Tuesday, 22 August 2023

The great (and attainable) task of becoming more conscious

It seems impossible (for many reasons) for us to make ourselves feel good, or even better, most of the time - certainly not all of the time. Indeed, to focus on our feelings seems like the wrong approach altogether. And indeed it is! (although our feelings are nonetheless always relevant). 

Higher consciousness (i.e. a more god-like awareness and perspective) sounds to be working along better lines, with better goals; but it is hardly more attainable in practice - if higher consciousness is regarded as a more divine way of being. 

It does not take much adversity to prevent us achieving higher consciousness (or even imagining that we do), or to knock us off such a perch. And our own sinful natures will do the same, sooner or later.  

Yet if we recognize that consciousness is a kind of awareness, then more consciousness is a frequently attainable goal. 


In the first place we can be aware that more consciousness is needed in general; 

Secondly we can be aware that greater consciousness is desirable in some particular; 

And thirdly; at best we might actually experience that consciousness


Rudolf Steiner and Owen Barfield both regarded this as perhaps the most important task of Western Man in the Twentieth Century - and that fact that Western Man did not even attempt that task, is a deep and primary cause of that profoundly self-hating, and self-destructive civilizational trend that continues to increase. 


Of course, consciousness is a means or a mode; and to become more conscious means conscious of something. That bit often gets left-out when people talk about consciousness. 

The first step therefore needs to be gaining an understanding of that reality of which we desire to become more conscious - and that implies metaphysical reflection which is itself a form of consciousness. 

The first goal (for most people) is to become conscious of our own primary assumptions concerning the basic nature of reality - how reality is 'structured', how things-in-general work... whatever these assumptions may be (and they are likely to be negations, about what is Not; since that is what our culture inculcates).   

Only after we are aware of them, can we decide whether or not our metaphysical assumptions should be allowed to stand, or should be changed. 

For example, yesterday I was writing that I personally want to regard (assume) reality, the universe, this world... as alive, and composed of Beings. And that I want this - because I regard it as true, and because regarding the universe as made of things leads to great evil. 


Such a recognition (a specific wanting) is at the second stage I described above; it is a recognition of some specific awareness that I desire to develop. 

Even of itself, despite that this form of consciousness is known-about rather than actually achieved, this is progress - and it potentially enables discernment and evaluation of the world.  

From this recognition, I can then strive actually to experience this consciousness of the living universe; actually to see things that way, from that perspective. 

This may be achieved to a partial degree, or for a limited period of time; and we should aim to be aware of this achieved degree of success as well. 


At this phase of Man's development; self-awareness, consciousness, is a vital concern; because without it we cannot escape from this arrested spiritual-adolescence that afflicts so many Western people so severely (and indeed - apparently - nearly everybody everywhere to some significant degree). We have painted ourselves into a corner by our fundamental assumptions - and there can be no escape until after these assumptions are revealed and challenged - otherwise we will just set-about rebuilding our own prison. 


There is therefore a necessary inward turn; rooted in a recognition that our external culture is making things worse; but an inward turn that enables and should be followed by an outward turn, whereby we strive for consciousness of this/ then that/ then the other. 

As a task; it has no obvious end point, and is the task of a lifetime potentially. 

However, what it is that we become conscious about, is a thing that will vary between individuals, and at different stages of life. 


For the young adult; love, sex, work are likely to be subjects about-which to become more conscious of our assumptions, and what we would desire our assumptions to be. Such concerns are spontaneous and unavoidable. 

Whereas for an older person; sleep, death and "the dead" may well become much more important subjects than they were for the young adult. Again; such concerns tend to arise spontaneously.  

In general, the subject matter is not chosen but presses upon us spontaneously. However, the formulation of the pressing problem or recurring question is almost certainly wrong (and therefore unanswerable) - unless the earliest stage of metaphysical reflection has been successfully accomplished. 


It may seem that the task of becoming more conscious is a futile and quietistic bit of private piety - irrelevant to the world, and symptomatic of extreme decadence and selfishness! 

But that is itself an assumption based upon metaphysical convictions that are (very likely) to be unknown and unexamined. 

Before validly discarding the ideal of increased consciousness as a valid goal - for you yourself, here-and-now - you would need to understand explicitly what you would regard as a valid goal and why - in an ultimate (not merely short-term expedient) sense. And become conscious, too, of the nature (and 'mechanisms') of relationship between the individual person and society. 

The thing is to Make A Start; from then, the next problem you ought to address will reveal itself - and one thing will lead to another. 


Why are we, here, now; so much more vulnerable to wrong ideas than Men of the past?

It seem clear to me that Men of the past could believe all kinds of wrong things (and even have massively contrasting religions), without coming to serious harm. 

There was a very broad area of what seemed like common sense that meant almost all people, everywhere, shared broadly the same ideas of The Good.  

But that now wrong ideas, and almost any wrong idea seems to suffice, leads to the grossest evil of value-inversions; such that people nowadays consciously, actively and strategically pursue lies, ugliness and sin (and persecute truth, beauty and virtue) in ways that simply did not happen in the past.  


The best explanation for this difference of which I know, is Owen Barfield's account of Original Participation

What this suggests is that originally Men were spontaneously, and mostly un-consciously, immersed-in and controlled-by the divine and spirit world - from birth and through their lives. 

This influence came-through in all kinds of natural instincts; and these instincts shaped all traditional social practices - without awareness or planning. 

These ancient Men were less free, less consciously aware - and they just accepted and followed all kinds of behaviours which - ultimately - derived from the nature of divine creation. Men were mentally part-of divine creation, and therefore what they thought and did was broadly concordant with divine creation.    


However; across the ages and through the centuries this has dwindled. 

Men have become more conscious and autonomous of the natural and created; and in recent generations the immersive and unconscious, instinctive, controlling link between the divine and spiritual, and each Man's thinking, has been all-but severed (except during early childhood). We are cut-off from God and divine creation. 

This phase we currently inhabit is what Barfield calls the Consciousness Soul; and it explains why bad/ wrong/ evil ideas now have such a devastatingly inversional and weird effect on individuals and societies. 


There is still a sense in which we all still already-know (naturally, spontaneously, instinctively) what is Good (i.e. true, beautiful, virtuous, in harmony with God and creation) -- Yet that knowledge lacks the automatic regulatory power it used to possess. Instead, we are often deeply suspicious of this innate kind of knowing. 

At any rate, such knowing is far more easily confused or over-written than ever before in history - often as a prelude to its inversion.   

 

If all this is so - what does it mean and imply? 

It means that, in some sense, we can and should return to living in harmony with God and creation and in connection with the world of spirit. 

But it does not imply that we should recreate the behaviours and societies of the past. Indeed that is strictly impossible; since we are now so utterly, radically, different from the Human Beings that used to inhabit such societies. 

A society based-upon the natural and spontaneous connectedness of people to God, cannot happen when people are - as a matter of fact - Not spontaneously connected to God!


If not, then what? If not the impossible reversion - how instead might we move towards the harmony with God that Christians desire? Well, one helpful step is to identify and correct wrong ideas of our own

The fact that these wrong ideas were (pretty much) harmless to Men of the past does not mean that these same ideas will not harm us now. 

Bad ideas now are widely and deeply toxic to our whole alignment with the world of divine creation - therefore we absolutely need to become aware of them, and correct them.  


It's a big job - for a Christian to identify that which used-to-be regarded as harmless, or even as necessary, to his faith - and then reject it as incompatible with the basic aim of Christian life! 

Yet something like that, seems to be the special and vital spiritual task of this time and place. 


Monday, 26 June 2023

Christianity in time, in history

I was reading a chapter by RJ Reilly called "A note on Barfield, romanticism and time"; in the 1976 Owen Barfield Festschrift "The Evolution of Consciousness" - in which Reilly begins by making some striking and insightful points about the fact that Christianity is located in history, posits a sequence of events that are changes, and a goal (i.e. resurrection, everlasting Heavenly life). 

It would seem obvious that the metaphysical roots, its most most fundamental assumptions, would include 'time' - not Time as some kind of separable abstract entity; but time inextricably woven into the basic assumed realities of Christianity.

Yet (as Reilly's chapter goes on to describe) many Christians - especially among philosophers and theologians - have felt it necessary to root Christianity in the Time-less and the unchanging. This decision - sooner or later, somewhere or another - leads to a contradiction; whereby the historical, sequential nature of Christianity meets-up with its supposed eternal but unchanging ground. 


The contradiction may linguistically be reframed - as a paradox, mystery, polarity, or whatever; but I regard these tactics as ultimately hypnotic word-spells, intended to stop-thinking. 

It is extremely rare to come-across a Christian who accepts what I regard as the necessity to base Christianity in ultimate metaphysical explanations that sustain the need for history, sequence, change, a goal...  

Barfield himself was Not one of these Christians. He continued to try and ground time-located/ directed Christianity in "the unchanging" - he merely attempted this in a different place and with a different terminology; but with the same contradiction (as indeed there must always be since a situation of change and no-change cannot be combined). 


This feeling that changelessness, no-time, is The ultimate reality - permeates Eastern Religion in general, and much of Western - such as Platonism and its developments - but it is in practice an "elite" concern. It seems that intellectuals - because of their propensity to speak and write in abstractions; are perhaps disposed to assume that such timeless and general entities are ultimate; and/or to regard the final goal of life as one of unchanging spiritual bliss - including an end to the thinking which is both the distinction and the curse of being an intellectual. 

The contradiction between the eternal and unchanging, and life, is necessarily found in all religions that include no-time as a fundamental assumption; although it varies where and how this contradiction is manifest. In Christianity, the contradiction undercuts the simplicity and clarity of understanding what Jesus did and taught. In Hinduism and Buddhism, the contradiction is instead between theory and practice - because the theory states that life is irredeemably worthless in its entirety.

Yet these are religions - making many discernments of values and practice, and having elaborate rituals, requirements, symbolism etc. There are all kinds of hypnotic word-spells that purport to join-together the time-less and time-bound; but they are psychological manipulations, not genuine understanding. 


Children, tribal peoples, and simple folk often have a very different way of talking about such things - yet typically implicit and unconscious; which is rooted in the assumption that the world is made of Beings - living, conscious, purposive Beings; that change and may transform, but can neither be created nor destroyed: they Just Are, and Always Have Been.

There never has been any good reason why Christianity shouldn't share exactly this 'primitive, Beings-based metaphysics - but explicitly rather than unconsciously and by implication; yet the first known person to understand Christianity in this apparently obvious and common-sensical fashion seems to have been Joseph Smith (the Mormon prophet) from about 1830!  

Neither Barfield, nor Steiner his Master, knew anything about Mormon theology, and did not make this inference on their own - so both remain captive to the contradiction. 


I regard it as a serious weakness of Christianity that the class of intellectuals and theologians have (like those of other religions) violated and over-written the innate and spontaneous assumptions about reality, with which we all came into the world; and replaced them with something that does not make sense.

Presumably, we are all intrinsically capable of recovering our original unconscious child's understanding, of making it conscious to our adult minds, and choosing to accept it as true.  

That sounds simple and easy, but the rarity with which it is achieved suggests that - although it may indeed be simple - it is not easy. 


Metaphysics never is easy to do; which is why our Western world is so deeply and widely corrupted, and still getting worse. 


Review of Simon Blaxland-de Lange's biography - Owen Barfield: Romanticism come of age

Simon Blaxland-de Lange. Owen Barfield: Romanticism come of age. Temple Lodge Publishing: Forest Row, UK, 2006/ Second Edition 2021. pp. xvii, 367. 


Blaxland-de Lange's is the only biography of Owen Barfield, and it is very good. 

Indeed, because its greatest strength is that BdL has such a deep understanding of Barfield's ideas, this biography is a way by which someone could approach reading Barfield from scratch. By reading the biography first, the potential explorer can discover which of Barfield's very various books he would be most likely to enjoy and appreciate - and therefore where he might best start reading. 


The biography's great strength, might also be regarded as a stumbling block; which is that BdL is - like Barfield - a serious, indeed professional, Anthroposophist - a follower of Rudolf Steiner. 

This has the great advantage of providing valid and thorough explanations of this aspect of Barfield, which aspect is usually so badly covered by most other writers about Barfield - few of whom have made the (considerable!) effort necessary to get to grips with Steiner's vast oeuvre

On the other hand; the book is written on the basis of Anthroposophical assumptions, and includes reference to Steiner concepts; that will strike the na├»ve reader as bizarre, as well as startling. Yet, there is also a good deal of Steiner, and indeed the core of his work; that is potentially of primary importance to everyone; so to attain understanding is well worth a bit of effort.   


The organization of the book is somewhat eccentric. It begins conventionally enough, with a "biographical sketch" which gives an overview of Barfield's life, and some of the major incidents - ending with some snapshots of his attitudes and concerns at the end of his ninety-nine year life. 

After this, the book is presented in a thematic way, with different chapters covering different aspects of Barfield's life and ideas - and these chapters are not in any overall chronological arrangement, but instead each chapter includes whatever is relevant to its particular concern. 

This means that - after the first overview - the book chapters can be read, without loss, in almost any order; and this has been my practice over the decade-plus since I bought the first edition. 


Second edition differences are minimal. Indeed, I could only myself detect the addition of an Appendix making available for the first time Psychography; which was an aborted draft attempt, from the late 1940s, at a spiritual autobiography by Barfield - which runs at 12 pages, and stops in Barfield's late teens. 

This is well worth reading, as a further insight into some fundamental aspects of Barfield - including his extreme shyness and reserve in talking on the topic of himself. 

For instance, he writes about the psychological effects of his problem with stammering; but never actually says what that problem was! If the reader did not already know about this problem from elsewhere, then the passage would be highly mystifying - and the problem sounds more sinister, and shameful, than it actually was.  


In sum: Romanticism Come of Age is probably the only indispensable book about Owen Barfield - anyone who is interested by Barfield will want a copy, and will consult it frequently. 


Thursday, 23 March 2023

Four reasons to read Owen Barfield - even if you already know Rudolf Steiner

It seems to be a fault of Anthroposophists seriously to read only Rudolf Steiner himself, and secondarily those who explain and expound Steiner's own views. 

But if Steiner himself is taken seriously, then he was establishing a 'way' (a Spiritual Science) rather than a body of information:

"Anthroposophy is a path of knowledge, to guide the Spiritual in the human being to the Spiritual in the universe". Anthroposophical Leading Thoughts, Number 1 - my emphasis. 


Therefore it should be expected that those who engage most deeply with Steiner will potentially be able to produce original and valuable work, by going either wider or deeper than the Master - and thus, in principle, be worth reading. 

We can then ask: why read Owen Barfield specifically? 

What does Barfield offer that he does better than Steiner? 


1. Flavour

Barfield's writing has a very different flavour than Steiner, since they have very different personalities. Some who dislike the taste of Steiner will enjoy Barfield. 

2. Prose

For an English speaker, it is relevant that Barfield wrote in English, and in a clean and elegant prose style; whereas Steiner wrote in a 'Victorian' style of German that is (apparently) rather dry and pedantic in the original, and in translation often reads awkwardly. Barfield's prose is always concise and focused; while Steiner (especially in the lectures) is often rambling and discursive.  

3. Quantity and Quality 

Steiner wrote, and had transcribed from lectures, a truly overwhelming quantity of work; of widely variable levels of quality and interest; whereas Barfield published a more manageable body of work. While Steiner at his best is better than even the best of Barfield; Barfield's average level of quality and relevance is significant higher than Steiner's average.    

4. Themes

Barfield wrote in depth and detail about several matters that Steiner covered less well or not at all. For instance, Barfield wrote a lot, and with many example and references, about the development of language and especially of words. 

Barfield discussed the nature of modern (post-Einstein-ian) science and post-genetics Neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory; and the implications for science and society more generally. 

Barfield also rooted his critique in the modern Western condition as it developed after the 1914-18 World War and up to the 1980s; aspects such as alienation, existentialist disaffection, radical politics, and the sexual revolution, and destruction of the environment - especially by buildings, noise and pollution. 


So there are plenty of good reasons to read Owen Barfield, even for someone who is already familiar with Rudolf Steiner. 

 

Monday, 6 March 2023

Going beyond Barfield's focus on the romantic imagination

Plenty of people, of many types, have the kind of positive, enjoyable - even joyous or blissful - imaginative experiences that get called things like epiphanies or peak-experiences.

These might typically happen in deep conversation with friends, in beautiful places, or in response to literature or music. These could be called "romantic imaginative" experiences. 

I certainly had many such moments as an adolescent and young adult; and I also regarded them as very important in my life; in the sense that I sought and cherished them, and felt that they had significance. 


But this was not enough! - and such moments did not have a sufficiently powerful effect on my life; I did not learn from such experiences, they did not transform my life, they did not give my life personal purpose or meaning. 

I always felt as if on the cusp of a breakthrough that never came - and meanwhile my life was essentially just like everybody else's; and becoming more so with each year. 

But, I did not have any explanation as to why such things were important: what made them important, whether the importance was just for me - or maybe had general significance. 


Much of this was that my basic assumptions about life and the universe denied any overall purpose and meaning for things-in-general - so it was not really possible for my individual life to have these. 

In other words; lacking a metaphysical explanation (in terms of primary assumptions about the nature of reality) that explained the purpose and meaning in Life-in-general; I lacked an explanation for the value of joy/ epiphanies/ peak-experiences. 

But even for those who do have a metaphysical explanation for the value of Life Itself, will not get real value from specific romantic imaginative experiences, unless they have a metaphysical explanation for the value of joy/ epiphanies/ peak-experiences within that general context.


And this is what many/ most Christians lack. Their Christian understanding is such that they cannot explain to themselves what it is that romantic imagination contributes to their own life; and therefore they typically undervalue it - maybe even denying it has any ultimate significance.

It was the nature of Owen Barfield's contribution to the study of romantic imagination that he provided just such an explanation - although he claimed (wrongly) that his explanation was 'epistemological' rather than 'metaphysical'

Barfield explained this in terms that Romantic Imagination was a form of 'knowledge' or knowing. (It is easier, I find, to understand this as know-ing - something dynamic happening here and now; rather than a know-ledge - something statically achieved concerning something fixed and bounded.)


Yet, I think we need to move beyond imagination as the focus, of concern to intuition. Imagination is experienced as coming from outside us, like an inspiration of knowledge; whereas intuition is about what is within us.

While imagination has connotations of passively receiving something from without; intuition recognizes that we do and must actively participate in the creation of knowledge

By this account; the experienced romantic imagination of joy, epiphany, peak-experiences; is a step towards our active investigation of reality by means of intuitive discernment, and the active exploration of our fundamental needs for knowledge, guidance, validation. 


What I mean is that romantic imagination is something that happens-to us, and its value is thus limited; but intuition can be understood as an active engagement with divine creation, something that we decide and will from our-selves. 

Therefore, I think it is more important that we have a metaphysical understanding of intuition; than of imagination - and that is what I have tried to attain by my reflections on primary-thinking, heart-thinking, and direct-knowing

Which is, I believe, the mode by which Barfield's Final Participation may be attained in this mortal life - albeit intermittently and temporarily. 


Sunday, 5 February 2023

How to filter-out the "outlandish and bizarre" elements in Rudolf Steiner

Of all the important thinkers of the twentieth century, Rudolf Steiner is perhaps the most difficult to come to grips with. For the unprepared reader, his work presents a series of daunting obstacles. 

To begin with, there is the style, which is formidably abstract, and as unappetizing as dry toast. But a determined reader could learn to put up with that.

The real problem lies with the content, which is often so outlandish and bizarre that the reader suspects either a hoax or a confidence trick. 

Books like Cosmic Memory, with its account of Atlantis and Lemuria, seem to belong on the same shelf as titles like Our Hollow Earth, or My trip to Venus in a Flying Saucer

The resulting sense of frustration is likely to cause even the most open-minded reader to give up in disgust.


The first paragraph of Rudolf Steiner, by Colin Wilson, 1985.

*

The Big Problem with Rudolf Steiner (as I have said many times) is that most of what he said and wrote was wrong; but some of what he wrote is sufficient to establish him as one of a handful of the most vital thinkers of the past couple of centuries. 

But because most of Steiner (a very high percentage!) is wrong; on the one hand, most people reject his work outright; while on the other hand, Steiner's disciples and followers (mostly in the Anthroposophical Society, which he founded) are mostly wrong in what they believe - to the point that they miss the significance and importance of what he was right about.  


What Steiner needs, therefore, is scholars who will take was is good and leave aside what is not; and the closest we have to this is Owen Barfield who, in addition, added much of value to what he took from Steiner. 

But even Barfield seems to have been unable to be clear about the nature of Steiner's work, and respected him to the point that he never (that I have seen) denied anything that Steiner ever said. What Barfield instead did was - in his writings - focus on the aspects of Steiner about which he was most sure; and said little or nothing about the colossal number of claims that Steiner made about... everything under the sun, and indeed from many ages before the sun. 

Barfield always recommended Steiner's earliest philosophical books; but did not make clear to the putative reader that most of Steiner's later books will strike most people as simply absurd, and obviously false. 


My understanding is that the major problem for those who regard Steiner as important, and who accept his core analysis and teachings; cannot find grounds from within this teachings for rejecting anything that Steiner ever said or wrote. 

Steiner purports do be doing a spiritual science; and repeatedly emphasizes that anyone can test his claims for themselves by spiritual investigation - yet, in practice, it seems that nobody ever feels able to do this, and must therefore treat all of Steiner's claims as if they constituted inerrant scripture.  

This seems to be because Steiner was able (at will) to produce in himself - while awake and alert and with full reasoning and memory capacities - a kind of consciousness that perceived the occult world - from which he reported back his observations and interpretations; and nobody else has since been able to do this. Certainly not in the vast volume that Steiner did in his lectures after about 1897, and accelerating until near his death in 1925. 


Because Steiner's followers cannot do what Steiner did to generate his claims, they feel unable to check his claims; and therefore simply take them on trust - regarding them as true because Steiner said them. Steiner discourse is therefore closely analogous to 'fundamentalist' Protestants in terms of Anthroposophists citing their scripture, and argument proceeds by proof-texting - by trading quotes and citations. 


For reasons that I set out in the post earlier today; I believe there is another and practical way of checking Steiner's claims; which can be done by anyone serious about understanding what is valid in Steiner, and using methods that Steiner recommended as the best and himself practiced

And that 'method' is simply by reading Steiner in the spirit of direct-knowing, of heart-thinking

Instead of trying to replicate Steiner's method of observing the hidden spirit world by inner perception; the reader tests Steiner's claims by intuitive means. 

Whenever a claim of Steiner's fails to be sustained by heart-thinking, whenever his premises or a line of argument is unsupported by the direct-knowing of our deepest thinking - then it is rejected as untrue. 


In other words; we accept from Steiner only that which is specifically sustained and confirmed by our own deepest-possible intuitive responses. 

This, I repeat, is exactly what Steiner recommended in those works of his that he regarded as his most important (specifically The Philosophy of Freedom, which he repeated many times was his fundamental publication). 

Therefore, we can - and in a viable and valid fashion - refute the mass of Steiner, and filter-out from the nonsense that which we most need and could benefit from. 


Saturday, 4 February 2023

Refuting Rudolf Steiner's innumerable specific claims - the example of Owen Barfield

Of all the important thinkers of the twentieth century, Rudolf Steiner is perhaps the most difficult to come to grips with. For the unprepared reader, his work presents a series of daunting obstacles. 

To begin with, there is the style, which is formidably abstract, and as unappetizing as dry toast. But a determined reader could learn to put up with that.

The real problem lies with the content, which is often so outlandish and bizarre that the reader suspects either a hoax or a confidence trick. 

Books like Cosmic Memory, with its account of Atlantis and Lemuria, seem to belong on the same shelf as titles like Our Hollow Earth, or My trip to Venus in a Flying Saucer

The resulting sense of frustration is likely to cause even the most open-minded reader to give up in disgust.


The first paragraph of Rudolf Steiner, by Colin Wilson, 1985.

*

The Big Problem with Rudolf Steiner (as I have said many times) is that most of what he said and wrote was wrong; but some of what he wrote is sufficient to establish him as one of a handful of the most vital thinkers of the past couple of centuries. 

But because most of Steiner (a very high percentage!) is wrong; on the one hand, most people reject his work outright; while on the other hand, Steiner's disciples and followers (mostly in the Anthroposophical Society, which he founded) are mostly wrong in what they believe - to the point that they miss the significance and importance of what he was right about.  


What Steiner needs, therefore, is scholars who will take was is good and leave aside what is not; and the closest we have to this is Owen Barfield who, in addition, added much of value to what he took from Steiner. 

But even Barfield seems to have been unable to be clear about the nature of Steiner's work, and respected him to the point that he never (that I have seen) denied anything that Steiner ever said. What Barfield instead did was - in his writings - focus on the aspects of Steiner about which he was most sure; and said little or nothing about the colossal number of claims that Steiner made about... everything under the sun, and indeed from many ages before the sun. 

Barfield always recommended Steiner's earliest philosophical books; but did not make clear to the putative reader that most of Steiner's later books will strike most people as simply absurd, and obviously false. 


My understanding is that the major problem for those who regard Steiner as important, and who accept his core analysis and teachings; cannot find grounds from within this teachings for rejecting anything that Steiner ever said or wrote. 

Steiner purports do be doing a spiritual science; and repeatedly emphasizes that anyone can test his claims for themselves by spiritual investigation - yet, in practice, it seems that nobody ever feels able to do this, and must therefore treat all of Steiner's claims as if they constituted inerrant scripture.  

This seems to be because Steiner was able (at will) to produce in himself - while awake and alert and with full reasoning and memory capacities - a kind of consciousness that perceived the occult world - from which he reported back his observations and interpretations; and nobody else has since been able to do this. Certainly not in the vast volume that Steiner did in his lectures after about 1897, and accelerating until near his death in 1925. 


Because Steiner's followers cannot do what Steiner did to generate his claims, they feel unable to check his claims; and therefore simply take them on trust - regarding them as true because Steiner said them. Steiner discourse is therefore closely analogous to 'fundamentalist' Protestants in terms of Anthroposophists citing their scripture, and argument proceeds by proof-texting - by trading quotes and citations. 


For reasons that I set out in the post earlier today; I believe there is another and practical way of checking Steiner's claims; which can be done by anyone serious about understanding what is valid in Steiner, and using methods that Steiner recommended as the best and himself practiced

And that 'method' is simply by reading Steiner in the spirit of direct-knowing, of heart-thinking

Instead of trying to replicate Steiner's method of observing the hidden spirit world by inner perception; the reader tests Steiner's claims by intuitive means. 

Whenever a claim of Steiner's fails to be sustained by heart-thinking, whenever his premises or a line of argument is unsupported by the direct-knowing of our deepest thinking - then it is rejected as untrue. 


In other words; we accept from Steiner only that which is specifically sustained and confirmed by our own deepest-possible intuitive responses. 

This, I repeat, is exactly what Steiner recommended in those works of his that he regarded as his most important (specifically The Philosophy of Freedom, which he repeated many times was his fundamental publication). 

Therefore, we can - and in a viable and valid fashion - refute the mass of Steiner, and filter-out from the nonsense that which we most need and could benefit from. 


Rudolf Steiner's understanding of the spiritual world

I am re-reading Colin Wilson's excellent book about Rudolf Steiner: the man and his vision (1985) - which he opens by saying that Steiner's core assumption is twofold: that there is a super-sensible, spiritual world hidden 'behind' the everyday world of the senses - and from-which the perceived world is derived. And secondly; that thus world is knowable by those who choose to develop their latent abilities. 

So far, this is hardly distinctive; except that the way in which the hidden ('occult') world was discovered was not by trance, dream or other 'hallucinatory'-state but by an intensification of the alert, awake, clear thinking that Steiner regarded as characteristic of science.

Steiner therefore called his practice a Spiritual Science (and the specific type of spiritual science he recommended, he termed Anthroposophy).


But when we are told of a spiritual world behind the perceptual world; this naturally seems to evoke a picture in our minds of two perceptual worlds. 

In other words, we often imagine the surface everyday world of solid-things, then - separated from it by a barrier - another world of spirit-things. 

When we imagine ourselves knowing the spiritual world, therefore we imagine seeing/ hearing/ touching the spiritual world by something like of an extra set of new senses.  


At times, especially in his later career as a leader in the Theosophical Society then originator of Anthroposophy; Steiner writes exactly like that about his own experiences. 

He describes observing, in an inward fashion, the activities of spiritual beings such as the so-called-dead or angels, on planes of reality not perceptible to the senses. 

Steiner describes (what seems like) observing events of the life of Jesus, or the evolution - and re-incarnation - of the earth; and/or the history of reality in 'Akashic' records that sound like scrolls recording everything that ever happened, but which can be seen and read by inner sight.  

This seems exactly like traditional religious experiences of a 'hallucinatory type'; seeing visions, hearing voices, perceiving other times and places... But with the difference that Steiner had these experiences - not in the context of a trance or dream or religious ecstasy, but in everyday waking consciousness.    


But at other times, Steiner seems to be clear that the understanding of supersensible reality comes by direct understanding, into the realm of thinking; and therefore Not by means of observing inner perceptions with new inner senses. 

(This is the message of his early books Science and Knowledge, and The Philosophy of Freedom.) 

This is what I have variously termed primary thinkingheart-thinking, or direct-knowing; and is a type of intuition. 

It is envisaged as learning without the intermediary of first perceiving some kind of representation like a picture, and then needing to understand what one has perceived. But with direct-knowing, instead the understanding comes into our thinking without mediation - the subjective experience is that knowledge simply 'arises' in our thinking.  

Such a mode of direct and unmediated knowing, is a much rarer and historically more distinctive way of penetrating to the hidden world of the spirit. 


My conclusion is that Steiner did both: Sometimes he perceived the hidden world of spirit with inner vision: Other times he knew the hidden world directly, in thinking. 

But he failed always to be clear about which he had done, and about which was the better mode of knowing.  

Of these; direct-knowing is the more fundamental and potentially valid way of understanding the hidden spiritual world; because any form of inner vision must entail the further step of interpreting its meaning. 

Whereas (by my understanding - not Steiner's) the perceiving mode provides a very high volume of potentially very specific information - but its validity is much less than direct knowing. 

Because this kind of perceptual information can be 'manufactured' by learnable techniques of meditation, and produced almost at will by those with aptitude. Yet, at the level of specific detail, each such 'visionary' will produce his or her own unique and unreplicable description from observing the hidden world - as can be seen from comparing (say) Swedenborg, Blavatsky and Steiner; or the various New Age channelers of the late 20th century.

(Although Steiner seems to have copied then modified a great deal of Blavatsky's general descriptive scheme of metaphysics and history.)    


To avoid confusion; we would need to avoid talking about the super-sensible world in ways that conjure up an inner world of pictures, stories, observed beings. 

We would need to cease talking about experiences such as watching the work of angels, reading the Akashic records, hearing the words of spiritual guides and the like, feeling our hands driven to engage in automatic writing - and other similar things.  

In sum: There is a hidden spiritual world, and it can be known; but it is ultimately known-by-knowing, therefore not known by (yet another) layer of perceiving. 


Wednesday, 18 January 2023

Whatever happened to Final Participation in the decades since it was refused and rejected?

Owen Barfield formulated the concept of Final Participation some seventy years ago - building upon the work of Rudolf Steiner who died a century ago; and they both understood that this was the destiny for Man - a divine destiny which, if refused, would become pathology as its impulses were distorted in the process of 'materializing'. 

In other words; Final Participation is a spiritual and Good imperative; but if the primacy (and true nature) of the spiritual was to be denied, if this necessary Good was refused - as in fact happened - then the imperative would change Mankind; but in bad ways. 


Final Participation entails Men consciously choosing the reality which they affirm and live-by; and the divine destiny was to affirm divine creation and the spirit. 

Anything else would - does - lead to pathology.  

What we, therefore, find is that creative spiritual impulses get horribly-distorted into destructive materiality when their proper channel is refused. 


If we look at any one of the (from a Christian perspective) Big Lies that dominate public discourse in the world today; we can infer that it originated in some Good spiritual impulse that has been twisted into evil materiality. 

The major terminus of materiality in the modern world is that bureaucracy which characterizes the global totalitarian System. 

It is best if each works-out the examples for himself; but we could consider the horrible ways in which an underlying spiritual destiny concerning sex and sexuality has been made into an anti-Christian/ anti-Human/ anti-functional System of unnatural, dishonest and (spiritually as well and physically) destructive outcomes; in terms of material laws, regulations, subsidies and arts/ media propaganda. 


Because we inhabit a spirit-denying world; all that is truly spiritual Must-Be reduced to the physical material; and because the System officially regards reality as non-theistic, purposeless and meaningless - therefore all (in origin) Good impulses are necessarily transformed and twisted to evil. 

And this will continue until we acknowledge, understand and evaluate our ultimate assumptions regarding the nature of reality. 


Saturday, 10 December 2022

Barfield misunderstanding Barfield

One of the difficulties about understanding Owen Barfield, is that he did not really understand himself! 

I mean that Barfield did not really understand the nature of his own philosophical work; and thereby said some misleading things about it. 


Barfield's major work was Saving the Appearances; and in his introduction to the 1988 edition of this book (which are Barfield's first published, and framing, words in the reprinted editions since then), Barfield tries to provide a helpful framework to avoid what he terms a misunderstanding, and a difficulty

What Barfield regards as the 'misunderstanding' is that "some readers have treating the work as claiming to provide a complete metaphysical theory of the nature of reality. Not so". 

(Leaving aside the weasel word "complete" - because nothing finite ever is complete...) 

But Of Course Barfield is exactly providing a metaphysical 'theory' of reality! Metaphysics is that philosophy which deals in the fundamental nature of reality; and Barfield is claiming in StA that reality is inextricably consequential of both 'chaos' and consciousness; because chaos is meaningless and unknowable without consciousness. 

Also, Barfield asserts that consciousness has changed through time; and therefore (says Barfield) reality itself (and not just perception of reality) has changed through time: "Nature itself [has] changed in the course of time in a mode not covered by the doctrines of biological evolution".

Furthermore; without consciousness (says Barfield) - there is no knowable reality - only chaos

So that from Barfield's assumptions: it is incoherent to theorize about a world without consciousness

Thus, a cosmology which - like both Big Bang and Steady State theories - speculates on the formation of a non-alive universe in the absence of consciousness is not so much mistaken as simply incoherent; as are similar speculations on the formation and evolution of an inorganic earth before the advent of Life.  


Barfield's (drawing heavily upon Rudolf Steiner's - albeit not identical-with Steiner) is indeed a fundamentally different understanding of reality than anything in the Western or Eastern mainstream of philosophy or theology. 

Therefore, whether Barfield acknowledges it or not: in StA he is indeed "doing metaphysics", and proposing a particular metaphysical description. 

Barfield claims he "tried to preserve neutrality towards all such [metaphysical] speculations, by referring to objective reality (that is to say, reality insofar as it is independent of our awareness of it)... sometimes as 'the particles' and sometimes as 'the unrepresented'. 

But this is not neutrality - because neutrality in metaphysics is impossible. 

Barfield's conceptualization of 'objective' as 'unrepresented'/ 'particles' is itself a metaphysical division and definition.  


Barfield then says: "The subject of this book is not the nature of reality; it is the evolution of consciousness". 

This translates as Barfield saying he is not doing metaphysics, but is (implicitly) doing a kind-of 'science' that he claims to be independent of ('neutral' about) metaphysical assumptions. 

So, Barfield's detailed account of the way that word-meanings have changed through human history; is claimed to be (in effect) 'empirical' and independent of metaphysical assumptions. 

But this is false, because Barfield's understanding of the implications of meaning change being located in consciousness; and consciousness being inextricably a part of reality; are excluded by the implicit and unconscious metaphysics of mainstream linguistic history. 


The changes of word meaning through history are interpreted using a very different and incommensurable significance than that which Barfield proposes - and the mainstream linguists would regard Barfield's interpretation as bizarre and obvious nonsense. 

Likewise, astro- and geo-physicists would regard Barfield's assertion that their theories of the formation of the universe and of earth were incoherent - because excluding any "observing consciousness" from such theories - to be absurd nonsense. 

Such physicists would almost certainly assert that their theories 'work' empirically, have been cross-checked by multiple mathematical analyses and physical observations - and that there is just No Problem.  

The difference between Barfield and the physicists is precisely metaphysics: each is arguing from different basic assumptions concerning the nature of reality. 

 
My understanding of Barfield is that he was Just plain wrong about what he was doing; just as Rudolf Steiner was wrong in The Philosophy of Freedom

Barfield claimed to be doing 'science' and Steiner claimed to be doing epistemology; but in fact both were doing metaphysics: both were (in these works) putting forward a different way of describing ultimate reality from that which was mainstream. 

This wrongness had an unfortunate effect in terms of obscuring the reader's understanding; because a convinced reader is given the false impression that Barfield and Steiner have 'proved' their arguments in a neutral fashion (which ought to be universally acceptable); rather than having provided a radically different framework for the structuring of arguments. 


Furthermore, by failing to notice that they themselves are 'doing metaphysics'; Barfield and Steiner both leave out God as a primary explanation for their understandings of reality. 

I have said before that it would be Much easier for the reader to understand Saving the Experiences if Barfield had set-out at the beginning that the 'evolution of consciousness' which Barfield describes is a divine plan, which aims at the incremental divinization of Man towards the level of God as creator.

Lacking this structuring and explanatory reference to God; Barfield's attempted-neutral description of the evolution of consciousness sounds like he is proposing a kind of 'law of nature' - a biological principle that sounds like a rival theory of the same kind as mainstream biological evolution by natural selection.   


I believe the consequences of this confusion can be seen in most of mainstream Barfield scholarship since the 1960s; and this has been exacerbated by a failure to engage with the work of Rudolf Steiner. Yet, if we begin by stating Barfield's metaphysical assumptions as such, including the presence and role of God; it really is not difficult to understand - because then its validity does not hinge on understanding and following complex, multi-step arguments or evidence. 


Wednesday, 2 November 2022

Owen Barfield is good for your health!

Owen Barfield's master work is probably Saving the Appearances (1957). It is beautifully written, but not an easy read - not easy to understand in its implications. 

Yet if it can be grasped in its properly Christian implications, and if this understanding can be brought into everyday living; StA can be an instantly and lastingly, positively-life-transforming book!


Perhaps its core message is that we are co-creators of the world as we know it. 

This means that - as wee look around us, that tree, cloud, river, or office block - are all knowable as such only by our personal contribution. 

Whatever raw-reality is purely 'out there' has no meaning, it is a mere chaos - and it is Man's consciousness that (in context of the primary reality of divine creation - a creation in which we necessarily share as children of God) makes it possible to perceive one thing as different from another; to recognize, to know. 


This can be an inspiring way of living! 

If we are confronted by some beautiful landscape or work of art, then we should realize that we have been a necessary part of making it so. Beauty is not just out-there, but also in-here

This is an immensely encouraging fact to bring to mind - and certainly good for one's mental health!


On the flipside, because modern Man has a very high degree of agency, and is cut-off from spontaneous immersion in divine creation; this 'making of the world' has become for us (substantially) an active and conscious choice. 

We participate in ugliness, in immortality, in lies - much as we participate in the highest and best values.  

We are personally responsible for co-creating evil, as we are for participating in the reality of good. 


Yet, by Barfield's account; this does not leave us helplessly torn between good and evil; but able to choose between them. 

We - each and personally - choose whether to make our commitment, our affiliation - to the one... or to the other. 

Indeed (here and now, at this phase in our development), if we are to affiliate to good, this must be a conscious choice; whereas if we refuse to make a choice, then we are doomed passively to absorb whatever evil The World happens to be pushing upon us. 


(We could think about this in terms of the concepts by which we understand the facts of the world. Either we choose to understand the world in terms of the concepts of divine creation; or else we will by-default understand the world by the concepts which dominate public discourse - via the mass media, state bureaucracy, corporations; the arts, educational and research systems etc.)


Thus Barfield provides both a conceptual framework by which we can - in our actual lived experience - know that we are essential co-creators - in part - of the world around us; so we know ourselves to be involved in the world: in that landscape, makers of that painting, creators of that insight... 

And also Barfield provides the basis for understanding that we are free - we deserve credit exactly because we deserve blameresponsibility is another word for freedom. 

Our conscious choices do not just affect the world; they make the world


Saturday, 17 September 2022

Our memories of paradise...

The paradise-imago - or myth, or story - is the symbol par excellence

I imagine that is why it is so universal and why it has so many ramifying significances. 

Paradise is the symbol of symbols; because it symbolizes, not so much any single non-physical archetype, but non-physical existence in general - non-physical existence as such

You will never understand symbols until you have grasped that pre-historic man in his unconscious goes back - not to the animal kingdom, as the nineteenth century fondly imagined - but to a paradisal state where there was no death; because there was no matter.

Edited from page 124 of Worlds Apart by Owen Barfield (1963)


This passage, put into the mouth of "Sanderson", describes a key assumption of Owen Barfield's metaphysics - which he derived from Rudolf Steiner and which I learned from him; which is an inversion of the usual assumption that matter precedes spirit. Barfield instead regards matter as 'condensing' from spirit; as a 'concentrated' form of spirit. 

And Barfield also assumes that we (and all physical Beings) all existed as spirit, before we incarnated - before we transformed into bodies. This is part of Mormon theology (thus preceding Steiner). 


In this mortal incarnation; bodies bring death - and indeed this physical world is a world of death (of entropy). 

But we have memories of having lived in a past world without death - a world of spirit: we have memories of 'paradise', and these are widely manifested in many symbols, myths, and nostalgia for a Golden Age. 

And Christians have faith in the hope of living in a future world without death; which is a world of resurrection. A world where we (and other Beings) are incarnated in bodies that do Not die: bodies and physical forms that are everlasting, immortal, eternal.  


On what grounds do people choose their ultimate (metaphysical) assumptions about Reality?

I am slowly and carefully re-reading Owen Barfield's Worlds Apart (1963) - one of his best books - which is a profound 'Platonic dialogue' between characters representing different philosophical and scientific viewpoints. 

I have just worked through sections in which Linguistic Philosophy, and then Freudian Psychoanalysis, are expounded: firstly in all their irrefutable nature, as if each 'must be' true; and then revealed to be wholly a product of assumptions that have been chosen.  


This is how it is - at least in our era: we choose our reality by choosing our fundamental assumptions about the nature of reality (i.e. metaphysics; which is that philosophy which is concerned with the deepest assumptions of the nature of reality). 

Choosing and accepting different sets of assumptions leads to different world views - each of which is irrefutable once entered. If you have ever talked with a Marxist, Freudian, or SJW - you will know that there is no possible evidence that does or could refute their system - once the assumptions of that system are accepted; and, indeed, exactly the same applies to a Christian of any denomination, or to adherents to other religions. 

The conclusion is that our relationship with the world is rooted in metaphysical assumptions, and these assumptions are chosen... Thus we choose our reality


So what determines our choice of assumptions? Why does somebody choose one reality rather than another? In particular - why do so many people choose assumptions about reality that lead to a miserable, futile, meaningless, demotivated life? 

To be specific, and to take a mostly-past example, why did so many people (especially Americans) choose to believe Freudian Psychoanalysis was the truth about reality; when that reality was so utterly nihilistic? 

Those who chose the metaphysics of psychoanalysis could, in principle, have chosen assumptions that sustained purpose in life, life beyond death, and a meaning in life that included real and eternal relations with other Men, Nature and God... Yet all this was rejected in favour of embracing psychoanalysis...

As an up-to-date example we have the dominating, hegemonic, political attitude of 'leftism' (including All mainstream political groupings and parties) - which again is rooted in metaphysical assumptions that see human life as purposeless, meaningless, and oppositional (rather than creative) in its ultimate nature. 

Why would anybody - so many hundreds of millions of people - choose to believe assumptions that lead to such a pointless and worthless concept of their own (and everybody else's) life?


I think we can see the answer in terms of a basically perverse attitude, that regards anything bleak and depressing as thereby true. 

There is a prior, and unconscious/ unarticulated, assumption that anything true, beautiful and virtuous is a fake. 

This is the idea that has, for the past century, sustained high-status art and literature which is overwhelmingly (and deliberately) hope-less and hope-destroying, disgusting... Which assumes that life is futile and seeks to reveal the selfishness, hedonism, manipulation that lies beneath all apparent 'good'. 

In other words; people in The West overwhelmingly choose to choose a reality in which evil is true, and Good (and God) are fakes. And they regard anything else as childish, ignorant, deluded - or some kind of fraud. 


Where does this attitude come from? I believe that it is rooted in the pre-mortal nature of those people who are incarnated in the modern era; amplified by evil-choices un-repented, and reinforced by the society which these people have built. 

In other words, the ultimate cause is the innate nature of Men; but Men are free agents; and their disposition does not dictate their choices. Yet men have, overwhelmingly, chosen to make choices to disbelieve in God, the soul, the spiritual world; and more recently to reject God and favour the side of the devil. 

Men are not naturally Christian, but have chosen actively to reject Christianity, including the promise of eternal resurrected life - and to regard it as an evil which should be eradicated. 

Thus Men who were born with a greater disposition to evil, and a lesser spontaneous knowledge and experience of the divine, have amplified (rather than repented and worked against) these traits; which is why Men (in the West, primarily) have overwhelmingly and increasingly chosen to believe nihilistic metaphysical assumptions. 


My conclusion is that people actually choose the reality they live-by (whether consciously, or mostly unconsciously); and most people in The West have apparently made the choice to believe ultimate assumptions about reality that lead to the conviction that life is futile and without coherence, and is extinguished at death.

This, in turn, leads to a conviction that there is nothing to be learned from life, that the short-term is the only dependable reality, and that our personal state of happiness/ pleasure (or misery/ pain) is the only reality that really matters. 

There is no long-term (especially not eternal) purpose; so there is no long-term or strong motivation. 

There is no reason to remember experience (because our reality is not permanent in value), and no possibility of valuable learning (because here-and-now is the only dependable truth) - therefore people try (as best they may) to live in the present, and to live in accordance with... whatever incentives are most dominant in the present.  


So far it seems that our dispositions tend to dictate our choice of assumptions; but of course we are (by our nature) free agents and able to choose differently. 

But we can choose differently only if we are consciously aware of the fact of our choosing

If we are unaware that there are metaphysical assumptions, and that we have in fact chosen to believe some assumptions rather than others - then we are trapped; because the assumptions dictate what counts as evidence. 

Freudianism (or Marxism, or Scientism, of Christianity...) explains all possible 'evidence'; therefore only when the Freudian realizes that he has chosen to believe this and this as his assumptions concerning the nature of reality, is he then able to choose differently


What might be his motivations for choosing differently? 

Well, at one superficial level he might want to choose the beliefs that sustain the 'happiest' possible life, in which there was present those motivations that are subjectively most satisfying. But in practice, that does not seem to work - modern men are pre-immunized against this; by the assumptions that such happiness-seeking people are mindless, gullible fools; or else cunning manipulators.  

We cannot, of course, make an appeal to 'the truth' because that is begging the question: The Truth is precisely what needs to be established by choice of assumptions. Once someone has already made a choice of assumptions (and this applies to all post-adolescents), then 'the truth' of whatever he has chosen is confirmed by all subsequent experience. 


I think the only possible motivator to change assumptions is intuition, that deepest and most ineradicable of evaluative inner convictions. 

If the Freudian can get to the point of recognizing and becoming aware of his own primary assumptions and the fact that he has chosen to believe them rather than other assumptions; then intuition can (and will) get to work on them.

All assumptions are chosen in modernity - yet intuition recognizes some as arbitrary while others 'ring true'; some assumptions are dead, inactive, unsustaining - while others awaken motivation, creativity - and Love. 


Perhaps Love is The most important thing. Anyone who is capable of Love and values Love; will find his intuition working on his own core assumptions, evaluating them in terms of Love. 

And it is Love that leads a Man to reject the assumptions of Psychoanalysis, Linguistic Analysis, Scientism, Leftism etc... (i.e. recognizing them as love-denying, love-less and love-destroying assumptions) and which begins to move his choices towards Christianity...

And - by Love - within Christianity; his chosen assumptions will move towards that true Christianity that was exemplified and taught by Jesus Christ - rather than the errors and perversions of Men.


Explicit and chosen belief in Jesus is vital now, in a way that was not the case in ancient times

By my understanding, God has not withdrawn his presence from Modern Man - but Modern Man's minds is now closed from spontaneous and unconscious knowledge of God - in a way that was not the case in ancient times - nor in our own early childhood. 

In other words - as a typical Modern Man reaches adolescence. he enters a state where his consciousness is cut-off from that spontaneous and unconscious knowledge of God (the state of Original Participation, as Owen Barfield termed it); which is what gave ancient people (and still gives children) underlying confidence in the reality and goodness of creation, and hope for their own future beyond death. 

This confidence and hope transcended the official contents of their religions - even when (for example) those religions branded mortal life as suffering merely, and denied life beyond mortal life. 

Yet Modern Man is bereft of those natural supports of the past; and therefore is prone to regard life as futile and despair as realistic. 


The only alternative to such nihilism is that Modern Man makes a conscious choice from his situation of cut-off-ness: the choice to regard Jesus Christ as truly divine, his promise of resurrected Heavenly life eternal as desired, and to 'believe-on' and 'follow' Jesus to this goal. 

Modern Man is on-his-own as never before, because of the nature of his walled-off consciousness; but God is still there - just a choice away; within the soul and all around; ready to commence contact instantly, as soon as our free consciousness wipes the window, opens the door. 

But even a wholly-Good God, and the knowledge that we are members of God's family, does not suffice to justify this mortal life unless it is also understood as a preparation for Heaven. 

Because in this mortal world; entropy rules, all that is Good changes and corrupts with time, and death is the inevitable terminus. 

If the mortal life were everything - in a context of eternity even the 'best' mortal life would be a futile waste of time...


Confidence in a benign creator God is vitally necessary but not enough for Modern Man, in his alienation and isolation. Therefore, unless we are to be drawn to the embrace death, nothingness and hope-less-ness - we must also choose Jesus.  


When, in the past, would you like to have lived? (Being who you now are)... Understanding the evolutionary-development of Mankind

I expect that we have all day-dreamed about living in the past - and when the present is acutely miserable, or when we cannot seriously imagine a good future; then such dreams are more insistent.  

If you are like me; then these pleasant day-dreams are almost like 'snapshots' - holiday photos in reverse - whereby some particularly appealing scene is conjured and entered-into. 


For example, just before I went to sleep at night, I would sometimes imagine myself on a sultry summer's afternoon beside the Concord River or Walden Pond in the 'transcendentalist' era of Ralph Waldo Emerson. I could feel - physically - an idealized sense of repose against an implicit background of close-knit friends and associates, who shared an opening-out of ideas and possibilities.   

After becoming a Christian; I had a mental picture of Constantinople under a crystalline-blue sky; the city and its streets gleaming white, and with bright and rich colour; the music, painting, statuary, mosaics; and dignified ritual of divine liturgy under the vast dome of Hagia Sophia. 

Behind such pictures lay an imagined sense of what it was like to live, immersively, in a society where Christianity permeated the whole of life - a medium into which one was born, and through which one swam. 


This idea of 'immersion' in life; of life as unselfconscious - of living in the world as given and joyfully embraced - was at the back of most of these pleasant, yearning, day-dreams. 

This bears a more-than-coincidental relationship to similar day-dreams of early childhood; where I can remember some of what it was like to be a happy child in a happy family, in the years before I was five. For instance; Christmas day aged three or four was a total and immersive experience of being swept along in colour, warmth, joy and unfolding excitement. My life in early childhood - when it was good - was good without comparison; it was living in the best possible world. 

When, from the late 1990s, I began to read accounts of the life of 'simple', nomadic, foraging, hunter-gatherer societies; it was impossible to miss the similarity with childhood - which was indeed often pointed-out by anthropologists (before the cancer of leftism utterly destroyed their capacity to experience and think). 


Yet, although there was intense nostalgia for states of being; I could seldom whole-heartedly take the inward step of wanting actually to live in any previous state of society - in the sense that I could not imagine me-as-I-am-now, finding life better in any past society as-it-was-then. 

For the daydream to work properly, I would have to be a different person from the modern Man I had become

The problem was 'consciousness' - the problem was my modern self-awareness, my modern knowledge of possibilities and comparisons - and of what happened next. For any fantasy of the imagined past to "work" - I would need to leave-behind a lot of myself-in-the-present. 


This leads onto the next question concerning what I would need to leave-behind. Some of the 'modern' stuff about 'the way I think' that would need to be left-behind is evil - and I would be much better rid of it... not just in order to live in the past, but anyway. I have been corrupted by the evils of modernity - and, like any evil, this needs to be recognized and repented.

But... even when I could imagine being cleansed of characteristically modern corruptions of consciousness; there was a residue of 'me-here-now' compared with people of the past that was different in nature - but not evil; and this made it difficult to want to live in the past except by wanting to be a different person: a fundamentally different person. 

To live 'idyllically' as a simple hunter-gatherer in my fantasy past - or even in Byzantium, or in New England circa 1835 - I had to imagine myself as somebody-else; which really does not make sense, if you think about it...


Indeed; this wishing has the same incoherence as transhumanism - which aims to cure the ills consequent on being a human by abolishing humans!

Or, it resembles the Western oneness spiritualities - which offer a cure of the ills of Modern self-consciousness in the abolition of consciousness of the self.  

Or, it resembles the 'spiritual' strategy of intoxication - whereby consciousness is (pathologically) obliterated by (usually temporary) self-poisoning. A person escapes the miseries of self-consciousness by deliberately causing cerebral dysfunction; such that (e.g.) alertness, self-awareness and memory are rendered physically inoperative. When a drug has euphoriant properties, there may also be a state of pleasure or at least painlessness. 

In a sense; such intoxication - with its obliteration of that which causes and enables angst - implicitly aims at a simulation of earlier (or child-like) consciousness in terms of the experience of here-and-now immersion in the here-and-now. Insofar as it can be achieved, such simulation of unselfconscious immersion is necessarily achieved at the cost of significant dysfunction


It was such insights that prepared my mind for understanding the insights of Owen Barfield concerning what he terms 'the evolution of consciousness' - evolution being used in a pre-natural-selection sense of purposive change; much like the psychological aspects of development of a human from baby, through childhood and adolescence to sexual maturity (the purpose ultimately coming from God).  

To regard human history as including a change in the nature of Man's thinking, and relationship with the world - a change analogous to (and sharing similar purposes with)  that of the development of a single Man - is to find meaning in the mental differences between myself and the hunter-gatherer or resident of Constantinople in the middle hundreds AD. 

It is to recognize that for me to live in the past in the same spirit as people did then, would require fundamental changes in my consciousness; but to regard at least some of these changes as on the one hand impossible - in the same sense that an adult cannot really, in essence, become a child again; and also undesirable - in the sense that development is not meant to be reversed. 

This is to assume that when a person develops through adolescence to sexual maturity; this is what God wants - and the 'job' of the adult is to deal with the situation - not to try and reverse it. This is our divinely-appointed task - it is our destiny. 

Likewise; when God has enabled his creation of Mankind to develop from hunter gatherer, through agrarian societies into the industrial revolution - in some broad yet essential sense this is what God wants; and our job is to deal with it - starting from where we are; and not trying to reverse the fundamentals of the later situation in search of recreating the earlier situation. 


Of Course we Modern Men must recognize and repent sin; and insofar (and it is very far) that Modern Man is corrupt, and Modern society not only encourages but increasingly enforces such corruption, we are right to desire that this be changed. 

But the consciousness of Modern Man is unprecedented - and cannot lead-to, nor function-in, any previous type of society

Just as the adolescent's consciousness is unprecedented in his own experience - and the only way out is forward; no matter how corrupt an individual he has become, the same applies to Modern Society: that the only way out is forward. 


The only way out is forward; because we cannot find solutions to our unprecedented situation in our past. 

Part of this is due to an increase in sin; but part of it is also due to a change in the nature of Men through time - so that even if past social forms could be re-created, Modern men would not function in them, and they could not be sustained in the same way as they once were - they would be unsustainable, and they would not lead to Good. 

We cannot become unselfconsciously immersed in society again; and even if we could, it would be in defiance of God's expressed creative will - and would therefore lead to demonic outcomes. 


Thus, an understanding and acceptance of the development of human consciousness can make a fundamental difference in how we intend and hope to deal with the evils of modern society. 

These evils are seen, to a significant and crucial degree, as due to a failure to deal-with the development of Man's consciousness

An analogy might be when the (common) corruptions of adolescence are seen as a failure to deal with the unfolding inner changes in consciousness. That unfolding was itself a necessary, and a good (God-given) thing. 

But development leads to unavoidable challenges and choices - and if the challenges are avoided and the choices are wrong - then there is a turn towards evil that needs repentance.  


We, here, now are living at the end of innumerable failures to acknowledge challenges, and innumerable bad choices by vast numbers of people - an accumulated legacy of evil which is unrecognized and unrepented.   

But behind all this was a development of consciousness, a growing-up of Mankind, which was divinely-intended; and is irreversible. 

Therefore, although we are not supposed to leave history behind (just as we ought to remember, honour and cherish all which was good in our childhoods); nonetheless, but we ought not to seek to recreate our childhood, nor seek childrens' solutions to adolescent problems: they will not work, and they will do harm - even when well-intended. 


Instead; we must seek solutions appropriate to where we are and what we have become; and the right answers will be unprecedented in fundamental ways.

This quest will almost certainly entail trials and errors; so we need both faith and hope, together with a willingness to discern and repent when things do not work-out. 

But we each have divine guidance (of several kinds) to lead us through the maze of options and alternatives, successes and failures. 

That is the nature of our task.   


Tuesday, 10 May 2022

Re-reading What Coleridge Thought

I am currently re-reading various Owen Barfield works, including What Coleridge Thought (1971); which had a massive impact when I last read it in 2016. This reading led eventually to my still current metaphysical system (based on the eternal existence of Beings). 

Both in 2016 and now, I gave the fullest and most active attention to my reading; which for me entails reading, in a cafe, at the 'best time of day' for me - which is before 11.00 am. I sit wit the book on one side and a notebook on the other; and read a bit but keep breaking-off to  write comments in the notebook about as much as I read. And I take as long as it takes to work through the book in this way. 

When I first read this book, I was mainly trying to understand 'what Coleridge thought'; but this time I am comparing this with the ways in which I have extended or modified my own philosophy - in which I was triggered by the ways in which I regarded Coleridge as 'dead right' and the ways in which I felt he was still captive to the philosophy he had learned as a younger man. 

In particular, Coleridge (and indeed Barfield) seem to me to suffer - to a relatively worse degree than I do myself - from what Barfield termed Residual Unresolved Positivism. Coleridge was a great genius pioneer, and was making a trail for the first time; such that things were made easier for those who followed.

(Including that Coleridge had, by his work, permanently affected and added-to the world of divine creation - which we can now discover intuitively for ourselves - if we are able to ask the right questions.)

Thus, Coleridge's extremely abstract and difficult exposition of 'polarity' or 'polar logic' and of his schemata for describing human mental activity, can be simplified greatly (I believe) by the simple assumption of having the metaphysical assumption that the 'basic unit' of reality are Beings, which have properties such as life, consciousness and purpose - and who are 'defined' as existing through-time - which means that we should eschew discussing them without reference to time and transformation. 

I have found this to be (so far) extremely powerful and satisfying - partly because it is an explicit elaboration of how I recall seeing the world as a young child; and it chimes with my understanding of the 'animism' of hunter-gatherer tribal people. 

So, this time of reading, I am fitting Barfield's understanding of Coleridge into my own understanding - which is, in a sense, the opposite of what I did first-time-through.


Saturday, 11 December 2021

My special gratitude to Owen Barfield


When I encounter a special author, I will initially hurl myself into trying to understand him - read many books, think a lot, take notes (in a meditative fashion); and often talk and write about these experiences. 

After a while, when I have become surer of what they mean and have a fairly sold grasp on it; I find that what I have learned amounts to some particular things; but I then need to detach these specifics from the whole of the writer's assertions - because I have never found any writer whose views I can endorse or believe fully.

Eventually, I get to a point where I have (more or less) obtained 'what I needed' from a writer; and may (more or less) cease to re-read or explore actively that author's works. 


I have, at this point, built-into my own philosophy of life, some elements from the special author; and from then onwards, these ideas may undergo further development and refinement - and may indeed end-up by being very different from how they are in that author's own work. 

So, the end result is that I retain a special gratitude to the author for insights that I needed; but I have ceased actively to engage with that author, and am then often more aware of my points of disagreement with him, rather than agreement. 

Yet the core debt remains - I have been changed, and for the better, by the encounter. 


I have almost reached this stage with Owen Barfield. I do continue to engage with his writings; in a cyclical fashion - but his importance to me has by-now been fed-into my own philosophy-of-life, and they have interacted with other ideas from elsewhere; have been modified; and have developed in (sometimes) different directions. 

Looking back; what I got from Owen Barfield - in a general sense - was a positive and hopeful attitude to life, deriving from his articulation of Final Participation

Until I encountered Final Participation, I could not see any positive direction for human life - here and now. I saw life as a binary choice between the present and the past; a present which was alienated and increasingly evil - and a past which seemed both irrecoverable and harmful to try and recover. 

It was as if an adolescent hated being an adolescent, and yearned for childhood - but knew that childhood could not be recovered - so that this mortal life had no real hope within itself: no real positive purpose. 


But through his concept of Final Participation; Barfield made me realize that there was a third possibility. Barfield terms the 'childhood' state Original Participation and the adolescent state Consciousness Soul; and he analyses how the one derived from the other through a process of unfolding development of consciousness, that stretched across different generations and historical eras. 

The 'original' participation was an immersive, passive, unconscious sense of being part of the world and knowing the spiritual; while the consciousness soul was that active, self-conscious way of thinking that finds itself cut-off - alienated - from the spiritual, and indeed from the world. 

I personally have found (since adolescence) this cut-offness, this being an 'observer' of life, trapped inside one's head - locked into one's thinking; to be appalling. It removed depth and meaning from experience, it dissolved all sense of purpose. 

This was a demotivating and depressing situation - which recurred daily, almost hourly, and needed always to be fought; but where the fighting seemed to provide no more then a subjective and ephemeral amelioration. 

For me alienation was The Problem of my adult life - and I was always seeking solutions; but never found any that were convincing, effective, strategic. 


Barfield convinced me that this development pointed forward to Final Participation which was an active, chosen, conscious state of being part-of the world; and of contributing creatively to the world. 

I realized that many of my best and most hopeful experiences in life could be seen as glimpses of this Final Participation state, but without Barfield's insights I could not make sense of them - could not learn the lessons they had to teach...

Instead I merely treasured these 'moments' (epiphanies', 'peak experiences'. moments of 'joy'); held onto them, and tried to seek them out - but with small and dwindling success... And the treasuring of these moments was itself alienating - given their temporary and very partial nature.     

But now, with Barfield's analysis to help; these moments could be seen in terms of a developmental process, a growing towards a future and better state - and this future and better state could be recognized as resurrected eternal life in Heaven. 


Having been given certain analytic tools and deep insights by Barfield; I was then starting to use them in a Christian context that I had already in-place, but which was deficient in exactly the areas that Barfield supplied. I began to see - more and more clearly - my path to the Romantic Christianity that I had always implicitly wanted but had not been able to articulate. 

That is; a Christianity that supplied the Romanticism which could cure my alienation, cut-offness, trapped-in-the-headness which had been left almost untouched (or even exacerbated) by mainstream Christianity.  

I found (I find, now) that I was was going beyond Barfield, and into areas where he would very probably not have followed; but I could not have done so without Barfield's help. 


So, now I find myself having integrated Barfield into my own thinking; having changed some of his core ideas in the process - yet I know the Barfieldian provenance of my situation; and that he ranks as one of a handful of vital sources in my own deepest convictions. 


Friday, 26 November 2021

Confusing selection-replacement with transformative developmental-evolution... The covertly suicidal impulse in Artificial Intelligence, Transhumanism, and Oneness spiritualities

There is a very prevalent logical error that pervades our culture; so thoroughly pervades it that it is all-but invisible, and difficult to understand. 

The error is to confuse annihilation and replacement, with transformational development

This error was made clear to me only in recent years and through reading Owen Barfield; but until that point (around 2014) I too was in thrall to the mistake. 


We have a deep, ancient and primary understanding of 'evolution' as a process akin to the development of an acorn to an oak tree, and egg to a chicken, a newborn baby to an adult. 

That is, we understand evolution to be a transformation of the self - while retaining the identity of the self. 

This could be called developmental-transformative evolution


In this primary understanding of evolution; the Being remains itself - but changes form. 

Thus, if we (as Christians) imagine our future spiritual evolution from this mortal life to resurrected eternal life; this is a 'process' during which we remain our-self but undergo developmental or transformative changes in both body and mind. 

The result is that our resurrected eternal self is the same person as he was during mortal life. And in Heaven we can 'recognize' others whom we knew in mortal life: they are still themselves.


But from the time that evolution by natural selection became a dominant social paradigm (during the late 1900s) there has emerged a qualitatively different conception of 'evolution'

This could be called selection-reproductive evolution

The key to this concept is selection acting on reproduction. Evolution of this sort 'happens' after reproduction, and is defined in terms of changed offspring. Therefore it is Not about transformation of the same-self; but replacement of the original parent by following generations. 


With selection-reproductive evolution; a variety of different types - different selves - compete; some reproduce differentially more than others; and evolution has occurred when either one or just-some of the original selves continue to reproduce. 

Meanwhile the other selves have Not reproduced, and their continuity has been annihilated. 

So this concept is based on Darwinian ideas of natural selection; and entails not transformation but replacement. After such selectional evolution, what persists is Not the previous self - but a different self: a different Being; because offspring are different Beings than their parents.  


In a brief phrase: natural selection is reproductive replacement. It is all-about replacing one thing with some other thing

Some survive and others do not; and those which survive replace those which do not. 

Because if the identity of the organism is being defined in terms of its genetic composition; then any genetic change is itself a kind of replacement. 


Following Barfield; I believe that many people are often deeply confused between these two concepts of evolution. The seem to believe emotionally that they are proposing a developmental-transformative evolution; when in fact they are advocating replacement of one thing by another. 

For instance; when people are keen on a future based upon Artificial Intelligence, or the Transhumanist changing of Man (by means of drugs, genetic engineering, inorganic implants, links to computers or the internet etc); they seem to suppose that this is an transformational enhancement of Men

But in fact such aspirations are simply the annihilation of Men and their replacement. Replacement of Men with... something else. 

In spiritual terms; AI and Transhumanism are therefore advocating covert suicide: suicide, because they themselves (and all other Men) will cease to exist; covert, because this desire for self-destruction is hidden by an irrelevant focus on what might replace us. 

This is closely analogous to a plan to solve the problems of this Earth by exploding the planet - and then calling Mars 'the new and better Earth'. Maybe Mars is better (fewer problems), maybe not - but better or worse, Mars is Not an evolved Earth; it is some-thing different. 


So much is fairly obvious; but the 'afterlife' proposed and yearned-for by many people shares this fundamentally suicidal impulse; because it hopes for the total destruction of the body, the self, the ego and all that is individual - by its absorption into the impersonal and discarnate divine.  

I am talking about the Oneness spiritual movement - which is so much a feature of the New Age in The West. This talks constantly about how all things truly are one, and how separation into persons is an illusion (Maya), and a 'sin'; and separation of Man from God is an illusion and a sin. 

According to Oneness; in reality there are no persons, no Men - only one God; and that God is not a person - because the divine encompasses everything, so there can be no definition or description of God. 

Nothing specific can be said about the divine except for an infinite series of denials of all less-than-total claims of God's nature: i.e. a negative theology of what God is not.


To hope for the 'evolution' of my-self, and Mankind, into One; is therefore to hope-for one's own annihilation and replacement. 

There would be - could be -  no continuity between me-now, and now living Men - and the aimed for annihilation of separateness into divine unity.

Oneness spirituality is not to solve any of the problems of the world; but to destroy the world - to destroy every-thing... and replace it with something else. 

It is solving the problem of misery and suffering in life, by ending all life - by killing everything. 

In other words; Oneness offers exactly the same kind of 'solution' to the problem of Man's mortal life as does Artificial Intelligence and Transhumanism


Oneness is just as much a covert advocacy of suicide, as are the schemes of technological replacement of Man by... 'something better'. 

And the reason why this is not immediately obvious; is that our culture has become deeply confused by the two concepts of evolution.

And has erroneously carried-over the spiritual aspirations of evolution understood as transformative-development, into the annihilation-seeking mechanisms of transformative-replacement.