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