Monday 25 December 2017

Oscillation/ Undulation

Life is undulation: life is meant to be undulation: consciousness is undulating.

The main undulation is between waking and sleeping - during sleep there is undulation between deep sleep and dreaming.

While awake there is also undulation in consciousness - between the three major types of Original Participation, the Consciousness Soul and Final Participation - that is; between childlike, adolescent-like and grown-up-divine consciousness - that is; between immersive-in-life un-consicousness -- alienated/ cut-off-from-life self-consciousness -- and conscious participation with reality...

Much of this blog has recently been concerned with the attainment of Final Participation - by means of Primary Thinking; but I have neglected to emphasise that we cannot do Primary Thinking all-the-time, and more than we could stay awake all-the-time. And, more importantly, it would not be desirable for us to live in Final Participation all-the-time - any more than to be awake/ asleep all the time.

Undulation is part of the essence of life; because life is dynamic, polar; life is about love - love is something that entails movement - movement requires undulation...

It isn't just that we cannot be in any fixed and permanent state, but that this would be a denial of the very nature of reality. I am talking, here, about the metaphysical nature of things...

If it is accepted that ultimate reality is a thing that is dynamic/ polar/ moving - then this just is how things are. It is not a matter of what is expedient, or pleasurable, or good-for-us - but that things always are going to be undulating.

Our remote tribal ancestors seemed to understand this, in one way - in that they regarded life as transformation, a cycling of states - an endless mixing and recombining of the same fixed ultimate material...

Our own metaphysics is, by contrast, open-ended, and genuinely creative; yet it returns to that old idea of transformation of state, of life as undulating - but we see this as the means by which there is creation.

But love gives the clearest example. In Love (and I do not mean in-and-out-of love - but staying In love) there is undulation - Love is NOT (think about it, contra what some have said) a steady solid unchanging state of being; love is intrinsically undulating: that is its life and livingess.

We stay-in love, but undulating. Same for life, same for our own specific life.

Do not grasp and hold onto one state, not even the best and most divine state - but undulate; as is right and necessary.

Note: This idea comes, today, from what Rudolf Steiner termed 'oscillation' (in translation), and from what William Arkle describes in A Geography of Consciousness, in the chapter 'Astrology' - it is also memorably discussed in CS Lewis's Screwtape Letters (although I feel that the point is undercut by Lewis's neo-Platonic metaphysics; which philosophy suggests to me that undulation is 'merely' an expedient of mortal life - to be dispensed-with in Heaven...).

Saturday 23 December 2017

Specialism of thinking and alienation

If primary thinking is our unbounded scope, the opposite applies to the thought-world we inhabit in modern society.

It began with Law - which sampled from infinite reality just a few aspects for attention, and dealt with them according to standard procedures. When one is operating within Law, within the legal 'system' - and if one is competent - one is alienated from reality and from the processes of Life.

Law deals with a biased and ultra-simplified model of life - thinking as a lawyer is to think within this simple model and using only this simple model.

The same applies to all other professional discourses - medicine, the military, science (and all the sub-sciences); but the major alienating system nowadays is bureaucracy.

All bureaucracies - by their operational definitions and standard procedures - are and impose simplified and biased models of reality.  And bureaucracies have extended into ever-more of life - and the different bureaucracies have linked-up via a huge increase in laws, regulations, subsidies, taxes, grants, monitoring, auditing etc. etc.

So the modern condition is to inhabit, and to think within and by the rules of, an almost-total bureaucracy - which has specialised sub-branches (such as law, medicine, science, the police, the branches of government, the mass media) - but which is incrementally converging into a single system, with a single set of master-priorities.

In a formal sense this convergence on master-priorities is not a bad thing - indeed it is a good thing: after all, the ideal is that all social systems be permeated and controlled by the master priority of Christianity (leaving-aside what specifically that would entail).

What is bad is that is two-fold:

Firstly and most obviously, the master priorities are evil. they are negative, destructive and ultimately inverting of Good.

But secondly they are simplified models of reality - and thus necessarily false and inadequate.

My focus on Primary Thinking is to emphasise that with primary thinking is a way of knowing the world that is unbounded and works by spontaneous, satisfying and intrinsically-valid processes.

Primary thinking ought to be the master priority - an un-alienated, participating way of thinking; not limited by professional or expedient boundaries - but inclusive of everything that is relevant and true; and - although limited in scope and precision - and in expression; intrinsically-valid within those bounds.

In sum: Bureaucracy is alienation; increase in bureaucracy is increase in alienation - consequently modernity is (from this reason alone - although there are others) already highly-alienated and becoming ever-more-so.

Was is more, the alienation is inescapable. The linked-unified bureaucracy is becoming ever harder to escape, as it absorbs ever-more of life - but even when it is escaped, the alternative thought worlds are almost-always narrow, partial, tightly defined, standardised in procedure and process...

Thus social media is not an escape from alienation, it is merely a different species of alienation. And that is the best we can manage - in modernity we take a break from one type of alienation by engaging in a different type of alienation - but the fact of alienation is constant.

Only if we practise an unalienated way of being - that is participation - can we escape alienation even for a moment. The first escape is into unconsciousness (sleep, trance, intoxication...) - but that is to cease to be fully-human (and anyway when we are truly unconscious, we do not know we have escaped alienation).

The importance of primary thinking is that in-it we escape alienation, and we enter and participate-in a world of unbounded scope and reality; we do not think within definitions nor according to procedures, but whatever is thought is spontaneous and true.

(Expressing the insights of primary thinking is, however, neither spontaneous nor true! On the contrary, it must be another model.)

Primary thinking is therefore intrinsically-gratifying, and self-reinforcing. It is also intrinsically self-validating - if we allow it to be.

The question each of us ought to examine is whether (and, related, why) such thinking is indeed to be considered as real.

Friday 22 December 2017

Bureaucracy and the positivism of thinking

If primary thinking is our unbounded scope, the opposite applies to the thought-world we inhabit in modern society.

It began with Law - which sampled from infinite reality just a few aspects for attention, and dealt with them according to standard procedures. When one is operating within Law, within the legal 'system' - and if one is competent - one is alienated from reality and from the processes of Life.

Law deals with a biased and ultra-simplified model of life - thinking as a lawyer is to think within this simple model and using only this simple model.

The same applies to all other professional discourses - medicine, the military, science (and all the sub-sciences); but the major alienating system nowadays is bureaucracy.

All bureaucracies - by their operational definitions and standard procedures - are and impose simplified and biased models of reality.  And bureaucracies have extended into ever-more of life - and the different bureaucracies have linked-up via a huge increase in laws, regulations, subsidies, taxes, grants, monitoring, auditing etc. etc.

So the modern condition is to inhabit, and to think within and by the rules of, an almost-total bureaucracy - which has specialised sub-branches (such as law, medicine, science, the police, the branches of government, the mass media) - but which is incrementally converging into a single system, with a single set of master-priorities.

In a formal sense this convergence on master-priorities is not a bad thing - indeed it is a good thing: after all, the ideal is that all social systems be permeated and controlled by the master priority of Christianity (leaving-aside what specifically that would entail).

What is bad is that is two-fold:

Firstly and most obviously, the master priorities are evil. they are negative, destructive and ultimately inverting of Good.

But secondly they are simplified models of reality - and thus necessarily false and inadequate.

My focus on Primary Thinking is to emphasise that with primary thinking is a way of knowing the world that is unbounded and works by spontaneous, satisfying and intrinsically-valid processes.

Primary thinking ought to be the master priority - an un-alienated, participating way of thinking; not limited by professional or expedient boundaries - but inclusive of everything that is relevant and true; and - although limited in scope and precision - and in expression; intrinsically-valid within those bounds.

In sum: Bureaucracy is alienation; increase in bureaucracy is increase in alienation - consequently modernity is (from this reason alone - although there are others) already highly-alienated and becoming ever-more-so.

Was is more, the alienation is inescapable. The linked-unified bureaucracy is becoming ever harder to escape, as it absorbs ever-more of life - but even when it is escaped, the alternative thought worlds are almost-always narrow, partial, tightly defined, standardised in procedure and process...

Thus social media is not an escape from alienation, it is merely a different species of alienation. And that is the best we can manage - in modernity we take a break from one type of alienation by engaging in a different type of alienation - but the fact of alienation is constant.

Only if we practise an unalienated way of being - that is participation - can we escape alienation even for a moment. The first escape is into unconsciousness (sleep, trance, intoxication...) - but that is to cease to be fully-human (and anyway when we are truly unconscious, we do not know we have escaped alienation).

The importance of primary thinking is that in-it we escape alienation, and we enter and participate-in a world of unbounded scope and reality; we do not think within definitions nor according to procedures, but whatever is thought is spontaneous and true.

(Expressing the insights of primary thinking is, however, neither spontaneous nor true! On the contrary, it must be another model.)

Primary thinking is therefore intrinsically-gratifying, and self-reinforcing. It is also intrinsically self-validating - if we allow it to be.

The question each of us ought to examine is whether (and, related, why) such thinking is indeed to be considered as real.

Tuesday 19 December 2017

Bureaucracy and positivism

Bureaucracy is, along with the mass media, the most powerful form of intrinsic evil in the modern world (that is, bureaucracy - like the mass media - is intrinsically and always metaphysically Positivist, hence evil in its form - quite aside from intent, it is evil).

1. Operational definitions
Bureaucracy works by reducing life to operational definitions - which are always wrong; wrong because simplified and distorted (wrong even-when, as is exceedingly unusual, the intention behind making an operational definitions happens to be honest and competent).

2. Procedure
Bureaucracy works by assuming that correct procedure leads to correct outcomes; which is again false - since all procedure (like all operational definitions) is necessarily simplified and distorted.

Furthermore, most bureaucracies are indifferent whether any particular procedure will yield good outcomes even on average and under normal situations - this is not tested nor evaluated honestly, it is just assumed - and contrary evidence ruled-out on the basis of falling outside of operational definitions and procedure.

Thus far, we can see that bureaucracy operates on the basis of constructing a model of reality, and like all models this must-be simplified and distorted. Of course, from within the model errors, bad-outcomes and contradictions are invisible - however, there is a danger that the falseness of bureaucracy would be unmasked by a human being evaluating the whole-situation.

Therefore to make the evil of bureaucracy impregnable requires:

3. Committee decision
Modern bureaucracy is ruled by committees which means that - since judgement is individual - all bureaucracies are non-moral which means immoral.

Even when an individual person is nominally in charge of an institution, he is regulated-by and can be over-ruled by, a committee.

We have created a world run only on the basis of necessarily-false models, in which ultimate authority is impersonal.

In place, therefore - everywhere, at the highest level - is a global, linked system of bureaucratic power without responsibility: we inhabit a system that is necessarily evil in form and effect.

Monday 18 December 2017

Understanding the specifics of synchronicity

I am fascinated by synchronicity - 'meaningful coincidences' - which have played an important role in my life, and indeed my late conversion to Christianity.

The specific meaning of a specific synchronous event in one's life cannot (as a rule) be interpreted by anybody else other than the person experiencing it: there is no objective symbolism to synchronicities, they are not a code.

The way to understanding one's own synchronicities is through Primary Thinking.

In Primary Thinking all truths concerned with synchronicities are linked meaningfully by the thread of thought; so the reality of specific aspects of synchronicities ought to become clear, by the context they occupy in the thinking of other truths. This is the method of discernment.

Why? because in this time and this place; all conspires to ensure that we can each make spiritual progress only by voluntary, free, personal, intuitive thinking.

We cannot make the next step from alienated modernity passively; not by unconscious processes -- we cannot be compelled to take the next step, neither can we do it by obedience; we cannot be informed by (external) inspiration; logic and reason are of no help for this purpose; experience is no good either...

These were good, right and effective in other times and other places - but not for us, here and now. 

This makes sense to me because we are being invited (offered the gift) to begin thinking in the divine way ('final' participation); functioning as the agent (minor) deities we are (sons and daughters of God); so that detailed discernment needs to come from the divine-within us, and not by obedience to the divine-without us (which can contradict error, but not discern truth).

So... there is indeed something significant in the specific details of synchronicities - they are not merely quantitative and general in significance (although they are that too); but only you can discover what that significance is, and only for your own synchronicities.

But this you can do - via Primary Thinking.

Saturday 16 December 2017

The priority of metaphysics

For the past century and a half, metaphysics (the philosophy of ultimate assumptions concerning the nature of reality) has been ignored, ridiculed, asserted to be unnecessary; and the philosophical focus has been on epistemology - that is, the question of knowledge (how we can known anything, or know any specific thing).

Thus, it has been common since Logical Positivism for modern thinkers to claim - incoherently - that do not have any metaphysical assumptions, but 'instead' base their beliefs on 'evidence' (thereby including the assumption that they already-know what counts as valid evidence and they already-know to interpret it validly...).

Anyway - we should acknowledge that metaphysics is necessary, and an explicit metaphysics is necessary in modernity because metaphysics Will Be Challenged.

So - anyone can state a basic assumption, something about which we say: It Just Is; and the proper question is how may metaphysical assumptions be evaluated? 

Ultimately personal evaluation is an intuitive process, by which our true-self (our real-divine self) grasps the proposition entire and makes a solid evaluation. But that comes at the end of a process of clarification - that is, we need to come to that state of simplicity and clarity before we can evaluate it as-a-whole.

One help is to assume the truth of the assumption, then ask: Does this assumption make sense of the fact that I know it? 

(In other words, does this metaphysics support a coherent epistemology?)

If the assumption is (assumed to be) true,

Then could we, personally, know-that it was true?

Many metaphysical assumptions cannot sustain an epistemology by which they could be known.

This would incline me to reject them - how about you?


Most mainstream metaphysical assumptions are incoherent wrt. epistemology. As examples:
      If natural selection is assumed metaphysically true, as the only and sufficient explanation of Man; then human reason must be a product of natural selection; which means that human reason can never know anything (because natural selection is about differential fitness, not about truth).   
     If it is assumed that the universe is assumed to be a combination of randomness and determinism; then we personally could never know this - because we personally would be a combination of randomness and determinism and could never know anything. The universe might actually Be random/ determined - but if so, we personally could never know that. 

Thursday 14 December 2017

Owen Barfield's Final Participation

Possible book title and summary of intent:

Owen Barfield's Final Participation: What is it? Why do it? How to do it

Owen Barfield spent most of his time and effort in arguing-for his philosophy; but gave much less emphasis to describing and explaining that philosophy. Consequently, there has been a lack of clarity about the nature of Barfield's most vital and relevant concept of Final Participation, and in particular the implications of Final Participation for our lives.

This book assumes the validity of Barfield's philosophy, and takes the 'Wittgensteinian' approach of eschewing argument in favour of clarification. I present a constellation of aphoristic comments on and around the topic of Final Participation so that the reader can understand its meaning and importance. It also makes suggestions of how we can actually do Final Participation for ourselves.

Some vital definitions

Imagination - mental 'pictures' - important but not-necessarily true

Inspiration - true knowledge coming from external divine sources

Intuition - true knowledge coming from the inner divine source

The Real Self - the divine within, unique to ourselves
(due to our eternal pre-mortal existence), and shared with all others (because a part of God; due to us each being a son or daughter of God)

Primary Thinking - thinking of the (divine) Real Self
(and Not the mass of sometimes-willed and sometimes-automatic 'cognitive processing' resulting from instinct and environmental interactions)

Final Participation = Intuition - our true relationship with the world when engaged in Primary Thinking

Wednesday 13 December 2017

Apologies to commenters!

I have only just been informed (by William Wildblood) that comments were not 'getting through' on this blog - and I realised I had made an error in setting-up, such that I did not know that there had been any comments at all!

Well, I have fixed it - and posted all the comments - which I will now respond to, belatedly!

Sorry to all of you!

Ignore the date order of these posts - I'm messing with them...

Tuesday 12 December 2017

The truth of imagination

Owen Barfield deserves his description as 'the fourth Inkling' - along with CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien and Charles Williams - because, although he attended few meetings, his influence is undeniable (especially on Lewis, but also on Tolkien) and his core philosophical concern was exactly that shared by the other three Inklings.

Indeed, Barfield stated this primary concern more explicitly and over a longer period than any other Inkling (because he started publishing so young and lived an active life up to the age of ninety-nine).

This theme is the Truth of Imagination. Barfield's life-long concern was to understand how the Imagination is a source of Truth, a source of knowledge, a way of accessing reality.

This was also Tolkien's concern, most evident in the concept of Subcreation described in his essay On Fairy Stories - and in his many reflections on myth and history.

It was Lewis's concern in his Platonism - where the Imagination was seen as a mortal and earth-bound way of understanding the primary eternal forms of Heaven - this crops up all through Lewis's ouvre - for instance at the end of The Last Battle and his book on the Medieval world view - The Discarded Image.

And Charles Williams many considerations of Romantic or Positive Theology (via  positiva)  - his multi-form efforts to show that the poetic imagination could be a path towards salvation and theosis; and his best and most explicitly Platonic novel The Place Of The Lion - in which the imagination opens-up a (dangerous, indeed deadly) channel for the eternal forms to invade this world. Furthermore, in his actual life, and to a high degree, Williams lived by the truth and reality of imagination.

Of course, this concern with the Truth of Imagination was mostly a matter of the confluence of spontaneous personal interests rather than of direct personal 'influence' of one Inking upon another - especially in the case of Charles Williams whose ideas were fully expressed before he even heard of the Inklings (in 1936), and before he actually attended meetings regularly (from 1939-45).

By contrast with Williams, Barfield had done most of his thinking and formulating back in the 1920s, before The Inklings, around the time of his Great War with Lewis (a sustained epistolatory debate from 1925 to Lewis's conversion circa 1930); and when the friendship was forming between Lewis and Tolkien. Barfield's early BLitt thesis, and his first two books (Poetic Diction and History In English Words) also (by his own account) influenced and changed Tolkien at this time - both as a professional philologist and in his imaginative writing.

Once we are sufficiently clear about the nature of The Inklings primary concern, the importance of Owen Barfield becomes obvious.

On beginning to understand Owen Barfield

I have been intermittently plugging-away at the writings of Owen Barfield over the past several years - I have read a selection of summaries and excerpts, essays online, read and watched interviews, the official biography; but so far had only really been able to engage with the enjoyable and stimulating Platonic dialogue Worlds Apart; which is a philosophical conversation between a variety of contrasting characters, taking place over a few days in a country house setting.

However, just over the past few days, I have quite suddenly 'tuned-into' what Barfield was getting-at; and have been finding it a very insightful and valuable thing.

The aspect which has grabbed my attention is his long-term endeavour to clarify how it is that Imagination (in a particular meaning, but one not far from ordinary usage) is not just a valid way of knowing, but an absolutely essential component of knowing (when knowing means genuinely to appropriate for oneself).

It was this which provided the focus of Barfield's 'Great War' (an extended epistolary debate with CS Lewis when they were best friends in the mid-1920s, and before Lewis became a Christian). Lewis loved Imagination, but not as a way of reaching reliable and valid knowledge. Barfield was trying to induce Lewis to change his mind on this matter, although Lewis never fully did so. I now think Barfield was correct.

Yet I still do not find Barfield at all easy to read - it is slow, it is hard work - but at least I have grasped what he is up-to; and discovered it is a matter with which I am in sympathy, I can at last begin to appreciate him and evaluate his contributions.

The lesson here is one that I have encountered before: with many writers there is a 'key' which unlocks them for appreciation and understanding; and that key is often a matter of perspective, which itself comes from an empathic identification with their agenda.

Since the writer may not himself be aware of his own true agenda, and since critics may also misapprehend this (or read-in a different agenda) this is something that the reader may need to discover for himself.

But the effort is worthwhile, because the key opens the author.

Over the past couple of years I have fully engaged with the writings of Owen Barfield, and incorporated some of his key ideas and perspectives into my thinking; one of these is dividing human consciousness into three phases: Original Participation, the Consciousness Soul and Final Participation.

This sequence is primarily concerned with human society, or civilisation through hunter gatherer, agrarian and industrial phases and pointing at the destined future - but also corresponds to the development of Man from birth to mature adulthood.

Thus the consciousness of Original Participation can be seen both in the 'childhood of Man' (the earliest, simplest and most spontaneous society: the hunter gatherer life), and also in each Man's childhood. 


I became extremely engaged with understanding the hunter gatherer mind some twenty years ago - by immersion in all sorts of books on the subject; both by leading twentieth century academics (mostly anthropologists) who lived among such people (or among those who had recently been hunter gatherers) and also by looking at some examples of 'first contact' literature from previous centuries when a variety of people - e.g. explorers, missionaries - described their encounters with hunter gatherers.

My interest was then focused on spontaneous animism; or the way in which hunter gatherers - and young children - interpreted the world 'anthopomorphically', or socially; in terms of being a collection of person-like agents. So large animals (such as the bear) or environmental objects both living (such as a tree) and 'non-living' (such as a mountain) would be understood as persons, each with a character, motivations, desires and intentions.

Thus, for the hunter gatherer the whole world was social; a web of relationships. And if we can remember and introspect about our own early childhoods, we can perceive that it was the same situation for each of us; we used to see the world as social, as full of living and conscious entities.

(This may also re-emerge in altered states of cosnciousness - such as the 'paranoid' delusions of self-reference in psychotic illnesses, or in some types of brain pathology, or some types of drug intoxication. The social perspective seems to be something of a default.)


The perspective of Barfield brings a further aspect to this subject; which is to notice that for the hunter gatherer the Self was much less developed and distinct than it is for us (living at an advanced stage of the Consciousness Soul); the individual hunter-gatherer is not, therefore, very aware of himself as an individual - does not perceive a line of demarcation separating himself and 'the world' (when 'the world' includes both the society of other people, and the society of significant entities in the environment - bear, tree, mountain etc.).

The hunter gatherer participates in the world because he perceives no separation between himself and the world; and much the same applies to young children even nowadays. But as civilisation developed, grew, became specialised... each Man separated from the world, and perceived life as himself one one side of a line, and everything else on the other side - losing the sense of participating in the world, and feeling more-and-more like a detached observer.

Indeed, matters have reached such a point, that we even feel detached from our own thoughts - that is, the thought in our minds are not regarded as the same thing as our-selves.

The disadvantages of the modern condition are obvious enough - alienation from life, and despair. But the advantages were also perceived by Barfield, drawing from the early work of his master Rudolf Steiner. The key word is freedom. By separating our perceived self from the world, the self becomes free.

The hunter gatherer is hardly free, because he hardly feels himself separate from the flow of the human and other environment in which he lives; and much the same applies to the young child. Modern Man in the Consciousness Soul phase is, by contrast, in a position in which he may becomes free, may be able to stand apart from the influences on his life; and consciously, deliberately, in full self-awareness exercise his divine creativity as a source of original thought, and potentially other actions as well as thought (although Steiner clearly described that it was in Thinking that Man primarily was free). 

The equivalent phase to the Consciousness Soul for the developing Man is adolescence; when a man becomes conscious of himself (self-conscious) apart from other people - and this becomes 'a problem'.

As for growing-up into Final Participation; Barfield (and Steiner) would say that this seldom happens in the way that it should - it happens to few people (and only partly and intermittently) and has not yet happened to any human society. Final Participation would be a state of consciousness which retains the autonomy and freedom of The Self (which emerged during the consciousness soul) but returns to a felt-participation-in The World; but a participation of a new type.


The way I envisage Final Participation is that we participate in The World through loving relationships; in the sense that only an autonomous self, distinct from other selves, can love. And this means that in order to participate we must (again) recognise the world as wholly alive and conscious - just as was the case when we were young children, or as did hunter gatherers.

So, we have much to learn from hunter gatherers, and from young children - but not so as we can go back to that form of consciousness, but so that we personally - and also our modern societies - can go forward to Final Participation in which we would have 'the best of both worlds': both and simultaneously the felt-and-lived engagement with the world typical of hunter gatherers and children, and also the freedom and distinct individuality of the Consciousness Soul.

Final Participation, I would therefore regard as the destiny of each Man, and of Mankind as a whole - if we choose to accept it.

Each birth is a death - each birth the emergence of a new dyadic polarity

(Polarity is a term from Coleridge via Barfield meaning a dyadic relationship between two distinguishable but inseparable complementary elements - it implies that fundamental reality and priority of dynamic process - of creation and procreation. The prime polarity is love of two distinct, complementary, eternally wedded persons.)

Spiritual progression is a sequence of deaths and births.

The conception then birth of Jesus was the death of Jehovah, when Jehovah (who made this earth) became a part of a polar dyad with Man;  Jesus's baptism was the birth of Christ in dyadic polarity with the Holy Spirit; the resurrection of Jesus Christ required his death and a polarity with The Father.

Baptism and Marriage imply the death of a previous singleness and birth of a new dyadic polarity.

Truly to be born-again as a Christian is death of what we previously were; the birth of a child is the emergence of a new relationship of parenthood - and the death of our previous state.

An eternal marriage of a fully divine son and daughter of God is a recapitulation of the primal dyad - and the ultimate creative polarity; capable of procreation of new spirit children from primordial human 'intelligences' - as well as of 'normal' creation.

(I presume that marriage was the final stage in the theosis of Jesus Christ - by which he achieved the full nature of the Father; such is - I believe - represented in John's Gospel.)  

Because what emerges is a new polarity, to be Christian it is not a static state - it is the balance of a polarity - and that balance may go in either direction, even a long way towards apostasy, without the polarity being destroyed - so long as repentance is effectual.

(The sin against the Holy Ghost refers to the destruction of this polarity; which is non-viable, and a kind of death. Polar complements cannot be separated without destruction - perhaps into mere abstraction - of both parts.)

So at Christmas we celebrate a birth - which is also a death; complementary to Easter where we celebrate the same process with the opposite emphasis.

A birth is rightly to be celebrated; and for birth, death is necessary - including that death which terminates mortality and opens to resurrection.

Monday 11 December 2017

Owen Barfield's evolution of consciousness - empirical philology or metaphysics?

It seems clear from accounts of those who knew him, confirmed by surviving filmed evidence, that Owen Barfield was a genuinely modest man. Of course, he had the solid, inner confidence that is essential to a genius; but this inner confidence did not come-out in personal interactions, where he was self-effacing and conciliatory. Much the same applies to his writings - which seek common ground rather than confrontation. This was, of course, a virtue; yet there is a consequent tendency to underestimate the depth, scope and originality of Barfield's achievement.

Furthermore, Barfield's writings are extremely careful, precise and balanced to the point that it is sometimes unclear what exactly are his own views. The prose is lucid and aphoristic; stimulating - yet, perhaps from not wishing to over-state or exaggerate, from not wishing to antagonise or dominate - Barfield did not always do justice to himself. He had a tendency to over-prepare the background; to explain and deal with objections, and to surround his assertions with qualifications and distinctions; to such a degree that by the time we eventually get to read his own actual beliefs - they are easy to miss. His considered views are typically articulated without much emphasis, or repetition, or re-explaining - so concisely that they can seem ambiguous.

In introducing my interpretation of Owen Barfield, his modesty can serve as a springboard; because it is the man's modesty that has, I believe, led to a general misunderstanding of the nature of his achievement. And therefore it has led to the potential value of a book which focuses on Barfield's philosophical understanding, states that understanding somewhat baldly, and accepts that understanding as a basis for development -  rather than re-rehearsing the arguments  

One source confusion was Barfield's tendency to present his Big Idea - the evolution of consciousness - as being an outcome of his work as a philologist: that is, he has that his work as an empirical 'scientist' of language development led to a conviction of the evolution of consciousness.

Barfield's early work was on the nature of language, and especially the history of words; and he never ceased to reference this research and his conclusion that it demonstrated the evolution of consciousness. It is a part of Barfield's modesty that he presents his philosophical views as a consequence of this diligent study of precise word-meanings. 

Yet, in a strict sense, it is not (as a matter of principle) possible to discover the evolution of consciousness from an examination of the changing meaning of words. There are, indeed, several possible reasons why there might be discernible patterns of word change, and the most parsimonious explanations would avoid making the radical assumption that they were caused-by a qualitative and directional change in the ways that Men perceive the world and conceptualise it.

Barfield has said that he inferred that an evolution in consciousness was what drove the changes of meaning. But for this to be the case, evolution must be understood as a developmental-unfolding of human consciousness across hundreds and thousands of years of history - and this invites the question why would this happen? What provides the push and direction of such a development?

Barfield does not see the change of consciousness as a response to (for example) cultural change, neither does he understand it as happening due to laws of language change, nor as a random genetic drift; instead he sees the change of consciousness as purposive - he sees consciousness as changing in accordance with a plan.

But this interpretation steps outside of science and empirical operation. Because we need to ask: Where did that 'plan' come from? Well, Barfield would say it came from God - it is in accordance with God's plan for the evolutionary-development of Mankind, and individual Men, towards divinity.

I don't think that Barfield could have deduced the evolution of consciousness from the change in language unless he had already in-place a world view that regarded as possible and plausible a purposive, indeed divinely-destined, development of consciousness across an historical timescale. Once one believes that there is a God, that this God has the purpose of bringing men up to his level of consciousness, and that evolutionary process is the kind of way that God works... then the patterned changes of language that Barfield discovered are indeed absolutely consistent with this set of assumptions.

The above example illustrates one of the ways in which I have reinterpreted Owen Barfield, in distinction from how he modestly self-presented during his life. In reality, Barfield's work is of colossal ambition and scope! - it present nothing less than a comprehensive revision of the basic assumptions that we make about the nature of reality.

In other words, Barfield was working at a level much deeper than philology: he was a metaphysical philosopher engaged in redescribing modern Man's basic assumptions concerning the nature of reality; and Barfield underpinned his metaphysics with a radical Christian theological reinterpretation of the nature and purpose of God's relationship with Man and creation.

I suppose that if Barfield were confronted with the above passage, he would quietly but firmly agree that he was - indeed - essentially working in metaphysics and theology; and would then modestly point-out the large extent of his debt to Rudolf Steiner; that much of Barfield's philosophy can be seen as built-upon the foundations of Steiner's early philosophical books culminating in The Philosophy of Freedom (1894).

And debt is real and vital; despite a few differences, and that Barfield's work leaves-out the great bulk of Steiner's enormous output of 'spiritual science'. Yet it also seems to be true that Steiner's work served more as a confirmation and clarification of Barfield's pre-existing intuitions than a primary source of them.

In the end, it seems necessary to acknowledge both that Barfield's ideas are built-on those of Steiner; and also that Barfield is his-own-man - and for many or most people Barfield could justify the status of serving as one of a handful of truly important philosophers of the twentieth century; one whose work is of potentially-life transforming, life-enhancing value.

Linking the historical evolution of consciousness with personal reincarnation

The idea of an evolution of human consciousness throughout history has been a part of spiritual thinking for more than a century - I know it mainly through considering the work of Rudolf Steiner, Owen Barfield and William Arkle over the past couple of years.

(I encountered the idea over thirty years ago summarized in the work of Colin Wilson, but did not then pay much attention.)

The idea of an historical evolution of consciousness seems to go-with a belief in reincarnation, because reincarnation allows each person to participate in the different stages of evolution that are aiming-at a fully divine form of consciousness.

Steiner and Barfield describe this aimed-at state in some detail - in essence it combines on the one hand a direct involvement with, and participation in, reality such as was characteristic of early man and remains characteristic of early childhood; with, on the other hand, a fully alert, self-aware, purposive and analytic consciousness which is characteristic of the adult consciousness and the modern phase of Western history.

So, the idea is that I am personally experiencing the distinctive modern, alienated consciousness now - including the knowledge and aspiration towards a future state; however, in earlier lives I have also personally experienced, and benefited from, earlier phases of human consciousness. At some point later this life, and perhaps further lives, I may incrementally, a step at a time, learn how to combine the positive qualities of all phases. This aimed-at fully divine conscious state is what Barfield calls Final Participation.

According to Steiner and Barfield, these earlier life phases include non-incarnated lives - lives when we were conscious but had no body. So the theory is really one of multiple lives, rather than re incarnation.

Therefore the human spirit or soul (i.e. that entity which is reincarnated) is here conceptualized as undergoing an educational process toward which each life is contributing.

Repeated lives, many lives, seem to be necessary in order to allow for the very large amount of experience and learning required to bridge the gap between being a man and becoming a god. Certainly, one mortal life seems grossly inadequate for this, especially given that most human lives in history were terminated either in the womb or in early infancy - a small minority of humans have reached adulthood, and even fewer of these have had a full experience of marriage, family, maturity and growing old etc.

So, evolution of consciousness and reincarnation seem to make a neat package. However, this package is, if not incompatible with Christianity, at least somewhat alien to the structure of Christianity; which places a great deal of emphasis on the individual life which we are experiencing now, and sees 'this life' as having potentially decisive consequences for eternity.

And certainly, while reincarnation seems to described in the Bible - most notably in the case of John the Baptist apparently being a reincarnated Prophet Elijah - there isn't any scriptural description of a scheme of reincarnation as the norm. And especially not of multiple lives.

My interpretation is that ancient Christianity saw reincarnation as true, but as an exceptional possibility, done in exceptional cases and for specific purposes - rather than as the standard procedure for the majority of people.

Does an exclusion of reincarnation then rule-out the evolution of consciousness throughout human history? No, but denial of reincarnation with multiple lives does limit the role of evolution of consciousness in the lives of individual spirits or souls - it breaks the link between the evolution of consciousness in history and the evolution of my consciousness and the specific consciousnesses of every other individual.

Put differently, the arguments which (in particular) Owen Barfield makes for different types of consciousness in human history, such as his insights into the changing scope and meaning of words, may well be true; but they lose their relevance to the evolution of my consciousness and your consciousness if we were not present (in earlier lives) actually to experience the several stages of this historical evolution.

In sum, the historical evolution of consciousness is a matter of historical but not personal interest, if we ourselves were not present during that history.

My own belief is therefore that I accept Barfield's description of human consciousness having changed throughout history and in broadly the way he describes; and I also accept that we are meant (or destined) to achieve that mode of consciousness Barfield terms 'Final Participation'. But I do not accept that the two are causally linked - for instance I do not believe that I have, myself, personally participated in the historical phases of the evolution of consciousness during previous lives.

Rather, I see the evolution of consciousness as a sequence which is recapitulated in different scales in different situations: e.g. through human history, in each person's individual development from childhood to maturity, and also in the largest cosmic scale of our salvation and divination across eternity.

I therefore would modify the Steiner/ Barfield model, since I regard this evolutionary sequence of consciousness as a basic and necessary process in terms of Man as a whole and also individual men working towards fuller divinity. And I think it is because the process is basic and necessary that we see it appearing and re-appearing here and there throughout reality; operating at many scales and across many time-frames.

Sunday 10 December 2017

The Inklings 'group theology'

My ultimate reason for reading the Inklings is a 'spiritual advisers' - as a group, and not only as individuals, I believe they constituted an unique and profound Christian theology for our times.

My new-found, recent ability to understand and empathise with the work of Owen Barfield has led to some 'notion' of how the Inklings work as a complementary group - and how one might derive from this group a theological perspective which is not found in any one of them alone - and, furthermore, which would not be endorsed by any one of them.

What I am suggesting here is, then, something greater than (or at least different from!) the sum of the parts contributed by individual Inklings. And, to reiterate, I am aware than none of the four would be likely to affirm the final totality that I derive from their combination.


In other words, what I am doing here is making a judgement concerning the core contribution of each of the four main Inkling authors (CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, Charles Williams and Owen Barfield) and assembling these into a single cohesive philosophy or 'ideology' - which includes elements of all four, each unique to that individual, yet combined in a complementary fashion.

(I also believe that each of these authors is abundantly worth individual study! So this synthesis is not meant to replace that study, but to provide an additional angle on them.)

I have already attempted to do this at various points on this blog, but without including as a vital participant - because I didn't previously understand what he was up-to. However, I now find that Barfield adds something which makes for a very different philosophy than when he is either left-out or regarded as merely confirmation of the other authors.


The Inklings work is mostly about imagination - and Barfield's unique contribution to the Inklings perspective is that imagination is potentially real knowledge - i.e. imagination may provide true knowledge about this world: this mortal life on earth and its meaning and purpose.

Without Barfield, there exists a gap between the Inklings account of imagination and the nature of religious, Christian, living. In other words, without Barfield, the Inklings cannot address and alleviate the problem of alienation in the modern world - the problem that we feel our subjectivity to be cut off from reality.

In sum, CSL, JRRT and CW all accept that there is a qualitative gulf between mortal life and Heavenly life - and that all men are in a state of exile. Barfield, by contrast, sees the difference as quantitative and the gap as something which can be closed - initially for brief periods, but with the possibility of an increasing and more sustained closeness between our 'everyday' modern mortal experience and a full participation-in and knowledge-of divine things.

Metaphysically, this is because Barfield is a follower of Rudolf Steiner who adhered to what he termed 'monism' - that there is ultimately one world, and that all the supernatural and ideal elements are, and are meant to be, in one world. This is in contrast to the kind of 'Platonism' seen in (especially) Lewis and Williams - where the real world is (and should be) transcendent; elsewhere, outside of mortal linear time and 3D space.

The element Barfield adds is therefore that imagination is (or can become) not only an analogy or symbolism, but actual knowledge of worlds that the other Inklings regard as higher and other.

Barfield also brings a very different understanding of the role of 'modernity' in terms of Christian history. Tolkien and Lewis see modernity as in essence a bad thing, a corruption - and would advocate a return to earlier modes of thinking. Williams is not far from this - but his Romantic Theology (his primary idea, in my view) is put forward as an optimistic future possibility - something that might revitalize Christianity and lead to a future of new and great achievements. But CW remains profoundly alienated with respect to the human condition: deeply pessimistic and dark in mood and spirit.

Barfield also regards modernity as deeply unsatisfactory - but sees it as a necessary transitional stage to a potentially greater, and ideal, future state of consciousness - superior to anything which has gone before: a 'grown-up' Christianity which combines the 'participation' in life of earlier phases of human existence with the self-aware, purposive, clear-headed and 'scientific' way of thinking of modernity. Barfield is therefore optimistic about human possibilities (although realistic about the fact that modernity seems to have rejected these possibilities and instead descended ever more deeply into materialism and positivism).


In sum, while Barfield's analysis and diagnosis of present spiritual problems is similar to CSL, JRRT and CW - his 'treatment' involves moving forward from this situation to a situation that is superior to any which have yet existed. This movement forwards (progression) is to be achieved by that 'evolution of consciousness' which constitutes Barfield's master idea; and the consciousness aimed-at is not the trance-like or dream-like ('shamanic' or classically mystical) states which are the focus of Lewis, Tolkien and Williams's interest - but by a self-aware, clear, purposive primary thinking of Man as a wholly-free agent.

This is seen as the mode of full, adult imagination; and it is the imagination of this state which constitutes our direct contact with reality - and the solution (however transitory) to modern alienation.

Much more can, and I hope will soon, be said on this theme of the Inklings Group-Theology - but that is enough for now!

The demotivating effect of RUP...

Owen Barfield invented the term Residual Unresolved Positivism (RUP) to refer to a Positivist attitude which persisted unconsciously, unknown, and against the will of the person who held to it.

Positivism is the (usually implicit) belief system that all valid knowledge comes via the senses (and not, for example, from revelation or imagination) - it is sometimes called Scientism, and is the metaphysics which is mainstream in modernity - although usually only articulated by scientists with a bent for philosophy.

RUP can have a life-sapping effect - a demotivating effect - an alienating effect - the effect of draining meaning from life; and I experienced this myself over the past week and a bit during which I have been trying to finish a big theoretical paper on the subject of Group Selection in Biology (from the perspective of Systems Theory) - and when I have experienced a cumulative inner resistance, a dysphoric sense of boredom, futility and angst about the project. Yesterday I got to the point when I was unable and unwilling to proceed, and resolved to abandon the project for a while.

 Today I cracked-open a newly purchased book - History, Guilt and Habit, by Owen Barfield, and read a couple of pages of the chapter on Evolution. Suddenly it became clear that I was suffering from the effects of Residual Unresolved Positivism - and I immediately felt cured: I also felt motivated, enthused and excited.

Until that exact moment, I had been wondering whether I was actually physically ill, with some subclinical infection or autoimmune disease or something - so profound was my demotivation. I felt that I ought to be getting on with the group selection paper, I couldn't; but I couldn't get myself to do anything else, because I felt I ought to be working on the paper...

The problem was quite simple. Because I was writing the paper for a biological audience, I was constrained by staying within the biological paradigm - which lies within positivism, and strictly excludes any religious or even metaphysical material.

(It would, in any case, be utterly self-defeating if it was included - since 99% (approximately!) of biologists are actively atheist, and would instantly write off anything even hinting at Christian assumptions.)

As always, when I am working on theoretical science, I was intensely absorbed in thinking about group selection, and indeed had been for some weeks. By this I mean devoting a level of sustained and recurrent time and effort to thinking about the problem, to a degree which most people have never done on any subject - because this is what is required for theoretical endeavour.

[For instance, I had been thinking on and off, and hard, about the nature of depression for about fifteen years before I made a breakthrough in 1999. Of course there is reading, observation and conversation (also sometimes experimenting) - as well as thinking. But for genuine theoretical work, the proportion of thinking to empirical input is several-fold in favour of just-thinking. Since thinking (and even reading!) does not count as an academic, scholarly or scientific activity (if an academic was to say they had been 'thinking a lot' recently, they certainly would be regarded as making a feeble excuse for doing nothing at all; this goes some way towards explaining the dire state of modern intellectual discourse.]

However, this focused intensity on Group Selection meant that I was trapping myself - for long intense, recurrent periods - inside the positivistic biological world view.

I was trapping myself therefore inside a world without meaning and purpose  - a dead world without God.

And it was this which was cumulatively demotivating me - because it removed all genuine significance from my task (which by default just became a matter of ego, careerism and the like).

It just took attention to those few words from Owen Barfield to remind me of what was real and matters... and I was free!

(But modernity is implicitly and pervasively positivist; and most modern people never do acknowledge the falsity of positivism and the metaphysical realities I share with Owen Barfield - so presumably most people remain trapped inside a world of meaninglessness and purposelessness and are motivated only by ego, careerism and short-termist pleasure; without any hope of escape because they do not acknowledge anywhere they could escape-to.)

Saturday 9 December 2017

Romanticism Comes of Age - the argument

Romanticism Comes of Age was the title of a collection of essays published by Owen Barfield in 1944, and also of the biography of Barfield by Simon Blaxland-De Lange in 2006.

This matter of Romanticism is one of Barfield's major statements with relevance to our times - he is saying that Rudolf Steiner's core insights are the completion of what began with the Romantic movement, and they are a necessary next step for human spiritual evolution (ie. the divine destiny for Man).

I will summarize my understanding of this matter, including adding my own framework.

1. In ancient times, especially during the hunter gatherer era, Man lived undivided from, immersed in, his perceptual environment - and mostly lacked self-awareness or a sense of separate consciousness. This was termed Original Participation by Barfield.

2. From the 1700s there was a new era of alienation for Western Man - in which consciousness becomes isolated from perception; heralded by the work of Descartes and Newton, and implemented by the Industrial Revolution. Barfield subdivided this according to the stages of its gradual increase - but sometimes termed it the era of Observing Consciousness - because Man seemed to himself to be cut-off-from and observing 'the world' - and eventually even his own thoughts.

3. At the same time, the means for healing this dichotomy by moving forward to a new era of consciousness - what Barfield terms Final Participation. This impulse, mostly unconscious, began to emerge in the Romantic movement  - associated with such English poets and thinkers as Blake, Wordsworth and (especially) Coleridge - this rapidly spread to Germany via the likes of Herder and Goethe - and then to the USA with Emerson and the circle of New England Transcendentalists.

4. The unconscious impulse towards Final Participation strengthened the longer it was resisted or, often, perverted into a regression to the previous phase of Original Participation - with notable Romantic Revivals in the late 1800s-early 1900s, then again from the 1950s culminating in the middle-late 1960s.

5. The current phase is one of un-integrated oscillations (within individuals, and within culture) between the deal bureaucratic official world of alienated Observing Consciousness and regressive, instinctive, attempts at Original Participation (often by inculcating altered states of semi-awake consciousness with dreamy trances, intoxications, sexuality as a focus for life, and other types of regression).

6. This has led to the characteristic pathologies of our time; including in Christianity which is mostly divided between Observing and Original Participations.

7. What is needed, ever more desperately, is to move forwards into Final Participation - but this must (according to both Steiner and Barfield) be within the context of a truly Christ-centred Christianity (no matter how 'heretical' or unorthodox - Christianity must be Christ centred as its primary reality).

So this is the challenge, the necessary dual destiny, both for non-Christians and Christians - to adopt Christianity as the primary framework and within that to move towards Final Participation.  

What is reality?

Well first, what is Not reality?

Reality (we would agree) has nothing to do with what appears in the public domain: in the mass media, in official communications from politicians, government, educational, police, military, legal, health service, religious or any other of the major social institutions that dominate the arena.

We know that all such systems of communication are not just unreliable but fundamentally corrupted - in most cases their net (overall) intent and outcome is an inversion of their officially-proclaimed focus and motivation.

I repeat: we know this.

So where is reality?

One semi-plausible but overall-mistaken idea is that while the overall public arena is contaminated and corrupted - within-it may be found groupings of people that provide honest and properly-motivated communications.

This may be true in a specific instance - but the question is how do we, personally, know which groups can be trusted here-and-now?

(Especially considering that the corruption of truth, beauty and virtue is on-going: more-and-more groups and individuals succumb every month... So groups cannot be trusted on the basis of past reputation - not even on the basis of centuries of past reputation... after all, the ancient universities are the focus and origin of much of the worst dishonesty and inversion to be found in modernity.)

The only safe conclusion is that no groups are to be trusted except when we, personally - here-and-now, have evaluated them as trustworthy. We cannot rely on any other authority.

So where is reality?... Wrong question. The proper question is what is reality?

Reality is not any actual communication - so (assuming reality exists) it must be in a realm untouched by communication, not dependent on communication - a realm that we can know directly - each for himself.

So we acknowledge a reality that is universally and directly accessible... But at this point we need to make an assumption concerning whether this reality is something we can merely observe; or whether it is something we can affect. Do we appreciate reality - without changing it; or do we participate in reality?

My assumption is that we can participate in reality - but clearly this participation is not automatic nor is it unconstrained. There are requirements set on participation in reality - not least that our participation is compatible-with existing reality in terms of form and direction.

Thus we return to the matter of understanding what kind-of-thing reality is?

In brief: I assume that we can only know that reality we conceptualise, and conceptualising means thinking - we cannot know anything of un-thought reality, because to know is to think.

Therefore assuming God wants us to know reality, things must be set-up such that we can know reality by thinking...

This (I believe) entails that reality is itself a kind of thinking; else we could not know it.

Reality therefore seems to be God's thinking, and God's thinking is knowable creation.

At this point comes another crux: if we ourselves are to participate-in reality, we must affect the universal divine thinking - which (I believe) implies that we ourselves need to be divine.

In other words, if reality is God's thinking, and we can participate in God's thinking, we must be of the same kind as God... at least to the extent of the times and situations we are actually knowing reality and participating in divine thinking.

(We do not have to be fully divine, nor divine all the time, nor forever - but while actually knowing and participating we need to have attained divinity.)

We have come a very long way from the commonly-held idea that the way to now reality is by attending to communications; and that the way in change reality is to promote of alternative ideas in the public arena...

The situation seems to be that the real-action occurs not in group-orientated communication; but instead in the thinking of individuals.

Not much else could be so profoundly at-odds-with modern Life - with modern metaphysics and modern practice (practice being a large-scale and group-ish world of propaganda, hype, spin and rhetoric).

The conclusion seems to be paradoxical or else nonsensical, according to prior assumptions; reality is in thinking not acting, in direct-knowing not communication, on engaging the individual and not the mass, and is restricted by the mode and nature of thinking - and not by power, status or fame.

We tend, by sheer habit as well as conviction, to look-for reality in large scale communication, rather than in solo - albeit not solitary - thinking. We assume that the public arena is where serious things happen - yet serious Good may be restricted to the private realm of thinking.

The public realm of communications may indeed cause serious harm - by dishonesty and evil motivations, by misrepresentation and misdirection; but serious Good may, here and now and for you and me, be a matter of our personal thinking in the universal realm of reality.

Friday 8 December 2017

More on the link between reincarnation and the evolution of consciousness

Owen Barfield's central idea, and the one for which he is best known, is the evolution of consciousness - meaning that the nature of human consciousness has changed throughout history such that people in different eras and places had very different relationships with the world: these changes fall into three general categories of Original Participation, the Observing Consciousness and Final Participation.

He traces the evolution of consciousness mainly by observing the characteristic changes in the meaning and usage of words, which seem to display a cohesive development - and also looks at other cultural evidence. Barfield's idea of evolution in this regard is not natural selection, but a developmental process (akin to the growth and differentiation of a living entity): the emergence and unfolding of human destiny, interacting with the agency and free will of individual humans.

What is seldom appreciated or emphasized is that for Barfield the evolution of consciousness is divinely designed, and bound-up with reincarnation. To put it concisely, the reason for the evolution of consciousness through history is that this provides the necessary conditions by which successive reincarnations of  human spirits may learn what they require to develop towards divinity.

So, for Barfield (although this is hinted at much more often than made explicit) it is God who 'provides' the evolution of consciousness in order that reincarnating human spirits may have the necessary experiences they need to growth towards the ultimate goal of Final Participation - whereby firstly, and stepwise, the Ego or Self has become separated from its original 'unconscious' immersion in the environment and strong in its purpose and will - awake, alert and in-control; then secondly the now strong and purposive Self/ Ego comes back into a participatory relationship with The World.

To underlying rationale (the 'point') of the evolution of consciousness is, for Barfield, bound-up with the reality of reincarnation; and therefore those (such as myself) who disbelieve in reincarnation as the normal human destiny, yet who believe in the evolution of consciousness, need to be clear that we differ from Barfield; and are, indeed, denying the main reason for evolution of consciousness as Barfield understood it.

To put it bluntly: those individuals who are sympathetic towards Barfield's core idea of the evolution of consciousness yet who do not believe in reincarnation, need to explain what the evolution of consciousness is for - if not to provide the conditions necessary for educating the reincarnating human spirit.  

God's work of creation is a work of animation

God did not create 'from nothing' but by shaping and organising - by animating - pre-existent stuff; which included primordial men and women: seeds of consciousness.

Thus God's work of creation was to bring life and consciousness to reality - only that which is alive has meaning and purpose and the potential for relationship. Only that which is alive can be brought within God's reality of Love.

The work of creation continues; it is substantially a building coherence of love, and a bringing to higher consciousness - which is awareness.

The divine plan is for ever-increasing awareness of reality; and that reality is underpinned by love (love is the principle of coherence). Love can only be between alive and conscious entities (relationship) - so the universe coheres only by virtue of its being animate.

Love cannot be coerced, so God's creation is chosen: it is offered to us, and we are not compelled to accept it. We accept it because we want it. We accept developmental enhancement of our consciousness only because we want to.

And if we do not want these things, loving provision is made for us - as any loving parent would (sadly, but willingly) make provision for any child who chose not to grow up, or chose not to become more conscious, or chose to go-it-alone.

Leftism is the major modern type of RUP

To be a political Leftist is almost ubiquitous in the modern West.

This is not a matter of mainstream political discourse, which sees Liberal/ Socialist/ Labour/ Democrat parties as Left Wing and Libertarian/ Conservative/ Republican/ Fascist parties as Right Wing - because all of these are Left Wing in the deep sense that all are essentially secular, this-worldly and utilitarian.

All mainstream modern Western politics regards the main business and justification of politics to be to make mortal life happier or less full of suffering for many or most people - or, at least, for a favoured sector of the population.

This contrasts with the politics of the traditional religious past (with some significant degree of Original Participation) and the aimed-politics of the future (Final Participation) which takes a perspective of life beyond our mortal life, and regards divine destiny as the ultimate standard for judgement.

Thus, all modern politics is both Leftist (not religious) and also Positivist (because implicitly denying the importance and/ or reality of non-perceptual/ spiritual reality.

In sum Leftism is built-upon Positivist assumptions; therefore to be a Leftist is to be Positivist; therefore to be Leftist is to be anti-religious - and therefore anti-Christian - in your basic assumptions concerning the very nature of reality.

This has created a difficult and deadly problem of what Barfield termed RUP, the residuum of Unresolved Positivism in people who believe they are primarily spiritual. Leftism just-is a residue of postivism.

This means that in practice it can be seen that even people who aspire to a primarily spiritual and/ or religious life-perceptive are actually functioning within a worldly and utilitarian set of basic priorities.

Even when Leftists sincerely try to be religious and spiritual - they fail over the Long run; because their metaphysical assumptions are continually and continuously undermining their religious and spiritual aspirations.  

In other words, spiritual and religious people are nearly-always in practice guilty of organising their beliefs and practices around socio-political priorities - which are of the mainstream type, hence Leftist.

And since Leftism is the water in which they swim, they are seldom even aware of the conflict within themselves - and respond by fitting everything-else around their unresolved, unacknowledged residual positivism...

Thursday 7 December 2017

The Inklings group-identity and the future of human consciousness

If it is assumed that the Inklings can be characterized as more than the sum of their parts, and more than a shared essence; then Owen Barfield may be regarded as the philosopher of the Inklings, and Tolkien as the supreme practical exponent; Lewis as the mediator and Williams as the initiator and guide.

Despite that these individuals disagree - we can synthesize from various of their elements a group-identity from selected and complementary aspects of each; a group-identity which is not an average, and not shared by all of them, and to which none of them as individuals would subscribe.

Whether we do this or not is entirely a matter of what use or value we find in such an idea - working (as we should) in the broader context of the Inklings core and shared and universal ideal value - which was indeed Christianity.

(Christianity defined in some simple, basic and 'minimal' sense.)

Taken in this spirit - the Inklings have an intellectual lineage (via Barfield) which links them with Romanticism - especially Coleridge and Goethe; as transmitted via Rudolf Steiner and Owen Barfield himself. In other words, a focus on Imagination as the primary mode of thinking.

And furthermore, this lineage is forward-looking and not reactionary. I mean, this lineage does not look back to an ideal of immersive 'Original Participation' (rather like the un-self-conscious living in nature of Bombadil, the Ents, Silvan Elves, or to some extent the Hobbits) - but forward to an as yet only partially glimpsed and achieved Final Participation.

As a first example to consider: The Lord of the Rings - in terms of the deeply-appreciative reader's engagement with the book - takes its place in this tradition as being a supreme example of Final Participation (albeit temporary and partial).

So, instead of regarding LotR as in itself a yearning for the past and embodying a vision of history as a long decline and defeat; we instead regard it in terms of how we think LotR - how the book works in our thinking as an objective reality.

And because the objective reality of LotR is one which we cannot take 'literally' (it is a feigned history) we then experience it as fully-imaginable, fully-real; a mode of thinking that is more-satisfying-complete-and-imaginable-than-mundane-life (we cannot, or at least do not, appreciate workaday life in the modern world as fully imaginable - hence it does not seem fully real) - yet a reality that we simultaneously 'know' is essentially and substantially a consequence of our own minds.

We imagine, and we know we imagine, and this imagination is very-highly engaging: we participate in it.

So, although Tolkien rejected Barfield's anthroposophy; and although Barfield did not personally enjoy or appreciate the Lord of the Rings, the tow can be formed into a complementary structure which expresses some distinctive to 'The Inklings' - yet which is apparent only in retrospect and to those who were not themselves Inklings.

I am far from saying this is the only or best way to consider The Inklings - but it seems a legitimate, coherent, and potentially very fruitful line of enquiry.

Wednesday 6 December 2017

Positivism is death and must be transcended

The Oxford English Dictionary definition of Positivism is a philosophical system recognising only that which can be scientifically verified or which is capable of logical or mathematical proof, and therefore rejecting metaphysics and theism.

To be more exact - Positivism is itself a metaphysical assumption - and that assumption is as above. This despite that Positivism explicitly denies the meaningfulness and/or validity of metaphysics. In sum, that denial of metaphysics and its 'replacement' by science/ logic/ mathematics, is itself precisely a metaphysical (not scientific, not logical, not mathematical) assumption. 

On this clear and deadly contradiction is built modernity. 

Positivism is modernity - in essence; it is what underpins and drives the modern way of thinking as it developed from ? the 1600s and which came to dominate by the late 1800s; and Positivism is solidly in place and totalitarian in all 'Western' developed societies.

The dangers of Positivism have been explicitly known since the Romantic era - for example in the works of William Blake and ST Coleridge.They knew, they predicted, exactly where it would lead, exactly the nature of the modern malaise. (Where they, and everyone else, fell short was in imagining the size, pervasiveness, addictiveness and influence of the mass media.)

Why is Positivism so dangerous? Because Positivism is anti-God, it is sin; it is indeed death... Literally - Positivism implies a necessarily dead world.

It is literally death because Positivism is a denial (and indeed ridicule) of the idea of reality as alive, conscious and purposive - thus Positivism is also the assumption that everything is dead; in the sense that there is asserted to be no real or significant difference between what is generally regarded as alive and what is 'known' to be dead.

Fro instance; Cosmology, Physics, Mathematics are abstract and they concern dead (that is un-alive/ non-conscious) phenomena. However, under Positivism; Biology, Psychology, Consciousness all ultimately reduce to Physics: therefore Biology, Psychology and Consciousness are concerned with dead phenomena. 

So, what we conventionally regard as Life is actually (by assumption) an arrangement of dead things, and Consciousness is an illusion (just yet another arrangement of dead things). This is standard, mainstream public discourse - and is Positivist.  

Positivism is death and Abstraction is death - when abstraction is assumed to be 'true' rather than a model of truth.

Yet our spontaneous (built-in) assumption is of universal life and consciousness. In our childhood origins, and in the belief of the earliest known civilisations, the assumption is that everything-is-alive - we inhabit an animated, conscious reality. 

However, these assumptions are not articulated, nor analysed, nor defended - they are simply taken for granted: life is based-on them.

So - over history (and through our personal development) we went from dwelling in an animated-conscious universe to regarding ourselves as dead things inhabiting a dead/ meaningless/ purposeless reality. Our task is to return to animism but with full consciousness. 

In sum: God's work of creation is a work of animation - it is a bringing to life and consciousness of the stuff of reality.  

We used to experience this, but not know it; we currently deny and do-not-experience it...

Our task is to re-learn the reality of God's creation, to explain how and why reality is animate and conscious; to attain the level of consciousness in-which the consciousness, life, personification of reality becomes apparent.

(To use Owen Barfield's terminology - our task is to understand, choose and experience Final Participation.)

Owen Barfield's Final Participation (God-Man polarity) in a Christian Context

It was seemingly difficult for Owen Barfield to express clearly what he meant by Final Participation of human consciousness - indeed I think he exhibited a reluctance to be explicit on this point.

I now feel I have sufficiently understood Final Participation to re-explain it in my own words; but in doing so I take a step further than Barfield was willing to go in most public fora; and I think I can understand why.

To make Final Participation clear involves acknowledging its basis in Christianity - which has a tendency to alienate non-Christians; while at the same time claiming to move-forward-from, and in that sense 'supercede' Historical Christianity - which would tend to alienate most Christians: thereby leaving Barfield with only a very small audience!

Anyway, whether or not the above understanding is a correct guess: here is my understanding of the assumed historical sequence of Original Participation - going through various phases to our current almost wholly-alienated Modern Western Consciousness Soul - to Final Participation.

The key concept is theosis, which is the process of becoming divine. The consciousness of theosis therefore clearly depends on the concept of the divine: in becoming like-god it depends what we understand by god.

Original Participation was the situation of the first Men - who lived in hunter gatherer societies. They understood the divine to be something like energies in a process of circulation and transformation. Theosis was therefore the living daily experience of participating in these energies and transformations. The system was closed, all is as it was and ever will be. Man is part of the divine, but not a separate self.

This was the childhood of Man.

Then came the start of an increasing degree of self-consciousness, of Man as aware of Himself as an Agent with 'free will'; which brought with it an increasing sense of separation from the divine. At first the separation was only temporary and could be overcome by the activities of priest, performing rituals, in temples - and the ultimate aim was to restore each man into the divine. Mundane life was an exile - the aim was reabsorption of the individual self-consciousness back into the divine consciousness. Man conceived himself as as 'a worm', with the merest glimmer or vestige of autonomy - and that autonomy essentially wicked.

By stages, over many centuries, the separation of self-consciousness and awareness of the self as unique increased until it became almost (but never fully) complete; so that now and for many generations Man regards himself no longer as a worm, but as the only god - which either leads to absolute (but brittle) pride at his self-creation of his own reality out of nothing; or (and eventually) to despair at his belief that therefore reality depends on his own continuous creation and is therefore feeble and temporary and doomed to end with death - Man regarding himself as something even-less-than a worm.

At this stage theosis has stopped, is no longer a purpose, life has no meaning outside of the contigent and ephemeral and private subjective consciousness.

This is the adolescence of Man.

Final Participation is the renewal of a new kind of theosis in which God and the Self are both regarded as real (eternally real) - and there are many selves, each on the path towards divinity. So the aim is not immersive participation in divine energies; it is not reabsorption into the divine; but the aim of Final Participation is instead to participate in the process of ever more, and ever more loving and creative, relationships between the many eternal selves of Men on the one hand and God (in divine multiplicity) on the other hand.

Final Participation is Final because the system is no longer closed (as it was in Original Participation) but open-ended and capable of eternal expansion, as we as individuals each and collectively grow towards a divinity of the same kind and level as God - but an unique, and continually added-to divinity; and with many others (being added-to) all around us, in relationships with us, who are doing the same.

To move towards Final Participation we need to consider the nature of our relationship with the divine - and that we are to understand ourselves as immature and very-partial divinities - but that God has a loving and paternal relationship with us; so we need have nothing to fear from him and an attitude of trust and confidence in him as he will always want the best for us and work for that end.

For Final Participation, therefore, we need to see God as a person and a personal friend; and not somebody or some-thing vast and mysterious to be awed by and needing to be appeased, not somebody to be pleaded-with, nor an alien and incomprehensible being to be worshipped - and not an abstract infinite perfection which we seek to 'lose ourselves' into. At least, such attitudes cannot be foremost and regulative of our relation to God - but only background, exceptional and temporary.

Of Course, God condescends greatly to meet us at our level, and for that we should be grateful; but having said that we just need to put aside that fact and get on with the relationship at our own childish or adolescent level (just as a child knows that the adult is condescending to play, but the play cannot be play unless that condescension is 'forgotten' while the play is in progress). Respectful friendliness, trust, confidence - and an 'equality' which (like the child's in play with  parent, as he grows) is not less real for continually being superceded by higher levels of maturing and diminishing magnitudes of difference. 

Barfield - following Coleridge - saw reality in terms of distinguishable, dynamic but not separable polarities. The Polarity of Final Participation may be between God as an eternal and fully-divine person; and each of ourselves as eternal and partially-divine persons. The poles never to be united, but always bound-together in dynamic process, energized by that thing we could call Love - so long as we are clear that Love contains many positive aspects such as creativity, intelligence, power...

In sum - the movement from Original to Final Participation (leaving-out the long transitional state that occupies recorded history, and in which we still seem to be 'stuck') is therefore centred on the work of Christ; understood as enabling the change from theosis as loss of the self and reabsorption back-into the divine - to theosis as a stronger and maturing self-awarness and consciousness; closer and closer towards the adulthood of a full friend-like relationship between the personal loving God and his growing-up child.

It is the lived experience of this theosis which is Final Participation.

The (apparent) Catch-22 of consciousness

The more we are conscious of an experience, the more alienated we are from it; the more immersed we are in an experience, the less conscious of it. Apparently, we cannot both be part-of-Life and aware that we are part-of-Life

This apparently inescapable trade-off is true for all stages of consciousness up to the advent of Final Participation - which is an un-alienated state that also includes conscious awareness.

Final Participation is attained (as Rudolf Steiner described in The Philosophy of Freedom) by bringing self-consciousness together with our understanding, in Thinking (in primary thinking, to be exact).

(Note: Participation is the opposite of alienation.)

Original Participation (OP) = Unconscious Participation
Consciousness Soul (CS) = Conscious Alienation
Final Participation (FP) = Conscious Participation

OP is (mostly) unfree because we are immersed-in experience - meaning and purpose are felt implicitly, but not known.

CS is experienced as free but meaningless and purposeless - detached from The World, and the world lacing in meaning and purpose.

FP is free and meaningful and purposive - life is experienced as a destiny including The World and Our-Selves.

Because participation is what reveals purpose. We are part of purpose; but know this explicitly only when consciousness is first able to detach itself from that purpose (CS) then - from that free and agent viewpoint outwith The World, to gain external awareness of purpose in everything.

Tuesday 5 December 2017

Magic as Participation in Tolkien's Legendarium

During the journey to Gondor in The Lord of the Rings, the Riders of Rohan meet with a group of hunter-gatherers called the Druedain - Tolkien gives more information on the subject in notes published posthumously by his son Christopher in Forgotten Tales

These are simple, ugly, short-lived, and illiterate Men - who have various kinds of natural magical abilities - for example, they can make statues of themselves (which the Riders call Pukel-men) which can be infused with abilities such as to be vigilant and defend their territory against enemies. Another magical personage who lives in Original Participation is Tom Bombadil.

Then there are the High Elves - such as Galadriel or Glorfindel, who are highly intelligent ('wise'), beautiful, 'immortal' (immune to illness, able to live for the duration of the earth's life, unless slain), and the inventors of language and writing. The High Elves are also magic, able to make food, drink, clothing and ropes with extraordinary properties; see true visions in water; also ring, jewels and weapons with remarkable properties. This High magic is not a matter of trance-like sympathetic identification - but is purposive and fully conscious process.

The other races are arrayed in between these magical extremes in a way which corresponds exactly to Owen Barfield's description of the evolution of human consciousness - from the first magical stage of Original Participation in which human consciousness blends with its surroundings; through a middle and non-magical stage in which consciousness is detached from the world, and

Hobbits and most Men (and, I would say, Ents) are of the completely non-magical stage in the evolution of consciousness except insofar as they become 'elven' - for example Frodo becomes somewhat magical after being formally made an Elf Friend by the High Elf, Gildor. Frodo's is therefore an example of the early stage of Final Participation.

Dwarves are slightly magical - mainly in their technology - for example the Arkenstone (in The Hobbit) is clearly a magical jewel along the lines of the Silmaril). My feeling is that this is a developed, intelligent and wise ability of only the most 'evolved' dwarves - and therefore a partial Final Participation.

The Numenorean Men are also magical - and this is again the elven magic of Final Participation - partly because of the lineage of HIgh Elven (and Maia - angelic) ancestry, and partly from a blessing by the Valar at the time of their dwelling in Numenor. We see this only in Aragorn and Denethor - for example their ability to control the Palantir, and the healing powers of Aragorn which can (uniquely) combat the dark magic of the Witch King Nazgul.

If we were to fuse Tolkien and Barfield (something which did not happen in 'real life') we would regard the elven strain in the Numenoreans and in Frodo as the first inklings of a return to a magical relationship with 'the world' which had been known to the Druedain - but at a higher, purposive and fully-alert way.

The terrible history of Numenor, and the sad fates of Denethor and (to a lesser extent) Frodo also show the perils of this future - in a pessemistic fashion very characteristic of Tolkien's Weltanschauung. Barfield, by contrast, saw this future as Man's destiny: desirable and in a sense necessary - but not inevitable.

Monday 4 December 2017

God implicit in the abstract work of Owen Barfield

First, the abstract version...

Abstract thinking, thinking about things in general, is very difficult - so difficult that it is difficult to know when you know - and when you have got lost in abstraction.

A lot of the philosophy I read is made more difficult by lacking a basis in metaphysics - the philosophy just 'hangs there' in mid air - not really explaining, lacking context.

It is an advantage of theology when God is put into position at the top of the explanatory scheme - rooting the further speculations. But then again, for most philosophical writers, God is conceptualised with extreme abstraction - impersonally, as a collection of attributes or non-attributes.

Only when God is understood as a person with personal attributes; a man with a plan; a man who has motivations, hopes and can feel sorrow and joy: our Father... only with such concrete clarity are the abstract schemes rooted.

I find that what was a complex and hard-to-follow explanation often enough becomes something simple enough to tell a child - when expressed in terms of what God wants.

All this is a factor when authors leave-out God. They may leave Him out because they suppose they don't believe him (although their scheme entails implicitly that they actually do), or in deference to the conventions of the genre that they are writing in, or in hope of attracting a wider audience.

But there is a price to pay - misunderstanding by others, on top of the danger of self-misunderstanding.

Is abstraction more explanatory? Maybe not. Maybe the greater scope of abstract explanations is merely the result of a wider deficit of understanding?

Now the concrete version...

Understanding the work of Owen Barfield has been made far more difficult than it need be by the omission of God from the explanatory scheme. In particular, the failure to link the philosophical scheme to what God wants, and why.

For example, great effort is made to explain the evolution of human consciousness through three phases from Original Participation and aiming at Final Participation - but it is never explicitly explained why, what this epic drama of millennia is all for. Nor is it explained why God needs to achieve His goals by such a long-drawn-out and unreliable process. 

Now, all this can be answered, and the answers are implicit and can be quarried out. Barfield was a Christian. But the fact is that most of Owen Barfield's advocates and admirers were and are not Christian (or, if they are, never mention the fact) - and indeed may be 'post-modernists.

Clearly, the modern Barfeldians do not realise that the evolution of consciousness metaphysic is neither-here-nor there without God.

In the first place, it is a metaphysical scheme which, as with all metaphysical schemes, intrinsically cannot be proven empirically. Barfield says he came upon it by studying the changing meaning of words, but that is autobiography. Observations of changing meanings of words can be 'explained' in innumerable ways that do not entail a fundamental restructuring of metaphysical reality. 

But secondly - even if it is true (which I believe it is!) the evolution of consciousness has no significance unless there is some reason for us to live by it - we need to know whether the new metaphysics of consciousness is Good for us to believe, no just whether it is coherent and consistent with the facts.

I presume that Barfield left-out God partly in order to make his work accessible to a wide audience who did not share his Christianity, and partly because he did not himself see his work as flowing-from his Christian belief - but rather as pointing-at it. Whatever the reason, there was a price to pay - and the price was:

1. His work became very difficult to understand , due to its abstract nature. and,

2. People who misunderstood his work were unable to detect their own misunderstanding - again due to the difficulties of extended abstract thinking. Consequently,

3. Most writer about Owen Barfield seem to leave out God, and thereby implicitly reduce the significance of his work to being some kind of conceptual metaphysical schema simply floating in a space somewhere in-between our personal lives and the ultimate basis of reality.

The trouble is that when we force or allow ourselves to be crystal clear about God, it comes across as childish which puts off most intellectuals and academics - thereby destroying ones' audience. It also makes things so clear and easy to understand that people immediately feel able to mock, criticise and to reject - whereas an abstract scheme can seldom be understood well enough to reject it outright, and will be ignored rather than mocked.

So, what should Barfield have done?

Well, I am not sure how Barfield understood God - and probably he had the rather unclear conception which is usual among most Anglicans - that is, he probably regarded God as in some symbolic way our Heavenly Father, but probably felt embarrassed and uncomfortable about 'anthropomorphising' God - and preferred to discuss Him abstractly, symbolically and so on.

But my own view of God is derived from Mormonism, and is straightforwardly anthropomorphic and concrete - also I believe that we can and do know what God wants for us and from us in general terms: he wants us to grow spiritually to become divine like him, so we can eventually have a relationship of 'friendship' rather than a parent-child relationship (or rather, a perfected loving relationship like that between a grown-up child and his Father rather than like the relationship of a perfect Father and his infant son).

Anyway... I think that what Barfield needs is something on the lines of explaining that God wants us to grow up, and attain adult consciousness (which is Final Participation) - but we must ourselves want this to happen. It can happen by the experience of living - experience is necessary, therefore the process takes time.

By our innate agency, we are free to accept or reject each step in our spiritual growth - and this applies not only to the individual soul but to the (various type of) group soul. The individual soul can achieve final participation (albeit temporarily and imperfectly during mortal life), but at the level of the group soul - e.g. the nation, or civilisation, the process is much slower.

This happens because, as the Bible makes clear, God works with 'people's as well as with individuals - because individuals are actually, in fact, like it or not - part of peoples. We began as immersed in a group consciousness, and that link to the group remains. 

The stages in the evolution of consciousness which we may observe in history are the deliberations of the groups soul in moving through the developmental process form childhood consciousness, through adolescent consciousness - but none have yet reached adult consciousness (and indeed the current most advanced civilisation has turned-away-from adult consciousness).

I could go on - but this is just supposed to illustrate how the ideas are easier to express and understand when they are put into the full context.

Men need, Men must have, purpose - and purpose entails a divine plan and the reasons for it - reasons which we can understand and agree to.

If we leave-out purpose from our explanations then those explanations will be abstract, and become very difficult to understand, and more difficult to make sense of; and easy to misunderstand without realizing...

But if we include purpose, clearly and explicitly... everything gets much simpler. The difficulty is then related more to doing what is required, rather than (as so often) getting stuck on trying to understand what it is that we are supposed to do.