Category: Explanations

A Word About The Riddle of the Sphinx

A new collection of essays by Owen Barfield, The Riddle of the Sphinx,  was published by the Barfield Press in November 2023. The book’s name comes from one of the essay titles.

But “the riddle” in this case does not refer to the famous one that Oedipus solved — “What has four legs at dawn, two at noon, and three in the evening?” The answer to that one was, “man”. Or today we might say, “the human being”. Oedipus realized that he crawls as a toddler, stands upright as an adult, and may be supported by a stick in old age.

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Owen Barfield and the Evolution of Consciousness

The inestimable Owen Barfield differentiates three epochs in the evolution of consciousness. The first he refers to as “original participation.” The anthropologist Lucien Lévy-Bruhl meant to indicate a similar condition under the rubric participation mystique. Other thinkers refer to the same as “tribal” or “primal” consciousness. Original participation denotes a condition of consciousness in which the self has not yet precipitated out of the semantic solution of the world. For this reason, neither “spirit” nor “matter” exists as a concept because each of their meanings depends on just the phenomenological antithesis with its counterpart that is not a characteristic of the mind immersed in the state of original participation.

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Was Owen Barfield a Christian?

Even as recently as this year (2021) there has been a well-enough known C.S. Lewis commentator who wrongly states that Owen was “not a Christian.” This is not only factually incorrect, but also quite bizarre. I really feel that I must set the record straight.

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