[…] he had always, one way or another, tried to classify types of human personality. But as outlined in A Vision, his ambition was nothing less than summing up all thought, all history and the difference between man and man
It is also a meditation on artistic inspiration, and this links it (as WBY wished) to Per Amica Silentia Lunae. The sun and the moon had for long been his favourite antithetical images, standing for sexual union as well as for complementary supernatural influences. Sometimes rather inconsistently interpreted, they nonetheless dominate the pattern of A Vision. Joyce, characteristically, admired the colossal conception, only regretting that Yeats did not put all this into a creative work. (Ftn.: Eugene Jolass recollection, given in Ellmann, James Joyce, 1982 Rev. Edn., 596n., Foster adds: Parodies of AV would recur in Finnegans Wake.)
WBY worked from the huge accumulation of automatic-writing transcripts, and the card file in which the Yeatses had attempted to codify the random knowledge that they had hit upon: the fruit of his ancient habit of docketing and arranging information, and Georges determination to bring order to his study. Later he would claim he wrote it for a devoted Catholic and revolutionary who has engaged me in argument since my twenty-third year - inevitably, Gonne - and for a Scotch doctor in the north of England: his fellow occultist Frank Pearce Sturm. But, unsurprisingly, the directly personal issues which had brought about the crisis of 1917, and which dominated so many of his questions to George, were not used as illustrations to the system in A Vision: Iseult and George, hare and cat, sit outside the borders of the sacred book, and Mauds presence remains veiled. Like Farr, Shakespear, Gregory, and Mrs Patrick Campbell, she appears as a nameless type. He was also - at this stage - determined to keep Georges contribution undefined. Freudian or Jungian ideas, specifically employed at the time of the interrogations, were also kept out of A Vision, as apparently ill fitted to its deliberately archaic and occult pattern. His method of writing involved a concentrated effort to bring together the great mass of material under intelbgible headings, as a way of illustrating the diagrams of recurrence symbolized by the spiralling movements of gyres - contracting to a point at which they begin unfolding again in reverse motion, two cones continually wterpenetrating. This was the final outcome of his many years reading about historical cycles and astrological geometry.
Early drafts suggest that he thought of writing A Vision in dialogue form, so many of his philosophical poems. [.; 281]
A Vision represents a little of the best of WBY, and most of the worst. Leaps of imagination, audacious strokes, unforgettably sonorous phrases, and brilliant imagery comes in flashes; he retains his ability to make the esoteric and irrational at once universal and uniquely strange. But far more of the mateiral is ponderous, self-regarding, wildly didactic, inconsistent, and unconvincing. The generalisations on which the archetypes are erected, the arbitrary and self-referencing symbolism, the incomprehensibility of it all to anyone not already verses in his own thought and life, rob it of any general intellectual interest. he came to see this himself with embarrassing rapidity, with the unfortunate result that the great autodidact set himmself to producing an alternative version, published twelve years later.
The value inherent in the volume dated 1925 (though published in 1926) is an autobiographical lode. [.; p.282.)