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Portrait, (engraved by Thomas Cross)

John Heydon (10 September 1629 – c. 1667) was an English Neoplatonist occult philosopher, Rosicrucian, astrologer and attorney.


Rosicrucian sources, including Heydon's own English Physician's Guide and Frederick Talbot's The Wise Man's Crown, give a florid biography for Heydon, including a claim to be descended from a King of Hungary. However, he was actually born in "Green Arbour" (near the Old Bailey), London, the son of Francis Heydon (of Sidmouth in Devonshire) and Mary (née Chandler, of Worcestershire). He was baptised at St. Sepulchre's Church.[1] He had one sibling, a sister, Anne, two years his junior.

According to his own account, he was educated at Tardebigge, Worcestershire, among his mother's friends. He studied Latin and Greek with a tutor and was apprenticed to the study of law; however, his studies were interrupted by the outbreak of the English Civil War, and as a young man, he was said to have served in the royalist army. In 1651 he went abroad, travelling to Italy, Spain, Egypt, Arabia, and Persia.[1][2]

On returning to England, he trained in law, and was articled as a clerk in 1652. In 1655, he was living in Clifford's Inn, practising as an attorney and also casting horoscopes. Heydon married the widow of Nicholas Culpeper in 1656, and is thought to have fathered a daughter. After 1658, he lived in "Spitalfields, near Bishopsgate, next to the "Red Lion".[1]

He attracted attention in royalist and occultist circles for predicting the future, including the death of Oliver Cromwell, then Protector. Their royalist connections caused both Francis and John Heydon to be imprisoned in the final years of the Commonwealth era. The Restoration of 1660 resolved Heydon's incarceration – though he was imprisoned briefly later in 1663 for dealing in suspect (treasonous) literature, and in 1664 for debt.[1]

In 1665, Heydon published "Psonthonphanchia, or a Quintuple Rosiecrucian Scourge for the due Correction of that Pseudo-chymist and Scurrilous Emperick, Geo. Thomson", a fierce response to a pamphlet issued by physician George Thomson criticising the conduct of those members of the Royal College of Physicians who left the city during the Great Plague of London of 1665–66.[3]

In 1667, Heydon was imprisoned, again, in the Tower of London for his part in the treasonous plots of his patron, the Duke of Buckingham. He was accused of "treasonable practices in sowing sedition in the navy and engaging persons in a conspiracy to seize the Tower". He claimed however, that he was innocent and was the victim of someone paid to inform against him.[1]

Heydon was accused of plagiarising Sir Thomas Browne, Thomas Vaughan, and other writers; his Physician's Guide of 1662 largely derives from Sir Francis Bacon's New Atlantis.[4] He was referred to as "an ignoramus and a cheate" by Elias Ashmole; Frances Yates termed him a "strange astrologer, geomancer, alchemist, of a most extreme type.";[5] while A. E. Waite considered that all that was of value in his mysticism was derived from anterior writers.[1][2]

The precise date of Heydon's death is unknown. Care should be taken not to confuse him with Sir John Heydon (1588–1653), a royalist military officer and mathematician.[6]


Heydon published a remarkable volume of work in the last twelve years of his life. A complete list can be found in the "Dictionary of National Biography" (1885–1900) entry (see "references" below), but includes:


  1. ^ a b c d e f Lee, Sidney, ed. (1891). "Heydon, John (fl.1667)" . Dictionary of National Biography. 26. London: Smith, Elder & cite.citation{font-style:inherit}.mw-parser-output .citation q{quotes:"\"""\"""'""'"}.mw-parser-output .id-lock-free a,.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-free a{background:linear-gradient(transparent,transparent),url("//")right 0.1em center/9px no-repeat}.mw-parser-output .id-lock-limited a,.mw-parser-output .id-lock-registration a,.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-limited a,.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-registration a{background:linear-gradient(transparent,transparent),url("//")right 0.1em center/9px no-repeat}.mw-parser-output .id-lock-subscription a,.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-subscription a{background:linear-gradient(transparent,transparent),url("//")right 0.1em center/9px no-repeat}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration{color:#555}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription span,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration span{border-bottom:1px dotted;cursor:help}.mw-parser-output .cs1-ws-icon a{background:linear-gradient(transparent,transparent),url("//")right 0.1em center/12px no-repeat}.mw-parser-output code.cs1-code{color:inherit;background:inherit;border:none;padding:inherit}.mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{display:none;font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error{font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-maint{display:none;color:#33aa33;margin-left:0.3em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration,.mw-parser-output .cs1-format{font-size:95%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-left,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-left{padding-left:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-right,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-right{padding-right:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .citation .mw-selflink{font-weight:inherit}
  2. ^ a b c Waite, A. E. The Real History of the Rosicrucians (London: George Redway, 1887) p. 315 ff.
  3. ^ "Thomson, George (fl.1648-1679)". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
  4. ^ Yates, p. 167.
  5. ^ Yates, Frances A. The Rosicrucian Enlightenment. London, Routledge, 2002 edition; p. 241.
  6. ^ Lee, Sidney, ed. (1891). "Heydon, John (d.1653)" . Dictionary of National Biography. 26. London: Smith, Elder & Co.

2 Annotations

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

L&M: John Heydon, astrologer and Rosicrucian, an associate of Buckingham,
had been arrested in January 166/7. Amongst his papers was found an unsigned letter ordering him to cast the King's nativity. He was examined by several members of the government, and also (according to a letter of 13 March) tortured. Another charge was that Buckingham had used him to incite seamen to mutiny. In 1655-7 he had been imprisoned for forecasting that Cromwell would be hanged. The casting of the ruler's horoscope had never, in Queen Mary's time or at any other time, been made treasonable per se, although it might come within the terms of 'compassing or imagining' the death of the King, Queen or heir, which had been one of the basic treasons since 1353.… An act of 23 Eliz, c. 2 (valid only during Elizabeth's reign) had made is a felony to calculate the royal nativity.

All these matters were pretexts used by Buckingham's political enemies for their own purposes.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biographies is featuring John Heydon for the next week, free of charge. After that you need to be a paid subscriber:…

John Heydon sometimes used a Rosicrucian pen-name, Eugenius Theodidactus, and wrote many books on the subject, including:
A New Method of Rosicrucian Physick (1658);
The Rosie Crucian (1660), which supplies a Rosicrucian–Pythagorean cosmogony;
The English Physitians Guide, or, A Holy Guide (1662), his principal work of alchemical and mystical medicine;
The Harmony of the World (1662), his main metaphysical work which outlines his Neoplatonic cosmos;
Theomagia, or, The Temple of Wisdome (1664), which contains much astrological material;
The Wise Man's Crown, or, The Glory of the Rosie Cross (1664)
and El havareuna, or, The English Physician's Tutor (1665), both of which concentrate on alchemy.
All these works are variations on a single theme: Rosicrucianism as a universal wisdom and, as such, the way to an ultimate spiritual, physical, and social harmony.

The Rosicrucian "brotherhood" was a mysterious group whose existence has been questioned, and whose supposed 'manifestos' of 1614–15 were first translated into English in 1652 by Thomas Vaughan.

Instead John Heydon publicised Rosicrucian ideas: an amalgam of Neoplatonism, hermeticism, the cabbala, Pythagoras, Paracelsian medicine, alchemy, and astrology. He borrowed heavily (and usually without acknowledgement) from Thomas Vaughan, Sir Francis Bacon, Sir Thomas Browne, Cornelius Agrippa, Paracelsus, Elias Ashmole, and William Lilly.

Heydon's argument was that the fertile and chaotic intellectual environment of the mid-17th century England, in which the new mechanical and experimental philosophies, the old Aristotelianism, and the magico-religious world-view and practices of the radical sectaries, were all contending for supremacy.

John Heydon and William Lilly were the model for the astrologer Mopus in John Wilson's 1663 play, "The Cheats".

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.