When I first started to dig into the Vision materials, I remember looking around the occult scene a bit to see if I could find if anything had done much with them and was a little surprised to see that they hadn’t. Most of what I saw was of the “well, W. B. never really finished the work, and it is simply too incomplete to put into practice.” Which is…well, wrong, but wrong in the useful or, as Dudley Hersbach would say, interesting fashion.
Reading between the lines, I got the feeling what folks were hoping the Vision materials would provide is some kind of new program for spiritual practice, akin to the sort that structures the lodge work of things like the Golden Dawn and the coven work of Wicca (we are past the point where we have to pretend those are radically different, right?). Looked at from that perspective, the Vision material are ferociously incomplete. They are all ontology without a practice to go with them (though, I bet an ambitious soul could make a reasonably good pathworking from the Yeatsian mansions of the moon).
The way in which the spirits tapped into George and William’s Golden Dawn knowledge to express themselves surely doesn’t help. That, and reading the published Vision materials, you have a sense that William was hoping it might be headed in that direction, without quite admitting to himself that was what he was after. Heck, he addresses published materials to his old mates from back in the Golden Dawn heyday. Without digging into the unpublished material, it gets pretty easy to think that the work was going to turn into some sort of Celtic Golden Dawn action (and, hey, now if you want that, Greer’s got your back; he was better suited to the task than Yeats anyway).
But that isn’t what the material is really about. Neither the spirits nor George were particularly enthused about William’s yen to publish. For them, the work seems to have been ‘completed’ with the birth of the children and William’s tenure in politics. Those two are probably not unrelated from the perspective of the spirits because Michael Yeats will follow his father into politics, playing an active role through a very stormy period in Ireland’s history.
As I’ve said it before, the ‘practice’ at the heart of the Vision materials is nothing other than life. It isn’t the roundabout engagement with life that a lot of magic entails, either, where you are attempting to influence events from the backdoor. It’s the path straight into the thick of want and achievement. The reason the spirits seem to swing into visible form during the Vision sessions seems to be because they are worried that it is the only way to guide events in the proper direction.
The channeled sessions helped stabilize the marriage of George and William. Reading through it, I really do feel like part of it was holding William’s attention long enough for him to appreciate what he had with George and to get his head out of his ass regarding Maud Gonne. They were sitting him down and explaining to him that, yes, there was something important about his relationship with Maud Gonne, but it was about him growing into himself so he could do what he needed to do next.
Stuff like that just doesn’t fit into a neat course of study with grades and orders. I’m pretty sure that is why the Yeatsian work has been such a fruitful source for me to return to again and again. William’s relationship with the Vision materials embodies a misunderstanding between what I have termed witchcraft and wizardry.
The basic lodge structure that orchestrates a good bit of the Western Tradition so-called rests in an exploration of formal and arconic dimensions of our world (in the Yeatsian sense, and maybe even a little bit in the Runesoupian sense). That basic lodge work is formal because its destination is formal. It is why it works best with the system of airlocks that Andrew so well-described recently. Without those airlocks, the noisy hurly-burly of daimonic reality tends to make it hard to isolate and interact with the subtle strands of formal arconic movements within it.
That’s totally cool, I dig. Sure, if I were in a foul mood, I might be able to gripe after it, but that would be a foul mood and not really fair. Which is one of the reasons I chose to write a post-length response to Stratton-Kent’s goetia is teh awesome post, because it was deeply uncharitable to the hard work that has gone on to develop and sustain the lodge work traditions.
Of course, I get some of where Stratton-Kent is coming from, too. Lodge magicians can be terribly snobby because it takes a lot of mental work to develop the sort of mind to access the space in which their connections really open up. While there are plenty of folks out there whose (non)practice is deeply questionable (i.e., the nose-wigglers, to borrow Andrew’s phrase), there is also a whole other way of doing things that ain’t nose-wiggling but which some lodge folks are glad to lump in with the wigglers (to be clear, this isn’t a sideways jab at Andrew; I just like the phrase).
That is where you start to move toward the sort of practice into which the Vision materials could be incorporated. At the core of that practice is the direct interaction with the daimonic dimension of experience. Because that is also the substance of everyday experience, it doesn’t entail the same pattern of isolation and sterilization that the lodge-coven traditions do. It is why the circle and the temple cease to be the primary points of access to these mysteries.
(Which is why I found it interesting to read recently that “…it is precisely the lack of cult that sets demons apart from gods in Mesopotamia” [The Sumerian Sacred Marriage, in the Light of Comparative Evidence, Pirjo Lapinkivi, 235]. More than a few possible directions for that to be taken!)
That doesn’t mean that you don’t have to work. There is no nose wiggling here, either. But, the work begins with the materials of daily life. If you take a long look at the Yeatsian faculties, you’ll start to notice that in many ways there are essentially only two, will and the body of fate, into which each of daimonic and human essences are sealed. The other two faculties develop because the two sides are fused to each other, not in the cool Diotima two sides of the same soul way, but in some uncomfortable weird science way.
The ‘mask’ is really just the daimon trying to talk to the human its stitched to and the ‘intellect’ is the human trying to talk back. The witch work is really an effort to clarify and develop that communication. The stereotyped witchcraft, like love spells, actually aren’t different in kind from that, except that instead of trying to improve communication, it engages in the manipulation of communication. But, hey, we’re dirty little primates and we will make a stick or a trick out of everything.
What defines the body of fate most intensely? It isn’t the exotic but the mundane. It is the trees where you live, the dirt under your feet, the hair on your head, the blood under your fingernails. The witch has to grind that into themselves more deeply, so that they can more aptly serve as switchboard for communicating back and forth with the daimonic world (which can also be cosmic and weird, in part because there are arcons there, too, even if they require different avenues of approach).
That work requires taking in pieces of the world and working through it to discover the message and talk back. It tends to be more fragmentary, because it tends to cling closer to the mask and the will as the locus of communication, leaving the intellect to manifest within the operations articulated by the daimon’s manipulation of its own body.
And it isn’t just the dense stuff that this includes. The body of fate includes dreams and accidents, slips of the tongue, making the developments going on with Freud’s psychoanalysis and Jung’s analytic psychology a natural complement to the material discussed by the Yeatsian spirits. They help to elaborate a practice in which our ‘unconscious’ is not just some part of ourselves, but our self embedded in a network of spiritually responsive stuff, through which the act of interpretation becomes the first act of communication.
Which, to be clear, is *not* what the Yeatses were doing except in the most rudimentary way, because they were just working within the confines of their own lives. Perhaps William’s urge to call them ‘covens’ acknowledges some awareness of the reality in which they were moving? I don’t know if I would go so far.
But that’s the thing with the daimonic reality the Yeatses stumbled on. You are already working within it, hard, just by living. Sometimes committed living is, in fact, the best witchcraft. It is why witchcraft can be modestly successful even without a lot of grubby grinding, because the folk magic tends to record the outlines of past channels of communication along which notes can be passed without too much effort. It’s also why I suspect that you can get ‘easy’ spiritual communication, because the counter-current can jumpstart pseudo-masks (false masks being the bane of the Yeatsian material’s practice as they are often the source of lengthy detours toward self-realization).
This also helps to illuminate the nature of ritual action in what I think of as witchcraft proper, counter the ‘operative witchcraft, that characterizes much folkloric practice. Just as the witch undergoes transformation their will through the mediation of mask, the rituals ordered according to the understanding cultivated indirectly by the witch’s will facilitate transformations in the daimon’s body of fate. These rites are not standardized precisely because they derive from the relationship between witch and daimon, the outcome of which is only sensed and only made somewhat visible in the operations.
The crises that manifests in a transformation of will is also the crises that will animate a potential transformation in a series of events composing the daimon’s body. The rituals are there to facilitate and regulate micro-movements contributing to the initiatory moments and what follows. Percy Bysshe Shelley somewhat famously described poets as the “unacknowledged legislators of the world” and in that we see outlines of the sympathies between Shelley’s poet craft and witchcraft. Not, in truth, that witchcraft is legislation, but that it operates within the daimonic legislation of the world, for good or for ill.
It is also why I tend to lump philosophy in with the witchly arts and think of Sophia as a witch’s patron. Even if it often declines into the excesses that turned Sophism into a four-letter word.