Alan Rayner
Alan Rayner

Evolutionary ecologist, painter, author, and poet

I have long felt that a deep and truthful understanding of our human place in the natural world should combine rather than oppose scientific, artistic and spiritual perceptions. From the turn of the millennium, I began to express this feeling explicitly in terms of an awareness of what I consider to be a fundamental evolutionary principle, which I have called ‘natural inclusion’. Put broadly, natural inclusion is the mutual inclusion of intangible space and energy as receptive and responsive occurrences in all tangible material forms.

Since words alone are, however, inadequate to convey the meaning and significance of natural inclusion, a question that I have repeatedly asked myself is ‘how can this awareness be pictured in a way that brings out the mutually inclusive relationship between scientific, artistic and spiritual perceptions of Nature?’ On the morning of Monday 25th January 2021 I awoke with a very simple image forming in my mind’s eye, consisting of a circle, a tangent, an equilateral triangle and a central ‘zero point’ or ‘circumpunct’ within the circle. I made this drawing, which I called ‘Confluence’:-

Asked by a friend what I saw in it, I offered the following description:-

“It shows the flow of ‘energetic current’ into and out from local circulation around a receptive zero-point (circumpunct or circle with a central dot) within a material figure (1) somewhere/sometime as a dynamic configuration of eternal, infinite, intangible space everywhere. This understanding of One as a dynamic inclusion of Zero within Infinite space enables natural science, natural art and natural spirituality (and indeed natural mathematics) to come into confluence in a common understanding of all natural form as ‘flow-form’. The flow of current is both external and internal, and it also signifies the flow of ‘time’ within and around local receptive centres of space. Where the tangent intersects with the circle is the entry and exit point of this current, and it has a directionality to it that corresponds with birth, growth, maturation and expiration (and hence with spring, summer, autumn and winter — with the point of intersection corresponding with the winter solstice and the point diametrically opposite corresponding with the summer solstice. We could readily, as you say, superimpose Yang and Yin onto the diagram — but what the diagram also indicates is that the circle is NOT an instantaneous whole complete in itself but a dynamic configuration that can be both entered and exited. So the circle also signifies the body as an inclusive middle with a receptive self-centre. “

Another friend expressed concern that the image suggested a sequential relationship between science, art and spirituality. I responded:-

“Actually I had no intention at all of implying a sequence Science -> Art -> Spirituality, but rather a 3-way mutually inclusive relationship (also related to first person, second person, third person lenses of perception, as per the equilateral triangle within the circle).”

A third friend suggested that it would be good to incorporate some colourful imagery into the diagram. This made me wonder whether I could prepare a painting based on the above description. On Sunday 31st January, I awoke with the imagery I wanted beginning to take shape. I made the ‘ready-to-paint’ drawing on a 50 x 40cm canvas board:-

I described this imagery to a small circle of friends as follows:-

“You’ll notice that I’ve inverted the original image so that the apex of the triangle (corresponding with midday/summer solstice) is now at the top of the cycle, and there is a progression from bottom to top of Earth, Water, Air and Fire (represented by Sun), with infinite darkness at the periphery. I have pale yellow rising sun on right (East) and russet setting sun on left (West). I have dying grass on left and growing grass on right, flanked by rugged rocks. Within the triangle is a ‘Vitruvian’ representation of an Arctic Tern, which migrates annually between Arctic and Antarctic circles. There is a representation of ascent on the right, descent on the left, with the continuity of time/energy flow from left to right. At the base of the circle is a representation of fallen leaves fading in colour from left to right (corresponding to transition from autumn equinox to spring equinox). Within the triangle will be plain colour ultramarine and caerulean blue representations of sea and sky. Outside the triangle will be paler blue representations of sea and sky, the former with rippled reflections, the latter suffused with streams of sunlight. All in all we have here combined the local tangible elements of Earth (solid), Water (liquid) and Air (gas) formed from the intangible elements of Fire/light and Space/darkness, symbolized further by the two wings, two tail streamers and head and body of the tern. We also see a transition from radial/spherical symmetry associated with stillness and bilateral symmetry associated with movement.

Correspondingly, the imagery symbolizes the vitality of the mutually inclusive bodily and soulful/spiritual middle in bringing seemingly opposite but actually complementary viewpoints (as per left and right wings) into confluence.”

I completed the painting on the evening of Friday 5th February.

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