[This is one of those speculative posts, so bear with me. I am not necessarily saying that I buy everything said here, but I do think it is is worth putting the model out there.]
It’s not too surprising that the Yeatses’ spirits address the source of artistic inspiration. Not only is it of personal relevance to W. B. Yeats, but the system they describe gives the aesthetic a key place. A Vision divides souls into two sorts, primary and antithetical. The primary souls are souls of action, the McBrides of the world in their various forms, but the antithetical souls are thoughtful souls, inclined to subjective, aesthetic, and intellectual pursuits.
As a general rule, most forms of inspiration have their source in the personal daemon who manifests as a spirit of the opposite sex of the individual. The spirits indicate this duality provides a partial explanation for why sexuality is so important to the artist whether they are male or female (the Heathcliffs are here as important as the Beatrices), to which must be added the fact that it is often through sexual attraction that the daemon drives the individual toward initiation and crisis.
However, there are some forms of inspiration that are inflicted upon the living by a spirit of the dead unable to pass into its next life. According to the Yeatses’ spirits, the soul moves through 28 sorts of lives, revisiting some phases when they are unable to realize it properly. During one phase in particular, it is necessary they realize some aspect of their subjective self in the objective world. If they do not, after this one particular sort of life, they have the opportunity to impose what they didn’t achieve on a person among the living. If their victim brings the work to fruition, the stuck soul is released into their next life.
For the living recipient, this manifests as both a hardship and an obsession. It can override the usually personal and immediate concerns that their daemon orchestrates. It is unclear whether these spirits require the personal daemon’s cooperation, but it seems likely that they do. What is really interesting, though, is that the spirits indicate that if the work is discharged it gives birth to a special sort of spirit, one that acts much like a daemon but is tied instead to the life of the ideal expressed within the work. This spirit falls into a special category known as arcons.
These specific arcons, born of failed ambition and artistic obsession, are arcons of aesthetic forms, of beauty, in contrast to arcons of wisdom (which are born from the next life of the stuck soul, but that’s another discussion). As such, they are sharper and less humane. They are concerned with the furthering of the aesthetic forms that lie at the heart of their being, rather than with the development of a person like the daemon.
Okay, that’s about where the Yeatses leave that gem, but I want to think about it a little further. These spirits exist because people can fall short of their destiny. Since we depend upon others to drive us toward that, that botch can leave someone else without the means to realize their destiny. I imagine that this isn’t often the case, but imagine cases where the failures are tied to bona fide disasters that leave many dead before their time. In these cases, it seems likely that you will have families of souls inflicting themselves on the living, with an attendant boom in the arcon population. These arcons would almost be like family, united in their relationship to a world that never came to be.
Attuned to the same subtle plane as the daemons, they can make use of the same tricks as the daemons and so manipulate the life of a person. Unlike our personal daemon who helps us improve ourselves, these arcons work for a more abstract goal. Some of these sorts of arcons may form the spiritual basis for folk conceptions of the demonic and devilish. However, while hot and occasionally cruel in their abstractness, they make possible new forms of life and experience, things that many of us come to enjoy. As such, these sorts of spirits may also lie behind conceptions of the angelic as messengers that drive the chosen to God’s work. (The Yeatses papers even describe the choice facing those being harassed by these stuck dead as facing a choice between the personal and the spiritual.)
Anyway, let me end on a crescendo of speculation. If you remember my little spiritualist timeline, it’s worth noting that after the initial contact with the Americas (which was pretty fucking apocalyptic for the Americans), there seems to be a few very high profile and productivemystical visions revolving around the apocalypse, whether it’s Swedenborg and Blake or Dee and Kelley…