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

Worlds Apart:
A Dialogue of the Sixties

Worlds Apart: A Dialogue of the Sixties. London: Faber and Faber, 1963; reissued Middletown, CT: Wesleyan U P, 1971.

You will never understand symbols until you have grasped that pre-historic man in his unconscious goes back, not to the animal kingdom, as the nineteenth century fondly imagined, but to a paradisal state when there was no death, because there was no matter. (Worlds Apart 124, Burgeon is speaking)

In the 1959 Rede Lecture at Cambridge (later published as The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution), Barfield’s contemporary C. P. Snow had lamented the widening gap between scientists and humanities, their inability to understand each other’s discourse, their unwillingness to even seek to communicate with one another. Worlds Apart is a book-length Socratic dialogue in which Barfield’s alter ego Burgeon brings together a group of intellectuals--among them a linguistic analyst, a rocket scientist, an evolutionary biologist (with Teilhardian leanings), a physical scientist, a professor of historical theology, a Freudian psychologist, and an adherent of Anthroposophy--to discuss their differing points of view. No book of Barfield’s better exhibits his often sardonic wit, his brilliant argumentation (Barfield repeatedly uses ingenious reductio ad absurdum dissections to take apart Freudian, Darwinian, and philosophical sacred cows), or his ability to articulate the enemy’s own positions. In Bakhtin’s terms, Worlds Apart is "dialogical," not just because of its genre, but because in its imaginative presentation Barfield’s essential ideas attain a dramatic force, and a clarity, not possible in his other books.