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A Vision: The Original 1925 Version

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The Collected Works of W. B. Yeats, Volume XIII: A Vision is part of a fourteen-volume series under the general editorship of eminent Yeats scholar George Bornstein and formerly the late Richard J. Finneran and George Mills Harper. One of the strangest works of literary modernism, A Vision is Yeats's greatest occult work. Edited by Yeats scholars Catherine E. Paul and Mar The Collected Works of W. B. Yeats, Volume XIII: A Vision is part of a fourteen-volume series under the general editorship of eminent Yeats scholar George Bornstein and formerly the late Richard J. Finneran and George Mills Harper. One of the strangest works of literary modernism, A Vision is Yeats's greatest occult work. Edited by Yeats scholars Catherine E. Paul and Margaret Mills Harper, the volume presents the "system" of philosophy, psychology, history, and the life of the soul that Yeats and his wife George (née Hyde Lees) received and created by means of mediumistic experiments from 1917 through the early 1920s. Yeats obsessively revised the book, and the revised 1937 version is much more widely available than its predecessor. The original 1925 version of A Vision, poetic, unpolished, masked in fiction, and close to the excitement of the automatic writing that the Yeatses believed to be its supernatural origin, is presented here in a scholarly edition for the first time. The text, minimally corrected to retain the sense of the original, is extensively annotated, with particular attention paid to the relationship between the published book and its complex genetic materials. Indispensable to an understanding of the poet's late work and entrancing on its own merit, A Vision aims to be, all at once, a work of theoretical history, an esoteric philosophy, an aesthetic symbology, a psychological schema, and a sacred book. It is as difficult as it is essential reading for any student of Yeats.


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The Collected Works of W. B. Yeats, Volume XIII: A Vision is part of a fourteen-volume series under the general editorship of eminent Yeats scholar George Bornstein and formerly the late Richard J. Finneran and George Mills Harper. One of the strangest works of literary modernism, A Vision is Yeats's greatest occult work. Edited by Yeats scholars Catherine E. Paul and Mar The Collected Works of W. B. Yeats, Volume XIII: A Vision is part of a fourteen-volume series under the general editorship of eminent Yeats scholar George Bornstein and formerly the late Richard J. Finneran and George Mills Harper. One of the strangest works of literary modernism, A Vision is Yeats's greatest occult work. Edited by Yeats scholars Catherine E. Paul and Margaret Mills Harper, the volume presents the "system" of philosophy, psychology, history, and the life of the soul that Yeats and his wife George (née Hyde Lees) received and created by means of mediumistic experiments from 1917 through the early 1920s. Yeats obsessively revised the book, and the revised 1937 version is much more widely available than its predecessor. The original 1925 version of A Vision, poetic, unpolished, masked in fiction, and close to the excitement of the automatic writing that the Yeatses believed to be its supernatural origin, is presented here in a scholarly edition for the first time. The text, minimally corrected to retain the sense of the original, is extensively annotated, with particular attention paid to the relationship between the published book and its complex genetic materials. Indispensable to an understanding of the poet's late work and entrancing on its own merit, A Vision aims to be, all at once, a work of theoretical history, an esoteric philosophy, an aesthetic symbology, a psychological schema, and a sacred book. It is as difficult as it is essential reading for any student of Yeats.

30 review for A Vision: The Original 1925 Version

  1. 5 out of 5

    J.W.D. Nicolello

    I strongly recommend reading this on heavy psychedelics, that is, if your tolerance is kaleidoscopic to the point that you can read while hallucinating. I purchased this book when I was a teenager in California traveling after high school for the first time, because like many a good American boy I read the Beats extensively in my late teens. Lucien Carr, who killed Dave Kammerer with a Boy Scout knife, as a young football-playing John Kerouac went to the slammer over as well. On Carr, they found I strongly recommend reading this on heavy psychedelics, that is, if your tolerance is kaleidoscopic to the point that you can read while hallucinating. I purchased this book when I was a teenager in California traveling after high school for the first time, because like many a good American boy I read the Beats extensively in my late teens. Lucien Carr, who killed Dave Kammerer with a Boy Scout knife, as a young football-playing John Kerouac went to the slammer over as well. On Carr, they found the knife, A Vision, and Rimbaud's Illuminations. I have no idea what is going on here. I can easily find out, but I prefer to pick it up annually and take a look at Pound's packet and certain charts. It's like recommending someone a film like House, Symbiopsychotaxiplasm, In a Glass Cage, or, say, a novel like The Making of Americans; i.e. I guess I could tell you what's going on, if you give me a second, but I'd just rather plague you with the thing(s) and see if you ever get back to me, if the mind-fuck brought something, good or bad, out of you. I'll just call this one Amazing, at the sake of seeming archaic, as it's been some change short of a decade and I've never met a professor, prostitute, plebeian, pedestrian, punk, pornographer, puzzle-maker, print-shop apprentice, poet that's ever brought this one up, or had it out on the shelves. Take a look, see what happens.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Paul Christensen

    ‘A Vision’ is undoubtedly highly interesting, and sheds light on some of Yeats’ more obscure poems, but I was ultimately disappointed, being interested in the precession of the equinoxes and the Platonic Year. I guess I was hoping for a prophecy, but while Yeats has much to say about the Arian and Piscean eras, on the Aquarian he is totally silent.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Alexander Scott

    life is round: we're stuck on this wheel. Living. And dying. An endless circle. Until. Someone breaks it. You came in here, you rupture the pattern. Bang: the whole world...gets wider... no seriously this is an interesting read. Beautiful, impossible, yet fantastic none the less life is round: we're stuck on this wheel. Living. And dying. An endless circle. Until. Someone breaks it. You came in here, you rupture the pattern. Bang: the whole world...gets wider... no seriously this is an interesting read. Beautiful, impossible, yet fantastic none the less

  4. 5 out of 5

    Greg

    I don't know what to categorize this book as. This book is Yeats' synthesis of the 'automatic writings' and nocturnal speaking (talking while she was asleep, by spirits) from his wife. The spirits described to him an overly elaborate system of the universe which is a mix of the Kaballah and 17th and 18th attempts at all encompassing history, with more than a healthy dose of astrology thrown in. Yeats expounds this theory of the world and the development of civilizations and individuals in a mann I don't know what to categorize this book as. This book is Yeats' synthesis of the 'automatic writings' and nocturnal speaking (talking while she was asleep, by spirits) from his wife. The spirits described to him an overly elaborate system of the universe which is a mix of the Kaballah and 17th and 18th attempts at all encompassing history, with more than a healthy dose of astrology thrown in. Yeats expounds this theory of the world and the development of civilizations and individuals in a manner that I have to admit I didn't quite understand. I got the gist of what he was saying, but I kind of let the details fall away, because frankly this is kind of crazy shit that I didn't have the energy to wade through with an eye for detail. Yeats finds his kooky theories proved in lots of different places, through other writers both contemporaries of his and from antiquity, and when he doesn't have proof he seems to have no trouble giving his own spin on things. If anything this book proves that no matter how far out a theory you have you can and will find proof that you can't be wrong. That said parts of the book were quite interesting, and Yeats did have some interesting moments, I'm not sure if what he is writing can be called the truth, but it makes for a very interesting story of the world.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    This book will spin you into a vortex of wild imaginings and gyre you around a philosophical hurdy-gurdy like no other book you will ever have read, enjoy.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    The gall of this man. A work that is both transcendent and revolutionary, but also maddeningly frustrating, for Yeats is trying to play both mathematician and philosopher only he is a poet. There are gems here, but they are sparse like rubies in the mud. I also grant that I am not familiar with many of the works that other reviewers insist are requisite preliminary readings, so I perhaps will need to revisit A Vision in a couple decades time.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Trevor Jones

    I read this and have no idea why. I finished it and had absolutely no clue as to what he was talking about. I'm not sure what I was expecting it other than I was reading a semi-obscure work by a very famous poet who was partly famous for his interest in the occult. Even "occult" here is a stretch of a term for what Yeats might be talking, and the only thing left to say after finishing it was that it all has something to do with "gyres". If you like gyres, you will LOVE A Vision by W.B. Yeats. I read this and have no idea why. I finished it and had absolutely no clue as to what he was talking about. I'm not sure what I was expecting it other than I was reading a semi-obscure work by a very famous poet who was partly famous for his interest in the occult. Even "occult" here is a stretch of a term for what Yeats might be talking, and the only thing left to say after finishing it was that it all has something to do with "gyres". If you like gyres, you will LOVE A Vision by W.B. Yeats.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Mitta Xinindlu

    I think I'm in love with this guy I think I'm in love with this guy

  9. 4 out of 5

    Meridith Allison

    Vortexes, gyres, and visions. It's esoteric, yes, but a must-read if you're a fan of his later work. Get high and check it out. Vortexes, gyres, and visions. It's esoteric, yes, but a must-read if you're a fan of his later work. Get high and check it out.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Trey Rogge

    There's debate whether this is a genuine work from Yeats, or if it's like Joyce's Finnegans Wake or Tarantula from Bob Dylan, i.e. a literary jest. This review is from the genuine perspective. There are a lot of esoteric references in this, and the material is very dense--as expected--but it's worth the effort needed in beginning to understand the ideas Yeats presents. Metempsychosis is one of the most fascinating philosophical notions: one that can be studied, and even considered, by people fro There's debate whether this is a genuine work from Yeats, or if it's like Joyce's Finnegans Wake or Tarantula from Bob Dylan, i.e. a literary jest. This review is from the genuine perspective. There are a lot of esoteric references in this, and the material is very dense--as expected--but it's worth the effort needed in beginning to understand the ideas Yeats presents. Metempsychosis is one of the most fascinating philosophical notions: one that can be studied, and even considered, by people from all beliefs and non, without compromising one's convictions or apprehensions. This is also a great read for admirers of poetry, particularly admirers of the powerful William Blake as well as Yeats' later poems. Don't be afraid if you don't understand more than 40% of the material, for there are numerous scholarly articles out there that will help to fill in any gaps.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    At one level, it seems to be an eclectic attempt to fuse Hegelian metaphysics, astrology, neoplatonism and of course Yeats's own poetry. A few books of comparable abstruseness get written every decade or so. But the book is strangely effective, in a way that most other books in the "esoterica" category aren't. Doubtless this is due in large part to the author's own profound poetic sense. The overall effect is a book that moves over the border between philosophy and poetry as few other books can. At one level, it seems to be an eclectic attempt to fuse Hegelian metaphysics, astrology, neoplatonism and of course Yeats's own poetry. A few books of comparable abstruseness get written every decade or so. But the book is strangely effective, in a way that most other books in the "esoterica" category aren't. Doubtless this is due in large part to the author's own profound poetic sense. The overall effect is a book that moves over the border between philosophy and poetry as few other books can.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Michael Volpi

    Nerd out on (Neo-) Platonism, the occult, mysticism? Compelled by Yeats' unique sense of aesthetic, poetic and philosophical structure and systematic thinking? Patient? Curious? Believe that there are immaterial truths worth exploring? Yes? Read. Nerd out on (Neo-) Platonism, the occult, mysticism? Compelled by Yeats' unique sense of aesthetic, poetic and philosophical structure and systematic thinking? Patient? Curious? Believe that there are immaterial truths worth exploring? Yes? Read.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Liam Guilar

    5 stars for the edition. As for the contents, I can't avoid the thought that if Yeats had been French and written this forty years later no one would have thought he was nuts. And the advantage this has, over something like Ecrits, is that Yeats could manage the language he was using. 5 stars for the edition. As for the contents, I can't avoid the thought that if Yeats had been French and written this forty years later no one would have thought he was nuts. And the advantage this has, over something like Ecrits, is that Yeats could manage the language he was using.

  14. 4 out of 5

    courtney

    this is pretty heady stuff. interesting, i think, more because of its source -- WBY, a highly regarded literary figure and statesman. i mostly only read the introduction because i was less interested in the information communicated than by the process of the communion.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Anthony

    Liked this book less for the content itself and more for the insight it gives you into Yeats' poetry, especially his later, more Eastern-inspired stuff. Yeats was very much a genius, but also a bit of a whackjob. Liked this book less for the content itself and more for the insight it gives you into Yeats' poetry, especially his later, more Eastern-inspired stuff. Yeats was very much a genius, but also a bit of a whackjob.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Con

    Weird, weird, weird, even by my standards

  17. 4 out of 5

    Anthony

    yeats constructs confusing astrological systems and a weird mystical philosophy out of his wife's "automatic writings" and unconscious speech. creepy stuff. yeats constructs confusing astrological systems and a weird mystical philosophy out of his wife's "automatic writings" and unconscious speech. creepy stuff.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Pino

    another must read, a book, like its author, timeless coming from the true master of poetry and literature in the English language Yeats is the biggest dog on the block

  19. 5 out of 5

    Nicholas

    I'd had this book on my to-read list since a podcast I listen to recommended it. What bumped it higher up the list was watching Kill Your Darlings (2013) and loving how much it referenced the book. Overall it was...not what I expected. Just interesting enough that I was determined to finish it. It was fascinating at parts, tediously boring at others, and eye-roll inducing at still others. I read the original, unpolished 1925 version, so maybe the 1937 one is better. Either way, I felt a lot of th I'd had this book on my to-read list since a podcast I listen to recommended it. What bumped it higher up the list was watching Kill Your Darlings (2013) and loving how much it referenced the book. Overall it was...not what I expected. Just interesting enough that I was determined to finish it. It was fascinating at parts, tediously boring at others, and eye-roll inducing at still others. I read the original, unpolished 1925 version, so maybe the 1937 one is better. Either way, I felt a lot of the ideas in this book were over-complicated. There are other philosophies which state similar theories much more simply, without needing to go into nonsense on cones and gyres. I found Yeats' explanation of the Tinctures and Four Faculties the most interesting and applicable. I can see how these Faculties can directly correspond to the four elements, or the four suits in the tarot: Will is fire, instinct, Wands. Creative Mind is air, reason/intellect, Swords. Mask is water, emotion, Cups. Body of Fate is earth, desire, Pentacles. The way he constructs a psychological schema using these Faculties is quite thought-provoking, and I had fun trying to figure out which zodiac sign fits which phase best. Near the end Yeats discusses the different bodies. What he seems to be doing here is explaining what today we call the Seven Subtle Bodies. His Passionate Body seems to me like today's Emotional Body, with the Ghostly Self as likely the Astral Body or Etheric Body. His Celestial Body has obviously been retained.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Adam

    "All the gains of man come from conflict with the opposite of his true being." Not entirely sure what I just read, but I will say I feel better about my own cognition relative to Yeats' desire to demarcate the human experience, pinning specimens to a 28 cell cork-board while pinning its genesis on his wife and various "Facilitators" (ghosts). The sui generis nature of this book makes it delightful--and I am a believer of Charles Fort's "intermediateness"--but what Yeats posits through the otherne "All the gains of man come from conflict with the opposite of his true being." Not entirely sure what I just read, but I will say I feel better about my own cognition relative to Yeats' desire to demarcate the human experience, pinning specimens to a 28 cell cork-board while pinning its genesis on his wife and various "Facilitators" (ghosts). The sui generis nature of this book makes it delightful--and I am a believer of Charles Fort's "intermediateness"--but what Yeats posits through the otherness of supernatural intelligence is only the reflection of his mask, one which thrives on hierarchy and an idea of individual destiny closer to Christian providence than I'm sure he would have ever admitted.

  21. 4 out of 5

    J. Alfred

    This book is interesting if you think that spirits communicate with the living by means of automatic writing in order to give complicated revelations of how history and personality work. Coincidentally, it's also interesting if you wonder what it feels like to be an insane person. At least there's some good advice for Ezra Pound in the beginning: "My Dear Ezra, Do not allow yourself to be elected to the senate of your country." This book is interesting if you think that spirits communicate with the living by means of automatic writing in order to give complicated revelations of how history and personality work. Coincidentally, it's also interesting if you wonder what it feels like to be an insane person. At least there's some good advice for Ezra Pound in the beginning: "My Dear Ezra, Do not allow yourself to be elected to the senate of your country."

  22. 5 out of 5

    Maria Miruna Solomon

    ceva-ceva știe el. un 3.5 pentru entuziasm și convingere inexplicabilă. cândva, printr-o revelație, am să înțeleg perfect. on Phase 25: He would use this religion and philosophy to kill within himself the last trace of individual abstract speculation, yet this religion and this philosophy, as present before his mind, would be artificial and selected, though always concrete.

  23. 5 out of 5

    K. R. B. Moum

    life and death (and reincarnation) of human on individual, intellectual and historical level following the phases of the moon ... it's tough to make a logical understanding out of it but the explanation of human reaction of any event (dictated by the four faculties) was wonderful life and death (and reincarnation) of human on individual, intellectual and historical level following the phases of the moon ... it's tough to make a logical understanding out of it but the explanation of human reaction of any event (dictated by the four faculties) was wonderful

  24. 4 out of 5

    Karin

    Not my cup of tea. Might be more enjoyable if you are into spiritualism, the paranormal or the occult.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Gaius

    my dude....what

  26. 4 out of 5

    Catherine Mustread

    Read while in college.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Erik Graff

    Liking the poems and Michael Miley's inspired renditions of them, being interested in the occult milieu shared by W.B. Yeats and C.G. Jung, I picked up A Vision with considerable interest. I was not impressed. This may be an essential study for scholars wanting a full understanding of the poetry and the poet, but it was beyond me. Indeed, I was disappointed by the poet's credulity and uncritical appropriation of such material. A review read years later suggested that Yeats and his young wife may Liking the poems and Michael Miley's inspired renditions of them, being interested in the occult milieu shared by W.B. Yeats and C.G. Jung, I picked up A Vision with considerable interest. I was not impressed. This may be an essential study for scholars wanting a full understanding of the poetry and the poet, but it was beyond me. Indeed, I was disappointed by the poet's credulity and uncritical appropriation of such material. A review read years later suggested that Yeats and his young wife may have unconsciously conspired to fabricate these "visions" in order to maintain interest in one another and so save their marriage.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Mike Lynch

    Strange and awkward: not an easy read but worthwhile if you're curious about 20th C modernism and the occult. Strange and awkward: not an easy read but worthwhile if you're curious about 20th C modernism and the occult.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Laura Fiorelli

    Well it's certainly interesting I guess. Poetic, sure. But it is also sloppy, a bit nonsensical, and the definition of esoteric. I recommend reading this with Helen Vendler's book for clarity. Well it's certainly interesting I guess. Poetic, sure. But it is also sloppy, a bit nonsensical, and the definition of esoteric. I recommend reading this with Helen Vendler's book for clarity.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    An endless circle... the great wheel.... self abuse, until the pattern is ruptured. The whole world gets wider.

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