Shrouds and Sham Castles

Alan Rayner
2 min readOct 14, 2020

[How we curtail our soulful evolution]

Roller-Coaster’ (Oil painting on board by Alan Rayner, 1998) A ferny-feathered blue roller, streaming upwards, transforms a dusty brown study of books and analytical devices, precisely but incoherently arrayed out of perspective of table-top context, past claustrophobic, tar-spotted sycamore woodland, into an eternal quest for belonging. Bookshelves become rock strata whose caves have protected ancient Dead Sea Scrolls through ages riven by the pain of conflicting human aspirations. A sun, the magnification of hidden powdery mildew fruit bodies on the underside of green-blotched leaves casts its beauty into the eye of the beholder.

We gather shrouds

And build sham castles

Around our selves

To seal our souls within

False semblances of of external wealth

Hiding our inner emptiness


From deep recess

Our souls cry out

For release from their pupal cases

To be as only we can be

True lovers of life

Freed from the trappings of conceit

To breathe in the open air

Trading in natural currency

Flowing from there to here to there

In uncorrupted notes

Gifted without reservation

From generous spirit

Received with soulful care


We are called to slough those trappings off

As needless hide

To reveal what dwells within

Our outer make-up

And burst into new-found expression

Far from the mad-made shroud

That hems us in

Love-forsaken stitches


But how those fearful stitches stick

Fast to tender skin

Resisting every move it makes

Goading it with broken promise of untold riches

For keeping them intact

As high security guardians

On watch in the depth of night

To arrest any breach beyond their bounds

As preservers of the status quo


And so the flight of imagination can only begin

In acts of violent metamorphosis

The slaying of the past

To release that vibrant exploration

Opening the way for more to come

In successive generations

When shrouds and castle walls

Give way


For further exploration of the philosophy underlying this piece, please view



Alan Rayner

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