I keep thinking about whether or not to dig up the later edition of A Vision. From all accounts it is a very different book, with little to none of the fictional apparatus and a fair bit more straightforward elaboration. Because I like to be thorough, I probably will, but presently am enjoying the earlier text and the supporting material. Reading across the Yeatses’ sessions and W. B. Yeats’s first book makes clear the interpretive effort required to give the system philosophical form and I worry that by the time we get to the later text it will be, well, a little canned. At the very least, that later text will be even more the work of W. B. and even less that of George, and the spirits themselves make clear that the heart of the work lies in their conjoined effort.
Can I say that it is a bit of a surprise to find myself writing so much about the Yeatses? When I first mentioned Yeats, it was as a throwaway. Yet that little throwaway was one of the first things that put him back on my radar, priming me to be surprised by the quote circulating through Tumblr from Per Silentia Amica Lunae, which lead me onward into A Vision. By now, the Yeatses have become one of the dominant topics on this blog. That will surely change over time as my attention leads me this way and that, but the study has been very intellectually productive. A series of what are accidents end up playing a constituive or essential role in my thinking.
The really neat thing is that this synchronicitous process is itself something that I can describe in the terms the Yeatses and their spirits are elaborating. They describe what we call a person as having basically three elements. There is a ghostly self that we can barely grasp because it is so essentially and uniquely what defines us, but what we most often call our self, a set of four faculties, is really composed of the fusion of human and daimonic elements.
Our active spiritual faculties are divided into two pairs: Will (alternately called Ego) and Mask (alternately called Image or Destiny), Creative Mind (alternately called Creative Genius and Intellect) and Body of Fate. The Will is a disposition toward desiring certain kinds of things while the Mask is that thing which most engages the Will. The Body of Fate refers to all the concrete events of a life that happen to us and the Creative Mind describes our capacity to make sense of that, to extract from it concepts that we can use to navigate through those events.
The Will is essential to the system, the quality of the Will being the subject of the system. Each lifetime is an effort to generate a concrete transformation in the Will that prepares it for a different sort of life in its next incarnation. The Mask, as that which appeals to the Will, is the primary lever through which the transformation occurs.
The fascinating element of the Yeatses’s system is that they describe the daimon as sharing these faculties with us, in exact mirror form. In other words, Our Will is their Mask, our Body of Fate is their Creative Mind, and so on. Those with a talent for mediumship can learn to cultivate a connection to the daimon directly (I’ll leave the theory of that aside for now, but it is cool!), but in general the daimon communicates to us through its Will and its Creative Mind. I.e., the daimon communicates through the direct manipulation of our Body of Fate and Mask, by the manipulation of the events of our life and the objects that capture our attention.
Turns of fortune, little and great, are one of the primary ways that the daimon gets our attention and sends messages to us. Inversely, one of the easiest ways for us to communicate with them is through cultivating a relationship to those turns both in terms of our desire and in terms of our thinking. The daimon puts the Yeats materials in front of me (Body of Fate), draws my attention to it (Mask), and I answer by examining the quality of attention (Will) and thinking through the material (Creative Mind).
This has a vital corollary: one very real and meaningful form of spiritual development is simply to live your life in an engaged and throughtful fashion. Through that engagement with your life, you are working with the spirit closest to you who has been tasked to help you cultivate yourself.