A Geography of Consciousness by William Arkle with an intro by Colin Wilson (1974).pdf

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First published in Great Britain by
Neville Spearman Limited
© William Arkle 1974
SBN 55435 481 6
I would place the author of this book among the half dozen most remarkable men I
have ever met – and I suppose this would include some of the most eminent writers
and thinkers of our time. This book which I am introducing is not an easy one; I
suppose I may as well be frank and say that in parts it is extremely tough going. But I
think it is an important book, and my aim in this introduction is to clear away some of
the difficulties.
Let me speak first of the author, William Arkle.
Like most writers, I receive a fair amount of correspondence from strangers. And
since I write about questions of human evolution and the nature of human
consciousness, many of these are from occultists and people with theories about
how man can become a god overnight. Very often, the writers send me manuscripts
and explain indignantly that publishers are too materialistic to understand the
importance of their work. But it is usually pretty easy to see why publishers are not
interested. The manuscripts are often full of important ideas; but they are never
properly thought-out, with consideration for the reader. And I always find myself
reflecting that it is a pity that the intelligent people are so often egocentric and lacking
in self-criticism, while the sane, decent, healthy people are so often mediocrities.
There are very seldom exceptions to this rule.
In 1960, William Arkle sent me a reproduction of one of his paintings, and it was
certainly a striking painting; it was an abstract, geometrical sort of landscape with
abstract human figures, a little like Wyndham Lewis’s. The colours were all very light,
yellows and greens and reds. But although it was striking, it was not, in the last
analysis, a good picture. It is hard to explain this except to say that in spite of its
abstract nature, it lacked real complexity. The letter that accompanied it talked about
spiritual values and so on, and it was clear that this is what the picture intended to
express. Arkle lived in Bristol, and he invited me to call and see him if I ever came
I seem to remember that I assumed he was probably a man in his fifties. My guess
was that he had probably started life in the Church of England, tried a few
evangelical sects, and ended up by producing some occult religion of his own.
In 1961, my wife and I were driving to Blackpool to the Long Playing Record Festival,
and it seemed a good opportunity to call on the Arkles. So we found our way – after
some difficulty – to a large house in Royal York Crescent, with a fine view over the
valley. And we were met by a tall, good-looking man in his early thirties, with a clean
cut face of the Charlton Heston type and a lock of hair on his forehead that made him
resemble that Sargeant drawing of Yeats that can be found in the Collected Plays. I
was introduced to his wife Elizabeth, who did not look in the least dreamy or mystical;
in fact, she looked one of those cheerful, healthy girls that Shaw put into early plays. I
was not surprised to learn she loved horses.
The enormous house belonged to them, and I discovered that they made a living by
buying houses, re-decorating them themselves, and then letting them as flats. It
seemed fairly strenuous work for a visionary, but apparently it solved the basic
problem of making a living. And neither was I surprised to learn that he had been an
engineer and served in the navy towards the end of the war. There was something
about him that suggested that he was not one of these subjective, egocentric people
who find the practical work unbearable.
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