Friday, November 16, 2018

Astrology of A Vision II

In the half-century after its first publication, A Vision gathered little literary and no esoteric commentary. Literary studies have certainly picked up, and so has the esoteric approach, starting with an astrological book in 1975, and the greater ease of self-publishing in recent years seems to have given further momentum. So far I have come across five books that have applied the descriptions and system of A Vision to the the phases of the moon at birth. These are:
Marilyn Busteed, Richard Tiffany, and Dorothy Wergin, The Phases of the Moon: A Guide to Evolving Human Nature (Berkeley & London: Shambala, 1975);

Martin Goldsmith, Moon Phases: A Symbolic Key (West Chester, PA: Whitford Press, 1988);

David T. Wilkinson, Your Inner Phase (MyPub.com, 1997); 

Bob Makransky The Great Wheel: A Commentary on W. B. Yeats' "A Vision" (Dear Brutus Press, 2013) (e-book);

Shirley Self, The Vision of W. B. Yeats The 28 Phases Of The Moon And The Relationships Among Them (Rakuten Kobo, 2017). 
There may be a sixth—a pair of articles by Ann Rogers in the winter and spring of 1987, "The Moon-Phase Wheel: Yeats' A Vision Reconsidered" (Metapsychology 2:4 [Winter 1986/1987] – 3:1 [Spring 1987]) promised "a book on the prognostic circles of W. B. Yeats", but I haven't traced one. Wilkinson's work appears to be no longer available—he has had a website, as has Makransky, though both seem to be inaccessible at the time of writing (bearing witness to the precariousness of web presence and the inadequacy of archives). Self has a series of videos on YouTube.

None of these books presents anything truly resembling the system proposed by W. B. Yeats, since they ignore a basic principle that is repeated and elaborated in A Vision: no living person is born at the symbolic new moon or full moon (Phases 1 and 15).
Twenty-and-eight the phases of the moon,
The full and the moon’s dark and all the crescents,
Twenty-and-eight, and yet but six-and-twenty
The cradles that a man must needs be rocked in:
For there’s no human life at the full or the dark.  
Plenty of babies are, of course, born at the actual full and dark moons. However, rather than making A Vision's Phases 1 and 15 into notional points or finding a way to put them outside the cycle of time, all the astrological interpretations make them normal phases, in several versions making them two of the biggest spans, along with Phases 8 and 22. This involves a radical reinterpretation of the descriptions of these two phases, changing the subservient plasticity of the spirits at Phase 1 spirits and the trance-like dream of those at Phase 15 into far more mundane versions of objectivity and subjectivity. 

Maud Gonne was born at the full moon and figures frequently in the Yeatses' automatic script, but even though she is as close to Phase 15 as possible (Phase 16), she was very much a flesh-and-blood human being and, as such, cannot be placed at the full moon. Queen Victoria was born at the new moon, as was Leo Tolstoy, but they are placed very differently and very clearly at Phase 24 and Phase 6 respectively. To imagine that the Yeatses were unaware of these horoscopes or were simply careless about the "true nature" of Phases 1 and 15 is not feasible. 

Effectively, the astrological interpretations (tacitly) assume that the whole topic of supernatural incarnations is not worth considering and create descriptions for real live people that may take some of Yeats’s text as a starting point but not the actual concepts involved. If A Vision existed in isolation, it might just be permissible to take this approach, dismissing the failure to make the connection to astrology as the type of blind or deliberate misdirection that has a long tradition in occult writing. But in the context of all the preparatory materials and drafts (mentioned in Astrology I), and what we know about the Yeatses as people, that position is not credible. 

The phasal astrologers may object that:
1. applying Yeats’s descriptions to the phases at birth works

and/or

2. the Yeatses’ system is an imperfect starting point for further venture, rather the be-all and end-all of this symbolism.
1. The first objection is subjective, and I have yet to be convinced by any of the groupings of people by phase that I’ve seen—although the same would probably be true of groups of those born under Aries or in the year of the Dragon. The same is certainly also true of Yeats’s groups under the phases, but he is trying to discern a bias of soul that makes a Napoleon like a Shakespeare like a Balzac, rather than trying to find a full character (which, ironically, he leaves to the traditional horoscope). I have to acknowledge that when I am reading Yeats’s account of the phases, I tend to suspend disbelief and am looking for what insights his descriptions can provide, rather than looking critically, as I tend to with the other writers.

2. The second objection is perfectly valid, and I think tenable. Yeats wanted others to complete this work and would have been relieved that after many years of relative neglect, the system was at least drawing some attention in some form. But he expected people to work out complex relations rather than simply latching on to the most obvious mechanism and then fitting the system to it. It's as if they decided that the jokers were part of the normal pack of playing cards, forcibly wedging them into the suits, or that ultraviolet and infrared light were to be included in the visible spectrum.

I understand the urge to push the supernatural phases to one side, and I certainly mentally minimized this aspect of the Great Wheel for many years—it just seems to add a further level of unreality to the system. As I've studied the system more, I see that these aspects are fundamental to large areas of A Vision, particularly those to do with the nature of consciousness. The question needs to be addressed directly and failure to deal adequately with the supernatural quality of A Vision's Phase 1 and 15 undermines any further "alignments" or methods that may be proposed, whether on the level of the symbol system or as a way of assigning people to phases.

Having said that, however, in the next post in this series I'll try to give an overview of how the different writers fit the circuits of the actual sun and moon in the sky to Yeats's Great Wheel.

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