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A Systemic History of the Middle Way

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Systemic history is an approach to explaining the past, that tries to maximize our understanding of context. Unlike most history, it does not do this by just narrating a chain of causal relationships for a given group through time. Instead, it shows how simpler systems become more complex over time through the interaction of reinforcing and balancing feedback loops. Systemic history offers the best way of understanding the processes that shape the Middle Way, because the Middle Way involves improving responses to complexity, rather than falling back on shortcut simplifications (absolutizations).

This book examines the history of the Middle Way in four inter-related ways: as the biological development of organisms in relation to reinforcing or balancing feedback loops, as the psychological development of individual humans during a lifetime, as a succession of reinforcing and balancing feedback tendencies in human culture through history, and as a successive development of integrative practice. This shows how the Middle Way is a path distinctive to the human response to complexity, but nevertheless one rooted in the wider processes of all life. In the process it provides a detailed exploration of the relationship between the Middle Way and systems theory, biology, developmental psychology, and world history.

Published: Jun 1, 2024


Section Chapter Authors
Foreword to the Middle Way Philosophy Series Iain McGilchrist
Preface Robert Ellis
Introduction Robert Ellis
1. Conflict and Integration in Organic Systems
a. The Emergence of Self-Organization Robert Ellis
b. Electrical Responsiveness Robert Ellis
c. Competition and Predation Robert Ellis
d. Sexual Reproduction and Adaptivity Robert Ellis
e. Multicellular Organisms and Homology Robert Ellis
f. Nervous Systems, Senses, and Action Robert Ellis
g. Bilaterianism Robert Ellis
h. Bilateral Asymmetry Robert Ellis
i. Left Hemisphere Repression Robert Ellis
j. The Biology of the Middle Way Robert Ellis
2. Stages of Psychological Development
a. Issues of Psychological Development Robert Ellis
b. Birth and the Incorporative Stage Robert Ellis
c. The Impulsive Stage Robert Ellis
d. The Imperial Stage Robert Ellis
e. The Interpersonal Stage Robert Ellis
f. The Ideological Stage Robert Ellis
g. The Interindividual Stage Robert Ellis
3. Provisionality and Absolutization in Human Culture
a. Provisionality in the Old Stone Age Robert Ellis
b. The Two Faces of Farming Robert Ellis
c. Religious Archetypes and the Projection Robert Ellis
d. Desire, Exploitation and Liberation Robert Ellis
e. Literacy and Idolatry Robert Ellis
f. Sceptical Philosophy and its Appropriation Robert Ellis
g. Scientific Method and Scientism Robert Ellis
h. Technology: Shaped Things Shape Us Robert Ellis
i. Specialization and Over-Specialization Robert Ellis
j. Administration and Bureaucracy Robert Ellis
k. Relativism and Breakdown Robert Ellis
4. A History of Integrative Practices
a. Archetypal Inspiration Robert Ellis
b. Ethical Observance Robert Ellis
c. Prayer and Meditation Robert Ellis
d. Bodywork Robert Ellis
e. The Arts Robert Ellis
f. Philosophical Enquiry Robert Ellis
g. Education Robert Ellis
h. Humour Robert Ellis
i. Reflection and Autobiography Robert Ellis
j. Travel and Foreign Languages Robert Ellis
k. Recreation and Green Environments Robert Ellis
l. Democracy Robert Ellis
m. Psychotherapy Robert Ellis
n. Critical Thinking Robert Ellis
Conclusion Robert Ellis
End Matter
The Old and New Middle Way Philosophy Series Robert Ellis