Final Participation
The culminating stage in the evolution of consciousness, the "entelechy of the earth-evolution as a whole" (RCA 44), when man "regains his at-one-ment with the principle of creation, only now in full self-consciousness as a self-contained Ego" (RCA 85), final participation is a difficult (if not impossible) to grasp idea,1 which can perhaps best be understood as "a self conscious rapport with the whole phenomenal world" (IOB 13), or as a "willed consciousness of [original] participation" [EC 27] which "must itself be raised from potentiality to act" (SA 137). Final participation will be possible only when "the macrocosm is . . . focused to an invisible point in the isolated Ego" (RCA 48), for in final participation "man's Creator speaks from within man himself" (BAR 66); we grasp fully our directionally creator relation with the divine.

Final participation is not attainable simply through imitation of original participation. For the Greeks, Barfield reminds us, were inside the world's unity; we are outside of it.2 We live in thought, not in thinking, and thus we must "first . . . realize that it [the original unity] is still there, and then . . . learn how to get back into it, how to rise once more from thought into thinking, taking with us, however, that fuller self-consciousness which the Greeks never knew . . ." (RCA 61). The models upon which Barfield draws in formulating his theory of final participation come not from the Greeks but from Goethe and Rudolf Steiner.3

"One need not be an analyst," R J. Reilly has observed, "to see the progression Barfield intends: from the solitude of private thought, to the strengthened thought that rays out into the thought of the universe, to the absolute dissolution of private thought in the universe, or the Kingdom--or from subjective idealism to Anthroposophy to heaven" (BAR 76). Into his nineties, Barfield has retained a firm faith that "the world of final participation will one day sparkle in the light of the eye as it never yet sparkled early one morning in the original light of the sun" (SA 161). But if we are ever to attain final participation, it will be in the far distant future. It does not loom on the horizon. "Final participation," as Barfield writes in Saving the Appearances' final chapter,

is indeed the mystery of the kingdom--of the kingdom that is to come on earth, as it is in heaven--and we are still only on the verge of its outer threshold. Two thousand years is a trifle of time compared with the ages which preceded the Incarnation. More than a thousand years had to pass before the Western Church reached even that premonitory inkling of final participation which it expressed by adding the Filloque to the Creed, and acknowledged that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son as well as, originally, from the Father. (182)
The closing lines of Barfield's verse play Orpheus may be taken as a depiction of the mindset of final participation (the "he" of these lines can be taken to be not just Orpheus, the archetypal poet, but mankind as well):
He shall ascend Parnassus awake and find his soul:
Proteus shall work unsleeping for ever, and forms shall    flow
As the meaning of words a poet has mastered. It shall be so
That Zeus shall abandon to Chronos the antique starry crown,
And softly out of Olympus the high Gods shall come down
Shedding ambrosial fragrance in clouds that for ever abide,
And earth shall be covered with blushes and make herself sweet as a bride.
And her light shall be liquid as honey, her air taste good like bread
In the mouths of them that dwell upon earth, and all shall be fed. (O 112)
See in particular Saving the Appearances, Chaps. XX, XXII, XXIV, XXV; Unancestral Voice, passim.
1Against the criticism that his eschatology is too complicated, Barfield explains that "The movements of fingers disentangling a crumpled skein are complicated, but the final result is not complication" (SA 163). Still, in Owen Barfield: Man and Meaning, Barfield admits that any definitive explanation of final participation is "quite beyond me."
2"There is no question of going backwards and trying to be little Greeks. . . . The task which their philosophers instinctively set themselves was . . . to get outside a plane of consciousness in which they normally lived, so as to be able to conceive of it: to turn thinking into thought. Our problem is the converse of this. We are outside it already. Our task is twofold, first to realize that it is still there, and then to learn how to get back into it, how to rise once more from thought into thinking, taking with us, however, that fuller self-consciousness which the Greeks never knew, and which could never have been ours if they had not laboured to turn thinking into thought. Thus, being normally outside, it follows that we shall also be conscious of it as a different world, a world into which we can plunge at will" (RCA 61).
3"Beta-thinking leads to final, by way of the inexorable elimination of all original, participation. Consequently Goethe was able to develop an elementary technique, but unable or unwilling, to erect a metaphysics, of final participation" (SA 139).