Consciousness Soul

An Anthroposophical term, the Consciousness Soul refers to “the maximum point [in the evolution of consciousness] of self-consciousness, the point at which the individual feels himself to be entirely cut off from the surrounding cosmos and is for that reason fully conscious of himself as an individual” (Romanticism Comes of Age 89).

The Consciousness Soul constitutes “that part of the human entelechy which comes to expression in the history of the world during a period beginning in the fifteenth century and extending far into the future beyond our own time” (Romanticism Comes of Age 129).

The period of the Consciousness Soul arises, due to the descent of the potency and interiorization, correlative to the discovery of the merely physical body (Romanticism Comes of Age). In it, the mind becomes brain-physical. In the Age of the Consciousness Soul, “the thinking of which we are fully conscious is now focused or centered in the brain in a way which does cut us off from nature and enables us to feel ourselves, at any rate, as definitely not a part of nature” (Worlds Apart 178).

Living in the consciousness soul man experiences isolation, loneliness, materialism, loss of faith in the spiritual world, above all, uncertainty. The soul has to make up its mind and to act in a positive way on its own unsupported initiative. And it finds great difficulty in doing so. For it is too much in the dark to be able to see any clear reason why it should, and it no longer feels the old (instinctive) promptings of the spirit within.
(Romanticism Comes of Age 130)

The Consciousness Soul, Barfield notes, says “I know” only when it can add “because I have experienced” (Romanticism Comes of Age 150). It is this which turns the Consciousness Soul in the direction of science.

As the Ego detaches itself from the macrocosm, the “spiritual world” comes to rule in his own consciousness. “Fully responsible at last for his own actions, he is deprived of the instinctive guidance of spirits, even including his National or Folk Spirit…” (Romanticism Comes of Age 130). The consciousness soul thus seems a kind of “death experience” (Rediscovery of Meaning 134).

England, Barfield shows, is among nations the epitome of the Consciousness Soul. And Shakespeare’s Hamlet is likewise its literary exemplar.

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