Dyslexia Series-Disabled Legend William James

William James was born on 11 January, 1842 at the Astor House in New York City, New York, USA and died on 26 August, 1910 of heart failure at his home in Chocorua, New Hampshire.

William James was a pioneering American psychologist and philosopher trained as a medical doctor. William James wrote influential books on the young science of psychology, educational psychology, psychology of religious experience and mysticism, and the philosophy of pragmatism. William James was the brother of novelist Henry James and of diarist Alice James.

William James was the son of Henry James Sr., an independently wealthy and notoriously eccentric Swedenborgian theologian well acquainted with the literary and intellectual elites of his day. The intellectual brilliance of the James family milieu and the remarkable epistolary talents of several of its members have made them a subject of continuing interest to historians, biographers, and critics.

William James interacted with a wide array of writers and scholars throughout his life, including his godfather Ralph Waldo Emerson, as well as Horace Greeley, William Cullen Bryant, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., Charles Peirce, Josiah Royce, George Santayana, Ernst Mach, John Dewey, W. E. B. Du Bois, Helen Keller, Mark Twain, Horatio Alger, Jr., James George Frazer, Henri Bergson, H. G. Wells, G. K. Chesterton, Sigmund Freud, Gertrude Stein, and Carl Jung.

William James, with his younger brother Henry James (who became a prominent novelist) and sister Alice James (who is known for her posthumously published diary), received an eclectic trans-Atlantic education, developing fluency in both German and French languages along with a cosmopolitan character. William James’ family made 2 trips to Europe while he was still a child, setting a pattern that resulted in thirteen more European journeys during his life. William James’ early artistic bent led to an early apprenticeship in the studio of William Morris Hunt in Newport, Rhode Island, but yielded in 1861 to scientific studies at Harvard University’s Lawrence Scientific School.

In his early adulthood, William James suffered from a variety of physical ailments, including those of the eyes, back, stomach, and skin. William James was also subject to a variety of psychological symptoms which were diagnosed at the time as neurasthenia, and which included periods of depression during which he contemplated suicide for months on end. 2 younger brothers, Garth Wilkinson (Wilky) and Robertson (Bob), fought in the Civil War, but the other three siblings (William, Henry, and Alice) all suffered from periods of invalidism.

William James switched to medical studies at Harvard Medical School in 1864. William James took a break in the spring of 1865 to join Harvard’s Louis Agassiz on a scientific expedition up the Amazon River, but aborted his trip after eight months, having suffered bouts of severe seasickness and mild smallpox. William James’ studies were interrupted once again due to illness in April 1867. William James traveled to Germany in search of a cure and remained until November 1868. (During this period he began to publish, with reviews appearing in literary periodicals like the North American Review.) William James finally earned his M.D. degree in June 1869, but never practiced medicine. What he called his “soul-sickness” would only be resolved in 1872, after an extended period of philosophical searching. William James married Alice Gibbens in 1878.

William James’ time in Germany proved intellectually fertile, helping him find that his true interests lay not in medicine but in philosophy and psychology. Later, in 1902 he would write: “I originally studied medicine in order to be a physiologist, but I drifted into psychology and philosophy from a sort of fatality. I never had any philosophic instruction, the first lecture on psychology I ever heard being the first I ever gave”.

William James spent his entire academic career at Harvard. William James was appointed instructor in physiology for the spring 1873 term, instructor in anatomy and physiology in 1873, assistant professor of psychology in 1876, assistant professor of philosophy in 1881, full professor in 1885, endowed chair in psychology in 1889, return to philosophy in 1897, and emeritus professor of philosophy in 1907.

William James studied medicine, physiology, and biology, and began to teach in those subjects, but was drawn to the scientific study of the human mind at a time when psychology was constituting itself as a science. William James’s acquaintance with the work of figures like Hermann Helmholtz in Germany and Pierre Janet in France facilitated his introduction of courses in scientific psychology at Harvard University. William James taught his first experimental psychology course at Harvard in the 1875-1876 academic year.

During his Harvard years, William James joined in philosophical discussions with Charles Peirce, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Chauncey Wright that evolved into a lively group known as the Metaphysical Club by the early 1870s. Louis Menand speculates that the Club provided a foundation for American intellectual thought for decades to come.

Among William James’ students at Harvard were such luminaries as Boris Sidis, Theodore Roosevelt, George Santayana, W.E.B. Du Bois, G. Stanley Hall, Ralph Barton Perry, Gertrude Stein, Horace Kallen, Morris Raphael Cohen, Alain Locke, C. I. Lewis, and Mary Calkins.

Following his January, 1907 retirement from Harvard, William James continued to write and lecture, publishing Pragmatism, A Pluralistic Universe, and The Meaning of Truth. William James was increasingly afflicted with cardiac pain during his last years. It worsened in 1909 while he worked on a philosophy text (unfinished but posthumously published as Some Problems in Philosophy). William James sailed to Europe in the spring of 1910 to take experimental treatments which proved unsuccessful, and returned home on August 18.

William James was one of the strongest proponents of the school of Functionalism in psychology and of Pragmatism in philosophy. William James was a founder of the American Society for Psychical Research, as well as a champion of alternative approaches to healing. William James challenged his professional colleagues not to let a narrow mindset prevent an honest appraisal of those phenomena.

In an empirical study by Haggbloom et al using 6 criteria such as citations and recognition, William James was found to be the 14th most eminent psychologist of the 20th Century.

William James wrote voluminously throughout his life. A fairly complete bibliography of his writings by John McDermott is 47 pages long.

William James gained widespread recognition with his monumental Principles of Psychology (1890), 1200 pages in 2 volumes which took 12 years to complete. Psychology: The Briefer Course, was an 1892 abridgement designed as a less rigorous introduction to the field. These works criticized both the English associationist school and the Hegelianism of his day as competing dogmatisms of little explanatory value, and sought to re-conceive of the human mind as inherently purposive and selective.

William James defined true beliefs as those that prove useful to the believer. Truth, he said, is that which works in the way of belief. “True ideas lead us into useful verbal and conceptual quarters as well as directly up to useful sensible termini. They lead to consistency, stability and flowing human intercourse ” but ” all true processes must lead to the face of directly verifying sensible experiences somewhere,” he wrote.

William James’ assertion that the value of a truth depends upon its use to the individual who holds it is known as pragmatism. Additional tenets of William James’ pragmatism include the view that the world is a mosaic of diverse experiences that can only be properly understood through an application of “radical empiricism.” Radical empiricism, distinct from everyday scientific empiricism, presumes that nature and experience can never be frozen for absolutely objective analysis, that, at the very least, the mind of the observer will affect the outcome of any empirical approach to truth since, empirically, the mind and nature are inseparable. William James’ emphasis on diversity as the default human condition — over and against duality, especially Hegelian dialectical duality — has maintained a strong influence in American culture, especially among liberals, and his radical empiricism lies in the background of contemporary relativism. William James’ description of the mind-world connection, which he described in terms of a “stream of consciousness,” had a direct and significant impact on avant-garde and modernist literature and art.

In What Pragmatism Means, William James writes that the central point of his own doctrine of truth is, in brief, that “truth is one species of good, and not, as is usually supposed, a category distinct from good, and coordinate with it. Truth is the name of whatever proves itself to be good in the way of belief, and good, too, for definite, assignable reasons.” Richard Rorty claims that James did not mean to give a theory of truth with this statement and that we should not regard it as such. However, other pragmatism scholars such as Susan Haack and Howard Mounce do not share Rorty’s instrumentalist interpretation of William James.

In The Meaning of Truth, William James speaks of truth in relativistic terms: “The critic’s [sc., the critic of pragmatism] trouble…seems to come from his taking the word ‘true’ irrelatively, whereas the pragmatist always means ‘true for him who experiences the workings.’ ”

William James went on to apply the pragmatic method to the epistemological problem of truth. William James would seek the meaning of ‘true’ by examining how the idea functioned in our lives. A belief was true, he said, if in the long run it worked for all of us, and guided us expeditiously through our semihospitable world. William James was anxious to uncover what true beliefs amounted to in human life, what their “Cash Value” was, what consequences they led to. A belief was not a mental entity which somehow mysteriously corresponded to an external reality if the belief were true. Beliefs were ways of acting with reference to a precarious environment, and to say they were true was to say they guided us satisfactorily in this environment. In this sense the pragmatic theory of truth applied Darwinian ideas in philosophy; it made survival the test of intellectual as well as biological fitness. If what was true was what worked, we can scientifically investigate religion’s claim to truth in the same manner. The enduring quality of religious beliefs throughout recorded history and in all cultures gave indirect support for the view that such beliefs worked. William James also argued directly that such beliefs were satisfying — they enabled us to lead fuller, richer lives and were more viable than their alternatives. Religious beliefs were expedient in human existence, just as scientific beliefs were.

Will to Believe Doctrine
Main article: Will to Believe Doctrine
In William James’s lecture of 1897 titled “The Will to Believe,” William James defends the right to violate the principle of evidentialism in order to justify hypothesis venturing. Although this doctrine is often seen as a way for William James to justify religious beliefs, his philosophy of pragmatism allows him to use the results of his hypothetical venturing as evidence to support the hypothesis’ truth. Therefore, this doctrine allows one to assume belief in God and prove its existence by what the belief brings to one’s life.

William James did important work in philosophy of religion. In his Gifford Lectures at the University of Edinburgh he provided a wide-ranging account of The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902) and interpreted them according to his pragmatic leanings. Some of the important claims he makes in this regard:

Religious genius (experience) should be the primary topic in the study of religion, rather than religious institutions—since institutions are merely the social descendant of genius.

The intense, even pathological varieties of experience (religious or otherwise) should be sought by psychologists, because they represent the closest thing to a microscope of the mind—that is, they show us in drastically enlarged form the normal processes of things.

In order to usefully interpret the realm of common, shared experience and history, we must each make certain “over-beliefs” in things which, while they cannot be proven on the basis of experience, help us to live fuller and better lives.

The investigation of mystical experience was constant throughout the life of William James, leading him to experiment with chloral hydrate (1870), amyl nitrite (1875), nitrous oxide (1882), and even peyote (1896). William James claimed that it was only when he was under the influence of nitrous oxide that he was able to understand Hegel. William James concluded that while the revelations of the mystic hold true, they hold true only for the mystic; for others, they are certainly ideas to be considered, but can hold no claim to truth without personal experience of such.

William James is one of the 2 namesakes of the William James-Lange theory of emotion, which he formulated independently of Carl Lange in the 1880s. The theory holds that emotion is the mind’s perception of physiological conditions that result from some stimulus. In William James’ oft-cited example; it is not that we see a bear, fear it, and run. We see a bear and run, consequently we fear the bear. Our mind’s perception of the higher adrenaline level, heartbeat, etc., is the emotion.

This way of thinking about emotion has great consequences for the philosophy of aesthetics. Here is a passage from his great work, Principles of Psychology, that spells out those consequences.

We must immediately insist that aesthetic emotion, pure and simple, the pleasure given us by certain lines and masses, and combinations of colors and sounds, is an absolutely sensational experience, an optical or auricular feeling that is primary, and not due to the repercussion backwards of other sensations elsewhere consecutively aroused. To this simple primary and immediate pleasure in certain pure sensations and harmonious combinations of them, there may, it is true, be added secondary pleasures; and in the practical enjoyment of works of art by the masses of mankind these secondary pleasures play a great part. The more classic one’s taste is, however, the less relatively important are the secondary pleasures felt to be, in comparison with those of the primary sensation as it comes in. Classicism and romanticism have their battles over this point. Complex suggestiveness, the awakening of vistas of memory and association, and the stirring of our flesh with picturesque mystery and gloom, make a work of art romantic. The classic taste brands these effects as coarse and tawdry, and prefers the naked beauty of the optical and auditory sensations, unadorned with frippery or foliage. To the romantic mind, on the contrary, the immediate beauty of these sensations seems dry and thin. I am of course not discussing which view is right, but only showing that the discrimination between the primary feeling of beauty, as a pure incoming sensible quality, and the secondary emotions which are grafted thereupon, is one that must be made.

Why do we run away if we notice that we are in danger? Because we are afraid of what will happen if we don’t. This obvious (and incorrect) answer to a seemingly trivial question has been the central concern of a century-old debate about the nature of our emotions.

It all began in 1884 when William James published an article titled “What Is an Emotion?” The article appeared in a philosophy journal called Mind, as there were no psychology journals yet. It was important, not because it definitively answered the question it raised, but because of the way in which William James phrased his response. William James conceived of an emotion in terms of a sequence of events that starts with the occurrence of an arousing stimulus {the sympathetic nervous system or the parasympathetic nervous system}; and ends with a passionate feeling, a conscious emotional experience. A major goal of emotion research is still to elucidate this stimulus-to-feeling sequence—to figure out what processes come between the stimulus and the feeling.

William James set out to answer his question by asking another: do we run from a bear because we are afraid or are we afraid because we run? William James proposed that the obvious answer, that we run because we are afraid, was wrong, and instead argued that we are afraid because we run:
Our natural way of thinking about… emotions is that the mental perception of some fact excites the mental affection called emotion, and that this latter state of mind gives rise to the bodily expression. My thesis on the contrary is that the bodily changes follow directly the PERCEPTION of the exciting fact, and that our feeling of the same changes as they occur is the emotion (called ‘feeling’ by Damasio).

The essence of William James’ proposal was simple. It was premised on the fact that emotions are often accompanied by bodily responses (racing heart, tight stomach, sweaty palms, tense muscles, and so on; sympathetic nervous system) and that we can sense what is going on inside our body much the same as we can sense what is going on in the outside world. According to William James, emotions feel different from other states of mind because they have these bodily responses that give rise to internal sensations, and different emotions feel different from one another because they are accompanied by different bodily responses and sensations. For example, when we see William James’ bear, we run away. During this act of escape, the body goes through a physiological upheaval: blood pressure rises, heart rate increases, pupils dilate, palms sweat, muscles contract in certain ways (evolutionary, innate defense mechanisms). Other kinds of emotional situations will result in different bodily upheavals. In each case, the physiological responses return to the brain in the form of bodily sensations, and the unique pattern of sensory feedback gives each emotion its unique quality. Fear feels different from anger or love because it has a different physiological signature {the parasympathetic nervous system for love}. The mental aspect of emotion, the feeling, is a slave to its physiology, not vice versa: we do not tremble because we are afraid or cry because we feel sad; we are afraid because we tremble and are sad because we cry.

One of the long-standing schisms in the philosophy of history concerns the role of individuals in social change.

One faction sees individuals (“heroes” as Thomas Carlyle called them) as the motive power of history, and the broader society as the page on which they write their acts. The other sees society as moving according to holistic principles or laws, and sees individuals as its more-or-less willing pawns. In 1880, William James waded into this controversy with “Great Men and Their Environment,” an essay published in the Atlantic Monthly. William James took Carlyle’s side, but without Carlyle’s one-sided emphasis on the political/military sphere, upon heroes as the founders or overthrowers of states and empires.

“Rembrandt must teach us to enjoy the struggle of light with darkness,” William James wrote. “Wagner to enjoy peculiar musical effects; Dickens gives a twist to our sentimentality, Artemus Ward to our humor; Emerson kindles a new moral light within us.”

In 1909 William James published Expériences d’un Psychiste, a book which he relates many experiments that he had with the medium Leonora Piper. William James’ first commentary about Piper, however, was published in Science:

In the trances of this medium, I cannot resist the conviction that knowledge appears which she has never gained by the ordinary waking use of her eyes and ears and wits.

William James gave more detailed informations about his first experiments with Piper in the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research:

I made Mrs. Piper’s acquaintance in the autumn of 1885. My wife’s mother, Mrs. Gibbens, had been told of her by a friend, during the previous summer, and never having seen a medium before, had paid her a visit out of curiosity. Mrs Piper returned with the statement that Mrs. P. had given her a long string of names of members of the family, mostly Christian names, together with facts about the persons mentioned and their relations to each other, the knowledge of which on her part was incomprehensible without supernormal powers. My sister-in-law went the next day, with still better results, as she related them. Amongst other things, the medium had accurately described the circumstances of the writer of a letter which she held against her forehead, after Miss G. had given it to her. The letter was in Italian, and its writer was known to but 2 persons in this country. [I may add that on a later occasion my wife and I took another letter from this same person to Mrs. P., who went on to speak of him in a way which identified him unmistakably again. On a third occasion, 2 years later, my sister-in-law and I being again with Mrs. P., she reverted in her trance to these letters, and then gave us the writer’s name, which she said she had not been able to get on the former occasion.] But to revert to the beginning. I remember playing the esprit fort on that occasion before my feminine relatives, and seeking to explain, by simple considerations the marvellous character of the facts which they brought back. This did not, however, prevent me from going myself a few days later, in company with my wife, to get a direct personal impression. The names of none of us up to this meeting had been announced to Mrs. P., and Mrs. J. and I were, of course, careful to make no reference to our relatives who had preceded. The medium, however, when entranced, repeated most of the names of ” spirits” whom she had announced on the 2 former occasions and added others. The names came with difficulty, and were only gradually made perfect. My wife’s father’s name of Gibbens was announced first as Niblin, then as Giblin. A child Herman (whom we had lost the previous year) had his name spelt out as Herrin. I think that in no case were both Christian and surnames given on this visit. But the facts predicated of the persons named made it in many instances impossible not to recognise the particular individuals who were talked about. We took particular pains on this occasion to give the Phinuit control no help over his difficulties and to ask no leading questions. In the light of subsequent experience I believe this not to be the best policy. For it often happens, if you give this trance-personage a name or some small fact for the lack of which he is brought to a standstill, that he will then start off with a copious flow of additional talk, containing in itself an abundance of ” tests.” My impression after this first visit was, that Mrs. P. was either possessed of supernormal powers, or knew the members of my wife’s family by sight and had by some lucky coincidence become acquainted with such a multitude of their domestic circumstances as to produce the startling impression which she did. My later knowledge of her sittings and personal acquaintance with her has led me absolutely to reject the latter explanation, and to believe that she has supernormal powers.

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Dyslexia Series-Disabled Legend William Yeats

William Butler Yeats pronounced /ˈjeɪts/; was born on 13 June, 1865 in Sandymount, County Dublin, Ireland and died on 28 January, 1939. William was an Irish poet and dramatist, and one of the foremost figures of 20th-century literature. A pillar of both the Irish and English literary establishments, in his later years Yeats served as an Irish Senator for two terms. William was a driving force behind the Irish Literary Revival, and together with Lady Gregory and Edward Martyn founded the Abbey Theatre, and served as its chief during its early years. In 1923, he was awarded a Nobel Prize in Literature for what the Nobel Committee described as “inspired poetry, which in a highly artistic form gives expression to the spirit of a whole nation;” and he was the first Irishman so honored. William is generally considered one of the few writers whose greatest works were completed after being awarded the Nobel Prize; such works include The Tower (1928) and The Winding Stair and Other Poems (1929).

William was born and educated in Dublin, but spent his childhood in Sligo. William studied poetry in his youth, and from an early age was fascinated by both Irish legends and the occult. Those topics feature in the first phase of his work, which lasted roughly until the turn of the century. William’s earliest volume of verse was published in 1889, and those slowly paced and lyrical poems display debts to Edmund Spenser and Percy Bysshe Shelley, as well as to the lyricism of the Pre-Raphaelite poets.

From 1900, William’s poetry grew more physical and realistic. William largely renounced the transcendental beliefs of his youth, though he remained preoccupied with physical and spiritual masks, as well as with cyclical theories of life. Over the years Yeats adopted many different ideological positions, including, in the words of the critic Michael Valdez Moses, “those of radical nationalist, classical liberal, reactionary conservative and millenarian nihilist”.

William’s father, John Butler Yeats, was a descendant of Jervis Yeats, a Williamite soldier and linen merchant who died in 1712. Jervis’ grandson Benjamin married Mary Butler, daughter of a landed family in County Kildare. At the time of his marriage, John Yeats was studying law, but abandoned his studies to study art at Heatherley’s Art School in London. William’s mother, Susan Mary Pollexfen, came from a wealthy Anglo-Irish family in County Sligo who owned a prosperous milling and shipping business. Soon after William’s birth the family relocated to Sligo to stay with her extended family, and the young poet came to think of the area as his childhood and spiritual home. Its landscape became, over time, both literally and symbolically, his “country of the heart”. The Butler Yeats family were highly artistic; his brother Jack went on to be a highly regarded painter, while his sisters Elizabeth and Susan—known to family and friends as Lollie and Lily—became involved in the Arts and Crafts movement.

William grew up as a member of the Protestant Ascendancy, at the time undergoing a crisis of identity. While his family was broadly supportive of the changes Ireland was experiencing, the nationalist revival of the late 19th century directly disadvantaged his heritage, and informed his outlook for the remainder of his life. In 1997, his biographer R. F. Foster observed that Napoleon’s dictum that to understand the man you have to know what was happening in the world when he was 20″is manifestly true of W.B.Y.” William’s childhood and young adulthood were shadowed by the power shift away from the minority Protestant Ascendency. The 1880s saw the rise of Parnell and the Home rule movement, the 1890s the momentum of nationalism, while the Fenians became prominent around the turn of the century. These developments were to have a profound effect on his poetry, and his subsequent explorations of Irish identity had a significant influence on the creation of his country’s biography.

In 1876, the family moved to England to aid their father, John, to further his career as an artist. At first the Yeats children were educated at home. Their mother entertained them with stories and folktales from her county of birth. John provided an erratic education in geography and chemistry, and took William on natural history explorations of the nearby Slough countryside. On 6 January 1877, the young poet entered the Godolphin primary school, which he attended for 4 years. William did not distinguish himself academically, and an early school report describes his performance as “only fair. Perhaps better in Latin than in any other subject. Very poor in spelling.” Though he had difficulty with mathematics and languages, he was fascinated by biology and zoology. For financial reasons, the family returned to Dublin toward the end of 1880, living at first in the city center and later in the suburb of Howth. In October 1881, Yeats resumed his education at Dublin’s Erasmus Smith High School. William’s father’s studio was located nearby and William spent a great deal of time there, and met many of the city’s artists and writers. It was during this period that he started writing poetry, and in 1885 William’s first poems, as well as an essay entitled “The Poetry of Sir Samuel Ferguson”, were published in the Dublin University Review. Between 1884 to 1886, William attended the Metropolitan School of Art—now the National College of Art and Design—in Kildare Street. William first known works were written when he was seventeen, and include a poem heavily influenced by Percy Bysshe Shelley which describes a magician who set up his throne in central Asia. Other pieces from this period are a draft of a play involving a Bishop, a monk, and a woman accused of paganism by local shepherds, as well as love-poems and narrative lyrics on medieval German knights. The early works were both conventional and according to the critic Charles Johnson “utterly unIrish”, seeming to come out of a “vast murmurous gloom of dreams”. Although William’s early works drew heavily on Shelley, Edmund Spenser, and on the diction and colouring of pre-Raphaelite verse, he soon turned to Irish myth and folklore and the writings of William Blake. In later life, William paid tribute to Blake by describing him as one of the “great artificers of God who uttered great truths to a little clan”.

The family returned to London in 1887. In 1890, William co-founded the Rhymers’ Club with Ernest Rhys, a group of London based poets who met regularly in a Fleet Street tavern to recite their verse. The collective later became known as the “Tragic Generation” and published 2 anthologies: first in 1892 and again in 1894. William collaborated with Edwin Ellis on the first complete edition of William Blake’s works, in the process rediscovering a forgotten poem “Vala, or, the Four Zoas.”

In a late essay on Shelley, Yeats wrote, “I have re-read Prometheus Unbound… and it seems to me to have an even more certain place than I had thought among the sacred books of the world.”

William had a life-long interest in mysticism, spiritualism, occultism, and astrology. William read extensively on the subjects throughout his life and was especially influenced by the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg. As early as 1892, he wrote: “If I had not made magic my constant study I could not have written a single word of my Blake book, nor would The Countess Kathleen ever have come to exist. The mystical life is the center of all that I do and all that I think and all that I write.” William’s mystical interests—also inspired by a study of Hinduism, under the Theosophist Mohini Chatterjee, and the occult—formed much of the basis of his late poetry. However, some critics have dismissed these influences as lacking in intellectual credibility. In particular, W. H. Auden criticized this aspect of William’s work as the “deplorable spectacle of a grown man occupied with the mumbo-jumbo of magic and the nonsense of India.”

William’s first significant poem was “The Isle of Statues,” a fantasy work that took Edmund Spenser for its poetic model. The piece appeared in Dublin University Review, but has not since been republished. William’s first solo publication was the pamphlet Mosada: A Dramatic Poem (1886), which comprised a print run of 100 copies paid for by his father. This was followed by the collection The Wanderings of Oisin and Other Poems (1889), which arranged a series of verse that dated as far back as the mid-1880s. The long titular poem contains, in the words of his biographer R.F. Foster, “obscure Gaelic names, striking repetitions [and] an unremitting rhythm subtly varied as the poem proceeded through its 3 sections”.

We rode in sorrow, with strong hounds three,
Bran, Sgeolan, and Lomair,
On a morning misty and mild and fair.
The mist-drops hung on the fragrant trees,
And in the blossoms hung the bees.
We rode in sadness above Lough Lean,
For our best were dead on Gavra’s green.

“The Wanderings of Oisin” is based on the lyrics of the Fenian Cycle of Irish mythology and displays the influence of both Sir Samuel Ferguson and the Pre-Raphaelite poets. The poem took 2 years to complete and was one of the few works from this period that he did not disown in his maturity. Oisin introduces what was to become one of his most important themes: the appeal of the life of contemplation over the appeal of the life of action. Following the work, Yeats never again attempted another long poem. William’s other early poems, which are meditations on the themes of love or mystical and esoteric subjects, include Poems (1895), The Secret Rose (1897), and The Wind Among the Reeds (1899).

During 1885, William was involved in the formation of the Dublin Hermetic Order. The society held its first meeting on 16 June, with William acting as its chairman. The same year, the Dublin Theosophical lodge was opened in conjunction with Brahmin Mohini Chatterjee, who traveled from the Theosophical Society in London to lecture. William attended his first séance the following year. William later became heavily involved with the Theosophical Society and with hermeticism, particularly with the eclectic Rosicrucianism of the Golden Dawn. During séances held from 1912, a spirit calling itself “Leo Africanus” apparently claimed to be William’s Daemon or anti-self, inspiring some of the speculations in Per Amica Silentia Lunae.

William was admitted into the Golden Dawn in March 1890 and took the magical motto Daemon est Deus inversus—translated as Devil is God inverted or A demon is a god reflected. William was an active recruiter for the sect’s Isis-Urania temple, and brought in his uncle George Pollexfen, Maud Gonne, and Florence Farr. Although he reserved a distaste for abstract and dogmatic religions founded around personality cults, he was attracted to the type of people he met at the Golden Dawn. William was involved in the Order’s power struggles, both with Farr and Macgregor Mathers, but was most notably involved when Mathers sent Aleister Crowley to repossess Golden Dawn paraphernalia during the “Battle of Blythe Road.” After the Golden Dawn ceased and splintered into various offshoots, William remained with the Stella Matutina until 1921.

Maud Gonne ca. 1900.In 1889, William met Maud Gonne, then a 23 year old heiress and ardent Nationalist. Gonne was 18 months younger than William and later claimed she met the poet as a “paint-stained art student.” Gonne had admired “The Isle of Statues” and sought out his acquaintance. William developed an obsessive infatuation with her beauty and outspoken manner, and she was to have a significant and lasting effect on his poetry and his life thereafter. Looking back in later years, he admitted “it seems to me that she [Gonne] brought into my life those days—for as yet I saw only what lay upon the surface—the middle of the tint, a sound as of a Burmese gong, an over-powering tumult that had yet many pleasant secondary notes.” William’s love remained unrequited, in part due to his reluctance to participate in her nationalist activism. William’s only other love affair during this period was with Olivia Shakespeare, whom he had first met in 1896, and parted with 1 year later.

In 1895, he visited Gonne in Ireland and proposed marriage, but was rejected. William later admitted that from that point “the troubling of my life began.” William proposed to Gonne 3 more times: in 1899, 1900 and 1901. Gonne refused each proposal, and in 1903, to his horror, married the Irish nationalist Major John MacBride.

A 1907 engraving. William’s friendship with Gonne persisted, and in Paris in 1908 they finally consummated their relationship. “The long years of fidelity rewarded at last” was how another of his lovers described the event. William was less sentimental and later remarked that “the tragedy of sexual intercourse is the perpetual virginity of the soul.” The relationship did not develop into a new phase after their night together, and soon afterwards Gonne wrote to the poet indicating that despite the physical consummation, they could not continue as they had been: “I have prayed so hard to have all earthly desire taken from my love for you & dearest, loving you as I do, I have prayed & I am praying still that the bodily desire for me may be taken from you too.” By January 1909, Gonne was sending William letters praising the advantage given to artists who abstain from sex. Nearly 20 years later, William recalled the night with Gonne in his poem “A Man Young and Old”:

My arms are like the twisted thorn
And yet there beauty lay;
The first of all the tribe lay there
And did such pleasure take;
She who had brought great Hector down
And put all Troy to wreck.

In 1896, William was introduced to Lady Gregory by their mutual friend Edward Martyn. Gregory encouraged William’s nationalism, and convinced him to continue focusing on writing drama. Although he was influenced by French Symbolism, William concentrated on an identifiably Irish content and this inclination was reinforced by his involvement with a new generation of younger and emerging Irish authors.

Together with Lady Gregory, Martyn, and other writers including J. M. Synge, Sean O’Casey, and Padraic Colum, William was one of those responsible for the establishment of the “Irish Literary Revival” movement. Apart from these creative writers, much of the impetus for the Revival came from the work of scholarly translators who were aiding in the discovery of both the ancient sagas and Ossianic poetry and the more recent folk song tradition in Irish. One of the most significant of these was Douglas Hyde, later the first President of Ireland, whose Love Songs of Connacht was widely admired.

In 1899, William, Lady Gregory, Martyn, and George Moore established the Irish Literary Theatre for the purpose of performing Celtic and Irish plays. The ideals of the Abbey were derived from the avant-garde French theatre, which sought to express the “ascendancy of the playwright rather than the actor-manager à l’anglais.”

The group’s manifesto, which William himself wrote, declared “We hope to find in Ireland an uncorrupted & imaginative audience trained to listen by its passion for oratory… & that freedom to experiment which is not found in the theaters of England, & without which no new movement in art or literature can succeed.”

The collective survived for about 2 years and was not successful. However, working together with two Irish brothers with theatrical experience, William and Frank Fay, William’s unpaid-yet-independently wealthy secretary Annie Elizabeth Fredericka Horniman, and the leading West End actress Florence Farr, the group established the Irish National Theatre Society. This group of founders was able, along with J.M. Synge, to acquire property in Dublin and open the Abbey Theatre on 27 December, 1904. William’s play Cathleen Ní Houlihan and Lady Gregory’s Spreading the News were featured on the opening night. William continued to be involved with the Abbey until his death, both as a member of the board and a prolific playwright. In 1902, he helped set up the Dun Emer Press to publish work by writers associated with the Revival. This became the Cuala Press in 1904, and inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement, sought to “find work for Irish hands in the making of beautiful things.”
From then until its closure in 1946, the press—which was run by the poet’s sisters—produced over 70 titles; 48 of them books by William himself.

William Butler Yeats, 1933. Unknown photographer. U.S. Library of Congress.In 1913, Yeats met the young American poet Ezra Pound. Pound had traveled to London at least partly to meet the older man, whom he considered “the only poet worthy of serious study.” From that year until 1916, the 2 men wintered in the Stone Cottage at Ashdown Forest, with Pound nominally acting as William’ secretary. The relationship got off to a rocky start when Pound arranged for the publication in the magazine Poetry of some of William’s verse with Pound’s own unauthorised alterations. These changes reflected Pound’s distaste for Victorian prosody. A more indirect influence was the scholarship on Japanese Noh plays that Pound had obtained from Ernest Fenollosa’s widow, which provided William with a model for the aristocratic drama he intended to write. The first of his plays modeled on Noh was At the Hawk’s Well, the first draft of which he dictated to Pound in January 1916.

In his early work, William’s aristocratic pose led to an idealisation of the Irish peasant and a willingness to ignore poverty and suffering. However, the emergence of a revolutionary movement from the ranks of the urban Catholic lower-middle class made him reassess his attitudes. William’s new direct engagement with politics can be seen in the poem September 1913, with its well-known refrain “Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone / It’s with O’Leary in the grave.” The poem is an attack on the Dublin employers who were involved in the 1913 Dublin Lockout of workers in support of James Larkin’s attempts to organise the Irish labour movement. In the refrain of “Easter 1916” (“All changed, changed utterly / A terrible beauty is born”), William faces his own failure to recognise the merits of the leaders of the Easter Rising, due to his attitude towards their humble backgrounds and lives.

By 1916, William was 51 years old and determined to marry and produce an heir. William’s final proposal to Maud Gonne took place in the summer of 1916. In his view, Gonne’s history of rabid revolutionary political activism, as well as a series of personal catastrophes in the previous few years of her life, including chloroform addiction and a troubled marriage to John MacBride—an Irish revolutionary who was later executed by British forces for his role in the 1916 Easter Rising—made her an unsuitable wife. Biographer R.F. Foster has observed that william’s last offer was motivated more by a sense of duty than by a genuine desire to marry Gonne. William made his proposal in an indifferent manner, with conditions attached, and both expected and hoped to be turned down. According to Foster “when he duly asked Maud to marry him, and was duly refused, his thoughts shifted with surprising speed to her daughter”. Iseult Gonne was Maud’s second child with Lucien Millevoye, and at the time was 21 years old. Gone had lived a sad life to this point. Iseult had been conceived as an attempt to reincarnate her short lived brother, and for the first few years of her life was presented as her mother’s adopted niece. William was molested by her stepfather when she was 11, and later worked as a gunrunner for the Irish Republican Army. At 15 she proposed to William. A few months after the poet’s approach to Maud, he proposed to Iseult, but was rejected. Reflecting in later years, William referred to the period as his “second puberty” and asked a friend “who am I, that I should not make a fool of myself”.

William photographed in 1923.That September, William proposed to 24 year old George (Georgie) Hyde-Lees (1892-1968), whom he had met through occult circles. Despite warning from her friends—”George … you can’t. He must be dead”—Hyde-Lees accepted, and the two were married on October 20. Their marriage was a success, in spite of the age difference, and in spite of William’s feelings of remorse and regret during their honeymoon. Around this time George wrote to her husband “When you are dead, people will talk about your love affairs, but I shall say nothing, for I will remember how proud you were”. The couple went on to have 2 children, Anne and Michael.

During the first years of his marriage, he and George engaged in a form of automatic writing, which involved George contacting a variety of spirits and guides, which they termed “Instructors”. The spirits communicated a complex and esoteric system of characters and history which they developed during experiments with the circumstances of trance and the exposition of phases, cones, and gyres. William devoted much time to preparing this material for publication as A Vision (1925). In 1924, he wrote to his publisher T. Werner Laurie admitting: “I dare say I delude myself in thinking this book my book of books”.

In December 1923, William was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature, and was determined to make the most of the occasion. William was aware of the symbolic value of an Irish winner so soon after Ireland had gained independence, and sought to highlight the fact at each available opportunity. William’s reply to the many of the letters of congratulations sent to him contained the words: “I consider that this honor has come to me less as an individual than as a representative of Irish literature, it is part of Europe’s welcome to the Free State.” William used the occasion of his acceptance lecture at the Royal Academy of Sweden to present himself as a standard-bearer of Irish nationalism and Irish cultural independence. As he remarked, “The theatres of Dublin were empty buildings hired by the English traveling companies, and we wanted Irish plays and Irish players. When we thought of these plays we thought of everything that was romantic and poetical, because the nationalism we had called up—the nationalism every generation had called up in moments of discouragement—was romantic and poetical.” The prize led to a significant increase in the sales of his books, as his publishers Macmillan sought to capitalise on the publicity. For the first time he had money, and he was able to repay not only his own debts, but those of his father.

Memorial statue of William Butler Yeats located in Sligo, Ireland. By the spring of 1925, William had published “A Vision”, and his health had stabilised. William had been appointed to the first Irish Senate in 1922, and was re-appointed for a second term in 1925. Early in his tenure a debate on divorce arose, and William viewed the issue as primarily a confrontation between the emerging Catholic ethos and the Protestant minority. When the Catholic church weighed in with a blanket refusal to consider their anti position, the Irish Times countered that a measure to outlaw divorce would alienate Protestants and “crystallize” the partition of Northern Ireland. In response, William delivered a series of speeches in which he attacked the “quixotically impressive” ambitions of the government and clergy, likening their campaign tactics to that of “medieval Spain”. “Marriage is not to us a Sacrament, but, upon the other hand, the love of a man and woman, and the inseparable physical desire, are sacred. This conviction has come to us through ancient philosophy and modern literature, and it seems to us a most sacrilegious thing to persuade two people who hate each other…to live together, and it is to us no remedy to permit them to part if neither can re-marry.” The resulting debate has been described as one of William “supreme public moments”, and began his ideological move away from pluralism towards religious confrontation. William’s language became more forceful; the Jesuit Father Peter Finlay was described by William as a man of “monstrous discourtesy”, and he lamented that “It is one of the glories of the Church in which I was born that we have put our Bishops in their place in discussions requiring legislation”. During his time in the senate, William further warned his colleagues: “If you show that this country, southern Ireland, is going to be governed by Roman Catholic ideas and by Catholic ideas alone, you will never get the North…You will put a wedge in the midst of this nation”. William memorably said of his fellow Irish Protestants, “we are no petty people”.

In 1924, he chaired a coinage committee charged with selecting a set of designs for the first currency of the Irish Free State. Aware of the symbolic power latent in the imagery a young state’s currency, he sought a form that was “elegant, racy of the soil, and utterly unpolitical”. When the house finally decided on the artwork of Percy Metcalfe, William was pleased, though he regretted that compromise had lead to “lost muscular tension” in the finally depicted images. William retired from the Senate in 1928 due to ill health.

Towards the end of his life—and especially after the Wall Street Crash and Great Depression, which led some to question whether democracy would be able to cope with deep economic difficulty—William seems to have returned to his aristocratic sympathies. During the aftermath of the First World War, he became skeptical about the efficacy of democratic government, and anticipated political reconstruction in Europe through totalitarian rule. William later association with Pound drew him towards Mussolini, for whom he expressed admiration on a number of occasions. William wrote 3 ‘marching songs’—never used—for the Irish General Eoin O’Duffy’s ‘Blueshirts’. However, when Pablo Neruda invited him to visit Madrid in 1937, William responded with a letter supporting the Republic against Fascism, and he distanced himself from Nazism and Fascism in the last years of his life.

William’s gravestone in Drumcliff, County Sligo.After undergoing the Steinach operation in 1934, when aged 69, he found a new vigour evident from both his poetry and his intimate relations with younger women. During this time William was involved in a number of romantic affairs with, among others, the poet and actress Margot Ruddock, and the novelist, journalist and sexual radicalist Ethel Mannin. As in his earlier life, William found erotic adventure conducive to his creative energy, and despite age and ill-health he remained a prolific writer. In 1936, he undertook editorship of the Oxford Book of Modern Verse, 1892–1935. Having suffered from a variety of illnesses for a number of years, he died at the Hôtel Idéal Séjour, in Menton, France on 28 January, 1939. William was buried after a discreet and private funeral at Roquebrune-Cap-Martin. William and George had often discussed his death, and his express wish was to be buried quickly in France with a minimum of fuss.

According to George “His actual words were ‘If I die bury me up there [at Roquebrune] and then in a year’s time when the newspapers have forgotten me, dig me up and plant me in Sligo”. In September 1948, William’s body was moved to Drumcliffe, County Sligo, on the Irish Naval Service corvette L.E. Macha. William’s epitaph is taken from the last lines of “Under Ben Bulben”, one of his final poems:

Cast a cold Eye
On Life, on Death.
Horseman, pass by.

William is generally considered to be one of the 20th century’s key English-language poets. William can be considered a Symbolist poet in that he used allusive imagery and symbolic structures throughout his career. William chooses words and puts them together so that in addition to a particular meaning they suggest other meanings that seem more significant. William’s use of symbols is usually something physical which is used both to be itself and to suggest other, perhaps immaterial, timeless qualities. Yet, unlike most modernists who experimented with free verse, William was also a master of the traditional verse forms. The impact of modernism on his work can be seen in the increasing abandonment of the more conventionally poetic diction of his early work in favor of the more austere language and more direct approach to his themes that increasingly characterises the poetry and plays of his middle period, comprising the volumes In the Seven Woods, Responsibilities and The Green Helmet. William’s later poetry and plays are written in a more personal vein, and the works written in the last 20 years of his life include mention of his son and daughter, as well as meditations on the experience of growing old. In his poem, “The Circus Animals’ Desertion”, he describes the inspiration for these late works:

Now that my ladder’s gone
I must lie down where all the ladders start
In the foul rag and bone shop of the heart

During 1929, he stayed at Thoor Ballylee, near Gort in County Galway (where William had his summer home since 1919) for the last time. Much of the remainder of his life was lived outside of Ireland, although he did lease Riversdale house in the Dublin suburb of Rathfarnham in 1932. William wrote prolifically through his final years, and published poetry, plays, and prose. In 1938, he attended the Abbey for the final time to see the premier of his play Purgatory. William’s Autobiographies of William Butler Yeats was published that same year.

1908 Portrait by John Singer Sargent. While William’s early poetry drew heavily on Irish myth and folklore, his later work was engaged with more contemporary issues, and his style underwent a dramatic transformation. William’s work can be divided into 3 general periods. The early poems are lushly pre-Raphaelite in tone, self-consciously ornate, and at times, according to unsympathetic critics, stilted.

William began by writing epic poems such as The Isle of Statues and The Wanderings of Oisin. After Oisin, he never attempted another long poem. William’s other early poems are lyrics on the themes of love or mystical and esoteric subjects. William’s middle period saw him abandon the pre-Raphaelite character of his early work and attempt to turn himself into a Landor-style social ironist. Critics who admire his middle work might characterize it as supple and muscular in its rhythms and sometimes harshly modernist, while others find these poems barren and weak in imaginative power. William’s later work found new imaginative inspiration in the mystical system he began to work out for himself under the influence of spiritualism. In many ways, this poetry is a return to the vision of his earlier work. The opposition between the worldly-minded man of the sword and the spiritually-minded man of God, the theme of The Wanderings of Oisin, is reproduced in A Dialogue Between Self and Soul.

Some critics claim that William spanned the transition from the 19th century into 20th century modernism in poetry much as Pablo Picasso did in painting. Others question whether late William really has much in common with modernists of the Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot variety. Modernists read the well-known poem “The Second Coming” as a dirge for the decline of European civilization in the mode of Eliot, but later critics have pointed out that this poem is an expression of William’s apocalyptic mystical theories, and thus the expression of a mind shaped by the 1890s. William’s most important collections of poetry started with The Green Helmet (1910) and Responsibilities (1914). In imagery, William’s poetry became sparer, more powerful as he grew older. The Tower (1928), The Winding Stairs (1929), and New Poems (1938) contained some of the most potent images in 20th century poetry; his Last Poems are conceded by most to be amongst his best.

William’s mystical inclinations, informed by Hindu Theosophical beliefs and the occult, formed much of the basis of his late poetry, which some critics have judged as lacking in intellectual credibility. W. H. Auden criticizes his late stage as the “deplorable spectacle of a grown man occupied with the mumbo-jumbo of magic and the nonsense of India”. The metaphysics of William’s late works must be read in relation to his system of esoteric fundamentalities in A Vision (1925).

William’s 1920 poem, “The Second Coming” is one of the most potent sources of imagery about the 20th century.

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned.
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

For the anti-democratic William, ‘the best’ referred to the traditional ruling classes of Europe, who were unable to protect the traditional culture of Europe from materialistic mass movements. The concluding lines refer to William’s belief that history was cyclic, and that his age represented the end of the cycle that began with the rise of Christianity.

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

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Dyslexia Series-Disabled Legend John Corcoran

John Waldon Corcoran Jr. Was born on 5 December, I937 in St. Louis, Missouri, to Jack and Agnes Leonard Corcoran. John is the 3rd child and only boy in a family of 6 children.

John who is dyslexic. Confessing his life long disability marked the end of shame anxiety, and ingenious evasions and the beginning of a crusade on behalf of literacy and education reform. Since then, he’s shared his experinences with everyone from prison inmates to Oprah audiences, even testifying on illiteracy issues before Congess. John told Biography Magazine: I always knew how much I wanted to be able to read, but I didn’t know how much it affected my being.”

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Dyslexia Series-Disabled Legend Paul Orfalea

Paul Orfalea nicknamed “Kinko” because of his curly red hair, was born in Los Angeles, founded the copy-chain Kinko’s. Paul Orfalea founded Kinko’s in 1970 near the University of California at Santa Barbara with a simple idea: provide college students with products and services they need at a competitive price. Co-workers helped him with written correspondence. Paul says there isn’t a machine at Kinko’s he can operate. Paul has dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). From its modest beginnings, Kinko’s is now the world’s leading business services chain. Today, there are over 1,500 Kinko’s worldwide.

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Dyslexia Series-Disabled Legend Nolan Ryan

Lynn Nolan Ryan, Jr. was born on 31 January, 1947. Nolan is a former pitcher in Major League Baseball who played for more than a quarter century and still holds many major league pitching records. Ryan played in a major league record 27 seasons for the New York Mets, California Angels, Houston Astros, and Texas Rangers, from 1966 to 1993. Nolan is the all-time leader in no-hitters with seven, three more than any other pitcher. Nolan is tied with Bob Feller for the most one-hitters, with 12. Ryan also pitched 18 two-hitters.

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Dyslexia Series-Disabled Legend Russell White

Russell White, What better way to slap you in the face than to graduate in four years. And the learning disability, dyslexia, what a blessing it was to find out it was not me, that it was the learning disability, and reflecting on the grammar school teachers who just thought I was lazy. You can’t put a price on all that.” “I wouldn’t change anything, because school was definitely good for me, finding out about my dyslexia and knowing I could be productive in society. If I had gone to any other school, I don’t think I could have achieved that knowledge.”

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Dyslexia Series-Disabled Legend Edward Hallowell

Edward Hallowell – Edward M. Hallowell is a child and adult psychiatrist who specialises in ADD/ADHD and who also has ADHD. He is the co-author of the book Delivered From Distraction. He also created The Hallowell Center for Cognitive and Emotional Health in Sudbury, MA. He is alumni of Harvard and is also on the faculty of Harvard Medical School since 1983. “At the end of first grade, I was still a poor reader, and, to this day, I’m painfully slow at getting through a book…I have a dyslexic brain, a disordered brain, call it what you will. My brain got me through Harvard as an English major and a pre-med minor. I graduated magna cum laude and went on to medical school, residency, and fellowship…If you’re born with a brain that harbors dyslexia, I would say, “Lucky you!” You have untestable and immeasurable potential. You’re a surprise package; no one knows what you can do, including you. But I can tell you from years of experience that you can do special things. You have many talents that can’t be taught, and a brain that eludes the predictive powers of our wisest sayers of sooth.” If you have dyslexia, you may learn to read, but you will read with difficulty. You will struggle to develop fluency, or the ease reading takes on for people who don’t have the condition. For them, reading becomes as automatic as riding a bike. They don’t have to think about maintaining their balance. That’s what it means to be fluent. But for the dyslexic, fluency is tough to acquire. He can read, but only slowly and only with effort and concentration.

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