Sunday 8 April 2018

I've been given the Owen Barfield Award for Excellence 2018

As can be seen from the announcement on the official blog of the Owen Barfield Literary Estate, I have been given the 2018 Owen Barfield Award for Excellence!

This award is mainly for my work on the Owen Barfield Blog which has accumulated about a hundred posts since it began in November.

The award is a great satisfaction to me; especially since the award was made by Owen A Barfield, grandson of, and literary executor to, the great man; and Jane Hipolito, one of the premier Barfield scholars and a good friend to Barfield.

Understanding and extending the work of Owen Barfield has been a major focus for the past few years; but I must again acknowledge the crucial stimulus I had from reading the group Inklings biography The Fellowship, by Philip and Carol Zaleski. Until I read The Fellowship, I had struggled to get attuned to Barfield's mind - although I had bought and read many of his major books.

But the Zaleski's book 'unlocked' Barfield for me; and since reading it I have felt very-much 'on Barfield's wavelength', sharing his world view and his concerns - and this to a greater extent than any of the other Inklings.

When considering the Inklings as a spiritual group of souls linked by a kind of implicit destiny - Barfield's work intuits, theorises and makes explicit what the others did in creative terms. By a fairly close and appropriate analogy; Barfield was Coleridge to JRR Tolkien/ CS Lewis's Wordsworth!

I therefore feel it is no exaggeration to claim that understanding and extending the major theme of Barfield's work on consciousness and its development, constitutes the single most important issue in the Western world today.


William Wildblood said...

Many congratulations on being recognised for your illuminating expositions of Barfield's work.

Unknown said...

Hi Bruce. I look forward to the publication of your book on Barfield - which I assume will be the result of your work on your Barfield blog. I know your book on P.C. well - and have been reading Barfield's Saving the Appearances with a reading group this year. But I was totally ignorant of your interest in Barfield until this moment.

McLuhan led me to Barfield. McLuhan I believe was a pessimist - and believed we would return in the 'electric age' to original participation, to primitivism, without the saving grace of final participation. But as I understand Barfield, he thought a return to original participation was impossible - there was either to be a continuation of 'idolatry' or a transition into final participation. But final participation could create either a hell or heaven of the world.

I don't entirely understand why Barfield thought a return to original participation - which so many modern intellectuals have argued for in this century and the last - was impossible. To tie this in with P.C., I'm reminded of a book by a Freudian analyst called The Pristine Self, which purports to explain the 'psychological underpinnings of political correctness':

"The pristine self [which is the self of the young generations born from P.C.] is an idea of the self as not having a boundary around it; it is not thought to need one. A person necessarily encounters other persons, but in the model of the pristine self such experiences with others are exclusively a matter of being loved. We form a boundary when we need to defend ourselves against the negative feelings that others have toward us. In an interpersonal universe made out of love for us, such boundaries would not develop."

This of course is not the same thing as original participation. But it is a definite move towards what might be called womb-consciousness, where there is no Other (and when an Other is encountered, psychic breakdown results). This is extreme subjectivity, even solipsism. And McLuhan somewhere defined tribalism, or original participation, as "corporate solipsism". Wittgenstein, a fellow traveler of Communism, also talked about developing a "philosophy on the far side of solipsism" and how "the notion of an ego inhabiting a body" was "to be abolished". Then there was the 60s, when so many had mystical experiences with the aid of drugs and became convinced that 'All was one' and all people shared a universal consciousness. Cf. your argument in Thought Prison that selfishness (individual consciousness) is the greatest and only sin according to P.C. Also Eric McLuhan's assertion in response to Lasch's famous book that modern narcissism is "narcissism without a self".

All this is related in some way that I'm still trying to flesh out.