First Quarter

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Earth glyph: Element of Earth

Quarter in which Will dominates

In this Quarter the soul starts afresh in its new Cycle of incarnations, bearing with it the fruit of the previous Cycles. The fruit holds the seed of this new Cycle, so that the ‘Phases between 1 and 8 are associated with elemental earth, being phases of germination and sprouting’ (AV B 93). In the individual life it corresponds to the period before birth (when the Wheel includes both life and after-life) and childhood (when the Wheel symbolises the individual life), and in the Wheel of Incarnations it therefore corresponds to the soul’s childhood and has the innocence, instinctuality and irrationality of childhood. In part because of this, such souls seldom make historical impact until the end of the Quarter, where the self-assertion of Will has come to the fore. ‘In the early phases one finds travellers, chroniclers, grammarians geographers and the general multitude of obscure hunters, fishers and tillers of the ground who do not see beyond their trade. All are objective with objectivity not of intellect but of instinct’ (YVP 4, 29). In the latter Phases, however, Yeats places Walt Whitman (Phase 6), George Borrow, Alexandre Dumas, Thomas Carlyle and James Macpherson (Phase 7), characters in whom he appears to have discerned a certain naďve intensity.

As in each of the Quarters, the Phases of Crisis, 1 and 8, are not truly part of the group, being extremes or transitions, and the two triads, 2-3-4 and 5-6-7, are quite distinct from each other because of the Opening and Closing of the Tinctures. The Tinctures are ‘open’ until Phase 4 and close again at Phase 5; while the Tinctures are open, the spiritual primary, which started in the previous Cycle, still dominates and the Principles ‘shine through’ the weakened Faculties. In these Phases the element of race dominates, and they lack the egoism of childhood, so that it is here that the characteristic perfection of the Quarter is possible, Self-Sacrifice. These first three Phases are dominated by ‘Weird’ (the Old English word ‘Wyrd’) or Fate, and are ‘drowned in the One’ of the macrocosm of Nature (AV B 111).

However, this Quarter is where Will begins to assert itself, as the ‘child’ learns about the external world, how to cope with it and ‘reflection begins’, so that Phase 5 is called the ‘Separation from Innocence’. The Faculties take over from the Principles and the focus is directed towards the self, or Ego (Will’s original name in the Automatic Script), though not in any deeply focused or analytical way.

The Tinctures   The Phase Triads   The Cardinal Phases   The Wheel   Geometry   Terminology

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