Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Synchronicity and providence: The Will versus Will Power - ideas of William Arkle

William Arkle's Geography of Consciousness (1974) is so densely written that it is extremely difficult to understand - so it was only yesterday that I grasped the meaning of Chapter Sixteen The Will - and recognised that (without mentioning the term) it provided an explanation for a phenomenon which so interests me: Synchronicity.



My previous understanding was very general and external - that synchronicity was an indirect form of evidence for the reality of a personal God since it implied that 'the universe' was being 'arranged' such that I experienced certain events of special significance.


Arkle's explanation is related to a contrast between The Will versus Will Power.

Will Power is taken in its usual secular and common sense definition, and interpreted as the use of normal psychological disciplines to attain a particular goal.

Will power is a matter of 'getting what we want or believe we need'; it is a matter of strategically using our mind, understanding, predictive ability, force and manipulations to attain an objective.

Will Power may or may not achieve what it sets out to achieve - but it is essentially an attempt to impose ourselves upon the world; and therefore extremely prone to be evil in motivation and effect.


The Will is something altogether different in its nature and operation. It is our true, higher, individual Self; that contains an element of, and is in communication with, God.

Therefore The Will is a source of the power strength, and purpose of God as this specifically applies to our (real) selves.

The Will is therefore necessarily good, and (being divine) this good is harmonised with the good of all other things.

We have no conscious power to influence The Will by a strategic decision - any more than we could change God's will; we can only recognise The Will, and choose either to accept or to reject it.


Mostly we choose to ignore or reject The Will, and instead attempt to impose our false selves upon the world by Will Power.

And mostly this is un-successful - and this failure is both necessary and fortunate as the results of success would be disastrous to ourselves and to others (including the whole environment).

When (as is usual) the Will Power goes against The Will; The Will 'sabotages' our plans, by all kinds of means including psychological sabotage, but not confined to that - since The Will is divine it has power to influence other things in the environment - leading to what may be termed 'bad luck' but is actually a necessary failure to get what we want, because what we want is opposed to what God wants, and therefore creation is 'weighted against us'.


But a person who knows, accepts and lives by The Will (in however brief and incomplete a fashion) finds the opposite - he finds that not only his own mind (mental powers) but also 'things in general' cooperate in ways that are good.

This includes genuine synchronicity - which is a consequence of harmony between ourselves and our environment working towards the good, caused by The Will spontaneously (over time) reproducing in our surroundings 'a drama which represents the significance of our being': i.e. synchronicity, or 'meaningful coincidence' (as we interpret it).


By this account synchronicity is mostly an operation of God-within-us, rather than a situation created by God's power external to us. It is evidence of a truly vast and intrinsically good power - a divine power of subtle harmonisation that we may recognise (or reject); but which it is impossible for us to control, exploit or 'use' to achieve our personal desires.

This also explains divine providence, that sense of God's Will working in the world (but only with our chosen cooperation) can make situations that seem like a near-incredible 'good fortune' by a sequence of apparent 'luck'.


This may be the explanation for Great Men (in religion, theology, politics, arts, sciences etc.) who are (who 'happen to be') in the right place at the right time, and whose (small) decisions and acts are amplified (by invisible processes) to have vast consequences.

Arkle's example is Winston Churchill; whose personal qualities in the role of Prime Minister during the Battle of Britain were a consequence of extraordinary sequences of 'luck' - with world historical consequences.

"If you are a Churchill, you make a few small noises into a microphone, and you set forces in motion in people's natures which make all the difference..."

The lesson is that if we want real power in life, like Churchill, or the Greats in other domains of life; then this can be had only by renouncing Will Power, and embracing The Will.


We tend to suppose that the 'main problem' of life is 'amplifying our voices' - using force, cunning, chance to make the world take notice of what we think is important; but this is the false self at work deploying Will Power.

When the true self, The Will, is at work comes a recognition that our proper main problem, something that only we can do, is to recognise and nurture our true self, our highest consciousness which contains and harmonises with the divine.

And insofar as this achieved (and whether we know this is happening or not, and whether we are personally credited with it or not) the goodness of a true self in higher consciousness will quite easily and quite naturally be 'amplified' and propagated by innumerable instances of 'luck', sequences of meaningful coincidences: synchronicities.


Wm Jas said...

I've read this post several times now and find it quite thought-provoking. (Romans 8:26-28 seems relevant.)

However, I'm not at all sure how to put this into practice. "Giving up will power" sounds a lot like renouncing self control and allowing oneself to be blown about by every wind of external influence.

Bruce Charlton said...

@WmJas - Maybe you could read through my previous postings which come up from word-searching 'Arkle'?

Not the least appealing aspect of Arkle is that he does not offer any easy route to spiritual development, he said that it is difficult because it is meant to be difficult, and that we mostly learn by trial and error and making mistakes. This is indeed God's plan for us - so we can know reality from both sides.

(More exactly we are meant to be tempted to sin, but not act/not actually sin - however, the system is set up such that our inevitable mistakes and weaknesses - inevitable given the kind of creatures we are - are forgiven on condition of repentance - and we can move on: wiser.)

So the kind of self-knowledge and harmony with the Will is meant to be 'quarried-out' from life, by each individual person's choices, in a situation where there is no formula and a high probability of making mistakes.

Arkle was himself a visionary mystic who meditated; but he did not recommend meditation as either necessary nor even helpful for everybody - its value was for those whose lives (or personalities) were too 'noisy' for them to hear what they needed to hear.

He was also self-identified as a Christian, in the sense of regarding Christ as the saviour and first born Son of God

Arkle's views are overall much like Mormonism, and explanatory of some specific aspects of Mormonism - certain their 'flavour' is very Mormon - although he gives no indication of knowing anything at all about LDS plus there are incompatible elements - such as a large role for reincarnation, which I have discussed/ explained-away previously. But the concept of spiritual progression is much the same - so the discovery of The Will is *not* like Zen Buddhist enlightenment coming upon a person; but a stepwise and incremental process, built over a lifetime.

So giving up will power would *not* be like renouncing self-control, but instead aiming for control by the real self, The Will.

Since The Will contains contains and harmonizes with a 'divine spark (almost literally a 'piece' of God in each of us) - this would in fact be completely stable and resistant to superficial influences, in a way impossible for mere Will Power.

The further a person progressed in harmonizing with The Will, the less he would be blown about by external influences - because he would be more securely rooted by the divine Will.

Bruce Charlton said...

@WmJas - wrt Putting into practice.

I think it would follow that if synchronicity keeps happening, then you are on the right lines; moving in the right direction - i.e. following your 'destiny' in accordance with The Will (as contrasted with trying to hijack your destiny in the direction that your false self wants - by force of Will Power).

ajb said...

"So giving up will power would *not* be like renouncing self-control, but instead aiming for control by the real self, The Will."

It seems to me that the traditional Christian understanding of this is that increasing one's will-power helps to then align oneself with 'The Will'. It is one of the points of ascetic practices.

Of course, like any 'technology', increasing one's will-power could help one to persist in non-alignment with The Will.

Much of Christian practice is devoted to figuring out how to increase the likelihood of the former.

Bruce Charlton said...

@ajb - Good point. The Eastern Orthodox meditative tradition could be interpreted as being saturated with the awareness of the hazards of wrongly-directed Will Power.

But the mainstream Christian doctrine of Original Sin could (in some interpretations) conflict with Arkle's concept of The Will - which is one reason why Arkle seems to fit better with Mormonism.

Some Christians are so strongly aware of the fundamental rottenness of Man, that they assume that any form of meditation involving 'looking within' would almost certainly lead to harm.

Others, are so aware of the power of demonic forces to deceive and subvert, and the weakness of Man to detect or rests this, that mysticism is treated with great suspicion.

However, Mormons believe that as incarnate spirits, Men are stronger than Satan (who is at a lower level of spiritual progression - an un-incarnated spirit) - so that demonic influences can only prevail when men choose to allow this.

This is probably why Mormons are so positive about everyday mystical experiences, such as personal revelations and the guidance of the Holy Ghost.

Santiago said...

Latching onto an idée fixe will also lead to perceiving synchronicity, such that when one becomes consumed by a given pattern it will appear to be everywhere (extreme cases to be found among obsessive-compulsives and paranoiacs). Such is a similar principle as that operant in sympathetic magic (common throughout tribal societies, who testify to its efficacy).

Proliferation of coincidences cannot on its own be taken as signaling spiritual maturation, which is an internal change (μετάνοια).