I often find it easier to think about time in terms of space, in terms of the way we can abstract and spatialize time for a number of broadly mathematical operations. I think that’s pretty common, because we are better suited to conceiving of space than we are to conceiving of time. We can use our better grasp of space to ‘sneak up’ on time.
I haven’t talked about the Yeatses’ Vision materials in a dog’s age. There isn’t much more to be said that wouldn’t involve getting over-invested in the obscurities particular to their experience. Reversing the direction somewhat, though, there is one thing worth mentioning by way of extraction and magnification. Alongside the traditionally spiritualist model in A Vision, there is also a biological model of spiritual life in play. William aligns the lunar cycle that sits at the heart of the Yeatsian model with a life cycle, most especially a plant’s life. So, by way of a somewhat late footnote:
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.’
Emphasizing the individual dimension of the sort of spiritual work to which the Yeatsian material opens onto a discussion of how to talk about what a community of individuals might look like. The sense of individuality operates in dialogue with the individuality of other people, helping to clear away the demands we unfairly place upon them to follow our spiritual progression, but also allowing us to appreciate both ourselves and others as exemplars. At its best, this sort of support is often (not always) support to go our own way.
As a spiritual undertaking, the members of the community are not just living and breathing fellows, but the less visible and subtle spirits that circulate through it. They, too, ought to be treated with in the same fashion.
“It is likely that no one ever masters anything in which he has not known impotence; and if you agree, you will also see that this impotence comes not at the beginning of or before the struggle with the subject, but in the heart of it.”—Walter Benjamin, “A Berlin Chronicle” in Reflections (4)
Finding this quote set me to flipping pleasantly through the pages of Reflections. Ah, Benjamin, such a pleasure. The double movement of Benjamin into the city and into his past, the opacity of its material forces and the opacity of his family wealth…well, if I wonder down this side street, I might never get to what I want to write about.
This is a little bit of a sorting post. First up, I’ve updated the “About”; it’s now the “What’s Going On Here” button at the top of the page.
Next, let me see if I can summarize some of the trajectories that I have been taking around the Yeatsian and Jungian material. I know, I’m doing that a lot lately; I’m winnowing and that isn’t glorious work, but it seems necessary.
These days it is hard to get very far in many discussions of magic and spirit work without hearing the term ‘synchronicity’ bandied about. While that term has some roots outside of Jung’s work, pretty much all of the occult applications go through Jung-town. I was flipping around the excerpt from essay found in Psyche and Symbol this afternoon and a few things stood out. This is in progress, pardon the dust.
Before I get started with this, I want to underline one of my motivations for banging on about Jung as a complement to Yeats. It isn’t just that they are talking about the same things, but that they are talking about two aspects of the same thing. In specific, Jung’s work provides grist for getting the practical dimensions of the Yeatsian spiritual work off the ground.
It does that by providing us with the tools to prepare for the Yeatsian crises, to make the most of the chain of initiatory moments that lead toward it. If we keep The Red Book in mind, it also provides lineaments for interacting with the spiritual beings that undergird this process.
One of the small formative moments in my philosophical life came in a undergraduate course on Islamic philosophy. It was a one-off course for the department, the fruits of having been lucky to land a temporary lecturer who had a side interest in the topic. We were reading (I think) Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi. In the text he was arguing that one of the proofs of the soul’s separation from the body was that while we could tire of physical action, we never tired of mental action.
To which youthful me immediately called bullshit. I assume, now, that al-Razi was making a subtler argument than I gave him credit for, attending to the fatigue of the body capable of shutting down our mental efforts, but even now I don’t really buy that mental actions don’t tire us. Mental action, even when the body is prime rested and wakeful shape, can wear you down.
Sexiest title in the world, right? Thankfully, it’s not my scintillating wit that drives this blog. It is exactly what it says on the can, though, so that’s something.
The big distinction between the Jungian and Yeatsian material around the faculties relates to the levels at which they are pitched. The Yeatsian material is talking about souls in their extended sense, as they exceed the constraints defined by our material bodies. The Jungian typology is the inverse of that, the soul understanding itself from within the experience of the body; the Jungian typologies describe the soul in a more contracted state.
Nonetheless, the contracted soul refracts the expanded soul and in it we can divine some appreciation for the expanded soul. When we look at our psychological type, how do its various components relate to spiritual faculties?