Sunday 10 March 2024

Those Arkle moments... Something I do when threatened by incipient angst-despair

It is more than a decade since I engaged seriously with the work of William Arkle - at first on this blog and the archive blog previously linked, culminating in writing sleeve notes for a CD of his music and an introduction for a new edition of his first book

As usually happens with writers who have made a significant and lasting contribution to my philosophy of life; I have pretty much ceased to re-read entire works by Arkle - but have instead "assimilated" some of his special qualities into my memories; where I can get access to them, and benefit from them, by thinking. 

I have always - since I first heard of Arkle back in 1977 - had an inkling of this potential benefit, as if I sensed it there but just out of sight, around a corner. I needed to spend some time marinating in Arkle's writings (and, to a lesser extent, his pictures) before I "caught" this quality for myself. 

Among Arkle's particular, indeed unique, qualities that I value; is a positive and quietly confident attitude to reality. This has been something that has often lifted me from an oppressive mood of one sort or another - from existential angst about "the human condition", or fear about what might happen, or despair over the direction of the world; or small scale things like confusion over what I ought to be doing or ruminations over "wasting my time". 

Arkle's approach to life - which, according to those who knew him well, he seems personally to have exemplified to a considerable degree, is one that cuts-free-from and rises above such negative broodings, disappointments, and the sense of being trapped by external circumstance. 

Indeed, there are few others who are able to do this for me, and nobody else so strongly - perhaps because Arkle goes beyond the double-negation of palliating life; and sets the whole thing into an eternal adventure of what might be termed deification (or theosis, sanctification, divinization... but with a particular meaning). 

In other words, the idea that the primary purpose of God's creation was to enable each of us who wants this, incrementally to develop towards the same nature and level of God* - so as ultimately to become not only a participant in divine creation (which we already are) but a friend of God, and a co-creator

There aren't many other thinkers or theologies who can inspire me in this very practical and immediate way - and so I continue to value and refer to William Arkle. 

*Arkle's point is that although God is prior to all other Beings, because the primary creator within-whose creation we dwell - this is analogous to the relation of parents with growing children. When a child has fully grown-up, the ideal loving relationship between child and parents should have changed from the authority/ obedience-based relationship of early childhood, to one of harmonious "collaboration" between mature individual persons. That possibility is what Arkle envisages as God's goal in creation - not so much as an end-point, but as a step towards qualitatively greater and ever-expanding creative possibilities.  


The Anti-Gnostic said...

This sounds familiar to me as Orthodox Christian theosis, or the Hindu's Atman.

Bruce Charlton said...

@A-G - Misleading comparison I fear. Similar in a few ways, but not the same in goals.

Much more like what Mormons call exaltation, in that it potentially goes right to the level of parity with Jesus Christ.

Whereas Orthodox theosis goes up to the level of the great Saints and with an infinite gulf between that and the Trinity.

And The Hindu goal is to lose all self/ ego/ person hood and return into the primal oneness.

Jay said...

@Bruce As a child my babysitters were an elderly Mormon couple and they had a copy of The Great Gift. I remember looking at his paintings in that book and having a very good feeling from them. It wasn't until many years later when I found your blog that I knew who Arkle actually was, and through it I was able identify this old book I remembered from childhood. Arkle had great insight and definitely has had a good influence on my life.