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William Butler Yeats

William Butler Yeats

William Butler Yeats had a forceful personality. His personal philosophy was a blend of aestheticism (a belief that art and beauty are important for everything) and atheism (a belief that there is no God). William felt its influence much later as it showed up in his interest in magic and the occult sciences and in his highly original system of aesthetics (beauty). Yeats devised his doctrine of the mask as a means of presenting very personal thoughts and experiences to the world without danger of sentimentality (excessive emotions). By discovering the kind of man who would be his exact opposite, Yeats believed he could then put on the mask of this ideal “antiself” and thus produce art from the synthesis (combination) of opposing natures. For this reason his poetry is often structured on paired opposites.

Yeats turned to magic for the illogical system that would oppose and complete his art. He drew upon Buddhism (an ancient Eastern religion), as well as upon Jewish and Christian mystic (spiritual) books to try and capture what he thought was a harmony of the opposite elements of life. Yeats also believed that history was cyclical (circular) and that every two thousand years a new cycle, which is the opposite of the cycle that has preceded it, begins.


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