12/19/10

Twentieth-Century Magus

.

I

LOCKE sank into a swoon;
The Garden died;
God took the spinning-jenny
Out of his side.

II

Where got I that truth?
Out of a medium's mouth.
Out of nothing it came,
Out of the forest loam,
Out of dark night where lay
The crowns of Nineveh.

- WBY


"Yeats has always been the property of the literary establishment. Within the academy, Yeats is "English Department material." We read his poetry, and once in a great while his drama, but his prose is usually overlooked. Modern and post-modern critics have never looked kindly on Yeats's esoteric pursuits, finding his occultism, as Auden put it, an embarrassment. With few exceptions, scholars of literature are not interested in the occult. Since their own beliefs often contradict a magical worldview, they find the idea of magical practice silly and repugnant. For scholars of Yeats, this is a problem. ... The blame does not lay entirely with the academic establishment, however. Yeats began to silence himself after his publisher, AH Bullen, told him that the Irish considered his works heterodox. The young modernists, (Pound, TSE, etc.), found Yeats's preoccupation with occcultism silly. Yeats knew that he must downplay his esoteric interests if the new, modernist literary establishment were to accept his work. Nevertheless, his love affair with occultism was lifelong. The tendency of scholars to second guess or to disregard the esoteric subtext of his works, has resulted in Per Amica Silentia Luna being thoroughly ignored." - Susan Johnston Graf

Which is of course exquisite -- for this is how all esoteric systems infiltrate and survive the material world. The property of the literary establishment, indeed ...

Hermes Trismegistus, we hardly know you.

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From a letter dated 1892, Yeats writes:

If I had not made magic my constant study I could not have written a single word of my Blake book, nor would The Countess Kathleen have ever come to exist. The mystical life is the centre of all that I do and all that I think and all that I write. I hold to my work the same relation that the philosophy of Godwin held to the work of Shelley and I have always considered myself a voice of what I believe to be a greater renaissance now beginning in the world -- the revolt of the soul against the intellect.

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image via trionfi