The Uncertain Legacy of Owen Barfield by Dale Nelson

The Uncertain Legacy of Owen Barfield

Owen Barfield: Man and Meaning
Documentary video (VHS) produced by G. B. Tennyson for OwenArts Productions
Approx. 40 min., 1996. Available from OwenArts, P. O. Box 260038, Encino, CA 91426. $43.00. (Includes transcript booklet.)

reviewed by Dale Nelson

Many people who look into the writings of Owen Barfield, who died last December at the age of 99, are C. S. Lewis admirers who are curious about this man who was Lewis’s close friend throughout his adult life, from 1919 until Lewis’s death in 1963. Barfield was Lewis’s legal and financial advisor, and he became an executor of his estate. Lewis dedicated his first scholarly book, The Allegory of Love (1936) to this “wisest and best of my unofficial teachers,” stating in its preface that he asked no more than to disseminate Barfield’s literary theory and practice. He also dedicated the first Narnian chronicle to his friend’s adopted daughter Lucy. In his autobiography, Surprised by Joy, Lewis portrayed Arthur Greeves as the First Friend, who reveals that one is not alone in the world in one’s imaginative outlook, and Barfield as the Second Friend, the one who never fails to challenge and to prod one to new understanding. In the thirteenth and fourteenth of the Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, Lewis draws on a recent book of Barfield’s to elucidate the “ontological continuity between Creator and creature” versus the “union of wills which, under Grace, is reached by a life of sanctity.”

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