Sunday Walk 77 – Owen Barfield and the Evolution of Consciousness

If the eighteenth-century botanist, looking for the first time through the old idols of Linneaus’ fixed and timeless classification into the new perspective of biological evolution, felt a sense of liberation and of light, it can have been but a candle-flame compared with the first glimpse we now get of the familiar world and human history lying together, bathed in the light of the evolution of consciousness.

Owen Barfield, Saving the Appearances: A Study in Idolatry, Harcourt, Brace & World: 1965, page 72

Owen Barfield’s literary estate associates him with C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. When I was trying to understand Saving the Appearances in the 1970s as an undergraduate in a Catholic college I wrongly lumped him with theistic existentialists such as Gabriel Marcel or Martin Buber and social critics such as Jacques Ellul or Ivan Illich. As I saw it they were the good guys offering guidance. I recently read the book again to try to see what went wrong in my own thinking at that time.

Barfield has this to say about Jesus, “If we accept at all the claims made by Christ Jesus concerning his own mission, we must accept that he came to make possible in the course of time the transition of all men from original to final participation; and we shall regard the institution of the Eucharist as a preparation – a preparation (we shall not forget) which has so far only been operant for the sidereally paltry period of nineteen hundred years or so.” (pages 170-171)

As a philosopher with a captive audience he did not have to bother trying to convince his readers with much evidence, whether biblical, logical or empirical, for why we “must accept” his assertions. I wonder today if he had a clue what the mission of Jesus was. By “paltry period” I suspect he thought we still had millions, or even billions, of years of consciousness evolution before us. What I realize today is when one takes the ancient myths of evolution seriously, in spite of the evidence of entropy going against them, one begins dismissing or distorting the Creation, the Fall, the Death, Burial and Resurrection of Jesus and the Last Days.

Why people find the myths of evolution believable, indeed why I used to believe them looking forward to some Age of Aquarius, is not clear to me. If one likes believing such things one might glibly talk about an evolution of this or that as Barfield does of consciousness. If one doesn’t, one could think of such beliefs as a centuries long buildup to the fulfillment of prophecy in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 where Paul predicted a rebellion preceding the day of the Lord.

Admittedly I did not understand Barfield as an undergraduate, but today I wonder just how much there was worth understanding. His stature as an authority made me think that reimagining his own beliefs was more important than reading the Bible. That helped lead me astray. I forgive him for that, knowing that I need forgiveness as well.


Weekly Bible Reading: Romans, 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians
David Pawson, Romans, Part 10, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Part 11
Bible Project, Romans 1-4, Romans 5-16, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians

Weekly Parashah Readings
Parashah: Mishpatim 27 Shevat, 5782 – January 29, 2022
Torah: Exodus 21:1-24:18
Haftarah: Jeremiah 34:8-34:22
Brit Chadashah: Matthew 5:38-42; 17:1-11
Resources: Chabad, Hebrew4Christians, Weekly Torah Readings, Calendar

Dam 1 Forest Preserve River
Dam 1 Forest Preserve River

Author: Frank Hubeny

I enjoy walking, poetry and short prose as well as taking pictures with my phone.

11 thoughts on “Sunday Walk 77 – Owen Barfield and the Evolution of Consciousness”

  1. Thanks for the morning insight. Now, looking back, there is a huge gap in what I learned in college and what I have learned since then. Like you, I must forgive others for deceiving me and forgive myself for putting myself in that position.

    This is it: “His stature as an authority made me think that reimagining his own beliefs was more important than reading the Bible. ” The real question is “What does God say”? And we can read, know, and do.

    Blessings.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, this is deep, Frank! I’m still learning how subtle and slippery deception is…how easy it is to be taken in, particularly when for whatever reason, I want to believe the person speaking or what they’re saying. It’s so important, especially in these Latter Days, to stay tuned in to the Holy Spirit’s frequency–and read God’s Living Word, the Bible. May HE bless your week abundantly!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s easy to believe before we know the truth. When I was younger, I would believe what I read and what I heard because there was no known dispute. Now, I am more conscious and take the time to do my own research. Thought-provoking piece, Frank, and well done.

    Liked by 1 person

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