In the early nineties, I was struggling with the question of the relationship between consciousness and the world, based on some unnerving inner experiences—I only had a very rough formulation of the question at first.
Like everyone else in the West, I was immersed from childhood in the unchallenged understanding that the world changes or evolves independently of consciousness (theory of evolution, geology, archeology, palaeontology, etc.) So we could comfortably talk about changes in human viewpoints, leading to the idea that history is a movement from mistaken beliefs to more correct ones over time. But the way the world really is has nothing to do with us, or consciousness, and never has. Our viewpoints have no bearing on the way the world really is, or has been—the world now being defined scientifically as the geologic or physical earth.
Even in the face of this overwhelming body of evidence and shared beliefs, I could not let the matter rest. My own inner experiences were showing something very different to this prevailing wisdom and I began a search for other writers who had dared to challenge it. Then, somehow, I came across a little book called Saving the Appearances, by Owen Barfield. I still can remember the astonishment and enormous relief I felt when I read it. A large part of his argument draws on available knowledge from many fields whose findings are usually kept isolated from any other fields that could contribute.
But Barfield connected them up in order to argue a revolutionary idea:
The actual evolution of the earth we know must have been at the same time an evolution in consciousness. For consciousness is correlative to phenomenon. (Ch. X)
Barfield is not saying, as almost everybody else is, that our views of the world change while the world remains the same throughout time. He is claiming that the actual world changes as consciousness changes throughout time. To be absolutely clear, he is saying that our current geologic world of solid objects was not always so, that its very solidity depends on the style of consciousness that we are today.
I was gripped by this astounding claim and have worked for the next twenty or so years to understand and refine that claim, while staying in accord with my own experiences.
Barfield’s findings dovetailed into many of my weird inner experiences and gave support and guidance for my budding attempts to articulate what had happened to me. Throughout my “refinement”, I also had to stay closely attuned to these experiences and their guidance.
The work continues to this day.
A general lament for a “new world” has arisen today, in the face of the astounding, unstoppable avalanche of global catastrophes. In order to convey the complexity, even impossibility, of creating a new world from our given technological civilization or world of materialism, I have delved into many different and disparate disciplines in which I could discern the same, usually implicit lament, or aspiration, to leave the present world behind and forge a new one, or at least point to one possible world or another.
My Academia site shows in the menu all the various disciplines I have “mined”, seeking over a period of more than twenty years an adequate description of the mysterious connection between consciousness and world, both for the initiate and for the creation and advancement of relevant cultural practices.
Today I want to share some links to my most recent essays (2020). They show my latest refinement of that very early Barfield claim that the world and consciousness are correlative and that when one changes so does the other. Deeper understanding of “world” and “consciousness”, i.e. language as it relates to reality, reveals the complexity, even impossibility of creating new worlds. We must not be naïve about this, or generate false hopes that a new world is just around the corner. Such aspirations involve completely new ways of knowing, cultural practices, and new soul capacities.
And we show few signs of steering in this direction, even as the urgency grows:
- A Writing Style for Our Times
- Life is Art
- Our Crisis & A New World
- Pandemic/Global Crisis
- Overcoming the Gap
- The 3 and the 4
- The New Materialism
- The Impossibility of a New World