From the perspective of Owen Barfield (1898-1997; best friend of CS Lewis and ‘the philosopher’ among The Inklings of Oxford); there has been an evolution of human consciousness from the beginnings of Man (the state he calls Original Participation) until now. Barfield never wrote about Mormonism, so far as I know – and exhibits no knowledge of Mormon scriptures, doctrines or theology – but Mormonism can be understood to have a clear place in Barfield’s historical account.
Very briefly, Barfield sees human consciousness as having begun with Man lacking self-consciousness and immersed-in the world (a state resembling that of early childhood, and dreams) – all was unconscious, mysterious, spontaneous, common sense.
Then, through several intermediate phases, there was a developing of increased self-consciousness and a sense of separateness from the world; until (from the 1400s approximately, most evident by the 1600s) a stage of alienation was reached in which each Man felt himself isolated and cut-off from a dead and non-conscious reality. This ‘modern’ phase is called the Consciousness Soul.
One step towards this was The Reformation, when Christian faith became extremely inward, and the near-exclusive focus became individual salvation – with, on the whole, little emphasis on the possibility of spiritual progression towards divinity during mortal life, or indeed after death (as in the phrase, ‘the tree lies where it falls’ meaning that the state of the soul at the moment of death is permanent).
Against this background, the Mormon Restoration, from 1830 onwards, can be seen as a move towards the state that Barfield terms Final Participation – which is one where Man carries-through self-consciousness into an understanding of spiritual progression towards divinity. Final Participation is, indeed, qualitatively the same state as full-divinity – which is why it is ‘final’ – because God is both agent (self-conscious) and also fully-participating in all of creation. It is the state in which there is no limit to knowledge, and all knowledge is potentially explicit.
Mormonism – conceptualised in terms of its theology – can be seen as a very conscious process of spiritual progression; in which – layer-by-layer – cumulative prophetic and personal revelations will clarify and make explicit much that was previously an incomprehensible ‘mystery’ in Christianity.
The first step came with the additional scriptures and revealed doctrines provided by Joseph Smith; but there was a built-in expectation that the process would continue with an unfolding of implications and more specific details.
This has been concisely stated in the LDS church’s summaries of God’s Plan of Salvation (or of Happiness) – with (as examples) greater knowledge of the nature of God; the insight that men and women are metaphysically distinct, and existed as primordial ‘intelligences’ in pre-mortal life before becoming (literal) children of Heavenly Father and Mother; the description of pre-mortal, mortal incarnate, and post-mortal resurrected states – with spiritual progression towards divinity possible in all phases; the doctrine of celestial marriage and a permanent dyadic, creative and fertile relationship of a deified man and woman as necessary for ultimate divine status – and so on.
Implicit in Joseph Smith’s revelations was a completely new metaphysics underpinning the theology – a pluralist, evolutionary, open-ended metaphysics – that has gradually become more evident (for those interested by it) with each generation.
My point is that Joseph Smith’s revelations – as they became clarified by later generations – can now be seen as a qualitative step towards Final Participation and a new, higher, evolutionary stage of consciousness which potentially (if that path is chosen) could begin during mortal life.
This aspect of Mormonism – as providing a basis for the evolution of consciousness towards something very like Barfield’s Final Participation – has remained mostly theoretical; probably because the CJCLDS has been in a state of more-or-less permanent siege from secular culture ever since it began.
(Modern secular culture is the greatest ever threat to salvation; since – by its multiple inversions of The Good – including but not restricted to an inversion of virtue – it is the only society in which official laws, rules, propaganda, practices etc. would tend to make individuals choose to reject Christian salvation even when the possibility of that salvation was believed to be true and real. In a nutshell, modern culture depicts Good as evil – and therefore mainstream society increasingly regards Christianity as not merely false, or sub-optimal, but as actively wicked – meaning that Christianity is tending to promote suffering and misery in this mortal life – in a metaphysical system by which mortal life is understood to be the only life.)
Not many people, other than myself!, have made a serious effort to understand the philosophical basis of both Mormonism and also the ‘Romantic’ tradition – which Barfield traces back to William Blake, Goethe, Coleridge, Wordsworth and Rudolf Steiner. But having done this; it seems to me that the Mormon Restoration provides the proper, and indeed necessary, Christian metaphysical framework – within-which the Romantic tradition can be understood to provide more specific detail and sound guidance for progression of human consciousness towards Final Participation.