Philosophy Information


William Butler Yeats


There are adepts outside of what is called alchemy who have achieved great things in these areas and there are alchemists before Socrates and Aristotle, or Da Vinci and Newton; who all true experts know were alchemists. For any author or journalist who would produce a TV documentary on the subject and not even interview a hermeticist (much less an alchemist) it is obvious their intent is not to educate. So when you see Time/Life videos doing that kind of show I hope you know you are being fed lies. In February, 1925 Yeats wrote this in Capri.

"The End of the Cycle

A Vision A

In the first edition of A Vision the section 'Dove or Swan' contains a relatively long passage on the relationship of the gyres to the contemporary period and the near future (AV A 210-215), which was omitted in the second edition. It is given here for reference, with the page breaks indicated. The first sentence given here (in italics) is the last on AV B 300, and the text continues from there.

Having bruised their hands upon that limit men, for the first time since the seventeenth century, see the world as an object of contemplation, not as something to be remade, and some few, meeting the limit in their special study, even doubt if there is any common experience, that is to say doubt the possibility of science.

It is said that at Phase 8 there is always civil war, and at Phase 22 always war, and as this war is always a defeat for those who have conquered, we have repeated the wars of Alexander.

I discover already the first phase-Phase 23-of the last quarter in certain friends of mine, and in writers, poets and sculptors admired by those friends, who have a form of strong love and hate hitherto unknown in the arts. It is with them a matter of conscience to live in their own exact instant of time, and they defend their conscience like theologians. They are all absorbed in some technical research to the entire exclusion of the personal dream. It is as though the forms in the stone or in their reverie began to move with an energy which is not that of the human mind. Very often these forms are mechanical, are as it were the mathematical forms that sustain the physical primary-I think of the work of Mr Wyndham Lewis, his powerful "cacophony of sardine tins," and of those marble eggs, or objects of burnished steel too drawn up or tapered out to be called eggs, of M. Brancussi [sic], who has gone further than Mr Wyndham Lewis from recognisable subject matter and so from personality; of sculptors who would certainly be rejected as impure by a true sectary of this moment, the Scandinavian Milles, Me?trovi? perhaps, masters of a geometrical pattern or rhythm which seems to impose itself wholly from beyond the mind, the artist "standing outside himself." I compare them to sculpture or painting where now the artist now the model imposes his personality. I think especially of the art of the 21st Phase which was at times so anarchic, Rodin creating his powerful art out of the fragments of those Gates of Hell that he had found himself unable to hold together-images out of a personal dream, "the hell of Baudelaire not of Dante," he had said to Symons. I find at this 23rd Phase which is it is said the first where there is hatred of the abstract, where the intellect turns upon itself, Mr Ezra Pound, Mr Eliot, Mr Joyce, Signor Pirandello, who either eliminate from metaphor the poet's phantasy and substitute a strangeness discovered by historical or contemporary research or who break up the logical processes of thought by flooding them with associated ideas or words that seem to drift into the mind by chance; or who set side by side as in "Henry IV," "The Waste Land," "Ulysses," the physical primary-a lunatic among his keepers, a man fishing behind a gas works, the vulgarity of a single Dublin day prolonged through 700 pages-and the spiritual primary, delirium, the Fisher King, Ulysses' wandering. It is as though myth and fact, united until the exhaustion of the Renaissance, have fallen so far apart that man understands for the first time the rigidity of fact, and calls up, by that very recognition, myth-the Mask-which now but gropes its way out of the mind's dark but will shortly pursue and terrify. In practical life one expects the same technical inspiration, the doing of this or that not because one would, or should, but because one can, consequent licence, and with those "out of phase" anarchic violence with no sanction in general principles. If there is a violent revolution, and it is the last phase where political revolution is possible, the dish will be made from what is found in the pantry and the cook will not open her book. There may be greater ability that hitherto for men will be set free from old restraint, but the old intellectual hierarchy gone they will thwart and jostle one another. One tries to discover the nature of the 24th Phase which will offer peace-perhaps by some generally accepted political or religious action, perhaps by some more profound generalisation-calling up before the mind those who speak its thoughts in the language of our earlier time. Peguy in his Joan of Arc trilogy displays the national and religious tradition of the French poor, as he, a man perhaps of the 24th phase, would have it, and Claudel in his "L'Otage" the religious and secular hierarchies perceived as history. I foresee a time when the majority of men will so accept an historical tradition that they will quarrel, not as to who can impose his personality upon others but as to who can best embody the common aim, when all personality will seem an impurity-"sentimentality," "sullenness," "egotism"-something that revolts not morals alone but good taste.

There will be no longer great intellect for a ceaseless activity will be required of all; and where rights are swallowed up in duties, and solitude is difficult, creation except among avowedly archaistic and unpopular groups will grow impossible. Phase 25 may arise, as the code wears out from repetition, to give new motives for obedience, or out of some scientific discovery which seems to contrast, a merely historical acquiescence, with an enthusiastic acceptance of the general will conceived as a present energy-"Sibyll [sic] what would you?" "I would die." Then with the last gyre must come a desire to be ruled or rather, seeing that desire is all but dead, an adoration of force spiritual or physical, and society as mechanical force be complete at last. Constrained, arraigned, baffled, bent and unbent

By those wire-jointed jaws and limbs of wood Themselves obedient,

Knowing not evil or good.

A decadence will descend, by perpetual moral improvement, upon a community which may seem like some woman of New York or Paris who has renounced her rouge pot to lose her figure and grow coars of skin and dull of brain, feeding her calves and babies somewhere on the edge of the wilderness. 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, being democratic and primary, may suggest bubbles in a frozen pond-mathematical Babylonian starlight.

When the new era comes bringing its stream of irrational force it will, as did Christianity, find its philosophy already impressed upon the minority who have, true to phase, turned away at the last gyre from the Physical Primary. And it must awake into life, not Dürer's, nor Blake's, nor Milton's human form divine-nor yet Nietzsche's superman, nor Patmore's catholic, boasting "a tongue that's dead"-the brood of the Sistine Chapel-but organic groups, covens of physical or intellectual kin melted out of the frozen mass. I imagine new races, as it were, seeking domination, a world resembling but for its immensity that of the Greek tribes-each with its own Daimon or ancestral hero-the brood of Leda, War and Love; history grown symbolic, the biography changed into myth. Above all I imagine everywhere the opposites, no mere alternation between nothing and something like the Christian brute and ascetic, but true opposites, each living the other's death, dying the other's life.

It is said that the primary impulse "creates the event" but that the antithetical "follows it" and by this I understand that the Second Fountain will arise after a long preparation and as it were out of the very heart of human knowledge, and seem when it comes no interruption but a climax. It is possible that the ever increasing separation from the community as a whole of the cultivated classes, their increasing certainty, and that falling in two of the human mind which I have seen in certain works of art is preparation. During the period said to commence in 1927, with the 11th gyre, must arise a form of philosophy, which will become religious and ethical in the 12th gyre and be in all things opposite of that vast plaster Herculean image, final primary thought. It will be concrete in expression, establish itself by immediate experience, seek no general agreement, make little of God or any exterior unity, and it will call that good which a man can contemplate himself as doing always and no other man doing at all. It will make a cardinal truth of man's immortality that its virtue may not lack sanction, and of the soul's re-embodiment that it may restore to virtue that long preparation none can give and hold death an interruption. The supreme experience, Plotinus' ecstasy, ecstasy of the Saint, will recede, for men-finding it difficult-substituted dogma and idol, abstractions of all sorts, things beyond experience; and men may be long content with those more trivial supernatural benedictions as when Athena took Achilles by his yellow hair. Men will no longer separate the idea of God from that of human genius, human productivity in all its forms.

Unlike Christianity which had for its first Roman teachers cobblers and weavers, this thought must find expression among those that are most subtle, most rich in memory; that Gainsborough face floats up; among the learned-every sort of learning-among the rich-every sort of riches-and the best of those that express it will be given power, less because of that they promise than of that they seem and are. This much can be thought because it is the reversal of what we know, but those kindreds once formed must obey irrational force and so create hitherto unknown experience, or that which is incredible.

Though it cannot interrupt the intellectual stream-being born from it and moving within it-it may grow a fanaticism and a terror, and at first outsetting oppress the ignorant-even the innocent-as Christianity oppressed the wise, seeing that the day is far off when the two halves of man can define each its own unity in the other as in a mirror, Sun in Moon, Moon in Sun, and so escape out of the Wheel." (1)

When he says 'the Christian brute and ascetic' is he making reference to the family of stoic philosophers or Bruttii including the Admiral who accompanied Julius Caesar when they met the Keltic fleet and invaded what is called Britain today after them? This same family includes another Brutus we learned about from another Hermetic named Shakespeare. That family was still standing up for Keltic egalitarianism when it killed Julius Caesar or when Rome was founded. Did he know the history of the Milesian Stuarts from before the various influxes to the Emerald Isles as they returned many millennia after leaving due to glacial effects? There is so much code in this prose and poetry. The sun and moon surely make a wheel and this ancient knowledge probably pre-exists the coming of white men through whatever adept mutation or happenstance that allowed it. I implore the reader to spend a lot of time with this one sentence-"This much can be thought because it is the reversal of what we know, but those kindreds once formed must obey irrational force and so create hitherto unknown experience, or that which is incredible."

Author of Diverse Druids Columnist at The ES Press Magzine Guest 'expert' for World-Mysteries.com


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