The text on this page is from David Lavery, "An Owen Barfield Readers Guide." Seven 15 (1998): 97-112.

Romanticism Comes of Age

Romanticism Comes of Age. London: Anthroposophical Publishing CO, 1944; new and augmented ed., London: Rudolf Steiner Press, 1966; Middletown, CT: Wesleyan U P, 1967.

It [the evolution of human consciousness] is rather as if a musical instrument, which was being played on . . . an Aeolian harp perhaps, played on by nature herself . . . fell silent for a while. And then, after an interval, when it began to sound again, it was no longer merely an instrument, but had become aware of itself as such . . . and could itself take part in the playing of itself. (Romanticism Comes of Age 234)

Owen Barfield first heard of the German occult philosopher Rudolf Steiner, the founder (in 1901) of Anthroposophy, in 1922, and he immediately recognized that they were thinking on the same wavelength, that their heads had "interpenetrated," though he would always insist that Steiner was light years ahead. Thus began Barfield’s life-long "collaboration" with Steiner and Anthroposophy, an allegiance which has certainly been a contributing factor in the intellectual world’s shunning of Barfield’s thought. Over the next two decades, even as he became a solicitor in London, Barfield was to become active in the Anthroposophical movement, giving a variety of lectures on diverse topics, most of which were then published in small circulation Anthroposophical organs. Romanticism Comes of Age collected these, and other occasional pieces from the time, becoming, during World War II, Barfield’s first book since Poetic Diction. A later edition would augment the book with like-minded essays.

Though in sixty years of faithful adherence to Anthroposophy he never failed to acknowledge Steiner’s supremacy, Barfield, it now seems clear, did seek to find the means, and especially the language, to express his own key independently-arrived-at Anthroposophical ideas without carrying its occult baggage. In Romanticism Comes of Age we encounter Barfield as Anthroposopher relatively undisguised (as will also be the case in a later book like Unancestral Voice), wrestling with subjects such as thinking and thought, the consciousness soul and the intellectual soul, Hamlet, Goethe in our time, and "Rudolf Steiner’s Concept of Mind." It is an important Barfield book, which, when read after better known ones like Poetic Diction and Saving the Appearances, deepens and broadens our understanding of Barfield’s understanding of the evolution of consciousness.


Table of Contents

Introduction 7-24
From East to West 25-46
Thinking and Thought 47-66
Speech, Reason and Imagination 67-83
Of the Consciousness Soul 84-103
The Form of Hamlet 104-125
Of the Intellectual Soul 126-143
The Philosophy of Samuel Taylor Coleridge 144-163
Goethe and the Twentieth Century 164-184
The Time-Philosophy of Rudolf Steiner 184-204
The Fall in Man and Nature 205-222
Man, Thought, and Nature 223-240
Rudolf Steiner's Concept of Mind 241-254