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Everything is True

by P. R. Jennings

author of W. B. Yeats and the Secret Masters of the World

 

“Let us go forth, the tellers of tales, and seize whatever prey the heart long for, and have no fear. Everything exists, everything is true, and the earth is only a little dust under our feet.”

W. B. Yeats

 

 

Imagination may go where history is silent, into the unknown unknowns surrounding record and reason. What really happened to W. B. Yeats and his world in 1899? Is there magic? Who are the Fairies, where do they come from and what is their true relationship with the human race? Most importantly for Yeats: what does it mean to fall in love?

Supposing Yeats found the answers to these questions in 1899...

The year 1899 sits like an ominous moon at the dead centre of the 'Vicwardian' period - a facetious but useful conflation of the late-Victorian and Edwardian. It wasn’t the best of times, it wasn’t the worst but in some respects it was the most magical. It ended, by definition,  in 1910 with the death of King Edward VII but if it had a definite beginning, it was in 1888, when Samuel Liddell Mathers founded the Order of the Golden Dawn and the gates of Fäerie seemed about to open.
            Mathers intended to create the greatest magical order of modern times. He may have succeeded; with so many magical societies being secret magical societies it is impossible to be sure. The Golden Dawn is certainly the greatest magical order of the modern period, going on membership, achievement and influence, that we actually know about. In fact in some ways we know a great deal too much about it, and its ambitious, paranoid, combative and occasionally ridiculous membership. High Priestesses and Hierophants look best by ceremonial candle-light; they lose some of their gloss when exposed to the light of day, let alone the biographer’s searchlight.
            W. B. Yeats is rightly regarded as the most illustrious of the Golden Dawn’s magicians. With his saturnine features, shock of coal-black hair and great height, he made an impressive disciple for his chief, Samuel Mathers, but in the end the pupil out-distanced the master. Yeats was a poet, and poetry is the higher magic. Nevertheless, he threw his considerable energies into Mathers’ esoteric curriculum. Despite occasional scares which rattled his delicately suspended disbeliefs, Yeats soaked up most of what Vicwardian magic and mysticism offered. Not for him the mental gymnastics of the god- or opinion-fearing occult dabbler; Yeats, like Doctor Faustus, sought direct contact with the supernatural.
            He would have liked direct contact with the Secret Masters, chiefs of the Golden Dawn, super-adepts controlling the fate of the world. Unfortunately they had hidden themselves in a remote region, only tenuously connected with reality, called Samuel Mathers' brain.

Or so it is believed. But supposing they were real, our Secret Masters. Supposing, once upon a time, in the human year 1899, fifty-four thousand, four hundred and thirty-two years after our species took its present form, the hidden powers which created us were growing impatient with our development.
            Once you start the game of supposing, of course, there is no obvious reason to stop the fun. W. B. Yeats was not alone. England and Ireland could jointly field an Olympic-standard team of literary eccentrics in which Walter Mitty would have struggled to make the bench. Who would have thought that William Sharp, dour bearded Scotsman, had a secret life as seductive Celtic maiden Fiona McLeod? Certainly not Mr Yeats, who was a big fan of Fiona but wasn't at all sure about that Sharp fellow who was always hanging around. South of the border, so to speak, Thomas Hardy, celebrated novelist and poet, was dreaming of young ladies and hopelessly pursuing them. Arthur Conan Doyle had killed off his incubus and thrown himself into his serious work of believing anything as long as it was strange. Bernard Shaw, bones snapping and extremities withering from vegetarian malnutrition, with an undiminished twinkle in his eye for the fair sex, had married an heiress on condition that there wasn't any.
            Well, just supposing...

Supposing Arthur Conan Doyle had fallen in with a very bad crowd indeed and found himself on the wrong side in a fairy war. Does he believe in fairies now? Well, does he? He'd better!
            Supposing George Bernard Shaw...  well, one does not really have to, Shaw constructed an outrageous fictional character for himself before anyone else could get there.
            Supposing W. B. Yeats discovered, as he had long suspected, that he was indeed the most important man in the world, with a direct line to the Secret Masters.
            And supposing Thomas Hardy, just for once, got lucky....

After all, everything is true.

 

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© P. R. Jennings 2014

 

 

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