False Masks and Spiritual Advice: Yeatsian Edition

From the Yeatsian perspective, one of the advantages of embodiment is that it provides a unique sort of opportunity for two spiritual dimensions of creation to operate on each other. This appeals to me in part because it provides another angle from which we can illumine the Yoruba aphorism about the world being a marketplace, and it also provides another point of access into grasping the specificity of an individual’s of spiritual work.

When the human being is born two souls are intertwined with each other. One operates the daemonic-objective realm, the animates the human-subjective realm. The two realms are joined in much the same way the two souls are joined such that a firm distinction cannot be firmly established even though a rough and ready division can be made.

This is all a little refresher, because one of the dangers in the spiritual work described by the Yeatsian spirits is that we misunderstand the nature of the daemon to which we are joined and that we seek instead to work with another daemon entirely. This danger is so basic to the work of a life that when W. B. Yeats attempts to articulate the spirit material systematically, he assigns a category of misunderstanding to every stage associated with a life, calling it the ‘False Mask.’

The dynamics associated with the False Mask are akin to the dynamics of projection and counter-projection that Freud and Jung describe, though I won’t talk too much about that for the sake of clarity. What i will say, is that this account of the False Mask is a necessary contrast case to the hungry ghost / kiss of death / arcon discussion, representing a more common and milder form of daemon-human discord.

The False Mask is a piece of daemonic reality that, while alien to our specific Intellect and Will, nonetheless appeals to our Will in a manner much akin to the way the regular Mask does, but the False Mask lacks a strong connection to our daemonic Body of Fate. When we start to follow a False Mask, we end up on a path to which our Intellect is poorly suited. As the Intellect guides action, a False Mask can be identified in part according to the inability of the False Mask to connect them more fully to the spiritual dimensions of their daily life.

I am not as sanguine as W. B. Yeats about our ability to identify the False Mask of an individual ahead of time. I suspect the only way to uncover the False Mask is to discover for yourself the appealing but, in the final account, empty images that attract and entrance you, However, there is one thing that I do agree with W. B.’s overly systematic account on—that one person’s False Mask is another person’s True Mask.

The potent images that serve one person’s Intellect poorly, might be precisely the ones that serve another person’s Intellect well. This should lead us to be very cautious about giving and receiving spiritual advice from other people. We may see another person undertaking a path that led us astray and advise them against it when, in fact, it is precisely the path that they need to take. Or, alternately, we may see another person following a path to good effect, only to discover that when we ourselves take it, we are left turned around and confused.

One person’s demon may be another person’s angel, one person’s taunting trickster another’s instructor. To properly work together, we need to develop some awareness of this, taking care to navigate radical differences carefully. In some cases, the difference in daemonic work may be so broad as to make it impossible for one group of individuals to work with another, though hopefully they could still appreciate the work being done by another.

A number of spiritualist-inflected traditions discourage gossip and the nature of the True Mask – False Mask dichotomy helps us to appreciate why. As gossip is a communal affair, the power of the False Mask intensifies. Those badmouthing the spiritual practices of others are often doing so because it looks like a False Mask they have had to overcome, but by talking much about it, they are revivifying the presence of that False Mask in their life.

For the person on the receiving end of the gossip, they are haaving the opinions of others stretched across their seeking, distracting them from the personal evaluation they need to make of their work. Even if the gossip is accurate in identifying the work they are undertaking as a False Mask, the fact that the information comes to the individual from beyond their own experience, cuts them off from the opportunity of understanding the nature of the False Mask. If the gossip wrongly identifies the work being undertaken as bad, though, it actively interferes with an individual coming to their own spiritual truth.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with giving someone advice or discussing a practice critically. However, such discussions must be undertaken with some restraint, directed at the aid of a specific person, and often occur in private, rather than in the semi-public to public domain of gossip. It is the privacy, the intimacy, of advice that makes it most potent.

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One thought on “False Masks and Spiritual Advice: Yeatsian Edition

  1. Pingback: [NB] Spirit typologies (imagine there’s no heaven) | Disrupt & Repair

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