The Inklings discussion

Worlds Apart
This topic is about Worlds Apart
20 views
World's Apart

Comments Showing 1-12 of 12 (12 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Phillip (last edited Mar 03, 2016 02:21PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Phillip (jeeveswooster) Owen BarfieldI'm currently reading World's Apart by Barfield. Has anyone else read it and what do you think?

Inklings things I am also reading Man and Animal the Essential Differences edited by Barfield and The Voice of Cecil Harwood by Harwood edited by his life-long friend Owen Barfield. I'm mentioning them in case anyone wants a discussion. It is a reading phase for me right now. I want to learn more about the Inklings, not just one or two of the primary figures.

I am primarily a Tolkien guy.


message 2: by Peter (new)

Peter Kazmaier (peterkazmaier) | 18 comments Phillip wrote: "Owen BarfieldI'm currently reading World's Apart by Barfield. Has anyone else read it and what do you think?

Inklings things I am also reading Man and Animal the Essential Differen..."


Hello Phillip, I'm also primarily "a Tolkien guy." I haven't read any Barfield's works but I would be very interested in your thoughts on the Barfield books that you're currently reading. I'll follow you hoping for a review.


message 3: by Margaret (new)

Margaret | 17 comments I've read Worlds Apart (let's get rid of the apostrophe infestation Right Now) and found it very interesting. Like with a lot of Barfield's work, I'm willing to go along with him only so far, but in this one you get a lot of different philosophical positions from a lot of different characters, making it a real mind-stretcher.


Phillip (jeeveswooster) Peter wrote: "Phillip wrote: "Owen BarfieldI'm currently reading World's Apart by Barfield. Has anyone else read it and what do you think?

Inklings things I am also reading Man and Animal the Es..."
Thank you, I would like a place to put together thoughts. It helps them to develop. I'm looking forward to it.


message 5: by Margaret (new)

Margaret | 17 comments To start off the conversation (and this comes up right at the start of the book), in our own day I don't think we've managed to break through the "watertight compartments" even now. If anything, they've gotten worse. Discuss...


message 6: by Phillip (last edited Mar 03, 2016 07:33PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Phillip (jeeveswooster) Margaret, I`m with you on both points. Part of what makes it good is it does stretch the mind by making it process lots of ideas. Also, I too, can only go so far with him.

A thing that interests me is how he fit philosophically within that group of mostly orthodox Christians. I think it is fair to chraracterize his thought as being what we call New Age today. The more I read about them I tend to believe it was probably a good thing that he was removed geograpically from attending many of the meetings.

Though he influenced Tolkien`s thoughts on the evolution of language with Poetic Diction and Tolkien`s children really liked Barfield`s fairy tale The Silver Trumpet, Tolkien said he was not generally in sympathy with Barfield`s work.

Also, Barfield said The Lord of the Rings left him cold and that he never could finish it.

Barfield said that his unerstanding of the creative role of language to imagination and its creative force was founded in the insights of Steiner. It was a life long frustration for him that people interested in language weren't interested in Steiner and those interested in Steiner weren`t interested in Barfield`s application of Steiner to language. I imagine Inklings meetings was another place impatient with his references to Steiner.

But he was long friends with Lewis and they did have seven years of philosophical argumentation while they were at University that ended with Lewis's converstion to Christianity. I see Barfield as tolerated, by most of the Inklings because of his long fraternity with Lewis. Interestingly, Lewis refused to ever argue philosophy with Barfield ever again after his conversion, Lewis said he "couldn't bear it". And Barfield never knew what was meant. So, during the years when the Inklings met, there was the affection of early adulthood between the two men without the intense "War" as Lewis called it. So, of course he always welcomed seeing his old friend even if the rest oc the Inklings did not share that bonding experience (except Cecil Harwood. He was at Universty with them.)

At the same time, he was a solid writer. His education equalled that of the other Inklings. He had very interesting things to say about language evolution and the role of imagination and fantasy to life, spirituality, and even the creation of the world. In these ways I would say he fit in with the group, could hold his own, without qualification or having to be tolerated.

I guess the ways he did and did not fit with the other Inklings was, like most things, a mixed bag in reality.

I got interested in Barfield just to see what he was about and that turned into my interest in how he fit in the group.



Margaret wrote: "I've read Worlds Apart (let's get rid of the apostrophe infestation Right Now) and found it very interesting. Like with a lot of Barfield's work, I'm willing to go along with him only so far, but i..."


message 7: by Stan (new)

Stan Shelley | 45 comments I have not read Barfield but have read a fair amount about him. And I have corresponded some with his grandson. I think he was truly brilliant and Lewis loved him dearly. I think it is fair to broadly categorize him as "new age" though he did join the Anglican Church which greatly pleased Lewis. Yet his funeral was Anthroposophical (did I get that right?)
The book The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings goes deeper than most into the four primary Inklings and seems quite fair. But all that I have said is impressions since I have not read him.


Phillip (jeeveswooster) Yes, I read someplace that he joined the Anglican Church in the 1950s, because, he said, Christianity didn't conflict with Anthroposophy.

I'm looking forward to getting to The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings it is on my lamp table with the new biography of Charles Williams.


Phillip (jeeveswooster) Why do you think it is worse?

Margaret wrote: "To start off the conversation (and this comes up right at the start of the book), in our own day I don't think we've managed to break through the "watertight compartments" even now. If anything, th..."


message 10: by Margaret (new)

Margaret | 17 comments Just as an example, the Internet allows us to connect with people all over the world ... who share the same interests and concerns that we do. Paradoxically this seems to lead to compartmentalization rather than greater community.


Phillip (jeeveswooster) Yes, like when algorithms give the user more of the kind of stories he or she has already seen that can create a biased veiw of events in the world.


Phillip (jeeveswooster) Here is the review I posted about Worlds Apart after finishing it last night.

This is my second time to read the book. The first time was a rushed skim to see what it was about. It warrants a careful rereading.

Barfield was a solid writer and thought deeply. Most of us are going to be struck with how that man--with those analytic and imaginative skills, education, atheistic upbringing (a free-thinking household that ridiculed religion), social influences (meaning C.S. Lewis and other University students and faculty), and nearly 70 years to think about it-- believed a set of, what we would now call, New Age believes. It certainly exacerbated his friend C.S. Lewis who said Something to the effect that Barfield was the kind of friend who had the same education and studied all of the same books as himself but reached all of the wrong conclusions. But the beliefs where not a phase in the life of a young man in his 20s. They lasted. Late in life he said his thoughts never changed. He believed the Same in his 90s that he did in his 20s. He said there was never anything new in his books, that they were just restatements of the same things, over and over.

The following is a quick summary of Barfield's understanding of evolution. His work is a continuous critique of rationalism, and the scientific method as a representation of all worthwhile knowledge. And, his anti-Darwinian understanding of evolution is contrary to the way it has been understood for over 100 years. My purpose is not to hold Barfield up to ridicule nor as his champion. He is a mysterious figure to many readers interested in the Inklings. And this review is to give only a taste of what Barfield is about. Since Goodreads is a place for volunteer and amateur reviews I am stopping with physical evolution, and not particularly polishing this. There is more about the evolution of consciousness that is more important to his work but dependent upon the ideas below.

Barfield was devoted to the work of the mystic Rudolf Steiner and was a member of the Anthroposophy society. From Steiner, he believed souls exist eternally (meaning, among other things, they predate the formation of the earth) for all creatures. With the help of spiritual beings, the souls of living things became tied to the physical universe (I'm not saying there is an influence. But it is the same sort of thing described in Tolkien's Silmarillion when the Valar volunteer to be permanently tied to the elements during the creation of the planet in order to participate in its ordering, and destiny. I mention this for illustrative purposes of the sort of thing Barfield describes.).

Barfield believed that everything (even rocks, other minerals, plants--everything in the physical universe) has eternal consciousness. Consciousness in the physical world has guided the physical evolution of Earth from phases of being liquid to solidity to some of the weak souls manifesting into animals (who together share a common soul). While the strong souls have directed their physical evolution to become humans (while still a part of nature develop an ego).

In other words, souls direct their physical evolution (over successive births and deaths) by their will to change a succession of species to eventually become the kind of animal they desire to be, (and place themselves in environments that will assist the survival of that animal they wish to become) and develop physical features such claws or fins that perform as a tool for survival in the natural environment. While mankind has developed general purpose features, such as the hands, that do not do a single thing, thus allowing for varied and changing purpose of the individual, withing a single life. This all quite different from Darwinism.

Obviously, Barfield is an author that a lot of readers are going to lose interest in before getting very far, because his work is demanding. It takes a lot of reading to get to the kernel of the work and isn't going to be worth it for a lot of people. Especially, since he telegraphs a lot of his thoughts and refers to Rudolf Steiner over and over again. And, it helps to read Steiner to get a better understanding of how Barfield makes a lot of his conclusions. This requirement is going to turn a lot of people off and it is another way the work is demanding.

This does not mean Barfield only restates the work of Steiner. He elaborates, restates and contributes to his teacher's work, especially Barfield's discussions of the role of the evolution of language to the evolution of human consciousness.

To end, I will point out that we don't have to agree with an author to enjoy his or her work. Prime examples for me are Thomas Pynchon and William S. Burroughs. Both do things in their work that I really like and keep returning to read, sometimes repeatedly. At the same time there are lots of things I don't enjoy about both authors. Yet, as I say, I reread them again and again. Sometimes there is a thing an author does that makes it worthwhile to read his or her work, even if it is only a sliver of the the whole.


back to top