The fame of Owen Barfield (1898–1997) rests on two things. The first is a series of remarkable books, the best known of which are History in English Words, Poetic Diction, and Saving the Appearances. The second is a group of high-profile friends and admirers that include C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Saul Bellow, and the historian John Lukacs. One naturally expects these two things—the books he wrote and the company he kept—to figure largely in any Barfield biography.

In Simon Blaxland de Lange’s biography, they do, though there is a third part of the Barfieldian legacy that has frustrated many who otherwise admire the man and the writer. This is Barfield’s almost lifelong commitment to Anthroposophy, an offshoot of the Theosophical movement founded in Germany by Rudolf Steiner in 1913 (Barfield joined the English Branch of the Anthroposophical Society in 1923). His commitment to...


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