Saturday 10 December 2022

Barfield misunderstanding Barfield

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday 2 November 2022

Owen Barfield is good for your health!

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

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

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

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

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

This can be an inspiring way of living! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday 17 September 2022

Our memories of paradise...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What might be his motivations for choosing differently? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That is the nature of our task.   

Tuesday 10 May 2022

Re-reading What Coleridge Thought

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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