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 [211] 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 bu a true sectary of this moment, the Scandinavian Milles, Meštrovi? 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 [212] 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 [213] 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 coarse 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 [214] 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. [215] 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.

Finished at Capri, February, 1925.

‘Michael Robartes Foretells’

In Blake and Yeats: The Contrary Vision (1956), Hazard Adams published as an appendix the text of a ‘typescript, in the possession of Mrs. W. B. Yeats’, '“Michael Robartes Fortells”—Unpublished Typescript Written for A Vision and Rejected'. It is also contained in ‘Michael Robartes: Two Occult Manuscripts’, edited by Walter Kelly Hood, in Yeats and the Occult (1975). The context indicates that it was written as a companion-piece to the Stories of Michael Robartes and his Friends, which first appeared with The Resurrection in a Cuala imprint of 1931. These stories, adapted and slightly expanded, appear as part of the prefatory material to AV B and are examined in The Fictions. The cast of characters is much the same as in the stories and the comments seem to be an elaboration on those that appear on AV B 52-53. The reference to Coole’s empty rooms places it after Lady Gregory’s death in 1932, and a letter from 26 July 1936 appears to refer to a piece very much like this one, which Yeats plans to write ‘To-morrow’ (see YO 216; L 859). The pages of the typescript are those given by Adams in Blake and Yeats 301-305, and the [sic]s are those given in his transcript although there are other irregular spellings.


Daniel O’Leary was sitting by a window at Thoor Ballylea [sic], watching a yellow flooded river, when Hudden, Duddon and Denice walked in unannounced.

      “We heard you were here,” said the first, “and have come from London to ask you a question.”

      “Yeats sent me the key” said L’Leary [sic]. “Somebody told him that I wanted to spend a week or two within reach of Coole House that I might look into the empty rooms, walk the woods and grass-grown gardens, where a great Irish social order climaxed and passed away.”

      “Have you the prophecy” said Dudden, “that Michael Robartes made at Albert Road? You wrote it out at the time. In London there are young men fresh from the Universities who perplex us. It is seven years since Michael Robartes disappeared into Arabia. Perhaps we are growing old.”

      “Yes, that is it.” said Denice, smiling at Dudden, [2] “Even I am faithful to the past.”

      “One night I brought in some London Journalist,” Dudden went on, “You began a Communistic argument; I said that the Proletariat was an abstraction and must disappear before the German and Italian conception of the State moulded by History yet transparent to reason and at last completely intelligible; then the Journalist derided the State, argued that nothing mattered but internationalism, democracy and disarmament.”

      “Oh, yes, I remember.” said O’Leary. “Robartes talked of the next Cycle, forgetting that the Journalist was ignorant of our terms, of the influx at the second, third and fourth Phases, said that some Asiatic Nation would base its whole civilisation upon War, that its governing class would take care of the common people as our governing class could not or would not, that they might obey in War and be loyal in defeat. [3] That its Schools and Universities would combine some Asiatic philosophy with the latest results of that psychical research founded by William Crookes, preparing all to face death without flinching, perhaps even with joy. As according to their philosophy the dead will not pass to a remote Heaven, but return to the Earth, it will seem as though the soldier’s dead body manured the fields he himself would till. Furthermore, that they would subordinate class to class, that certain virtues created in leisure might descend to all; whatever music, dancings, painting, literature best served the perpetuation or perfection of the race or man’s ultimate deliverance. Yet the State would be but little in men’s minds, for the State as an idea, whatever definition we make of it, is but a degree less abstract than that of the Proletariat. Men’s minds will dwell upon some company of governing men whom, though they seem every man’s. even every base man’s very self, it is natural to call noble.”

      “You are speaking from memory, I thought you had notes,” said Hudden.

      “No, not of those words. When you had shown the Journalist out and gone to your beds, I asked Robartes if I might [4] put them down. He said, no, he made them up while talking and didn’t know whether they were true or not; he knew nothing of the next cycle except that it would be the reverse of ours. I begged him to say what we who took the gyres and cones as the framework of our thought might safely prophesy, and on that night and the two following, we sat late. I made notes and a few days later I wrote what I could remember. Here it is.”

“We know that our own life, or the year, or the civilisation must pass through certain changes, that we, or it, approach the prime, or have passed it, that this or that character must increase or decrease, but we cannot know the particulars. When we speak of the past, we can say that in Divina Comedia, or the Russian Revolution, expressed such and such a phase, but are misled the moment we try to imagine some future work of art or historical event.


      “I will re-examine the Wheel. Every triad of phases is a separate Wheel. Whatever existence we think of, a Civilisation’s or an individual’s, it arises from the general mass, wins its victory and returns. All our morality is heroic, this falling back or falling asleep beings its gains with it though conventializes [sic], formalises, mechanizes. I reject Hegel’s all-containing, all sustaining, all satisfying, fresh wakefulness. I reject Marxian Socialism, in so far as it is derived from him.

      “The general mass, call it Nature, God, the Matrix, the Unconscious, what you will, becomes unity when interlocked with some separating or subsiding existence; nor is it greater than that existence; the Will and Creative Mind of the one, the Mask and Body of Fate of the other, each dying, the others life, living the others death.

      “The 22nd. phase of our civilisation has just passed, the Russian violence and the art and thought of our time, where even logic has compelled the isolation and exaggeration of a single element, represent the 23rd. phase, the first phase of the first Primary Triad; the Dictatorships in various parts of the world, including the Russian, are the approach of the 24th. Phase. So much we deduce from our general knowledge and from our Cones and symbols. [6] But after that we have nothing but our cones and symbols. From Phase 22. the Creative Mind and the Body of Fate ceased to be enforced, man more and more accepts, more and more thinks his Fate. The Creative Mind from the twelfth century has been like stretched elastic, like a swaying pot, now the elastic is released, the pot recovers equilibrium.

      “The anithetical is creative, painful—personal—the Primary imitative, happy, general. It is this imitativeness in which there is always happiness, that makes the Movements of our time attract the young. The art and politics of the antithetical age expressed a long maturing tradition and were best practised by old men. That age has ended in the old political juglers of liberal Democracy. I insist upon the paradox, that the old age of our civilisation begins with young men marching in step, with the shirts and songs that give our politics an air of sport. Phase 24. will perform the taks [task?] of Augustus, but the end of our civilisation will differ from that of an antithetical civilisation; the imitation of those who seem to express most completely the mass mind, the [7] discovery of the mass mind in ourselves, will create a political system, more pre-occupied with the common good, more derived from the common people than that of Rome and later Greece. Yet as Phase 25 draws near, in thirty or sixty years—we have no means of fixing the date, nor will it be the same date everywhere—men will turn from the leadership of men who offer nothing reason can understand. They will return to women, horses, dogs, prefer to the political meeting, the football field or whatever thirty or sixty years hence may have taken its place. Some equivalent preference will overtake occupations that have no part in politics; for all thought, under the pressure of some practical necessity will seek unity but weary of all reasoned expressions of that unity. I do not say reason will die as the pot ceases to sway, the return to the normal requires reason. An Achilles will be no longer possible, but some Virgil at Phase 24 may celebrate whatever popularisation our civilisation permits for the perfect official, carrying out the plan of an Olympian Board of Works amid many perils, amid much self-conquest; may he not gaze from his boat’s deck on Dido’s Pyre; some Ovid of the films, at Phase 25. surpass even his [8] popularity by celebrating our common casual pleasures. Every event will compel man’s free acceptance of the external mask, objective man, life lived in common. Fate is multiple, particular, has as it were personality, but the Mask is always one.

      “Merely personal distinction, as past times used the word, will be out of date, will no longer exist except in archaic studious circles, or as a pretension of the vulgar; the ugly will sting man to life because it rids him of the desire and hope he can no longer employ.

      “I cannot say these things without hatred, I am an antithetical man, born in a still antithetical age, yet the men of that day, lacking our inequality, lacerations, artificialities, judged by any accepted standard will be happier than we are.

      “Phases 24. and 25 must see the completion of a public ideal, its assimilation in the common civilisation, where all, whatever degree or rank or station remain, will live and think in much the same way. But at Phase 26. [9] will come, enforced by some intellectual necessity or change of circumstance impossible to foreknow, the knowledge of a form of existence, of a private aim opposite to any our civilisation has pursued. This knowledge affecting minorities, and organising their disgust, will create a turbulence, like that we see about us to-day, but moral and spiritual; the knowledge enforced upon Primary Minds of antithetical civilisation.*

      *Note: In finding concrete events for the dates given me by my instructors, I considered that the historical chart was that of the Christian Era and what led to it. I considered this Era as a distinct cycle, different from those of Greece or Rome, but have the authority of my instructors for making it arise from that of Greece. We must consider the Roman cycle as two or three centuries later than that of Greece. I accept Schneider’s identification of Virgil, Ovid, Nero, Epictetus with certain logical developments of Roman thought and I name those developments Phases 24. 25. 26. 27. The personal exaggeration of Nero and his Court may be described as an antithetical vision of a Primary Ideal. In Epictetus that ideal is clearly seen, a Universal Being present in every particular person. A Primary Vision of an antithetical ideal might at Phase 26. be a moral and spiritual Nationalism, antinomean difference, personal in their final form, but first seen as differing ways of life.


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