Central to Barfieldian studies, this text discusses the evolution of human consciousness. Appearances — what we perceive with our senses and being — are distinguished with three kinds of thinking processes: figuration (basic), alpha-thinking (theoretical), and beta-thinking (metacognitive); all of which can and often do interact with each other. Humanity once had an awareness (termed original participation) of nature and reality that ended as human consciousness has grown increasingly self-aware and analytical with the development of alpha-thinking. Barfield advocates not a return to original participation but rather a movement to what he deems final participation that involves alpha- and beta-thinking to participate again with nature and reality in using our imaginations productively.
A sort of outline sketch, with one or two parts completed in greater detail, for a history of human consciousness, particularly the consciousness of western humanity during the last three thousand years or so.
The idols are tough and hard to crack, but through the first real fissure we make in them we find ourselves looking, how deeply, into a new world! If the eighteenth-century botanist, looking for the first time through the old idols of Linnaeus’s fixed and time-less classification into the new perspective of biological evolution felt a sense of liberation and of light, it can have been but a candle-flame compared with the first glimpse we now get of the familiar world and human history lying together, bathed in the light of the evolution of consciousness.