Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Book of the Year 2016 - What Coleridge Thought, by Owen Barfield (1971)

Probably the main intellectual event of 2016 was my engagement with Owen Barfield's book on the philosophy of Coleridge. This is one of those books which requires (from me, at least) a very intense engagement - because it is working at a metaphysical level; challenging fundamental assumptions regarding the 'structure; of reality.

At any rate, it took me many days of reading and note-taking - and I wasn't able to keep up the necessary level of intensity the whole way through; so I shall need to return and re-read again before too long.

I have written a number of blog posts concerning what I got from the book:


But the main thing was the idea of polarity as a way of understanding-by-imagining the basis of reality; and the necessity of imagination as the indispensable way of understanding. In turn, this enables me to explain to myself how it is that Life changes, unfolds and (in that sense) evolves according to a divine destiny that includes the free-will or agency of Men.

This isn't something I can encapsulate here and briefly; but as always with metaphysics, there is a great liberation and excitement from knowing what are one's own (previous) assumptions and that they are not entailed but assumed. 

It was also valuable to understand that the failure of all British (and Western, generally) spiritual awakenings over the past two centuries since Coleridge is explicable in terms of the failure to fix our constraining metaphysical assumptions; this failure foredooms all attempts to escape our culture's trajectory towards ever-more complete alienation, despair and self-chosen damnation.