Breaching the ‘Great Lie’ That Isolates Individual Good from Common Good -

Alan Rayner
7 min readMay 12, 2020


‘The deep perceptual and cultural roots of corrupt leadership and how this differs from receptive-responsive companionship’

Arid Confrontation’ (Oil painting on board by Alan Rayner, 1973)

For much of recorded human history, much of humanity has to this day been living under the influence of a ‘Great Lie’. This has the effect of severing or subsuming the uniqueness of individual self-identity from or within group identity and Nature. It has resulted in profound human conflict, oppression and psychological, social and environmental harm. Yet it continues to be perceived and promulgated as literal truth by those holding, seeking or subservient to hierarchical power. It arises from a one-sided and hence ‘partial’ view, which wittingly or unwittingly opposes itself to one true aspect of reality or another.

Here, in its most fundamental form of expression, is the Great Lie:-

Tangible matter is either entirely separate or indistinguishable from intangible space’

The premise that tangible matter is entirely separate from intangible space is known as ‘dualism’. It arises from the ‘objective’ or ‘third person’ habit of perceiving a material body exclusively from outside-inwards as a 3-dimensional solid object frozen in a snapshot of space and time and with no awareness of its interior space or dynamics. The existence of the body is hence considered to begin and end definitively at its surface. Matter and space are regarded as mutually exclusive — ‘something’ that exists physically and can be quantified in discrete numerical units, and ‘nothing’, which doesn’t.

Dualism can be traced at least as far back as ancient Greece, to the ‘atomism’ of Democritus and Aristotle’s Laws of Contradiction and the Excluded Middle, and more recently to the ‘Cartesian Split’ between ‘Matter’ and ‘Mind’. It is culturally institutionalized in objective scientific method, mathematical abstraction, linguistic definition, theological exclusion, governmental control and educational authority. It is the foundation of the binary logic of ‘1’ (numerical presence) or ‘0’ (numerical absence) upon which digital computing relies.

The alternative ‘non-dual’ or ‘unitary’ premise that no actual distinction exists between material presence and absence — and hence that any perceived distinction is illusory — arises from a form of subjective or ‘first person’ awareness from inside-outwards that ‘sees through and beyond’ surface appearances to the continuous ‘oneness’ of all existence. It is often gained through meditative concentration and can give rise to a belief that ‘self’ or ‘ego’ does not or should not exist.

Which of these premises makes most sense of your actual life experience? How do they influence your perception of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, ‘true’ and ‘false’? Do you recognise how each contradicts the other as ‘false’ or ‘wrong’ in a different way? Is there any way in which each could be recognised to be true in one way, yet false in another way? Can their apparent contradiction be resolved by a more comprehensive view that accepts the truths of both while rejecting their respective falsehoods?

Do you recognise the moral dilemma that arises from the contradiction between these views? Ask yourself, ‘should I put me or us first in a competitive struggle for existence, or should I put me or us last or deny the very existence of self- or group-identity in a mass conformity of ‘all as one’?

Here, to illustrate the point I am making is a very explicit reference to this moral dilemma:-

If you wish, as I do, to build a society in which individuals co-operate generously and unselfishly towards a common good, you can expect little help from biological nature. Let us teach generosity and altruism, because we are born selfish.” Richard Dawkins

And here is where the supposition that ‘we are born selfish’ comes from:-

On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life” Charles Darwin

Perhaps you have experienced, as I have, the confusion of being obliged to compete ruthlessly with your peers in order to ‘succeed’ in a struggle for life at the same time as being morally expected to abide by the Christian ethic of ‘loving your neighbour as yourself’.

This is how the ‘Great Lie’ affects our human judgement and causes us, at the very least, to be ‘economical with the truth’ in our quest for, or subservience to executive power. We participate in a no-holds-barred War Game of Life that rewards ‘winners’ and devastates ‘losers’. Is it any wonder that values of honesty, reasonability and kindness are set aside in favour of deceit, inanity and cruelty when this is the Game we imagine we have to play in an ‘anti-culture’ of one against other? This is why executive power over others inevitably ‘corrupts’.

So, could there be a way out of this dilemma, a more comprehensive way of perceiving reality, which reveals a ‘Great Truth’ that enables us to recognise and practice a more virtuous kind of leadership and followership — or more aptly, ‘companionship’? I think there could be, and it entails a shift from perceiving that we are born ‘selfish’ to recognising that we are born ‘needful’. With this recognition also comes an appreciation of the need for love in the heart of all life forms.

Here, I consider that there is no better place to look for guidance than ‘Our True Nature’ — how we naturally are as human beings in the living world as it naturally is, not how we might presume or idealise it to be. For that purpose it’s necessary to develop as comprehensive and hence impartial an awareness as possible, which takes into account all the evidence, both as perceived objectively from outside-inwards and subjectively from inside outwards.

We can then come to a more intimate ‘second person’ awareness of ‘you and I’, ‘us’ and ‘we’, ‘everywhere’ and ‘here’, ‘then’ and ‘now’, which reconciles subjective and objective perceptions into each other’s receptive and responsive awareness. We have good reason to love and care for our natural companions as we love and care for ourselves, even as we recognise that our needs as individuals may not often be congruent. We also have good reason to love and care for our natural neighbourhood as our source and provider of life.

When we do that, the falsehood of ‘the Great Lie’ quickly becomes clear. It makes paradoxical non-sense both to regard intangible space and tangible matter as mutually exclusive, and to regard Nature as a uniform whole. On the other hand, it makes considerable sense to regard Nature as a continuous omnipresence of intangible space locally populated by material form, such that form and space are distinct but mutually inclusive, not mutually exclusive or one and the same. And for that to be true, form must be informed dynamically, from subatomic scale outwards, through energetic circulation around local receptive centres of space. A material body cannot exist instantaneously but is necessarily continuously in flux: it is a four-dimensional embodiment of local space within continuous space everywhere — an inhabitant of place-time, not a 3-dimensional occupant of space-time.

This is the understanding that comes from awareness of what I call ‘natural inclusion’ as the fundamental evolutionary principle through which all natural form comes into being and diversifies as ‘flow-form’, a mutual inclusion of intangible space and energetic circulation in co-creative, receptive-responsive relationship. With this understanding, we can reconcile the divisive and unitary perceptions set in opposition by the Great Lie, and see them instead as complementary.

We are now placed to recognise a way of leading — or more aptly coordinating — our lives co-creatively, from love, the receptive influence of ‘the middle way’ that is aware of and brings together the partial truths of both sides, while disregarding the falsehoods that drive them apart in the quest for executive power. There is no need for commanding and controlling bosses dictating how we live our lives.

This receptive middle way is symbolised in this painting:-

Willowy Bridge’ (Oil painting on board by Alan Rayner, 1974). The chasm between the left and right worlds of hawkish (with ‘tunnel vision’) and serene (with ‘all-round’ vision) natures is conjoined by a bridge that brings each into the mutual influence of the other, allowing soulful passage into the ‘open’ through the veil in their midst. The bridge is in danger of being cut into opposing sides by a shaft of sunlight

Further Reading:-


Rayner, A.D. (2011). Space cannot be cut: why self-identity naturally includes neighbourhood. Integrative Psychological and Behavioural Science, 45, 161–184.

Rayner ADM (2011) NaturesScope: Unlocking our natural empathy and creativity — an inspiring new way of relating to our natural origins and one another through natural inclusion. Winchester, UK; Washington USA: O Books.

Rayner, A. (2012) What are natural systems, actually? Advances in System Science and Application 12, 328–347

Rayner, A (2017) The Origin of Life Patterns In the Natural Inclusion Of Space in Flux Berlin/Heidelberg: Springer.

Rayner, A (2018). The vitality of the intangible: crossing the threshold from abstract materialism to natural reality. Human Arenas 1 pp 9–20.

Rayner, A (2020) From abstract freeze-frame to natural kinship

Rayner, A (2020) Cold & Warm Geometry: How Rigid and Fluid Structures Affect Our Human Relationships and Sense of Self.

Rayner, A (2020) The Natural Inclusion of Difference

Rayner, A (accepted for publication) The natural inclusion of diversity in community. A preprint is privately available on application to the author.

Rayner, A (2020) Evolutionary Flow

Rayner, A (2020) Simplicity & Entanglement

Rayner, A (2020) Permafrost & Fertile Ground

Rayner, A (2020) Beyond Objectification



Alan Rayner

Alan Rayner is an evolutionary ecologist, writer and artist, who is pioneering the philosophy of natural inclusion