One of the most insightful, yet overlooked, thinkers of the 20th century was Owen Barfield. Fortunately, he is being rediscovered.
A member of the illustrious literary circle, The Inklings, which included much more well-known names, such as C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, Barfield developed a philosophy of and approach to the evolution – or unfolding – of consciousness that shows strong parallels to the approach developed by Jean Gebser, among others. His focus was almost exclusively on language and literature and his theory was foreshadowed in other works of his, such as History in English Words and Poetic Diction.
In this Café session, we’d like to take a closer look at what he has to offer through the close reading of one chapter of his seminal work, Saving the Appearances. We’re looking for connections between Gebser’s notion of “the Integral structure of consciousness”, or “being integral” generally, and Barfield’s “final participation”.
Reading / Watching / Listening
- Barfield_1957_SavingTheAppearances-Ch20-FnlPart.pdf (2.1 MB) (“mandatory”)
- Barfield_1957_SavingTheAppearances-Defs Refs.pdf (1.9 MB) (contains annotated pages with definitions of “figuration”, “alpha-thinking”, “beta-thinking”, “idolatry”, as well as the explanation of “dashboard thinking”, as referenced in the footnote on p. 136)
- Owen Barfield online archive (additional resources)
- Based solely on this chapter, what does Barfield appear to mean by the term “participation”? And following from that, what is his notion of “final participation”?
- How does this notion compare to Gebser’s integral structure of consciousness?
- Why do you think engaging Barfield may (or may not) be beneficial at this particular time in history?
Context, Backstory, and Related topics
- Cosmos Café [10/22]– Generative Conversations
- Cosmos Café [9/10] - Follow-up to Quantum Entanglement on Spiritual Possibilities
- Cosmos Café [8/13] - Quantum Entanglement, Quantum Coherence and Quantum Consciousness
- Cosmos Café [7/16] - Seeing Through the World with Jeremy Johnson - or - Dwelling in the House of Gebser
- Cosmos Café: “The Evolution of Consciousness as a Planetary Imperative: An Integration of Integral Views," Continued [4/10]
- Cosmos Café: Discussing “The Evolution of Consciousness as a Planetary Imperative: An Integration of Integral Views" [4/3]
- Cosmos Café: The Reflexive Universe, by Arthur Young [11/14]
Other on-site links
- Mark Vernon and Ancient World(s)
- Consciousness in the Aesthetic Imagination – by J.F. Martel
- Evolving Planetary Consciousness
Now, before anyone gets the idea I want to go somewhere specific with all of this, I just wanted to add an indication of how we might approach this session. We’re all for openness, I know, but just as too much direction can be inhibiting, too much openness can be debilitating. I would like to propose:
- Welcoming everyone on board.
- A first go-around gathering everyone’s impressions and questions concerning the reading.
- Clarifying comprehension questions: a first-cut overcoming of possible obstacles to understanding what Barfield’s driving at.
- Collecting the impressions into potential directions of discussion, maybe even prioritizing them to a certain extent (in the sense of what seems to interest us most).
- Pursuing the discussion and possibly answering some of the unanswered questions along the way.
- Figuring out how far we got and thinking about where we may want to go from here.
This is, of course, nothing more than a suggestion. I’d hate to think we would get together and simply ask ourselves, “So what do we want to do now?”
Though I (@achronon) did the admin part of setting up the page, etc., I am anything but a Barfield expert. What is more, it is also clear that all of us who may be in attendance (based on feedback thus far) are coming at Barfield and his thinking from very different starting and vantage points. Capturing some of that diversity wouldn’t be the worse thing that could happen to the discussion.
Again: just a suggestion. Majority rules, should yinz want to go about this differently.