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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Discussion Questions For Our July 11th Meeting

Saving the Appearances: A Study in Idolatry by Owen Barfield
Owen Barfield had many influences on his thought. He was a very original thinker.  Indeed, he influenced C.S. Lewis more than Lewis influenced him.  Among the major influences on Barfield were Samuel Coleridge, Rudolf Steiner, and
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.  Barfield wrote a book on Coleridge "What Coleridge Thought" and he like Lewis was a poet.  He was influenced by Steiner who was an expert on Goethe and became a lifelong anthroposophist.  Steiner adopted a view pioneered by Goethe that thinking was a process like seeing or hearing only the object was ideas.  Barfield's own thought was original and extended the views of Goethe and Steiner.  He was born the same year as C.S. Lewis (1898) and only died in 1997.  Barfield's reputation has only increased since his death.  While not as prolific as Lewis his books, like Lewis's are still in print.

1. According to Barfield, Idolatry is the valuing of images or representation in the wrong way and for the wrong reason.  An idol is an image so valued. (p.110). Does current science indeed fall into this category? Why do you think it does or does not?
2. I have personally read articles and letters to the editor in science magazines where science writers reflect anger and frustration and accuse people of deteriorating into superstition when people question if science has the full answer. I  have read articles that mock and ridicule those use a concept of a First Mover, Higher Power or something like that,  as having a hand in the universe.  Would Barfield consider this a natural result when the role/value of science is distorted?
3. Are materialism and science two sides of the same coin?
4. Barfield refers to the animism (natural physical entities have a spiritual essence) of very early man.  This animism is reflected in in such things as the Australian aborigines Dream Time and the emphasis of the power of words as magic.  Many fantasy writings (The Earth Sea Trilogy and The Belgariad, for example) incorporate these concepts as a basic part of the story.  Is this a return to Original Participation or another evolutionary step to “Final Participation”?  Or is it a reaction to the emptiness of the scientific idol?  Or is it the expression of that “something” deep within ourselves?
5. Can you find any of Barfield’s thought in Lewis’ writing?
6. In chapter 8 (p 53) Barfield invites us to “Consider the relation of scientific knowledge and truth”.  Further on (p 56)  he mentions Bacon and his view of scientific knowledge as “that which enables nature to do our bidding”.   What are the fruits of this kind of attitude?  Is this approach the one that has lead to science as politics and the great increase of scientific fraud?
7. How would you say the medieval environment was different from ours?  How are the fruits of that environment and ours different?
8. On Page 111 “Idolatry is the valuing of images or representations in the wrong way or for the wrong reason…transmuting the admired image into a desired object.” If you did a street-corner survey, what do you think would be the average definition of the word “idol” or “false idol”? Do people believe there is such a thing anymore?
9.Does anyone  in the group speak Hebrew or know anything about the language and can give us insight/enlightenment on Barfields’ comments on the form of the language itself?
10. Thinking about his chapter on the origin of language, do you see any relationship between the abundance of slang, empty words, filler words etc and all the movies etc, that are remakes of older movies.
11. Did you find the last two chapters surprising? If you read just the first few chapters, would you have expected the book to end as it did? Did it work?
12. I valued this book because though I know I need to read it a dozen more times to feel that I really understand it, I also know that it has changed the way I look at the world.  Has this book influenced you at all?
13. You know how children always like to have the same stories retold and it has to be done in the same way?  Is this an element of Original Participation?  The connectedness to the stories?  Just as human development in the womb calls forth a connection to biological development, do the stages of growing up (awareness of self then others)connect to the evolution of consciousness?

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