The Program

Our Focus

Our History

The Common Core

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The Program
The Barfield School of Sunbridge College is a part-time graduate degree program integrating academic research, meditative inquiry and artistic exploration. The course of study leads to a Master of Arts degree in Liberal Studies. Under the guidance of a world-renowned faculty, The Barfield School offers students a unique interdisciplinary approach to master’s level work that includes exploring the ethical and spiritual dimensions of a research topic. Through meditative attention to academic subjects, the program enriches and broadens the lessons of conventional scholarship into an extended scholarship, bringing about a greater capacity for intellectual, psychological and spiritual understanding. The resulting transformative experience enables students to develop richly creative and empowered lives across a wide variety of academic, professional and vocational fields and practices. The schedule of the low-residency program is designed for working professionals and includes short-term summer residential intensives, fall and spring online learning, and winter artistic/meditative weekend retreats. Download the brochure.

Our Focus
The curriculum of The Barfield School is grounded in the work of British writer and philosopher Owen Barfield (1898-1997) for whom the program was named, and is intimately connected to the work of Austrian educator, philosopher and scientist Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) whose world view of “Anthroposophy” concerns itself with consciousness, wisdom and a path to knowledge based on a spiritual understanding of humanity.  Guiding the spiritual in the human being to the spiritual in the universe, adherents of this path – “anthroposophists” - experience certain questions on the nature of the human being and the universe as an essential need of life.  Consistent with anthroposophical ideals, The Barfield School embraces multiple modes of knowing and welcomes all positive contributions to the renewal of culture.  Offering its students an open, non-sectarian academic and social environment, the program honors many philosophical paths, while recognizing anthroposophy as its central core.


The Common Core
Each entering class of The Barfield School begins with a residency session, the “Common Core,” which serves to introduce the students to contemplative education and gives them the tools needed to approach their studies from a contemplative perspective.  The following courses are typically included in a First Year Summer Common Core:

  • Contemplative Inquiry
  • The Language and Metamorphosis of Living Forms
  • Imagination: Its Role in Cognition, Ethics, Social Activism and Scientific Method
  • Poetry as Spiritual Perception
  • Biography and Vocation in the Light of Spiritual Inquiry

Following this introduction, the students deepen their work in contemplation, biography and the arts in further brief residencies and in online Common Core and elective courses, while at the same time starting to focus on their particular area of academic concentration. Working with an advisor allows the students to develop their thesis project and to create a coherent, individually-devised course of study.  Electives and online courses offered during the 2006-07 academic year include:

  • Vision, Style and the Evolution of Consciousness in Western Art
  • Cognition, Contemplation and Biography
  • Krishna, Buddha and Christ

In the second summer, qualitative and quantitative research methods are emphasized and students develop a Degree Completion Plan (DCP).  During the third and final residential summer session, the master’s project or research is presented.


Our History
In 2001 a group of professors from such leading institutions as Amherst College, Wesleyan University and the California Institute of Integral Studies, having long recognized the power of spiritual practice and insight in their own work, came together to articulate the vision of a new graduate school, a school designed to cultivate a more creative and empowered vocational life for its students by joining their intellectual and vocational pursuits with their spiritual aspirations.

Over the next several years, the faculty of this initiative – “The Barfield School” - offered courses in locations throughout the country, concurrently investigating the technological potential of distance learning and laying the seeds for a more permanent future.

In 2004 The Barfield School entered into collaborative discussions with Sunbridge College in Chestnut Ridge, New York, the only accredited anthroposophically-based college in North America and in July 2005 the newly-formed Barfield School of Sunbridge College received approval and accreditation from the State of New York to offer a course of study leading to a Masters Degree in Liberal Studies. In July of the following year the first entering class of The Barfield School M.A. program arrived at Sunbridge College to take part in the inaugural Common Core session.

“The Barfield School intends to be a community of individuals committed to the integration of academic study, spiritual practice and research, and service to humanity and the earth.”

285 Hungry Hollow Road | Chestnut Ridge, New York 10977 | [email protected]nbridge.edu