Dedicated to C. S. Lewis, Barfield’s work on aesthetics and language developed from his B.Litt. thesis at Oxford. It is through imagination’s process of creating metaphor and consequently of meaning that human knowledge increases individually and collectively, via “a ‘felt change of consciousness'” in response to poetry and an “awareness of [one’s] surroundings.” Through experiencing such conscious changes, a person’s knowledge expands. Language, once unified, is now split into multiple meanings; whereas a word once represented something concrete, over time, linguistic meaning has grown increasingly abstract. A writer’s responsibility is to try to renew the interconnection of myth and meaning, and through writing to challenge habits of mind and passivity by encouraging readers to think actively and to act on those thoughts.
Our sophistication, like Odin’s, has cost us an eye; and now it is the language of poets, in so far as they create true metaphors, which must restore this unity conceptually, after it has been lost from perception. Thus, the ‘before-unapprehended’ relationships of which Shelley spoke, are in a sense ‘forgotten’ relationships. For though they were never yet apprehended, they were at one time seen. And imagination can see them again.
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