W. R. Inge, Christian Mysticism (The Bampton Lectures, 1899), 14.
|William Ralph Inge, by Arthur Norris, c. 1934.|
The National Portrait Gallery, London.
|William Ralph Inge, by Arthur Norris, c. 1934.|
The National Portrait Gallery, London.
|WBY to Ezra Pound, July 15 . (ALS Yale)|
|Michael Robartes and the Dancer (Cuala, 1922), note on "The Second Coming"|
|The hieros gamos or alchemical wedding, Rosarium Philosophorum (1550)|
Even if Solomon does not fall asleep, however, there is not the perfect match of "imagined image" and "real image" —which is perhaps for the best as that is when "the world ends" (VP 388). Even so, the witch asks "let us try again" (VP 389).I see the Lunar and Solar cones ﬁrst, before they start their whirling movement, as two worlds lying one within another--nothing exterior, nothing interior, Sun in Moon and Moon in Sun—a single being like man and woman in Plato's Myth, and then a separation and a whirling for countless ages... (AVA 121)
|The alchemical androgyne, Conceptio, Rosarium Philosophorum (1550)|
The pairing of lots and choice goes back to Plato's 'Myth of Er' in the Republic, which Plotinus refers to in his consideration of whether the stars cause destiny or merely record it (Ennead II.3). In the astrological practice of his period there was an array of derived points called 'lots', often now referred to as the 'Arabic parts', though actually Hellenistic in origin (in Latin pars/'part' means degree as in the 360 degrees of a circle). These include the 'lot of Fortune', the 'Lot of Spirit', and the 'lot of Eros' or of love, which can be calculated for each individual chart and as such are fixed with the horoscope. Within Yeats's cosmology the birthchart is both fated and chosen—we can only be born at a moment that expresses our character but our character chooses our moment of birth (see yeatsvision.com on the 'The Seven Propositions' and 'Astrology and the Nature of Reality'). The 'whirling Zodiac' represents this descent into incarnation.The lot of love is chosen. I learnt that much
Struggling for an image on the track
Of the whirling Zodiac.
|The horoscopes of WBY and GY with their Lot of Fortune (circle with saltire cross), Lot of Spirit (circle with vertical line), and Lot of Eros (circle with a heart). WBY is night birth, so according to traditional rules his Lots are calculated differently from those of GY, a daytime birth. (For further consideration, see yeatsvision.com.)|
This traces the constant motion of the zodiac to the western horizon where the sun, a planet, or a lot sets and its apparent passage 'under the earth' to the nadir or midnight, its northern point (as noon or the meridian is the southern point for those in the northern hemisphere). Noon and midnight form the vertical axis of horoscope ('seemed to stand'), but the zodiac keeps turning until the particular degree comes to the point where it rises in the east:Scarce did he my body touch,
Scarce sank he from the west
Or found a subterranean rest
On the maternal midnight of my breast
Before I had marked him on his northern way
And seemed to stand although in bed I lay.
The word 'struggle', used in the poem's second line, is repeated with the concept of chosen fate: Lot as Chance or Fate and Choice or Destiny become one, as in the love of 'Solomon and the Witch'.I struggled with the horror of daybreak,
I chose it for my lot!
There is a form of union, female and male, human and Daimon, both centred in the heart of the Tree of Life or the still point at the centre of the horoscope (just as the Daimon is positioned at the centre of the Wheel of the Faculties and Principles).If questioned on
My utmost pleasure with a man
By some new-married bride, I take
That stillness for a theme
Where his heart my heart did seem
With the union of Lot or Chance and Choice, fate and free will, the zodiac of time becomes the sphere of eternity, the realm of Daimon, and the cockerel of "Solomon and the Witch" can crow eternity in again.And both adrift on the miraculous stream
Where—wrote a learned astrologer—
The Zodiac is changed into a sphere.
|Venus setting (lower right) in a shaft of zodiacal light (solar system dust illuminated by the sun, along the line of the zodiac), with the Milky Way arching over the upper part of the photograph.|
The resolution would be the impossible fusion in the androgyne which symbolises the unity and wholeness that would be both consummation and extinction.Pope Pius XI said in an Encyclical that the natural union of man and woman has a kind of sacredness. He thought doubtless of the marriage of Christ and the Church, whereas I see in it a symbol of that eternal instant where the antinomy is resolved. It is not the resolution itself. (AVB 214)
The epithet of "Witch" may be Yeats's allusion to P. B. Shelley's "The Witch of Atlas", dedicated to his own wife, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. It is interesting to note that the Witch of Atlas creates her own androgynous companion, "by strange art she kneaded fire and snow / Together" to form "A sexless thing" that "seemed to have developed no defect / Of either sex, yet all the grace of both".Sang Solomon to Sheba
And kissed her Arab eyes,
"There's not a man or woman
Born under the skies
Dare match in learning with us two,
And all day long we have found
There's not a thing but love can make
The world a narrow pound." (VP 333)
|The androgyne Rebis from Splendor Solis, Solomon Trismosin, |
painted copy from the British Library, London.
Esoteric science... conceives [the spiritual human] not to be sexless, but on the contrary, bi-sexual, and therefore complete in himself. The individuality is two-sided positive and negative, has a kinetic aspect and a static aspect, and is therefore male-female or female-male, according to the relation of "force" to "form" in its make-up. The personality, however, is one-sided, and therefore has a defined sex. The individuality may be thought of as a magnet, having a positive and a negative pole, one of which is at a time is inserted in dense matter, and the nature of the pole inserted determines the sex of the body that is built up around it. (The Esoteric Philosophy of Love and Marriage, 31)The timeless self therefore embraces both male and female in a form of alchemical union, where the two elements remain distinct though joined.
|Michael Maier, Atalanta Fugiens, Emblem XXXIII, |
engraving by Matthäus Merian, the Elder.
Though it enters into memory & reflects in the human mind, it is not contained within that mind nor can that mind see the whole object as it is present before the daimon. though sometimes, it knows of it, through its own increasing excitement. & sometimes it shows some perception of the daimon in such a way, that the perception seems miraculous by seeing it separated from the general framework of its thought, as in prevision, & clairvoyance & those affinities of personality which are so swift that different personalities seem to coexist within our mind. Though for the purposes of exposition we shall separate daimon & man & give to man a different symbol, they are one continuous
<consciousness> perception, seeing we perceive all that the daimon does & only remember & therefore only know what is in part a recurrance of our past.
(NLI MS 30,359, probably written in Cannes, December 1927/January 1928)
Key elements that echo Yeats's own ideas are those of fusion and a mind that uses all its faculties—one of the elements of Unity of Being, where on one Faculty brings the others into play automatically. When writing of Unity of Being Yeats uses the image of sympathetic vibration, Woolf here of resonance, but the porousness that allows the undivided mind to express itself and more of itself than is normal is part of the symbolic androgyne. Within A Vision and elsewhere in Yeats's writings, the term Unity of Being changes meaning and application as Yeats's ideas developed, but it was always something that the person should aim for, an ideal of the mind.Coleridge perhaps meant this when he said that a great mind is androgynous. It is when this fusion takes place that the mind is fully fertilized and uses all its faculties. Perhaps a mind that is purely masculine cannot create, any more than a mind that is purely feminine, I thought.... Coleridge certainly did not mean... that it is a mind that has any special sympathy with women; a mind that takes up their cause or devotes itself to their interpretation.... He meant, perhaps, that the androgynous mind is resonant and porous; that it transmits emotion without impediment; that it is naturally creative, incandescent and undivided. In fact one goes back to Shakespeare’s mind as the type of the androgynous, of the man-womanly mind.... (A Room of One's Own, Ch. VI)
|Two sample dispositions of the Faculties. (a) a person with Will at Phase 4, and (b) a person with Will at Phase 17.|
(See A Reader's Guide to Yeats's 'A Vision', p. 116, Fig.7.4.)
Too many critics, perhaps, take this comment as license to identify the Daimon with any and all of the women in W. B. Yeats's life (and little else), but there is definitely an element of truth in the idea that the Daimon and its influence are discerned in these women, not least George Yeats.The Will and the Creative Mind are in the light, but the Body of Fate working through accident, in dark, while Mask, or Image, is a form selected instinctively for those emotional associations which come out of the dark, and this form is itself set before us by accident, or swims up from the dark portion of the mind. But there is another mind, or another part of our mind in this darkness, that is yet to its own perceptions in the light; and we in our turn are dark to that mind. These two minds (one always light and one always dark, when considered by one mind alone), make up man and Daimon, the Will of the man being the Mask of the Daimon, the Creative Mind of the man being the Body of Fate of the Daimon and so on. The Wheel is in this way reversed, as St. Peter at his crucifixion reversed by the position of his body the position of the crucified Christ : “Demon est Deus Inversus”. Man’s Daimon has therefore her energy and bias, in man’s Mask, and her constructive power in man’s fate, and man and Daimon face each other in a perpetual conflict or embrace. This relation (the Daimon being of the opposite sex to that of man) may create a passion like that of sexual love. The relation of man and woman, in so far as it is passionate, reproduces the relation of man and Daimon, and becomes an element where man and Daimon sport, pursue one another, and do one another good or evil. (AVA 26–27, CW13 24–25)
|Michael Maier, Atalanta Fugiens, Emblem XXXVIII, engraving by Matthäus Merian, the Elder.|
I read all MacKenna's incomparable translation of Plotinus, some of it several times, and went from Plotinus to his predecessors and successor whether upon her list or not. And for four years now have read nothing else except every now and then some story of theft and murder to clear my head at night. Although the more I read the better did I understand what I had been taught, I found neither the geometrical symbolism nor anything that could have inspired it except the vortex of Empedocles. (PEP 26–27; AVB 20, CW14 15–16)
|Plotinus, the isolated figure in ruddy brown, in Raphael's The School of Athens|
Apparently further study of Plotinus made him realize that the philosophy was not so abstract. Some two years later, Yeats wrote a note on this poetic complaint:It seems that I must bid the Muse go pack,
Choose Plato and Plotinus for a friend
Until imagination, ear and eye,
Can be content with argument and deal
In abstract things.... (VP 409)
When I wrote the lines about Plato and Plotinus I forgot that it is something in our own eyes that makes us see them as all transcendence. Has not Plotinus written: 'Let every soul recall, then, at the outset the truth that soul is the author of all living things, that it has breathed the life into them all, whatever is nourished by earth and sea, all the creatures of the air, the divine stars in the sky; it is the maker of the sun; itself formed and ordered this vast heaven and conducts all that rhythmic motion—and it is a principle distinct from all these to which it gives law and movement and life, and it must of necessity be more honourable than they, for they gather or dissolve as soul brings them life or abandons them, but soul, since it never can abandon itself, is of eternal being'?—1928. (VP 826, citing Ennead V.1.2, MacKenna, vol. 4, p. 2)This passage comes from the opening tractate of the Fifth Ennead, which Yeats had probably not read when he wrote 'The Tower'. As MacKenna himself reported, Yeats had announced that he intended to spend the winter of 1926–27 studying Plotinus seriously (see Part I) and the volume that had just come out was devoted to the Fifth Ennead, dealing particularly with the Divine Mind or Intellectual-Principle.
|Stephen MacKenna's translation of Plotinus's Fifth Ennead (London & Boston: The Medici Society, 1926).|
contains, or rather is, ta Noeta—the Intellectual-Universe or Intelligible Universe.... the Totality of the Divine-Thoughts, generally known, in the phrase familiar in Platonism, as The Ideas' or Forms. (vol. 1, p. 119)Within this Second Hypostasis, Plotinus differentiates a contemplative state of Being and a state of Act: Nous looks upwards in contemplation of the One, its act generates the All-Soul towards which it looks downwards at the moving image in time of its own unmoving eternity. The Third Hypostasis, the All-Soul, 'is the eternal cause of the existence, eternal existence, of the Kosmos, or "World," or material, or sense-grasped Universe, which is the Soul's Act and emanation, image and "shadow"' (vol. 1, p. 120).
The difficulty here lies in understanding Yeats's distinctions into First, Second, and Third Authentic Existants, which are his own invention. He tells us that we should identify his Third Authentic Existant with Plotinus' Third Hypostasis, the All-Soul. How are we to understand the relationship between Yeats's first two Authentic Existants and Plotinus' metaphysics? Since Plotinus' First Hypostasis is excluded from Yeats's discussion, Yeats's First and Second Authentic Existants clearly are not to be identified with Plotinus' First and Second Hypostases.This leads to a ingenious and completely plausible explanation, though it is one that has no foundation in anything that Yeats writes:
I propose that Yeats's first two Authentic Existants correlate to the two aspects of Plotinus' Second Hypostasis: the First Authentic Existant, Celestial Body, is Plotinus' Second Hypostasis considered as Being; the Second Authentic Existant, Spirit, is the Second Hypostasis considered as act, or using MacKenna's term, the Intellectual-Principle. (38)This dual understanding of the Nous is entirely consistent with Plotinus's conception of the Second and Third Hypostases looking upward and downward.
Yeats appears to have matched the two parts of the Second Hypostasis—Being and Act—with the Celestial Body and Spirit respectively, calling them erroneously the First and Second 'Authentic Existants': effectively dividing the dyadic Intellectual Realm into two hypostases with the contemplation of the Spirit (mind) constituting that 'which holds the First in it s moveless circle' (AV 194), and confusing the term 'Authentic Existant' with Hypostasis itself. (281)After considering other aspects as well, Gibson goes on to comment that 'Not only does Yeats appear to read erroneously, but he also appears to collapse macrocosm into microcosm', though adding that 'Yeats's misreading stems from very intelligent observations' about Plotinus's system (282).
I identify the moment where the antinomy is resolved with Plotinus 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. (NLI 36,272/15)In other words, by the term 'First Authentic Existant' Yeats did mean the One, by 'Second Authentic Existant', the Intellectual-Principle, and by 'third Authentic Existant', the All-Soul. This is not to say that Yeats misunderstood Plotinus to any significant degree, even if he was mixed up over one of MacKenna's terms, but it does mean that he was not really distinguishing between the Intellectual-Principle's Being and Act.
|NLI 36,272/15, transcribed above.|
|NLI MS 36,272/24, p. 7|
I have not considered the ultimate origin of things, nor have my documents thrown a direct light upon it. The word Anima Mundi frequently occurs and is used very much as in the philosophy of Plotinus. I am inclined to discover in the Celestial Body, the Spirit, the Passionate Body, and the Husk, emanations from or reﬂections from his One, his Intellectual Principle, his Soul of the World, and his Nature respectively. The Passionate Body is described as that which links one being to another, and that which rescues the Celestial Body from solitude, and this is part of the ofﬁce of the Soul of the World in Plotinus. As actually used in the documents Anima Mundi is the receptacle of emotional images when puriﬁed from whatever unites them to one man rather than to another. The 13th, 14th and 15th cycles are described as Spheres, and are certainly emanations from the Soul of the World, the Intellectual Principle and the One respectively, but there is a fundamental difference, though perhaps only of expression, between the system and that of Plotinus. In Plotinus the One is the Good, whereas in the system Good and Evil are eliminated before the Soul can be united to Reality, being that stream of phenomena that drowns us. (AVA 176, CW13 143-44)Yeats's schema is therefore relatively clear: the three supernatural cycles or Spheres are seen as expressions of Plotinus's three hypostases, The One, The Intellectual Principle, and The Soul of the World. There is a more tenuous relationship to the Four Principles, and this also presents the perennial problem of adapting a trinity to a quaternity or vice versa (one that he had encountered when writing on The Works of William Blake), but Yeats introduces a fourth term that probably owes as much to his work on Blake as reading of Plotinus: Nature. (In the WWB, Yeats had treated Nature as the mirror of the Holy Ghost, see YeatsVision.com.)
Another little encouragement: Yeats, a friend tells me, came to London, glided into a bookshop and dreamily asked for the new Plotinus, began to read there and then, and read on and on till he'd finished (he really has a colossal brain, you know), and now is preaching Plotinus to all his train of attendant Duchesses. He told my friend that he intended to give the winter in Dublin to Plotinus. (Journals and Letters of Stephen MacKenna, 235)What appears in the drafts of the late 1920s certainly shows increased attention given to Plotinus and his thought. (Continued in Part II.)
This final line in particular seems to me to intimate something of the divine nature that Yeats imagines in the Thirteenth Cone, or rather in the Sphere—that all being and becoming tends to "infinitude",and that if the goal were ever reached it would be a stasis. Certainly this passage also seems to echo Yeats's conception of the nature of life—that, as spirits reflected into time and space, the goal is the timeless and spaceless, but that effort and desire driving us on is more important than the goal (in contrast to Buddha's Four Noble Truths, which aim to eliminate striving and desire).Our destiny, our nature, and our home
Is with infinitude, and only there;
With hope it is, hope that can never die,
Effort, and expectation, and desire,
And something evermore about to be. (The Prelude , VI: 538–42)*
[And this recalls, in turn, T. S. Eliot's Burnt Norton, with its vision of "the still point of the turning world" and the statement that "the world moves / In appetency, on its metalled ways / Of time past and time future"—that word "appetency" being a slightly more pedantic but precise and concise version of hope/effort/expectation/desire/becoming. Such chains of association are probably also inevitable for the Eng. Lit. student.]
I cannot but recall this passage when I read Yeats's description of the basis of the Faculties in terms of incarnations, "the four memories of the Daimon or ultimate self", such that:… the soul,
Remembering how she felt, but what she felt
Remembering not, retains an obscure sense
Of possible sublimity, whereto
With growing faculties she doth aspire,
With faculties still growing, feeling still
That whatsoever point they gain, they yet
Have something to pursue. (The Prelude , II: 334–51)**
Yeats places the memories of exaltation (or sublimity) within the framework of reincarnations, so that the sublime moments of former lives are distilled into the Mask of this life, the goal and focus of our being or Will, but always with the sense that the goal is more important for the direction that it gives than for the possibility of actual attainment. Will is the appetent Faculty, moving always towards Mask, seeking and desiring it. Importantly, the actual memories of past lives are unimportant as the essence is contained within the current Faculties, and it is not "what [the soul] felt" but "how she felt" that matters.His Body of Fate, the series of events forced upon him from without, is shaped out of the Daimon's memory of the events of his past incarnations; his Mask or object of desire or idea of the good, out of its memory of the moments of exaltation in his past lives; his Will or normal ego out of its memory of all the events of his present life, whether consciously remembered or not; his Creative Mind from its memory of ideas—or universals—displayed by actual men in past lives, or their spirits between lives. (AVB 83, CW14 61–62)
[And this recalls, in turn, the close of Alfred Tennyson's poem "Ulysses", where an ageing Odysseus, chafing at life on Ithaca after his return, proposes a final voyage to his companions:
... my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the bathsOf all the western stars, until I die.....
Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'We are not now that strength which in old daysMoved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are:One equal temper of heroic hearts,Made weak by time and fate, but strong in willTo strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.]
But the 13th Cone, enters in some measure into all Spirits we must then expect some image of it in all things. Primar[il]y it is in those things which Blake called in Heaven & Hell too great for the eye of man. It is there where the painters & poets find it, storm, the starlit sky, spring abundance...Maybe Yeats and Wordsworth have more in common than may appear at first glance.
The 13 Cone is reflected in those parts of external nature uncontrolable by us—sea, sky, growth & so on. As an internal experience the 13th Cone is the spiritual reality [that] transcends experience, but is touched by all at the highest moment.… We enter in the Beatitude an experience that can only enter our embodied experience when symbolized by all that is most tremendous in nature…
(Yeats, 1930 Diary)