Friday, 27 October 2017

My new Owen Barfield Blog

I have started compiling a new blog dedicated to Owen Barfield. This will consist of a selection from my essays, posted in chronological order to date (i.e. appearing in reverse chonological order from the top down) - and then will be continued by further themes. 

I have been studying Barfield's work with great intensity for more than two years now (after a previous decade of more leisurely consideration); and have come to regard him as the most important spiritual philospher of the twentieth century.

By 'most important' I mean in terms of his being the only writer of whom I know that has identified the most important conceptual issues for modern man, and - more importantly - describing what we should do about it.

What makes Barfield unique is that he not only made a correct diagnosis of what ails us (this is not unusual), but he also prescribed an effective treatment.

I have attempted to summarise Barfield's core work as follows:

Owen Barfield's nature and achievement is usually under-sold by a partial, and therefore misleading, summary; that states Barfield's goal was to prove by evidence that human consciousness had evolved; and that this evidence was provided mainly via 'philological' investigations into the changing meaning of words.

Of course Barfield did this - but he did so much more, and this achievement served a much bigger purpose than usually realised.

The problem is that the above description sounds like an essentially academic type of activity - and therefore of interest mainly to academics - presumably those concerned with the meanings of words.

But in fact; Barfield was writing for everybody and for all time - and his core concern was nothing less than the divine destiny of each individual person and of all people collectively.

Barfield's immediate relevance is profound; it is to solve the core problem of modern times - which is 'alienation': i.e. the deep sense of meaninglessness, purposelessness, and isolation from people and things.

The understanding which makes this possible is that history, the present and the future can be understood as aiming-at both consciousness and freedom (where consciousness means awareness of our thinking and our selves, and  freedom refers to free will, or human agency).

Barfield's scheme is that humans began as conscious-but-not-free; and we evolved - evolved in the sense of changing by unfolding according to a (divine) developmental plan - to become free but not conscious (which is where we are now, in modern times - unaware of meaning, purpose, relation) - and we ought-to-be aiming at the condition where we are both self-aware and fully-conscious - engaged with (and participating-in) reality as free agents.

Even more briefly, humanity began as conscious, became free; and is destined to become both - simultaneously.

So Barfield 'in a nutshell' is so much more than a scientist-philosopher of language and its change; he is a thinker about the most fundamental problems.

And Barfield is not merely an analyst of problems: he proposes real, coherent, and clear answers to these most fundamental problems.

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