Owen Barfield

British Philologist, Poet, Visionary &  Wisdom Lover


“Our destiny is to become both conscious and free.”

 “Amid all the menacing signs that surround us in this 20th century, perhaps the one that fills thoughtful people with the greatest foreboding is the general sense of meaninglessness. It is this that underlies most of the other threats. How is it that the more able man becomes to manipulate the world to his advantage, the less he can perceive any meaning in it?”

Owen Barfield, The Rediscovery of Meaning, (1977)


That’s the best I can come up with as an introduction to Owen Barfield. Visionary, way ahead of his time, undervalued and largely ignored, this guy already knew what was up 70 years ago in the 1950’s. A founding member of the famous literary group The Inklings, Barfield influenced and was friends with such Greats as C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.

I am only beginning to discover the majesty of his insight, expression, and output so at this point I would summarise his work as a life-long meditation of the intersection between consciousness, language, mythology, poetry, and “Being.” He was already deeply concerned with the meaning crisis in the middle of the 20th century (you know, the meaning crisis that has just begun to hit the intellectual world web over the last few years?) and his vision and insight are most helpful and welcome.

Thank you for your contribution, Owen Barfield!

“The obvious is the hardest thing of all to point out to anyone who has genuinely lost sight of it.” 
― Owen Barfield, Worlds Apart (1963) 

“When the velocity of progress increases beyond a certain point, it becomes indistinguishable from crisis.” 
― Owen Barfield, Night Operation

“There may be times when what is most needed is, not so much a new discovery or a new idea as a different ‘slant’; I mean a comparatively slight readjustment in our way of looking at the things and ideas on which attention is already fixed.”

Owen Barfield, Saving the Appearances (1957)

Amazon Reader Review by Michael C on Barfield’s The Rediscovery of Meaning:

“This collection of Barfield’s essays represents probably the finest introduction to his thought. Barfield was one of the 20th Century’s greatest minds, and these essays provide a nice overview of the complexity and depth found in his more elaborate works. The title essay, “The Rediscovery of Meaning,” remains one of my favorite essays ever.

Barfield, in these essays, presents the alternative view to the materialist and naturalist interpretations of our reality. Barfied makes a stunning case for the reality of meaning. He shows that the materialists mistakenly reduce things down to what they are, and ignore what they mean. Using linguistic analysis and the careful logic of a legal mind, he shows how meaning is a real property of reality, and the best kind of research is that which accounts for both.

I highly recommend this text, especially to those who have never read Barfield before. This work is much more accessible than his lengthier texts.”

An excellent introduction to Barfield’s work:

Some chapters of Barfield’s most inspiring book ‘Saving the Appearances’ summarised and brought alive:

A short documentary:

Owen Barfield

British Philologist, Poet, Visionary &  Wisdom Lover