I picked up a copy of David Gordon White’s The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali: A Biography on Friday for the bus ride home. As I have read through his introduction to the sutra’s context, I have been surprised how familiar it is. White’s contention is that the sutra is much less significant in appreciating yoga’s history even though it has become a vitally important text in its present. In making that claim, he notes that most of the talk about the eight-fold path in yogic literature favors the account of it in the Mahabharata, not Patanjali’s.
If for some reason you have not yet wandered through this delightful online exhibition on Yeats, you really ought to, if for no other reason to take a look at some of the occult paraphrenalia on display there. My favorite piece, tucked in the bottom of the Golden Dawn case in the Celtic Mystic section of the exhibit, is Yeats’s magic wand. In all its glory, it looks like nothing so much as a crudely painted chair leg or, perhaps, a bedpost. Yes, this is what the great poet of Irish nationalism, mystic and sage, brandished for his magical rites.
I don’t mean that admiration in an ironic way; there’s something humane, silly, and charming about the wand. It also makes clear to me just how quirky the Golden Dawn was. It talked a good game, no doubt, adopting all kinds of elitist jargon and expectations, but when it comes right down to it? Painted chair legs, baby.