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:
“The decadence will descend, by perpetual moral improvement….The decadence of the Greco-Roman world with its violent soldiers and its mahogany dark young athletes was as great, but that suggested the bubbles of life turned into marbles, whereas what awaits us…may suggest bubbles in a frozen pond—mathematical Babylonian starlight.”—W. B. Yeats, A Vision (176)
Spiritualism is full of prognoses for the future of mankind, ranging from the unbelievably optimistic to the unbelievably grim. Given that I don’t entirely take the linear direction of our lives in history to be all there is and that I take the nonlinear elements to have an influence on the linear elements, I have a hard time taking any pronouncement on the future as final.
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.
One of the ends of the Yeatsian work is the end of idolatry, but it is does not seek the end of idols. In that lies part of its distinctive character. This is where the Yeatsian material may find a proper complement in the Lovecraftian, because there, too, we find the image raised up even as idolatry is made into a figure of utter monstrosity. They are thinking through a similar thought, albeit from rather different ends.