Editor: Rory O’Connor

A highly valuable, and surely not easily refutable, exposition of the relation between the legal history and economics, and the necessity of trust to good economics, it is nevertheless as well to be frank, that it is unorthodox in its approach. But for this reason, it is in some respects ahead of its time: it is accepted now, as it evidently was not when Barfield wrote it, that banks, in extending credit, are creating money; and the concern with the immaterial nature of credit is extremely contemporary. There are very interesting nuggets relating to the history of trust; and it is unusual in itself to read an Englishman praising the civil law of equity, rather than the common law.

Trade unions may not have the power they once did. But this pamphlet should still be read for all its analytical power. The contemporary analysis of the political situation in the run-up to the Second World War, which points out the economic causes of the crisis, while not reducing it to them, is excellent. Barfield’s analysis of the function of the state as an instrument of national competition still rings through. Above all, the pamphlet is a spur to thought.

Beginning analytically, the extraordinarily heartfelt nature of this essay reveals itself quite quickly. It was originally a lecture delivered in 1953, at the request of Barfield’s great friend Cecil Harwood, as part of a series on “Rudolf Steiner and Christianity”. In our time of doubt, it is perhaps most wisely informative on the enigmatic connection between death and God the Father.

The historian John Lukacs once asked Barfield, “Have you ever considered writing your own intellectual autobiography? I literally CANNOT think of a more important book. […] What I mean is something like the history of your memory, and not the reverse.” Apart perhaps from an abandoned “psychography” from the 1940s, this is the closest Barfield came to writing his intellectual autobiography. In itself, it records the evolution of an individual consciousness.

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