"Man attracts spirits according to his own temperament," as William Butler Yeats observed. To "the sanguine, the spirits of fire, and the lymphatic, those of watery nature, and those of a mixed nature, mixed spirits." While observing that like attracts like, Yeats was also fascinated by the way that opposites may be drawn together, to complement and complete each other, and to spark that creative friction that brings new things into being.
Your own will come to you.
Æ summarized the law of spiritual gravitation in this phrase. I find this a vital practical truth. He also wrote:
I found that every intense imagination, every new adventure of the intellect [is] endowed with magnetic power to attract to it its own kin. Will and desire were as the enchanter’s wand of fable, and they drew to themselves their own affinities. ..One person after another emerged out of the mass, betraying their close affinity to my moods as they were engendered.
In our lives, this plays out through chance encounters, through the dreamlike symbolism of daily events, when we turn up the right message in a book opened at random or left open by someone else on a library table. If the passions of our souls are strong enough, they may draw “lifelong comrades”.
In his beautiful little book The Candle of Vision, Æ gave a personal example. When he first attempted to write verse, he immediately met a new friend, a dreaming boy “whose voice was soon to be the most beautiful voice in Irish literature” This was of course William Butler Yeats. “The concurrence of our personalities seemed mysterious and controlled by some law of spiritual gravitation.”
In his later life, Æ found a soul companion in the Australian writer P.L.Travers, the author of Mary Poppins and also a deep student of the Western Mysteries and a world-class mythographer. AE wrote to P.L.Travers about a further aspect of spiritual gravitation: “I feel I belong to a spiritual clan whose members are scattered all over the world and these are my kinsmen.”
By the way, it deserves to be better-known that the inspiration for P.L. Travers' idea that Mary Poppins came from a star was the author’s childhood vision of her dead father transforming into a star. Another case of spiritual gravitation, working beyond the apparent barrier of death.
The Magnet in the Book
Sometimes, beyond the play of the shelf elves who make books and papers appear and disappear, I sense other minds and other hands. In the early hours one morning, I found my copy of Yeats' Autobiography off its shelf, on a table where I had not placed it. There was no occult reason for this; it had been moved, with a small pile of other books relating to the poet, as part of a house cleaning.
I accepted the invitation to revisit Yeats' life through his words. Opening the book at random, I found myself reading a lively chapter on his mixed relations with Æ.
Later that morning, I opened another book in that pile. It is a collection of occasional pieces, mostly literary and art criticism, by Æ, titled The Living Torch and published by Macmillan in 1938, that I found in a used book store near Mount Vernon in Washington State a couple of years ago. I had placed it in my forest of books without examining it closely.
This was evident, because when I opened The Living Torch at random, I found five loose pages hidden inside the book. They are written a fine lady's hand from an earlier time. They are fair copies of five of Æ's poems. The lady who made these copies was meticulous. She noted the publication date (1926) of the edition of Æ's Collected Poems from which she borrowed the lines she copied, and the number of the pages where these poems may be found.
I sat very still as I read the poem on the top page. It is titled
"Magnet" and it begins as follows:
I had sweet company
Because I sought out none
But took who came to me,
All by the magnet drawn.
For me, in the final stage of completing a book on the workings of synchronicity, this was quite, quiet perfect. Within the past week, I had actually borrowed a line from A Candle of Vision as a section title in my own book: "Your own will come to you." It develops the idea that we draw people and situations to us magnetically, through the energy that is with us. I did not know that Æ had written a poem on this theme until just now.
The later part of his poem, I must note, develops a darker tone. It seems that Æ (described by Yeats as first and last a "religious teacher") is reflecting, ruefully, on an affair of the heart which tempted him to set aside the austere spiritual discipline he imposed on himself. I wonder whether, in her secret heart, the unknown copyist was stirred by her recognition of herself in a similar drama to make "Magnet" her own, by putting it in her own hand.
Art: Æ, "The Bathers"