One of Owen Barfield's best books is a four volume collection of public lectures published in 1979, called History, Guilt and Habit. The following I have excerpted and edited from the lecture entitled The Force of Habit, given in Vancouver, 1978.
What we perceive is inseparable from how we think - and from this many consequences follow...
One of them is discovering how differently mankind as a whole used to think in the remote past: the thoughts themselves were images rather than concepts. And this entails that the world they lived in then, was different from the world we live in today.
They perceived images rather than thought them - what we perceive as things, they perceived as images...
The difference between an image and a thing lies in the fact that an image presents itself as an exterior expressing or implying an interior, whereas a thing does not. When what begins by being an images becomes, in the course of history, a mere thing; we are justified on describing it as an idol. And a collective state of mind which perceives only things, and no images, may thus fairly be described as idolatry.
The world we perceive around us today is no longer a world of images, no longer an exterior expressing an interior, but simply a brittle exterior surface... which is not, however, the surface of anything.
Thus the quality of the world we live in is determined not only be what we perceive, but what we fail to perceive.
But this world of outsides with no insides to them, which we perceive around us and in which we dwell, is not something unshakably and unalterably given, but is the product of the way we collectively and subconsciously think. It is correlative to our mental habit.
It is this cut-offness, this imprisonment, to which many problems of today can be traced. For instance, the growing prevalence of mental disease, and the uneasy sense of guilt that has come to pervade our society and - still more - our sociology.
How much of this is really prison-sickness? Of course not many people actually think of themselves as in prison. They only feel it.
They feel it because virtually everything that is thought and written today - from science to literature and criticism, from sociology to aesthetics, from theology to politics, and in politics from extreme right to extreme left - is thought and written on the walls of that prison.