Yeats: A Vision

  1. Philosophy Forum
  2. » Metaphysics
  3. » Yeats: A Vision

Get Email Updates Email this Topic Print this Page

Reply Fri 8 Dec, 2006 04:27 pm


  • All things are subject to a cycle of changes, which can be regarded as bi-polar, passing from a state of objectivity to one of subjectivity before returning to objectivity again. This can be seen as a form of oscillation, or a circuit around a wheel, and divides experience into the two halves of objectivity and subjectivity.
    • Under the term objective can be taken all that is collective, unifying, and which involves the individual being absorbed in something greater than itself, be that nature, society, God.
    • Under the term subjective can be taken all that is individualising, separating, pluralist and which involves the individual being differentiated as itself.

  • Between the two poles, there are stages which represent varying proportions of objectivity and subjectivity, and directions of movement towards either objectivity or subjectivity. Human life falls between the poles, since the extreme states are abstract.
  • The System is fundamentally humanistic and amoral. It deals almost exclusively with human experience and the human condition. The divine features, but is marginalised and seen as relevant only to part of the objective half of the Wheel. The individual soul is the focus, but more in terms of earthly experience and the series of reincarnations, which are the basis of the System, than in terms of spirituality. The spiritual is largely the province of the after-life.
  • Human life is intrinsically subjective, the after-life intrinsically objective. However, the soul passes through a series of objective lives, then a series of subjective lives, then again objective and so on.
  • Within the System completeness of experience is seen as the goal and the fortune of a subsequent life is determined by having exhausted experience in a given incarnation and the after-life that follows it, rather than by good or evil deeds.
  • The order of incarnations is largely immutable, with the nature of contiguous incarnations changing gradually; there may be repetitions, because of incompleteness, and small jumps, if a life has been lived and understood very fully.
  • In a given incarnation the nature of the goal in life is determined first and foremost by whether it falls in the objective or subjective part of the cycle. If it is objective, then the purpose is to recognise reality and to conform with the external world. If it is subjective, then the purpose is to sustain the inner dream and to follow it regardless of external pressure.
  • All humanity must pass through the same Phases, if you are in an objective incarnation you have been and will be in subjective ones at the appropriate stage, and vice versa. Therefore individual self-expression is important, but so is tolerance and allowing others to fulfil their own expression. Imposing what is right for you on others is tyranny, and imposing the values of others or of previous lives will lead to failure: if objective principles are retained during subjective lives then the life will not be lived adequately, and vice versa.
  • The role of the after-life is to reach an understanding of the previous incarnate life, to absorb the understood experience on a spiritual level, and then to prepare for the following life.
  • The world goes through cycles as well as the individual soul. There are several cycles of varying length in operation at any one time.
  • The current stage of the world is objective on several levels, so that the subjective is marginalised. However, there will shortly be a reversal, so that one of the major cycles will move into a subjective stage. This will enable the subjective to regain some prominence.
I will be exploring this work and system in this thread- this will be ongoing.... :cool:

W. B. Yeats and "A Vision": Contents
Electra phil
Reply Sat 9 Dec, 2006 06:25 am
@Electra phil,

Yeats states that the 'whole system is founded upon the belief that the ultimate reality, symbolised as the Sphere, falls in human consciousness, as Nicholas of Cusa was the first to demonstrate, into a series of antinomies' (AV B 187) and refers later to 'a phaseless sphere that becomes phasal in our thought, Nicholas of Cusa's undivided reality which human experience divides into opposites' (AV B 247). Elsewhere Yeats refers to the 'antinomy of the One and the Many that Plato thought in his Parmenides insoluble' (VPl 935), and he preserves this Platonic opposition in his duality, though expanding it by association to include, the objective and the subjective, Love and Strife or Concord and Discord, the Solar and the Lunar, and asserts the constant conflict of the two opposites.

The most basic tenet of alchemy is that there are two primary ways of knowing reality. . . . The first way of knowing is rational deductive, argumentative, intellectual thinking that is the hallmark of science. . . . The alchemists called this solar consciousness, and assigned it many code words, such as the King, the Sun, Sulphur, Spirit, the Father, and ultimately the One Mind of the universe. . . . The alchemists called the other way of knowing lunar consciousness. This intelligence of the heart is a non-linear, image-driven intuitive way of thinking that is an accepted tool of the arts and religion. Among its many symbols are the Queen, the Moon, the metal Mercury, the Soul, the Holy Ghost, and ultimately the One Thing of the universe.

It is possible to see, perhaps, why Yeats avoided giving a clear table of oppositions, since rather too often critics latch onto these lists and take them as definitions, when what is most important is the underlying principle, while the attributions can change and vary according to context. The fundamental idea of the primary is unification while that of the antithetical is separation, so that primary forces bring things to unity, sameness, and concord, whereas antithetical forces bring things to individual identity, differentiation, and discord. These themes inform the terms' names, though rather obliquely: 'the subjective cone is called that of the antithetical tincture</I> because it is achieved and defended by continual conflict with its opposite; the objective cone is called that of the primary tincture</I> because whereas subjectivity. . . tends to separate man from man, objectivity brings us back to the mass where we begin' (AV B 71-72) and a draft version elaborates this: 'in the antithetical we are all different, each a microcosm, in the primary we are one, & because all are one before they are many'. In the dualism of the One and the Many, the primary harks back to unity, so that it is ultimately the dominant tincture, but the One, in itself, is static and therefore sterile. Though the antithetical is the secondary opposition, it is the necessary expression of difference and conflict, and therefore movement and life. A first degree of extension from these ideas is that the primary is identified with the macrocosm, God and the equality of all souls, while the antithetical is identified with the microcosm, humanity and difference of all people.
The division of primary and antithetical is so fundamental to the System that it is often difficult to generalise about experience or a being's purpose in life according to the System, because the two diverge so much, and if the being mistakes the purpose, then the life will be 'out of phase'. Since the antithetical is the basis of life and humanity, in opposition to after-life and spirit-knowledge, Yeats almost invariably takes the antithetical as the typical case or the centre of his interest, and the primary, despite its name, is forced into the secondary role. This dualism inevitably entails a constant balancing of the one hand against the other, and Yeats evidently finds that sometimes his interest in the Wheel's objective half is too weak to sustain extended consideration. Although the Wheel contains a spectrum, the two halves are so radically at odds that it is difficult for the person of one half fully to identify with the other.

Reference webpage above.
Electra phil
Reply Sat 9 Dec, 2006 06:48 am
@Electra phil,

While the division of the lunar cycle into twenty-eight phases is fairly straightforward, the Moon phases have an underlying structure that is extremely complex, involving interpenetrating cones and mutually dependent "faculties" of the soul. It is hard to say whether Yeats himself understood this system. Since his book was based on channelled information, it's quite possible that he didn't. In any case, he didn't do a very good job at explaining it.

...The lunar cycle may be aptly compared to the growth cycle of a plant. The new Moon may be compared to the germination of the seed, the early waxing phases to the onset of the flowering. The full Moon mayb be likened to the ripening of the fruit, and the late waning phases to the formation of the seed. And then the cycle starts over. The vegetative symbolism is appropriate because of its absolute regularity. One generation follows another with only the smalles variation.

...The lunar cycle represents a complex dialectic between spirit and form--which are philosophy's simplified terms for the solar principle and the lunar principle. At the new Moon, the solar principle is dominant, and the world is conceived in terms of spiritual essences. At the full Moon, the lunar principle is dominant, for the world is seen in concrete forms. The entire cycle can be viewed as a movement from spirit to matter, and its subsequent disengagement and return to the world of Mind. The philosophy that is implied is essentially Eastern. The soul incarnates in order to gain wordly experience (the waxing phases). Then through meditation and reflection, it transforms this experience into spiritual wisdom (the waning phases). Since this wisdom is deathless it follows the soul around the wheel into its next incarnation. After many lifetimes, the soul finally succeeds in freeing itself from the wheel of karma and the passionate struggle of opposites.

Note that orthodox Christianity rejects occultism's cyclic cosmology for a linear and dualistic view of the cosmos. Furthermore, what it does borrow from the lunar mysteries is highly distorted. In Christian theology, Phase 1 (new moon) has become the Kingdom of Heaven--blissful, ethereal, perfect, and bodiless. Phase 15 (full moon) has become the World--realm of sin, temptation, and degredation. This is a total misrepresentation, a priestly device to crucify humankind between the unreal concepts of pure spirit and pure matter. It is also a deviation from true Christian doctrine--a Manichaen idea grafted into Christianity by St. Augustine, for the basest of political motives.

Early Christians believed that Christ would bring the Kingdom to Earth, by overthrowing and destroying earthly tyrannies. This belief gave rise to millenial expectations and radical political movements. If the Kingdom of God could manifest on Earth, it was clear that Earth had a divine potential; there was no real reason to put up with poverty and oppression.

As long as Christianity was a minority religion, this form of social agitation was more or less accepted. However, when the Church became the state religion of Rome, these hopes for the earthly Kingdom became an embarrassemnt. Acting as an agent of Rome, St. Augustine, in his City of God, removed the Kingdom from Earth to heaven. Christ's Kingdom would never come to the Earth, for the Earth was the realm of Satan. There was nothing of value, nor could there be anything of value on Earth. The true Christian therefore, should accept the trials of earthly existence as punishment for the Fall, and place all hopes on the Kingdom of Heaven.

This piece of theological trickery had terrible consequences for Western civilization.

In the lunar cosmology, Phase 1 and 15 are not opposites; they are polarities--polarities that form part of a unified and ongoing cycle. To view them as opposites, is to set spirit against form, sky against Earth, humanity against nature, and ultimately man against woman.

The cyclical view of the cosmos is in harmony with nature and all its processes. It describes a world of growth, decay, and regeneration. It describes a world of gradual evolution. It does not threathen the individual with an illusory choice between salvation and damnation. Such dualistic concepts are products of the mind, and have no place in nature.

from Moon Phases - A Symbolic Key, Martin Goldsmith
Electra phil
Reply Sat 9 Dec, 2006 08:01 am
@Electra phil,

The Matrix and the Principles

Yeats actually compares Whitehead to someone who 'has written down the game of chess, while I, like some Italian Prince, have made the pages and the court ladies have it out on my lawn' (L 712). And the elements which recall more modern philosophy on the nature of God sit alongside those which are more in keeping with Renaissance thinking. One of the foundations of the idea of Microcosm and Macrocosm is that the Microcosm reflects through correspondence the nature of the Macrocosm, and it is in the human Principles, in particular, that we can discover the nature of the divine spirit. Through the Principles Yeats partly compensates for his neglect of the divine; he wishes to concentrate on the phenomenal and to avoid noumenal abstractions, and the Principles bring the divine to human proportions.

Both soul and godhead can be said to be '"that which has value in itself," or you can say of it "it [is] that which we can only know through analogies"' (L 825). The ultimate Sphere is of itself ineffable, the Cone largely expressible only in the language of opposition; we must use the language of analogy and in talking of the 'lower' forms, such as the Principles, the analogy is merely taken a step further. The Divine Ideas which exist in the Sphere in their unity, in potentia, are reflected in the Microcosmic form of the Celestial Body, to be realised in fact through the material cosmos, the lower Principles and Faculties.

In reconciling traditional ideas to his own, Yeats faces the same problem that Blake did of adapting a Trinitarian view of God to the four-fold structure of his symbolism. In examining the system of Willam Blake in the 1880s, Yeats had written that, 'Like Boehmen and the occultists generally, he postulates besides the Trinity a fourth principle, a universal matrix or heaven or abode, from which and in which we all have life' (WWB 1 246).

The matrix:[INDENT]may be described as the imagination of God without which neither Father, Son, nor Spirit could be made manifest in life and action. . . . To this emanation, to give it the Blakean term, of the Father, is constantly applied by Boehmen the word 'looking-glass'. . . . God looking into this mirror, ceases to be mere will, beholds Himself as the Son, His love for His own unity, His self-consciousness, and enters on that eternal meditation about Himself which is called the Holy Spirit. . . . (WWB 1 246-7)[/INDENT]The role of the matrix is to make the Trinity 'manifest in life and action', just as the role of the Husk is to give the other Principles their necessary manifestation as the creative Faculties and to maintain their connection. The Holy Spirit of Yeats's Blake 'is the energy which wakes into being the numberless thought-forms of the great mirror, the immortal or typical shapes of all things, the "ideas" of Plato. It and the mirror make up together divine manifestation' (WWB 1 247).

The matrix can also be seen as the receptive womb of creation (matrix is Latin for 'womb' or 'brood-mare'), so that the three must become four in order that creation might be manifest. And Yeats evidently carried the idea with him into the creation of the System of A Vision, writing to Thomas Sturge Moore in 1926: 'Personally I believe there is a Matrix but that Matrix seems to me living and active, not a mere logical possibility. But that is a long story' (TSMC 83). See Appendix.

In the separation of the Microcosm from the Macrocosm, the individual wins its separateness from the mass, from the unity of identification, and yet ultimately is taken back into unity and is freed from the pain of isolation: 'Whatever existence we think of, a Civilisation's or an individual's, it arises from the general mass, wins its victory and returns.' Yet the Thirteenth Cone, the 'general mass, call it Nature, God, the Matrix, the Unconscious, what you will,' requires the separated Microcosms, and only 'becomes a unity when interlocked with some separating or subsiding existence; nor is it greater than that existence' for it needs the separate existence to realise its potential in reality.

W. B. Yeats and "A Vision": The Divine
Electra phil
Reply Sun 10 Dec, 2006 05:12 am
@Electra phil,
Psychologically, the Faculties are essentially treated as four functions or forces within the psyche, two dynamic and two receptive, whose interaction underlies and is, to an extent, independent of the horoscope's more obvious traits. Taken in isolation the Faculties are simple drives:
  • Will 'or normal ego' (AV B 83) is described, in A Vision A, as 'feeling that has not become desire because there is no object to desire; a bias . . . an energy . . . the first matter of a certain personality-choice' (AV A 14-15) and, in the words of A Vision B, it 'has neither emotion, morality nor intellectual interest, but knows how things are done, how windows open and shut, how roads are crossed, everything that we call utility. It seeks its own continuance' (AV B 83), and is an instinct for life and survival.
  • Mask is 'the image of what we wish to become, or of that to which we give our reverence' (AV A 15), or the 'object of desire or idea of the good' (AV B 83), and it only has meaning if there is the desire of the Will.
  • Creative Mind is consciously constructive intellect with memory from before birth of ideal or Platonic forms; it potentially 'contains all the universals' (AV B 86) and implicitly seeks to understand through generalisation but needs materials with which to work and create its order, so that if it were isolated from the other Faculties it would be indiscriminate in its impressions since lacking direction.
  • Body of Fate is the internal representation of 'the physical and mental environment, the changing human body, the stream of Phenomena as this affects a particular individual, all that is forced upon us from without, Time as it affects sensation' (AV A 15); it has greater independent meaning since it is the personal, constituent fragment of the general reality, and 'the visible world is the sum of the Bodies of Fate of all living things' (AV A 158).
W. B. Yeats and "A Vision": The Faculties
Electra phil
Reply Sun 10 Dec, 2006 07:37 am
@Electra phil,
Reply Sat 23 Aug, 2008 10:05 am
@Electra phil,


Yeats Vision seems mysterious enough but might be a combination of Hegelian reflection and the vortex physics popular at that time. Combining that with Yeats' language abilities was very powerful and won't happen again since we on to relativity in physics, language has degerated into a single Internet/evening-news dialect, and the branches of philosophy are getting thin and fuzzy.
Reply Mon 1 Mar, 2010 04:39 am
Fairbanks;22506 wrote:

Yeats Vision seems mysterious enough but might be a combination of Hegelian reflection and the vortex physics popular at that time. Combining that with Yeats' language abilities was very powerful and won't happen again since we on to relativity in physics, language has degerated into a single Internet/evening-news dialect, and the branches of philosophy are getting thin and fuzzy.

Thanks! Yes.... I read this book when I was too young 4 it. Not that Hegel has clicked, I see the connection, and it's connection to Finnegans Wake. The interpenetrating cones r sublime, much more sublime than I realized.. Thetical & Antithetical gettin Dirty-n-Clean

  1. Philosophy Forum
  2. » Metaphysics
  3. » Yeats: A Vision
Copyright © 2024 MadLab, LLC :: Terms of Service :: Privacy Policy :: Page generated in 0.02 seconds on 06/20/2024 at 11:10:28