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.