How Owen Barfield Saved The Appearance Of Princess Violetta In The Silver Trumpet

A book with rivers flowing out of it

Once upon a time there were two little Princesses whose names were Violetta and Gambetta; and they lived in Mountainy Castle. They were twins, and they were so like each other that when Violetta came in from a walk with her feet wet, Gambetta was sometimes told to go and change her stockings…

The Silver Trumpet

So opens The Silver Trumpet, a fairy-tale written by Owen Barfield in 1925. It was his first published book and the first fantasy book ever published by the Inklings. According to the author himself, he felt that in all his books he was “saying the same thing over and over again.” But what is this “one thing” he was saying over and over again? And how did he say it in The Silver Trumpet?

The Silver Trumpet is a mythical depiction of what Owen Barfield would later unfold in his other works and, in some way, a prelude to what seems to be the overall message of the Inklings — the world is God’s music clad in matter. In Saving the Appearances, Barfield points out that we live in the world of unsaved images — images that have been taken literally and turned into idols.


The images (or appearances) we observe around us are so much “like” the things they represent that we have a hard time distinguishing between them. We take a representation for the reality behind it. For us, the image and the thing it represents look alike, almost indistinguishable — like the two little princesses, Violetta and Gambetta, who were so like each other that even the Queen had a hard time distinguishing them.

The Queen used to be so fussed and worried by the confusion that, what with one thing and another, she persuaded the King to appoint a special Lord to distinguish between them [the princesses]. And he was called the Lord High Teller of the Other from Which.

The Lord High Teller of the Other from Which was the only one who noticed the difference between the two princesses. But it was not in their appearances but in what transpired through the appearances.

Moreover, he “knew a thing or two about the magic power of names,” and so he found a way to tell the two princesses apart — by changing their names. By calling them Violet and Gamboy he brought out into the light of day what was otherwise invisible — the princesses were “as different inside as a Church and a Booking Office.”

In Barfield’s mind, the two little princesses who were almost identical in appearance represent the confusion of the modern mind about observable phenomena. We tend to equate appearances with the reality they point to. This anthroposophical dilemma Owen Barfield would later explore in Saving the Appearances: A Study in Idolatry. 

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The Third Theme of the Music of Iluvatar – a Mighty Echo of Owen Barfield’s “Final Participation”

Sunrise over a lake

If there is one connective tissue between the fantasy imaginations of the Inklings, it is the theme of our participation in the Divine Music – the Music of Iluvatar.

The worlds of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Owen Barfield are born in Music and governed by Music.

In Tolkien’s legendarium, the Ainur descend into Arda, the created Realm, as individual themes of the Music of Iluvatar to behold their unique part becoming incarnate in the visible elements of air, earth, water, and other substances.

Enamored of their part in the celestial symphony, the Ainur follow this “music-made-flesh” into Arda and dwell therein because each yearns to participate in the Divine Thought.

They didn’t yet know how the Music would end – the only thing they knew was that the discord of Melkor would somehow be resolved by the coming of the Second-born to whom Iluvatar gave “strange gifts.”

The Third and final theme in the Music of Iluvatar announces the coming of Men in a soft, slow, and immeasurably sorrowful theme, from which its beauty chiefly comes.

How does Narnia start?

C.S. Lewis’s Narnia also begins in Music, the Song of Aslan, which is “the deeper magic” of his fantasy world – the magic of growing that opposes the black magic of domination.

Aslan sings his world into existence, and all the stars join him in the Song.

Owen Barfield’s The Silver Trumpet is a metaphor for the Music from the invisible realm that awakens us from the spell of unconsciousness when we hear the call. Its call is irresistible and shatters all man-made idols, or the “unsaved images,” so our transformed consciousness can commune with the Music.

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How Nature Helps Us to Dissolve Ego Without Fighting It

A lake encircled by mountains

How do you dissolve Ego without fighting it?

What you resist persists.

All attempts to fight ego will ultimately strengthen it.

What you focus on gets energized. Ego cannot be suppressed; it can only be transcended.

How do you dissolve Ego without fighting it?

It dissolves by itself when we no longer need it for our sense of self. It gets bigger every time we feel we need it for the survival of our Self.

It melts away when we encounter a loving Presence and lose ourselves in Wonder.

This year, I felt it most acutely at Lake Tahoe – the place we go to for a short break from the stifling heat of summer in Houston.

June and July were oppressively hot and humid this year. As the muck intensified, I was yearning for vacation. When I am tired or feel stuck in the rat race of life, Ego shows its ugly head.

It’s hard not to think about yourself when you feel you lack something.

I tend to get irritated, impatient, frustrated, demanding, anxious, and perfectionistic. I may look calm, but I churn inside.

What are the signs of true humility?

C.S. Lewis said:

True humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.

But how do you think of yourself less without thinking less of yourself?

How do you diminish yourself without demeaning yourself?

How do you hush your Ego down without putting a gag in its mouth?

How do you harness your Ego without resisting it?

Can you just talk it into quieting down without making it into your enemy?

It turns out, the art of humility – thinking of yourself less – cannot be achieved through willpower. But it comes naturally when we are smitten by Wonder.

The Greek word for “beauty” — kalos — has the same root as the verb “to call” — kaleo. Beauty calls. Kalos kaleo. The true function of Beauty is to call – to call us out of ourselves by the magnetic pull of Wonder.

As I stood by the quaint jewel of the Sierra Nevada, Echo Lake, I was smitten by its turquoise-to-azure waters set against the backdrop of gorgeous snow-topped mountains with their granite arms outstretched far and wide around the Desolation Wilderness in the most exquisite embrace.

I felt dwarfed, quieted, struck dumb, and ecstatic all at the same time.

I couldn’t think about myself at that moment – and I didn’t need to.  

I forgot myself entirely – I was one with the Whole.

I was diminished but not belittled. And I felt great.

All the irritation, impatience, frustration, anxiety, and perfectionism were gone. I was pulled out of myself, soaking in the ecstasy of the moment.

The Greek word for “ecstasy” (ekstasis) literally means “to stand outside of or transcend oneself.”

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What Led Anakin To The Dark Side – Can “Good” Lead to Evil?

Anakin Skywalker

Like any true myth, the story about Anakin Skywalker turning to the dark side is compelling in its overwhelming persuasiveness. What led Anakin to the dark side?

C.S. Lewis once wrote in a letter to Peter Milward that a good myth is

“a story out of which varying meanings will grow for different readers and in different ages.”  

And then he added that a myth is not really dependent on the words in which it is told or the art form in which it is conveyed. It’s not the narrative itself that makes the myth convincing but something much more elusive. 

“The narrative is more of a net whereby we catch something else.”


What led Anakin to the dark side?

What I caught in the net of the Star Wars myth is HOW Anakin was led to the dark side — it happened, oddly enough, through his inordinate desire for something good.

As a young boy he swore a solemn oath at his mother’s grave: “When I grow up, I will become strong and will never let my loved ones suffer and die.” 

This oath marked his transition to the dark side long before it happened in chronological time. At that moment, a bargain was struck in his soul for the possession of a loved one in exchange for breaking God’s law.

At that moment, he made a decision for himself to never ever part with his loved ones again, no matter the cost. The perfectly good desire — to protect his loved ones from death — turned in him into a demonic possession when he put it on a pedestal.

As Tim Keller said, an idol is a good thing turned into the ultimate thing.

An idol is usually a good thing that we make ultimate. We say, “Unless I have that, I am nothing.”


Why did Anakin choke Padme?

When Anakin had to choose between losing Padme — fearing that she might die in childbirth — or turning to evil to “save” her from death, he chose evil. It was his desire to “save” her at all costs that led Anakin to the dark side. For him, the dark side became a means of saving his loved one. He chose evil to achieve what he thought was the ultimate good. 

Ironically, this led to Padme’s death. He choke the one he wanted to save with his own hands. When we turn a good thing into the ultimate thing and try to get it at all costs, we lose that good thing — destroy it with our own hands.

Such is the harsh logic of idolatry. We are captivated by some version of good and turn it into the “summum bonum” — without noticing it. And then everything becomes a means to an end, a sacrifice offered on the altar of this god. 

A wise man once said that a myth is something everyone knows without being told. This “story” lives in humanity’s collective unconscious, and we all instantly recognize it once it is put in the form of a narrative.

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How to Be a Friend to Your Own Child

No doubt, there is a time when you need to be a parent to your children, but there comes a time when you can become their friend. Being a parent is about exercising control, being a friend is about letting go of control. Being a parent means you attach a child to yourself, being a friend means you let them go so they can come back to you of their own accord. The paradox of parenting is that you bind a child to yourself when they are little, so that you can let them go when they grow up.

When I think about my relationships with my kids, I have to come to grips with one thing – if I wish to be their friend, not just a parent, they must choose me for a friend. Unlike parents, friends are chosen, not given. And this has to be a free choice on their part, with no compulsion, coercion or manipulation on mine. Such is the nature of friendship – it’s a free choice, not out of necessity or obligation, but because a person’s soul resonates with your heart and mind.

C.S. Lewis wrote: “I have no duty to be anyone’s Friend and no man in the world has a duty to be mine. No claims, no shadow of necessity. Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art, like the universe itself.” Friendship can only thrive when someone’s inner world is attractive to you in and of itself. It’s true that my children are 100% dependent on me, and I could have forced them to “be my friend”. But that’s not what I want. I don’t want to say to them: “Be my friend, or you will regret it.” Friendship, unlike parenthood, is the opposite of dependence. Continue reading “How to Be a Friend to Your Own Child”

Loneliness – Social Media Exploits Your Need of Validation

According to G.K. Chesterton, truth is often paradoxical. It’s hard to believe that the problem of loneliness is actually rooted in too much interaction.

But this is what Sean Parker’s uncanny insight seems to suggest. Sean Parker is the founding president of Facebook. He explained in an interview why it’s so hard to resist the impulse to constantly check your social media – even while you are driving.

He shared how social media gradually hook you up.

“When Facebook was getting going, I had these people who would come up to me and they would say, ‘I’m not on social media.’ And I would say, ‘OK. You know, you will be.’” Now that this prediction is more than fulfilled, the question is even more intriguing.

Social Media AddictionSocial Media Addiction Engineering

How did they do it?

Sean explains that the founders used basic human psychology – our need for approval. Social media are nothing but a social-validation feedback loop.

It works like this – the moment you contribute some content and people like it, share it or comment on it, you get a little dopamine hit. This makes you want to contribute more content, which, in turn, gives you another hit.

You want more likes and comments. We all like to be liked (who knew?) – and social media provides that.

This fact is not easy to swallow – social media work because we are seeking validation. When we feel lonely, cut off, isolated, we want to get rid of this feeling at all costs. But does “interaction” on social media actually help us solve the problem of loneliness?

Far from it. Of course, we will temporarily feel “high.” Like a shot of whisky, it will medicate the distressing feeling of loneliness for a while. But when its tranquilizing effects wear off, we will feel even emptier than before, craving for more validation.

More likes, more comments, more shares. Our inner void will be growing and gradually become a gaping hole, an insatiable inner monster that gets hungrier with every attempt to feed it. Continue reading “Loneliness – Social Media Exploits Your Need of Validation”