Tuesday, 10 May 2022

Re-reading Owen Barfield's "What Coleridge Thought"

I am currently re-reading various Owen Barfield works, including What Coleridge Thought (1971); which had a massive impact when I last read it in 2016. This reading led eventually to my still current metaphysical system (based on the eternal existence of Beings). 

Both in 2016 and now, I gave the fullest and most active attention to my reading; which for me entails reading, in a cafe, at the 'best time of day' for me - which is before 11.00 am. I sit wit the book on one side and a notebook on the other; and read a bit but keep breaking-off to  write comments in the notebook about as much as I read. And I take as long as it takes to work through the book in this way. 

When I first read this book, I was mainly trying to understand 'what Coleridge thought'; but this time I am comparing this with the ways in which I have extended or modified my own philosophy - in which I was triggered by the ways in which I regarded Coleridge as 'dead right' and the ways in which I felt he was still captive to the philosophy he had learned as a younger man. 

In particular, Coleridge (and indeed Barfield) seem to me to suffer - to a relatively worse degree than I do myself - from what Barfield termed Residual Unresolved Positivism. Coleridge was a great genius pioneer, and was making a trail for the first time; such that things were made easier for those who followed.

(Including that Coleridge had, by his work, permanently affected and added-to the world of divine creation - which we can now discover intuitively for ourselves - if we are able to ask the right questions.)

Thus, Coleridge's extremely abstract and difficult exposition of 'polarity' or 'polar logic' and of his schemata for describing human mental activity, can be simplified greatly (I believe) by the simple assumption of having the metaphysical assumption that the 'basic unit' of reality are Beings, which have properties such as life, consciousness and purpose - and who are 'defined' as existing through-time - which means that we should eschew discussing them without reference to time and transformation. 

I have found this to be (so far) extremely powerful and satisfying - partly because it is an explicit elaboration of how I recall seeing the world as a young child; and it chimes with my understanding of the 'animism' of hunter-gatherer tribal people. 

So, this time of reading, I am fitting Barfield's understanding of Coleridge into my own understanding - which is, in a sense, the opposite of what I did first-time-through.

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