Following the Moon, After Yeats

An animation of the moon passing through its phases
The Moving Lock

I keep coming back to the work the Yeatses did establishing the centrality of the lunar cycle to their spiritualist work, so while I chew through the Merleau-Ponty post promised last post, I’m going to talk out loud about the lunar system some. My impression after more than a little study is that the lunar system is vital but only partially realized. I’m going to be a little critical here, but mostly in order to liberate the more vital aspects of it.

Reading through it, the cycle seems two parts moon as symbol, one part moon as actual celestial object, and one part moon as spiritual object. That seems to be a good mix, in part because the influence of the moon as celestial object and spiritual object is so profound that the entirety of our world is touched with it; even when the present state of the moon is not playing a major role, its past states have thoroughly shaped the present states of our world.

Which is to say: one of the reasons that you can treat the moon’s phases symbolically in spiritual workings is that the phases have left their traces in what manifested under their influence and continues to exist under a different phase. That’s a mouthful, hopefully I’ll come up with a shorter way to say that.

Okay, though, what is it exactly that is going on with the lunar phases? Well, at a basic level the moon functions as a shuttle on the loom of of spiritual generation, except that at each moment the moon is both weaving together and weaving apart. It weaves together the soul entering the world with the threads of starlight that provide order and destiny and, when souls leave the world, it separates those threads.

The point of the Yeatses’ work is that each of the phases contains its own mysteries, its own combination of potencies, and its own ideal means of realizing those potencies. Those potencies and mysteries, however, can only be appreciated according to how they are distinguished from others.

W. B. Yeats was particularly fascinated by identifying the characters of people according to the phase of the moon their soul presently occupied. He developed a fairly elaborate typology of people, complete with exemplars from history, to illustrate each such soul phase. As the spirits explained it, the soul would pass through each phase in turn, sometimes several times, in order to master its lessons.

While the broad strokes of the typologies are helpful, the fine details aren’t nearly as useful as Yeats seemed to hope they would be. While they employ the lunar phases, the identification of a person’s lunar phase in the system has no direct connection to the astrological place of the moon in their life. The Yeatses determined their own phases by directly querying the spirits of the system; that requires a medium with close ties to the system’s spirits.

Diagnosing yourself or someone else according to their traits is similarly difficult. What manifests in one phase as a potency manifests in another as an illusory or false potency. The opportunities for misdiagnosis multiply in that sort of situation.

The emphasis on reading the phases typologically also undercuts the breadth of the lunar influence. Spiritually, the moon shapes the coming into being of events, objects, and types as much as it influences the coming into being of specific people. Understanding the broader ramification of those other lunar forces in the world seems very important for making sense of how a person makes their way through it. The ‘person’ of the system seems a little too far removed from history; this is especially troublesome given how central history is to the Yeatsian spirits’ message.

I also suspect that Yeats overestimated the role of the moon for all souls. While I do think that there are lunar souls whose natural habitation has them circulating in and out between the lunar sphere and our own world, I suspect there are many others whose ‘natural’ habitation places them outside of the lunar orbit. My sense of things suggests that most souls can ‘opt in’ to a fuller lunar experience, but that many have a more passing relationship to the world we occupy.

I suspect, too, that some souls don’t opt in so much as get entangled in the lunar cycles, punted back and forth between the lunar sphere and our own world as they seek to find their way ‘back’ or ‘out.’ For these souls, the key is not to keep passing from phase to phase but to find a way to slip the system and enter back into their ‘natural’ state.

There seem to be two key points in the system in this regard: the full moon and the dark moon. At these points the moon achieves an especial sympathy with the forces ‘beneath’ and ‘above’ it, allowing the entangled soul to potentially shimmy its way out of the lunar. Those points integrate the lunar system into the heavenly and infernal dimensions which, while not universally experienced, seem well-attested enough to merit serious consideration.

6 thoughts on “Following the Moon, After Yeats

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