Sunday 3 December 2017

Sleeve notes to The Music of William Arkle

Sleeve notes to The Music of William Arkle - written by Bruce Charlton 
(Slightly corrected by using information I have since obtained from discussions with his son Nick Arkle.)

William Arkle – who was called Bill by his friends - was born in 1924, and died in 2000. As well as composing music; Arkle was a spiritual philosopher, painter, poet, teacher and visionary.

Bill Arkle was a friend of the writer Colin Wilson and attracted a small group of dedicated students. During the nineteen seventies he published two books, was the subject of a local television documentary and collaborated with the progressive rock band The Enid. However, despite this modest celebrity; Arkle was never famous and he remains an obscure figure. (The figure whom Arkle most brings to my mind is that other visionary English ‘William’ – Blake; who died in almost equal obscurity but is now recognised as one of the greatest lyric poets and also an influential illustrator).

I know about Bill Arkle mainly because I lived nearby as a child: my sister knew his wife and daughter via ‘ponies’; and his next-door neighbours were my good friends. I also met him once, briefly, when visiting his son. I had dipped into the work from nearly forty years ago; however, it was only after a series of ‘synchronicities’ and having become a Christian in late life that I eventually made the effort to engage with Arkle’s work in a serious fashion – and discovered that he was one of the most inspiring spiritual philosophers of the twentieth century.

Arkle’s life was spent mostly in-and-around the city of Bristol. He served in the Royal Navy during the 1939-45 war, and trained as an Engineer – an unusually scientific and practical background for a visionary, but one which had a lasting effect on the way he expressed his spiritual ideas, often using metaphors drawn from optics, atomic physics, computers, holograms etc.. After the war Arkle became an art student in Bristol and married Julia Rae Hubbard in 1947. This marriage was short lived, and Bill married Elizabeth (Liz) in 1954. They later had two children called Nick and Rose.

Throughout the fifties and sixties, Bill participated in spiritual and Christian discussion groups in Bristol and produced a lot of paintings on mystical themes. He typically used ordinary household acrylic paints on hardboard, deployed luminous pastel colours, and his characteristic theme was of ordinary and everyday scenes transfigured by light to show-forth their inner reality.

At first the family lived in Clifton, then Alveston, in Bristol, making money by renovating and re-selling houses - apparently Liz was the business brain and Bill put his craft skills to good use. They later moved to Backwell Hill House, about 7 miles south west of Bristol – a dilapidated ‘mansion’ that had previously been a monastery (with a large chapel) and stood in large grounds. They had horses and various other animals.

Through the 1970s and into the 1980s the household was large and included people visiting to work on spiritual matters with Bill, and also people who helped with the horses and running the household. Bill made money from selling his paintings from a shop in the Whiteladies Road in Bristol, and from picture restoration – including pictures of horses.

In 1974 Arkle published A Geography of Consciousness, which had an introduction by Colin Wilson. The Great Gift, a book of his pictures with commentary and some essays, was published in 1977. In the same year BBC West broadcast a location-filmed TV program called William Arkle in the series Life Story.

In the mid-1980s the Arkle’s moved to the Cotswolds, then after some years moved back to Somerset in a house called Pigotts in Chelvey Batch (very near to Backwell Hill House). In 2000, Liz Arkle died, and Bill followed a few months later.

Right up until his death at the age of 76, Arkle remained active, creative, optimistic and spiritually aware. His final writings are, indeed, his happiest and most positive statements concerning the human condition. If a man’s abstract philosophy is to be judged by its practical effect on his own life, then William Arkle’s ideas must be counted a success.

I will attempt briefly to summarise Bill Arkle’s ideas. He regards the universe as created by Heavenly Parents (i.e. ‘God’) and inhabited by their children (men, women and angels). The divine children are free individuals each of whom is offered the gift of developing to full divinity in their own unique fashion. Thus, our mortal lives on earth are a mixture of joy and horror, encouragement and hazard, love and fear and so on – each person’s life with its own pattern. Life is set-up to provide each of us with those experiences that we most need to achieve the fullest, all-round, knowledge – and such that eventually we can work towards fully-divine status; to become friends of God on a level footing and participate in the work of creation in a spirit of family love. (Jesus has a vital role in this work – which is why Arkle must count as a Christina; albeit of an unorthodox type.)

Arkle’s understanding can be encapsulated as based-on the fact that we each have a spark of divinity; by means of which we can all potentially (if we are able to attain the necessary, undistracted and real form of consciousness) directly-know something of God’s true nature, mind and benign intentions. For Arkle; life is Good at its root and when correctly understood, because the world was made, and continues, for our ultimate benefit. What makes Arkle a mystic in that he personally had a vivid and immediate perception of God’s reality and activity in the world.

As many of his paintings depict; Arkle perceived life (ordinary, everyday; working, married and family life) as a communication from the divine and permeated by spiritual influences. Various paintings show a teapot and cups on a table by a window, a mountain landscape or a seascape, a bowler-hatted businessman, people doing holiday things – sitting, dancing, playing a flute… these typically illuminated by inner light; or with a mysterious glow or sparkle; or with large spiritual (and smiling) faces or enfolding hands invisibly present and waiting but unacknowledged.

(If this type of painting sounds simplistic, sentimental even saccharine; then this is indeed how they strike many modern people. But they arise from a base of tough resilience and immersion in practical life – and ought to be regarded as a higher, but true and realistic, vision of actual Heaven.)

In essence; Bill Arkle’s world is one of meaning and purpose, a world of experiences and learning (he often terms Life a ‘university’); and ultimately one underpinned by that unselfish loving affection we may know from our glimpses of ideal family living in which parents nurture and sustain the individuality, growth and freedom of each of their children. Each child is encouraged to grow-up, if and when ready to do so; and despite that the process necessarily entails suffering and loneliness; because the objective is an adult, autonomous child who voluntarily chooses to becomes a friend, colleague and collaborator in the endlessly creative work of reality. This is a partial-microcosm of Arkle’s Heaven – a dynamic world of evolution of absolutely-unique individuals, cohering by pure love.

Arkle’s friends have told me that the most characteristic and complete expression of his vision was to be found in semi-improvised multi-media presentations of visual, verbal and musical material. I have been studying Arkle’s writings and pictures intensely for the past five years; and find them an inexhaustible source of insight and encouragement. But until now, I have not heard any of his music.

This reissue of The Music of William Arkle, from the era of his collaboration with The Enid, is therefore very welcome to me; as rounding-out a more complete picture of this multi-faceted and inspiring man.

Tuesday 17 October 2017

Evolving consciousness beyond the sophisticated cynic

In his Geography of Consciousness (1974; pp 117-9), William Arkle describes eight levels of consciousness spanning the physical and ideal worlds - at the lowest end is Man as almost unconscious: passive, instinctive and immersed in the social group; at the highest level, Man's consciousness has become that of a god: free, agent, autonomous, participating in the work of creation.

But as probably only one or a very few have ever attained Higher Man stage (Saint John the Evangelist, may be an example); it is stages 1-7 which we need to consider...

Higher Man

7. Mystic
6. Poetic
5. Idealistic
4. Sophisticated cynical - the Dead-Centre
3. Responsible
2. Average
1. Lower man

And in particular I wish to focus on the sophisticated cynic of stage 4 - which is the typical and defining stage of Modern Western Man - or, at least, the intellectual and institutional leadership class of Modern Western Man.

To paraphrase Arkle; the sophisticated cynic is at the Dead-Centre of the evolutionary scheme - poised, suspended, trapped between lower and higher consciousness. This is a state of wide awareness of options and possibilities; made possible by increased knowledge and learning - but experienced as a pervasive relativism.

Everything is known, but nothing known with confidence - all is suspect; one option is balanced and cancelled-out by the others. Movement upward, or downward, immediately leads to loss of confidence and a tendency to return to the Dead-Centre.

And the centre is 'dead' because there is a state of demotivation. The longer a period of time that is spent in the dead centre; the harder it gets to escape. The modern sophisticated cynic may yearn either to become a higher man, to live by pure ideals and non-material values; or (perhaps more often) he yearns to discard sophistication and cynicism and simply lapse back into passivity, instinct, spontaneity and unreflectiveness - to become natural...

But both are equally impossible. His materialism and hedonism reduces and deconstructs all higher values - while he 'knows better' than the natural, spontaneous, instinctive Man - and he finds he just cannot forget or discard his sophistication, science, philosophy, ideology... They come back, again and again, to haunt him.

The sophisticated cynic is therefore pulled in both directions; and also repelled by both directions. The sophisticated cynic is the permanent adolescent - too mature to be a child, too immature to be an adult; too bored by both immaturity and maturity, seeing-through the innocence of childhood and the responsibility of adulthood. He is cut-off from the basic satisfactions of simply getting-by in practical, material life; and also from the spiritual satisfactions of living for ideals located outwith mortal life and human limitation.

As the sophisticated cynic remains trapped by his own pre-conceptions; he may create vast belief-structures of ideology... but although initially promising, these invariably always lead-back (sooner or later) to where he began-from.(All apparent escape tunnels turn-out to be loops.)

The sophisticated cynic knows that the world of communications - of nature, of other people, of his own evanescent thoughts - are doubtful and unreliable: he has often experienced this unreliability. This insight itself implies that some other and solid form of knowing exists (with which communication is implicitly being contrasted); but when it comes to any specific knowledge, the sophisticated cynic remains unsure: he lives in an atomsphere of doubt... Yet at the same time, he doubts his own doubts, suspects there is 'more to life', and cannot embrace a fully nihilistic skepticism. 

Thus the sophisticated cynic is trapped in the Dead Centre of consciousness.

The phase is a necessary point through-which Men must pass if they are to attain the autonomy required by higher consciousness; but if the lessons are to be learned, then the phase must feel real - must indeed be real - at the time it is being experienced. There must to be a pause in progression - and this pause may become prolonged and arrested into stasis.

(The ship must slow to a standstill, and actually stop - but once forward-momentum has been lost, the ship may become becalmed; at which point momentum and friction prevent it from moving again.)

Although many people do get stuck; some do escape - and in the right direction. What gets people out from the perpetual adolescence of sophisticated cynicism?

William Arkle then goes on to discuss the stages of consciousness beyond the sophisticated cynic and leading towards the Higher Man - who thinks in the divine mode, and who is the product of spiritual progression or theosis.

The idealist is the first step beyond the sophisticated cynic. He is motivated by 'ideas'; that is, by a theoretical understanding: specifically a set of metaphysical assumptions that acknowledge the possibility of a higher (and superior) mode of consciousness - above and beyond this-worldly materialism and emotions.

The poetic thinker adds imagination; that is, he 'pictures' or 'images' aspects of higher experience - not necessarily visually, but as an inner-generated perception of some kind. Thus the 'poet' has personal experience of higher things; not direct experience, but self-generated creative experience. More exactly, the poet has imagined the universal world of reality.

(The previous idealistic stage is necessary for the poet to regard his imaginations as real and significant - because if he is a metaphysical materialist, then he will not take-seriously his own imaginations.)

The mystic has experienced actual, direct-contact with the underlying divine and universal reality; he has experienced the universal world of truth, virtue and beauty.

(The previous stages of idealism and imagination are necessary so that the mystic may recognise and acknowledge the reality of that divine world.)

Higher Man
The mystic has (merely) experienced the underlying divine and universal reality - but the higher man creatively-participates in this world - beyond experiencing he actively sustains, reshapes and adds-to that created-reality - in line with God's primary creation. This is a divine form of participation; hence the higher man has become a co-creator and collaborator in God's great work of creation.

Friday 8 September 2017

Men and Angels

William Arkle believed in reincarnation, and a means of Men gaining experience and being-educated across multiple lives. By contrast, angels are a separate creation, who gain their experience and education by moving 'downward' from spiritual Heaven deeper into the material realm of incarnation and earth - the job being both to help and educate Men and themselves to learn about the problems of imperfection and evil.

By contrast, my understanding is derived from Mormonism - which is that there is a three stage progression from pre-mortal life, as spirit angels, through incarnate mortal life ad via death to post-mortal resurrected life; this time as incarnated angels.

Yet, brooding on Arkle's understanding of the nature and role of angels and Men, which can be found in his works Letter from a Father and Equations of Being; I have realised that these provide considerable insight when interpreted from his scheme.

Arkle's angels correspond to pre-mortal existence; and he emphasises that the innocence, bliss and purity of this life is a deficiency of understanding - angels have no spontaneous understanding of the constraints of incarnation, mortality, and the evil effects and suffering resulting from free agency.

Therefore, while spirit angels work to educate and assist Men (when such interventions are of benefit - given that our purpose in mortality is primarily to learn for ourselves, by trial and error); the angels are of limited knowledge, and prone to make errors due to their lack of understanding. In fact, angelic errors are themselves an accidental but inevitable contribution to the evil and suffering of mortal life.

We might imagine a ladder from the spirituality of highest Heaven to the materiality of earthly-mortal existence; angels are descending that ladder, Men are ascending it; angels are the teachers, but also learning - Men are the learners, but indirectly acting as teachers of angels; both angels and men benefiting from the interactions.

Spirit angels existed before the first Men were incarnated as mortals, and have always been involved in earthly life; but we can assume that they will have found mortal problems both confusing and appalling - and they needed to learn from the experience.

We can imagine that - over time - more and more spirit angels will have learnt enough to recognise that they would benefit (in terms of progression towards full divinity) from voluntary incarnation as mortals; and then do this.

Over time, from the first mortal Men, there would be a development of angelic expertise, and eventually spirit angels were supplemented by incarnate angels who had experienced mortality.

yet, over this timescale, there will have been an accumulation of the effects of evil - so the problems of mortal life have also accumulated.

And the evil of mortal life has also been increased by the activities of fallen spirit angels - I mean demons. These demons perhaps include individual spirit angels whose interaction with mortal Men have led to various responses such as hatred, resentment, fear and the desire to dominate mortals.

For example, the prime demon - The Devil, Satan or Lucifer - is depicted in Mormon scripture as having rejected the divine plan for free agency in Men; and having fallen in order to destroy Men's free will, and to enforce a compulsory plan on Men (and other demons). The devil is therefore the prototypical totalitarian dictator; who believes he 'knows best' what is best for Men.

Arkle also assumes that the difficulties of mortal life, the accumulation of errors, evils and demonic power will eventually make mortal life just too difficult for the need for learning by experiencing; and this world will need to be ended, and another begun. In other words there will be an end time terminated by the end of this world (i.e. equivalent to Christ's second coming, the New Jerusalem).

Anyway, I find that this understanding of spirit angels descending and Men ascending and both interacting - to be helpful in making sense of what has happened in this world since the original incarnation of Adam and Eve; and the ways in which the problems and tasks of mortal life have changed throughout history.

Tuesday 15 August 2017

Wonderful new resource of visual material on William Arkle

An early self-portrait

Provided by his son Nick Arkle - this rich resource has some amazing new pictures and photographs

Wednesday 1 March 2017

Our groups in the main business of life - invisible colleges of the divine work

Since attaining higher levels of consciousness is so difficult an activity; when we try to do this, we will be put into contact with other members of that group most suitable to help us; an 'invisible college' which shares our particular outlook and aims.

Thia may seem to happen by accident, or may be recognised as destiny - but it will happen.

The members of the invisible college will include unknown people whose contact is imperceptible, it may include people in our environment whom we meet often - but also those who, while they remain alive and in-conact post-mortally, come to our attention via books, music, or other long-lasting artifacts and communications. 

Our invisible college has the following characteristics 

1. Recognition of other group members is immediate - although wordless. The real relationship is at a higher psychological level than is usual.

2. Group members are engaged in work with the same quality of outlook, and the same quality of consciousness - although generally with different methods and using different forms.

3. The function of groups is to stimulate and inform one another - perhaps directly (person to person), but often in roundabout ways - and potentially in imperceptible ways. In other words, communication among the invisible college is direct and participative - and not dependent upon the partialities and  imperfections of physical communication.

4. As time goes by, and with the consent and in line with the wishes of members; the groups tend to become closer and more intensely and mutually helpful. Also they become more effective in bringing help and guidance to the world - in line with their special function.

5. These groups share a 'religion' - which is natural, unconditional and wide - this religion is mutually felt, but seldom something explicit or recognised in the world. 


From the above criteria I can recognise some living people in my own invisible college of divine work - some known personally, some known-of but never met, and some who are numbered among the (so called) dead: in literature JRR Tolkien, Colin Wilson, Blaise Pascal, Thomas Traherne; in music JS Bach and Glenn Gould; in science Einstein; in religion John the Apostle and Evangelist. 

(As well as people; I feel a similar collegiality about certain places and philosophies, metaphysics, theology... But these may well be a different kind of phenomenon.) 

From this partial list (supplemented by people among the living), I can see something of the shape of my own main business in life.


The above is summarised and somewhat extrapolated from Chapter Six 'The Problems' of William Arkle's book A Geography of Consciouness (1974).

Friday 24 February 2017

William Arkle's valedictory statement - Foreword from

Foreword to the web pages

Note from the web-site editor Michael Perry: Bill died suddenly on October 3rd 2000, following an intensely creative period, paintings and writings from which may be found later in the site. This was written a few months prior to his death.

I very nearly called this web site 'The Play of William Arkle', and then I felt that it would sound rather too casual for most people and even an insult to the endeavour that is brought to the resolving of the mysteries of life.

The reason that the word 'play' suggested itself is that the journey of understanding seems to lead from the level of human survival as a personality in this world, through to a spiritual view that takes survival of our spiritual self for granted; and then on again into the appreciation of the all-encompassing smile of our Divine Creator.

This Divine Smile says a very simple thing, which is that the everlasting nature of its Spirit can have only two options: either it remains in its Absolute condition of Blissful non-action; or it can engage in action through the creation of play-grounds. This means creating theatres of time, space and lots of things - from a condition of no action or time or space or things.

Our Creator felt that the first choice of 'no action' could becoming boring because there was no adventure, surprise or growth involved. The livingness of The Spirit felt itself to be in need of such adventure as an expression of joyful love and fun. So the second choice came about purely for the exercise of joy and love and fun.

The only word I could find to cover the activity of joy and love and fun was the word play, but unless it is approached in the right way the word does not carry the correct significance. And thus the whole of this web site is a journey into the understanding of The Creator's view of the word play.

You will find that my own earlier understandings moved gradually into this way of talking about our reality. It seemed to become more and more light-hearted while being able to sympathise with all the conditions of growth which can feel to be the conditions of fear and anxiety. Thus the big game of life at play has conditions within it which can descend to the very opposites of its initial intention.

These opposite conditions are the result of our Creator deciding to give us the Gift of being able to become real players in our own right at this adventure which is being undertaken. This is why the picture book was called The Great Gift and why the writings in it referred to God as being our friend in this one life endeavour. Later on this was changed to the expression God, The Player Friend.

As for me, I have kept the name William Arkle. I like the name because it implies that my Will is doing its best to be a small expression of the Ark of Life, The Heart of the Creator Friend.

However my close associates now find me calling myself Billy The Kid.


NOTE: As is typical of Arkle's writings - this short 'final word' is deceptively simple on the surface; but actually contains a close-packed spiritual summation of the most fundamental kind.