Monday, January 2, 2012

Spot the Difference: Answers

In the spot the difference post, I put up three different versions of the Great Wheel designed by Dulac. From the top downwards they come from A Vision A (1925), Stories of Michael Robartes and his Friends (1931) and A Vision B (1937). They're all essentially the same, apart from a few significant details.

At first glance, the most obvious difference is probably the least important: they are printed on different types of paper, A Vision A and Stories of Michael Robartes and his Friends on lighter, half-glossy paper, tipped into the book, brown and grey respectively, and A Vision B printed on the book's standard white paper.

A Vision A


If you look a little more carefully you might then note that the lines in Stories of Michael Robartes and his Friends are thicker and firmer, with fewer breaks than the original and that A Vision B returns to the slightly broken lines of the first version.

Stories of Michael Robartes and his Friends
These heavier lines apply particularly to the symbols placed in the top left and bottom right, which are also interchanged in Stories of Michael Robartes and his Friends — the symbols for Fire and Water. However, A Vision B again reverts the earlier version.

A Vision B
The big change is the interchanging of the zodiac signs: Cancer and Capricorn are changed in Stories of Michael Robartes and his Friends and stay changed in A Vision B.

What does this mean? Effectively it reverses the zodiac from being one that runs in parallel with the phases of the moon and in an anti-clockwise direction into one that runs counter to the phases and in a clockwise direction, a truly solar zodiac.

In their own copies of A Vision A the Yeatses had noted some or all of these these changes. They  kept four copies out of the 600 numbered copies printed, numbers 83, 366, 385 and 498. The first had no markings and is no longer in the Yeatses' library as now held by the National Library of Ireland, but the other three are all marked to a greater or lesser extent. The most fully marked was the last, which was the one sent to the printers to show what they were to retain and adapt for A Vision B (WBGYL 2466b  and YL 2433c). In it Cancer and Capricorn were interchanged on the wheel both on Dulac's illustration (strips glued on) and on the diagram on page 13 of AVA (in ink; see CW13 343). Copy 366 shows the changes that were implemented in Stories of Michael Robartes and his Friends: both Cancer and Capricorn and Fire and Water interchanged (CW13 341; WBGYL 2466a  and YL 2433b), while the diagram on page 13 repeats the change of signs, since the elements aren't shown there.

It might have been Yeats's intention for the changes of #366 to be incorporated since, as Connie K. Hood notes, the printers asked him to send them a copy to clarify difficulties that they were having with "The Great Wheel" diagram ("The Search for Authority: Prolegomena to a Definitive Critical Edition of W. B. Yeats's A Vision [1937]", 127–28):
However, in copy #366 of AV-A, which was sent to the printers on 26 July 1937 for "diagram corrections," both the astrological signs and the two triangles are marked for correction. It is not clear whether the diagram correction involved the "Great Wheel" (66) or the placement of Dulac's unicorn plate (64). The triangles were not changed by the printers. It cannot be ascertained whether Yeats intended to make the diagram in AV-B identical to that in SMR (in that case, he could have simply sent to the printers a copy of SMR) or whether, as he so frequently did, he changed his mind again on the galleys. ("The Search for Authority", 220)
The important thing though is the zodiacal signs, and the reversal of direction that this interchange represents. It becomes a (more) solar zodiac.

The Rapallo Notebooks, the earliest of which date from 1928, show Yeats expending considerable effort in clarifying his understanding and exposition of the different zodiacs involved in his system:
when the Husk or symbolic moon by whose movements alone we measure out the month upon the wheel has reached the middle of the second month, the Spirit, the sun in the annual symbol, is passing from [Aries] to [Taurus] & so on. The signs being so innumerated that the [solar] Spirit which moves from left to right [i.e. clockwise] & the [lunar] Husk that moves from Right to left [i.e. anti-clockwise] may both pass through their zodiac in the natural order of signs.

As this passage makes clear, it is important that each element, going round the wheel in its own direction, passes through the stages marking its progress in natural order forwards, whether it is the solar Spirit or its counterpart of Creative Mind, or lunar Husk or its counterpart of Will.

In part the change may be linked to Yeats's greater understanding of how his diagrams related to the precession of the solar equinoxes (AVB 254) and the four cardinal signs of the zodiac (Aires, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn) that had been included in some of the very earliest diagrams in the automatic script. These signs are also linked to the concepts of Head, Heart, Loins and Fall, that lie in cross-form across the wheel. Head, Heart, Loins and Fall deserve their own post or page later, but for the moment it is worth noting that Aries coincides with Head (and the sign is traditionally identified with the head of the body and is the sign of the sun's astrological "exaltation") while Libra coincides with Fall (the sign is traditionally identified with the lumbar region and is the sign of the sun's astrological "fall"). These two don't change. The other two do and towards a more logical form: Cancer is traditionally associated with the stomach region of the body and Capricorn with the knees—neither Heart (Leo) nor Loins (Scorpio)—but the sequence follows better with Aries, the zodiac's first sign, at the Head, followed by Heart aligned with Cancer, the fourth sign, rather than Capricorn, the tenth sign. Putting Libra, seventh sign, at the ambiguous term Fall, and then Capricorn at Loins does seem to give a line down the body.

The mid-points that these terms mark have other significances too including the position of the equinoxes and solstices at the centre of the coming antithetical civilization in ca. 3000 C.E. (AVB 254); the points of equidistance for all the Faculties (cf. CW13 53; AVA 62; AVB 127); points associated with the opening and closing of the Tinctures (e.g. CW13 51; AVA59); and positions linked to the four types of wisdom. Concerning this last, Yeats also had doubts: “I have more than once transposed Heart and Intellect, suspecting a mistake” (AVB 100n), but he kept the automatic script’s original attributions. Part of the complication derives from the fact it is not always clear whether the conditions affecting, for instance, the Mask, which is always opposite Will, should be placed with the Mask's position or the phase it affects.

However, this illustration and its corresponding diagram are crucial so these variations are key. As Yeats noted to Frank Pearce Sturm: "If you master the diagram on page 13 & the movements of the Four Faculties therein you will understand most of the book" (20 January 1926; FPS 90), so the same should in fact be said of the revised version in A Vision B on page 81.

A Vision A, 13
A Vision B, 81


But it must be remembered that the wheel is not a fixed circle and it is the cross currents of "the movements of the Four Faculties therein" that lie at the heart of the wheel and its variations.


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