In his 1925 fairy-tale The Silver Trumpet, Owen Barfield expressed mythically what he would later expound philosophically in Saving the Appearances: A Study in Idolatry:
The life of the image should be none other than the life of imagination.
In other words, without imagination images are dead. Imagination is their lifeblood. Their substance. Their content.
When we look at the phenomena and confuse their appearance for what they represent, we take life out of them. The images are lost. They have been turned into idols by our refusal to see through them.
The moment I say: “The appearance of the tree equals the tree,” I am making an assumption that there’s nothing else to the tree than meets the eye. This mental concept is no more than an assumption (I don’t really know if the appearance of a tree equals a tree).
But I choose to see the tree through a non-participatory lens. In doing so, I refuse to go from an image to imagination.
I refuse to transcend the images with imagination (properly speaking, with faith as the ability to see the invisible). I refuse to go beyond the symbol to what it symbolizes. I take a sign for the thing it points to.
In The Silver Trumpet, this curious relationship between an image and imagination is captured in the relationship between Prince Courtesy and Princess Violet.Continue reading “From Image to Imagination – Transcending Modern-Day Idolatry in Owen Barfield’s Fairy-Tale The Silver Trumpet”