Saturday 23 June 2018

A 'successful' modern life - William Arkle

One of the many reasons that I have an intense interest in William Arkle, is that he is just about the only modern person that I am sure had a successful life - in the most profound sense of 'successful'. I mean, he lived as he was supposed-to live: substantially lived his personal destiny.

In other words, Arkle was both a Christian, and he was at the same time (to a very significant degree) spiritual in his consciousness. This is that state I would most like to achieve - however, I can only do so briefly and intermittently; whereas William Arkle seems to have been living 'in this state' for much of the time.

From talking with his son (Nick), it seems that this was not always the situation. On the one hand, Arkle was naturally a spiritual man; but on the other he got into a bad situation in his twenties, after a first marriage rapidly broke down; and he was left in some kind of lonely, despairing, dishevelled and dysfunctional situation - in which was found, and from which he was rescued, by Elizabeth; with whom he then had a life-long marriage and two children.

From about that point, Arkle seemed to have lived as a Direct Christian - that is, a Christian whose faith was primarily based on direct empathic contact with the divine; but not a solitary mystic - instead because he lived in the context of an active, engaged family and social life; a 'world' that he and his wife built-around themselves and their children.

By my scale of evaluation, therefore, William Arkle's actually-experienced life was 'a success' in a way that I have failed to discover for anyone else.

In a material way Arkle was fortunate to have a loving family life in a beautiful setting, and to work mainly on creative projects - especially painting. But the main thing was that he lived, mostly, in a state of awareness of God's creation; and that 'God' was loving divine-creator parents whose greatest hope to raise their children to fully-divine parity with themselves.

It is the fact of living this vision as experience that made the difference, I think; it was this experiential aspect that sets Arkle apart from other people who knew-about how best to live, what to aim-at; but could not themselves actually do it.

For example, Owen Barfield - who found it very difficult to live what he knew: he found it hard to go far towards putting metaphysical theory into actual practice.

As Barfield said, habit is our default, what we lapse-into; and Arkle seems to have established as habit what others (like Barfield, or myself for that matter) attain only in brief moments. In this, he was helped by a mystical temperament and suitable circumstances - but these are not enough. Arkle also developed a theoretical understanding, worked at creative expression, practiced various forms of meditation (including the process of painting), and created around-himself a conducive situation.

Also, Arkle did not make the common, and easy, mistake of conflating here-and-now happiness with spirituality: he was not a hedonist. His vision of Life is one of God teaching us by providing a world in which each person gets the full range of experiences they need in order to learn - suffering as well as pleasure, tough as well as euphoric, hatred as well as love. Life is not meant to be a utopia.

It seems to have been this process of experiencing and learning that Arkle enjoyed, and which he lived in-awareness-of.

On the one hand, the example of William Arkle shows that 'it can be done'; on the other hand, Arkle's uniqueness shows how rare and difficult it is to attain an overall-successful life of spiritual Christianity.

And we cannot use Arkle as a 'model' for living; indeed, according to Arkle's own teaching, we should not even try to do so.

For Arkle, it was of-the-essence that God wants each peron to 'quarry-out' his unique life in his unique way - because the glory of Heaven is that each person is ever more fully themselves. Heaven is not convergence on a single pattern; but a multiplicity of mature divine persons, each contributing something only they could contribute to creation.

Heaven is, in other words, like an idea extrapolation of family experience; in which each child grows to occupy an unique role, which they themselves co-create as they develop.

And all this dynamic diversity of everlasting creativity is bound-together by love.

That is life as it can be, should be, and actually exists; and William Arkle seems to have experienced life, much of the time, in awareness of that wonderful fact.


Chiu ChunLing said...

I think that one essential element of a spiritually successful life would be a profound humility and lack of personal interest in proclaiming one's success at being spiritual.

From that alone, we should expect that nearly all such lives go unremarked by anyone other than the close associates of such an individual.

The exceptions would be only those 'called' on an ordained mission to preach the real possibility of a spiritually successful life, which are always less than those called to preach repentance regardless of whether it leads to 'spiritual success' least as characterized by a 'happy life' like that of William Arkle.

For most of us, the desire for such a felicitous life is the worst enemy of spiritual fortitude in the life we are actually called on to lead, while Arkle might have had the grace to avoid this mistake without having to consciously choose to live a harder and less personally 'rewarding' life, there are few who can or even should do so.

For me, a spiritually successful life is one that involves the total sacrifice of almost every mortal satisfaction to forward eternal ends. This is the model life to which nearly all people should be taught to aspire, because it is the most likely path to salvation for most of them and the hardest to accept in the crucial moments.

I do think that it is profoundly important that a life such as William Arkle's is possible in theory, that if enough people were humble and courageous in their conviction of Christ, most people might be able to live that way. But thinking on how we shall live after the war is over, however it might bolster our spirits for a moment, is not the primary activity that helps actually win the war. At best it helps us remember that the war is worth winning, should we be in danger of forgetting why we fight.

William Wildblood said...

I think CCL makes an important point. The most successful spiritual life is not necessarily a happy and fulfilled one. It could well be one filled with suffering. Christ said that those who followed him would have to take up the cross. I'm certainly not saying that William Arkle did not do this but his life is not perhaps one to take as an example of how a spiritual life should be for everyone.

Bruce Charlton said...

I would emphasise again the point (made by Arkle) that we should not look for examples to copy, or model upon; because that is missing the point about how the world has been set-up, each life for each person.

And CCL is right to emphasise that it is likely that most successful lives are unknown, except to direct personal contact.

What stmulated this post is that most people's lives seem obviously and deeply unsatisfactory - hollow, and futile. Also often faked, or pretentious - many lives seem to be led primarily to impress other people.

So, IMO there can be no generalisation about suffering (except that it is a part of almost every life) - it may, or may not, be the destined focus of a specific life, depending upon what experience that person needs in order to have the best chance of learning what he most needs.

edwin said...

Perhaps what Arkle demonstrated was that thing which is so lacking today in the lives of most of us - INTEGRITY. It is difficult not to falsify one's thought and expression for the sake of survival in a world in which only the material is considered real. Spirituality is to be kept in one's pocket in most circumstances. To bring it to light would be considered eccentric or bizarre. Flannery O'Connor's brilliant novel Wise Blood illustrates what an oddity a spiritually serious person is in contemporary life. Arkle was able to live in a way that most of us do not, perhaps cannot. Was he blessed, or did he have more courage than most? Perhaps, integrity now requires that we speak honestly and accept the ridicule and rejection that will follow. A happy life can only be seen from the inside out, so what appears to be misery may be beatitude unknown to the observer.

seriouslypleasedropit said...

"A mole must dig to the glory of God and a cock must crow."