Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Reilly on Barfield, Romanticism, Christianity and Time

 Owen Barfield in his seventies

Writing in a Festschrift to Owen Barfield (Evolution of Consciousness: studies in polarity, 1972 - edited by Shirley Sugarman); RJ Reilly wrote a superb chapter modestly entitled A Note on Barfield, Romanticism and Time.

What Reilly said has direct relevance to the 'project' of this blog.

He links to a comment by Barfield from Saving the Appearances to the effect that the romantic impulse never attained to maturity during the nineteenth century; and the only alternative to maturity is puerility (i.e. immaturity, childishness, foolishness).

What was missing from mainstream Romanticism was Christianity and Time.

Christianity, because rejection of the limitations of the churches went over into anti-Christianity (or 'anything-but Christianity', in the case of the 'spiritual but not religious' perennialist philosophers and seekers).

And Time was rejected because of the tendency of the tendency of Romanticism to regard enlightenment as all times in the 'ephiphanic' moment, that enlightened moment as out-of-Time and as all-Times - an indifference to chronology, or sequence - the denial of any destiny to history.

It was an achievement of Barfield to pick up the thread of Romanticism and point ahead to its maturity - including the inclusion of both Christianity and Time; and this highlighted those thinkers whose Romanticism did indeed include C&T - the likes of William Blake, ST Coleridge and Barfield's Master Rudolf Steiner.*

This forms a neat summary of the Romanticism, and indeed the strategy, I would endorse - a Romanticism in a Christian framework, and (also consistent with Christianity) one which understands human life and culture in terms of a destiny (an intended plan or sequence) unfolding through Time.

*To which I would add William Arkle.

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