Simply put, logomorphism is the fallacious habit
"at present extraordinarily widespread, being indeed taken for granted
in all the most reputable circles" of "projecting post-logical thoughts
back into a pre-logical age" (PD 90), of surreptitiously substituting
our own phenomena for those which [our predecessors] were in fact dealing
with" (SA 45). More broadly, logomorphism occurs when we read--anachronistically--into
the experience, the thought, the literature of a given stage in the evolution
of consciousness the "logos," or world-view
of a later age. in Blakean language, logomorphism is a "spectre"
"The world-picture of modern science," as Sanderson
explains in Worlds Apart, "is a fallacy, if we project it back into
the past; and if we try to fix it for the future" (WA 134). Logomorphism
leads to all sorts of absurdities, of which Barfield took note throughout
his career. In the book in which he first coined the term (Poetic Diction
Barfield discovers our thinking about the mythic to be logomorphic.
In Worlds Apart, it is the work of a contemporary
scientist that is guilty of logomorphism. There, Burgeon asks incredulously,
The remoter ancestors of Homer, we
are given to understand, observing that it was darker in winter than in
summer, immediately decided that there must be some "cause" for this "phenomenon,"
and had no difficulty in tossing off the "theory" of, Demeter
and Persephone, to account for it.
. . Imagination, history, bare common sense--these it seems, are as nothing
beside the paramount necessity that the great Mumbo Jumbo, the patent double-million
magnifying Inductive Method, should be allowed to continue contemplating
its own ideal reflection--a golden age in which every man was his own Newton,
in a world dripping with apples. (PD 90)
In the following exchange (also from Worlds
Apart), Burgeon dismantles, with Socratic panache, the logomorphic
thinking of the physicist Brodie, reducing it to absurdity:
How could the chap [biologist J.
Z. Young] who delivered the Reith lectures a few years ago--Doubt
and Certainty in Science, I think they were called--talk in one lecture
about "a man-world of observers and the relations between them" and tell
us to remember that our favourite "real" world was only invented in the
seventeenth century--and then fill the very next lecture with descriptions
of the world as it was before man existed? What world did he think he was
talking about? The one that that was invented in the seventeenth century,
or some other? (WA 55-56)
[Burgeon]. I wonder if I have really
understood what you mean by primary and secondary qualities. I have been
assuming that in place of "primary qualities" we could equally well say
"the fact of the matter" or "external reality" or something like that and
vice versa, but that in the case of the secondary qualities, though we
do not hold them to be unreal, we could not do that because they are also
appearances or semblances depending on the senses and the mind or brain
[Brodie]. Yes, that is quite right.
In such illogical "scientistic" thinking, Burgeon
later notes, with trenchant sarcasm, "the human mind has succeeded in creating
a sort of monster, like Frankenstein. Only Frankenstein never got so far
as going about telling everybody that the monster existed before he was
born and was in fact his father" (WA 88)
[Burgeon]. Then I repeat that it must have
been a great hardship for these learned men that, just about the time when
the frontiers of time were burst through and they might have started writing
histories of this solid earth and of the solid plants and animals on it
and so forth with all their different colours and shapes and other qualities--histories
extending back for millions of years instead of only a few thousands--all
this great enterprise had to be abandoned.
[Brodie]. Why should it be abandoned?
[Burgeon]. Because henceforth it seems that
any history of such things must either be a history of numbers, or quantities,
or something of that sort, or else it must largely be a history of men's
minds and eyes and their other senses. Whereas if, for example, solidity
had not been discovered to be secondary quality, very learned and exciting
accounts could have been given of a solid earth and solid rocks and plants
and animals and so forth on its surface, as they were millions of years
before men and their minds were generated from them.
[Brodie]. You say many such accounts could
have been given; but many have been given and they are still being given.
Masses of evidence have been accumulated and only the details of it are
[Burgeon]. I see. I suppose, then, that this
evidence comes to us in some other way than through our senses and our
minds. . . . I am just wondering what your opinion is about those men who
knowing, not through their unaided senses but with the help of microscopes
and other precision instruments, all about the difference between the primary
qualities and the secondary qualities of the earth, nevertheless account
for those secondary qualities by showing how they came into being before
any minds or senses existed. (77, 79)
There is a simple cure for logomorphic thinking,
however: the "realization of how much younger is the Tree of Knowledge
than the Tree of Life" (PD 90). With that realization comes a true
understanding of the evolution of consciousness.
|See in particular
Poetic Diction, passim,
Apart, pp. 64-87.