Break On Through To The Other Side

Early Palestinian InscriptionI don’t know why, but I’ve always been fascinated with systems of writing and symbols. The history of these shapes here on the screen goes right back to some ancient ex-pat Palestinian, who decided to invent “an alphabet”. Most of the symbols he used are based on the Egyptian ones he must have learned in his new home: our letter “A”, for example, still looks like the hieroglyph of an ox head. (Nose pointing up, horns down.) “M” comes from the wiggly water hieroglyph.

Early computers were stuck with just a basic Roman alphabet, all that was required for real good spelling of American, but nowadays, with the screen image “painted” as graphics, a computer can display any script. The Unicode system of coding characters means that “text” can be stored in a huge variety of alphabets and systems. In fact, the objective of Unicode was to represent, not only the scripts in use today, but every script that has existed, ever.

A script doesn’t even have to be “real” to be included. One of the ones is “Shavian”, developed on a bequest from George Bernard Shaw’s will, to continue his campaign to reorganise English spelling. It looks like a sort of shorthand. You can’t write “ghoti” in it.

The work to add scripts to Unicode continues. One draft proposing some new ones included Navaho (reasonable), Klingon (surprising) and Enochian (esoteric). The “Enochian” script and language were revealed to one Edward Kelley, starting in 1583, as he communicated with Angels on behalf of Dr. John Dee, Royal Astrologer and Court Magician.

enochian alphabetDee found that, in spite of his considerable learning on occult matters, he was unable to communicate with the Angels himself, or experience any kind of psychic phenomena. I think he probably was just too honest with himself to invent an experience. He was not entirely immune to self-deceit though, since he put his faith in the “gifts” of an obvious con man like Kelley.

For five years, Kelley, in his trances, produced large amounts of Angelic information, all faithfully transcribed by Dee, who believed that it was of incredible importance. In 1588, the Angel Uriel told Kelley that the two occultists must share wives. As it happens, although Dee was elderly, Mrs. Jane Dee was a pretty 33-year-old. The Angelic instructions were obeyed, but shortly after, Dee discontinued the Angelic experiments and parted company with Kelley.

Kelley had an initially successful career as a court alchemist in Bohemia, until it came to the point where he was actually expected to manufacture gold. Failing to do so, he was imprisoned, and died in jail.

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