How Natural Inclusionality Heals the Rift Between Rationality and Emotion
Long ago in human history, the seed of a dangerous idea was planted. As this seed germinated and took root, it grew into a Tree of Knowledge, whose spreading branches bore tempting fruit. To consume these fruit was to take in its seeds of hard fact and spread them far and wide. As these seeds germinated, they produced more trees and the trees produced more tempting fruit. To consume these fruit was to take in and spread its seeds of hard fact. Eventually the human world became colonised by a Forest of Hard Facts. This forest became known as Hard Science, whose purpose was, quite literally, to know all that could be known, with absolute certainty. And this purpose was served by a certain way of thinking objectively, which separated what it perceived as hard fact from what is viewed as subjective emotion. This way of thinking became known as Rationality, and its crowning glory came in what was called ‘The Scientific Revolution’, paving the way in its turn for what was later called ‘The Enlightenment’. One of its most famous sons was heard to proclaim:-
“A scientific man ought to have no wishes, no affections, — a mere heart of stone.” Charles Darwin.
By then the rift between Rationality and Emotion was deeply entrenched. And it caused deep resentment on both sides. Science became divorced from the Humanities in an Estrangement between Two Cultures as noted and named by C.P. Snow. No-one knew how to resolve the conflict, least of all the leaders of academic and religious and artistic and political Establishments vying for the hearts and minds of the people they wished to follow them and wield executive power over.
All the while there was a Truth that both sides had overlooked — a truth that when accepted could bring them back together in a co-creative marriage of complementary, not opposing views.
And this Truth was simply this: true facts aren’t hard. The very idea that they could or should be hard grew from the false assumption that matter and space are completely separate from one another. In reality they cannot be.
In order to know this Truth, all that those hard-line thinkers had to ask themselves was this: if matter and space are separate, how can a material body have a discernible shape and volume? Alternatively, if matter and space are one and the same, how could any discernible material body exist?
In other words, they needed to ask themselves whether what they assumed to be true was consistent with their actual sensory experience of reality. Had they done so, they would quickly have realised that the answer is NO! Perhaps some of them did do so. But instead of considering the possibility that their assumption was false and needed to be revised, they chose proudly, in one way or another, to deny the reality of their sensory experience. This is how human thought ultimately took leave from its senses and conjured up an abstract view of Nature as either a binary system of material and immaterial opposites — something and nothing — or a non-dual continuum of all-the-same oneness. Opposites or oneness; and we’ve been stuck with this thought for millennia. It has become deeply embedded in our logic, in our language, in our science, in our art, in our theology, in our systems of education and governance and in our reasons for going to war with one another.
In reality, we can grasp a material body, but we can’t grasp space because space literally slips through our fingers! Matter is tangible and somewhere; space is intangible (i.e friction-less) and everywhere. In other words, tangible matter and intangible space are distinct but mutually inclusive presences. They are neither mutually exclusive opposites, nor are they one and the same homogeneous entity. And the only way this neither-nor reality can be true is if whatever gives form to a material body is in continuous circulatory motion around its centre of gravity as a receptive still point of space. If the circulation stops, the body loses its coherence and its form dissolves like a dying storm into the nothingness of space everywhere. This third option is the understanding of the phenomenological philosophy of what I have called ‘natural inclusionality’, and it is based on the evolutionary process of ‘natural inclusion’. All natural material form comes into being and diversifies as flow-form, a mutual inclusion of space and circulating energy in receptive-responsive relationship.
Something Terrible happens when we mentally exclude or homogenise intangible space from or with tangible matter. By so doing we rule out any possibility of life and love in Nature, and replace this with an inert existence that can only be stirred into motion by ineffable force situated somewhere outside of material form (i.e. a deus ex machina). We enter the realm either of Newtonian mechanics or of utter non-existence, which renders us either into selfish, genetically-driven machines of the kind imagined by neo-Darwinism or desolate non-agencies. Small wonder, then, when we suffer from ‘existential angst’.
Compare this with what happens when we naturally include intangible space as a receptive presence within and all around our responsive, energetically configured bodies. We come, quite literally into life as loving, receptive and responsive human beings immersed in dynamic relationship with one another and our natural neighbourhood.
We have reason to love our neighbours and neighbourhood as we love our selves — as receptive and responsive expressions of Nature, not alienated exceptions from Nature, like the figures depicted in my painting below (made in 1973) of ‘Arid Confrontation’.
The objective exclusion of intangible space from tangible form yields an inert Rationality, deprived of the relational receptive-responsiveness of Life and Love. Reductive objectivity is unrealistic, unreasonable and is a source of profound human suffering and conflict. Its antithesis, the nihilistic disregard of material form, yields a disembodied Emotion that is equally unrealistic, unreasonable and psychologically damaging, depriving us of any compassionate sense of Self and agency.
Through naturally including the infinite softness of intangible space as a receptive presence within and beyond all tangible form, these opposing sides can be brought back into communion with one another. This communion is illustrated in my painting, fronting this essay, of ‘Willowy Bridge’, painted in 1974, as a resolution of the conflict of ‘Arid Confrontation’.
We have Good Reason, as we always have done, to Love, to Live and to Die with this Awareness of our Selves — as profoundly relational-emotional Beings, made from intangible space and energy — held deeply and dearly within our receptive hearts.
Rayner, A. (2018). The vitality of the intangible: crossing the threshold from abstract materialism to natural reality. Human Arenas 1, 9–20.