Have you ever felt, after watching movies based on J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis: “Hmm… is something amiss?” Here’s what I think is going on.
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In our day and age, when so much of true art is being eviscerated and trivialized, the words of George MacDonald become increasingly poignant:
“A genuine work of art must mean many things; the truer its art, the more things it will mean.”
“One difference between God’s work and man’s is that, while God’s work cannot mean more than he meant, man’s must mean more than he meant.”
George MacDonald, a Scottish author, poet, and founder of mythopoetry believed that all true art must mean more than it says. In other words, true art is a fractal — you look at one piece and suddenly recognize the same patterns everywhere.
True art expands indefinitely.
G.K. Chesterton said something very similar:
The one created thing which we cannot look at is the one thing in the light of which we look at everything. Like the sun at noonday, mysticism explains everything else by the blaze of its own victorious invisibility. G.K. Chesterton (Orthodoxy)
There is a secret literary theory behind the fantasy worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Owen Barfield who believed that when words are spoken aright, they invoke the invisible reality from behind the veil of the world.
Words effect what they name.
In his 1925 fairy-tale The Silver Trumpet, Owen Barfield, “the first and the last Inkling,” coined a metaphor of the silver trumpet to capture the idea of the ultimate mystical experience that produces a tectonic shift of consciousness in a human being.
The Inklings called this ultimate mystical experience “poetic imagination.”
Owen Barfield’s “Silver Trumpet” seems to represent a perfect doorway into the invisible realm — a shift of consciousness produced by an encounter with a Sound.
It is a mystical vision which, according to Chesterton, illumines everything by the “blaze of its own victorious invisibility.”
True knowledge is a relationship. It’s participatory at its core. According to Owen Barfield, we need to stop taking images (the visible world) literally and start seeing them as signposts pointing to a larger reality.
We must see the world mystically and mythically. Like true art, the world always means more than it says!
The Silver Trumpet is Owen Barfield’s metaphor for a tectonic shift of consciousness that happens to a person when he or she is awakened from the spell of unconsciousness by the Music from the invisible realm.
This magical Sound breaks into this world through some physical medium — an image — but the transformed consciousness goes beyond images, saves them, and communes with the Music of the spheres.
This encounter with The Sound is a call from beyond the veil of the world, which Tolkien described as the primary reality.