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
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, 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.
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.
"Systematic imagination," Barfield contends in
"From East to West," "is, in fact, clairvoyance" (RCA 38).
Burgeon: Any competent poet or painter knows
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
|See in particular
Worlds Apart, passim,
"The Force of Habit" (HGH 65-93),
Romanticism Comes of Age,
the Appearances, Chap. XX.
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)