Monday, August 3, 2020

Conjunctions II

Venus and Mars in conjunction over Lake Superior, October 2017 (Bob King)

After Yeats has established the basis of the Aries-Taurus conjunction of Mars-Venus and the Aquarius-Pisces conjunction of Saturn-Jupiter, he goes on to elaborate a complex series of ideas based on this pair of pairings. The associations might recall at best Hermann Hesse's ultra-cerebral Glass Bead Game or at worst the ragbag eclecticism and strained connections that are not uncommon in occult tracts, where analogies rapidly become equivalents and substitutes.

Pompeian fresco of Mars and Venus

Venus and Mars

The planets have many possible associations, ranging from the mythological to the psychological, and their "conjunctions … express so many things", but Yeats singles out for Venus-Mars, "the outward-looking mind, love and its lure", and for Jupiter-Saturn, "introspective knowledge of the mind's self-begotten unity, an intellectual excitement" (AVB 207), though which is which is not spelt out and it is only the word "love", clearly linked to Venus, as well as more general astrological symbolism from elsewhere that makes the identification clear.

In a poem written "in the first excitement of discovery I compared one to the Sphinx and one to Buddha"— the link to the conjunctions would not necessarily be very clear had Yeats not added that the Buddha should have been substituted for Christ, as "Buddha was a Jupiter-Saturn influence" (AVB 207), i.e. the Buddha in the poem represents a Venus-Mars influence, even though it shouldn't. Many years later on in the pair of couplets titled "Conjunctions," Yeats made the identification of Christ and Venus-Mars explicit.
The sword's a cross; thereon He died:
On breast of Mars the goddess sighed.
                                (VP 562)
The Sword-Cross of Santiago
Astrologically Venus and Mars are very much the principles of love and sex; harmony and aggression; comfort and adventure; union and separation. Yet they work at almost exactly the same personal level and are a very much a polar and complementary pair. The signs ruled by Venus are Taurus and Libra, opposite which stand the signs ruled by Mars, Scorpio and Aries. As mythological figures they are known for their adulterous affair, since Aphrodite-Venus was married to the smith god Hephaistos-Vulcan, who famously trapped her in the act with Ares-Mars under a net.

Mars and Venus entrapped by Vulcan, Antonio Bellucci, ca. 1700.

Jupiter and Saturn

Saturn devouring one of Jupiter's siblings
Peter Paul Rubens (1636)

The symbolism of Saturn and Jupiter is more complicated. In their Greek forms as Kronos and Zeus, though they are father and son, there is really only one story that connects them. Forewarned that he would be overthrown by his own child, Kronos (Saturn) ate his children, until his wife, Rhea, replaced the last one, Zeus (Jupiter), with a stone. Zeus grew to maturity and led a revolt against his father, dethroning him as foretold.

They are slow moving and astrologically work at a similar, more impersonal level than Mars or Venus, and are sometimes referred to as the "social" planets. Their domiciles are grouped together in the wintery signs, Saturn's Capricorn and Aquarius bracketed by Jupiter's Sagittarius and Pisces. Jupiter's influence is expansive and optimistic, while Saturn's is restrictive and  melancholy. Rudolf Steiner posited two versions of Satan, the tempter, Lucifer the Jovian over-reacher on the one hand, and, the denier, Ahriman the Saturnine mechanistic desiccator on the other. However, just as for Steiner the Christ principle balances the two forces, so here the balance of the two, exploration and concentration, offers "introspective knowledge of the mind's self-begotten unity".

Yeats symbolizes them by the Sphinx in "The Double Vision of Michael Robartes", which represents the triumph of intellect:
One lashed her tail; her eyes lit by the moon
Gazed upon all things known, all things unknown,
In triumph of intellect
With motionless head erect.    (VP 383)

The focus on knowing, recalls the pairing of the Knower and the Known, Creative Mind and Body of Fate. And similarly Yeats characterizes the antithetical revelation that starts "under Saturn-Jupiter" as "the vivification of old intellect" (AVB 208). This revivification of the old is symbolized cryptically by wheat from the pharaoh's tombs germinating (a popular nineteenth-century myth), in the companion couplet to the one quoted above:
If Jupiter and Saturn meet,
What a crop of mummy wheat! 
                  (VP 562)

The second vision of "The Double Vision of Michael Robartes" is an image of the Full Moon, with a dead spirit dancing between the Sphinx and the Buddha (who should be Christ). She is dead because the Full Moon is too pure to be alive in mortal and on either side are the two conjunctions: Aries-Taurus, Mars-Venus, or Christ (the Buddha in the poem), and Aquarius-Pisces, Saturn-Jupiter, or the Sphinx, which "stand, so to speak, like heraldic supporters guarding the mystery of the fifteenth phase" (AVB 207) (see McDowell, " 'Heraldic Supporters': Minor Symbolism and the Integrity of A Vision", YA10 [1993]).

These conjunctions also preside over the beginning of each revelation or religious dispensation (for a complication about the layout of the signs, see "Conjunctions I"). As the solar Creative Mind moves away from the Full Moon is moves from Aries into Taurus, hence the conjunction of Mars and Venus presiding over the first stages of this cycle. As this cycle draws to an end, Creative Mind is moving from Aquarius into the sign of Pisces, the conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter. And since the "influx that dominates a primary dispensation comes a little after the start of the dispensation itself" when Will is at Phase 16, a primary dispensation is ushered in by Mars-Venus; and "that which dominates an antithetical dispensation [comes] a considerable time before the close of the preceding primary dispensation" it comes under the influence of Saturn and Jupiter (AVB 208).

Sculpture of Zeus striking Kronos, Temple of Artemis, Corfu

In a further complication of symbolism, the Yeatses' two children were seen to embody each of them one of these conjunctions, which featured at the moment of the their birth. As Yeats wrote to Olivia Shakespear on 25 August 1934:
I was told you may remember that my two children would be Mars conjunction Venus, Saturn conjunction Jupiter respectively; & so they were — Anne the Mars Venus personality. Then I was told that they would develop so that I could study in them the alter­nating dispensations, the Christian or objective, then the Antithetical or subjective. The Christian is the Mars Venus. It is democratic. The Jupiter Saturn civilization is born free among the most cultivated, out of tradition, out of rule.

Should Jupiter and Saturn meet
What a crop of mummy wheat!

The sword's a cross; thereon He died.
On breast of Mars the goddess sighed.

I wrote those lines because some days ago George said it is very strange that whereas Michael is always thinking about life Anne always thinks of death. Then I remembered that the children were the two dispensations. Anne collects skeletons.... When she grows up she will either have some passionate love affair or have some close friend that has — the old association of love and death. (CL InteLex 6087; cf. L 827-28)

Connected with this was the possible belief that Michael was in some way connected with the avatar of the new antithetical age, but that is a story for another day. 
Jupiter and Saturn are approaching their conjunction on 21 December 2020

Friday, July 31, 2020

Astrology of A Vision IV: Blending the Phases of the Moon with Astrology—Natal Astrology

George Yeats's book of horoscope ("map") templates,
from the National Library of Ireland's exhibition
Did the Yeatses try to square astrology with the system's phases of the moon? And if so, how?

Yes, they did try to match the system's phases to the skies, but whether and how varied according to the type of astrology they were doing.

Types of Astrology

Traditionally there are four types of astrology—
horary astrology, which asks a question and looks at the skies of that moment for an answer;
inceptional or catarchic astrology, which looks at the timing of something to predict its character, or may even choose to start a venture at particular time to favour its future (electional);
natal or genethliac astrology, which looks at skies for the birth-time of a person to discern their character and potentials in life;
mundane astrology, which sees the cycles of the planets as corresponding with the trends and events of nations and the world at large.

A horary, "What will result of letter to Eamon De Valera be? April 16 1922", with judgments by GY and WBY on the verso, opposite another question "What will happen to Ireland in the near future" (May 7. 1922).
[GY's judgment]
I do not think this letter will cause DeValera to change his plan of campaign but I do think that it will cause him to modify it, changing from militarist factors to political strategy. I do not think WB will enter into public relations in the matter at all, but will probably be in communication privately & in personal relations with De V. & his party. The approach of [Venus] to [square Neptune] seems to me to indicate that it would be inadvisable for WB to take public part, as I take [Neptune] to be the <people> Country, then [square] of [Venus] to [Neptune] shows I think that <it> such action would <be> partly interfere with his creative power though I think the [sextile Jupiter Saturn] to [Neptune] indicates he would have personal success if he did take a public part (April 17)
Judgement by WBY
Writer to send letter & will have effect though indirect. No present practical effect ([Moon] going to [square Saturn]). [vis-matia?=?vis-major] or unknown causes ([Saturn] in XII) prevent. Should lead to some friends contact with recipient or others later on ([Moon] going to [trine Venus]). Figure powerful ([Saturn Jupiter] on asc[endant] & triple trine of [Neptune Mars Mercury]) & as [Venus] or radical [Neptune] & [Moon] & [Mars] on radical Jupiter impulse [Mars] write was well judged. (April 17)

The Yeatses' papers include examples of all four types, but they treated horary and inceptional as purely astrological and only natal and mundane are related to the phases of the moon and even then only experimentally and relatively unsatisfactorily. And the methods used for natal and for mundane astrology are very distinct. There is a movable scheme for people's birth charts, which involves aligning the horoscope's Ascendant with the phase of Will (initially at the beginning of the phase, later at the centre). In contrast, mundane astrology entailed a fixed correspondence of the phases to the zodiac, but seems to have been marked particularly by stars, so has strong sidereal elements. This post will examine Natal Astrology; Mundane Astrology will follow.

Natal Astrology

For individuals, the Yeatses aligned the zodiac with the phases by placing a person's Ascendant at the assigned phase, so the alignment varies and it also means that the chart per se cannot be used to give the phase—you need to know a person's phase to know where to locate their Ascendant. The first scripts seem to place it at the beginning of the relevant phase, while later on it is stated that it is the centre, so Yeats's Aquarius ascendant is placed at the centre of Phase 17, while George's Scorpio ascendant is placed at the centre of Phase 18.

If the fictional writer Giraldus was given W. B. Yeats's face in the portrait by Edmund Dulac, he was given George Yeats's Phase, and possibly horoscope. In one of the earlier drafts, Michael Robartes explains the diagram he is showing that includes Giraldus's birthchart:
Because Gyraldus, considered that he had himself been born was in the 18th incarnation of his cycle—it is his horoscope that is in the center. [?For] According to this astrologic system the ascendant of a horoscope is always placed before it & judged directly under the middle point of the phase of the native, & all the aspects are & planets are studied in relation to the phases at which they are placed. (YVP4 79; cf. 24)
Yeats was writing this early draft in 1918 and it seems that they were experimenting with these techniques from January 1918 for some months. Sometimes at least, they appear to have cut the chart out of a loose sheet version of the chart, in order to place it in a phase circle or alternatively to place phase attributions in the window left by cutting the chart out.

Iseult Gonne's horoscope, cut-out centre, and chart with window.
(Though both for Iseult, these are actually different charts, one being natal and the the other progressed.)

As Colin McDowell notes, because the Yeatses used a form of horoscope diagram in which the mundane houses have a fixed width and the degrees of the zodiac are written in, this can lead to some distortion of the circle (see '"Shifting Sands": Dancing the Horoscope in the Vision Papers' on pages 194–216 of Yeats's 'A Vision': Explications and Contexts available for free download). In Yeats's chart, for instance, with the Ascendant in the first degree of Aquarius and the Midheaven is at 4 degrees of Sagittarius, the distance between them is approximately 56 degrees, and the Ascendant's distance from the Nadir (4 degrees Gemini) is 124 degrees, yet both these quadrants are presented as a 90-degree right angle in the chart, and placed as such according to the phases.

Examination of my horoscope with the 28 phases!

WBY's chart in the centre, with phases around. WBY's ascendant is
placed pointing to Phase 17, where his Will was.
WBY's ascendant is placed at about 2 o'clock in the diagram to the right (the "usual" position of Phase 17). From the comments made about planets' positions (as well as cut-outs like the ones above), it seems that the Yeatses were using a circular house-based format of horoscope (where the the angle from Ascendant to Midheaven or Nadir is always 90 degrees, however many zodiacal degrees there are), with the planets placed in the corresponding phases. However, the analysis that arises from the Yeatses' own horoscopes, the only ones that they went into any detail on, provide little illumination of either horoscope or phases (see Colin McDowell, “Shifting Sands: Dancing the Horoscope in the Vision Papers,” YVEC 202–4).

This alignment, though distorted, corresponds more or less with what the Yeatses explored in the automatic script presented below. Going anti-clockwise from Phase 1: Mars is at Phase 3 or 4; Saturn at Phase 6 or 7 (along with the Moon's North Node); the Midheaven is at Phase 10; Jupiter at Phase 13; the Ascendant at Phase 17; the Moon is at Phase 18; Neptune at Phase 20; Venus at Phase 22; Mercury at Phase 24 (along with the Part of Fortune); the Sun is at Phase 26 or 27, close to Uranus, more clearly at Phase 27.
      In terms of the Phases, Yeats's Will is at Phase 17 and his Mask at Phase 3, while his Creative Mind is at Phase 13 and his Body of Fate at Phase 27. The key points of contact therefore are the opposition of Mars and Moon along the Mask-Will axis, and Jupiter with Sun and Uranus along the Creative Mind-Body of Fate axis.
      The Yeatses explored WBY's chart in a document that is listed in the Critical Edition of 'A Vision' (1925) (intro page xx), but, for some reason, not included in Yeats's 'Vision' Papers (see McDowell, 201–2). The script appears to date from January 1918 and the questions seem to indicate that this was one of the first times that they were trying to interpret the planetary positions of the chart through the phases.
      The questions and answers are on separate sheets, but put together here. Because it was only the second or third month of the automatic script, early versions of terms are used, such as "Ego" for Will, "Creative Genius" for Creative Mind and "Persona of Fate" for Body of Fate, and I have given the equivalents in square brackets. And where the Yeatses used symbols for the planets, I've put the names in square brackets. (Incidentally, one of the less explicable oddities of Yeats's idiosyncratic spelling/handwriting is his repeated writing of "begging" for "beginning".)
Examination of my horoscope with the 28 phases!

(1). Does one place As[cendant] always at begging [=beginning] of phase?
1. Yes

(2). Does take each planet with phase at which it happens to be.
2. Yes.

(3). Would you care to chose planet & phase on which you will comment?
3.  [Moon opp Mars] mask & ego [=Will]
[Sun Uranus] PF [=Persona of Fate, i.e., Body of Fate]
[Jupiter] Creative Genius & Evil Genius [=Creative Mind and False Creative Mind]
[Venus] 22

(4). How do [Sun Uranus] influence P[ersona of] F[ate]

Suddenness of loss mainly in romantic ways  Strange turns of fate but always bringing luck to creative genius whether by people or artistic production

(5). Is lack to C[reative] G[enius]  because [Jupiter opp Sun Uranus]
5.  Yes

(6). How does [Mars] effect Mask?
6.  Inclines strongly againts [sic] mask of intensity

(7). Why?
7   Because it is opposition [Moon]

(8) Is tendency to dispersal from [Moon]
8.  Yes  [Moon] in ascendant strong but acting against dispersal
Mars against [Moon] dispersal primary dispersal

[9 —no question or answer]

(10).  would [Mars] without [Moon] be for despersal
10 Intensity of passion

(11) [Moon] & [Mars] both separately against dispersal  together for?
11   Yes because acting against each other for the same thing

(12) Define their separate operations?
12  [Moon] anti passion & intensity [Mars] emotional passion & intensity

(13) are [Moon] & [Mars] always anti & P[rimary].
13  No  passion only primary here because in a primary phase

(14)  How does [Jupiter] effect EG & CG?
14  [Jupiter] gives richness to niative [sic] & passion & intensity obscurely though opposition [Sun] passion [Uranus]
Evil through the dramatisation of the evil genius [=False Creative Mind]

15.  Why does [Jupiter] give dramatization?
15.  [Jupiter] the actor [Jupiter opposition Uranus] [?crossed out?]

16.  Why does [Sun] give obscurity?
16   because it is in bad aspect it gives difficulty in clarity because it gives such varying images

17.  Is not that rather from [Uranus]
17   No with [Sun] merely phantasy

(18).  How does [Sun] apart from [Uranus] effect PE [=False Mask].
18 you cant take them separately

(19).  What is solar element in effect
19  The bring of luck through enforced loss

(20).  Luck from [Sun]?
20 Yes

(21).  What is effect of [Venus] at 22?
21.  That is I think quite clear enough

(22) With horoscope & phase could you find my proffession?
(23).would you consider phase?
22. Ascendant & aspects
      Of course first of all.

23.  Do you consider aspects among planets as bring on bringing out qualities of phase at which planet is?
23.  Yes

24. What does [Saturn] at 6 mean?
24. affects [Moon] by giving some of quality of 6

25. do you consider place of M.C.
25. no only if tenanted

26.  How does [Mercury] at 24 effect me?
26. work with 24
[Moon] at 18

27.  How has my choice of a wife been effected by phases?
27  Mars going to 4 mask of 18
But that is most clearly shown in the dmns[=Daimon's] horoscope in phases
[on the back of the question page in WBY's handwriting]
Mask implies love lure of saught
PF implies love of seeker
18 loves yourr[??]
17 mask it is your [Uranus] again
[Uranus] gives love being your]
28.  What has softened [Mars] in VII.
28  No only phases.

29. Do you consider planets of second circle?
[No answer]

30.  What is effect of [Neptune] in [Aries] at 20.

                 [back of page] Is aireffect

31.  Is Neptune [Neptune] propaganda?
31  Mystically psychically so
twas taking [Saturn] [Neptune] main effect

32.  You mean give to [Neptune] self assertion
32  Yes yes yes

33.  Which I notice you dislike?
33   Yes

34.  Define effect of [Saturn] at 6
34  Interest in mystical also steadies [Moon] & [Uranus]

35.  are connections between houses & phases important?
35  Yes very

36.  How 26 27 & 28 effect V House matters?
36.  Only from to when planets

37.  Do take [Mars] in connection with both 3 & 4?
37  When planet is halfway take both
it happens to be mediums mask
it no that comes from combination

38.  How do 3 & 4 effect choice of wife?
38  [Moon] & [Mars]

39.  Disposition generally.
39  No she will never be at place of planet but it will be at her creative genius or mask or PF[=Body of Fate]

(40).  When a woman is symbolized by a planet will she be primary if planet at primary phase?
40 [long answer in mirror writing and crossed thru]

(40) [bis]  Georges Mask M[aud] G[onne] PF[=Body of Fate] what is distinction.
[no answer]

yes wait

[mirror writing cancelled]

Vth house

Better go on tomorrow

[mirror cancelled]
which you what is two words before
yes writing
re ther bad number

[wavy lines & spiral circle]      (NLI 36,256/25)

As Colin McDowell notes, this "analysis . . . is hardly inspirational or incisive", and can be summarized as stating that having Body of Fate in connection with Uranus, associated with the unexpected and eccentric, may give suddenness of loss, while having the fortunate planet "Jupiter at Creative Mind will bring good luck through other people or in creative work".  Furthermore Moon close to the Will, and opposite to Mars close to the Mask "gives dispersal by acting against intensity in the Mask. Yeats asks what is the effect of having Venus at Phase 22, and is told in no uncertain terms that he did not need to ask the question. Mercury at Phase 24 allowed him to work with Lady Gregory, whose Phase that is, whereas his Mars going to Phase 4 is correlated with the fact that Phase 4 is the Mask of Phase 18, which is George’s phase" (YVEC 203).

Whose horoscope? Georges

The treatment of George's horoscope a day or two later is little more revealing (18 January 1918, YVP1 272, and summarized YVP3 352). Because of the time of day she was born, there is slightly less distortion to the chart (the angles are 74 and 106 degrees).
George Yeats's chart, with the Ascendant aligned with Phase 18.
The Ascendant is placed at Phase 18, the position of George Yeats's Will. This means that Jupiter aligns with Phase 1; Neptune with Phase 6; the Midheaven is at Phase 11, and the Moon and Venus at Phase 11 or 12; Saturn is at Phase 14; the Sun is at Phase 15 or 15, and Mercury at Phase 16; Uranus at 17, and Mars, at Phase 25, along with the Nadir. For her, the Will is at Phase 18, the Mask at Phase 4, the Creative Mind at Phase 12, and the Body of Fate at Phase 26.

          9.  What planets do you select?
          9.  Primary planets [Mars Jupiter]
              Anti [Uranus Sun Moon Venus]

          10.  What is effect of [Jupiter] at 1
          10.  [Jupiter] and [Sun] mediumship & clairvoyance

          11.  Why?
          11.  At phase one & 15
                No only because at 15
                Yes always
                There being conjunction [Uranus] it is accentuated

          12.  Do you especially connect [Sun] with clairvoyance
          12.  Yes  especially with no opposition

          13.  Is [Sun] a great image maker
          13.  [Jupiter]

          14.  Does [Uranus] always accentuate image making power?
          14.  in this case [Jupiter] at one— [Sun] at 15

          15. [Sun  Uranus] in my case causes shifting of images?
          15.  different and from 12th to 6th house

          16.  Why?
          16.  Because in position of medium both planets are in phase of spirits
          17.  Does [opposition] effect result badly?
          17.  No  opposition strengthens by giving to the mediumship & clairvoyance—[Sun] alone clair[voyance]
          18.  How is mediumship affected by its being [Jupiter]
          18.  other planets give psychism combination— [Sun] at 15 [Jupiter] at one as I said  before—now go on

          19.  What is the [Jupiter] quality in this medium [Jupiter] in [Aries]?
          19.  unity vigour philosophy intensity etc

          20.  Does [Mercury conjunct Sun] [Mercury] at 17 affect result?
          20.  Clairvoyance image giving but mainly it does not affect
          [Sun] but [Sun] affects it—being in a luring phase it is stronger than [Sun]

          21.  What do you mean by luring phase?
          21.  Fifteen and one are spirit phases

          22.  It is stronger than [Sun] & so [Sun] effects it  Why?
          22.  Yes  because it attracts [Sun] instead of reverse

          23.  How does [Uranus] at 18 effect things
          23.  The only primary strength in horoscope

          24.  Yet you put [Uranus] among anti planets?
          24.  Yes  but it is the only planet which can act primarily because [Mars] is at 24— [Jupiter] at one [Sun] at 15 [Moon Venus] 13 & 12 between

          25.  What quality of strength does [Uranus] give?
          25.  objectively can use [Mercury] —mostly it goes to [Mars] & [Venus Moon] antithetically but should be used primarily

          26.  What quality will P[rimary] use give?
          26.  Astrologically you can judge it with [Mercury] at 17—  I need not do that

          27.  give quality of [Mercury] at 17?
          27.  It would be artist or literary but strength of [Uranus] rather stunts it

          28.  Can that stunting be prevented?
          28.  If [Mars] is strengthened

          29.  Will strengthening of [Mercury] interfere with mediumship.
          29.  Yes

          30.  what do you advise?
          30.  This will be finished

          31.  I think of asking medium to help with plays etc.  If so should I postpone it?
          31.  Not good—not enough constructive ability

          32.  Do you mean she cannot design costumes Etc.?
          32.  not well done

          33.  Will you speak of [Moon Venus]
          33.  She cant do anything till this is done—no good trying plenty of activity but we use it all

          34.  Can you show how I come into horoscope.
          34.  At her evil & creative genius [False and True Creative Mind]

I had better go into something else--  I am getting no help

          35.  What does her [Mars] signify.
          35.  [Venus] at your Creative & Evil G[enius] or [Moon]? 
[Mars] where your [Jupiter] is

          36.  Can you define my relation to that self suppression.
          36.  In her case self suppression because at 24

          37.  Could you go on with Maurice [=Iseult Gonne] here?
          37.  You are too unwell—better go on another day do you think
no  it is not regular work & is disturbing

          38.  Would her mere presence interfere.
          38.  No  I would rather not & it will be better for a rest—next week I will take all circles
(YVP1 272–74) 
Again, what is clear here is not particularly informative or revealing, while what is unclear seems confusing or confused, with contradictory elements that are never really resolved here or elsewhere. Colin McDowell explores the subject of primary and antithetical planets fully in his essay, yet at the end of the analysis the Yeatses don't seem to have gained any sense of how a primary planet operates differently from an antithetical one or what effect these had on the expression of a phase.

Though neither version of A Vision includes this astrological element, there is a sense that the two systems do work alongside one another. Yeats comments that Phase 20’s creative multiplicity gives to the man of action “the greatest possible richness of resource where he is not thwarted by his horoscope” (AVB 152-53); George Russell was diverted from the natural “abstract opinion” of Phase 25 towards the “ideal conventional images of sense” of his art, “because of the character of his horoscope” (AVB 176). Even in the supernatural incarnations, where it is unclear what the process of birth entails, the stars have a role, so that, in order to see how the specifics of the being’s nature will manifest at Phase 1, we must also take into account “cycle and horoscope” (AVB 183-84). And this aspect is particularly significant in making character and the details of a person's traits the functions of the horoscope, not the Faculties which are rather fundamental biases and drives expressed through the temperament delineated by the birthchart.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

The Delphic Oracle on Plotinus

To Yeats as a poet and magician, Plotinus is sometimes viewed less as the great exponent of Platonic philosophy than as the figure described by his disciple Porphyry in his biography: the man who saw his own Daimon and who was praised by the Oracle of Apollo at Delphi. 
Fyodor Bronnikov, Pythagoreans Celebrating Sunrise (1869)

Porphyry recounts how, when consulted by a follower about the fate of Plotinus's soul, the oracle spoke of how, after being buffeted by the waves of life and passion, his soul had arrived at last in Elysium:

Apollo was consulted by Amelius, who desired to learn where Plotinus' soul had gone. And Apollo, who uttered of Socrates that great praise, 'Of all men, Socrates the wisest'--you shall hear what a full and lofty oracle Apollo rendered upon Plotinus.

I raise an undying song, to the memory of a gentle friend, a hymn of praise woven to the honey-sweet tones of my lyre under the touch of the golden plectrum.
    The Muses, too, I call to lift the voice with me in strains of many-toned exultation, in passion ranging over all the modes of song:
    even as of old they raised the famous chant to the glory of Aeacides in the immortal ardours of the Homeric line.

    Come, then, Sacred Chorus, let us intone with one great sound the utmost of all song, I Phoebus, Bathychaites, singing in the midst.

Celestial! Man at first but now nearing the diviner ranks! the bonds of human necessity are loosed for you and, strong of heart, you beat your eager way from out the roaring tumult of the fleshly life to the shores of that wave-washed coast free from the thronging of the guilty, thence to take the grateful path of the sinless soul:
    where glows the splendour of God, where Right is throned in the stainless place, far from the wrong that mocks at law.

    Oft-times as you strove to rise above the bitter waves of this blood-drenched life, above the sickening whirl, toiling in the mid-most of the rushing flood and the unimaginable turmoil, oft-times, from the Ever-Blessed, there was shown to you the Term still close at hand:
    Oft-times, when your mind thrust out awry and was like to be rapt down unsanctioned paths, the Immortals themselves prevented, guiding you on the straightgoing way to the celestial spheres, pouring down before you a dense shaft of light that your eyes might see from amid the mournful gloom.
    Sleep never closed those eyes: high above the heavy murk of the mist you held them; tossed in the welter, you still had vision; still you saw sights many and fair not granted to all that labour in wisdom's quest.
    But now that you have cast the screen aside, quitted the tomb that held your lofty soul, you enter at once the heavenly consort:
    where fragrant breezes play, where all is unison and winning tenderness and guileless joy, and the place is lavish of the nectar-streams the unfailing Gods bestow, with the blandishments of the Loves, and delicious airs, and tranquil sky:

    where Minos and Rhadamanthus dwell, great brethren of the golden race of mighty Zeus; where dwell the just Aeacus, and Plato, consecrated power, and stately Pythagoras and all else that form the Choir of Immortal Love, that share their parentage with the most blessed spirits, there where the heart is ever lifted in joyous festival.
    O Blessed One, you have fought your many fights; now, crowned with unfading life, your days are with the Ever-Holy.
Rejoicing Muses, let us stay our song and the subtle windings of our dance; thus much I could but tell, to my golden lyre, of Plotinus, the hallowed soul.

Good and kindly, singularly gentle and engaging: thus the oracle presents him, and so in fact we found him. Sleeplessly alert—Apollo tells—pure of soul, ever striving towards the divine which he loved with all his being, he laboured strenuously to free himself and rise above the bitter waves of this blood-drenched life: and this is why to Plotinus—God-like and lifting himself often, by the ways of meditation and by the methods Plato teaches in the Banquet, to the first and all-transcendent God—that God appeared, the God who has neither shape nor form but sits enthroned above the Intellectual-Principle and all the Intellectual-Sphere.
Plotinus: The Ethical Treatises,
being the Treatises of the First Ennead with Porphyry's life of Plotinus...
translated by Stephen MacKenna

(London: Warner/Medici Society, 1917), 22–24.

Yeats radically condensed and versified this in "The Delphic Oracle upon Plotinus", the last poem in the series entitled "Words for Music Perhaps".

Behold that great Plotinus swim
Buffeted by such seas;

Bland Rhadamanthus beckons him,
But the Golden Race looks dim,
Salt blood blocks his eyes.

Scattered on the level grass
Or winding through the grove
Plato there and Minos pass,
There stately Pythagoras
And all the choir of Love.
(VP 530, CW1 269–70)

The drafts are in the "White Vellum Notebook" (catalogued as MBY 545 when it was in Michael Butler Yeats's collection and now in private hands), and the selection of details was almost unchanged from the first draft to the final version (see David R. Clark, "Words for Music Perhaps and Other Poems": Manuscript Materials [Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1999], 558–563). The wording also found its final form relatively quickly, indeed phrases such as "stately Pythagoras" were already given by MacKenna's translation.
Fair draft of "The Delphic Oracle upon Plotinus", White Vellum Notebook, 141.
     Yeats removes almost all the metaphysical and spiritual elements of the oracle to focus on the physical and the mythic Isles of the Blessed. The brothers Rhadamanthus and Minos, two of the mythical judges of Hades, are foremost.* Plato and Pythagoras appear as figures of history and legend, rather than philosophers. The "blessed spirits" are not to "be sought within the the self that is common to all" (AVB 22; CW14 17) in mystical contemplation, but are presented as "the choir of Love", an evocation of harmony.
    The viewpoint shifts from an external view of Plotinus struggling through the seas to Elysium—"Behold"—to the swimmer's own eyes, which discern only a blurred image of the "golden race of mighty Zeus" through the water and the blood. The second stanza involves a slightly different set of shifts, presenting figures both stationary and moving, scattered and winding, with the verb "pass" which again implies a viewpoint. The scene is almost suspended in time, so that it is worth noting the timeless present tense of "pass" in comparison with the same verb in the final line of of "Sailing to Byzantium", where the golden bird may sing: "Of what is past, or passing, or to come" (VP 408, CW1 194).      
      Elements of the sea-passage and of "blood-drenched life" are also important in "Byzantium" and in Yeats's revisiting of this theme in "News for the Delphic Oracle", but that will be matter for another post.

Jean Delville, The School of Plato (1898)
*The adjective "Bland" is a little strange—presumably it indicates that Rhadamanthus is not in his role as a stern judge, as Porphyry comments that the brothers are seen not as holding Plotinus "to judgement but as welcoming him to their consort to which are bidden spirits pleasing to the Gods". Rhadamanthus is generally described as "just", but it is possible that Yeats knew the Homeric epithet of "blond Rhadamanthus" ('xanthos Rhadamanthus', Odyssey 4:564) and that MacKenna's phrase "blandishments of the Loves" made this association in Yeats's mind.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Plotinus and "A Vision", Part III

An Image of Eternity

Plotinus gives a geometrical image of the Three Hypostases based on the circle, which is central to Yeats's exploration of the Principles in terms of Neoplatonism:
The total scheme may be summarized in the illustration of The Good as a centre, the Intellectual-Principle as an unmoving circle, the Soul as a circle in motion, its moving being its aspiration. (IV. 4. 16)
In A Vision B:
When I try to imagine the Four Principles in the sphere, with some hesitation I identify the Celestial Body with the First Authentic Existant of Plotinus, Spirit with his Second Authentic Existant, which holds the First in its moveless circle; the discarnate Daimons, or Ghostly Selves, with his Third Authentic Existant or soul of the world (the Holy Ghost of Christianity), which holds the Second in its moving circle. (AVB 193–94, CW14 142)
This concentric vision is picked up again when Yeats maintains that "a system symbolising the phenomenal world as irrational because a series of unresolved antinomies" such as the one presented of A Vision] "must find its representation in a perpetual return to the starting-point. The resolved antinomy appears not in a lofty source but in the whirlpool's motionless centre, or beyond its edge" (AVB 194–95, CW14 143).

A spiral galaxy, NGC 1232
The "resolved antinomy" is an ideal of equilibrium or annihilation of the antinomies, which is unattainable because the opposites' conflict is needed for consciousness and life—"Could those two impulses, one as much a part of truth as the other, be reconciled, or if one or the other could prevail, all life would cease" (1930 Diary, Ex 305).

Trinity and Hierarchy

To complement the circles with the motionless centre, Yeats also envisages a more hierarchical view of "the Four Principles in the sphere," also based on Plotinus. There are two presentations of the material, first in words and then in a diagram, which differ enough to cause problems. First he describes a trinity corresponding to the First, Second, and Third Authentic Existants or Hypostases (Yeats conflates the Hypostasis and Authentic Existant, see Plotinus and A Vision, Part II), as quoted above. After the Celestial Body and Spirit, the Third Authentic Existant is related not to a Principle as such but "the discarnate Daimons, or Ghostly Selves", though it is then associated with the lunar Principles "sensation and its object (our Husk and Passionate Body)," with the "Husk as part of the sphere [merging] in The Ghostly Self" (AVB 194, CW14 142). The diagram that illustrates this description, however, omits the Daimons and Ghostly Selves, and it seems to place the pair of Passionate Body—Husk as higher and lower aspects of the World Soul, in turn generating the Wheel of the tinctures. These then draw their character from the Second and Third Authentic Existants respectively.
AVB 194, CW14 143
In the diagram it is slightly unclear whether the Third Authentic Existant is considered to correspond with the Passionate Body or Passionate Body and Husk together, but the corresponding text would indicate that it is both. Even so, how Daimon/Ghostly Self can become Husk (and Passionate Body) is never explained in A Vision and resists any easy explanation.

An Earlier Formulation

Some elucidation can be found in the development of these ideas, elaborated in drafts that came after the publication of A Vision A. They can, however, be  a little convoluted and the following exploration is really only "intended for students of Plotinus, the Hermetic fragments & unpopular literature of that kind. The chances are a hundred to one against your liking it", as Yeats told Ignatius McHugh (26 May [1926]).

The first draft of the formulation that became "the Four Principles in the sphere," speaks rather of the "resolved antinomy" or at least an approach to this final ideal state. Yeats’s initial idea was to see The One as the Sphere, and to see the two other Hypostases as the ideal states based on the two forms of union of Spirit and Celestial Body: the monistic Celestial Body in Spirit (the Intellectual-Principle) and of diverse Spirit in Celestial Body (the World Soul). The distinction between Celestial Body in Spirit and Spirit in Celestial Body is not used in either version of A Vision, though it is appears in drafts and manuscripts of the late 1920s, and they can be taken simply as another version of the antinomy, with Celestial Body in Spirit being a manifestation of the One/unifying/solar/primary pole and the Spirit in Celestial Body being a manifestation of  the Many/individuation/lunar/antithetical pole (they are explored in my essay on 'The Thirteenth Cone,' YVEC 159ff.; the manifestations of the antinomy are tabulated in A Reader's Guide to Yeats's 'A Vision', Table 4.1 pp. 66–68). 

An early manuscript draft can be a little confusing on first reading and adding punctuation can become very intrusive, so I use the layout here to make the reading slightly more fluent and only include cancelled text that is significant:
I identify
the moment where the antinomy is resolved with Plotinus['s] first Authentic Existant or the One,
the Celestial Body in Spirit with the Second Authentic Existant &
the Spirit in Celestial Body with the third Authentic Existant or Soul of the World.
A Spirit in Celestial Body is sometimes called the ghostly self because its condition can like the third Authentic Existant be identified with the Third Person in the ^Christian^ Trinity [i.e., the Holy Ghost].
Plotinus has a fourth condition Boehme’s mirror which is the Third Authentic Existant reflected into sensation & discursive reason,
& this condition I compare to the ghostly self reflected as the daimon into Husk & Passionate body or the daimon.
& ghostly self are however one & only seem to us different.
If I would arrange Principles & Faculties into such a diagram as comes naturally to the students of Plotinus I arrange them thus
Draft and diagram mapping Principles and Plotinian Hypostases (NLI MS 36,272/15)

The upper triangle

Before moving on to the question of the Daimon, Ghostly Self, Passionate Body, and Husk, it is worth noting that here they are all excluded from the upper trinity. Rather than collapsing the Four Principles into the Three Hypostases, this arrangement makes the two permanent Principles, Celestial Body and Spirit, into three manifestations, though the highest one may even be above the Principles. Perhaps because of the association of unity with the solar primary, Yeats seems to search for a term for this Ultimate Reality that avoids associations of singularity, rejecting terms such as 'Monad', 'One', or 'Unity', before settling on 'The Resolved Antinomy' as the equivalent of the First Authentic Existant.

If the reader bears in mind that Celestial Body in Spirit indicates the solar, unifying force—and hence, in the diagram, reflecting inot the primary tincture—and Spirit in Celestial Body represents the lunar, individuating force—and hence reflected as the antithetical tincture—the typescript based on this draft takes the ideas further:
When Spirit and Celestial Body are in union, union may be either Celestial Body in Spirit or Spirit in Celestial Body. Spirit in Celestial Body is that reality which supports and precedes phenomena; a community of timeless and spaceless autonomous beings, each being unique [?or a species in its self], a complete multiplicity. Celestial Body in Spirit is that reality we discover in thought: a single spaceless and timeless being all others its creation and endowed with reflected limited life. These two conceptions imposed upon us by the whirling gyres are the antinomy that underlies all life and the supreme religious experience cannot be other than its solution in a condition beyond intellect. If as my instructors insist consciousness is conflict the supreme act must rend the intellect in two. By such an act the whirling ends and the soul passes into the sphere, or into the divine life, but in human life these conceptions alternate; from the first descends the antithetical tincture, from the second the primary, from the first incarnation, from the second discarnate existance. Every moment, emotion or act of the imagination separating itself from all else, seeks its own turns towards some unique being, its goal [i.e., the individuality of the soul], every logical process, every moral act proclaims a single being [i.e., oneness in the whole]; from this conflict all suffering arises.                           (NLI MS 36,272/17, annotated typescript).
This passage intimates a kind of realization to the resolved antinomy, through “the supreme act” that rends “the intellect in two” or, by rending it , negates the antinomies and becomes non-dual, yet asserts that “all life” partakes of one or other element of the duality. This recalls the meditation attributed to the fictional Judwalis and explained in the note to "The Second Coming" (1922):
A supreme religious act of their faith is to fix attention on the mathematical form of this movement until the whole past and future of humanity, or of an individual man, shall be present to the intellect as if it were accomplished in a single moment. The intensity of the Beatific Vision when it comes depends upon the intensity of this realisation. (VP 824)
The final duality expressed in the draft is also put into the mouth of Michael Robartes in the fictions that preface A Vision B:
Every action of man declares the soul's ultimate, particular freedom, and the soul's disappearance in God; declares that reality is a congeries of beings and a single being; nor is this antinomy an appearance imposed upon us by the form of thought but life itself which turns, now here, now there, a whirling and a bitterness. (AVB 52, CW14 37)

The lower triangle

To return to the question of the Daimon, Ghostly Self, Passionate Body, and Husk, the draft arrangement  indicates that, though it may do some violence to Plotinus's actual thought, Yeats's reading of the Enneads is influenced by the Boehmist thinking that he had used in the Works of William Blake.
The Works of William Blake, vol. 1, p. 246
There he had written that "Like Boehmen and the occultists generally, [Blake] postulates besides the Trinity a fourth principle..." (WWB 1:246), a mirror that reflects the ideal world into multiplicity and manifestation (see 1:247, 1:265). Reflection in the mirror is both a metaphysical reality and a metaphor for incarnation (see the Seven Propositions).

Whether because Yeats again needed somehow to create four out of three or because his thought fell into inveterate patterns, he applies the same construction here (which I repeat for clarity):
Plotinus has a fourth condition Boehme’s mirror which is the Third Authentic Existant reflected into sensation & discursive reason, & this condition I compare to the ghostly self reflected as the daimon into Husk & Passionate body or the daimon. Daimon & ghostly self are however one & only seem to us different.
In this formulation, the multitudinous union of Celestial Body in Spirit appears to be equated with the Ghostly Self, which reflects as sensation (Husk) and discursive reason (Passionate Body), which singly or together are equivalent to the Daimon, and all are really aspects of each other, viewed from different perspectives.

A Vision B

Seeing how the idea was originally conceived gives some clues as to how Yeats reconceived the ideas by the time he came to the published version in A Vision B. He has gone a step further, in ascribing individual Principles in the Sphere to the Three Hypostases, identifying in the diagram Celestial Body at the apex point (1), with Spirit (2), and Passionate Body (3), though without the Hypostases' names (I repeat the diagram):
AVB 194, CW14 143
The text repeats the identification of “the Celestial Body with the First Authentic Existant of Plotinus, Spirit with his Second Authentic Existant, which holds the First in its moveless circle,” indicating clearly that these two are the One and the Intellectual-Principle, unmoving eternity. However, the diagram’s Passionate Body is replaced in the text with “the discarnate Daimons, or Ghostly Selves,” identified with Plotinus’s “Third Authentic Existant or soul of the world (the Holy Ghost of Christianity)” (AVB 194, CW14 142). Thus, as in the drafts, the Ghostly Self is seen as a discarnate form of the Daimon, but the term Daimon is usually applied to the incarnate Daimon.

As the drafts show, Yeats had no problems moving between Principles and Daimon/Ghostly Self (which "are however one & only seem to us different"), and it seems that he sees Daimon and Passionate Body–Husk as different manifestations of the same aspect of being. Indeed, a few pages earlier he notes that "the Husk (or sense)” expresses “the Daimon’s hunger to make itself apparent to certain Daimons,” so is part of our own Daimon, whereas the object of sense, the “Passionate Body is the sum of those Daimons” (AVB 189, CW14 139), the community of spirits.


Though this all makes sense and fits together, it does not quite square with the treatment of the Daimon elsewhere. Thus, it is not clear how Spirit (as "the Daimon's knowledge") and Celestial Body ("all other Daimons as the Divine Ideas their unity") remain separated from the discarnate Daimon or Ghostly Self. And Yeats seems to have shifted position on the Daimon's relationship to the Principles, making several different identifications, such as that "The Daimon is Spirit fully expressed in matter (PB)" (NLI 13,580, Rapallo C) or that "there is one gyre in the 'daimon', the 'daimon' being itself the 'celestial body'" (NLI 36,272/24), or including them all: “Man is expressed in the Four Faculties the daimon in the Four Principles” (NLI 13,582, Rapallo E).  Amidst all this confusion of attributions, he also seems to have forgotten or ignored the scolding from one of the instructors in 1928, who is reported to have "insisted. I must not say the Principles & Faculties expressed the daimon all man did was approach the daimon. He insisted that the outward movement of the daimon & the inward movement were the same thing in the perfection of the daimon" (NLI 30,359).

I doubt that Yeats ever reached a conclusion in this respect—the Daimon never quite fits into the scheme as neatly as the more schematic elements of Faculties and Principles. There may however be some form of resolution in Plotinus's distinctions, in particular the suggestion that humanity operates on the level of Soul and discursive reason, as opposed to the ideal realm of Intellect. Yeats comments that the Daimon is out of time and "does not perceive, as does the linear mind of man, object following object in a narrow stream, but all at once" (NLI 30,359), recalling the difference between Soul and Intellect in Plotinus's formulations:
Soul deals with thing after thing—now Socrates; now a horse: always some one entity form among beings—but the Intellectual-Principle is all and therefore its entire content is simultaneously present in that identity: this is pure being in eternal actuality; nowhere is there any future, for every then is a now; nor is there any past, for nothing there has ever ceased to be; everything has taken its stand for ever, an identity well pleased, we might say, to be as it is; and everything, in that entire content, is Intellectual-Principle and Authentic Existence; and the total of all is Intellectual-Principle entire and Being entire.
(Ennead V.1.4, MacKenna vol. 4, p. 5; a different translation is given vol. 1, 136, as part of the conspectus summarizing the Plotinian system)

In A Vision A the Daimon is the dark of the mind, controlling the Faculties that are out of our control—her Will is our Mask and her Creative Mind is our Body of Fate (see AVA 27, CW13 25)—but later the distinction is that the human mind "deals with thing after thing" in contrast to the Daimon's viewing all as "simultaneously present". Part of the shift in Yeats's thinking from viewing the Daimon as the opposite of the human being to seeing it as a greater archetype is probably informed by this description of a state of "pure being in eternal actuality", which Yeats takes as the Daimon's state, and specifically when in the Sphere or Thirteenth Cone.


The relationship between the Daimon and the Principles remained uncertain, but Plotinus's thought clearly helped Yeats to formulate his understanding of the Principles in the years following the publication of A Vision A, especially through his ideas about the Hypostases and their levels of reality. The more that I study the system, the more I see that the Principles are one of the pillars on which the construct is founded, and that the Faculties are relatively secondary to them. This fundamental point is why Yeats felt embarrassed by AVA, where he had failed to appreciate the Principles' role or to give them the prominence that their place in the automatic script would have warranted. Yeats's reading in philosophy was important in giving them the weight they deserved. In particular, the distinctions and hierarchies of Plotinus's Enneads helped Yeats to understand the relations between them and to clarify his metaphysical construct, offering him another vision of what he saw as the reality behind the phenomenal world and expressed in a way that Yeats found particularly engaging.

Whether or not he manages to convey that understanding and show the importance of the Principles to his readers is doubtful. As I have commented earlier, readers as perceptive as Helen Vendler, Graham Hough, and Donald Torchiana found the Principles a redundant doubling, and the ordinary reader cannot to go rummaging through drafts to appreciate their significance for Yeats and his system. Certainly in this respect, Yeats failed.

In conveying his understanding of Plotinus, A Vision probably gives too little evidence to go on. Despite the efforts of Rosemary Puglia Ritvo, and those who have followed her, to save Yeats from the charge of having misinterpreted the concept of Authentic Existence and the Hypostases, Yeats does seem to have misread Plotinus in this respect. The spelling of "Authentic Existant" probably shows that Yeats is working from memory and not really checking his source, and it is seems likely that Yeats just thought that the term was more attractive and more immediately comprehensible than "Hypostasis", forgetting that it was a different concept or blurring the distinction. Yet as Harold Bloom has shown, art may rely on levels of misreading and Yeats's is a respectful but strong misreading. The fact that he was using Plotinus to illuminate his own ideas probably makes Yeats a bad reader of the Enneads, but as he wrote in a different context, he was "a symbolist & no philosopher” (NLI 13,579, Rapallo B).