Systematic Imagination
Inspired by Goethe, Barfield speaks of acquiring the "habit of thinking actively; of choosing to think, instead of letting your thoughts just happen" (HGH 76-77). Such conscious thinking is systematic imagination. It is a way of aiding the senses without the "use of precision instruments" (WA 146) which--as a kind of "controlled participation" (RCA 235)--involves "the mind's self-experience in the act of thinking" (HGH 77).

Goethe called such imagination, which he sought to perfect as an instrument of his completely misunderstood morphological investigations, "exact percipient fancy" (RCA 34); and it may be thought of as the transfer of "the esemplastic imagination [Coleridge] from literature and art to science" (RCA 34).

With Coleridge, Barfield would agree that "Only those possess imagination in the deepest sense 'who feel in their own spirits the same instinct, which impels the chrysalis of the horned fly to leave room in its involucrum for antennae yet to come. They know and feel, that the potential works in them, even as the actual works on them'" (quoted in SM 82; from BL, Chap. 12). To see in this way is to possess systematic imagination.

Systematic imagination, as Sanderson explains in Worlds Apart, "involves looking at the phenomena open-mindedly, without at that stage obtruding any theoretical cerebration, conscious or unconscious, and letting them speak to you for themselves" (146). In practicing it, the observer

    reaches a certain point ("the prime phenomenon"), stops there and endeavors rather to sink himself in contemplation in that phenomenon than to form further thoughts about it. It implies a certain--if one may use the word--chastity of thought, a willingness not to go beyond a certain point. The blue of the sky, said Goethe, is the theory. To go further and weave a web of abstract ideas remote from anything we can perceive with our senses in order to explain this blue--that is to darken counsel. (RCA 34)
Science, of course, has forbidden itself the possibility of such participatory vision, as Sanderson explains in dialogue with Burgeon in Worlds Apart.
    Sanderson: . . . One of the first principles of science is that all feeling must be ruled out, where scientific investigation is concerned. But then it is always assumed that, when one speaks of "feeling," one means subjective feelings--wishes and so forth--by which one's thinking is unconsciously influenced. But that is not what I mean at all. There is such a thing as objective feeling, which can be used as a means to clearer thinking and deeper perception.

    Burgeon: Any competent poet or painter knows that.

    Sanderson: Yes, but his object is not scientific investigation. What I am trying to put is, that, if a man deliberately strengthens his thinking in the sort of way I am suggesting--by uniting with it the natural energy of his feeling and willing--he begins to penetrate, with consciousness, into those other parts of his organism where the older relation between man and nature still persists. He becomes aware of what is going on at the normally unconscious pole, able to observe it, and in this way he gains direct access to the past, that is, to the primeval period when that relation prevailed. You can say he re-enacts it in conscious experience; or you can say he actually observes the past, instead of having to infer it in his fancy from the present. They are two different ways of putting the same thing. (153)1

"Systematic imagination," Barfield contends in "From East to West," "is, in fact, clairvoyance" (RCA 38).
See in particular Worlds Apart, passim, "The Force of Habit" (HGH 65-93), Romanticism Comes of Age, passim, Saving the Appearances, Chap. XX.
1Consequently, the hypotheses of science remain anything but organic:
    Theories like vitalism, or those of organismic biology-are simply thought-models, evolved inside a scientist's head to enable him to account for the phenomena which he observes. Just as mechanism was another and cruder thought-model. They do not amount to a participation of the knower in the unconscious thinking that is going on in nature. That is only achieved by contemplating the phenomena themselves in concentrated mental activity, but without at the same time thinking about them. Then they begin to explain themselves. Then they appear as what they are in time as well as in space. . . . (145-46)