Tuesday 22 April 2014

The anthropomorphic God - observations from William Arkle


William Arkle's excerpted essay in italics, my comments in normal font:

From http://www.billarkle.co.uk/greatgift/text/divinepurpose.html


My feeling is that we must discover the nature of the Creator’s person to be so loveable that we try to read the heart of His being in order that we may delight and fulfil its longing…

Note: Arkle's basic insight is that we find ourselves in this world, and our main task is to accept the great gift of God's personal love. The reality of the situation is hard for us to perceive because our experience of mortal life is (necessarily, for reasons to do with its purpose) so slow and close-up. 


For us, whose spirits are so often weary with the difficulties of the world the release from anxiety and frustration which comes to us if we enter any sphere of relative bliss, must seem to be enough... There are many people who have experienced this blissful aspect of their nature, so it is not out of place to ask why the Creator, or if they prefer it, the One Life, did not arrange for them to be born directly into this blissful state, if reaching it was the sole purpose of creation.

Note: The goal of life for many 'Eastern' religions (e.g. Hinduism, Buddhism and some New Age spiritualities) is an impersonal state of bliss. Arkle regards this as one possibility - but not the best; and points out that bliss cannot be the highest aim of a loving God because otherwise we would be born directly into bliss, rather than having to endure mortal earthly life.  


Why should there be any physical manifestation, with all the accompanying effort, if blissful nature was only concerned to become blissful nature again, and paid no heed to individual characteristics to further its intrinsic purpose?

Note: Furthermore, incarnation - life in a body, dwelling on a physical earth, and each of us distinctive in terms of physique, personality, abilities etc - has no point if impersonal bliss were the highest purpose. If humans were supposed-to lose self, lose ego, lose personality, and lose our bodies - then the obvious arrangement would be to by-pass this tedious mucking-about on earth, and we would simply 'go to bliss, go directly to bliss, do not pass Go, do not collect 200 pounds'. 


Such a reality would not support the demonstration and experience of values which we, as men and women, continually stumble upon. There is no room in such an enclosed system for the individual courage, integrity and affection which we know exists. Or if these qualities exist in our experience, they become in this reality only a dream and a game, and their significance is insubstantial. I should not choose to take part in such a game willingly, and the bliss of such a reality has for me already taken on a quality which devalues itself, as well as what I have unwittingly mistaken to be myself...

Note: Arkle notes that for humans to be aimed at impersonal bliss, destroys all the 'values' which we encounter in mortal incarnate life - virtue, beauty, truth - all types of goodness are re-framed as delusions. They are reduced to the significance of 'a dream and a game'. To regard this world as an illusion may free us from attachment to misery, ugliness, lies, pain - but inevitably is does so at the cost of regarding all values (negative and positive) as delusions. Demotivation is complete; alienation is complete. 


I feel sure that the picture we have just drawn is one which many people hold when they take up the pursuit of the spiritual path; and at the same time feel that the idea of a real God, to whom we can relate, is an immature and childish attempt to sustain the reality of our wishful thinking. They would say that an idea of a personal God is 'anthropomorphic' and, in our present climate of thought, this is expected to be automatically a damning criticism.

Note: Arkle highlights that modern culture, including modern spirituality, is rooted in a cynical pseudo-sophistication that regards an anthropomorphic (Man-like) concept of God as 'immature and childish' - he might add unintelligent, uneducated, and in general pitiful.  


The answer I would like to give to this is simply to state that the anthropomorphic condition can be taken the other way. That is, it can be taken as a supreme compliment on the part of the Creator who has endowed us with an image which conforms to His own image because He has such high hopes of us. In a cynical age this simple and most beautiful attitude is the hardest of all to uphold.

Note: For Arkle, God made us in his image because his highest hope is that we will become, eventually, deified to the extent of becoming his divine 'friends' - because God desires, wants, yearns for companionship, for Heavenly 'society'. This is regarded as the basic motivation behind creation: God's yearning.  


To imagine a God in the image of degenerate man is one thing, but to imagine man to be capable of living and upholding all the most valuable qualities of God’s nature is quite another. This gift to us of ourselves, as something which can sustain comparison with that of the Divine nature is exactly the gift which I believe our Creator is endeavouring to bring about.

Note: Arkle here turns-around the usual criticism that anthropomorphism is imagining God merely in the image of Men - when Men are such degenerate creatures. Instead he invites us to imagine Man created in God's image - which entails that God is Man-like - because God hopes that we will become capable of living in the same way as God.

So Man in God's image can be regarded as a dragging-down from the divine; or, as here, a raising-up to the divine.

For Arkle, clues to the human condition are in ourselves: in our physical appearance, and in our deepest motivations and yearnings. We contain an essence of God (a divine spark) in a partial and embryonic form.

Therefore, if we can intuit and bring-out these deepest yearnings, we find they clarify, complement and confirm other spiritual knowledge - most specifically divine revelations - and provide understanding, direction, motivation and delight in our proper spiritual path in this world.

And a crucial step is to acknowledge that because we are like God, then God is like us.


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