A Secret History of Christianity: Jesus, the Last Inkling, and the Evolution of Consciousness

Narrated by: Mark Vernon
Length: 6 hrs and 45 mins
Categories: History, World
4.5 out of 5 stars (5 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

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.

©2019 Mark Vernon (P)2019 Mark Vernon

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Fascinating

I occasionally get an offer to obtain a book for free on the condition I provide a review, and that's the case here. Every once in awhile I find a gem, and this is one of them. Owen Barfield, the "Inkling" the author cites as a launch point for the book, theorized that humanity's development occurred in leaps at specific periods of time. Judaism's development occurred during the early Axial age and was largely "peoplehood" oriented, and Christianity following the development of Greek thought, which over time placed individuality in the forefront. The author presents us with a clear, and I think accurate, enriching and enlightening understanding of the historical development of Judaism and Christianity, as far as how Jews and Christians thought about religion, G-d, and the world around them, in the context of these leaps. Eventually, Christianity evolved as a combination of Jewish and Greek philosophies, explaining some of the clashes in values that confuse us so much today, resulting in religion being left behind as a useful contribution to our lives. Nevertheless the author provides hints on how persons alive today can participate in a new "leap" based on the two previous ones. Just as Christianity was modified in the centuries following Jesus to take a shape and form given to it by Apostles, so too today individuals are well positioned to syncretize once more a way forward. It seems to me that this is the approach taken in Jewish thought, from its start until now. Somehow, in the author's mind this form of syncretizing seems to be absent in Judaism. I therefore don't understand what's "new" in grasping for answers in Greek thought, when Jewish thinkers (Jesus included) from the Talmudic period onward dabbled there and in Persian, Babylonian and European thought as well. Jesus was simply doing what Jews do, and did. Rather, Christianity as we know it and the incorporation of Jesus as a divinity in human form seems to me to be unnecessary to the author's case, that persons today can benefit from Christianity in ways that for now they seem to be ignoring. If you want to live like Jesus, why not do so and try to understand his Judaism? If you want to integrate today's influences, why not do so from that place of understanding of Jesus as a syncretist, rather than from the one offered up in the New Testament by its authors? As fascinating and as enriching as this book is - and I highly recommend reading it - and even though he built his points convincingly inasmuch as he's advising us to embrace religion as the means by which we tackle the unknown (which is to say, recognizing the limits of science to do so) while shaping and improving our inner lives and awareness and cooperation with others, I think bringing forward Christianity specifically as an antidote needed to be considered with other alternatives. It could be he'd conclude the same, but I think starting with the supposition weakens the conclusion. So, awesome book. Highly recommended, for persons of all beliefs.

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  • Mark
  • 10-10-19

deep stuff

I must admit I was given this book as a gift. I have a theology degree and a history of once being a priest, like the author. I found it fascinating as it covered so much about biblical exegesis that I had never touched on within my training.
The whole idea of original participation really made me think and helped me understand how ancient faiths were sustained and how often they still are. A desire to sink yourself into an all immersing belief system is still alive...think football matches, extinction rebellion, Daesh. Humans sometimes desire a solid and all consuming system to devour them and make decisions for them.....many do not. I am one of the latter. I think this book is not for the faint hearted, it needs a certain understanding of the Christian faith to get the most out of it. I also realised that as a man of no faith belief in a transcendent deity that whilst I understood the concept and the excellent scholarship I was not moved towards belief again, it just confirmed by absence of religious belief. However I really enjoyed the academic journey. It reminded me to become more aware of the faith of others, rather than ignoring it.

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  • Mrs Kristina McKeown
  • 10-07-19

Christianity in a new light

Turned my understanding of Christianity on its head. Fascinating and well read by the author.

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  • Jonathan
  • 09-13-19

Interesting perspective

I recieved a review copy of this book which is interesting and well narrated. The author presents an interesting idea, but a lot of the assertions do not feel well supported.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 12-18-19

Insightful and revitalizing!

A fascinating and insightful look into the deep, philosophical truths of Christianity. Mark Vernon has revived something of the integrity of an impoverished and dwindling faith tradition.