The book is designed to present the paintings in such a way that the reader can look at these as pictures without becoming involved with the message which they carry. But, in order to supply an answer to the questions which arise from the pictures, explanations are offered to correspond with the quantity of the concepts involved. Some of these are long and others brief. In among the pictures are a number of poems which are intended to help with the overall attitude of the book which is trying to push communication beyond the usual limits.
In order to amplify the message which the pictures are trying to convey the book also includes a number of essays on philosophical and psychological subjects of a spiritual nature. These are in the main edited versions of recordings made in the course of conversation, or sent to my friends in reply to questions.
Finally the book includes an essay called 'Letter from a Father', which is written in such a way that it suggests how the Creator may feel in His attitude towards the purpose of creation. This letter is written as though from our Divine Father to us, one of his children. Thus it gives a view of reality which is 'from the top down' instead of from the position we are used to which is 'from the bottom looking up'.
To many these pictures will seem very strange. They are going out into a world in which the idea of a God, who is a Divine Person, will feel incongruous beside the materialistic and scientific culture of our times.
Our civilisation is trying to do without God and without Divine Aspiration, and I believe this will diminish the value of life and destroy our spirit. My own hope is that this is only a clearing phase which will loosen the old and somewhat rigid attitudes towards life's purpose and give way to a more beautiful understanding of our God than we have ever had before. It is impossible to love an unlovable God, and I would like to think that this book will go some way towards redressing that situation by enabling us to consider the possibility that we are being given a more deeply beautiful gift by that God than we have prepared ourselves to expect.
I am afraid that the commentaries will seem to be at times rather arbitrary or even dogmatic, such as the mention of God the Son-Daughter as the third part of the Holy Trinity in the painting of the Divine Family. A more complete description of these and other matters will be found in my book 'A Geography of Consciousness', also published by Neville Spearman, which Colin Wilson kindly wrote an introduction to, and in which he also refers to my music which is another part of the overall expression I am trying to communicate.
The theme of the book is approached again and again in the paintings and the writings, and the reader who understands what I am pointing towards may well find this tiresome. But it is my experience that many people are glad to have the main issues repeated and thoroughly aired. On the whole, the book is designed to help those who feel a need for what it is endeavouring to supply, and it may well seem inappropriate to those who do not have this need.
I regard William Arkle as one of my primary mentors of Romantic Christianity - right up there with Blake, Coleridge, Steiner, Barfield - and perhaps even more inspiring to me personally. At any rate, over the past five years I have studied Arkle's work with the most detailed intensity.
At first glance his writing appears either extremely abstract and symbolic (e.g. when he is using analogies from physics or engineering to 'explain' the spiritual structure of reality) or else the opposite: over-simple and naively optimistic.
These aspects long put me off engagement (and by 'long' I mean for more than 30 years, when I knew of his work but skimmed it merely). Nowadays I realise that the toughness is worth slogging through, and the simplicity reflects the fact that Arkle succeeded spiritually to an extent attained by extremely few other people of whom I know.
Anyway, I will often take a short passage such as the above, and brood on it in an almost sentence by sentence way.
The key passage for me is this, italicised; my comments are interspersed:
Our civilisation is trying to do without God and without Divine Aspiration, and I believe this will diminish the value of life and destroy our spirit.
A fact and a prediction (written more than 40 years ago) - both correct.
My own hope is that this is only a clearing phase which will loosen the old and somewhat rigid attitudes towards life's purpose and give way to a more beautiful understanding of our God than we have ever had before.
This is my hope too. There is a sense in which this 'clearing' is made necessary by the failure of 'the West' but England specifically, to embrace Romantic Christianity in the early 1800s. So there are a couple of centuries of accumulated wrongness, especially the attitudes and assumptions. And these wrong attitudes and assumptions are on both the Christian and secular (political and ideological) sides - because the two have diverged so much.
We have a dominant secular culture that is trying to do without God and the spiritual - and a small minority Christian side that has a wrong and confused idea of God, and is failing to address the most deeply felt problem: the destruction of spirit ('alienation'). Arkle then moves onto the Christian problem...
It is impossible to love an unlovable God, and I would like to think that this book will go some way towards redressing that situation by enabling us to consider the possibility that we are being given a more deeply beautiful gift by that God than we have prepared ourselves to expect.
This is gently expressed, but a very sharp and unyielding criticism of the way that - through its history, and continuing, Christians have treated God as unloveable, by assuming God has all kinds of un-loveable attributes (such as wanting to be worshipped, demanding obedience above all and in all circumstances, demanding sacrifice and propitiation, refusing to recognise individuality etc).
They say God is love - but have made a God who is less loving the the best humans; and excuse this with saying God is incomprehensible to men... Thereby stripping all meaning from the attribution of love; and assuming that God the creator of all, somehow could not make matters such that we would understand the essentials.
Arkle asks - how can Men be expected to love a God which is not loveable? And answers that God has been made unloveable, by 'Christians': firstly from the many unloveable motivations they attribute to God; and secondly God has been made into a deity unloveable, due to regarding God as inhuman, abstract, and mystically incomprehensible.
And further, Christians have not taken seriously their assumptions that a loving God created and sustained this world; because if we did we would regard this world as a 'deeply beautiful gift' - designed for our benefit - each and all of us.
I mean, by our assumptions (that is created, by a loving God, who is each of our parents) this world Must Be 'Fit for purpose', and for each person - yet Christians recurrently regard creation as a botch-job!
This is a terrible error, and negates much that is good about Christianity, and somewhat explains its many historical failures - even (sometimes especially) when the religion was being sincerely believed and diligently implemented.
Here, as so often, Arkle's mildness of manner conceals a sinewy, spiritual strength; his simplicity conceals great depth of experience and thought!