This, from the introduction to the Owen Barfield reader:
Both as a writer and a thinker Barfield grounds his thought in language and literature. It is the subject of his earliest writing and remains throughout his career the seedbed from which his thinking grows. It was during his Oxford years that he realized that he had “very sharp” experiences in reading poetry and as a result began pondering intensely the nature of these experiences. He determined that they lay in “a felt change of consciousness” brought about by the way in which the language of poetry alters our awareness and ultimately our knowledge. This led to a concentrated study of the development of language and the nature of poetic diction. Such study led in turn to his interest in the nature of imagination,of meaning, of perception, and of the evolution of consciousness.
I find this very interesting. He read some poetry that he really liked one day and it stuck in his head. Now, most of us do this all the time. We hear some music we like, we read a story we love as a child, maybe we are accosted by something we see in a movie. And then we go on with life, maybe seeking out more things like it on occasion.
Barfield stopped and said, OK, there is something magical about this poetry. Why? Why the heck does it affect me in some strange way? He decided to dig deep into psychology and linguistics to come up with some kind of coherent answer.
Tolkien and Lewis were delighted to find they had the same peciliar feeling, when, as young men, they read the Matthew Arnold poem on the death of the norse god Balder. Later, when they read Barfield, they both declared, “Yes! That’s it. This explains what was going on.” His work and theories helped steer their own writing the rest of their lives.