Secret History of Christianity, A
The forgotten story of Christianity, inward sight and life in all its fullness today.
Christianity is in crisis in the West. The Inkling friend of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, Owen Barfield, analysed why. He developed an account of our spiritual predicament that is radical and illuminating.
Barfield realized that the human experience of life shifts fundamentally over periods of cultural time. Our perception of nature, the cosmos and the divine changes dramatically across history.
Mark Vernon uses this startling insight to tell the inner story of 3000 years of Christianity, beginning from the earliest Biblical times. Drawing, too, on the latest scholarship and spiritual questions of our day, he presents a gripping account of how Christianity constellated a new perception of what it is to be human. For 1500 years, this sense of things informed many lives, though it fell into crisis with the Reformation, scientific revolution and Enlightenment.
But the story does not stop there. Barfield realised that there is meaning in the disenchantment and alienation experienced by many people today. It is part of a process that is remaking our sense of participation in the life of nature, the cosmos and the divine. It's a new stage in the evolution of human consciousness.
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Refreshing. Five stars! If I could give it more stars I would. Mark has transformed Jesus, the Bible, religion and God from a turgid swamp of paranoia into a refreshing breeze which wakes us up, lifts the spirits and encourages us to live fully, creatively and happily, even in the face of the myriad follies of modern life. "A Secret History of Christianity" covers sociology, philosophy, history, psychology, science, philology, theology, religion and anthropology. If you have an interest in any one of these topics you will find much to please you in this volume. Mark interweaves all these disciplines beautifully into a coherent exposition of his thesis that one must strive to enter the felt or mystical centre, common to all religions but "hard to see even when plainly spelt out". With great quotes throughout and references to Art and Poetry, Mark builds his case. Improve the clarity of your own vision. Read it. ~ Dee Bee (Educator), NetGalley
In a short space, and in a remarkably lucid style considering the intellectual heft of his subject matter, Mark Vernon brings together a great many insights into Christianity which, if not entirely new, he puts in a new light with reference to the peculiar philosophy of Owen Barfield. If, like me, you’ve tried tackling Barfield on the strength of his reputation (for instance, coming to his works via Verlyn Flieger’s seminal treatment in Splintered Light: Logos and Language in Tolkien’s World) and found his writing difficult to get into, Vernon’s approach here is welcome. He eschews the more academic, close-reading analysis of major texts in favor of a richly allusive introduction to them. In Vernon’s encouraging retelling, we get the context for the Christian story from its Hebrew and Greek roots through to its efflorescence, reformation, and decline as a religious and cultural force, rapidly bringing us all the way from the prophets and Plato right up to the present moment. ~ Wesley Schantz, A Pilgrim in Narnia blog
"In this account, Christianity is not so much an argument but a new way of being in the world. Vernon is not particularly interested in using Barfield to mount an intellectual defence of the Christian faith — it’s more like an invitation to dance... "Vernon’s work is a joy to read and a marvellous place to start." ~ Madeleine Ward, Theos Think Tank
In this remarkable and timely book Mark Vernon helps us to recover a lost tradition in the Christian faith. At a time when the outer forms of Christianity seem to be in a state of exhaustion and confusion, he recalls us to an inner experience of Christ, a call to transformation of both vision and consciousness. In doing so he brings back into central focus neglected thinkers like Owen Barfield, poets and mystics like Blake and Traherne. He offers us a movement from the outer to the inner, from discourse about faith to a lived sense of the inner life of the Kingdom. ~ Malcolm Guite, poet and author of Mariner, the biography of Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Mark Vernon’s A Secret History of Christianity rescues Owen Barfield from undeserved obscurity in the shadows of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis but in the process does so much more than that. By tracking Barfield’s careful attention to how words are used and what they say about the users, he lifts our eyes, expands our horizons and reintroduces imagination into our shared religious life. We are richer for reading him, and Barfield, and listening carefully to what they have to say. ~ Nick Spencer, author of The Evolution of the West, and Research Director, Theos
Mark Vernon provides fresh insights into the role of Judaism, ancient Greek philosophy, Jesus Christ, Church history, mysticism and imagination in the evolution of Western consciousness. His book gives an intriguing new perspective on where we are today. A brilliant overview. ~ Rupert Sheldrake, PhD, biologist and author of The Science Delusion
This is a book I wish I had written. Mark Vernon offers a forensic diagnosis of the Church’s ills and invites us to recover an authentic and life-giving Christianity. ~ Angela Tilby, Church Times columnist, author, and Canon Emeritus of Christ Church, Oxford
Mark Vernon's A Secret History of Christianity introduces us to two individuals whom he eloquently argues embody a vital, creative response to the spiritual malaise of our time. One we have heard of and think we know, the other is practically unknown. Their names are Jesus Christ and Owen Barfield. The Jesus you'll find in this urgent, thoughtful work may surprise you, but the real surprise is Barfield. Why isn't such an insightful and necessary thinker better known? Vernon answers that question and among other things shows that by getting to know Barfield we may get to know a rather different Jesus too. ~ Gary Lachman, author of Lost Knowledge of the Imagination and Dark Star Rising
Running as the golden thread through Mark Vernon's remarkable panorama of Christianity are the extraordinary heterodoxies of Owen Barfield, last of the Inklings and in some ways the greatest. In this thrilling overview Vernon explores how the fulcrums in the history of human consciousness lead to radical deployments in our cosmogenies. Crucial to this is the sweep of human imagination and here Barfield joins hands with the other Inklings in their insistence that beyond our mundane sphere lie far richer worlds invisible. ~ Simon Conway Morris, Professor of Palaeobiology, University of Cambridge
In this fascinating study, Mark Vernon reminds us of the often overlooked truth of the Christian faith - that it is not there to inform us but to form us. Introducing us to the thought of Owen Barfield and the need for mystics in a flat time, this is a celebration of the 'wholespeak' of poetic belief and not the 'narrowspeak' of so much that peddles itself as religion in our day. The secret is, as Mother Maria Skobtsova said, 'Either Christianity is fire or there is no such thing'. ~ Mark Oakley, Dean, St John's College, Cambridge
Mark Vernon has bravely stepped forward to point out what my grandfather called the taboo subject of our era; namely that people's experience of being alive evolves over time and that the pivotal moment of human evolution was two millennia ago. He invites us to step up and share the bigger view of incarnational awareness. From this new perspective, the secret history of Christianity is revealed. ~ Owen A. Barfield, grandson of Owen Barfield
An extremely illuminating book, which takes the reader on a revelatory journey to the spiritual heart of Christianity, uncovering its connection to ancient Greek philosophy and other spiritual traditions. Mark Vernon is such a fluent and clear writer that he makes profound spiritual and esoteric concepts completely accessible. ~ Steve Taylor, author of The Leap, Spiritual Science and other books.