Sunday 28 February 2021

The Modern Condition: Free to choose the divine within us in Final Participation; or free and able to reject it

In Original Participation we live dominated by the real (divine) self - of which we are unconscious, and towards which we are passive. 

As consciousness develops we become aware that the real self is a distinct 'entity' - we are able to distinguish thinking of the real self from other kinds of thinking (such as thinking in response to perceptions, emotions, memories...). 

Then we learn to block the thinking of the real self - to exclude it from consciousness. At this point (the Consciousness Soul) we have become free of our innate divine nature. 

From this point, to attend to the real self becomes a conscious choice. 

We can choose to attend to the real self, or choose not to attend to it - we can even choose to deny that the real self is real. 

We can choose to regard the thinking of the real self as delusional, a sickness, childishness, wishful fantasy... This is normal and mainstream in the modern world - both among the atheist majority, and among the majority of Christians. 

Final Participation is when, by contrast, we choose to ally ourselves with the real self and give primacy to the thinking of the real self: when we choose - moment by moment, from freedom - to allow the divine within us again to dominate. 



Francis Berger said...

What makes Barfield's concept of participation fascinating for me is its recognition that the next stage of development must involve an inner re-discovery/revelation rather than some kind of re-organization of the external world from our current stage of consciousness.

Though I am not well-versed in Barfield, his ideas concerning participation/consciousness development strike me as the correct path forward. The mass resistance to these ideas serve as proof of their validity (at least as far as I'm concerned). In any case, I really need to start reading more Barfield!

Bruce Charlton said...

@Frank - It is interesting that Barfield mostly chose to argue in a scholarly-scientific way; without presenting his basic metaphysical assumptions.

Indeed he seems to be engaged in deriving his assumptions (like Christianity) from his observations (or trying to do this) - which is apparently not possible anymore, since we have lost the implicit and unconscious framework within-which Barfield grew-up (even though his family were upper middle class leftist-atheists).

Thus he argues from philological evidence the reality of the evolutionary-development of consciousness (which strikes me as disguised metaphysics) - but he hardly ever makes clear that this evolution is regarded as part of a 'divine-plan' related to human freedom. The way he talks about it, it 'just happens'.

If you read his work deeply and widely, you can find his foundational convictions; but its hard to find them, and he doesn't often use them in his theses!

At any rate, it is easy to misunderstand Barfield as a kind of post-modernist/ relativist - as many of his advocates have done.