Sunday, 13 October 2019

Mapping Steiner and Barfield

I have done a number of vlogs relating to both Owen Barfield and Rudolf Steiner, but although I have known that their work is deeply related , i have only now focused upon that relationship. First off we need to note that the influence was all one way from Rudolf Steiner to Owen Barfield. Steiner was born in 1861, 37 years prior to Barfield and died the same year that Barfield published his first book in 1925. Barfield did meet Steiner when he visited England in 1924 the year before he died. So all of Barfield's published work was written subsequent to his discovery of Steiner.

One of the main issues I want to deal with is how to read Steiner when what he is saying seems so left field, so contrary to the "common sense" of our time. The main key for me is the understanding that Steiner is looking at history, the development of humanity and the earth from the inside. If you accept that there is an inside and I think for the proper understanding of our life and consciousness the inside must be accepted, then the world will appear more in the living forms of the mind and the imagination, cutting these out is not possible and is a major modern error. You might disagree with Steiner but if you cannot formulate a picture of the world from the inside, then you should not be too critical, you can consider that perhaps Steiner has given us a rough sketch which is a big improvement over having no image at all, which for the most part we modern secularists have, and the religious who are unable to connect their mythologies with their modern consciousness.

This vlog will be composed largely of quotes from the two writers either talking about the influence or that show connections. Most of the Barfield quotes regarding Steiner are from his early unpublished novel English People which gives a fictionalised account of discovering Steiner particularly interesting because it was written close to the time, I will also be drawing on the much later introduction to Romanticism Comes of Age introduction from 1966, but first here's a quote from an interview where he states the basic connection:
The essence of Steiner's the evolution of human consciousness...I, in a way, came to the same conclusion before I heard of Steiner...He began where I left off. All I had done was to establish, in a hostile intellectual atmosphere, that there was such a thing as the evolution of consciousness from a more pictorial, more living, if you like, form or quality to our own. He assumes that to start with, and builds from that the terrific edifice (Interview with Barfield sourced from p109 The Fellowship by P & C Zalesky)

Owen Barfield  wrote that he owed a "paramount debt" to Rudolph Steiner and primarily when I have thought about this I have felt that Steiner's early works on Goethe and his Philosophy of Freedom had the most synergy with Barfield's, certainly they have  complementary epistemologies that grew out of romanticism. However, Barfield was just as interested in the Anthroposophical work, I remember being surprised by this when I read his fictional account of his discovery in his unpublished novel English People written 1927-9, (Rudolf Joseph Lorenz Steiner (27 (or 25) February 1861 – 30 March 1925) if this represent his experience, it was actually his Anthroposophy works that first captured Barfield.
Brockmann (The fictional name Barfield gave Steiner in this novel) ... spoke with dry confidence of an entire universe unknown to science, of previous civilisations of which no trace remained, of older ones still before the ice-age, including of course the overworked ‘Atlantis’, and further back still of previous incarnations of the whole earth-planet and of ‘spiritual hierarchies’ who had brought them into manifestation. The ingenuity of it was almost incredible; for here was this colossal structure of unsupported theory, this vast time-ocean of alleged history, hovering as it were in the background, behind all the rest of knowledge and professing, not to supplant, but actually to supplement the results of authentically experimental science, and the proper reading of historical documents. It contacted the normal Twentieth Century cosmos at innumerable points and at each point claimed arrogantly, not merely to correspond with, but to illuminate that particular spot of terra firma, by tracing its origin back into geological periods beyond the ken of its discoverers, and describing its formation from within instead of without.  
Humphrey was used to reading stuff he violently disagreed with without getting angry or contemptuous, for that was the only way one could get at a man’s psychology. He read on, therefore, and began to come somewhat under the spell of the symmetry and completeness of Brockmann’s system ...(English People Part 3 Chapter 34)
Here we are faced with one of the elephants in the room when talking about Steiner, particularly when trying to persuade people that he is one of the great modern thinkers. I recently shared an excerpt of Steiner with a friend, to show him what Steiner thought about changes in consciousness that were happening at the end of the Middle Ages, within that excerpt were such off putting terms as "Atlantis", “Initiates of the Grail”, “hidden knowledge” & "knowledge of supersensible worlds", I was very conscious of the effect this was likely to have. The above quote is a fictionalised account and while I would guess that it closely mirrors Barfield's own experience it does show that he was aware of the need to keep reading past 'off putting' material and that once he had done so he "began to come somewhat under the spell of the symmetry and completeness of Brockmann’s system".

He continues outlining Steiner's method:
— for his method was, not so much to outline a scheme in abstract as to discuss some particular fact or problem,... in such a way that the system slowly revealed itself. It revealed itself slowly, part at a time, and one was always being surprised and gratified at the way in which one revelation (which seemed so ingenious that it must have been invented especially for that particular context) would fit in later on with another on quite a different subject.(ibid)
This slow deliberate building of large schemes is one of the things that struck me about Steiner when I first read him decades ago, the effect was so different from that of Blavatsky's writing that seemed labyrinthine and convoluted.

The following section summarises much of Steiner's thought:
For Brockmann considered the whole evolution of the earth as being dedicated to the end of achieving human spiritual freedom, and spiritual freedom was impossible without that detachment from spiritual guidance, which nothing but an incapacity for mystical experience could bring. The problem was to recover, in freedom, by one’s own efforts and without dimming the self- consciousness, that old mystical experience in a new form — to achieve an ‘exact clairvoyance’.  (ibid)
Barfield would term that 'exact clairvoyance' as "final participation" and Steiner shared in this:
This Brockmann claimed himself in large measure to have done. He denied that his cosmogony was a theoretical structure and asserted that it was merely a description of what he could see. He had written various books in which he professed to describe the methods by which others too could train themselves to see the past and the unmanifest — and even to some extent the future. (ibid)

And then he moves into rapturous appreciation, the discovery of Steiner effected him in much the same way as lyrical poetry had, In the 1966 introduction to Romanticism comes of Age he writes:

the first serious thing that happened to my mind was (at the age of about twenty—one) a sudden and rapid increase in the intensity with which I experienced lyric poetry... What impressed me particularly was the power with which not so much whole poems as particular combinations of words worked on my mind. It seemed there was some magic in it; and a magic which not only gave me pleasure but also reacted on and expanded the meanings of the individual words concerned. (Introduction, Romanticism comes of Age)
Barfield's experience of Steiner seemed like an extension this, and reads much like a religious conversion or initiation:

From this point on Humphrey gave up altogether trying to psycho-analyse Brockmann’s writings or to convert them to a subjective interpretation. He simply went on reading them. At the same time a rather subtle change began to enter into his own attitude to life. That lurking horror of the Boundless — whether of inexhaustible appetite or infinite series of dreams and ideas, began to give way to a certain confident pleasure in the very thing he had previously abhorred. Whether it were the exercises he had begun to undertake, or the influence of all he had read in Brockmann, summed up and as it were driven home in this last powerful concept of an infinity of intersecting circles, of which the circumference of each is infinity — or some reason he now began to have moments in which he confronted the fluent dream of sensuous and intellectual experience with a kind of calm exultant joy. He rejoiced in his freedom. He was like a man with a snapshot camera, or a mathematician sitting tight with his coordinates up his sleeve, secure in the knowledge that however continuous the series, however incessant and ruinous the motion, he can at any point he chooses arrest that motion and, for the purpose of his thinking, grasp it in a state of instantaneous repose.
(English People Part 3 Chapter 34)
 Finally issues of subjectivity and objectivity start to spin in his mind, this is particularly interesting in terms of how Steiner argues that the subject object split is not a primary one as it was normally regarded, but is secondary and peculiar to our current experience, while the thinking that combines sense impressions (percepts) with concepts is primary:
This was now Humphrey’s experience with his ‘subjective’ and ‘objective’ interpretations of Brockmann. They seemed to have run together into one, so that one read them as descriptions of fact, rather than as symptoms of the state of the author’s imagination, and yet the question of their being true or untrue never arose.  (ibid)
So now let's look at the ways Steiner and Barfield's thinking corresponds. Barfield broke thinking down into 3 parts, figuration which combines sense data with concepts to create what we regard as the things of the world, alpha thinking which thinks about those things and Beta thinking which thinks about thinking. These seem to have some correlation to Steiner's terms sentient soul, intellectual soul and consciousness soul which relate to different forms of thinking as well as relating to different parts of the human soul. Sentient soul refers to the etheric body, that which gives form to the human body and which stops it from breaking down into its individual elements which it does after death. The astral body which is shared with animals and relates to the intellectual soul and finally the I or ego which relates to the consciousness soul. There is not a one to one exact match with these concepts but it is interesting that in both cases there is a 3 part basis for thinking.

Now I want to turn to the cross over in the evolution of consciousness. Barfield basically has earlier man experiencing the world through a kind of consciousness he has termed "Original Participation"
... Participation is the extra-sensory relation between man and the phenomena. It was shown in Chapter III that the existence of phenomena depends on it. Actual participation is therefore as much a fact in our case as in that of primitive man. But we have also seen that we are unaware, whereas the primitive mind is aware of it. This primitive awareness, however, is obviously not the theoretical kind ...The primitive kind of participation is indeed not theoretical at all, inasmuch as it is given in immediate experience. Let us distinguish it from ours by calling it ‘original’ participation.. (Saving the Appearances, Chapter IV Participation)
Barfield sees original participation on the decline in the ancient world, both with the rise of Greek thought and the iconoclasm of Israel, Israel's edicts against idols is seen as a deliberate destruction of original participation. However some form of Original Participation is seen as surviving in Europe to the end of the Middle Ages.

Now Steiner covers a much  bigger sweep of history which he divides into epochs and within those there are smaller divisions of cultural epochs, we are in the "post Atlantian" epoch and within that the previous epochs are the "Ancient Indian", the "ancient Persian", the "Egypto-Chaldean" , the "Graeco-Latin" epochs and the fifth epoch which is the current one he terms the "Anglo-German".  These cultural epochs are a little over 2000 years.

Barfield and Steiner are in accord with their time frames the Original Participation was the mode preceding 800BC and the rise of Greek though. Steiner uses different language but he also makes clear the different quality of consciousness that is a different way of expressing "Original Participation"
With the transition from the Egypto-Chaldean into the Graeco-Latin epoch, the whole mode and disposition of man's soul and all his faculties had undergone an essential change. The kind of logical thinking and intellectual comprehension of the world with which we are now familiar did not exist in Egypto-Chaldean times. Knowledge, which man today acquired by the deliberate exercise of his intelligence, he then received directly; it was given to him as an intuitive and inner — in some respects, supersensible — knowledge. Such was the form of cognition proper to that age. Man saw the objects around him, and in the very act of looking at them, the concept — the picture of them his soul needed — arose of its own accord within him. Now when cognition is of this nature, pictures not only of the sense-perceptible world make their appearance in man's soul, but from the depths of the inner life there dawns a knowledge, howsoever limited, of facts and beings imperceptible to the outer senses. This was a remnant of the dim and pristine supersensible awareness, once the common property of all mankind. (Rudolf Steiner, Esoteric Science: An Outline, Chapter 6)
Steiner then goes on to describe the  kind of consciousness that existed ion the Greco-Latin epoch (up to the end of thew 14th Century:
In the Graeco-Latin epoch an ever growing number of people were born in whom such faculties were lacking. Men now began to think about things with purely intellectual reflection. They drifted farther and farther away form the direct though dreamlike perception of the world of soul and spirit. Instead, they had to form an intellectual picture of it for themselves — intellectual, though aided by the life of feeling. Broadly speaking, man may be said to have been in this condition throughout the fourth post-Atlantean epoch.
Steiner typifies the thought in the early Christian period:
 After the exhaustion of Greek thought life, an age begins in the spiritual life of mankind in which the religious impulses become the driving forces of the intellectual world conceptions as well. For Plotinus, his own mystical experience was the source of inspiration of his ideas. (Riddles of Philosophy, Part 1, Chapter 3)
Barfield has a chapter of the Medeival Mind in Saving the Appearances and in the following chapter he contrasts their kind of mind with the kind of mind of our own age:
For medieval man, then, the universe was a kind of theophany, in which he participated at diflferent levels, in being, in thinking, in speaking or naming, and in knowing. Andthen—the evolutionary change began. Not, of course, at any given moment, but with anticipations, localized delays, individual differences. But no beginning is instantaneous-... Between the idea of a stone aspiring to reach its natural place at the centre of the universe-—and rushing more fervently as it came nearer home—and the idea of a stone accelerating its descent under the constant force of gravity, there is an intellectual transition which involves a change in men’s feeling for matter...(Barfield Saving the Appearances, Chapter 14) 
The current era according to Barfield we are developing our individuality and materialism causes in a sense an extreme individuality with many dangers and is marked by alienation:
Now it is because a full consciousness of self depends precisely on a sense of subjective-objective distinction - the feeling "I am here and the table is out there in space" - it is for this reason that the West has had to develop its strong sense of distinction with the inevitable accompanying sense of exclusion from the unity of the spirit... (p56 Romanticism Comes of Age "From East to West")
The way out of this is Final Participation:
Let us call the man-centred participation with which the opening chapters of this book were concerned final participation. Beta-thinking, then, can convince itself of the fact of final participation. It can convince itself that we participate the phenomena with the unconscious part of ourselves. But that has no epistemological significance. It can only have that to the extent that final participation‘ is consciously experienced. .. Are there any signs of such a development taking place? We have seen, in the Romantic movement, and elsewhere, symptoms of a kind of instinctive impulse towards iconoclasm. Are there any signs up to now of a systematic approach to final participation? And what does such an approach involve? It was pointed out in Chapter XIII that participation as an actual experience is only to be won to-day by special exertion; that it is a matter, not of theorizing, but of imagination in the genial or creative sense. A systematic approach towards final participation may therefore be expected to be an attempt to use imagination systematically. This was the foundation of Goethe’s scientific Work... (Saving the Appearances, chapter XX p137)

And here we have Steiner on the kind of consciousness that will grow out of our current understanding (fifth epoch) and be present generally in the next cultural epoch:

Throughout the fifth epoch the knowledge of supersensible worlds will thus continue to flow into the consciousness of men, and by the time the sixth begins it will be possible for mankind to have regained on a higher level the knowledge they possessed in pristine ages by virtue of the dim and dreamlike supersensible vision of those ancient days. But the renewed possession will be of quite another form than the old. What the soul knew of higher worlds in olden time was not yet permeated with her own human powers of intelligence and feeling. It came of its own accord — was “given” as a kind of spiritual inspiration. In future, man will not only be receiving “inspirations” of this kind, but will understand them through and through, feeling them as his very own, the true expression of his inmost being... (Rudolf Steiner, Esoteric Science: An Outline, Chapter 6)
I think that gives at least an introduction to just how closely Barfield and Steiner's thinking aligns.


Sunday, 22 September 2019

Mark Vernon - A Secret history of Christianity - Jesus, the Last inkling, and the Evolution of Consciousness

I was looking forward to this book for a number of reasons.  The first reason was that i think that Owen Barfield, the "Last Inkling" from the title,  was an important thinker whose ideas could act as a  cultural corrective on the prevalent nihilistic materialism of our time, so a popular accessible book expounding his ideas would be welcome. The Second was it could help me personally by exploring some of the ramifications of Barfield's ideas in the context of Christian History. Barfield's thinking is radical in modern terms so there are lot of implications to be thought through and any help in that regard would be appreciated. This book does neither of these things.

I'm disappointed by the work. While Mark's book might inspire some people to read Owen Barfield's work and so spread engagement with his ideas, the ideas are Mark's rather than Barfield's. Barfield may have inspired a certain strain of thinking in him that he then explored in this book, but it is not an engagement of Barfield's thinking and there is so much in it that Barfield would have objected to.  I also found this book counter-productive to understanding Barfield's thinking as it's misinterpretations obscures rather than reveals Barfield.

Mark Vernon has a different kind of mind to Barfield,  he is a psychologist whereas Barfield is more of a philosopher, Barfield moves slowly around his ideas and hammers them out, whereas Vernon covers a lot of ground quickly.  I wonder if Vernon thinks through a lot of his sentences. Take this quote:
...with  it, more insights into divine activity could be uncovered. It's not that the facts would become firmer, but that the implications richer. The Israelites, along with other ancient peoples, were embedded in such an experience of life. They had no perception of the this-worldly criteria that so intensely informs what we make of things now. p15 
There are no mention of Barfield's concept of figuration which is the almost automatic thinking we do that shapes our perceptions, that combines sense data (percepts) with concepts. This would be a good time to introduce it as the "this world" that they lived in and the "fact based" were not ours. Instead it just implies that their lives are well described by our concept of "other worldly" and that they ignored "facts", if Mark thinks this then he's contradicting Barfield if he doesn't then he isn't using his language to hammer this thinking out.

In the introduction he talks about Barfield's theory of evolution of consciousness and says he wasn't the first thinker to think in this way and mentions a few earlier thinkers but he fails to mention Rudolf Steiner, no mention is made of Steiner at all in the book, which is a major oversight as Steiner was the most important influence on Barfield and particularly on his thinking of the evolution of consciousness and the nature of thinking and perception.

Another quote:
Myths and stories in oral traditions live in telling and retelling as they are elaborated across various versions. Such layers of remembrance would have charged the venerable names, Abraham and Moses, with the active reality p30
Here Mark is elaborating a theory of building up meaning and significance over time, the general movement of meaning that Barfield notices over time is the separation out of more specific concepts out of more wholistic ones, not as here suggested the development of meaning. I would see the move to writing as possibly having an alienating effect as words can be on a scroll and exterior to yourself rather than living inside you in memory in an oral tradition.

Mark's work is often diametrically opposed to Barfield's and there are a few times where he seems to almost be taunting Barfield.
...I don't think the resurrection is supposed to be treated as empirical evidence of his divine humanity. It's not as if someone with a smartphone, hurled back across the centuries, could catch the stone  rolling away and post the verification online...p131
This seems like a deliberate reference to Barfield's objection to H G Wells Time traveller whose seeing is conditioned by the modern consciousness that they take back with them in time, but Mark is siding here with Wells against Barfield.

This opposition extends to idolatry and iconoclasm which are opposite poles. Idolatry was a central concern for Barfield and here Mark Vernon is claiming that atheism and scientism (Barfield often uses the term Positivism) are iconoclastic:
atheism and scientism are iconoclastic movements. They are both linked to enhancements in the consciousness of being individual. They have facilitated a range of reforms that have deepened people's sense of inner freedom, expressed in good things from social mobility to universal education.p164
Now Barfield gives this description of our common understanding of what idolatry is:
It can happen with those sacred images, which play such an essential part in most religions...they begin by being perceived by the faithful, as images. That is as material representations of a immaterial reality. And then as time goes on, perception weakens, or it is atrophied, and the material alone is perceived and felt as real. the sacred images have become sacred things, and it is the things themselves that are worshipped or propitiated. They have become, in fact, idols. p32 History, Guilt & Habit
Barfield goes on to liken this to the process from participatory consciousness whose
common sense was one for which immaterial was perceived as well, in the act of perceiving the has come to accept the outer for its own sake only and not as the manifestation or garb of another immaterial component. Reality is assumed to consist of things, not of images.p32 ibid
Barfield spends rather more time developing this idea but he is very much likening the move from the kind of common sense experienced in ancient participatory consciousness to that of modern atheistic consciousness to a fall into idolatry. He even likens the sin of religious idolatry to the taboo of the modern sort "And if you think it is not taboo today to question...the validity of that mental picture we have of Darwinian man, just try to get a hearing for it in the media." p33 ibid

Also Mark linking atheism to a "deepened ... sense of inner freedom" strikes me as odd when it more  naturally leads to Richard Dawkins' deterministic "lumbering robots", which envisages our thoughts being secreted by the biological processes in our brains, what materialism does lead to is alienation, a sense of separateness, so it is in that way that it emphasises the individual.

I feel the decision to write in chronological order from past to present is also a mistake. The present is the best starting place as we know it most directly, the words we use to describe it are current words with their current meanings and as we move into the past these words, our tools of expression, become more problematic as our current meanings are strange to former times. Mark seems way too confident  in the ability of modern words and concepts to capture the life of the past.

At the start I said I was disappointed by this work, the reason being I expected it to explore the ramifications of Barfield's thinking across the history of Christianity. In reflecting upon my disappointment I am reminded that knowledge of Owen Barfield's thinking is limited, he is not well known or widely read, so it's likely that more readers of this book will come to it not knowing of Barfield. The book is Mark Vernon's exploration of a theory of changes in consciousness or  psychology across Christian History. I wish Mark expressed the differences he has with Barfield because people reading this will likely come away with the misconception that book aligns with Barfield's thinking when it does not. Barfield may have been the inspiration for the book but he was not the intended audience.

Monday, 24 June 2019

Diabolical Science

This blog has been about 30 years coming.It was inspired by reading Frances Yates work in the late 1980s and I saw something important about what i consider to be  a mistake in Western Cultural thought or perception, the beginnings of Modernity. The Renaissance was a cultural flowering and this feels like the cutting of that flower which still has significant consequences for the present time.

The art and archetecture of the Renaissance is both aesthetically pleasing and has a strong mythic force, a sense of unstrained mystery. I wasn't aware that their was theoretical work that reflected that. Yates showed that there were such writings which had been eclipsed in the minds of subsequent generations.This rich tradition that has been variously termed: Platonic Theology,  Christian Kabbalah and The Magical Hermetic tradition, exemplified in the writers like: Ramon Llull, Marsilio Ficino, Pico della Mirandola, Cornelius Aggrippa, Giordano Bruno, John Dee and Robert Fludd. Recently I have got around to read some of these writers to get a taste of their vision.

In my previous video I spoke of the evolution of consciousness and i will use quotes from Rudolf Steiner's the Riddles of Philosophy to give a basic outline of the story leading up to these writers. 

In the Centuries prior to the advent of Christ we see the emergence of Greek thought where intellectual forms replace an earlier picture based consciousness. Yet the way they experienced thought was very different to our experience.

Steiner writes:
(For) the Greek thinker, thought came as a perception...thought had the immediate power of conviction...For the Greeks, it was a question of being able to garner thoughts from the world. They were then themselves the witnesses of their truth.
Then moving into the early Christian Centuries we see spirituality reflected in the intellectual life in the work of Plotinus, Dionysius Areopigite and the Corpus Hermetica

After the exhaustion of Greek thought life, an age begins in the spiritual life of mankind in which the religious impulses become the driving forces of the intellectual world conceptions as well. For Plotinus, his own mystical experience was the source of inspiration of his ideas.
Steiner posits that moving into the middle Ages the vividness in the way thought was experienced was diminished by the emergence of the ego into consciousness:

The thinker of antiquity had the feeling that thought was given to him; the thinker of the later time had the impression that he was producing thought.
Frances Yates drew my attention to Marsilio Ficino who brought back to prominence Plato Plotinus, Dionysius Areopogite and the Hermetic Tradition all of which he either interpreted or translated in latin. Through Pico della Mirandola the Jewish Kaballah takes Christian form. Being aware of these writers makes me think they must have provided the the kind of atmosphere that contemporary viewers of Shakespeare's Tempest would have sensed in Prospero.

These writers presented a very unified sensibility, melding divine creation, geometry, myth, mind spirit the four elements the great macorcosm and the microcosm of man. John Dee's Hieroglyphic Monad starts off:
It is by the straight line and the circle that the first and most simple example and representation of all things may be demonstrated, whether such things be either  non-existent or merely hidden under Nature's veils.

Robert Fludd loved illustrations. This one maps the macrocosm from God represented by his divine name, through the three heavens of angels, the fixed stars the seven planets the globe of the earth, presided over by nature, the soul of the world with her head in the lower heaven of angels, her right hand bound to god, one foot on the dry land the other in the sea. The earth has the three realms: animal, vegetable and mineral. The ape of nature is art with its four spheres and many correspondences. What is fascinating about this picture is that it is a map of the great macrocosm it accepts a harmony between man god and nature and not only is it a system of knowledge, it is also aesthetically pleasing. It represents a unified consciousness, so at odds with our disparate disciplines of knowledge of the current time.

To give a taste of Fludd's writing I will quote from the beginning of The History of the Macrocosm:
Infinite nature, which is boundless Spirit, unutterable, not intelligible, outside of all imagination, beyond all essence, unnameable, known only to the heart, most wise, most merciful, FATHER, WORD, HOLY SPIRIT, the highest and only good, incomprehensible in height, the unity of all creatures, which is stronger than all power, greater than all distinction, more worthy than all praise, indivisible TRINITY, most splendid and indescribable light, in short, the divine mind, free and separate from mortal matter, glory of all, necessity, extremity and renewal: Here, I say, GOD, the highest and greatest of all, whose name was made blessed in eternity, skilfully formed the admirable machine of the entire Macrocosm, and beautifully adorned his structure Even all the Philosophers, both ancient and more recent,...-- the most ancient; Plato the innate source of the universe; others the infinite cause, both outside all things and yet in all things and everywhere; others - the Being of Beings, the Prime Cause insofar as other causes are derived from it, the maker and originator of all, and according to Plato, the repository of understanding... Next, Plato and Mercurius Trismegistus call him father, in so far as he is the originator of all fecundity and the begetter of all things; finally, the greater chorus of the Philosophers (among whom are named Democritus and Orpheus) concludes that GOD contains every name, since all is in him and he himself is in everything, not unlike the manner in which all straight lines drawn from the centre to the circumference are said to be in the centre: or just as Number is said to exist in unity, which is the common measure, source and origin of all numbers, and contains every number, joined to itself in a unique way. Wherefore, the Pythagoreans, and the most learned in science of numbers, likened the Monad or Unity to God the Maker, because he was, alone and by himself, before all, and also because he was the first mover and only activator that existed to complete the huge structure of the creation; moreover, they attributed the Dyad or Duality to his matter, or subject that he worked on, because it was the second constituent upon which the Maker worked to complete the world; and finally they assigned the Triad to that spiritual power, or fiery, shining essence of his, by which the said matter or substrate of the world was brought from the potential state to the actual...
In this relatively short section we see theat the starting point is always God, but also how geometry and number are integrated with theology and philosophy. To me this is also why Renaissance art is so good, it balances divine and human, it is beautiful, glorious, mythical and sanctified. 

The renaissance is something of a turning point between the middle ages and modernity. In Shakespeare we get renaissance colour but we also have the emergence of the modern sense of the individual. Then there is the birth of modern science.

Yates' in the Rosicrucian Enlightenment shines a light on the emergence of science through the establishment of the Royal Society.  I think the standard line of atheists is that scientific thinking shook off out dated magical and theological thinking through it's high minded rejection of superstition, but Yates paints a rather different picture, where thinkers like Fludd and Dee were esteemed and something happened that stripped away the magic. 
She writes of the birth of the Royal Society: the year 1648, for this was the year in which the meetings at Oxford began which are stated by Thomas Sprat in his official history of the Royal Society to have been the origin of the Royal Society... These Oxford meetings were held in Wilkins's rooms at Wadham College and they ran from about 1648 to about 1659, when the group moved to London and formed the nucleus of the Royal Society, founded in 1660. 
Yates adds some colour to the setting:
Describing `rarities' that he had seen in Wilkins's rooms at Wadham in 1654, Evelyn says that Wilkins had contrived a hollow statue which uttered words by a long, concealed pipe, and that he possessed many other 'artificial, mathematical, and magical curiosities'
Interesting to hear of magical curiosities at the birth of science and while this was happening the Rosicrucian Manifestoes were being published in English translation. which starts with this wonderful declaration of the perfection of the arts and society thus:
SEEING the only wise and merciful God in these latter days hath poured out so richly his mercy and goodness to mankind, whereby we do attain more and more to the perfect knowledge of his son Jesus Christ and nature, that justly we may boast of the happy time wherein there is not only discovered unto us the half part of the world, which was heretofore unknown and hidden, but he hath also made manifest unto us many wonderful and never heretofore seen works and creatures of nature, and moreover hath raised men indued with great wisdom, which might partly renew and reduce all arts (in this our age spotted and imperfect) to perfection; so that finally man might thereby understand his own nobleness and worth, and why he is called microcosmus, and how far his knowledge extendeth in nature.
In 1652 Thomas Vaughan published an English translation of the Fama and the Confessio, under the pseudonym of 'Eugenius Philalethes' 
Thomas Vaughan's patron is said to have been Sir Robert Moray, afterwards very influential in the formation of the Royal Society. The, as it were, public acknowledgement of the Fama and the Confessio may have encouraged John Webster, a Puritan divine, to come out with a remarkable work in which he urges that 'the philosophy of Hermes revived by the Paracelsian school' should be taught in the universities. 
Webster includes mathematics, particularly as recommended by John Dee in his Preface to Euclid from which Webster quotes at length, with ecstatic encomiums of Dee. He also profoundly reveres that `profoundly learned man Dr Fludd', and he is under the impression that if authors like these - and his book is an amalgam of Paracelsist, Agrippan and similar Renaissance magico-scientific type of thinking, with Dee and Fludd as his favourites -were taught in the universities

The teaching of this magico-scientific philosophy presents a rather different picture than how science actually developed although it is worth remembering that Newton himself pursued alchemical studies. John Dees reputation turned for the worse after his death, he had previously been well regarded, as  astrologer to Queen Elizabeth he had even chosen her Coronation day, and she was his patron although not a bountious one. He had been consulted by the royal navy to help with development of weaponry to help them defeat the Spanish, designed some of the first stage machinery for the theatre, introduced Euclid with an at the time famous Preface and had one of the largest library in Elizabethan England. But in an act of malice his magical diaries were published after his death and his reputation was tarnished as a practitioner of forbidden magic although for Dee himself he regarded the magical work he was doing was with angels, although his scrier Edward Kelley was a rather unsavoury character who had had his ears cut off for theft. So Dees reputation turned from that of a fairly central and influential and accomplished figure to that of a dark and forbidding bogyman to eventually a misguided and foolish purveyor of magical tricks. But Yates says:
Religious passions were still high, and a dreaded witch-scare might start at any moment to stop their efforts. So they drop Dee, and make their Baconianism as innocuous as possible. One wonders what they did with the references to the R.C. Brothers, their invisibility and their college, in the New Atlantis. 
Yates goes on:
There were many subjects which had to be avoided : utopian schemes for reform belonged to the revolutionary past which it was now better to forget. The Society had many enemies in its earlier years; its religious position seemed unclear; witch-scares were not altogether a thing of the past. The rule that religious matters were not to be discussed at the meetings, only scientific problems, must have seemed a wise precaution and, in the earlier years, the Baconian insistence on experiment, and on the collecting and testing of scientific data, guided the Society's efforts. A permanent Society for the advancement of natural science had arrived, a real and visible, not an imaginary and invisible, institution, but it was very restricted in its aims compared with earlier movements. It did not envisage the advancement of science within a reformed society, within a universal reformation of the whole world. The Fellows of the Royal Society were not concerned with healing the sick, and that gratis, nor with schemes for the reform of education. These men could have had no idea of what lay before the movement they were encouraging. To them its weakness would be more apparent than its strength, the dangers of extinction which still beset it. They had arrived ; they had made an Invisible College visible and real, and in order to preserve its delicate existence great caution was required. It all seemed, and was, very sensible. And although Baconian experiment was not in itself the infallible high road to scientific advance, yet the Royal Scociety, so respectable, so well organized, was a statement clear to all that science had arrived. Nothing could stop it now. 
I think in this we can start to recognise the rise of modern science, but it is interesting how the impetus of the move away from magic and Platonic Theology was not due to a standoffish scientific skepticism towards such things, but because of a the threat of persecution, their mathematics was stripped of it's magic to save themselves from the imputation of the diabolical, when to begin with at least their hearts and minds were aflame with magic and divine love.

Now this I think had very serious consequences, suddenly the theological and the experimental were split from one another and the collection of data came only from this fallen world. Truth took on a small t and the greater internal origin of Truth in God was entirely left out, even if it was still in the early practitioners consciousness

Hopefully what I have said so far gives some colour to the era and the transformations going on, now I'll end by giving a summary of three main turning points.

1. Renaissance thinking was Theistic in nature, God, the good the true and the beautiful was at the centre. In Fludd we can see a unified picture of reality from the divine through the angelic, the human and it's various arts down into the animal; vegetable and mineral. In reading Fludd or Ficino we can enjoy a sense of unified consciousness of both aesthetic and philosophical harmony.

2. Science was born in the Royal Society by people with deeply religious sensibility who compromised their ideas of religious and social reform through a fear of persecution. Their ideas were stripped down into an enquiry of the external world. Subsequent generations took this stripped down enquiry as the basis for Science and it came to be their exclusive method for discovery of truth. This was a fundamental error and is philosophically naive. Truth is always  something found through thinking, through contemplation it is found within, the bowing down to an idol of an external truth found exclusively through the senses, does not make sense and following this path leads to the death of meaning. This is one of the main cultural afflictions of the current time.

3. In a Magical paradigm our experiments are seen as either divine or diabolical, good or evil, of God or the Devil but to avoid persecution  a myth of Science was created as an impartial and amoral realm of disinterested enquiry neither good nor evil but purely for the advancement of a knowledge discreet from and independent of Divine knowledge. This amoral framework is false, none of our actions are outside  good and evil and this has allowed many diabolical scientific developments to take place under the guise of amorality that were immoral.


Frances Yates - The Rosicrucian Enlightenment

Saturday, 15 June 2019

A Confession of Faith

I thought it would be a good thing to make a confession of faith, so anyone reading this will know what the label on my bottle is, so they will know if my wine is something they would wish to drink.

I was raised in a secular family, all my siblings are atheists, my parents were both born in Christian families but as adults they were not Christians, we lived distant  to my grand parents who we almost never saw and we never attended church nor were we baptised. Although in my case, I was named by a friend of my father’s who shared a love of opera singers with him, an Irish Roman Catholic Priest, but I have no recollection of him. We did have cousins who were Christians, who we saw very occasionally and I once attended midnight mass with them, but all I experienced was being very tired from staying up so late. I encountered no Christians who inspired me, the occasional Jehovah’s Witnesses did come to our door but they did not call to my soul. 

I wasn’t much of a reader, the only novels I read were for school but I did like Asterix & Tintin books.

Listening to the music of Yes "Close to the Edge" at age 11, did inspire me, I remember lying on the floor following the lyrics 'a seasoned witch to call you from the depths of your disgrace", there was a magic there. At 14 I read the Hobbit followed immediately after by the Lord of the Rings, I had never had an experience like that before, it opened something up inside me, I may love those books now more than I did then. They were a revelation, I didn't know Tolkien was a Christian, I did not think much about him, I do remember looking at a picture of him sitting under a tree and feeling an intense love for the man. Looking back I'd say reading those books was a taste of religion, a discovery of a region of the soul.

In my 20s I read quite a lot, books both good and bad: Dostoievsky, Kafka, Vonnegut, A E van vogt, Philip k Dick. I read some Kerouac who professed an interest in Buddhism and I started to read some spiritual literature: Buddhist texts, Bhagavad Gita, Upanishads I didn't entirely ignore Christianity as i read the Gospel of St John, I even quite liked it, these texts did feel like works from another age I found them fascinating but there was an alienation between my mind and the mind they represented, I did not think I knew God or experienced divine love.

Colin Wilson’s work did play an important part for me, here was an author who was still alive, with a modern sensibility who was willing to explore byways of experience, ghosts, phantoms, telepathy, telekinesis, precognition etc and I read Steiner's Philosophy of Freedom which while I don't know I understood I started to get the sense of the primacy of consciousness over matter.  At some point in my alienation I felt depression and confusion and felt compelled to pray with a passion. I think God answered that prayer, I was brought to God in the depths of my disgrace and it makes me admire atheists, or at least wonder at them. How can they go through life without love of God? How do they manage with no source for meaning? At about age 30 I read Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi, this book had a conscious spiritual impact on me, here was someone who was familiar with God, who made me realise God could be close and present. I started to walk inside a spiritual tradition, and a few years some years back I was initiated into Kriya Yoga (in the lineage of Yogananada).

Yogananada had a love of Christ and it seems to me I too would never had loved Christ but for the awakening through Hindu tradition. The Christian tradition now has a life for me.

I am culturally Western and so learning to know and love the Western Christian tradition was important, culture should live and there is no culture without spirituality. I have attended the local nearly empty churches a few times in recent years and maybe I’ll attend more often. I like the experience of love of God in fellowship.

Christianity seems to be in retreat in the West, there needs to be some sort of religious spiritual rebirth, for the good of our culture, for the good of us all, I can't see what that would be, it would be interesting to imagine different possibilities.

Friday, 7 June 2019

My first experience of Tolkien and Lewis

I grew up in an artistic secular household, my father followed his Maori root and became an artist in the Maori renaissance of the 1960s & 70s, he also left home when I was 9, but he had liked the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings and had read the Hobbit to my older brother as I read it to my nephews later. Aged 10 or 11 the Hobbit was read to my class by my form teacher and I enjoyed it, but it wasn't a revelatory experience. I read a couple of novels required of me for school, I was not much of a reader although I did read Asterix, Tin Tin and Lucky Luke comics for pleasure. But I think everyone in my family, I being the youngest had read the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings and for some reason, I think there may have been some expectation of novel reading in my English class, that might have sparked it, I had a sense that I should read these even if the notion of reading a novel was a foreign notion to me.

But reading the Hobbit something new happened to me, I became absorbed in it, reading this was a revelation, I wanted to keep reading and not go to sleep, I just wanted to read this book it was suddenly the most important thing to me. Gandalf, Bilbo, Dwarves, Trolls, Goblins, Gollum, Wolves, Beorn, a dragon and a treasure. I lived in this imaginary world with an inner intensity previously not experienced, something opened up in my that all these decades later I am still exploring and discovering.

I immediately followed this by reading the Lord of the Rings and this world I had found I discovered to be deeper broader and more profound. I felt I was discovering my own inner life although many others had read this before, it felt very personal to me and I felt connected to it, I was stealthy and small like a Hobbit, I was at home in the Shire, I loved and experienced the wonder of the Elves.

Reading Tolkien made me realise there was a joy in books and I started reading a variety of books. It wouldn't have been until I entered my 20s that I read any C S Lewis around this time I read a number of classic English Children's stories: The Wind in the Willows, Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass (Also Sylvie and Bruno), Winnie the Pooh & the Narnia Books, I also read some science fiction including Lewis Space Trilogy although I think I only read the first two books. I enjoyed Lewis' books they had a certain visionary quality of imagination that appealed to me, but they also had a lot of didactic Christian teaching that did not, I being somewhat antithetical to Christianity at the time.

I also discovered Lewis "master" George MacDonald around this time and his fantasy book "Lilith" struck me as simply great as it still does, this had the elements of Lewis' visionary imagination in their pure form, I also read the Curdie books but strangely yet I didn't explore MacDonald's works more fully at that time.

Appreciation goes through cycles and I am now at a time when I appreciate Tolkien, Lewis, MacDonald (and Owen Barfield and Charles Williams) even more and that has come about rather paradoxically through an awakening of Religion and Spirituality largely through the Hindu tradition. And I now see these writers as "Christian Romantics" an important part of and development of Western Christian culture and their wider corpus needs to be experienced.

The Lord of the Rings movies were created here in New Zealand and were released in the final years of my Father's life, it was great to talk to him about them, we both enjoyed them and had some reservations, but it was great to be reminded that we both loved the Lord of the Rings.

I will always be grateful for Tolkien opening that door into a larger world and I wonder how many people he has done that for.

Saturday, 25 May 2019

A basic outline of the evolution of consciousness in the historic period

I have been reading Owen Barfield, Rudolf Steiner and Bruce Chlaton's writings about them and I thought it would help me picture their ideas by putting down in as simple an outline as I could the basic narrative of the evolution of consciousness that is in their work. For those reading this it won't serve as an alternative to reading their works but is meant to show the basic shape of their ideas in a potted form.

Literary tradition provides us with a record of recent changes in human consciousness and in this time period we can see changes. By looking at the way words and meaning develop we can see certain patterns. The word "pneuma" that once had a single meaning which held within it the separate meanings we now have of breath, wind & spirit, represents the way our current inner (spirit) and outer (breath, wind) meanings were previously unified. This represented a kind of consciousness where matter and spirit were also unified. Likewise,the reason that ancient man expressed himself in myth was not because he liked to tell fanciful stories but because that is how he experienced the world, Mythic consciousness where spiritual and physical had not yet separated was what Owen Barfield termed original participation, I remember taking a course on the Australian Aborigines, who from an external perspective with modern eyes would seem to live a life of material deprivation but instead their landscapes were rich with stories and meaning embedded in them and the world's origin was not a theory but an experience they entered into. It was however a tribal life rather than individual life. An interesting snapshot into an earlier time before they crashed into the modern world view.

From the time of the rise of Greek thought about 5 centuries before Christ till about the 15th century, we see the rise of intellectual life but still with a sense of participation. Subsequent to that the sense of individuality develops and original participation dies. Alienation emerges, in Shakespeare for instance we witness characters with individual inner life. Colin Wilson notes that the emergence of the novel marks an opening of our inner private life.

R J Reilly's book Romantic Religion has a chapter on Owen Barfield which gives an excellent overview of his works, he writes on the emerging self and the awareness of historicism:

"The seventeenth century first gives us words that indicate this perspective: progressive, antiquated, century, decade, epoch, out-of-date, primeval. Also, as an aftermath of the Reformation, we begin to find words hyphenated with self appearing in the language: self-conceit, self-confidence, self-contempt, self-pity—the centre of gravity has shifted from phenomena to self.”

We often think of thinking just in terms of what Barfield calls alpha thinking which is thinking about things, but just as important is what Barfield terms figuration. which is joining our sense information or percepts with concepts to make the things of the world, Steiner goes into detail regarding this process in his book "Philosophy of Freedom", the chair we see only exists when we have combined the concept "chair" with the percepts we experience. In thinking our world is created, interior is anterior. 

Another key historical marking point is the Galileo affair, his theory of the heliocentric solar system which is so often given as an example of the suppression of science by faith, yet I think this a facile interpretation, as the Pope was not objecting to Galileo presenting his theory but rather his insistence that it was TRUE. Barfield uses the phrase 'saving the appearances" to describe how up to this time theories regarding the workings of the material world were regarded. They were seen as systems for best describing our experiences, TRUTH was considered the nature of God and the human intellect could strive for it but not contain it. So Galilieo could be seen to be making an idol of thought and this kind of idol is now prevalent in our modern thinking. We have a lot of these eternal laws of the universe that are both scientific orthodoxy and part of modern consciousness and this is so for both religious or secular people, to go beyond these "Truths" is to the orthodox "unthinkable". 

So we have slowly built up in our minds thoughts that we worship as realities, true they have reshaped the external world with automobiles, computers, satellites, cell phones, high rise buildings etc. It's a moot point whether we would have created these things using theories rather than idols. But our ancestors would have thought these creations  magical/diabolic and I think we would be wrong to scoff at them for this interpretation. But this thinking creates from thinking a world with no inside, where the thinking that built it has been banished. Leaving a world without meaning which is not a good place. Although Steiner states that this stage is necessary for the development of the individual and an intentional act of imagination will move humanity to a new synthesis that Barfield calls Final Participation if we so choose to take that step.

Along with these dead idols of thought another striking modern obsession is looking for the smallest basic building block to find the fundamental basis of a world pictured as mechanical. Animals are killed and dissected to see what they are composed of but instead they decompose. Plants are put in blenders and the goo is examined to give an explanation for their life, form and beauty. In contrast to this, Goethe had the sense that plant and animal would yield up their nature to him through sufficient contemplation, that our senses, aided by our thoughts and are good tools for discovery. Truth is all around us, it is within us. Consciousness is the inside of creation. Steiner’s book Occult Science an Outline is an attempt to look back into the past from the inside, the opposite of H G Well's time traveller who took modern materialist thought back into the past to refashion a dead world. 

Our challenge now is to reforge the world in ourselves with abundant life and beauty, through imaginative and spiritual effort.

Friday, 12 April 2019

Response to Steiner Studies video on Owen Barfield Saving the Appearances

I have been invited by the Steiner studies channel to do a response video to his video on Owen Barfield’s book “Saving the Appearances” and it’s relationship to Steiner’s thought. I have previously done one video on Barfield which was cut off due to environmental noise, I intended to do a follow up, but I am thinking that it would be good to do a number of videos. Originally I had thought I would need to get a full understanding of Barfield’s work, but I think instead I’ll treat it as a work in progress, where the act of making the video is the means by which I grapple with his thought..

So lets start Steiner Studies rolling the original video, I’ll put a link to the original video in the description:

I have been thinking about Owen Barfield and his book “Saving the appearances” Barfield is a very interesting writer thinker and one of the great interpreters of Rudolf Steiner’s work. And his book saving the appearances is his seminal philosophical work. Originally he intended it to be a book to make the case for Rudolf Steiner’s philosophy and spiritual science, but the book became it’s own thing it became self contained.
Now I haven’t done any videos on Rudolf Steiner and he is certainly a hard person to explain, I am not an expert of Steiner and I think it is very difficult thing to be. I also think he is a very difficult thinker to grapple with for quite a few reasons. 

So a few words about Steiner. he was born in Austria in 1861 and lived till 1925. He was a gifted student and his first major claim to fame was editing Goethe’s scientific papers, this lead to his first book “A Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe’s World Conception” which was followed by his original work “The Philosophy of Freedom”   which Steiner continued to think of throughout his life as his seminal work. I feel a sense of jeopardy in trying to characterise this book, I’d say it was a theory that posited that  in true thinking we could both grapple with reality and find individual Freedom. 
Neither of these books made much of a splash at the time and I feel few have really tried to grapple with them and their influence may be yet to come. However Steiner has been an influential figure,  here in New Zealand for instance,  half way around the world from where Steiner was born we have Waldorf kindergartens and schools based on Steiner’s education theories. Biodynamic farming also came about by farmers seeking advice from Steiner. Such influences have not endeared him to the academic Intelligencia. 
Then there is Anthroposophy which Steiner foundered, this came about by being asked to give a talk to the Theosophical Society and from this he started to acquire a genuine following, he became the leader of the Austian/German branch of the Theosophical society. Many people have assumed from this that Steiner’s thought has its genesis in Helena Blavatsky’s work. Steiner has always denied this saying he always spoke from his own spiritual sight and Steiner parted from the Theosophical society to found the Anthroposophical society. He wrote a good number of books on Anthroposophy and delivered a huge number of lecture series that were recorded and have been issued in book form.  This large body of Anthroposophical work has effected the way people look at Steiner for the intensely spiritually inclined it has been a source of attraction but for many Atheists and Christians it has served as an easy excuse to ignore him. Owen Barfield certainly did not do so.

However there is a very close relationship between Saving the Appearances and Steiner’s philosophy and I wanted to talk about that relationship a little bit because there does seem to be an apparent tension between Saving the Appearances and Steiner’s Philosophy of Freedom or Steiner’s Epistomology  and I want to go into that tension a little bit because I think that tension reveals something about both Barfield and Steiner. 

Now Barfield was a member of the writers circle known as the Inkling, he was a friend of CS Lewis and Tolkien. He was an influence upon Lewis becoming a Theist, but he did not have the religious upbringing that Lewis had. Barfield’s early books the fairytale The Silver Trumpet was the first mythic publication i think by an Inkling. Further his two books a history in English Words and poetic Diction were quite influential on Tolkien’s thinking on language and the nature of mind. I am pretty sure these were developed prior to his discovery of Steiner, so Barfield’s discovery of Steiner was one of convergence rather than conversion. There is never a sense that Barfield is being constrained by Steiner’s thought but that of joyful sharing. But as Steiner’s early books were pretty much ignored so  Barfield also has been on the outside of intellectual fashion and there has been little engagement with his work. Even his good friend Lewis on becoming a Christian refused to continue their intellectual fight.

First of all where is the tension coming from? Barfield goes to great lengths in the first part of his book. to demonstrate and prove that the world of appearances and everything around us that we touch smell see hear feel is just a system of collective representation. That is to say a system of mental representation. Representation within our mind that just happens to have a mind happens to have the same collective representation. 

My feeling on this is that there is always a caveat with Barfield and what he is doing here is leading us from what is the common currently accepted world view. The subtitle to Saving the Appearances is “A study in Idolatry” what he is trying to show us is that there is an idolatry in this modern world view that is shared by almost everyone. 

Now you might say this sounds an awful lot like someone like Kant or Schopenhauer would say. That is that the world is a mental representation so Barfield sounds like he is on the side of the Kantians. Who both of these thinkers Steiner goes at great length to argue against.So why is Barfield in the side of the idea that the world is a mental representation.

I just want to say a little about Steiner and Kant that comes from Steiner’s Autobiography which I   think is one of his key works. As a young man Steiner was compelled to get and understand Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. Steiner says “In my boyish way I was striving to understand what human reason might be able to achieve towards real insight into the being of things” And Steiner tells of the intensity of his reading of Kant, he writes  “Many a page I read more than 20 times in succession. I wanted to reach a decision as to the relation sustained by human thought to the creative work of nature.” Steiner goes on to say “It seemed to me that thinking could be developed to a faculty  which would actually lay hold upon the things and events of the world. A “stuff which remains outside of the thinking which we can merely “think towards” seemed to me to be an unendurable conception.” Steiner then makes a remark that is key to his work as a whole and where he diverges from Kant “ Whatever is in things, this must also be inside of human thought.”

My favourite contemporary Christian thinker is David Bentley Hart and i want to quote him to show that these concerns aren’t unique to Barfield and Steiner. I have stressed that “thinking” for Steiner and Barfield is an incredibly important process, in my previous Barfield video I talked about the different kinds of thinking that Barfield delineated. Hart has spoken a lot about Modernity, the last 400 years, and the rise of science and the predominance of a certain kind of thought, which Barfield designates as alpha thinking. Hart writes:

The question is not quite as facetious as it might sound; it is really rather metaphysical; and it is a question that will ever more inevitably pose itself the more the sciences find themselves constrained rather than liberated by the mechanistic paradigm to which they have been committed for four centuries now. I should note, however, that it is also a question that makes sense only if one is using the word “think” with the perversely distinctive connotation given it by Martin Heidegger when he advanced the somewhat Orphic claim that “”science does not think.” For there is, he insisted, an enormous and inviolable distinction to be drawn between the calculative and quantitative concerns of the scientist on the one hand and, on the other, the properly philosophical or contemplative act of reflection that is the exclusive province of the genuine thinker.

I’ll link to the entire article in the description. 
This is not a negative value judgement on the intelligence of scientists, but a comment on the nature of their thinking, and they share suppositions that are now common to the general population that developed in modernity and which are unquestionably accepted but which is not common to human thinking throughout history. Barfield sees an Idolatry in these unquestioned suppositions.

And yet at the same time Barfield is trying to express and justify Rudolf Steiner’s philosophy. In the course of the book and towards the end of the book Barfield writes an interesting passage he says we cannot save souls unless we first save the appearances and of course hence the title of the book so this is an important passage in the book. He says we cannot save souls unless we first save the appearances. I think it’s in this sentence where Barfield and Steiner meet and where the tension is resolved. But what does this mean Saving Souls?

This is a fascinating quote from Barfield and very important and I agree that it is in harmony with Steiner, I’ll quote the full paragraph shortly but I’d say that the tension is not so much between Barfield and Steiner’s thought as between Steiner’s thought and  our common cultural inheritance which Barfield is addressing. The resolution between Steiner and Barfield is in thinking, which Barfield spends so much time examining, breaking it down into figuration, alpha and beta thinking. The nature of language it’s origins and development. In humanities earlier state of Participation and our coming state of final participation. All this strikes me as a reformation of ideas  essential to Steiner’s thought.

To repeat Steiner’s statement earlier:

“ Whatever is in things, this must also be inside of human thought.”

Now I’ll read the paragraph from Barfield on Saving Souls and saving the appearances:

it may be objected that all this talk of the relation of man to the phenomenal world is cold stuff having little or nothing to do with religion, whose field is the soul and its salvation, But this “watertight” attitude is itself a product of idolatry. What the psalmist wrote of the old idols is true of the twentieth century. “They that make them are like unto them” The soul is in a manner all things, and the idols we create are built into the souls of our children; who learn more and more to think of themselves as objects among objects; who grow hollower and hollower. In the long run we shall not be able to save souls without saving the appearances, and it is an error fraught with the most terrible consequences to think that  we shall. 

Woe, this gets at the heart of the issue for me. Our modern thinking and perception has problems in it that effect both the secular and the religious. I have felt for a long time that the fundamentalist that see authority “out there” in the good book, are not that far from the scientist who seeks the answers “out there” in matter. Meaning and participation are not found there. Barfield is saying this is the reason that religion and culture is in crisis in the west.

Another way we could express saving the Appearances would be to say if we believe   that the world is a mere representation within our subjective mind then if we can demonstrate that the world of appearance has an actual life in it and has its own reality then simultaneously we can see that within our own minds there is something real and living so by coming to a new relationship towards the appearances we are simultaneously able to elevate our own conception of our own minds from the mere projection of the unrepresented particles into something living and real and I’d imagine that this is where Barfield’s Saving the Appearances comes into harmony with Steiner’s Philosophy of Freedom.

I think you’ve touched on the heart of it here when you say “within our own minds there is something real and living” which is another way of expressing Steiner’s statement

“Whatever is in things, this must also be inside of human thought.”

When two people look at the same chair their perceptions are different in and of themselves, but the perceptions in and of themselves never make up the chair, the chair exists when those perceptions are integrated into the conception of the chair and strangely it is that conception that is shared between the two people and it is in this shared conception that they experience the same chair.

So thanks again Steiner Studies for inviting a response. I think there is plenty more scope for further exploration.

Original Steiner Studies Video:

Should Science Think? David Bentley Hart:

My previous Owen Barfield video: