How Did I Become Aware of Natural Inclusion?

Alan Rayner
Alan Rayner

Evolutionary ecologist, painter, author, and poet

In this, my hundredth and perhaps final Medium article, I turn to the question of how I came to prepare the preceding ninety-nine.

It’s a question I’ve been asked

It’s a question I’ve asked myself

It’s not a straightforward question for me to answer

In incremental steps from beginning to end

Because although it has entailed passing through a number of transitions

Perhaps three major transitions

These have not taken me anywhere that’s new to me

They have felt more like a return journey

From somewhere remote, lifeless and loveless

To what I was aware of all along

But didn’t know how to express

In a way that would be understood

.

The first 48 years of my life took me along a course that became devoted to the study of fungi and their relationships with other life forms and habitats, especially trees and woodlands. This study was made, however, within the context of a scientific and academic culture from which I felt increasingly alienated and that progressively nibbled away at my confidence until I reached a point when I couldn’t continue. I came to feel that either something was foundationally wrong with the culture or something was foundationally wrong with me. It was and is a very insecure feeling. Sensing that I had voyaged very far from home, I abandoned ship in mid-ocean. And drifted.

Within 2 years, I became explicitly aware, in a visionary moment, of what I now call ‘natural inclusion’. I embarked on a new voyage of discovery — or rediscovery — which, as it turned out took me even further from mainstream thought. But this voyage also brought me much closer to home and what I feel I have always known, since early childhood, but suppressed through a series of abandonments made in a vain effort to conform with societal expectations.

The first major abandonment had come

When I was required at school

To study ‘hard science’

Physics, chemistry and an underpinning of maths

And forgo any more than lay interest in arts and humanities

In order to study biology

.

I wanted to study biology

Because, during walks with my father,

I had fallen in love with life in the wild

Intuitively sensing the patterns within its variety

How these relate to patterns in landscape and water

And arise as manifestations of flow

Creating and following channels of least resistance

I delight in the way this intuition

Enables me with swelling heart

To view different species as friends

And to discover new ones

Each with their own profound story to tell

Concerning why and how they come to be

As they are

Where they are

.

When I was around eight years old, having recently made the trip with my family back ‘home’ to London from where I was born and lived my earliest years in Nairobi, Kenya, I contracted measles, the first of many childhood illnesses that confined me to bed and disrupted my schooling. My father sat by my bedside and read stories to me about the planets and outer space, infecting me with his love of scientific exploration. I was given books to read about natural history and I learned to identify the garden birds in the tree that grew outside my bedroom window. I made watercolour paintings of these and others that I had never seen from illustrations on the pages of ‘Collins Pocket Guide to British Birds’. Then, whenever I was well enough, I was taken out into the countryside and spent many happy days bird-spotting for myself. I was taken on my first ‘fungus foray’ to a place called Burnham Beeches, west of London. It was led by the redoubtable figure of a man called Bayard Hora and I was awestruck by what I many years later described as ‘The Fountains of the Forest’ as they erupted from ground and trees in manifold shapes and colours, not least the legendary ‘fly agaric’ (Amanita muscaria), the ‘parasol’ (Macrolepiota procera) and numerous ‘brittle gills’ (Russula spp). I found that their Latin names came easily to me and I delighted in showing off my recall to peers and teachers.

Over following years, I became familiar with more and more of the British flora, fauna and fungi, filling my head with thousands of Latin names and associated mental images not only of the organisms themselves but also of the habitats in which they flourished and the ground-shaping processes that formed them. I loved the companionship of like-minded others on natural history walks and fungus forays, and the thrill of new finds and sharing knowledge.

But, there was a problem. To study biology as a ‘science’ was not the same as experiencing ‘life in the wild’ in the caring companionship of others. If anything, it was wild life’s antithesis:- a competition to be first or best while following strict codes of practice designed to eliminate subjective human ‘error’ and conform to an unquestionable norm prescribed by prior authority.

I was not enamoured with numerical figures and mental fixes

Mechanics and technicalities

Atomised life in dead boxes

So what perverse logic was it

That forced this choice upon me?

.

It took me a long while to realise

But meanwhile, I persevered

Never quite losing my original feeling for pattern, process and relationship

Even bringing this to my understandings of hard science and maths

For I couldn’t learn anything without it

But sensing it being increasingly threatened

By an unforgiving attitude of mind

Hell-bent on mastery

Dismissive of mystery

Intolerant of error and unpredictability

Viewing life as a purposeless eliminative struggle

Between selfish genetic survival machines

.

The second great abandonment came

When I followed my father’s footsteps

Not only to a Cambridge degree in natural sciences

Specialising in Botany

But into postgraduate mycological research

In pursuit of an academic career

.

This brought me into full exposure to the glare of that attitude of mind

Divorced objectively from its subject of study

Cut off from feeling

By definition

That idolises quantity

Without regard for quality

Forsakes companionship

For competition

Forsakes artistry

For technicality

Rendering all that doesn’t make the grade

By complying with its exacting standards

Worthless

.

This kind of science, I discovered

Was a far cry from what I’d loved

On fungus forays with my father and his companions

In search of beauty and variety

And the sheer joy of discovery and sharing knowledge

.

Instead the emphasis was on utility and methodology

Taming both organism and researcher

Under controlled conditions

Homogenising mathematically, genetically and intellectually

In library, laboratory, digital computer

Agarose gel

And industrial scale fermentation

Far-removed from reality

No wildness allowed

Even in the experimental plots in the timber-producing forest where I did my field work

In order to ensure conformity with abstract rules

.

I tried to conform,

I really did

To do things by the book

To keep my cultures as they should be

To measure accurately

To isolate with care

Free from contaminating interference

To check my work

And that of those I mentored

For consistency with others’

Described in ‘literature’

.

But that’s when I found

What others said

Even in the most vaunted of places

Was full of contradictions

Inaccuracies

Mistakes

Generalisations

Prejudice

At odds with my actual experience

Or so it seemed to me

.

I began to lose trust

In others’ judgement

In my own judgement

Aware as I had always been of my capacity for error

The wildness within me

Marked wrong in school tests

I faltered

And, with confidence fading

Made one last effort

To leave behind in my wake

A painting

Called ‘Fountains of the Forest’

Celebrating all that my erstwhile friends

The fungi

Had taught me

Concerning their lives in the company of trees

Which none of my peers understood

Though a few did try to do so

Only to be blocked by hard-line thought

.

Fountains of the Forest (oil painting on board by Alan Rayner, Mycological Research 102, 1441–1449, 1998). ‘a tree is a solar-powered fountain, its sprays supplied through wood-lined conduits and sealed in by bark until their final outburst in leaves … Within and upon its branching, enfolding, water-containing surfaces, and reaching out from there into air and soil are branching, enfolding, water-containing surfaces of finer scale, the mycelial networks of fungi … which provide a communications interface for energy transfer from neighbour to neighbour, from living to dead, and from dead to living

Since childhood, painting had been a source of respite for me as a way to express my feelings for the natural world, and as an antidote to the rigidity of scientific objectivism. Since 1976 there had been a long lapse, except for four paintings I had made around 1990 for my two daughters, Hazel and Philippa. Now I began painting again in earnest. And not only painting, but writing poetry — sometimes alongside or as an inspiration for a painting.

Although I did not initially realise this, all my paintings made since 1969 illustrate a shift from the abstract perception of space, time and material boundaries as sources of definitive separation between independent objects, to recognising them instead as mutually inclusive sources of natural continuity and dynamic distinction between flow-forms. In effect this represents a shift from rigidly static to fluidly dynamic framings of reality: from abstract ‘freeze-framed geometry’ to natural ‘flow geometry’ — from ‘abstract exclusion to natural inclusion’. They all depict imaginary scenes, based on real experience and study of natural form, which often come into my mind ‘out of the blue’ rather than deliberate intent. One that I made at the time of my ‘second great abandonment’ graphically illustrated what I recognised unconsciously but not consciously:-

Arid Confrontation (oil painting on board by myself, 1973)

I withdrew into the wasteland –

My final abandonment

To consider my options

For a change of career

But none came near to anything

That I felt I could do

And so began my return journey

Starting where I’d left off

But now without any funded research programme

Or ready-made publication venue

To speak of,

Required by my colleagues to ‘pull my weight’

As a ‘research-inactive’ liability

By teaching a heavy load

Yet free at last to abandon

The pretence of conforming

With objective expectations

And renew my love of life in the wild

With all its twists and turns and surprises

Seeing straight through the facade of false logic

That sought to tame, control and predict it

Within a cage of fixed boundaries

.

It was then that awareness of natural inclusion

Came back to me

In a way that I could now express

At least to my own satisfaction

In prose and in paintings and poetry

Conveying receptive-responsive relationship

Between infinite spatial stillness

And energetic motion

In the co-creation of all material forms

As figures emerging from ground

.

So simple I could scarcely believe it

So obvious to me as a child

When I noticed what permitted or impeded my movements

By way of openness, liquidity and solidity

Elemental Air, Water and Earth

Enlivened by Fire

Burning in the Endless Freedom of Space

Far removed from containment in boxes

Intangible, invisible

Yet here, there and everywhere

Eternally

Without limit

.

One beckoning image, especially, came to me out of the blue, along with a poem, to symbolise this epiphany, this turning and returning point of innermost receptivity:-

Holding Openness — light as a dynamic natural inclusion of darkness continually brings an endless diversity of flow-form to life (Oil painting on canvas by myself, 2005)

You ask me who you are; To tell a story you can live your life by; A tail that has some point; That you can see; So that you no longer; Have to feel so pointless; Because what you see is what you get; If you don’t get the meaning of my silence; Because you ain’t seen nothing yet

You ask me for illumination; To cast upon your sauce of doubt; Regarding what your life is all about; To find a reason for existence; That separates the wrong; From righteous answer; In order to cast absence out; To some blue yonder; Where what you see is what you get; But you don’t get the meaning of my darkness; Because you ain’t seen nothing yet

You look around the desolation; Of a world your mined strips bare; You ask of me in desperation; How on Earth am I to care?; I whisper to stop telling stories; In abstract words and symbols; About a solid block of land out there; In which you make yourself a declaration; Of independence from thin air; Where what you see is what you get; When you don’t get the meaning of my present absence; Because you ain’t seen nothing yet

You ask of me with painful yearning; To resolve your conflicts born of dislocation; From the context of an other world out where; Your soul can wonder freely; In the presence of no heir; Where what you see is what you get; When you don’t get the meaning of my absent presence; Because you ain’t seen nothing yet

You ask me deeply and sincerely; Where on Earth can you find healing; Of the yawning gap between emotion; And the logic setting time apart from motion; In a space caught in a trap; Where what you see is what you get;

And in a thrice your mind is reeling; Aware at last of your reflection; In a place that finds connection; Where your inside becomes your outside; Through a lacy curtain lining; Of fire, light upon the water

Now your longing for solution; Resides within and beyond your grasp; As the solvent for your solute; Dissolves the illusion of your past; And present future

Now your heart begins to thunder; Bursting hopeful with affection; Of living light for loving darkness; Because you ain’t felt no thing yet

.

So life evolves in response to receptive invitation — through natural inclusion — not selective exclusion. We are called to evolve, not forced*. Life is a gift of natural energy flow, which we receive with grace, care for protectively, and pass on — not a competitive struggle for existence in a sealed box. We breathe life, we don’t suffocate it. Ain’t that a relief?

Now all I had learned on my travels

Fell into a new kind of place

Even maths and hard sciences

No longer at odds

With Art or Humanity

But serving to show

A side of the story

Insufficient to stand on its own

.

So that’s how I returned to my senses

In three stages

Three abandonments of the abandonments

That had taken me so far from love

.

Stage 1

Abandonment of the abandonment of objective abstraction

That cuts what is in here apart from what is out there

.

Stage 2

Abandonment of the abandonment of mechanistic focus

That places tangible utility before lovable beauty

.

Stage 3

Abandonment of the abandonment of life’s purpose

That denies the call to live, love and be loved

In receptive-responsive relationship

With neighbours and neighbourhood

.

Quite simply, becoming aware of natural inclusion gave me back my calling and purpose in life, beyond mechanical utility. It validated my aesthetic appreciation of all natural material form as flow-form within a receptive continuum of space. It enabled me to dispense with any residual perception of objective self-isolation from my natural neighbours and neighbourhood. And it made sense of a great many scientific findings that make no sense in terms of definitive theory.

Perhaps it can do the same for you?

Quite Simply:- Natural Inclusion is ‘What’s Happening’ — The Flow of Life, Not the Frigidity of Definitive Abstraction.

Or, more fully:- Natural inclusion is the mutually inclusive, co-creative, receptive-responsive relationship between intangible spatial stillness and energetic motion in the being, becoming and evolutionary diversification of all material bodies, including our own. Exploring Natural Inclusion | What is Natural Inclusion ? (spanglefish.com)

See:-

https://admrayner.medium.com/from-abstract-freeze-frame-to-natural-kinship-how-awareness-of-our-dynamic-inclusion-in-6ddd1d835295

This is why becoming aware of natural inclusion matters:- http://www.spanglefish.com/exploringnaturalinclusion/index.asp?pageid=701959

Core Values & Principles of Natural Inclusion(ality) — the mutual inclusion of intangible spatial stillness and energetic motion in all material forms (Watercolour on paper by Alan Rayner, 30/11/2021)

.

Postscript (added on 14/12/2021)

Middle Earth

Life forms in the balance

Between flow and counterflow

Into and out from the other

In response to innermost calling

Amidst infinite expanse

A love triangle in the making of heartfelt experience

At the seat of all knowing

In the wisdom of not knowing

The natural inclusion of being in becoming

The in-breath in out-breath

In common passion

.

‘Middle Earth’ (Oil painting on board by Alan Rayner, December 2021)

Postscript 2 (added 19/12/2021)

The Nature of Excitation

‘Stitches in Time’ (Oil painting on board by Alan Rayner, 2020)

IN SUMMARY:- we will have NO HOPE of release from the iniquities, paradoxes, inconsistencies and falsities of objective rationalisation until and unless we recognise the receptive influence of omnipresent space and the responsive flow of energetic information around every body. ONLY THEN will a truly compassionate and regenerative way of life become possible.

How does it feel

And what does it mean

To be excited?

.

Do you feel it in your bones

In your brain

In your gut

In your heart

In your gonads?

.

In which case

How do these places feel about it

And how would you know how they feel

Without imagining your self within them?

.

Is excitation something you can measure

In units of mass, speed and size?

.

If not, why not?

Is excitation essential to life?

If not, where would we be without it?

Could we be anywhere

Other than nowhere and everywhere at once?

.

What kind of existence would that be?

Devoid of form and movement

Other than the void itself –

That limitless expanse of frictionless space

Universal darkness, stillness, transparency, timelessness

Absolute nothingness

The infinite presence of absence

That can only be what it is

And never become what it could be

Without excitation

Intangible motion

The essence of time

Current

Energy flow

From incoherence to coherence to incoherence

Heat and light

Chaos and order

Entropy and negentropy

Disinformation and information

Degeneration and generation

In regeneration

Betwixt and enveloping

All material form

In local gravitational in levitational

Receptive in responsive

Packaging

But not in itself

Having mass, speed or size

Pure motion

Emotion

Looking for somewhere to go

Awaiting manifestation

To make something of life

Something of light

That can be seen and touched

Both material and immaterial

In natural flow-form

In animal, vegetable, fungal, bacterial and mineral

Expressions

In solid, liquid, gas and plasma

Suffused by void

Calling into place in time

Both tangible and intangible

Measurable and immeasurable

Together

Neither one or other

Nor all one

Alone

.

Postscript 3 (added 01/01/2022)

Letting Go & Holding On
A New Year’s Resolution of Human Conflict

‘Engagement’ (Oil painting on canvas by Alan Rayner, 2001)

In the dead end
It is just as nonsensical
To speak of being totally interconnected
As it is
To speak of being totally separate
.
Neither is possible
In this world as it is
Each is an expression of psychological attachment
To an unrealistic ideal
A rock or a hard place
Egoic fortitude or collective concrete
Where all is at standstill
.
To let go of one
To hold on to the other
Is no way to go
.
Each needs to be loosened
With infinite grace
If life is to flow
And love is to grow
.

Postscript 4 Summary of a Presentation for Complex System Thinkers (added 09/01/2022)

Natural inclusion: The receptive simplicity in the heart of complexity and a compassionate, regenerative and creative community life

In this presentation I offer the fundamental natural evolutionary principle of ‘natural inclusion’ as a simple way to understand the complexities of the natural world in which we human beings are dynamically included. In summary, natural inclusion can be described as the mutually inclusive, co-creative, receptive-responsive relationship between intangible spatial stillness and energetic motion in the being, becoming and evolutionary diversification of all material bodies, including our own.

For millennia this understanding has eluded us due to the prevalence of a definitive mode of perception, and associated abstract rationality, which either objectively isolates or conflates the human observer from or with what is observed. Such perception effectively removes the central coordinating influence, by way of the innermost spatial receptivity, which exists in the gravitational core of all natural organisations, from sub-atomic to galactic in scale. Consequently the default condition of Nature is paradoxically presupposed to be either static or random, whereupon movement and order are believed primarily to be brought about by executive mechanical force situated somewhere ineffable. Many modern scientific concepts and governmental paradigms continue to be founded on this divisive and/or oppressive belief, including Darwinian ‘natural selection’. These are a source of profound misunderstanding as well as psychological, social and environmental harm.

We will have hope of release from the iniquities, paradoxes, inconsistencies and falsities of objective rationalisation only when we recognise the receptive influence of omnipresent space and the responsive flow of energetic information around every body. Only then will a truly compassionate, creative and regenerative way of life become possible.

Postscript 5 (added 21/01/2022)

We Are Not Dust

‘Archangelic Channels’ (Oil painting on canvas by Alan Rayner, 1999). A hermaphrodite Yellow Archangel Flower, cut in half to expose receptive channels of gynoecium and donating channels of androecium, flies and falls through universal space, creating and following channels of least resistance bounded by cascading Aurora.

No, we are not dust

Dust is made from us

Not us from dust

We are the untouchables

Who co-create your worlds

Your consciousness –

Space:

The presence of receptive influence

Everywhere;

Light:

The occurrence of responsive motion

Somewhere

Stillness and Current

Combining in place-time

As love in life and life in love

The mutually inclusive embrace of material flow-form

A holy marriage

Never to be split asunder

Until and unless

Friction disintegrates its coherence

Until we meet again

In joyful communion

Somewhere

Sometime

.

Postscript 6 (added 04/02/2022)

The Lion’s Share

The Lion’s Share (pen, ink and watercolour sketch by Alan Rayner, 2022)

When you see me

Doing what I do

To serve my need

For self-sustenance

.

As I feel that stirring

In my hollow inside

Disturbing

The tranquillity of my day in the sun

Calling me and my mates to attention

Spurring

Us

To prepare for action

Tensing our muscles

From relaxation

Narrowing down our awareness

From peaceful sensation

Gathering in the sights, sounds and tastes

Smells, caresses and irritations

Impinging from all around

Into singling out

With forward focus

And pricked ears

Our alert bodies crouching with intent

Until the moment comes

Without pausing to think

To spring, rush, pounce, seize

Ingest fresh warmth

From silenced stillness

Returning to grace

From fright

As I lie down to sleep

Contented

Purring

Until the next stirring

.

Come inside me

In your imagination

Feel how I feel

In tune with my body

In tune with my surroundings

Responding receptively

To what comes and goes

In rhythms

.

Please don’t project

Onto me

Your own estranged psychology

Uprising from your dread of night

And worship of light

Which makes you split your sides

Into black and white

And cut your self apart

From where you are

And where you came from

By means of what you laughably call

‘Natural selection, or

The preservation of favoured races

In the struggle for life’

Which would be funny

If it wasn’t so sad

So bad

For you, for me, for us and the world

That we depend upon

For dear life

.

A psychology rooted not in any natural sense

But in the false exclusion or confusion of matter

From or with the receptive space

Within, without, throughout and all about

That pervades us all

Quite naturally

As dynamic inclusions of itself

In flowing forms of life

Dwelling in the current

From then to then

There to there

Never stopping for an instant

To disappear without trace

.

.

.

Into those width-less points, lines and planes

That you impose

From your distanced perspective

The frozen geometry of abstract treason

That puts us in a cage

Caught in suspended animation

And calls it a ‘whole’

That fearful man-trap you use

To rule the world

To rule the waves

Calling your royalty

Victorious, happy and glorious

Reigning supreme over us

To serve as your slaves

No, I am no sovereign

I do not define to rule

So, please do not call me King

And do not either call me

Selfish or altruistic

A prey

To the call of my genes

For neither is viable

.

No, I am not in it to win it

At others’ expense

That competitive game of zero sum

That you play with your minds

In gladiatorial arenas

.

I am as you are

Should you care to admit it

Behind your high fences

Needful

.

.

.

Can you hear me?

A call of the wild

The silence inside my roar

Which hungers for life

To come my way

As inspiration

A gift from death

To be received, cherished and passed on

In continuous relay

As energy recycles

In natural currency

Not financial security

From the sun on my back

To the soil beneath my clawed paws

Through the grass to the ungulates

Expiring through my jaws

To the microbes and fungi

That wait for their turn

To channel

Through the roots to the shoots

That spread solar arrays

To feed the flowers of receptivity

In radiance

That seed the regeneration

Again and again

In evolutionary uprising

With gathering momentum

In biosphere

From thin film to forest

.

Until and unless

Your Kingdom come

And takes us all away

.

So, please get real

Take your place in the deal

Allow how you feel

In your heart of devotion

To guide your emotion

And reason to be

You call it love

I believe

But then proceed to ignore it

Thinking it weak

Unaccountable

In your desire to be strong like me

Hah!

.

Stop fancying your self

Above all the rest

In that Great Chain of Being

From Top to Bottom

And see yourself we-ing

In diverse community

Not singular unity

Don’t take your leave from us

Just try to recall

As dear Desmond once said

In stark naked honesty

.

.

.

‘Even a space ape must urinate’

Need I say more?

…..

NB I was moved to write this by being shown this:- https://sovereignnature.com/nature-speaks

Postscript 7 (Added 30/03/2022)

At the centre of every thing is nothing: The elementary mathematics of natural inclusion, which rescues life from fixture

There is a kind of unkind mathematics, which immobilizes life by definition. At its dead centre is a material point within a cubical spatial frame, which can only be moved by ineffable mechanical force imposed from outside. This is the kind of mathematics I was taught at school. How about you? I didn’t understand it. Nor did I understand the categorical treatment of physical reality it gives rise to. It is inherently paradoxical, as Godel’s theorem and the paradox of the Cretan liar (who says all Cretans are liars) make clear. It causes massive muddle and gets us into trouble of the kind that can even make us kill one another.

There is another kind of mathematics that makes natural sense, breathing life into material form. At its vital centre is a receptive point of intangible space, a ‘zero-point’ which attracts energetic motion into continuous circulatory formation around itself. A point in the ‘place time’ of every ‘thing’ (i.e. material body) as a dynamic local inclusion of space.

Its essence is startlingly simple. It begins in ‘round one’, not ‘square one’. See https://lnkd.in/dvj4UwdQ

.

The Allness of Me

In radiant receptive awareness
That sees both the tangible
In the intangible
And the intangible
In the tangible
The motion in the stillness
And the stillness in the motion
Goes so much wider and deeper
Than the wholeness of me
Caught in momentary standstill
Excluding what’s been
And what’s yet to become
As if you and me
Are object and subject
Framed in definitive rigidity
Not beholden to each other
In vibrant life
.

You can’t have half a hole

But you can have half a whole
Therein resides the difference
Between being alive and dropping dead
Natural inclusionality and abstract rationality
If you seek the murder weapon
Destroying life on Earth
Look no further than Occam’s razor
And the Law of the Excluded Middle

Disentangled Life

It all gets in quite a muddle
Doesn’t it?
Full of contradictions
When we try to define
What is and isn’t
Or treat those two impostors both the same
Until and unless
What is eternal and omnipresent –
Immaterial void
And what is transient and local –
Material in formation
Transcendent and immanent
Are understood to be distinct
But mutually inclusive
Neither one or the other
Nor one and the same
Whereupon all opposition
Resolves into natural communion
Neither divided nor united
But co-creative
The consonance and the dissonance
The stillness and the excitation
In variations on a theme
Neither enigmatic
Nor straightforward
But all that comes and goes
In flows

‘Counter-Currents’ (Oil painting on canvas by Alan Rayner, 1999)

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