The Rediscovery of Meaning, and Other Essays

by Owen Barfield

Owen Barfield was a member of the Oxford-group of literary figures called the Inklings, to which writers C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien also belonged. In The Rediscovery of Meaning, Barfield traces one of the roots of the modern illness called ‘the meaninglessness of life’.

Barfield argues that, since the so-called Axial Age (800-200 BCE), Western man gradually started experiencing himself as separate from the world around: he became an individual and an objectifying onlooker. This new, detached outlook on the world replaced a much older and deeper connection to it, a connection based on the experience that inner and outer worlds constantly merge. 

By taking an ‘objective’ point of view, Western man’s control over his surroundings grew immensely. But, in the process, he lost the meaning created by being at one with that world. He learned to see the outside of things very clearly, but lost sight of their inner essence. 

In days of old people realized they shared their consciousness with the many forms of consciousness around, like they shared their natural world with other natural creatures. They knew the world was part of them, as they were part of the world. They did not wrestle with the question whether things had meaning. Meaning was obvious due to their close connection to the inner being of other creatures, both in the natural and the spiritual realms. 

And we, as psychics and mediums, use exactly this ancient faculty for creating meaning.