Imagine then the far past of the Hopi as reported in their oral tradition. They are being lead by their leaders from a place about to be destroyed and into a new land; instructed by the Creator in "...the laws by which the Hopi were to travel and live the good way of life, the peaceful way."* Included in these instructions is information about a future time, "...when another race of people would appear in our midst and claim our land as their own."* A time when the
Great Spirit's "...people may have forsaken the teachings, no longer respecting their elders, and even turning upon their elders to destroy their way of life."* Anyone intimate with the current tribal dynamics of the Hopi knows that this moment is very present indeed.
If one reads the literature of prophecy it is clear, whether it is the Apocalypse of St. John or the Vision of Black Elk, that what the prophet is given is a series of highly imaginative pictures, a series of symbols. In fact it is intriguing to notice that the Hopi Prophecy, in being translated into English in the version I am using, refers to a symbol, the "Red Symbol". Now within the traditions in which these prophecies arise it is generally taken as an article of faith that the symbolic pictures are the result of the activity of Beings. These vision/imaginations, as it were, are thought to be the consequence of the moral activity of supernatural (supra-sensible) Beings.
Such is the nature of these moral intentions that they appear in the past to a prophet as symbolic pictures in some kind of vision, and then later as events in human history. Thus the "Red Symbol" and the "Sun" (images we will later examine in detail) of the Hopi prophecy are the word remnants of a prophet's experiences, which are later to appear as events in history.
We, who live in the time of the events, have the problem of only having the words of the prophecy (but not the experiences). Our advantage is, as it were, that we have the events. Since we cannot go back and examine the prophet's experience, it principally remains for us to see what events in our time conform to these symbolic pictures. Yet, recall the theme briefly stated in the Overture, that world becomes word. The prophet has reduced for us his experience to word, at least in the cases of St. John's Apocalypse, or Black Elk's vision. So also with the Hopi Prophecy, except that the Hopi retain something rather remarkable in addition to the words.
Hopi language had in the beginning no written form, but was entirely spoken except for pictographs, the "rock writings"*. We might expect then that these pictographic representations of the Hopi prophet's experiences are closer to the "truth". First came the experience - the prophet's vision, then this was reduced to a painted or carved image, and as well accompanied with oral representations - the tradition which survives in the memories of those living today.
We can ask the question: what really happened? Did someone actually see or otherwise experience something, or was this some kind of invented myth, some kind of metaphorical creation in order to resolve a dilemma the Hopi ancestors lacked the capacity to understand? Most of what comes to us out of the past, from humanity's early history and pre-history, is viewed this way by contemporary scholarship. The position is taken: That unable to explain the world, our distant ancestors invented numerous superstitions, which we moderns are quite justified then in ignoring.
This seems to me to be an unsupportable position. In what immediately follows I will attempt to show that there is good reason for doubting the idea that what comes to us as myth and legend owes its existence to the invention of delusions by primitive minds needing to explain the unexplainable.
Barfield's approach, by the way, is complicated; a fact which is justified by the problems needing to be considered. For this reason the following explanation should not be expected to be an adequate rendering of his ideas, and the would-be critic of my book is expected in any case to become directly conversant with Barfield's works as well as all the other writers yet to be mentioned. The work of the "true white brother", of the 'movement' which this image refers to, must be considered as a whole cloth, an interrelated and mutually supportive work.
Barfield is a highly respected and subtle thinker about many of the deepest problems of our time. He was, for example, a member of the "Inklings", a group which met weekly, for many years, early in this century, and which included J.R.R Tolkien, C.S.Lewis and Charles Williams. We will have recourse to Barfield's ideas frequently throughout this book.
In his book Speaker's Meaning (Wesleyan University Press, 1967), Barfield deals directly with the problem of what can be known about the past (and the present in relation to the past) through the study of language; and, he does this with a remarkable subtlety. Moreover, his range of understanding of necessarily related fields is staggering. Because of this complexity and subtlety, I can only give the barest of an introduction to his nevertheless clear and concise exposition. This is a book by the way, which any individual who wants to consider himself 'educated', would be glad to know and appreciate.
In the following discussion all quoted material is from Barfield's book, Speaker's Meaning, unless otherwise attributed. The reader is also cautioned that they should not expect to follow the subtlety of Barfield's argument in just one reading. Thus, even if you find certain things difficult, please continue to read further. I have at various places tried to restate his argument, especially in terms necessary for understanding the Prophecy. Hopefully these will enable the reader not to lose the central theme, for which Barfield's work is used as a support. The following material is, in fact, the most difficult in the whole book, but the rewards of understanding it are also very great.
Should the going prove too difficult, please skim over it. It will always be there for when the proper mood strikes, and I have taken care to state at the beginning of the next chapter just what meaning we need draw from it for the purpose of understanding the Prophecy?
Barfield approaches the problem as one of really understanding how languages grow and develop, how the words acquire their meaning, and how those meanings change over time. He calls his approach "The semantic approach to history and the historical approach to the study of meaning"; and, seeks to show us how the changes in the meaning of words - the differences between an individual speaker's meaning and the same word's lexical meaning (or dictionary meaning, i.e. "norm") - gives us a picture of the past which we can arrive at through no other means. What is new knowledge, for example, always, or most always, must be built out of old words. Thus, the word's meaning must be changed to allow the new ideas to appear in written and spoken language. A study of the changes in meanings of words then gives us a historical picture, not only of the ideas which our ancestors have held, but also insight into the whole world view and the kind of consciousness out of which they lived.
This is a crucial point, because, while we easily live in the common world view of our day, it is much harder to really appreciate how people thought and experienced the world in the past. The study of these changes then can, at least, introduce us to the fact of how different it must have been. For example, Barfield writes: "...progress involving change - does come about only when we question (and because we question) our fundamental assumptions. Moreover...the most fundamental assumptions of any age are those that are implicit in the meanings of its common words. In our time these happen to be largely the assumptions of nineteenth-century positivism. In Newton's time however they were the assumptions of Aristotelian philosophy, cosmology, and science. In Newton's time an Aristotelian universe was not simply a set of theories, in which men believed - it was what half their key words implicitly meant....
"To think of gravity, or of terrestrial physics of any sort, as extending beyond the orbit of the moon was difficult for them [thinkers before the age of science] in the same way that it is difficult for us to think of mind, or mental activity, or intelligence of any sort outside of some particular physical brain. Contrariwise, this (which is so difficult for us) was something that caused them no difficulty at all. It was the sort of thing that the relevant words meant - whereas, for us, the very same words mean the opposite thing - the word "thought" for instance, means, for most people, something rather like cigarettes inside a cigarette box called the brain. One good reason for troubling to concentrate on the moment of change of meaning is that it directs our attention - awakens us - to fundamental assumptions so deeply held that no one even thinks of making them explicit."
This is a point to ponder - to read more than once and think carefully about...
Next, Barfield leads us to a very special idea, what he calls the "translucence" of meaning, how a figurative use of language can create a new meaning not contained by the normal or lexical meaning. Words can then have an "inner" and an "outer" meaning; the one being the newly created meaning, the other the usual meaning. Thus their translucence; we see though the word's outer or normal meaning, to its new or inner meaning. Moreover, over time this new inner meaning may well become the word's only meaning; the translucence will disappear - the figurative nature of the word ceases. All one has left is the inner or immaterial meaning.
"Now the ordinary way of putting it is to say that when we speak of someone having a warm heart or a cold heart, we are using figuartive language, using imagery. And that will do well enough, as long as we do not assume that it is the same thing as saying we are using a metaphor. For the plain truth is that we use the word heart as we do, not because we are poets but because the word itself has a history. It is that all language has been, and some still is, imagery, in the sense that one meaning is apprehended transpiring through another ... Nonfigurative language, on the other hand, is a late arrival. What we call literal meanings, whether inner or outer, are never samples of meaning in its infancy; they are always meanings in their old age - end products of a historical process."
This point is also crucial, because, as Bafield goes on to point out, there exists today an implicit assumption (at one time explicitly stated) that all inner meaning originated in a pre-historical period when language was all created as metaphor. "In order therefore to to perform the deliberate act of making the outer become a 'vehicle' for the inner, you must first have a word with an exclusively outer meaning. But nothing is to be got from the study of language which indicates either that such meanings existed in early times or that they are found today in primitive speech. All that the study of language does indicate is that they have come about as part of that historical process which I have called contraction; whereas the use of metaphor always operates to expand meaning."
Now this point, while subtle, turns out to have great significance, especially as regards what it tells us about the consciousness of our primitive ancestors, and as well what it tells us about their potential to create their so-called myths and legends as superstitious explanations of the inexplicable.
Barfield next considers what can be learned by studying the differences between what the Greeks thought of the psychology of the poet, and what we think today; i.e. what transformations have occurred over time in aesthetic theory. He very carefully establishes the idea that to the Greeks creativity came from outside the personality, through inspiration, through the intervention of a Muse. Whereas today we see creativity as arising from individual genius, from individual imagination. "...what we have before us, when we look at artistic or poetic activity historically, is an actual transition from one kind of event to another kind. It is a transition from the being taken hold of by something, some force or being, or some element of not-self, without any personal effort of the part of the poet, to an active taking hold of something by the poet...from something that is given to something that has to be actively grasped, or achieved."
From here Barfield goes on to consider the past in terms of three phases: history, prehistory and nature. This idea is that a true 'historical' period involves the "period during which some events were determined by individual thought." If, on the other hand, "...the period is characterized by some form of homo sapiens uttering sounds solely for the purpose of expression, but not for communication,..", then such a period would be called nature. But, once "you have individual thinkers, you have reached a period which is ... [historical] ... or, if no records are available ... prehistorical."
"Clearly it was during the prehistoric period that both language and myth developed. Clearly, therefore, the prehistoric period emerged immediately from something we are only justified in calling nature, just as later the historical period itself emerged immediately from the prehistoric.
"...Nature, as such, involves the absence, just as history as such involves the presence, of individual human activity, as distinct from "instinctive" behavior. But if we maintain ... that such phenomena as language and myth are themselves the product of individual human activity, individual human intention, then we are premising, psychologically, that prehistory emerged, not from nature, but from a still earlier "historical" period..."
Or, in other words (to restate and sum up what Barfield has so far established): The study of language and meanings of words gives us a special picture of the past. Such a study of meanings also provides us with an understanding of the common assumptions of an age. Moreover, language must in its origin be "figurative", i.e. have both an inner and an outer meaning. Literal meanings are always the result of languages "old age".
What language tells us about human psychology is that in the past man was passively inspired, not actively creative. Language itself gives no evidence of a period when it and myth emerged as a result of individual intention, but rather suggests that in the period between nature and history, i.e. prehistory, language and myth were given - imposed from the outside. Our ancestors therefore did not invent superstitions and myths in an effort to explain the inexplicable; rather the nature of their experience was that they were passive (unindividualized) recipients of inspiration from the outside, from super-normal sources. Exactly as they have always stated.
The evidence that comes from fossil and related studies is an examination of the outside of the past, while the study of language is the investigation of its inside. The fundamental propositions, which are used to infer from these outsides, that lead to conclusions different from that which the study of language - of the inside - leads to, are the result of assumptions and speculations which are no longer examined with any rigor. The result is they have entered theunconscious of modern Western humanity, and exist hidden in the meaning of many of the words we use. Thus, to think contrary to these implied, but unstated, ideas is to encounter a twentieth century cultural taboo.
Barfield points to two primary and one secondary taboo (presupposition). The first "is that inwardness, subjectivity of any sort, is not merely associated with, but is always the product of a stimulated organism. The second, arising out of the first is the presupposition that in the history of the universe the presence of what is called matter preceded the presence of what is called mind." And thirdly, "...that the public world (which we have in common with others) consists entirely of what we perceive and the private world of each one consists of what he thinks."
"It is old hat to say that the brain is responsible for mental activity...Ever since the scientific revolution, the guiding view of most scientists has been that knowledge about the brain, its cells and its chemistry will explain mental states". (Mind Matters: How the Mind and Brain interact to Create Our Conscious Lives, Michael S. Granzzanica Ph.D. pp1, Houghton Mifflin, Boston 1988)
"...it has long been recognized that mind does not exist somehow apart from brain...". (The Mind, Richard M. Restak M.D., pp 11, Bantam Books, 1988)
"My fundamental premise about the brain is that its workings - what we sometimes call 'mind' - are a consequence of its anatomy and physiology and nothing more." (The Dragons of
Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence, Carl Sagan, pp. 7, Ballantine Books 1977)
How do we overcome the presuppositions, the assumptions of the age in which we find ourselves, and come to the truth, when the culture, when the leading thinkers all implicitly believe what is really only a kind of prejudice? How do we free ourselves so as to think our own way to the truth?
Barfield's book gives one help, by leading us carefully through the examination of the nature of language, to a discovery of what this study can tell us about the past, and therefore also about the present. But to overcome the taboos we must proceed slowly, a step at a time.
The first presupposition "is that inwardness or subjectivity of any sort, is not merely associated with, but is always the product of a stimulated organism". What does this mean? As an opposite idea Barfield poses this: "...when the same thought occurs in two different minds, you have not two separate thoughts (the one being a detached replica of the other), but "one and the same thought."." Or,...
"If a concept in my mind is one and the same with a concept in yours, then it clearly cannot be the product of either my organism or yours. It cannot be dependent on those organisms any more than the light we both see by is dependent on your eye or mine. It is not light that is dependent on an eye, but the experience of seeing." Implying that it is not the thought that is dependent upon the organism, but rather the experience of thinking.
While Barfield does not say this explicitly, I take him to mean that if I think of a triangle and you think of a triangle, the object of our thinking is identical, one and the same. It is as if with our thinking we see into the world, just as with our eyes we see the world's outside.
This is a difficult idea to get used to, as it contradicts quite profoundly the assumptions we have been living with, having grown up using words with the given meanings of our time. We will go deeper into this problem, and in a more practical way as we progress through the text. For the moment let us once more formulate this idea.
The whole question might be seen in another way. Does nature have an 'inside'? We can hardly doubt that we do, since our experience of having an inside confronts us all our waking moments. The implication Barfield leads us to is that as a natural correlative of the idea of our thinking having as its objects the identical thoughts, is that there is an 'inside' to nature as well, that our inside looks on this inside in an analogous way to our physical eye seeing the outside of things. There is much more to this problem, but for now this will have to do.
The second presupposition is "that in the history of the universe the presence of what is called "matter" preceded the presence of what is called "mind". For Barfield, as a result of his studies of language: "... everything points to an evolution of consciousness...a contraction of meaning and therefore of consciousness - an evolution from wide and vague to narrow and precise, and from what was peripherally based to what is centrally based. Further, that if this predominance of contraction is demonstrably true of the historical period up to now, it was even truer of the prehistoric period.".
Or, in my words, 'mind' was once outside man, in nature, and then slowly contracted over time to become concentrated inside man, and individualized. The history of language leaves this 'trail' the same way the meteor lights its path through the night sky. Moreover, this trail then becomes an arrow pointing backward and: "We are inevitable taken back, behind the prehistorical, to what is perhaps best called the "primeval" period; or, in other words to nature herself...As a result, we find ourselves with a nature very different from the nature assumed by the evolutionists. But the odd thing is that, once one has got over the shock, this nature turns out to be more, not less, like the nature we actually see, hear, and smell and generally experience around us - easier, not harder, to believe in than theirs!".
"The plain fact is that if we really look at nature - if we really observe her without the tabu at the back of our minds - there is nothing whatever to suggest that she has no inside"."
As we progress further into the Mystery of the True White Brother, even more evidence will come forward in support of these ideas.