White Moth Symbolism in the Poetry of W B Yeats – Time for the Timeless

And when white moths were on the wing and moth-like stars were flickering out, I threw the berry in a stream and caught a little silver trout.

In this line-by-line analysis of the poem Song of Wandering Aengus by W. B. Yeats, we come to examine the line,

When white moths where on the wing and moth-like stars where flickering out

I threw a berry in a stream.

We have explored the line-by-line journey of Wandering Aengus.

Little does he know what is before him. It will lead to a search for the re-union of that which he did not know he was separate from in the first place. It is our search for what we are separate from but have forgotten.

This is symbolized by the silver apples of the moon and the golden apples of the Sun. This is the KNOWING of the unity of the sacred feminine with the sacred masculine.

Our hero Wandering Aengus has gone out: –

Now he goes fishing with a berry.

Fishing for YOUR Life’s Vision

What is it you go fishing for in your life? What is it that inspires you to go out into that place apart from the ordinary world in search of something beyond the ordinary? This is the task of the second half of life following your living in the ordinary world of time and space during the first half.

Aengus goes fishing for that which will give him a glimpse of what is beyond time. This glimpse will be more than enough. It will change his life focus. It will change your life focus.

In different cultures from around the world this search is sanctified. IT is called a Vision Quest. This is especially the case in the Native American culture. There the young men of the tribe, at a certain age, are sent out into the wilderness to seek a vision for their life that is then their contribution to the health and well-being of the tribe. This can be a quest unto death. It is seen to be essential for living. It is because the vision comes from Essence.

Live the Life of Your Dreams: Be brave enough to live the life of your dreams according to your vision and purpose instead of the expectations and opinions of others. ― Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart

In our Western culture there is no such tradition. Our young men and women are not taught by the elders HOW TO search for meaning and purpose. The major invitation is a first half of life invitation that then extends for the whole of life. It is the vision that says. “What’s in it for me?”

It does not invite the young to explore the journey to the Boon Tree – the Gift Giving Tree. This is the inner experience of fullness from which they pour forth the gifts of their Being. In Irish mythology the Boon Tree is symbolised by The Cauldron of Plenty.  This is the fourth of The Four Treasures of Ireland.

So let us further explore the invitation that is the journey of Companioning YOUR Greatness through line by line reflection on the poem Song of Wandering Aengus.

White Moth Symbolism

In different spiritual traditions it is recognised that there are different times of the day when it is more conducive to go fishing. The word ‘fishing,’ as it is used here symbolises the practice of seeking for that which is beyond the intellectual mind.

I live in rural Ireland where time is very different to the way it is experienced in the city. Here it gets dark to the point where you cannot see the next step in front of you. In this darkness, when driving a car, many white moths can be seen to be on the wing. On such a dark night when it is clear the heavens are Starlite with moth-like stars.

It is in the dark that you are to go fishing for that which will allow you to know that you are a star in the making that never goes out.

The darkness represents a state of NOT KNOWING.

You require a willingness to acknowledge that what you are fishing for you do not know. There is a strange paradox here. This is that you only know that you do not know once you have experienced KNOWING.

This invitation to KNOWING is the role of the one called The Mentor.

The Mentor is one who KNOWS, or at least in the area of the transcendent, must be a KNOWER.

This has been the tragedy of all the major religions of the world. The teachings have been given by those who have never caught a little silver trout and thus have not gone on the journey to find out where the transcendent has gone.

In this way, all that is left is to make people believers in the possibility of the Timeless rather than teach them the art of fishing in the dark for that which is beyond belief. Fishing in the dark is the proper application of faith. Faith is not merely cerebral accent to a creed but the living experience of entering the unknown.

HOW TO Go Fishing

The Berry

So you have picked and peeled your hazel wand. You now need a bait with which to entice the fish. In the poem Song of Wandering Aengus this is a berry. A berry is a symbol for a seed thought. Fishing with a seed thought is not your everyday way of thinking.

You sit by the little stream in the dark when white moths are on the wing. Metaphorically speaking the stream is your personal mind. Usually, however, this stream is filled with thousands of thoughts that are random and tangential. They are going every which way and nowhere at the same time. The stream is not clear. It is usually awash in negativity. It is forever in spate. Some people fall into this stream of the over-thinking personal mind and they drown.

Waiting without Waiting

At the stream you sit in the dark. You wait. You wait as long as it takes moth like stars to flicker out. This is an extremely long time but it is still within the realm of time. The Buddha was prepared to wait until death to catch a glimpse of that state from which he would then teach the end of suffering.

However, when he glimpsed, he felt inadequate to teach what he had been graced to KNOW. He thought the way into this KNOWING could never be taught. The same happened to the Prophet Mohammad. Each was given a glimpse of what it was to KNOW sacred unity. Each felt personally inadequate to teach the way.

White Moths in the Poetry of W B Yeats

White moth symbolism in this poem relates to time and the Timeless.

Even this symbol does not encompose the magnitude of the invitation. W. B. Yeats uses the line, “and moth-like stars where flickering out.” The time it takes for a star to flicker out is an extraordinary length of time but still it is within the realm of time. Aengus, though he does not yet know it, is fishing in the stream of the eternal.

The soul is created in a place between Time and Eternity: with its highest powers it touches Eternity, with its lower Time. - Meister #Eckhart Click To Tweet

So you go out into the dark—the unknown. You sit and you wait. You wait without waiting for the NO TIME—for deep time.

You take a berry—a seed thought—and you throw it into the stream of a clear mind. Then you see what you might catch. You will need patience.

What you catch is a vision of what it means to be part of the eternal movement of Love expressing in time from that which is beyond time – that which is eternal.

The Practice of Fishing in Eternity

The practice of fishing is any practice of prayer, meditation or contemplation. It is any practice undertaken with sacred intention of inviting the Will of the Timeless to be manifested in time through you.

There is a story in the Bible related to fishing. In this story the Master Yesuha instructs the fisherman Simon Peter to cast his nets to the other side – the right side. Most Christians, in my experience, take this story literally rather than as a spiritual instruction.

The casting of YOUR nets to the right side (which is not a moral right side) is casting your mind into the stillness that is forever full. The problem is that those who claim to follow the Master do not actually practice his spiritual instruction. Thus the teaching remains unfulfilled.

Finding the Changeless

The reality is this. You might go fishing in the stream that is your everyday personal mind. You might catch something but it won’t change your way of BEING in the world. It may, for a little while change your life circumstance.

You might win the lottery. You might advance your career. You might fall in love. Still and all the stream will flow on with its tens of thousands of thoughts that are 98% the same as the day before. These are the thoughts responsible for most of your unnecessary suffering in your ordinary everyday world and the world at large.

Your personal circumstances may change. However, the wanderer in you in the second half of life is longing to KNOW that which is beyond change. The wanderer longs to know that which is eternal. They long to KNOW the changeless dimension out of which all that changes arises.

So the major task of the second half of life is to clear the stream so that which is beyond the ordinary world of time and space might express through you and as you. This will be your true fulfilment and give your life true meaning and purpose.

The Practice of Clearing the Stream.

Clearing the steam is the work of the Wanderer. It is the greatest contribution any individual can make to inviting real peace in the world of time. You are a steam of conditioned tangential and reactive thinking. This is not at all flattering. This stream of thought is for the most part forever old.

The stream of thought flows on; but most of its segments fall into the bottomless abyss of oblivion. Of some, no memory survives the instant of their passage. Of others, it is confined to a few moments, hours or days. Others, again, leave vestiges which are indestructible, and by means of which they may be recalled as long as life endures. – William James

With everyday personal mind thinking there is no peace of mind. No clarity of vision. There is no stillness that speaks. No KNOWING that then becomes the movement of Love in action. There is only education about what to think and not HOW TO THINK. We are educated in how to fill the container rather than have the container filled from Universal Intelligence.

When the stream is clear there is the possibility that you will be thought through. This is radical thinking. It changes you. It envisions you. If it does not then you are still catching the thoughts of the personality.

The Secret of Stream Clearance

Here is the key secret of stream clearance. This is the key practice for learning to fish in the stream of eternity. You practice non-doing. Much of your life is about doing and achieving.

This is a necessary stage in life but it is essentially a first stage of life practice. You achieve. You set goals. This is not wrong. It tends, however, to be very much out of balance. It is really all about your life and not about Life.

Not doing is the great secret. It is the way to achieve that with is beyond measure. It is the very antithesis of what we are taught through the education process in the West. This is education that has as its key focus the filling of the pail with information rather than learning what the pail is by way of transformation.

So you sit by the stream and you watch the stream flow. You watch the river flow and you do not push for results.

Do you have the patience to wait until your mud settles and the water is clear? Can you remain unmoving until the right action arises by itself? ~Lao Tzu

You simply watch the thoughts move through you mind. You do not judge them. You do not follow them. You let them flow. You witness. It is in this way that you learn to clean up the stream. You are practicing: –

  • Detachment (not from feeling)
  • Non-judgement.
  • Stillness.

Watching the River Flow

You are becoming aware of the container rather than the content of the container. This is watching the river flow. It takes you out of the modern everyday obsession of over-thinking. Maybe for the first time you are aware that the stream of thought runs away with you.

So you take command of the over-thinking personal mind through the powerful practice of witnessing the flow of your thoughts. Over time you become less and less identified with the stream of thought. You become an experience of living Presence. You are becoming available to the silver trout experience which will change the way you think about who you are and why you are.

Practice not-doing. And everything will fall into place. ~Tao Te Ching

Let the Wandering Continue

So we will move on. We will explore the next line from The Song of Wandering Aengus by William Butler Yeats. (As at end Feb 2019)  Here we will explore “and caught a little silver trout.” This is nothing that you could image you might catch. It is not something of the everyday world of time and space.

So I say a very big thank you to those who have read this far.

I hope that the above sharing has been valuable to you. If you have any questions about the topics covered in this line by line reflection on the poem please ask in the comment box below.

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