Poetry, Science and the Evolution of Consciousness

Exploring Owen Barfield’s theory of metaphor and the results of its application to poetic, scientific and religious literature


Every Wednesday, 6-8pm GMT, from 28 September – 2 November (6 sessions)


Troy Vine


Online course



Short Course bursaries are available – find out more here.

About this course

This literary approach to anthropology shows, on the one hand, an historical evolution from a participatory to a detached form of consciousness and, on the other hand, the path to a participatory consciousness through poetry and holistic science.

The focus of this course is on Barfield’s two major works, Poetic Diction and Saving the Appearances, with examples of holistic, participatory approaches to philosophy and science drawn from Ludwig Wittgenstein, J.W von Goethe and Rudolf Steiner.

In 1928, C.S. Lewis informed Barfield of his influence on J.R.R. Tolkien, telling Barfield that “your conception of the ancient semantic unity had modified his whole outlook, and he was always just going to say something in a lecture when your concept stopped him in time”. What was it that Barfield taught Tolkien, already a respected philologist at Oxford University, that changed so radically his conception of the history of language and its relation to world evolution?

In this course we will explore the key ideas in Barfield’s books, which show that the recorded history of language tells an evolutionary story, which is at odds with the prevailing narrative that consciousness arose out of inert matter. Barfield’s study of the evolution of consciousness shows that we have to radically rethink our accepted theories of evolution and give consciousness or spirit a foundational and primordial role, rather than inert matter.

This course explores not only how our present mode of consciousness is the result of a long period of individualisation and separation from a living, animate cosmic consciousness, but a foundation for nurturing and developing a living relationship with our animate cosmos through participatory poetic and scientific practices.
Extra information for courses

What you will gain from this course:

  • an understanding of linguistic change
  • an understanding of the function of metaphor
  • knowledge of the change of consciousness attested by poetic, scientific and religious texts
  • an understanding of original participation, the disenchantment of nature and final participation
  • knowledge of participatory holistic approaches to nature.

This courses is for you if you are:

  •  interested in how language works
  • interested in the history of consciousness
  • interested in the relation between language and poetic, scientific and religious practices
  • interested in holistic science


Troy Vine

Troy Vine

Troy Vine completed a PhD in particle physics at University College London with research undertaken at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, near Chicago. He is currently doing a PhD in philosophy at the Humboldt University of Berlin with a thesis focusing on methodology and ontology in the colour investigations of Descartes, Newton, Goethe and Wittgenstein. He is also an Associate Researcher at The Field Centre, near Stroud, England and a translator and editor of studies in holistic science.

Jeremy Strawn

Jeremy strawn

Jeremy Strawn is a philosopher, teacher, farmer, and geometer. Since 2007, he has been guiding high school students and adults on journeys into the vast geometric landscape beyond the confines of mainstream thought.

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