Here’s another excerpt from Owen Barfield‘s Poetic Diction: A Study in Meaning. I’m quoting it in partial answer to a comment posted by Joel Jacobson in reply to my just previous post, asking what I meant by “technological rationalism,” which I had claimed was one of two powerful fundamentalisms at work in America today, the other being “religious unreason”. I replied to Joel in the comment stream, but not very clearly, and I’m hoping that Barfield can provide a context for what I was driving at:
Now although, without the rational principle, neither truth nor knowledge could ever have been, but only Life itself, yet that principle alone cannot add on iota to knowledge. It can clear up obscurities, it can measure and enumerate with greater and ever greater precision, it can preserve us in the dignity and responsibility of our individual existences. But in no sense can it be said to expand consciousness. Only the poetic can do this: only poesy, pouring into language its creative intuitions, can preserve its living meaning and prevent it from crystalizing into a kind of algebra. ‘If it were not for the Poetic or Prophetic character,’ wrote William Blake, ‘the philosophic and experimental would soon be at the ratio of all things, and stand still, unable to do other than repeat the same dull round.’ Like some others of the mystics, he had grasped without much difficulty the essential nature of meaning. For all meaning flows from the creative principle […] whether it lives on, as given and remembered, or is re-introduced by the individualized creative faculty, the analogy-perceiving, metaphor-making imagination. In Platonic terms we should say that the rational principle can increase understanding, and it can increase true opinion, but it can never increase knowledge.
Actually, I’m not sure that will help, because one really needs to have read the entire book to receive the full impact of Barfield’s insight.