Barfield’s thinking about the body begins with the complex and heretical “complex notion that the physical organism emerged from a condition anterior to the physical” (Rediscovery of Meaning 38).

Following Rudolf Steiner’s teaching (which lies at the heart of the Waldorf School system for early childhood education) that incarnation continues after birth, with the embodiment of the soul only completed at the time of second dentition (at about seven years of age), Barfield conceives of the body in the following way:

You have the pole of the visceral man so to speak, at the opposite extreme to the head or nerves-and-senses man; and if you remember, the correlation is between the head, nerves, and senses on the one hand with thinking, and on the other hand the visceral as related to willing. In thinking it is more than related. . . . the body, considering it now as the visceral body, really is unconscious will and the task, the function of attaining final participation would be the transformation of unconscious will into conscious will; which would also involve spiritualization of the material body itself. You would have something like a body consisting of will instead of gristle!

The way that “brain, heart, liver, spleen, have been built into [the] body by the world, by the whole history of the world,” in a process known to Anthroposophy as the descent of the potency, makes it a palimpsest of the evolution of consciousness when inspected by systematic imagination, as the Anthroposophist Sanderson explains in Worlds Apart:

if you “study” [the body] in that intensive way, you have access to the relevant period of world-history. Access, first of all, to the building that was going on before your birth and, through that, back into their remoter phylogenesis.
(Worlds Apart 255)

Interior is Anterior, as the Meggid explains to Burgeon in Unancestral Voice; the human inner world is a condensation of all that once was; the macrocosm has become the microcosm.

Copyright © 1997 — Owen Barfield Literary Estate.       Return to Top.