Tuesday, 23 December 2014

William Arkle - Colin Wilson - William Arkle. The wheel comes full circle

Just over a year ago, Colin Wilson died -


This led me to think back on how I had discovered him, which led me to look again at the work of William Arkle since it was the Foreword to Arkle's book which led me to Wilson's The Outsider, and then on to dozens of other books (including The Craft of the Novel, which provided the structure of my MA-by-research thesis in English literature).

Since last year, I have read again many of Wilson's books, including the excellent Spider World scifi series for bedtime read-aloud purposes, and also filled-in some gaps, by reading for the first time books of Wilson's that were new to me.

And I also re-engaged with Arkle for the first time since I became a Christian; to discover he provided some things that were very helpful to my Christian life - in particular, Arkle has swiftly become my number one 'go-to' author to get-me-out-of moods of spiritual depression, to get me re-orientated with basic things.


But whereas in the past I regarded Arkle (when I thought of him, which was seldom) primarily as a Wilsonian - as 'contained-within' Wilson's ideas, and an amplification of certain aspects of them - I would now regard Arkle as having provided what was potentially (and should have been in actuality) the foundation and completion of Wilson's ideas.

Because Colin Wilson - despite many and enlightening insights - never achieved a cohesive metaphysical system or synthesis; never provided something upon-which you could base your life - which would provide meaning, motivation, purpose; a basis for the transcendental goods of truth, beauty and virtue;  a basis for human relationship and each person's relationship with reality.


From the beginning to the end of his writing career, Wilson was at root a 'a seeker' and a commentator on the work of others. It seems he was prevented from achieving a synthesis by a rejection of religion as 'the answer' (explained in his second book Religion and the Rebel of 1957).

Indeed, Colin Wilson was trying to create something that did the work of a religion, yet was not itself a religion - something which did not require 'faith'. He failed, as all others who attempted this have failed, simply because this is impossible, paradoxical.

What Wilson needed was to embed his own work within a larger religious framework; and this was exactly what Arkle did - Arkle's work was presented as a way of understanding Christianity.

If Wilson had better understood his friend William Arkle, understood Arkle less selectively and more fully; and had taken Arkle more seriously in his own right (and not merely as someone who exemplified and amplified Wilson's own concerns) - then this might have provided Colin Wilson with the crucial piece missing from the vast jigsaw of his philosophical reflections.


So now the wheel has come full circle for me: I began with Arkle as my prime (albeit brief and shallow) interest; took a 35 year arc of diversion through the vast productivity of Wilson as being regarded as more basic than Arkle - as 'containing' Arkle; and now find I have returned to regard Arkle as more fundamental than Wilson: with Wilson resting-upon the metaphysics of Arkle (which itself rests-upon Christian scripture).