INCLUSIONALITY: The Science, Art and Spirituality of Place, Space and
By Alan Rayner
Dept of Biology and Biochemistry, University of Bath, Claverton Down, Bath BA2 7AY, U.K.
‘Inclusionality’ expresses the idea that space, far from passively surrounding and isolating discrete massy objects, is a vital, dynamic inclusion within, around and permeating natural form across all scales of organization, allowing diverse possibilities for movement and communication. This way of understanding natural form radically affects not only the way we interpret all kinds of irreversible dynamic processes, but also the fundamental meaning of ‘self’ as a complex identity comprising inner, outer and intermediary domains, rather than an independent, single-centred entity. Correspondingly, boundaries that from an orthodox perspective are regarded as discrete, fixed limits (smooth, space-excluding, Euclidean lines or surfaces) of isolated objects or systems, are seen inclusionally as pivotal, relational places. Here, complex, dynamic arrays of voids and relief both emerge from and pattern the co-creative togetherness of inner and outer domains, as in the banks of a river that simultaneously express and mould both flowing stream and receptive landscape.
Shifting the Logical Premise - From Orthodox Imposition to Heterodox Inclusion
At the heart of inclusionality, then, is a simple shift in the way we frame reality, from absolutely fixed to relationally dynamic. This shift arises from perceiving space and boundaries as connective, reflective and co-creative, rather than severing, in their vital role of producing heterogeneous form and local identity within a featured rather than featureless, dynamic rather than static, Universe.
We hence move from perceiving space as ‘an absence of presence’ – an emptiness that we exclude from our focus on material things – to appreciating space as a ‘presence of absence’, an inductive ‘attractor’ whose ever-transforming shape provides the coherence and creative potential for evolutionary processes of all kinds to occur. Correspondingly, we extend beyond orthodox impositional logic based on the notion of discrete objects transacting within pre-set limits of Cartesian space, to the heterodox inclusional logic of distinct, ever-transforming relational places with reciprocally coupled insides and outsides communicating through intermediary domains. In other words, we move from the ‘logic of the excluded middle’ to the ‘logic of the included middle’.
To make this shift does not depend on new scientific knowledge or conjecture about supernatural forces, extraterrestrial life or whatever. All it requires is awareness and assimilation into understanding of the spatial possibility that permeates within, around and through natural features from sub-atomic to Universal in scale. We can then see through the illusion of ‘solidity’ that has made us prone to regard ‘matter’ as ‘everything’ and ‘space’ as ‘nothing’, and hence get caught in the conceptual addiction and affliction of ‘either/or’ ‘dualism’. An addiction that so powerfully and insidiously restricts our philosophical horizons and undermines our compassionate human spirit and creativity.
From ‘Everything’ to ‘Everywhere’ - And From Dislocated ‘Individual Self’ to Relational ‘Complex Self’
In reality, this simple shift at the heart of inclusionality therefore changes everything - or, rather, how we might regard every ‘thing’. When space is included in our perceptions of boundaries, it becomes inseparable from the energy that makes us alive. Darkness is included with light, gravity with electromagnetism, and time and matter cannot exist as separable, absolute quantities in their own right. We neither see the world and Universe about us as an incoherent assemblage of independent objects or closed systems surrounded by emptiness, nor do we lose ourselves in a featureless oceanic infinitude. Instead we feel ourselves, with others, as inhabited places, distinct but not discrete expressions, ever-transforming through the dynamic, reciprocally breathing relationship of inner with outer through intermediary space. Aware now of our place as local expressions of everywhere, we are not alone – we belong with, but decidedly not to one another, together, coherent through the connectivity of our common space, unique in our individually situated identities. Identities that we can both express and accommodate, as needs arise for differentiation and integration.
Hence, we can each perceive our natural being as a complex self, a coming together of inner with outer reciprocally coupled through intermediary spatial domains rather than a dislocated, self-centred individual imposing upon and imposed on by others. And this perception may actually enable us to transcend the I/You, Us/Them divides that engender so much human conflict. Instead of ‘arguing the toss’ in an adversarial debate between alternatives, we can understand life and evolution like a coin rolling on edge, coupling distinct but not discrete possibilities together through the space-including thickness of its intermediary interface, rather than collapsing into the stasis of one possibility or the other. We can then, without contradiction, each love other as our outer self that is interdependent with our inner self, and give precedence to our living space, of which we are uniquely situated expressions, deserving and needing respect.
Exposing and Transforming the Vampire Archetype in Orthodoxy
When we comprehend our inner and outer worlds, and hence our complex selves as relational places, expressions of the energy-space of everywhere rather than isolated objects, our scientific, artistic and spiritual worldviews transform and complement one another rather than conflict. This transformation is vital if we are ever to find ways to live more easily, joyfully and sustainably together.
For, rooted in the deep psychology of power and human cognition associated with orthodoxy and its fearful origins that currently dominates our scientific, mathematical and governmental methodologies and interpretations, lies an addictive, vampiric quality, which engenders profound environmental, social and psychological damage. In blissful ignorance of its own nature, this vampiric quality abuses power through being unable to share across the boundary that gives it form. This abuse of power is evident in the wide variety of inconsistencies, hypocrisies and conflicts that beset modern human culture.
Correspondingly, our loyalty to impositional logic can explain why it is, even in these supposedly enlightened times, that an Academy, which vaunts the freedom of its members to ‘question and test received wisdom’, nonetheless finds certain kinds of enquiries ‘beyond the pale’ and rejects those that transgress some unwritten rule. And how a supposedly dispassionate science, which recognises its provisional nature in an uncertain world and depends for its progress on new discoveries and the proposal and testing of hypotheses, nonetheless ‘draws the line’ at questioning and changing its methods and logical premises in the light of new findings. And why religious faiths that profess universal love and compassion persecute others that don’t share their beliefs. And why business organizations set themselves apart from and aim to exploit and manipulate the needs and desires of the customers they serve and depend upon. And what leads us to believe that environmental interests conflict with social and economic interests. And how supposedly ‘democratic’ governments, intended to represent the interests of all, operate instead on the principle of ‘majority rule’ administered by ‘leaders’ who impose their ‘mandate’ to make executive decisions in accord with their own ‘strategic vision. And why educational systems that aim to inspire and enable individuals to develop their full potential and contribute in diverse ways to society impose restrictive ‘standards’ and ‘curricula’. And what makes so many people so seemingly unaware of or willing to ‘turn a blind eye’ to these paradoxical inconsistencies. And how these inconsistencies are linked to the suppression of ‘dangerous ideas’ by the witch-hunts and Inquisitions of times gone by.
As in all cancers and parasites, the vampiric quality embedded within orthodoxy depends for its sustenance on one-way flows that drain the host system or community of its creative resources. This is not to suggest that such one-way flows are ‘all bad’. In natural living systems, they can bring vital temporary benefits by enabling growth and redistribution of resources from one place to another, as in the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly, where local death feeds new and continuing life. If pursued exclusively, however, they cannot be other than unsustainable, culminating in a process whereby life feeds a holocaust of global death. It is vital, therefore, that these flows should not be, as they currently are, given primacy of place in human societal endeavours.
As the term itself implies (‘ortho’ means ‘linear’, ‘right’ or ‘perpendicular’), orthodoxy is based, most fundamentally, on the imposition of fixed, space-excluding (i.e. Euclidean) boundary limits around and within what our scientific investigations have ironically informed us is the primarily non-linear, dynamic, nested, curved space geometry of nature. This imposition is cognitively reinforced by the illusions of detachment and solidity that arise from our binocular vision and associated survival needs to catch or grasp sources of food and avoid or overcome danger in a terrestrial landscape. It leads to a deep and powerful excommunication or severance of human beings both from one another and from the living space upon which we ultimately depend and from which we emerge as local manifestations. Fearful of the apparently chaotic unruliness and uncertainties of the natural world and universe we inhabit, it attempts to formulate abstractive ‘rules’ and ‘administrative mechanisms’ whereby those suitably placed in positions of hierarchical power can feed from and govern the rest in comfort and security.
Hence human is given primacy over non-human, and human beings are ranked according to their understanding of and ability to administer and conform with or corrupt the rules to their own advantage. This pyramidal ranking, with few and ultimately one at the top imposing conformity upon and draining the many and varied below - linearity given primacy over non-linearity - is, however, a vampiric inversion of natural dynamic organization in which all local contents or features are wave-form expressions of their wider context. Humanity as a gathering of dislocated yet increasingly uniform individual selves aspiring to dominance thereby becomes cancerous, and ultimately unsustainable, parasitizing itself and destroying the diversity and complementarity that is so vital to its ability to attune with an ever-transforming world.
If humanity is to avoid suffocation by orthodoxy, the vampiric potential of its underlying ‘impositional logic’, or, more familiarly, ‘box-logic’, therefore needs to be exposed and transformed. Such exposure and transformation has, consciously or unconsciously, been the ‘Grail Quest’ of many ‘heterodoxies’ and ‘heresies’, whose common theme is the immanence rather than external authority of divine spirit, that have emerged only to be suppressed over the course of recorded human history. It is at the heart of the many legendary and mythical versions identified by Joseph Campbell, of the story of the ‘Hero’s Journey’ into darkness and danger and triumphant return with the boon that brings peace and harmony to the fractured and threatened communities from which he/she set out.
To question the authority of orthodoxy is, correspondingly, to undertake a perilous but vital journey. Perilous because those empowered by orthodoxy are inevitably resistant, consciously or unconsciously, to any form of inquiry that identifies and threatens the seat of their power, which they are therefore only too ready to use to quash any prospect of rebellion. At the same time, they may often sincerely see themselves as doing good by purifying the world from ‘evil and corruption’, and, through their teachings, bestowing the gifts of their knowledge and understanding upon generations to come.
So, the question is how to liberate human creativity and diversity from vampiric influence without invoking a suppressive orthodox backlash? This is a question that I have found myself addressing through my own experiences as an educator and researcher in biological science. From where I am currently placed, there seem to be several preconditions. Firstly, the vampiric nature and internal contradictions of orthodoxy and its logical roots need to be revealed – brought out into the open – and recognized for what they are, so that their potentially damaging implications can be appreciated. Secondly, the self-perpetuating restrictive practices and deceptions of orthodoxy need to be understood. The latter include the establishment of citadels of esoteric knowledge and power to which none are admitted without proof of their acquisition of the necessary expertise and, through the inverted projection of the vampiric Shadow, the fearful demonization of outsiders as misguiders and confusers of generations to come. Thirdly, liberators need to gather protective strength through inner self-knowledge and the support of others that can help resist vampiric power and stem the one-way flow that sustains it. Fourthly, and crucially, recalling that withdrawal from an addictive frame of mind is often a difficult and painful experience, a compassionate way must be found to permeate and mobilize, but not eradicate, the vampiric boundary, so that sharing, revitalization and transformation becomes possible. Above all, the temptation to alienate and punish orthodoxy - to use the methods of orthodoxy to suppress orthodoxy -needs to be avoided if the communication barrier through which vampiric power becomes asserted is not simply to be reinstated. The last thing needed is a witch-hunt for the witch-hunters! It is the thinking that leads to the abuse of power by ‘chief executives’ and their unwitting accomplices, rather than the people themselves, that needs to be exposed. And it is not even that orthodox logic needs to be dispensed with, rather than subsumed by inclusional logic. The ability to establish and work with linear relationships and one-way flows is an understandable and in its place necessary and valuable human characteristic, just as it is in non-human living systems. It has played an immensely important role in human technological development, if not in understanding the implications of such development. The problem is not so much the existence of this ability as its misplacement and resultant rise to unsustainable primacy and exclusivity in human social formations.
Reconnecting Art, Science and Spirituality
If the vampiric potential implicit in orthodoxy originates in the unilateral excommunication of the observer from the observed and the governor from the governed, then the restoration of two-way communication via the opening up of the vampiric boundary represents an obvious way to obviate this potential. Inclusionality and the associated concept of ‘complex self’ not only offers this prospect of restoration, but also does so through a perception of space and boundaries that brings back into complementary partnership the ‘Two Cultures’ of Art and Science. These cultures effectively became excommunicated post-Enlightenment each to pursue their own peculiar and ultimately insufficient but complementary kinds of abstraction, with science tending to exclude implicit context from explicit content and art tending to remove explicit content from implicit context.
So, what can our Art and our Science contribute to our overall understanding of the natural world and universe when they work inclusionally together rather than in isolation? Perhaps most fundamentally, our art draws our attention to the dynamic relation between inner and outer space, figure and ground, how each reciprocally breathes space into and out from and so relates to the other. I tried to express this idea in the painting shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1. ‘Breathing Space’ (oil painting on canvas by Alan Rayner).
Spring IS Inspiring. New leaves open stomatal windows to sky. Sand Martins
swirl down from migration towards water. Egrets flutter past. A white-ribbed
Silver Birch, rooted to rocky diaphragm, transforms crimson lung-branches
into leaves. Coral bark fires imagination. Pussy Willow erupts into incandescent
catkins. Blackthorn snow-storms. Lichens pulsate with their own slow rhythm.
Space moves within and without the embodied water flows of life. In, out,
together, to gather. Implicit Human Being. In Formational Lining. Attuned.
Meanwhile, our science literally informs our understanding of this relationship through knowledge of the distribution of energy-matter that inseparably lines and so distinguishes these breathing spaces without ever fully sealing them in or making them discrete - for that would be to destroy their vitality and render them static. It is the microscopical and telescopical investigative tools of science that have actually provided the finding that space permeates everywhere, across all scales from sub-atomic to galactic. So, when we look more closely into the apparent solidity of any natural form, for example a tree, we find that it is actually full of holes. Boundaries that at a distance appear as smooth limits or barriers between insides and outsides, one thing and another, are actually complex transitional interfaces adjoining domains with different arrays of voids and physical relief.
Yet it is this very finding that analytical science, working literally in isolation has been unable to assimilate into its theory and practice and reconcile with the impositional logic upon which this practice and its classical mathematical underpinning is based. Analytical science, working in isolation, has therefore been unable to derive meaning from its own findings and is riddled with contradictions, ambiguities and paradoxes, not the least of these being those associated with the Darwinian notion of ‘survival of the fittest’. And so it is that scientific materialism has placed itself at loggerheads with spiritual awareness in what might well become regarded as the greatest tragicomedy of the Modern Era.
For if, as Rudolf Steiner was wont to suggest, the implicit spatial awareness of Art is brought together with the explicit substantial awareness of Science, what emerges is the ghostly, holey form of the spiritual realm. A universal attractor or ‘nested holeyness’ that holds all, coherently, relationally and dynamically together in place, rather than the anarchic free for all envisaged through impositional logic to call for the rule of some higher authority. An immanent divinity of energy-space, of which all features are local, wave form manifestations, with inner, outer and intermediary aspects.
This is the ternary (three-aspect) realm of inclusionality and inclusional logic, which recognises that at no physical scale in a dynamic system can any ‘thing’ be isolated as a discrete, independent object that can only be moved by a purely external force. Rather, everywhere is coupled with everywhere. When one ‘thing’, in reality a relational place somewhere moves, the possibility space of everywhere transforms, as I tried to express in the painting and poem shown in Figure 2.
Figure 2. ‘The Hole in the Mole’ (oil painting on canvas by Alan Rayner). I AM the hole;That lives in a mole;That induces the mole;To dig the hole;That moves the mole;Through the earth;That forms a hill;That becomes a mountain;That reaches to sky;That connects with stars;And brings the rain;That the mountain collects;Into streams and rivers;That moisten the earth;That grows the grass;That freshens the air;That condenses to rain;That carries the water;That brings the mole;To Life
The Evolution of Life as an Embodied Water Flow
This brings me to a very important quality of those organic forms of life with which we are familiar on Earth - a fluidity that is vital to their capacity for evolutionary transformation. Put quite simply, this fluidity arises from the fact that the inner spaces of these creatures, including ourselves, are filled to a greater or lesser degree, with water. We are Embodied Water Flows, and our form, whenever we regard it as an ever-unfolding, enfolding presence, rather than in freeze-framed snapshots giving the illusion of discrete individual entities, is riverine.
Simply by ‘tuning’ the ‘holeyness’ and consequent permeability, deformability and continuity of our inner-outer boundaries, we can change pattern and process as we create and respond to changes in our dynamic context and one another. We differentiate outwardly when and where there is external plenty, and integrate inwardly when and where there is external shortage. Inspiration from the outer, collective aspect of our complex self enables our inner space, individual aspect to grow and thrive. Expiration to our outer aspect brings scope for renewal and transformation. Our consciousness surfs the crest of a waveform, the dynamic intermediary that couples inner with outer. There is no single-centred controller; the centre is everywhere, both nothing and everything, together.
The foregoing is a much abbreviated summary of an ongoing co-inquiry, by a small group of people with very different backgrounds, into the implications of inclusionality, from scientific, artistic, social, environmental, governmental and spiritual perspectives. We hope that this inquiry can help us to re-examine our most deeply held ideas about Our Human Place in the World and rediscover, where we may have lost it, what we have always known when our Emotions join with our Reason in the Spirit of Spatial Togetherness.
More information about this co-inquiry can be found in an e book, published in three volumes, which can be downloaded from www.syncretist.co.uk/alanrayner. More information about my own background and contributions to the co-inquiry, including publications, can be obtained by contacting me either directly (A.D.M.Rayner@bath.ac.uk) or by visiting my personal homepage at www.bath.ac.uk/~bssadmr.