The Natural Inclusion of Difference -

Alan Rayner
6 min readMar 18, 2020


Swirls within Swirls and Variations Around a Central Theme

Holding Openness’ (Oil painting on canvas by Alan Rayner, 2005) light as a dynamic natural inclusion of darkness brings an endless diversity of flow-forms to life

How do you feel about the uniqueness of your self-identity? Do you feel pride or shame? Do you feel ‘special’ in some way, or ‘not good enough and under pressure to conform to some norm or ideal? Do you feel ‘superior’ or ‘inferior’? Do you feel isolated and at odds with your neighbours and neighbourhood, or are you inspired by a sense of belonging and ability to contribute to the flourishing of the natural community of life that you inhabit?

Individual differences are often perceived by us human beings as a source of conflict and disparity between life forms, including ourselves. This causes us either to aspire individualistically to supremacy in a competitive ‘struggle for existence’ or collectively to subjugate ourselves to some overarching authority or dogma. Capitalist and totalitarian politics and religious fundamentalism result from these tendencies either to ‘perform’ in an anarchic ‘free-for-all’ or ‘conform’ with an ‘ordered uniformity’ that either lacks social coherence or individual creativity.

On the other hand, individual differences are widely recognised to be an expression of natural evolutionary creativity and complementary partnership. Our own human bodies would have very limited capabilities if all the cells within them were identical. So too would our human communities if all human individuals were the same. There is a profound truth in the saying that ‘it takes all kinds to make a world’.

Natural inclusionality is a philosophy of life, environment and people that recognises the evolutionary vitality — NOT irreconcilability — both of individual difference and collective coherence in social organisations from subatomic to galactic scales. This philosophy is in turn founded on awareness of the central underlying principle of natural inclusion. This principle can be described in many ways, but in essence it is the mutual inclusion of void space and energetic circulation as co-creative, receptive and responsive presences in all material bodies.

In other words, natural inclusionality recognises that our human bodily boundaries, like all material bodily boundaries, are dynamically informed as swirls of energy around receptive centres of void space — as illustrated in my painting, ‘Holding Openness’ (above). We are all, in a sense, hollow-centred ‘hungry holes’ sustained by natural energy flow as ‘flow-forms’. Ultimately, we are natural dynamic inclusions of darkness (void) in light (energy).

This, then, is what all material bodies have in common. As sentient beings we are aware of this ‘inner hunger’ as a desire for sustenance — a hunger for life that we hold dear until it can no longer be sustained and we are obliged to ‘pass on’ to sustain our offspring and other life forms. This receptive influence or ‘heart of darkness’ in the core of our being is what primarily motivates our behaviour as needful and hence vulnerable creatures. It is a source both of love for the spatial and energetic natural neighbourhood (‘Mother Nature’) from and within which we are born, and fear of what could threaten our source of sustenance from outside.

We live on the cusp of attraction to and repulsion from what resides beyond our dynamic bodily boundaries — as relational interfaces between inner world and outer — but can never be totally isolated from it if we are to continue living. Inescapably we are dynamic local inclusions and expressions of our neighbourhood, and so too are all our neighbouring bodies. Both individually and collectively, we are never alone or all one as an entity or ‘whole’ complete and entire of it self: ‘no man is an island’ — and neither is any group of men or women.

None of this is evident to us if — as is the habit of purely objective or ‘third person’ perception — we confine our attention to what we view as spectators abstracted outside what we are observing. Reality then appears to us as a whole set of whole objects separated from one another by space, time and fixed boundary limits and compelled into motion by external force.

It becomes immediately evident, however, as soon as we combine this ‘outside-in’ view with an ‘inside-out’ view that places us within the thick of what we are observing, and ask imaginatively ‘what makes any body distinguishable from its surroundings?’ We then quickly realize that no body can exist without volume or boundary and so must simultaneously both include and be included in space. Material body and space are hence distinct but mutually inclusive, not mutually exclusive or coextensive, and this comes about through the responsive circulation of energy around a receptive central point or axis of space. We also realize that no material body can exist instantaneously, in ‘zero time’, because it comes into being as the result of energetic movement. All bodies are dynamically informed holes, not rigidly defined wholes. Think of a whirlpool or the ‘eye’ of a storm, and you’ll get this ‘hole point’, as well as a strong sense of self-identity, ‘I’, as a natural inclusion of spatial and energetic neighbourhood.

So much for what all material bodies have in common as dynamic inclusions of receptive void space. What makes them individually different? What makes ‘you’ and ‘I’ individually unique? The answer clearly resides in their dynamically informed boundaries. These boundaries can differ both in their placement or locality, and in their variable composition and resultant variable permeability, rigidity and connectivity, but are always freely permeable to void space as an intangible and hence frictionless receptive presence everywhere. They can differ too in whether the circulation within them is clockwise, anticlockwise or an intertwining combination of both. All material bodies are 100 % frictionless space plus circulating energy, NOT part space and part matter/energy.

Material bodies differ, then, both in where they are — two distinct bodies cannot simultaneously be in exactly the same place — and in the composition and direction of circulation of their energetic boundaries. But they are never isolated from one another’s receptive and responsive influence in continuous void space.

With regard to boundary composition, we can recall some important scientific findings. Firstly, we know that light energy is not monochromatic but occurs across a continuous spectrum of different frequencies, not all of which are visible to the naked human eye. We know too, that there is a ‘Periodic Table’ full of chemical elements with differing atomic weights, electronic configurations, chemical reactivity and radioactivity. Atoms of these elements can combine and recombine with one another to form a huge variety of different compounds, especially the organic, carbon-based compounds that contribute to the complex structural and metabolic biochemistry of living organisms like ourselves. We have discovered that this complex biochemistry is catalysed (i.e. speeded up) via the ‘active sites’ as specific receptive spatial configurations in proteins, and that the composition and resultant spatial configuration of these ‘polypeptide’ combinations of amino acids is encoded by the sequence of bases holding together the ‘double helix’ of DNA.

With regard to direction of circulation, we know that two discs spinning freely at the same frequency will engage with one another when placed with their circumferences side-by-side if their spins are reciprocal (i.e. clockwise and anticlockwise) but bounce apart or grind to a halt if their spins are identical. By the same token, we know that they will engage when placed with their diameters adjacent if their spins are identical but bounce off or grind into each other if their spins are reciprocal. In both cases there may be some resistance prior to engagement if they are not initially spinning at the same frequency. Any car driver who has misused clutch and gear-choice will be aware of these truths!

Likewise, anyone who has watched ripples spreading radially into one another on the surface of a body of water will be aware of the complex patterns of peaks and troughs arising from ‘constructive’ and ‘destructive’ interference. So too will someone attempting to tune a TV or radio to the correct frequency of transmission. So too will a suspension bridge builder aware of the danger of catastrophic ‘resonance’ or a piano or guitar tuner using the same phenomenon to match note to tuning fork.

There is hence a huge variety of ways in which natural, intrinsically dynamic flow-forms can associate with and dissociate from one another into diverse configurations of and within continuous space as recurrent ‘swirls within swirls’ and ‘variations around a central theme’. All this is well known as a matter of common experience and knowledge. And yet its profound significance in understanding the co-creative, receptive-responsive relationships underlying natural diversity and our own human relationships with one another and our natural surroundings gets excluded from consideration when we use objective perception alone to investigate the fundamental nature of reality. We have been stuck with that abstract exclusion as a predominant way of thinking for far too long, resulting in profound psychological, social and environmental harm as well as philosophical misunderstanding. Wider recognition of natural inclusion — which is implicit in much ancient and indigenous wisdom — is long overdue.



Alan Rayner

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