Friday 12 July 2019

William Arkle and the secret of living Romantically

I first encountered William Arkle in 1977, in the context of a thirty minute documentary on his life and work broadcast by our local BBC television company. I can remember very little about it; but it evoked in me a suspicion or hope that Arkle was someone who actually lived the kind of life I regarded as ideal.

When I found a copy of A Geography of Consciousness later in the year, this was confirmed for me by Colin Wilson's introduction - clearly CW (who knew Arkle as a friend) was fascinated by Arkle's 'success' in actually living his life in a 'higher state of consciousness'. Arkle (to a significant, albeit not fully or perfectly) succeeded in Doing what Wilson could only write about.

This I take as the fact on which I proceed, my starting-point. For Me, over a span of more than forty years, William Arkle has been a very rare example of living life in the kind of way (qualitatively distinct, but not as flawless or perfection) that I believe life ought to be lived, and which I aspire to live. My interest here is my failure honestly to understand the basis of Arkle's success.
  Because, in trying to learn from Arkle, however; it seems that both myself and Colin Wilson made the same mistake - which was, quite simply, leaving-out God.

For Arkle - at the centre of his 'system' was God, God the creator, and furthermore a creator who was our loving Father. Arkle's 'Romantic' system was built around this core; yet I wanted Arkle's success in living but without Arkle' God.

I (like Colin Wilson) implicitly regarded Arkle's God as just wishful thinking; as a God he had invented to aperfom a function he wanted performed in his belief system. Having disposed of Arkle's God, which - being unreal - could clearly have no necessary role in Arkle's life; I then proceeded to try and learn fro the rest of Arkle's system.

In effect, I was hoping to get the benefits of living in the successful way that I regarded Arkle as having achieved; while eliminating the source and core of Arkle's system - which was God (I ruled-out God in general, except for 'deity' conceptualised in the most abstract and impersonal way; as well as regarding as rather silly and pitiful God in the particular 'loving Father' understanding of Arkle).

In a nutshell, I wanted Romanticism without God; and it led me in the same direction as those many others who have sought Romanticism without God from the days of Byron and Shelley to contemporary examples of Romantics such as Woody Allen or Francois Truffaut. Or, in a much more positive way, Colin Wilson himself.

For 200 years our culture has been full of examples of people who (apparently sincerely) espouse the Romantic life, but are unable to live it; people who can research and talk about Romantic themes; but who live (in their consciousness, in their souls) much like everybody else and often-enough live worse.

So myself, Colin Wilson and many others wanted Romanticism, but did not believe that God was real - and we did not achieve Romanticism in actual living. Meanwhile there were examples such as Arkle or William Blake of people who did achieve Romanticism in actual living; 'yet' apparently insisted on basing it upon Romantic conceptions of God that struck me as obviously 'made-up'.

My understanding of this phenomenon is that those who seek Romanticism are those afflicted by alienation; by the modern sense of feeling cut off from life, and who are plagued by a sense of meaninglessness, lack of a purpose that fulfils our creativity and also unites ourselves with other and the world.

Like many/ most modern people from adolescence onwards; we begin with the assumption that there is no God, never was a God; and that all talk of personal Gods who care about us is either delusionally-pitiful wishful thinking; or else a dishonest means of manipulating others.

And we do not 'notice' that (by eliminating all possibility of the reality of God, and in particular the kind of God that Arkle speaks-of) we have already made assumptions that inevitably will ensure that our lives will fail.

It was not until I first allowed the possibility of God, then the possibility of Arkle's concept of God; that I could proceed to seek whether or not this was in reality true. Then I discovered that it was true.

Only now can I really understand Arkle 'from the inside', in a way which explains the primary cause of my long-term interest in him. Only now can I benefit from his example; in changing my own life for the better.

It turns-out that successfully-lived Romanticism requires God; furthermore it requires the kind of personal God that Arkle knew; and it turns-out that this God is real.

It turns-out that in practice Romantic Christianity is the only Romanticism. Arkle has been telling me this for decades - but only recently have I been willing to hear him.

Monday 8 July 2019

The problem of false selves

One of William Arkle's core insights is that - in normal, everyday life - people act from a multitude of false selves. The true self, which is of divine origin and potentially able to become a god, is what makes us what we are - but it may be completely buried beneath false selves; the true self may be utterly ineffectual.

These false selves are of many types. Some are the collections of traits - hereditary and socialised - that constitute our 'personality' as described and measured by psychology. Others are that mass of automatic, robotic skills and responses that we learn to deal with the problems of living; including skills like typing or driving, small-talk and routine social interaction.

You can see that false selves are the totality of what a person presents to the world; and usually also everything that a person is aware of in himself, insofar as he is aware of anything. So, our consciousness is not the same thing as our true self, because it may be unaware of the true self, may even deny the reality of any such thing as a true self.

False selves are therefore necessary but a problem, because whenever we make an effort to change ourselves in any way, the probability is that this will be a matter of one or more of the false selves trying to change us in a superficial and false direction.

This is why methods of meditation,. methods of self-improvement, will-power... all such endeavours are nearly always ineffective. It is just a matter of distorting ourselves by exaggerating one or more false selves.

And how can we consciously strive to discover and nurture our true self, when the striving is being done by a false self?

Or if we try to relax and let-go the true self; simply 'allowing' the true self to emerge from under the false ones; there is a likelihood that we will instead be releasing one or more of the false selves...

The problem is not insoluble, because it has been achieved by others (and perhaps even by our-selves, albeit infrequently and briefly); but Arkle makes clear that there is no method to it; and indeed part of solving the problem is to recognise why there is no method. We must 'quarry out' our real self from the false ones, by some kind of trial and error - discovering what works for us, here and now; but never able to make the process a standard one.

The answer can be summarised as 'intuition' - but that is just giving a name to the fact that there is no method. But the start of a solution is to define the problem - and after that to recognise when the true self is emerging and strengthening. And this can be done by learning to recognise the uniquely self-validating quality of the true self.

Once you know it is there, real and vital - we can feel the reality of the true self in an absolutely distinctive way - even though we cannot describe it.