Death1

(Written 1930)  Seven 25 (2008), pp. 45-60

This is a subject which it is evidently safer to ignore. Not only do the frankly irreligious avoid mentioning it, but also those leaders of contemporary thought whose views on the soul are sometimes retailed to us by the Press. The clergy will talk to us about not dying and what happens to us when we have not. But how rare a thing is any honest attempt to represent the everyday phenomenon of death as a necessary and harmonious step in the progress of a human being! This would be odd in any age which took progress as much for granted and assumed it everywhere on as slight evidence as ours does. It seems particularly odd in a scientific age. We like to reduce all outward phenomena to order and uniformity, and astronomers will spend sleepless nights if their photograph of the heavens reveals a single star a millimetre distant from the position foretold by their calculations. Yet in the temporarily darkened chamber of the inner and moral world this enormous fact, this huge band of black across the glowing spectrum of all that experience has taught us to hold dear, is left almost without comment.

Most people, to judge by the last thirty years, are positively readier to meet the thing itself than they are to talk about it. Indeed I have long had an uneasy feeling that most of our private and social planning, our daily lives, even in the midst of danger, if not our very deaths themselves, are carried on under a polite conspiracy of silence which cannot hold out much longer. And this is really my excuse for attempting so formidable a subject. I have at least the doubtful qualifications of an enfant terrible; I am willing to open my mouth and have a shot.

Whatever the reason, the exact methods of physical science have not yet been applied, either to the problem of death or to the phenomena of consciousness as a whole. All we have done so far is to attempt to apply the instruments of physical science. Now the instruments of physical science are the senses – and their various mechanical extensions, such as cameras and microscopes. The table-rapping Spiritualist tries accordingly to apply his senses to the investigation of what he himself describes as the “other” world. Other in what sense of the word? If the senses can apprehend it, it is a world of sensibilia: in other words it is a part of this world. If not, we needs must find other instruments for its investigation. In his pathetic attempts to prolong the forms of the physical world into one which is by definition non-physical the Spiritualist  thus resembles  one of  those unfortunate creatures who are vegetarian less by conviction than by gastric coercion. You could see them at one time – and perhaps you may still – sitting in Mr. Eustace Miles’s restaurant and consuming with a mournfully hungry air “Mock Ham and Eggs,” or “Mock Sucking-Pig.” So, in their Spirit World, we hear of phantom whiskeys and sodas! A blind man will never make an anatomist. To apply the method of scientific observation to a given complex of phenomena, it is first necessary to be able to perceive and distinguish the phenomena. Thus, to investigate a spiritual world, one must first be able to  observe  spiritual  phenomena.  Genius  and  Talent  (to  take  a  simple  example)  are  spiritual phenomena, the one quite distinct from the other. One does not argue that they are distinct; one sees that they are; that, indeed, is why we call them “phenomena.” ὲν τῇ αἰσθήσει, as Aristotle said, ἡ κρίσει: the judgment lies in the perception itself.2 But the late Francis Galton, whose perception of these things was not sharp enough to enable him to distinguish them drew up a number of grotesque genealogical  tables,  in  which  the  fact  was  observed  that  some  obscure  fifth  cousin  of,  say, Wordsworth won a spelling-prize or perhaps took a first-class at Oxford, and from this and other facts of the same order an induction was made that Genius is hereditary!

Now it is only because the death of a human being is not merely physical, but also a spiritual phenomenon that we find it baffling. The merely physical aspect has nothing so remarkable about it – it is but the underlying metre of growth and decay upon which the whole rhythm of creation is woven. It is only because the living human body is a platform or vehicle for a spiritual activity which we designate as consciousness, soul, personality, that death deems so intolerably strange. It is strange because it is a spiritual phenomenon and yet (and this is the case with most spiritual phenomena) as soon as we clearly grasp the fact of its spirituality and detach it wholely from its physical attributes, its strangeness begins to disappear. It begins to explain itself. Thus, to start with, we may ask ourselves: What after all do we mean by a man’s “personality,” and what element does it contain which is so valuable that we should expect, or even wish, to see it exempted for ever from decay? And, for answer, we have only to look round our own circle of friends and acquaintances, concluding the survey with ourselves. We do not love them any the less, nor lack self-respect, because we recoil in horror from the thought of these limited personalities going on for ever as they are. For ever!

Oh, but they could grow, they could change! Certainly, but every change of personality is a spiritual “death.”

Non sum qualis eram bonae
Sub regno Cinarae…3

Alas, my son began to die the moment he was born. He is not the same person since he went to school, since he read Hamlet, since he fell in love. It is never especially the body’s death, of which the poets are afraid. It is change in general. It is mutability.

Omnia paulatim consumit longior aetas,
Vivendoque simul morimur, rapimurque manendo.4

Nevertheless, runs the objection, in these cases it is commonly only a partial sense of bereavement which we feel. True! But what then? Are we merely to distinguish a violent from a gradual change? It would be trivial. No, the real distinction lies far deeper: a personality preserves its unity through a sequence of changes just in so far as those changes are not thrust upon it, just in so far as it does not merely suffer the changes, but brings or helps to bring them about by its own activity. It does not matter that some outward catastrophe should be the immediate occasion, as long as I am the true cause, of the change. No doubt the body is of assistance, too, in preserving me my unity, yet it is nothing by itself. Of what use to my friends is the bare physical continuity after I am lunatic? Or after I have given way to some unsuspected lower self and was last seen dancing the Can-can in a cabaret in Buenos Ayres?5 But if I myself, of my own deliberate will, have brought about the change, then there is indeed an unbroken thread joining the before to the after. Then there is continuity of personality. For the changer cannot be wholly one with the changed.

This, then, is the crucial point. Just in so far as death is a spiritual phenomenon, we can, if we choose, will it ourselves. For we can will to change our personalities. Moreover, in every unsupported activity of will, we are willing to change our personalities – instead of passively allowing them to be worked on by circumstances and the flux of time. Therefore, to say that we can change our personalities is to say no more than that we can will. And each one of us knows in himself that this is true, though intellectually induced prejudices and blind spots may temporarily obscure the knowledge – particularly at present, when the will, like death, is an unfashionable topic. To-day, as far as the moral will is concerned, the average man’s attitude to life approximates to that of the British Private towards the last War. “We’re here because we’re here!” And moreover, because the authorities put us here; and, having put us here, it is entirely their business to feed us and clothe us and to look after us and carry us about in lorries whithersoever we are to go. I will discuss with you, he seems to say, the question of whether I am immortal; even the question of whether I am worthy to be so. But I am certainly not going to discuss the question how I can make myself immortal. It is not my business! The great biological doctrine of Evolution, according to which “nature” is a sort of moving-staircase, and man a part of nature, is probably partly responsible for this stationary attitude. One wonders how long the Western world is to continue wandering under its cloud of darkness, how long it will be before it rediscovers, what is indeed capable of the simplest demonstration, were it not indeed for those same blind-spots – that the opposite is the truth, and nature is a part of man. How long?

Man includes all nature, because nature is but a name for the sum-total of his experience through the senses. When all the glands and tissues have been dissected, all the observations tabulated and all the theories formed, this still remains devastatingly true. And man still finds in himself something else, additional to that sum-total and not experienced through the senses. People tie themselves into elaborate theoretical knots trying to deduce the moral impulse from the biologist’s “nature,’” but it is nonsense, and it cannot be done without destroying the meanings of words. The moral impulse is immediately experienced by each one of us and experienced as different from, and predominantly opposed to, the natural impulse. For the first law of nature is self-preservation, but the first law of morality is self-extinction. This cannot be proved. If it could be, it would become ipso facto a natural law. The moral law is mandatory, not theoretical. It is known immediately and intuitively and, if you deny it, there is only one answer: So much the worse for you! For either you are deceiving yourself or you are not wholly man.

The call to self-extinction sounds to us down the ages in a single unbroken stream of lofty utterances. From East to West, from Buddha through Socrates to Schopenhauer, and on into our own day the prophets and philosophers have been handing the great tradition on. Listen first, to Socrates in the Phaedo:

‘Other people are likely not to be aware that those who pursue philosophy aright study nothing but dying and being dead. Now if this is true, it would be absurd to be eager for nothing but this all their lives and then to be troubled when that came for which they had all along been eagerly practising.’

And Simmias laughed and said, ‘By Zeus, Socrates, I don’t feel much like laughing just now, but you made me laugh. For I think the multitude, if they heard what you just said about the philosophers, would say you were quite right, and our people at home would agree entirely with you that philosophers desire death, and they would add that they know very well that the philosophers deserve it.’

‘And they would be speaking the truth, Simmias, except in the matter of knowing very well. For they do not know in what way the real philosophers desire death, nor in what way they deserve death, nor what kind of a death it is…’6

And then to George MacDonald:

Lord of essential Life, help me to die.
To will to die is one with highest life,
The mightiest act that to Will’s hand doth lie–

Born of God’s essence, and of man’s hard strife;
God give me strength my evil self to kill,
And die into the heaven of thy pure will–
Then shall this body’s death be very tolerable.7

To will to die is one with highest life! It is the open secret; the omphalos of the moral earth; the mystery at the heart of all the mysteries, and more effectively concealed by itself than by any conceivable apparatus of temple and smoking tripod. My immortality begins from that moment at which I voluntarily will to die, and that part of me is immortal which so wills. For that which is already dead cannot die. Is it not the perfect platitude?

An objection may be raised here. While it is no doubt true that the problem of death only becomes a problem at all inasmuch as we regard death as a spiritual phenomenon, still that will not justify us in ignoring the physical aspect altogether. “Then shall this body’s death be very tolerable,” sang the poet – but, if tolerable, why at all? Why any body to die? The answer is that no man’s will is yet strong enough to maintain its own unity in the face of that illimitable variety of creation, all of which (since nature is a part of man) he himself at some level is. Meanwhile therefore – until such time as we shall acquire property of our own – the gods’ will is let out to us, on short-term leases; and each man’s portion is his body. In a continuous subtle interplay between the bodily and the spiritual self we are free to substitute progressively the solidity of a constant will for the transient solidity of the flesh. The body is solid will. It is frozen will, and we have to thaw it again. We have to make it our will. And as long as we refuse, or are too weak, to do this for ourselves, physical mortality is called in to help us. Of this we may be sure: if our last death was an involuntary one, then somehow, somewhere, we shall die again.

Once grant the body, and is death so ugly? When we see some wretched soul dragged again and again by its clamorous sheath into all the variety of modern sensation-purveying machinery, into diurnal Turkish Baths, each winter to the Riviera and back, round and round the earth after the sun like a little dog after a bone, does not mortality lose much of its terror and indignity? Does not death begin to appear “inevitable” in another sense than the purely empirical one?

“The earth shall fail ’neath them that trust the solid ground”.8  Think of Hollywood, think of all the disgusting spurious monkey permanence of gramophone and cinema and gland-jugglings – and rejoice!

And in the same meditation – if you have enough charity – you will find the answer to the last and most unanswerable objection of all to death – that the just man also perishes – and perishes by force. For, as martyrs have been bound and gagged and kicked to the stake, regardless of the fact that they would have walked there rejoicing of their own free will, so does one whom, following Socrates, I will here call a “philosopher” leave his body at the last. Yet he supports the indignity with patience because he remembers, of his charity, that he is not himself alone. If some of us, he says to himself, have come to lean so desperately heavily on the body’s support, then it is a good thing that we should all be leaning on it somewhat. Else we were two separate species on the earth and not a single race of Man, responsible for one another, and with a common destiny. For the same reason we do not need to conceive a horror of the body, reject it utterly, become ascetics. By no means. What matters is, that we should understand its proper function. It is acknowledged that we all, even the philosophers and saints, must make use of the body, while we are alive, to preserve our personal unity through the multiplicity of conscient changes. Still we ourselves can help it – and we must! For, as we have seen, the body alone will not give us unity. It is like an instruction-belt which the gods let down to us from heaven, to keep us afloat in the ocean of being, until we have learned to swim.9  We can refuse to learn – but at the cost of drowning.

We do well, therefore, to listen with the utmost suspicion to the sermon-mongers and fluent phrasemen, as they smoothly explain away death. Death, they tell us, is not death; it is a passing, a removal to a higher sphere, a going on before. There is no death! And who are they to take upon themselves to pilfer one of the noblest words in my vocabulary? Do you mean your friend is dead, or that he has gone to some distant place like China? Courage to face the worst is one thing, stolid insensibility to it another. Not so shall you ever comfort me in my hopeless bereavement, but rather by showing me how you yourself in the very bottom of your soul have indeed felt death – and felt it to be the greatest good! You shall never prick my indifference, you shall never anaesthetize my honest pessimism with your sophistries and suppressions. No, but you must be willing to answer all my questions, however crude, however ugly, however gruesome. And then I will sit at your feet.

Very well, then – immortality has been made to look at least possible – but how? By reducing it to zero! Of what importance is it to anyone whether this pale impersonal shadow lives on or not? I cannot die – because I am dead already! Inestimable boon! Here is an objection that will never be answered, since the very asking shows that the approach has been made from the wrong direction – from without instead of from within. Superior vis comprehendendi amplectitur inferiorem – the higher power of understanding embraces the lower.10  The crowd outside the Palais de Danse looks on at the crowd outside the concert-hall with amusement and contempt. Who shall ever convince it that a Brandenberg Concerto is not a sort of bloodless, vegetarian, substitute for Swing – a “mock” Swing? Yet someday it will have to find this out for itself. So also must each man find out for himself the second great cordial truth of creation, the second Open Secret – that the nothingness of the self (provided it is willed) is not Nothing, but Something.

It is an open secret, yet not so open as the first.11 For it is more attractive, and therefore more likely to be counterfeited. Consequently it is hidden; and in this way. The first truth may be, if not proved, at least admitted even by those who decline to be guided by it; sensible men cannot deny, they can only ignore it. But of the second truth no argument will ever really convince those who do not know it already. It is as if the knowledge of the second truth were a place, which cannot be so much as heard of, until one is actually there. And the paradox is inevitable. For if it were not so; if the desirability of self-extinction, its desirability even for this life, could be previously demonstrated by arguments appealing to cupidity or ambition – then it would not be self-extinction, and in striving after it, I should be following, not will but instinct.

Yet just because of the remoteness of this second truth, there is precisely at this point in the life of the generality of mankind an enormous vis inertiae,12 a yawning gap, a colossal difficulty in starting. Why should I ever set out for a place, of whose character I can form no notion until I get there – save for a few vague rumours that have filtered down through persons of whom, from my present point of view, I do not altogether like the look? Without growing up, how can Peter Pan possibly know what it is to fall in love? Until he knows, what will ever induce him to start growing? It is the moral Doldrums. Yet, in the warm tropic light which shines over it, the great reverses of life, the awful bereavements, the stunning personal catastrophes, begin to look a little clearer and a little more intelligible. Without them, should we ever have moved? No man can tell at what point, with what everlasting farewells and hollow reverberations of doubt and despair, each soul takes the great decision for which there is no reason whatever.

I say no reason, because this outward motion of the will, unsupported by hope or desire, is itself the foundation of reason. In a soul whose structure had never included some bare minimum of conscience, some at least momentary love of truth as an end in itself, with the self-extinction which that entails while it lasts, there could never have been born the elementary faculty of distinguishing sense from nonsense. It would be an animal soul knowing neither the one nor the other, but knowing only desires and satisfactions. It could never be rational.

Where there is a great difficulty, there will also be efforts to circumvent it. We would all rather sit in the hotel and inscribe the name of the mountain on our alpenstocks, and it is hardly less inevitable than the paradox itself that the mass of mankind should be engaged in attempts to reach the great discovery that the soul is everything and everyone, without the necessary previous admission that it is nothing. From some such pathetic attempt to reach the other side without taking the plunge may said to spring all the grossnesses which have accumulated around the organised religions, beginning with the too festive Agape – the Church’s first scandal. There are Mohammedan and Catholic grossnesses of imagery and behaviour and there are Protestant grossnesses of idea. All alike are to be condemned because, with their appeal to desire, they block the path to the one real diving-board, which is the naked love of truth. For what but the bare love of truth for its own sake could ever have led me to admit so unpalatable a one as this:– Myself = 0. Which, if I only admitted it with some silent reservation: ah, but verily I have my reward in heaven – then I have not admitted at all! Wherefore Pythagoras is said to have held no man fitted to enquire of immortality, until he could bear to hear that there were no such thing. No, it is not simply the historical figure of Socrates that causes us to associate the idea of immortality with an unconquerable love of truth. Socrates might never have lived and died; yet still, for us, the immortal would be philosophers and the philosophers immortal. The love of truth! The very phrase points us to those mysterious hidden depths, where the roots of love and wisdom are intertwined.13 It is indeed itself philosophy. For ignorance plus the love of truth is already wisdom, and learning without it still folly.  “They must be wise in the first place,” wrote Schiller, “in order to love wisdom – a truth already understood by him who gave Philosophy her name.”14

Many will easily believe that the love of truth is more widespread in 1930 than it was five hundred years ago. Science! they say, and leave it at that. But in point of fact the so-called scientific spirit originates much oftener in idle curiosity than in the love of truth. Else it would never fight so desperately shy of the truths of consciousness. But curiosity is no more than any other ordinary desire, and desires are not concerned with truth.

What, then, would it mean to say that you had “learnt the second truth?” It would mean nothing less than that you had discovered what you have been seeking all your life. For all your life long you have been seeking Another. Nature, which gives “satisfactions”, is not another; for she is part of you. The only otherness which you will ever know in the whole length and breadth of creation, however desperate and ruthless your search, is the otherness of an alter ego, of another will, free and in that freedom like to and separate from your own. All your seeming-selfish wants had this side to them as Augustine says that all particular sins are particular virtues perverted – perverse te imitantur omnes.15 You were seeking Another. Only you were continually being deflected into a fruitless nightmare search after “satisfaction” as an end in itself. And this sought ease or pleasure always turned to ashes between your teeth. Strange! when you first learnt the first truth and took the irrational decision, you thought that what you had to do was to kill desire. Now that you have learnt the second, you know you had only to satisfy it!

Beware; for fiends in triumph laugh
O’er him who learns the truth by half!
Beware; for God will not endure
For men to make their hope more pure
Than His good promise….
Beware
The Powers of Darkness and the Air,
Which lure to empty heights man’s hope,
Be praising heaven’s ethereal cope,
But covering with their cloudy cant
Its ground of solid adamant,
That strengthens ether for the flight
Of angels, makes and measures height, And in materiality
Exceeds our Earth’s in such degree
As all else Earth’s exceeds!16

Unus Christianus nullus Christianus.17 Thomas à Kempis would have me leave my beloved, to seek Christ.18 I answer that I cannot leave a place in which I have never been; and until I had the second, I never had the first. Love is not like a cake, as Tolstoy sometimes seemed to teach, to be cut up and divided in equally-rationed slices among all mankind ; lest many go short because a few have too much. Rather the approach to others lies naturally through another.

Thy bosom is endearèd with all hearts
Which I, by lacking, have supposed dead.19

Still, it might be a sin to be too often alone with her? But until my heart kept open house to all men I never was alone “with” her! I was only alone in her presence. And now that I have the second truth, I am alone with her always. I may use the flesh or I may not. It matters little. A man is alone with all he loves. She is the Eve to my Adam in the earthly paradise, and Aquinas was not romancing when he said that even sexual pleasure was greater before the fall.20

Now then, for the first time a man understands immortality and knows himself immortal. For now he knows what it is to live in another, truly to be another. How could death work him any greater change than this? The physical body reveals itself as no longer necessary to such communion; the next time a friend dies, it is different: and at the same instant there flashes home a gracious revelation of the reason why we ever needed bodies at all. Without them we could never have become separate and therefore could never have been united.

And in the same moment a man re-understands the first open secret. For now he is able to distinguish the true will to self-extinction, which is identical with the will to be another, from that false one which is the product of fatigue or frustration or a timid heart. Think! You awoke one day to find yourself conscious in a world where thousands of people – children among them – are starved tormented and butchered daily,21  where boys straight from school are nightly burned to death or drowned in half-frozen seas. And you are graciously willing to cease consciousness! My dear sir, your generosity surpasses itself! Or perhaps you were a religious schoolboy and they had persuaded you to extinguish yourself, before you had a self to extinguish. Poor infant! Would they make you immortal before you have so much as become a mortal? Yes, but what would they make immortal? The fiercest, most personal, passionate, egotistical desire is better than such nothingness. For desire has the stuff of will in it; and nothing but will will ever make an immortal. For the true will to self-extinction and therefore the true love of truth, is identical with love itself; and without desire to father it, love never was. “Love is the consciousness of survival in the act of self-surrender”22 – Beyond some such curt, unemotional statement as this the mere essayist may not go. The very fact that love is the ultimate source of all the meaning of the earth renders it impossible to speak of it without at once making it something other and less than itself. Psyche melts in the dark in the secret embraces of Eros; but as soon as she takes the lamp to him, he vanishes. Pure love cannot be written or spoken of, it can only write or speak. It would be well if more people understood this.

What is meant by “being” another, when it is predicated of something which at the same time remains itself? This is again impossible to express in words. But we may think towards it in this way. Everybody knows what it is to have arelation to others. To be another is simply the mathematical limit of that relation. From which it follows that confidence in immortality and the relation to other beings are closely interconnected. Their “limits” coincide. And from this, an important deduction can be made. That experience which we call “personality” is also connected with relation to others. This is true even at the most trivial level. The worst excesses of the cult can after all only spring from a perverted desire to win admiration or affection, and through these a closer relation to others. One has only to imagine a typical society exhibitionist marooned on a desert island! Thus, so far from the immortal part of a man being “impersonal”, it must be thought of as the “personal” itself raised, so to speak, to the nth power. Unless for “personal” we frankly consent to read “selfish”. But who seriously desires an immortality of selfishness or will deny, if he reflects, that the only part of a man which might tolerably endure for ever is that portion which is active in loving?

It does not so much matter whether we desire it or not. It matters that it is impossible. I hold that it follows from the very nature of our consciousness, if we examine it strictly and honestly, not only that it is free to move towards immortality but also that the only immortality which is possible for it is a coinherence of selves, a simultaneity of separateness and union, a being at the same time a part and the whole, of which the love, the friendship and the esprit de corps that we know in the flesh are only faint and feeble shadows.

Our forefathers used to speak of an activity which they called “praying for faith.” “I believe, Lord, help Thou mine unbelief.”23  There are two ways of looking at outmoded ideas of this kind. One may dismiss them at once as nonsensical and self-contradictory, or one may reflect on the fact that wise men in the past have thought them sensible, and consider accordingly how far they will bear reinterpretation in terms which we to-day can understand more easily. My will is free and I love the truth. I am told that, if I fully understood all that this implies I should believe what the Christians believe. Help me to strengthen that will and that love!

Suppose we were to take a typical twentieth century poet, such as A.E. Housman or Thomas Hardy, and do him for once the gross injustice of trying to abstract the intellectual “content” from his poetry and consider it separately. It is of course impossible to do this as a criticism of the poetry, but here the object is not criticism. It is a simple fact that many people do so abstract an intellectual content from poetry, and that they find in that content an expression of their outlook on questions such as immortality. And it is just that outlook, which we are here considering.

Both poets are obsessed always with the facts of mutability, of decay, of death. Yet if we examine the ideas contained in their lyrics a little more closely, we always find that the things which they desire to be immutable are things of which the very esse is – mutability – transience; things such as youth and physical beauty.

Clay lies still, but blood’s a rover;
Breath’s a ware that will not keep24

sings Mr. Housman. What does he want? He would really like blood to be as solid and durable as clay while remaining at the same time as mobile and transient as blood. That is the only possible answer. Because he is seeking, not another, but happiness, he does not will eternity, but, instead, a sort of enchanted waxen fixity. The thing is not only impossible but actually inconceivable! Once again, this is no criticism. Indeed the same thing is true in varying degrees of most English poets since the Renaissance, and one would be sorry if it were not so. Never to have willed the fixity is a far worse calamity than to continue willing it to your dying day.

Nevertheless it is a fair illustration of the fact that the prevalent lack of confidence in immortality depends much less on the judgment and more on the will than is usually supposed. The conception of the atheist or agnostic as a man reluctantly forced by the love of truth and an inexorable logic to accept the hard fact of extinction at death does not always hold water. On the contrary, there is still very little logic underlying most people’s beliefs. We are incorrigibly eclectic and believe what we want to believe rather than what we ought. Hence the general shapelessness of our ideas. Your twentieth century Pagan would be very glad of immortality, provided he could remain mortal at the same time. Your twentieth century Christian looks forward to a glorious resurrection (from what?) and denies that there is such a thing as death. There is to be life, but no death. There is a Heaven but no Hell. There is a Redemption (for, thank God, we all know about Evolution) but there was no Fall. There is no death. There is no Hell. There is really nothing that sounds at all unpleasant. Or even if there is, there is no need to talk about it in the drawing-room.

Owen Barfield


1 Transcription and editing by Amy Vail. Where Barfield penciled in handwritten corrections these corrections have been made. Return.
2 Nicomachean Ethics, 2.9.9. Return.
3 “I am not what I used to be under the rule of Cynara.” This is a quotation from Horace, Odes 4.1 3-4. That Barfield spelled the name as he does suggests that he was thinking more of the line as it appears in Horace’s Ode than in the Ernest Dowson poem, for Dowson’s spelling was Cynarae. In addition, Barfield preserved Horace’s line-break for the quotation. Return.
4 “I am not what I used to be under the rule of Cynara.” This is a quotation from Horace, Odes 4.1 3-4. That Barfield spelled the name as he does suggests that he was thinking more of the line as it appears in Horace’s Ode than in the Ernest Dowson poem, for Dowson’s spelling was Cynarae. In addition, Barfield preserved Horace’s line-break for the quotation. Return.
5 All spelling is Barfield’s. Likewise, his punctuation, though occasionally inconsistent with respect to the placement of punctuation marks inside and outside of quotation marks, has been retained. Return.
6 This translation is that of Harold North Fowler, first printed in the Loeb Classical Library in 1914. The passage is at Phaedo 64a-c. Return.
7 George MacDonald, A Book of Strife in the Form of the Diary of an Old Soul, Feb. 27. Return.
8 Diary of an Old Soul, Sept. 13. Return.
9 An instruction belt is a flotation device for beginning swimmers, something like a life-jacket. Return.
10 This quotation is from Boethius Consolatio Philosophiae 5.4.31. The personified Lady Philosophy herself makes this assertion. Return.
11 In the manuscript, neatly written over “the first” is “IDENTIFY.” Return.
12 The phrase vis inertiae (the power of inertia) was probably coined by Sir Isaac Newton in his Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (1687). Return.
13 For “wisdom,” Barfield had originally typed “philosophy,” then corrected it by hand. Return.
14 This is from the eighth letter of Schiller’s 1795 Über die ästhetische Erziehung des Menschen. (On the Aesthetic Education of Man). “Sie müßten schon weise sein, um die Weisheit zu lieben: eine Wahrheit, die Derjenige schon fühlte, der der Philosophie ihren Namen gab.” Return.
15 “They all imitate you in a perverted way.” This quotation is from Augustine’s Confessions 2.6.14. Return.
16 This is an excerpt from section 10 of “The Wedding Sermon” in The Victories of Love, Book II, by Coventry Patmore. Return.
17 This proverb, probably mediaeval, means “One Christian is no Christian,” Return.
18 Barfield may well have been thinking of Book 2, Chapter 7 of Thomas à Kempis’s Imitation of Christ: “Of the Love of Jesus above all Things.” Return.
19 These are the opening lines of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 31. Return.
20 This is something of an oversimplification of Aquinas’s views on prelapsarian sexuality. Return.
21 The word “butchered” is written by hand in a space left blank on the typescript. Return.
22 Barfield included a footnote here: “Nettleship: Philosophical Remains.” Return.
23 Mark 9:24, King James Version. Return.
24 These lines open the last stanza of A.E. Housman’s poem “Reveille.” Return.

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