Owen Barfield< Back to author list
Barfield was born in London. He was educated at Highgate School and Wadham College, Oxford and in 1920 received a first class degree in English language and literature. After finishing his B. Litt., which became his third book Poetic Diction, he was a dedicated poet and author for over ten years. After 1934 his profession was as a solicitor in London, from which he retired in 1959 aged 60. Thereafter he had many guest appointments as Visiting Professor in North America. Barfield published numerous essays, books, and articles. His primary focus was on what he called the "evolution of consciousness," which is an idea which occurs frequently in his writings. He is best known as a founding father of Anthroposophy in the English speaking world.
Barfield has been known as "the first and last Inkling". He had a profound influence on C. S. Lewis, and through his books The Silver Trumpet and Poetic Diction (dedicated to C.S. Lewis), an appreciable effect on J. R. R. Tolkien. Lewis was a good friend of Barfield since 1919, and termed Barfield "the best and wisest of my unofficial teachers". That Barfield did not consider philosophy merely intellectually is illustrated by a well-known interchange that took place between Lewis and Barfield. Lewis one day made the mistake of referring to philosophy as "a subject." "It wasn't a subject to Plato," said Barfield, "It was a way." Lewis refers to Barfield as the "Second Friend" in Surprised by Joy:
But the Second Friend is the man who disagrees with you about everything. He is not so much the alter ego as the antiself. Of course he shares your interests; otherwise he would not become your friend at all. But he has approached them all at a different angle. He has read all the right books but has got the wrong thing out of every one. It is as if he spoke your language but mispronounced it. How can he be so nearly right and yet, invariably, just not right?
Barfield and C. S. Lewis met in 1919 and were close friends for 44 years. Barfield was instrumental in converting Lewis to theism during the early period of their friendship which they affectionately called 'The Great War'. Maud also guided Lewis. As well as being friend and teacher to Lewis, Barfield was his legal adviser and trustee. Lewis dedicated his 1936 book Allegory of Love to Barfield. Lewis wrote his 1949 book The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe for Lucy Barfield and he dedicated The Voyage of the Dawn Treader to Geoffrey in 1952.