Barfield disputes the
modern received view that mind accrues "epigenetically"
from the brain once it reaches a certain level of anatomical complexity.
Under such a view we can have a "thinking determined
by the brain only." Such a view forces us to conceive of man as "a brain
on legs" (WA 151). In contradistinction, Barfield contends that
once the whole body thought (UV 43). "Consciousness,"
he reminds in an essay on "Language and the Evolution of Consciousness,"
"resembles a spark located within the brain much less than it resembles
a diffused light focused into the whole body from without" (LEC 433).
The mind is, rather,
the result of the internalization process
and the descent of the potency into
the human body. The mind's interior was
once anterior. Anthroposophy's
theory of brain and mind (articulated here by Sanderson in Worlds Apart)
informs all of Barfield's own thinking:
his brain, for his waking life, swelled out into a bubble in his head,
but radiating in the form of nerves through the whole organism. In all
this, but especially in his head, he can be psychically active, because
he is physically passive. He has, at the other pole, his motor organism--limbs
and metabolism--which also reaches up into the head, in the form and function
of mouth and lower jaw. And between the two poles his heart and chest,
his breathing and his blood circulation--which also permeate the whole
body, but are focused in his heart and lungs.
We say that,
when he is asleep--and also, even during the day, in his unconscious, from
which his impulses of will spring so unaccountably--his relation to the
spirit is still that of the first period [of the evolution
of consciousness, or original participation].
In his dreaming, and, in the half-conscious goings-on of his emotional
life, he is still really living in the second period [that of the intellectual
soul]. It is only when he is wide-awake, and actually thinking and
perceiving that he is wholly up to date. (151-52)
Barfield dismisses the
epigenetic approach to brain/mind that arises under the sway of the brain-physical
conception as logically indefensible:
In so far
as you insist on talking about the brain instead of the mind . . . the
series of brains, observing and observed, is rather like the procession
of oozlem birds. Each bird consumes the one behind it. But how do you deal
with the last bird in the procession, or how does it deal with itself?
fails to account for the very self-referentiality that makes the hypothesis
of the brain-physical possible in the first place, as Barfield, his impatience
. . . if you start
from the brain and say it "constructs" the world it is aware of, you seem
to leave out of account the fact that the brain as an object of observation
is itself part of a world which you yourself have constructed. Surely you
have got to start with the art of construction and not with the brain!
go on gabbling . . . words like supernaturalism, dualism, psychosomatic
(and I have no quarrel with that word, properly used), input, feedback,
output and the rest of it, till you are black in the face. You may, for
all I know, succeed in detecting a physical or electrical charge in the
brain for the airiest fragment of a frolic of a half-thought that ever
hovered for an instant in the fancy of Mercutio.
But you can never, without talking nonsense, obliterate the ultimate cleavage
between (a) consciousness itself and (b) that of which it is conscious.
(WA 38-39; Hunter is speaking)
|See in particular