Imagery of Regent people and campus

Owen A. Barfield Visits Regent University

By Brett Wilson | August 28, 2014

Owen A. Barfield.
Photo courtesy of Tim Kay.

C.S. Lewis, in his book, The Great War, describes two types of friendship. The first, "the other me," Lewis describes as an individual whose beliefs and attitude are in sync with one's own. The second is the anti-self, a friend who challenges one's thought-process and ideals. Owen Barfield, philosopher, poet, author, and confidant of Lewis fell into the latter category.

On Tuesday, August 26, the Regent University Library in tandem with the School of Communication & the Arts (COM) and the School of Divinity (DIV) celebrated the work of Barfield through a visit with his only grandson and namesake, Owen A. Barfield.

Dr. Michael Elam, assistant professor in the College of Arts & Sciences, and visiting lecturer Dr. Michael Di Fuccia '10 (DIV) sparked conversation and thought about Barfield's "insights into imagination." This event, according to Dr. Sara Baron, dean of the University Library, is what positions the library to be a true partner in the academic and intellectual life on campus.

"This discussion with faculty from several schools and a wonderful guest all contributing to our understanding of Owen Barfield, C. S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and other Inklings, was a perfect interdisciplinary learning experience," said Baron.

According to Barfield, just as "iron sharpens iron," so did the friendship shared between his grandfather and Lewis strengthen each other's intellect and influence one another's work. The two met at Oxford University, where Barfield finally found his intellectual counterpart in Lewis.

Barfield explained that the two intellectuals understood that they were writing for different audiences. Lewis was writing for contemporary audience of 1940s London, Barfield didn't expect the publications of his philosophies to be interpreted until well into the 2030-2040 time period.

"Lewis' work was like a signpost to Grandfather's," said Barfield. "And if you understand Lewis, you can go just a little further to appreciate his work."

As a trustee of his grandfather's estate, Barfield made his work public, publishing 15 of his books. According to Barfield, his grandfather's friendship with Lewis is referred to in at least half of his written works.

His grandfather's life had three phases. For the first 33 years he was a poet; the second phase he was a lawyer, helping his father sort through legal matters in his practice.

"Being in the real world changed his perspective," said Barfield. "He knew that his work wasn't just for Inklings in the pub, but it was for everyone."

Barfield's grandfather spent the third and last phase of his life as a professor in America, where he was "surprisingly well-received."

"That was his best and his happiest phase," said Barfield. "He was like a boy in his old age." While many remember Barfield as an esteemed philosopher nearly 100 years ahead of his time, his grandson remembers him as the man who took him on nature walks.

"He was someone who just knew the names of things," said Barfield. "The birds, trees, he just knew everything."

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