“The One Deep Student”: Yeats and A. E. Waite

  • R. A. Gilbert
Part of the Yeats Annual book series (YA)


With the usual combination of malice and perceptiveness that typified his spiteful mind, Aleister Crowley threw together as his fictional opponents in his novel Moonchild, “Gates” and “one Arthwait” to represent the two opposing paths within the Golden Dawn. In reality these two were Yeats, the Magician, and A. E. Waite, the Mystic, but their ways had seemingly parted in 1903 and there was no obvious reason for Crowley to link them. Or was there?


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  1. 1.
    A. E. Waite, Shadows of Life and Thought: a Retrospective Review in the form of Memoirs (1938) p. 15.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was a secret Magical Order set up in 1887 by William Wynn Westcott, physician, Freemason and soi-disant Rosicrucian. He based the Order on a series of cypher manuscripts, allegedly of ancient date but probably forged in the 1880’s, and developed a series of initiatory rituals with the help of S. L. MacGregor Mathers, a fellow-Rosicrucian more inventive than Westcott and driven by a mania for power. An inner Order specifically concerned with Magic was added in 1892 and it was to this that the more earnest members gravitated. The curious history of the Order is told in full by Ellic Howe in his book The Magicians of the Golden Dawn (1972) and more briefly in my own The Golden Dawn: Twilight of the Magicians. (1983).Google Scholar
  3. Yeats’s involvement in the Order is recounted in George Harper’s Yeats’s Golden Dawn. (1974)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 5.
    Is the Order of R. R. & A. G. to Remain a Magical Order?, as reprinted in Yeats’s Golden Dawn, by George Mills Harper (London: Macmillan, 1974) p. 261.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 21.
    The Canon: an exposition of the Pagan Mystery perpetuated in the Cabala as the Rule of all the Arts. With a Preface by R. B. Cunninghame Graham (London, 1897). The book was published anonymously. Unpublished correspondence between Yeats and Rothenstein between 1898 and 1903 indicates that it was the latter who sought to interest Yeats in Stirling’s book (which was still being advertised on the endpapers of Yeats’s The Tables of the Law, AND The Adoration of the Magi (London: Elkin Mathews, 1904). Yeats was interested in Stirling’s work, and was prepared to try to interest occult students such as Waite in them, but had “no great trust” in his ideas. Yeats described Stirling’s death as a “terrible thing”, but the cause of his death is not known.Google Scholar
  6. 28.
    Waite evidently knew nothing of the Castle of Heroes. A full account is given in Lucy Shepard Kalogera, Yeats’s Celtic Mysteries (Unpub. Ph.D thesis, Florida State University, 1977).Google Scholar

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© Warwick Gould 1985

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  • R. A. Gilbert

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