Camera Man

One of Barfield’s designations for contemporary man, who in his present psyche in a “camera civilization” (and as a stage in the evolution of consciousness) looks—as does a camera—”always at and never into what [he] sees” (Rediscovery of Meaning 106). We live in a camera civilization,” Barfield observes in “The Harp and the Camera.” “Our entertainment is camera entertainment. Our holidays are camera holidays. We make them so by paying more attention to the camera we brought with us than to the waterfall we are pointing it at. Our science is almost entirely a camera science. . . . and it is already becoming self-evident to camera man that only camera words have any meaning” (Rediscovery of Meaning 110).

The camera, Barfield contends—though itself a “caricature of imagination”—has, through metaphoric internalization, come to seem a model for our own soul, our own inner world, so that each of us now feels himself to be a kind of camera obscura, a subjective being, inhabiting a room of one’s own: a mere recorder of an external world, not a participant in its creative life. For Camera Man, thinking seems only a “kind of searchlight-beam proceeding from a magic-lantern in the human skull . . .” (Romanticism Comes of Age 295). Camera Man is the product of the consciousness soul.

A representative Camera Man believes “that the mind is something which is shut up in a sort of box called the brain. . . .” He accepts “that the mind of man is a passive onlooker at the processes and phenomena of nature, in the creation of which it neither takes nor has taken any part.” He accepts “the fallacy that there are many separate minds but no such thing as Mind”.
(Romanticism Comes of Age 205).

Understood in light of the evolution of consciousness, Barfield insists, the camera must be seen as

a caricature of imagination, although it is a true emblem of perspective. Imagination is living, perspective only “lifelike.” It used to be said that the camera cannot lie. But in fact it always does lie. Just because it looks only in that immediate way, the camera looks always at and never into what it sees. I suspect that Medusa did very much the same.
(Rediscovery of Meaning 106)

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