The Rediscovery of Meaning is a volume of a collection of essays by Owen Barfield listed here.
Here is a video on Owen Barfield and the meaning crisis. It includes many video clips discussing the history of knowledge from our modern Western perspective. Barfield notes the feeling of meaninglessness that was coming to prominence in the twentieth century and continues on. He asks:
How is it that the more man becomes able to manipulate the world to his advantage the less he can perceive any meaning in it?
The scientific revolution brought with it a time of regarding the universe as mechanical and mindless. We as subjects observe a lifeless objective universe whereas previously through Aristotle there was an understanding of a cosmos filled with intensions. Now any sign of will or purpose has been excluded from most of the history of the universe. The universe is understood using the language of mathematics.
We live in a mathematical universe in which secondary properties like love and beauty are an afterthought. We have become disconnected from the world. We now look out at a mechanical reality as far as our instruments can probe, we have come to regard our own selves as machines. Now even our thoughts are nothing more than wired circuits making and breaking in a few pounds of fleshy microchips and logic gates, All this energetic activity encased in the bony box which nods on the atlas in agreement with this conclusion, just like the nodding dog on the parcel shelf of your grannie’s car.
Blind mechanical laws rule.
Malcom Guite quotes Barfield,
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information, where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
We have, of necessity, become detached and alienated from nature. Guite and Barfield are asking us to learn from the previous participatory relationship, leave behind our exclusive onlooker consciousness, and to gain a participatory understanding with our new found individual self conscious awareness.
Our modern scientific knowledge gives us the letters of nature. Through participation we can form the words and begin to read the script of nature. And that is what Goethe was doing with his “gentle empiricism”. With our mind’s eye we become free from living in the moment and we can make connections that allow us to see the contexts which overcome the idolatry of a restrictive physicalism.
Grasp the knowledge gained by the modern scientific understanding and continue on. Learn to read the script and take the words seriously, “Tat Tvam Asi”, “Thou Art That”.