The phrase is Coleridge's.
Both he and Barfield mean by it the literalizing tendency--a prime contributor
to modern idolatry--to accept as real only
that which can be empirically, "objectively" perceived with the senses.
Such an outlook necessarily relegates the realm of spirit to the nonexistent.
The despotism of
the eye, Barfield notes, is well summarized in the scholastic maxim "De
non Apparentibus non existentibus eadem est ratio" (the nonphenomenal
is the nonexistent) (RM 117).
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