Barfield Scholarship
Essays, Book Chapters, and Monographs
on Owen Barfield and His Work

Norman O. Brown
On Interpretation

I Corinthians XIV, 13: Wherefore let him that speaketh
in tongues pray that he may interpret.
For edification There is a house to be built.
There is a community to be made.
Besides poetry there is interpretation.
On interpretation
The title of Paul Ricoeur's beautiful book on Freud
Which takes its title from the title of Freud's epoch-making book
The Interpretation of Dreams.
Not the science of dreams.
Freud wrote first, but did not publish, A Project for a Scientific psychology.
After discarding it, Freud turned to The Interpretation of Dreams

The Interpretation of Dreams is the discovery of meanings in dreams
Discovering intentionality

Symptoms speak
The body is an utterance
Man is a Logos, a word, to be interpreted

Libido speaks, desire speaks, love speaks,
It is the unspoken meaning
Like the Delphic oracle
It does not say but signifies.
Recovering the original meaning of semantics:
A theory of signs and wonders
Oh wonder of wonders!
The dumb things speak.
Interpretation is translation.
Every sentence is bilingual, or allegorical, saying one
thing and meaning another.
Every sentence is translation.
Translation, or hermeneutics.
Hermeneutics, the form of philosophy today

Hermeneutics from Hermes, the god, Mercury--
Hermes the Thief, the original trickster, shape shifter--
Hermes Trismegistus, Thrice Greatest Hermes, the greatest magician--
Translation is metamorphosis
"Bless thee, Bottom, how thou art translated!"
A secret art, a hermetic language
There is always hiding, as well as seeking
And we never say what we mean.
Even psychoanalysis is a hermetic language

Hermes the interpreter
interpres divium, interpreter of the gods,
inter: he is the go-between
He is psycho-pomp, conductor f souls,
Between two world
as above so below,
Interpreter between macrocosm and microcosm

And on the battlefield
Hermes is the herald that comes between the combatants

The herald voices say, Peace on earth, good will to man.
Interpretation mediates between languages

A language that makes peace not war
A language that make love not war
And therefore it does not argue

Interpretation seeks a class-less consciousness; it does not classify.
And does not criticize.
Susan Sontag didn't say what she meant

The new sensibility is not against interpretation but against criticism
It says, Judge not
And it says, Forgive us
For we know not what we do or say.
And we are all in the same boat or body.

Going beyond the I-Thou relationship
The interpreter is the third person, the mediator.
Instead of the representative who fights on our behalf
The mediator who unifies the whole scene.
It is a synthesis.
It is the third person who makes it a crowd
Of us
A community of interpretation.
We Three.
A Trinity in Unity; neither confounding the Persons; nor
dividing the Substance.
Josiah Royce, forgotten voice of American idealism, says:
Interpretation seeks a city out of sight, the homeland where,
perchance, we learn to understand one another.
Interpretation seeks consent rather than conviction

A language of listening rather than assertion

Just being an interpreter
Surrendering a bit of the asserting ego
Listening to the voice of the other

This listening is the philosophy of Husserl the epoche:
A suspension, a pause
A suspension of hostilities,
Which is also an epoch, the beginning of a new era.
Stop, look, and listen.

Thinking is writing

The psalmist says expectans expectori

Heidegger says Thinking is in every instance a letting
be said of that which shows itself, and accordingly an answer
to that which shows itself.
Let it speak, let it show itself
The Freud it instead of the Freudian ego
The impersonal id
The collective unconscious
The over-soul
The language: let it speak to us.
Thinking is not a statement but an answer

A response
Poetry call us to respond

Till all the woods do answer and their echo ring,
The chorus

O may I join the choir invisible.