Under the influence of Coleridge's
careful reconsideration of the concept, Barfield suggests that we should
understand natural law in a quite extraordinary way.
The abstract laws which modern science has
sought to investigate, he writes in "Thinking and Thought," "were nothing
By the time of Sir Francis
Bacon, however "most, if not all, men had already lost the power to
think these Forms. They could only think of them . . ." (RCA 57-58).
the memory, so far as it has been
retained by European thought since Plato's and Aristotle's day, of those
elements, as it were, of nous--of the mind--or
spiritual world, which the best Greek thinking
could still apprehend in its time as living Beings. They were a faint,
shadowy recollection of those Thought Beings [spirit-beings],
neither objective nor subjective, which Greek thinking could actually enshrine
within itself--Beings, by whom the part of Nature which is perceptible
to our senses is continually brought into being and again withdrawn, in
the rhythm of the seasons and of life and death."
It is thus mistaken to speak of laws prior
to the Scientific Revolution, for what we designate as laws were, rather,
"felt, not as intellectual deductions, but rather as real activities of
soul--that human soul which . . . the philosopher could not yet feel to
be wholly separate from a larger world Soul"1
|See in particular "Ideas, Methods, Laws" (WCT
115-30), "Experiment" (HEW 139-55).
signs," as Barfield goes on to say, present an interesting example in this
regard. Prior to the Renaissance these signs had been "as much, if not
more, classifications of this Soul as they had been sections of space.
The word came from the Greek 'zodion,' a little animal, and not only was
every sign distinguished by a constellation, of which the majority were
associated with some beast, but human character and human destiny were
believed to be bound up inextricably with the position of the sun and planets
among these signs" (HEW 141).