Wednesday, 9 July 2014

William Arkle on the proper attitude to God

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For those who do not respond to the Personal reality of the Creator, the system of schoolroom environments continues in the same way as it does for the ‘believers’. The value of the growth situations is real to them, and the friendship relationships can flourish between them and their fellows. 

The exception to this latter situation are those who are trying to give up the individual stance of the individual spirit in the belief that it is a hindrance to their full enlightenment, which consists of ‘being God’, rather than ‘being a god’. 

In the sayings of Jesus for instance, there are many references to us being gods, but never a reference to us being God. The distinction is always clearly drawn between our identity as individual children and the idea of God as a Father, who is a Person in His own right. 

...But we must not become too concerned to know more of the activity of our God than He wishes to show us, or else we may fail to actualise our true Self on its own terms. So we must be delighted with the opportunities to taste of the flavour of God’s Personality, but not become obsessed by the idea of God to the exclusion of all else.

For if we understood the summit of love to be friendship, in the way of equality and mutual valuing, then an excessive clinging to God would rather cause Him to retreat a pace than come closer to us.

However, a drowning man clings desperately, but the drowning situation is not normal and will not last for ever. When the drowning person feels spiritually safe again, he will then be able to let go his grip and realise that it is no longer necessary or helpful.

During the rescue period on earth, there is much desperate clinging and this is of course understood and allowed for. But, as we move into a more mature phase of our schooling, a totally different understanding of religious purpose will help us to know it more in terms of education and growth.

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Notes:

One aspect of William Arkle's thought which I found at first surprising, but has eventually convinced me, is his argument that if God's plan for Man is that we should grow to become God's friends then this has implications for how we should (ideally) regard Him and address Him. 

(I should make clear that for Arkle, this idea of divine 'friendship' is the highest imaginable kind of relationship between two beings.) 

In other words, if the reason behind God wanting us to become 'gods', that is divinized as resurrected and perfected Sons of Gods, is that at least some of us might at some time become sufficiently like him that we could be friends; then we should consider what this tells us about how God might want us to regard and address him. 

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Since God is our Heavenly Father - we can consider how an earthly father might hope that his children should regard and address him - especially if that earthly father's wish was for his sons and daughters to grow into unique and developed personalities who would at some point undergo a transition from child dependent to adult 'friend'. 

Taking this perspective, it seems clear to me that a good father would hope for love of course, and also respect and due deference - but not 'worship', submission, abasement, grovelling or anything of that sort - which would more appropriate to a tyrant than to a father.

This suggests to me that some forms of liturgy, prayer and meditative address may (indirectly, inadvertently, unintentionally) have the effect of limiting and perhaps even blocking our relationship with God - preventing us from regarding Him as our Father.  

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A second point Arkle makes in this passage is that, since we are intended to become God's friends,it is not enough for us to be obsessed with the idea of God to the exclusion of everything else. 

This is a startling point, because implies that 'self-actualisation'- development of our selves as unique individuals - is not a self-indulgence but a duty, an essential purpose in life. 

I infer that this means that God does not want us to do nothing-but pray, meditate, and humble ourselves by comparison with Him; God does not want us to cling desperately to Him - obsession and clinging sometimes is unavoidable, necessary and appropriate; but this is not God's hope, or goal or highest aspiration for us.

We should, if possible, be trying to do more. 

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6 comments:

George Goerlich said...

It sounds like Arkle was a Mormon without knowing it :-)

Adam G. said...

** Taking this perspective, it seems clear to me that a good father would hope for love of course, and also respect and due deference - but not 'worship', submission, abasement, grovelling or anything of that sort - which would more appropriate to a tyrant than to a father.

This suggests to me that some forms of liturgy, prayer and meditative address may (indirectly, inadvertently, unintentionally) have the effect of limiting and perhaps even blocking our relationship with God - preventing us from regarding Him as our Father. **

There is at least a sense in which I disagree. Acting as if God, in the here and now, is your friend, is destructive if the distance between you and Him is still to great. Some pretenses help you make them reality, some are just folly. Becoming able to be a friend requires becoming more like Him, becoming more like Him requires understanding Him, and understanding Him naturally leads to worship (understanding is also taught by worship).

Bruce Charlton said...

@Adam - The perspective presented here is one-sided, of course; but I think is worth considering.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Adam - Indeed, I think the 'message; of this perspective should not be seen in terms of negative prohibitions (eg how we should *not* live and worship) but in terms of what would most please God.

What I get from it is that the idea of giving-up-everything 'for' God is not what He wants - rather He wants us to be unique and genuine individuals; therefore He wants us to compose and perform music, or do sports, or tell jokes, or whatever unique combination of (wholesome!) things we may feel impelled to do seriously. These things are not just rest and recreation, or a concession to human weakness - but a major part of our purpose.

Likewise, when it comes to worship and address, God (ideally) wants us to approach him in a respectful and loving spirit - but while he would not condemn us for it and would be understanding, surely he would not appreciate some kind of frenzy of self-abasement and self-extinguishing humility.

God does not want our selves to be annihilated - not even when this annihilation is a result of extreme humility.

(There is a humility which is so extreme and unbalanced that it thinks of itself as *nothing* by comparison with God - this is going way too far. We have in us the divine, and we have also something unique to ourselves - we are not nothing. How could nothingess choose to love God?)

God would compassionately accept that some people cannot apprehend Him as a person, and may therefore strive for absorption into the abstract spiritual energies of deity - but this is not what God aims for, hopes for, yearns for.

A God who plans to raise us up to Son-ship to a point when we can become divine friends, wants us to be perfected persons: but certainly persons.

Adam G. said...

Makes sense.

William Smith said...

Bruce,
On the point of self-actualization and Christian progress in the moral life, I highly recommend reading Heinz Cassirer's Grace and Law. He essentially shows that Kant and Paul are right about human sinfulness, but that Paul is right about the remedy and that human freedom can be maintained if we wish for moral progress only in the context of living in Christ. It goes with the last few lines of your post.