Wisdom of Two: The Spiritual and Literary Collaboration of George and W.B. Yeats

By Margaret Mills Harper | Go to book overview

4
Demon the Medium

I too am much better indeed better than I have been for years.
Do you know that I half think that finishing the philosophy
getting all that abstraction put in concrete form makes one
better. Perhaps I now am a medium & my force is used. I have
now quite certainly mastered every abstract element & very
surprising some of them prove to be, in their ingenuity.

WBY to GY, [Sept. 1924]1

Just as much may be gained from meditation on WBY's motto in the Order of the Golden Dawn, Demon Est Deus Inversus, as can be learned from tracing the permutations of GY's Nemo Sciat. On a verbal level, the four-word phrase Demon Est Deus Inversus overturns the expected hierarchy of the binary Deus and Demon in two ways: first, it flattens out the distinctions between the two terms, which after all sound all the more similar when joined by the simple verb Est. Second, with the arrival of the word Inversus, in its critical final position, movement is generated, as well as the undercutting of that levelling and static form of to be. Something is—overturned. The English word has the movement of turning in it, as does its Latin counterpart: Inversus suggests the wheeling of its root verto, from which of course English has the word vortex, the system adumbrated verbally in the old magical name. The part that WBY played in the occult collaboration that led to the system

1 Unpublished letter from WBY to GY. Photocopy in the private collection of George Mills and Mary Jane Harper.

-238-

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Wisdom of Two: The Spiritual and Literary Collaboration of George and W.B. Yeats
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Acknowledgements x
  • Contents xiii
  • List of Illustrations xiv
  • List of Abbreviations xv
  • Introduction: 'She Finds the Words' 1
  • 1 - 'A Philosophy…Created from Search': Preliminary Issues 28
  • First Interlude - Double Visions: Two Manuscripts and Two Books 72
  • 2 - Nemo the Interpreter 94
  • Second Interlude - Automatic Performance: Technology and Occultism 151
  • 3 - 'To Give You New Images': Published Results 183
  • 4 - Demon the Medium 238
  • 5 - All the Others: Dramatis Personae 294
  • Conclusion: 'This Other Aquinas' 337
  • Bibliography 344
  • Index 365
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