Thursday 8 September 2016

Romanticism comes of age - the destiny of Man (currently delayed and distorted)

Romanticism Comes of Age was the title of a collection of essays published by Owen Barfield in 1944, and also of the biography of Barfield written by Simon Blaxland-De Lange in 2006.

This matter of Romanticism is one of Barfield's major statements with relevance to our times - he is saying that Rudolf Steiner's core insights are the completion of what began with the Romantic movement, and Steiner is describing the necessary next step for human spiritual evolution (ie. the divine destiny for Man).

I will summarise my understanding of this matter, including adding my own framework.

1. In ancient times, especially during the hunter gatherer era, Man lived undivided from, immersed in, his perceptual environment - and mostly lacked self-awareness or a sense of separate consciousness. This was termed Original Participation by Barfield.

2. After a long and incremental trend towards it; from the 1700s there was a new era of alienation for Western Man - in which consciousness becomes isolated from perception; heralded by the work of Descartes and Newton, and implemented by the Industrial Revolution. Barfield subdivided this according to the stages of its gradual increase - but sometimes termed it the era of the Consciousness Soul (the current era in The West) - because the soul of Man seemed to himself to be conscious of itself: cut-off-from and observing 'the world' - and eventually observing even his own thoughts.

3. At the same time, the means for healing this dichotomy are implied and developing; by moving forward to a new era of consciousness - this goal is what Barfield terms Final Participation. This impulse, mostly unconscious, began to emerge in the Romantic movement  - associated with such English poets and thinkers as Blake, Wordsworth and (especially) Coleridge - this rapidly spread to Germany via the likes of Herder and Goethe - and then to the USA with Emerson and the circle of New England Transcendentalists.

4. The unconscious impulse towards Final Participation has therefore been at work since the late 1700s but has not (or not yet) led to Final Participation because it has been resisted by individuals and cultures. Nonetheless the impulse towards Final Participation has strengthened the longer it was resisted and therefore it emerges, bursts-forth, from time to time; but perverted, partial, divided; often seen as a regression towards the previous phase of Original Participation - with notable Romantic Revivals in the late 1800s-early 1900s, then again from the 1950s culminating in the middle-late 1960s.

5. The current phase in The West is therefore one of un-integrated oscillations (within individuals, and within culture) between the ideal bureaucratic official world of alienated the Consciousness Soul on the one hand; and regressive, instinctive, attempts at Original Participation on the other (often by inculcating altered states of semi-awake consciousness with dreamy trances, intoxications, sexuality as a focus for life, and other types of regression).

6. This has led to the characteristic pathologies of our time; including in Christianity which is mostly divided between the alienating and unfulfilling legalisms and prescriptions of the Consciousness Soul; and the subjectivism and impulsive instabilities of Original Participation when occurring atavistically, in the wrong era (very often perverted into the promoting-of, and participating-in, the sexual revolution).

7. What is needed, ever more desperately, is to move forwards into Final Participation - but this must (according to both Steiner and Barfield) be 1: Within the context of a truly Christ-centred Christianity (no matter how 'heretical' or unorthodox - Christianity must be Christ centred as its primary reality); 2: Done with full consciousness, explicitly, deliberately, from the modern Consciousness Soul - but a Consciousness Soul grown, expanded, fully communicating, aware and engaged with all the rest of reality.  .

So this is the challenge, the necessary dual destiny, both for non-Christians and Christians - to adopt Christianity as the primary framework and within that to move towards Final Participation.

No comments: