William Butler Yeats - Biography
William Butler Yeats is one of the many famous names to come from the original
Golden Dawn. His poetry and writings were a display of his passion for mysticism
and the Occult Sciences. These were largely expressed in various publications (e.g.
Your Pathway), earning him the Nobel Prize in 1924 for literature. But more
important was his desire and striving for knowledge of that which is beyond what
we know and that of the unknown.
William Butler Yeats was third-generation Irish, born in Dublin on June 13,
1865. From day one he was up against a wall regarding his religious beliefs, for
his grandfather was a deeply Orthodox Rector in the Church of England, while his
father was a complete religious skeptic. With this conflict already in place,
young William walked the very fine line of between faith and disbelief.
Being faced with this dilema, Yeats was destined to find the balance by whatever
means necessary. This first step occurred after reading numerous text on the
subjects of Occultism, the Tibetan Mysteries, Buddhism, and other beliefs. All
of these subjects ignited his desire to learn and to know. Aside from his
readings, what further expanded his desire was his discovery of a society
purporting to be Ancient and non-European. This new movement simply called The
Theosophical Society, claimed to have the ability to offer a "synthesis" of
religion, science, and philosophy. For at that particular time in human
development, none of these three disciplines were ready to integrate with the
other, but this is what fascinated Yeats. This is what he longed for.
Upon hearing of the Society, Yeats soon met the founder, Madame Helene Blavatsky,
and was very intrigued by her. After many metaphysical conversations with her
and many hours of long thought on the issue, Yeats took one of his first steps
on his path of occult wisdom, and joined the famed Theosophical Society of
London. The Society provided Yeats with a kind of outlet that he needed to
express his thoughts and feelings that the Victorian society of the time might
have considered risque or improper. After attending various Theosophical
meetings, Yeats felt at home.
William felt this way at least on an outside level. But deep on the inside, his
heart had another desire that the Society could never touch. Being around others
who shared similar lines of thinking was a step in the right direction for Yeats,
but he realized that there was more to all this learned knowledge than just
plain talk. With the thoughts in his mind forming very strongly, Yeats was once
again yearning for more than what his universe had revealed.
But soon after this discovery was made, Yeats also discovered that fellow
members of the Theosophical society felt the same. It was at this point that
Madame Blavatsky was approached by such people, asking for more. She obliged,
and formed an additional branch to the Society called, "The Esoteric Section."
This branch of the Society dared to venture into the area of magic and hoped to
prove to others that Occult phenomena is possible. This was the answer to Yeats
prayers, (to an extent). In addition, the E.S. assured everyone that they would
not actually be practicing magic but would be undergoing the necessary magical
training before magical power was entrusted to the student.
Such magical training consisted of the learning of magical and esoteric symbols,
correspondences, creating interrelationships between the seasons, various parts
of the body, the five elements, colors, numbers, etc.
As fulfilling as all of this new knowledge and experience was, Yeats soon lost
hope in this new branch, due to the fact that all experiments performed by the E.S.
were quite unsuccessful. Several took place; raising the ghost of a flower,
evoking a dream by use of a symbol under the dreamer's pillow, all of which
failed. Once again, Yeats felt that something was missing. After witnessing many
failures and only minimal success, Yeats lost hope in this new branch, and felt
it was time to continue on, rather than stay stagnant. This led to his discovery
of another society, which many of his friends in the T.S. were joining. This new
organization was beautifully titled,
"The Esoteric Order of the Golden Dawn."
The Golden Dawn satisfied Yeat's need to dig into his very core, and unleash
what has been buried for so long. As Yeats soon discovered, the Golden Dawn
Incorporated traditional European Cabalistic Magic and astrology, as opposed to
the wisdom of the East. In addition, the Golden Dawn encouraged exploration and
wielding of power (over the material universe, unlike Blavatsky who constantly
warned students against the practice of phenomena and oftentimes discouraged it
altogether.) This highly pleased Yeats, and allowed him to open his magical
aspirations to as high as he would go.
Aside from knowing various friends in the Golden Dawn that were previously
attending the T.S., Yeats' decision to join the Golden Dawn can be credited to
one of the Order's founders: S. L. MacGregor Mathers. His magical powers left a
strong and lasting impression upon Yeats, and assured him of the validity of the
Golden Dawn's Work.
Instead of handing him theories on how and why things work, the Golden Dawn
showed him the answers, gave him the desired results, and the freedom and the
opportunity for constant experimentation and expression. This expression was
further reflected in his writings. For example, his poem, Images, makes many
references to various Occult meanings.
On Abiegino's side a multitude.
Restored by drinking that miraculous wine
to human form: Day beats upon their eyes
Sounds of unfinished battle upon their ears
One sways his head and laughs, another weeps.
Then all laugh out, discovering in laughter
that the dark valley at the mountain forest
Where wold must war on walk, abounding
Grow out of that foul blood, is magical
That they imagined it and bound themselves.
Therein contented with that bitter sweet
But the wind changes and the valley howls
One howls his answer back and one by one
They drop upon all fours, creep valley -- wards
Question that instant for these forms O heart
These chuckling & howling forms begot
Yeats continued his search for knowledge of that which is not written for man to
read. But like all things, life comes to an end. His accomplished life ended
when the Sun entered Aquarius on January 28th, 1939. Roqueborne, South France
was where he took his last breath. A last breath that would be long remembered
by those in the world of literature, and the thousands who are thinking with a