchemists grow old and die in the embraces of their illusion…the achievements of the magicians are unsure and fruitless.  Those practices are openly convicted of vanity, and the secret and remotest loft tower’ of the magician’s pride must be abandoned if he is to come ‘close to things.’ The real truth is that the obstacle to the course I propose lies…in human pride…it is this pride that has brought men to such a pitch of madness that they prefer to commune with their own spirits rather than with the spirit of nature.”

– Frances Bacon, a major opponent of occultism during the reign of King James I


Movement in ‘The Tempest’

“The action on this island is mainly geographic movement writ small. The first four acts conclude with an invitation to move on: ‘Come, follow,’ ‘Lead the way,’ ‘Follow, I pray you,’ ‘Follow and do me service.’ The characters perambulate in small groups from one part of the island to another; only at Prospero’s final invitation, ‘pray you, draw near,’ do they join in one place…The sense of continual movement contributes to the play’s elusiveness.”

— Excerpted from the introduction to the Arden edition of The Tempest


“…In the late 16th century, harnessing invisible spirit power was essentially the same kind of challenge as harnessing the invisible power of the wind. It was complicated, you needed to be highly educated, but if you could do it -rather like improving the technology of your ship’s sails, the world and its wealth were at your feet. Reaching the spirit realm however, was a touch more complicated than improving your ship.”

— New Science, Old Magic: Dr Dee’s Magical Mirror, A BBC radio program


After Reading Shakespeare’s Tempest

By Rainer Maria Rilke

Sometime, somewhere, you had set him free
With a jolt, with which we tear ourselves away
From youth, to greatness: from all consideration.
Then, he was willing: and since then he’s served,
Impatient, after every task, for freedom.
And half imperiously, half almost ashamed,
You put it to him you’ve still need of him,
For this and that, ah, and must tell him
How you helped him. And yet you feel yourself
That all that’s held back here, with him,
Is missing from the air. So tempting, sweet,
To let him go – and then, there’s no more magic:
Committing yourself to Fate like all the others,
Knowing that his weightless friendship,
Lacking strain, with no more obligation,
An excess of the space you breathe,
Works on, without thought, in the Element.
Dependent now, and no longer gifted
With shaping your dull mouth to the call
At which he dived. Powerless, ageing, poor,
Yet breathing him, like an incomprehensible
Far-flung fragrance, that makes the unseen
Complete. Smiling that you once could so
Summon him, used so easily to such
Great undertakings. Perhaps weeping too,
Remembering how he loved, and wished
To leave you, always both at once.
(Have I loosed him, already? This man, become
A duke again, terrifies me. How gently
He draws the wire through his head
And hangs himself beside the other
Figures, and brings forward his speech
And asks for mercy…What an epilogue,
Of consummate power. Throwing off, standing
Naked, with only one’s strength: ‘which is most faint’.)