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"Inclusionality is an awareness 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. Correspondingly, boundaries are not fixed limits - smooth, space-excluding, Euclidean lines or planes - but rather are pivotal places comprising complex, dynamic arrays of voids and relief that both emerge from and pattern the co-creative togetherness of inner and outer domains, as in the banks of a river." (Alan Rayner)


Paganism and inclusionality


In "Complementary Visions" (1), Alan Rayner articulated the distinctions between rationalism, inclusionality, and holism.


The rationalistic world-view is very much derived from and based on the Christian world-view: it takes everything literally, including myths; it divides the world into two domains - "either you're with us or against us"; and it is supremely individualistic.


The holistic world-view is typified by the New Age movement, where you tend to find the view that everything is one, and there are no boundaries. The New Age movement tends to reject reason and rationality, but Paganism does not reject reason, it includes it within a larger paradigm.


It is often assumed that Paganism is a part of the New Age movement, but actually the two are quite distinct in philosophy – the New Age movement tends to be "all sweetness and light", whereas Paganism is about the marriage of darkness and light, integrating the shadow (to use a Jungian metaphor), and healing the rift between matter and spirit. These concerns are also at the heart of inclusionality, though they may be expressed using slightly different terminology.


Another inclusional aspect of Paganism is its emphasis on triplicities and thinking in a ternary mode (inner, outer and inter). In Wicca, there is the Triple Goddess; in Druidry, the divine is conceived of as three-fold: the God, the Goddess, and Divine Child (generally regarded as the source of creativity). However, these images of the divine are not taken literally as discrete entities; rather they are regarded as how the polymorphous consciousness of the universe manifests itself in our own finite awareness; in other words, as distinct identities. I also feel that this is what ancient polytheism (and certainly Neoplatonism and much current Hindu thinking) was about. In much of his work, Joseph Campbell warns against taking myth literally, as this blocks access to the numinous (2).


Pagans celebrate diversity in all its forms; do not have any dogma (there is room for many theories of divinity, and many interpretations of phenomena). There is a strong emphasis on liminality (the experience of being on the threshold, neither one thing nor another, being between the worlds); cyclical time rather than linear time (Pagans celebrate the cycles of the seasons, and regard life as a cyclical or spiral experience, from birth to death to rebirth again).


Pagans tend to believe in magic, but our definition of magic is subtler than the commonly accepted view of it. Magic is the awareness of hidden connections and sympathies, and a belief that consciousness affects the physical plane – there is no Cartesian separation of mind and body in Pagan philosophy. We also employ the symbolism of the classical elements in our rituals (Earth, Water, Air, Fire, and Aether or Spirit). These could be equated to the modern concepts of solids, liquids, gases, and energy; and Aether is akin to the inclusional concept of space. According to Wikipedia,


'Aether ("upper air"), in Greek mythology, was the personification of the "upper sky", space and heaven. He is the pure, upper air that the gods breathe, as opposed to "aer", which mortals breathed. He was the son of Erebus and Nyx, and brother of Hemera. He is the soul of the world and all life emanates from him.'


Since Classical times, many thinkers have tried to reconcile rationalism with spirituality, or to preserve and further develop the classical world-view. Some of these attempts are recognisable as prototypes of inclusionality.


Taoism originated in China sometime around the sixth century BCE. It posits the existence of the mysterious Tao, which contains two complementary opposites, Yin and Yang. Many of the ideas and images in Taoist thought are very similar to those found in inclusionality; indeed Taoism is a major source of inspiration for some of us.


As Taoist ideas flowed westwards, they were taken up by other traditions, such as Tantra, which is a tradition of using sexual experience to connect with the numinous. These ideas were also transmitted to the Sufi tradition (the mystical Neoplatonist strand within Islam), and thence to Western alchemists. Needless to say, whilst it seems that there was transmission of ideas across all these groups, they also developed ideas independently based on their own local conditions and symbolic ideas.


Neoplatonism was a late classical attempt to reconcile ancient paganism with Christianity, but many of its themes and ideas were enthusiastically taken up by later magical writers and movements (3).


All these traditions share an inclusional understanding of the world; they recognise the intraconnectedness of everything, and the complementarity of inner and outer, microcosm and macrocosm, darkness and light, matter and spirit. They are a hidden and suppressed tradition of the awareness of subtle influences. They celebrate the feminine principle of intuition and emotion – the mysterious woman of Taoist philosophy. They also share a belief in magic. Magic was originally a theory of how the world works. In the seventeenth century, it was supplanted by rationalist and mechanistic theories based on the thinking of Newton (which is rather ironic when you consider that the majority of Newton’s writings are about alchemy). The natural philosophers of the Renaissance and earlier believed in what we would now refer to as magic, but which they referred to as natural philosophy. This might include astrology, alchemy, action at a distance, magic, the Doctrine of Signatures, the mirroring of the macrocosm and the microcosm (similar to Alan Rayner’s concept of nested holeyness(4)), and so on. The modern definition of magic is "the art and science of causing change in conformity with Will" (where "Will" refers to the higher or true will, conceived of as going with the flow of the divine will, or collective consciousness of the universe).


However, there are two forms of magic, "white magic" and "black magic". "Black magic" goes against the flow of the universe by imposing the will of the magician on reality. "White magic" seeks to maintain balance and harmony with the flow of the universe.


In magic and alchemy, everything has a metaphorical value, an inner meaning; it is not merely a physical fact or commodity, but has a spiritual aspect. There are many truths, depending on your perspective – there is not a single and absolute truth.


Rationalistic science and mythology are two different ways of looking at the "underlying reality". It has been argued that we cannot know that underlying reality directly, therefore we tell stories about it. Science is one version of the story and mythology and folklore are another, but they convey different truths about the underlying reality. The beauty of inclusionality is that it is a much more realistic model of the underlying reality, and combines the best qualities of both the mythopoeic worldview and the scientific method.


There is a difference between "spiritual truth" and "facts" – e.g. many cultures divide the cosmos into four quarters with an axis at the centre. This makes symbolic sense but is not literally true. Mythology explains things by analogy and metaphor. Logical positivists deny the possibility of knowledge that is not derived from logical reasoning or empirical experience. If a narrative or discourse falls outside this kind of knowledge, they dismiss it as unverifiable.


Mythology and folklore are true in the sense that they resonate with our experience. The word 'myth' is often used in a pejorative sense to mean a fiction, an untrue thing. This is derived from a deterministic view of the world.


In the transition from the medieval view of the world (the magical and spiritual philosophy derived from Neoplatonism and Renaissance natural philosophy) to the rationalist and mechanistic 'Newtonian' worldview (including Euclidian geometry and the Cartesian split between mind and body), an essential quality was lost. That quality was the understanding of space as a dynamic inclusion in everything, the mysterious inductive quality of the feminine principle. Both Paganism and inclusionality, with their emphasis on the complementarity of feminine and masculine, darkness and light, inner and outer, microcosm and macrocosm, seek to restore that lost quality, to connect with nature and to sustain dynamic balance.


Yvonne Aburrow, 27 January 2004




(1) Alan Rayner (2003), Complementary Visions, http://people.bath.ac.uk/bssadmr/inclusionality/complementaryvisions.htm

(2) Joseph Campbell (1962), Oriental Mythology (The Masks of God, Volume I), Arkana.

(3) Ronald Hutton (2003), Witches, Druids, and King Arthur, London: Hambledon Press

(4) Alan Rayner, Rationality and Inclusionality - The "Outs" and "Ins" of Biological and Other Science, http://people.bath.ac.uk/bssadmr/inclusionality/cultureandbelief.htm

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